Kazia Jankowski - big world | small kitchen

Wedding Season

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This spring, it’s raining wedding invitations on my corner of downtown Denver, and the harder it rains, the deeper I get into wedding registries. In the last few months, I’ve spent hours scanning Crate & Barrel and Macy’s websites, and I’ve learned to love and hate those long gift lists. I appreciate that my friends will finally have decent knives, but I regret honoring their relationship with the same present that I gave at the last wedding. That thought especially made me crinkle my eyebrows with Jonathan and Sabrina’s wedding.

I met Sabrina when I worked at 5280 magazine. She was the online business director, and I was the recently-returned-from-Peru food writer, who had just been hired onto the online team. My first day on the job, Sabrina walked up to me, gave me a big hug, and said, “I’ve heard great things about you.” By day 30, she was giving me rides home. And somewhere around day 90, Sabrina started telling breathless stories about Jonathan, the German-Korean songwriter who would drive from Boulder to Denver just to make her dinner.

That was three years ago, and since then, every occasion I’ve spent with Jonathan and Sabrina, I’ve walked away radiating their enthusiastic energy. Sabrina laughs at Jonathan’s wild stories of growing up in El Paso, Texas. Jonathan’s sure that Sabrina can lead any company at which she works. And somehow I walk away feeling both funny and capable of running companies.

So when I received Jonathan and Sabrina’s wedding invitation, I knew that no registry gift would do. I wanted to give them a present worthy of their energy and full of their personalities. I emailed Sabrina, and we settled on this: I would make spiced nuts for their welcome bags.

As I searched recipes for this gift, I kept in mind that Jonathan grew up crossing the border into Juaraz for Mexican lunches. I thought of La Mexicana, the hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, which is a rite of passage in a friendship with Jonathan and Sabrina. By the time I started cooking, I had thoughts of chiles, warm spices, and sunny Mexican patios running through my head. So I picked a recipe that combined earthy Mexican pumpkin seeds (pepitas) with mildly spicy chile powder, sweet cinnamon, fragrant cumin, and a generous scoop of sugar—and I baked this mixture into crunchy, golden seeds, dusted with sweet heat.

Each one of Jonathan and Sabrina’s out-of-town guests received a treat bag of these Mexican spiced pepitas, and I made a couple of extra bags, too. Jonathan and Sabrina would head to Greece for their honeymoon, and I hoped some spiced pepitas might find their way into the honeymoon suitcases so that on the beaches of the Mediterranean, Jonathan and Sabrina could enjoy exactly what I most love about their relationship: a taste of adventure combined with genuine sweetness.

Mexican Spiced Pepitas
Makes about 2 ½ cups
Adapted from Epicurious

Sweet and spicy, these easy-to-make pepitas are full of earthy, warm, Mexican flavors. They make for a great afternoon snack with a paloma or a Corona, but they are also delicious on salads with avocado and cheese, like cojita.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups raw, shelled pepitas
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg white, whisked until white and fluffy
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Arrange oven rack in middle position, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. In a large bowl, combine pepitas, sugar, egg white, chile powder, cinnamon, salt, cumin, and cayenne. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Spread pepitas evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While pepitas are still warm separate them with a fork. Let cool and serve.

For printable recipe, click here.

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12 Comments

12 Comments to “Wedding Season”

  1. Anna says:

    I love this story/post!!

  2. Kazia Jankowski says:

    Thanks, Anna! Hopefully, you loved the pepitas, too!

  3. Andrea says:

    Do you think you could use unshelled pepitas? What difference do you think that would make?

  4. Kazia says:

    Good question. I think that you could definitely use unshelled pepitas. The eating experience would just be different. Using unshelled pepitas makes a snack that is easy to bite into and where the earthy pepita flavor is more present. The unshelled pepitas are more brittle and have the minerally taste of the shell. But I bet they would still be good. Let me know if you try it! Thanks for reading.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Love this Kazia – thanks again! The pepitas was absolutely wonderful!

  6. KatieRose says:

    I’m throwing a party for about 150 people and I’d like to offer this delicious looking treat as a snack. Could you tell me how you adjusted the recipe to feed a lot of hungry mouths? Thank you!

  7. kazia says:

    Good question, Katie. I made double recipes on one sheet tray and baked two trays in the oven at once, rotating the trays (in the upper third and lower third of the oven) half way through baking. The most important step when making the pepitas in mass is to really spread them out when they cool. Otherwise, they lose some of their crispness. Good luck!

  8. Kathryn says:

    I have these in my oven right now! I soaked my pepitas last night in salt water to get rid of the phytic acid (it binds to vitamins and minerals now allowing your body to absorb them). Also I used less sugar and my oven is only up to 150 so they will be in there all day. But they keep most of their nutritional value that way! Thanks for the seasoning mix!

  9. kazia says:

    Great tips, Kathryn. Hope these turned out deliciously!

  10. [...] think it would be too much unless you’re serving a light entree) and consider making your own Mexican spiced pepitas (versus spiced [...]

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