I am still California dreamin’ after a long weekend in San Francisco and Sonoma with my husband, Scott, and some dear friends.  We satisfied many delicious cravings there with a bevy of cuisines from the Asian flair of tuna tartar to spicy edamame to spring rolls to coastal faves like steamed mussels and grilled calamari with quinoa and kale salads.  Of course, there was some good wine tasting, too! If you ever get to Sonoma, visit MacLeod Family Vineyard.  It was truly a heart-warming experience as we met George MacLeod, the 93-year old vitner, who told us how he transformed his 50-acre “terrior” into his life’s passion and work.  Our California friends, Ken and Jen, showed up to our retreat with a humungous bag of raw California almonds for everyone.  What a terrific way to start a party!  As I stuffed them into my luggage I dreamed about all of the ways I could use these California goodies in my kitchen in Chicago.

In the fall I always crave spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamon.  They remind me of pumpkin pie and mulled apple cider.   These aromatic spices are not only jam-packed with magical plant nutrients that can keep your cells, heart and brain healthy, but they add exciting flavor to any dish.

I love to snack on nuts.  You don’t need to have a crowd to enjoy a handful of nuts like almonds, walnuts or pistachios every day.  The high quality protein, beneficial fat and fiber are all a bonus to boosting your daily nutritional profile.  When you roast raw nuts, the distinctly delicious aroma pervades the whole house.  Plus, an ounce of nuts (23 almonds, 7 whole walnuts and 49 pistachios) go a long way to satisfy your appetite and fuel your daily activities.

Let’s get roasting, spicing up and savoring almonds for a fun fruit and nut mix. The beauty of this recipe is you can do everything in one pan over the stove. I toss in some dried fruit - you can use raisins, dried plums or cranberries for a sweet pop in your mouth.  At the last minute, I toss in a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder for antioxidant kick and flaked coconut for a festive tropical flavor.  Get creative with other flavors that you enjoy!



Sweet and Spicy Autumn Almonds



Serves 9 - 1 ounce servings (23 almonds each)


1.5 cups raw almonds

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Dash of salt (optional)

2 teaspoons unsweetened flaked coconut*

1 teaspoon raisins

1 teaspoon dried cranberries


Toss almonds into a small non-stick saute pan on stovetop over medium heat.  Heat until fragrant and beginning to brown (about 5 - 7 minutes).  Shake the pan to toss the nuts a bit while heating.  Remove from heat.  Drizzle with honey and mix with a spoon to coat.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder and salt, if desired.  Toss together and add coconut and dried fruits.  Place in a bowl for self-serve style or store in a fun tin or air-tight plastic container in a dry, cool place.

Nutrition Information (per serving):  Calories: 160, Total Fat: 13 g,  Saturated Fat: 1 g,  Trans Fat: 0 g, Sodium: 12 mg, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Carbohydrates: 9 g, Sugars: 5 g, Protein: 5 g

*I like Bob’s Red Mill unsweetened flaked coconut (…and I am not a spokesperson for this product.)

Enjoy eating simply,







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