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November/December 2011

Rat-a-tat! The pecans falling on the tin roof of my office sounds like gunfire. The squirrels are having a hey-day! I spent the better part of an afternoon crawling on the ground filling my bucket with Louisiana’s favorite nut while shooing away the squirrels.

Here in the South, we are quite fortunate to have the pecan, sometimes called the Crown Prince of the Nut Kingdom and God’s gift to the South due to its versatility and the amount that is harvested—some 200,000,000 pounds average per year. This Native American nut is a member of the hickory family, and has a fat content of over 70 percent, more than most nuts. But they are a good source of protein and rich in B-vitamins and minerals. Though high in fat, the fat is unsaturated and the pecan is low in cholesterol.

Whatever, nothing seems to stop us from enjoying our pecan pies, roasted pecans, pralines, and a myriad pecan delicacies. Since pecans are a seasonal crop, you will want to store them for year-round use. They should be stored as soon as they are thoroughly dry in airtight containers in a cool, dry, dark place. Pecans are rich in oil and will become stale or rancid quickly if not stored properly. Shelled or unshelled nuts will keep fresh for about a year stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator or even better, in the freezer.

But if you don’t have your very own pecan tree in your yard, Cajungrocer offers a great assortment of pecans—chocolate-covered, spiced with cinnamon, praline-covered—that are ideal for munching your way through the upcoming holiday season. Hey, you might want to experiment cooking and baking with them too. But, if you have access to freshly-shelled pecans, here are some recipes to get you in the mood for the festive Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.



PECAN MUFFINS


Makes 15 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or pecan pieces
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the flour, pecans, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside. Combine the milk, butter, eggs and vanilla in another bowl. Add to the dry ingredients, stirring until just moistened. Spoon the batter into greased and floured muffin pans, filling half full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.



PECAN LACE COOKIES


Makes about 30 cookies


  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
With a pastry brush, spread 2 tablespoons of the softened butter over two large baking sheets. Sprinkle each baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the flour and tip the pan from side to side to distribute the flour evenly. Invert the baking sheet and rap it sharply to remove the excess flour. Combine 1/2 cup of the flour, the baking powder and the salt, and sift them together in a bowl. Set aside.
In a deep bowl, cream 2 tablespoons of the butter by beating it and mashing it against the sides of the bowl with the back of a spoon until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar, beat in the eggs and the vanilla, and stir the flour mixture into the batter. Then add the pecans.
Drop the batter by heaping teaspoonful onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 3 inches apart. Bake for 5 minutes, or until the cookies have spread into lacelike 4-inch rounds and have turned golden brown. Let the cookies cool for a minute or so, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Let the baking sheets cool completely, then coat them with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons of flour, and bake the remaining cookies. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.



ROASTED PECANS

  • 4 cups large pecan halves
  • 4 tablespoons margarine, melted
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Spread the pecans in a heavy baking pan and bake for 30 minutes at 300? F. Add the butter and stir well to coat all the pecans evenly. Bake 15 minutes more, then sprinkle with the salt and stir well. Bake 15 to 20 minutes more, then remove from the oven. Stir well and cool. Store in airtight jars or containers.

Just go nuts!

Rat-a-tat! The pecans falling on the tin roof of my office sounds like gunfire. The squirrels are having a hey-day! I spent the better part of an afternoon crawling on the ground filling my bucket with Louisiana’s favorite nut while shooing away the squirrels.

Here in the South, we are quite fortunate to have the pecan, sometimes called the Crown Prince of the Nut Kingdom and God’s gift to the South due to its versatility and the amount that is harvested—some 200,000,000 pounds average per year. This Native American nut is a member of the hickory family, and has a fat content of over 70 percent, more than most nuts. But they are a good source of protein and rich in B-vitamins and minerals. Though high in fat, the fat is unsaturated and the pecan is low in cholesterol.

Whatever, nothing seems to stop us from enjoying our pecan pies, roasted pecans, pralines, and a myriad pecan delicacies. Since pecans are a seasonal crop, you will want to store them for year-round use. They should be stored as soon as they are thoroughly dry in airtight containers in a cool, dry, dark place. Pecans are rich in oil and will become stale or rancid quickly if not stored properly. Shelled or unshelled nuts will keep fresh for about a year stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator or even better, in the freezer.

But if you don’t have your very own pecan tree in your yard, Cajungrocer offers a great assortment of pecans—chocolate-covered, spiced with cinnamon, praline-covered—that are ideal for munching your way through the upcoming holiday season. Hey, you might want to experiment cooking and baking with them too. But, if you have access to freshly-shelled pecans, here are some recipes to get you in the mood for the festive Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.



PECAN MUFFINS


Makes 15 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or pecan pieces
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the flour, pecans, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside. Combine the milk, butter, eggs and vanilla in another bowl. Add to the dry ingredients, stirring until just moistened. Spoon the batter into greased and floured muffin pans, filling half full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.



PECAN LACE COOKIES


Makes about 30 cookies


  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
With a pastry brush, spread 2 tablespoons of the softened butter over two large baking sheets. Sprinkle each baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the flour and tip the pan from side to side to distribute the flour evenly. Invert the baking sheet and rap it sharply to remove the excess flour. Combine 1/2 cup of the flour, the baking powder and the salt, and sift them together in a bowl. Set aside.
In a deep bowl, cream 2 tablespoons of the butter by beating it and mashing it against the sides of the bowl with the back of a spoon until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar, beat in the eggs and the vanilla, and stir the flour mixture into the batter. Then add the pecans.
Drop the batter by heaping teaspoonful onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 3 inches apart. Bake for 5 minutes, or until the cookies have spread into lacelike 4-inch rounds and have turned golden brown. Let the cookies cool for a minute or so, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Let the baking sheets cool completely, then coat them with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons of flour, and bake the remaining cookies. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.



ROASTED PECANS

  • 4 cups large pecan halves
  • 4 tablespoons margarine, melted
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Spread the pecans in a heavy baking pan and bake for 30 minutes at 300? F. Add the butter and stir well to coat all the pecans evenly. Bake 15 minutes more, then sprinkle with the salt and stir well. Bake 15 to 20 minutes more, then remove from the oven. Stir well and cool. Store in airtight jars or containers.

Just go nuts!



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