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pecans2

It takes courage to cook for me. Severe food allergies can make the kitchen feel like a minefield — it requires a lot of attention to detail on the cook’s part (and a lot of trust on mine) to voluntarily enter this realm of label reading and ingredient monitoring. I love to cook and I love to feed other people, so I can understand that it must be frustrating to my friends and family for me to feel so off-limits when it comes to any kind of culinary care-giving.

This recipe is delicious, but it will always be among my favorites because it’s the first food gift anyone ever gave me after the onset of my food allergies in 2007. Angela certainly knew what she was getting into — she’s seen me through dozens of anaphylaxis episodes over the years and has even had the dubious honor of administering my epi-pen. It takes a real friend to stab you in the thigh with a syringe; it takes an even better one to make you food afterward, when she knows what’s at stake.

These only require a handful of ingredients, but the results are snacking perfection: salty-sweet, satisfyingly crunchy, warm with cinnamon and allspice. They have the added bonus of being gluten-free, sulfite-free, and stress-free. Everyone loves them, even the self-professed nut-haters. (You know who you are.)

For me, this recipe is just the right way to start off the new year because they are all about Possibility. The beautiful thing about hope is that it can bloom so unexpectedly: after a long, dark winter, in the midst of life’s compost. It can even come in the shape of a cellophane bag full of spiced pecans. When you make and share this recipe, I hope you can also share in a little piece of the comfort and faith they represent for me.

pecans3

Angela’s Sugar and Spice Pecans
makes 3 cups

1 large egg white
3/4 c. granulated sugar or vanilla sugar (see these Recipe Notes for vanilla sugar how-to)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
3/4 tsp. salt (not coarse)
3 c. pecans

Oven 250F. In medium mixing bowl, beat egg white with whisk or electric mixer until it holds stiff peaks. In separate small mixing bowl, stir together sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice until thoroughly mixed. Fold pecans into egg white until they are coated. Don’t stir too energetically, you don’t want to lose all that air you just whipped into the egg white. Sprinkle in the sugar-spice mixture, stirring until all pecans are thoroughly coated with thick, gooey cinnamon yum. (That’s a very technical cooking term, I know. ;)

Spread out pecans in even layer on large parchment-lined baking sheet. (You can try it without parchment, but butter your baking sheet copiously and get someone else to do the dishes.) Bake for 45 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 15 minutes with silicon spatula to bring the gooey bits to the surface. Add an extra 15 minutes baking time if they are not crispy and dry at the end of the 45 minutes; if your oven doesn’t maintain low temperatures well, it may take longer. Allow to cool on baking sheet completely before eating or storing in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 weeks.

Quick tip: this recipe easily doubles, just use larger bowls to mix and bake for a full hour. If you make more than a double batch, bake on two cookie sheets to be sure your layer of nuts is not too thick.

Prayers and wishes for a healthy, happy, fulfilling 2012 for you and yours. :)

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