Back in the day my mom and I used to make Christmas goodie baskets for our family and friends. Every year we’d belly up to the stove and whip up dozens of different creations–mini buttermilk pies, mini pecan pies, three or four different types of cookies, fudge, divinity, “almond joys,” mini pumpkin and banana nut bread loaves, and a few others I’m sure I’ve forgotten. Most of the time we did it because we loved filling our loved ones’ bellies full of homemade goodness. But some of the time I think we did it just to see what we could actually do when we pulled out all the stops.
Nowadays Mom and I are about a 3 and a half hour drive apart, so the holiday baking free-for-all rarely happens any more. But this year I was really itching to do goodie bags, so I gave it a go on my own. And besides the Fallen Cookies and the small second degree burn from the marshmallows, everything turned out really well. Especially today’s sweet treat. Instead of the usual mini-pecan pies, I decided to go for a spiced pecan instead. I use a variation of these on my Fish Daddy’s Salad, so I knew these would be good. But I never would have guessed how addicting they would be! Every time I’d make a pass through the kitchen I’d grab one or two, until my goodie back pile became dangerously low. I actually had to hide them from myself! Before you laugh, just try resisting them. It can’t be done, I tell you!
Anyway, these are very easy to make and only require a bit of arm strength. (You’d be surprised how tiring it is to stir for 15 minutes nonstop.) But they are well worth the effort. In fact you won’t even remember those 15 minutes when you’re begging your significant other to hide them in order to save you from yourself.
Sugary Spiced Pecans
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of ground cloves
2 cups pecan halves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Add pecans and vanilla; cook until all syrup is absorbed and pecans are coated, stirring constantly (about 12 minutes). Do NOT cook until they are dry or they’ll clump together. When you try to pry them apart, a decent amount of the coating is lost and you’ll end up with naked pecans. Spread pecan mixture on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray or ungreased parchment paper. (Pecans will have a sugar coating.) Cool completely.
A few might stick together. Whether you chose to break them into halves is up to you. There is nothing wrong with the occassional chunk of nutty sweetness.
NOTE: Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to one month; in the refrigerator for up to 3 months; or in the freezer for up to 8 months.
If by some miracle you can keep yourself from scarfing these down as-is, I have a hunch they would be great on top of a sweet potato casserole or even in a batch of pumpkin bread.