If there is one activity at which I do not excel, it's sleeping. Regardless of what time I hit the hay, I'm up every weekday morning at 5 a.m., and I'll sometimes allow myself the luxury of sleeping until 6 during the weekend. Trust me, I'm not bragging here. I envy those who are transported to dreamland as soon as their heads hit their pillows, people who are able to sleep on airplanes, even when crushed in the middle, non-reclining seat, and folks who can take a power nap on cue and feel instantly revitalized.
I attribute my "sleepless in Sin City" status to three things. First of all, we made the drastic mistake of allowing our dogs to sleep on the bed with us. Adding a 70-pound lab puppy and a 60-pound territorial rottweiler, even to a king-size bed, is not the recipe for a tranquil night. There have been times when the floor has seemed a more appealing option. Second, my type A (or AA) personality is to blame. Once I wake up, I am unable to go back to sleep. Oh sure, I'll lay there for awhile, thinking about all of the things on my "to-do" list that I could be starting on, but it's only a matter of time before my feet are on the floor and I am downstairs having my daily meeting with the espresso machine. Finally, sometimes during the night, Eric ends up sleeping on a diagonal, straight across the bed. This, plus the space taken up by the two dogs, leaves me a sliver in upper lefthand corner of the bed, in which I can curl up into a little uncomfortable ball (but hey, those yoga classes are paying off!)
Because I hit the ground running early in the morning, sometimes I need a little pick-me-up during the mid-afternoon. As a creature of habit, I only drink my coffee first thing in the morning, and I'm not a big fan of the energy drinks that have appeared on the market over the past several years, so taking the beverage route is not an option. Occasionally, I'll try do a second small workout in the afternoon, so I like to nibble on something that has nutritional value with a kick, something like these espresso-coated walnuts.
I find nuts to be a very filling snack, so just a few of these go a long way. The hint of salt in each bite detracts from the sweetness, and the ginger adds a little bit of spice. While I enjoy these as a snack, they would also be great to package up for party favors or gifts, or to set out for entertaining (just remind people about the caffeine!) Here are my extra tips for this energizing espresso-coated snack:
- Instead of simply using walnuts, feel free to use an assortment of nuts, depending on what you have available in your pantry. Pecans, cashews, hazelnuts, and macadamias would all be good choices.
- Any strong, good quality coffee would be an acceptable substitute for the ground espresso. Be sure to grind the beans very finely, or the mixture will have a granular texture.
- I order my instant espresso powder on-line, through the King Arthur Catalogue, but you can find it as some specialty foods stores and Whole Foods. Do not substitute instant coffee--two completely different flavor profiles!
- These nuts make great hostess gifts or holiday gifts (not for kids!) Be sure to remind recipients of the espresso element, so that they don't eat the entire batch just before bedtime! Wrap the nuts in a decorative box or tin, attach a gift card, and voila!
- The nuts can be prepared up to two weeks in advance. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature.
Sweet and Salty Espresso Walnuts
Makes about 4 cups
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely ground espresso beans
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 large egg white
4 cups walnut halves and pieces
Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, ground beans, espresso powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the egg white until it is frothy. Add the walnuts to the egg white and toss to coat. Sprinkle the walnuts with the espresso mixture and toss them to coat. Spread the walnuts on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.
Bake the nuts for 5 minutes and then stir, rearranging the nuts in a single layer. Bake until the walnuts are dry to the touch, about 5 minutes longer. Cool the walnuts completely on the sheet.