Monday, December 22, 2014
I have been contemplating quite a lot about what to write for my December blog. Of course Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years Eve? I could have decided to post a recipe from the menu I would be creating for my Christmas dinner. However....this year is a special year for me. I do not have to host Christmas dinner! Hard to believe since I have been hosting this special dinner for over 20 years. Mind you, at first I liked the idea and enjoyed creating a menu and trying new recipes. However some years it just felt like a chore, something I HAD to do and unfortunately I was lacking the enthusiasm and gumption you need to have when hosting 20 people for dinner.
When I first took over the job of hosting Christmas, I loved researching and planning and decorating and continuing some of the traditions my mom had started when I was young. Every year that I can remember, my mom would make an assortment of cookies and put them in antique glass cookie jars to look oh so pretty. I know she would keep a close watch on them so we still had the assortment as part of the dessert when SHE hosted Christmas dinner. My brother and I and especially my dad used to sneak into the jars and steal one or two - maybe a Russian tea cake or a double chocolate nut cookie.....until she heard the "clink" sound from the other room as we tried to place the top on the glass cookie jar ever so gently. "Get out of the cookies ...we will not have enough for dessert!" she would yell from the other room knowing full well that she would be lucky if they were still around at Christmas. We would criticize her and tell her that she should not make them too far in advance because it tempted us so much. Either way, they were enjoyed by all.
Unfortunately things got busier for me with 2 children, 2 dogs, work, shopping, cooking and decorating so some things had to give. I consider myself lucky if I can make 2 types of cookies when "back in the day" I would probably make 6 or so, some of which were a little time consuming like Linzer tarts or gingerbread men all decorated in white icing. Now its down to chocolate chips and probably the Russian tea cakes. In addition I usually make some pound cakes like almond or coconut pound cake and pair it with home made ice cream. Simple yet tasty desserts.
But, there is ONE item that I seem to find time for every year no matter how busy I am. There is always time to make a huge batch of candied pecans. A close friend of mine gave me the recipe years ago when I first got married and I think it called for walnuts but I like pecans so I used pecans instead. It is not that time consuming and you can make a lot at one time and everyone seems to love them. They are perfect for gifts if you put them in decorated tins and easy enough that anyone can make them. They are versatile too. Sometimes I put them in my salad or use them to top a cake.Other times, I just take a handful and devour.Try them....it could be one of your new traditions.
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 1/2 Tablespoon orange juice
1 pound of pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine sugar, salt, orange rind and orange juice in a large bowl. Add nuts and toss to coat.
Line a large jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Coat it with non-stick vegetable spray. Spread nuts evenly on foil. Bake nuts for 20 - 25 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Stir nuts halfway through baking time to coat evenly.
Place large piece of aluminum foil on the counter and spray with the cooking spray. Remove nuts from oven and pour onto foil, immediately separating nuts with two forks. Cool completely and then store in airtight containers.
Hope you like them. Happy Holidays!