Iola Egle of Bella Vista, Ariz., is a self-proclaimed "nut addict."

"I have literally hundreds of recipes in my nut file," she said.

Iola was one of hundreds of Desperation Dinners readers who responded to our request for "nut nibbles" that would work equally well for holiday entertaining or packaging as gifts. We were definitely curious about a recipe that could stand out as a winner for someone who's a nut pro.

"This recipe for Barbecued Walnuts is one of my very favorites," she said. "It came from 'The Nebraska Farmer' in 1963, and my children look forward to enjoying this treat while playing games."

At first glance, Priscilla Levendusky's recipe for Pesto Nuts is intriguing simply because it's so unusual. And when you taste these mixed nuts with distinct notes of basil and garlic, we think you'll be as thrilled as we were.

"This is my favorite nut recipe," says Priscilla, who lives in Bayside, Wis. "I found the original version in Southern Living magazine, which called for pecan halves and slivered almonds. The slivered almonds were not too finger-friendly, so I revised it by omitting the almonds and adding peanuts, cashews and sometimes walnuts and whole almonds."

Both of today's recipes are just as quick and easy as they are delicious. You may become a "nut addict," too.

BARBECUED WALNUTS

Start to finish: 5 minutes' preparation, plus 20 minutes' baking time, plus 20 minutes' cooling time.

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon ketchup

2 dashes Tabasco sauce

4 cups walnut halves

Cooking oil spray

Seasoned salt, such as Lawry's brand, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Place the butter in a medium-size microwave-safe mixing bowl, cover with a paper towel and microwave on high until melted, about 45 seconds.

Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir in the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and Tabasco sauce. Add the walnuts and stir until they are well-coated.

Spray a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with cooking oil spray, and spread the walnuts evenly in the dish. Bake, uncovered, stirring every 5 minutes, until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and pour the walnuts out onto 2 layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with seasoning salt to taste. Cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes, and store in an airtight container, preferably a jar or tin, for up to 3 weeks at room temperature.

Makes 4 cups.

Approximate values per tablespoon: 45 calories (83 percent from fat), 4 g fat (1 g saturated), 1 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 1 g carbohydrate, trace amount dietary fiber, 16 mg sodium

PESTO NUTS

Start to finish: 5 minutes' preparation, plus 15 minutes' baking time, plus 20 minutes' cooling time.

Cook's note: This is the Knorr Pesto Mix that's intended for use as a pasta sauce. It's a dry powder.

1 envelope (.5 ounce) Knorr Pesto Mix, (see Cook's note)

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 cups unsalted, dry-roasted mixed nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Whisk together the pesto mix powder and oil in a large mixing bowl until well-combined. Add the nuts, and stir until they are well-coated.

Pour the nuts onto an 11-by-17-inch baking pan, such as a jelly roll pan. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. When the nuts are done, they will just be beginning to brown but will continue to brown slightly when removed from the oven. Do not overbake!

Remove the nuts from the oven, and cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Store in airtight containers, preferably jars or tins, at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

Makes 5 cups.

Approximate values per tablespoon: 56 calories (74 percent from fat), 5 g fat (1 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g protein, 2 g carbohydrate, 1 g dietary fiber, 18 mg sodium


Beverly Mills is a former food editor of the Miami Herald food section and a mother of two; Alicia Ross, a former food columnist for The Raleigh News and Observer, also has two children. They have been living the desperate life for years and years. Send desperate tales of woe or everyday success stories and your favorite quick recipes to Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at www.desperationdinners.com. You can e-mail Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross at bev-alicia@desperationdinners.com. © United Feature Syndicate Inc.