Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Aww, Nuts.

Are you putting together little baskets of goodies for friends and neighbors this holiday?  Let me show you 2 easy pecan recipes that can easily be made, bagged and ready for giving in no time at all.
{OR, keep them around your house for snacking and unexpected guests!}

Both of these recipes call for pecans.  I have a soft spot in my heart for pecans.  Years ago, we lived in a little old house in the suburbs of Dallas.  I think every tree on our street had at least 1 big, beautiful pecan tree.  We had two in our front yard.

Our first fall in the house, I noticed a few pecans on the ground, but most were still up in the tree...and I wasn't sure what to do about that.  So, I grabbed our big stepladder and a broom...and started beating the branches of the tree.  {Yes. I did.} 

After about 10 minutes, the retired gentleman who lived next-door came outside and said, "Honey, they'll come down when they're ready."

And that's my pecan story.
On to the recipes....we have one sweet and one savory.  The sweet are cinnamon-y, sugary, and addictive...pretty much your diet's worst nightmare.  The savory are spicy and smoky with just a hint of sweet....they're best munched on while enjoying a beer. ;)

Sugar & Spice Pecans
{adapted from this little paper pecan cookbook out of Amarillo}

1 cup sugar
2 & 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
5 TBSP water
3 cups pecan halves
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cinnamon and water.  Cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Continue cooking until the syrup reached 230 degrees on a candy thermometer...or until it makes a heavy thread.

Stir in the pecans and vanilla.  Remove from heat.  Continue stirring until the mixture turns from syrup to sugar.

Spread onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment to cool.

Lone Star Pecans
{from The New Texas Cuisine, Stephan Pyles}

2 TBSP unsalted butter
3 cups pecan halves
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons chile powder***
1 TBSP cumin
1/4 cup cider vinegar
coarse salt

***look for a "pure" chile powder, most regular powders contain onion & garlic powder...we don't want that.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment; set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the pecans and cook about 3 minutes.  Add the brown sugar, stir and cook until lightly caramelized.  Stir in the paprika, chile powder and cumin.  Add the vinegar and cook, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated.  Season with coarse salt.
Spread the pecans on the prepared cookie sheet.  Bake until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Cool completely before bagging.

Are you putting together baskets or boxes of Christmas goodies this year?  I want to know what's in them! 
{'Cause I'm nosy like that.}

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