As fall deepens toward winter and the temperature drops, all the nuts appear. I’m not just thinking of the pecans and walnuts we harvest and store for later. I’m thinking of the ones that hang on the family tree and appear just in time for the holidays. You know who I mean. They’re the relative everyone talks about in hushed tones, wondering if they’ll grace the family gathering again this year with their rendition of “Jingle Bells” played on their cheeks as dessert is served.
Lord knows, I’ve had my share of crazy relations. There was Cousin Hattie who’d work the room at family gatherings like a politician. And Aunt Doris who loved to tell jokes but never remembered the punch line. Her brother Terry couldn’t tell if he wanted to eat unless he consulted his watch. If you held on to his wrist and asked, “Are you hungry?” he’d practically break his neck trying to find a clock.
Well, you’ve heard of “sweets for the sweet.” I say, nuts for the nuts! When your relatives descend on you this season, have on hand some spiced nuts. Here’s my recipe for Hot Spiced Pecans:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl melt the butter in the microwave. Combine the seasonings with the butter. Add the pecans, mix well, and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake about ten minutes until lightly toasted, stirring once. Drizzle the maple syrup over the nuts. Stir to coat thoroughly and bake ten minutes longer until the pecans begin to darken. Remove immediately from oven and allow to cool about 30 minutes. While cooling, use a spatula to stire them around and minimize sticking. Transfer to a serving bowl, breaking up any large clusters.
With a bowl of spiced nuts, you can keep your relatives occupied as you get the holiday dinner on the table. Who knows? Maybe Grandpa Howard will enjoy this savory appetizer so much he’ll forget to entertain everyone by hanging a spoon from his nose.