All of that changed when I received the "wrong" salad at a local restaurant a few years ago. I'd ordered the "blue cheese wedge" salad, but what the waiter brought out to the table and placed in front of me, bore absolutely no resemblance to that classic steakhouse staple. It did have blue cheese sprinkled on it, but instead of bacon, scallions and a nice thick, creamy blue cheese dressing, there were chopped apples, dried cranberries, a vinaigrette of some sort and much to my shock and horror, (insert "DAT, DAT, DUHHHHN" here)... spiced pecans! Now, the hubby was more than happy to take them off my hands, but encouraged (read: pestered) me to at least try one before he did. So, I thought about it for a minute and I figured that it certainly wasn't going to kill me. You never know, right? It wouldn't have been the first time that I'd tried something that I thought I wouldn't like and instead, ended up thoroughly enjoying it.
The conclusion?? Well.... let's just say that I've been a huge fan ever since. :~) So much so, that I find myself mixing up a batch of these little sweet and salty gems on a somewhat regular basis. You see, there's something about roasting or toasting most kinds of nuts, that changes the texture and gives them a sort of melt in your mouth quality. (of course, the sugar and spices don't hurt, either) I'll often toss them into a simple green salad, but I also put them in my Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, tuck lovely little jars of them into holiday gift baskets or just keep them around for snacking. (not that they last very long in this house, though)
Cinnamon Spiced Pecans
(makes about 2 Cups)
- 1/2 of a large bag of Pecan Halves
- 2 Tbls Coconut Oil (or other light oil)
- 1 Tbls (heaping) Light Brown Sugar
- 1 Tsp Ground Allspice
- 1 Tsp Ground Ginger
- 1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt
- 1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the oil in a medium sized mixing bowl. (for this batch, I was in a bit of a hurry and I left the coconut oil in it's "right out of the jar" semi-solid state, but if you choose to use it as your base, you might want to take a minute to melt it slightly in the microwave. It will help coat the nuts more easily)
Add your brown sugar, spices and salt and combine thoroughly with a whisk, spoon, or mix them together with your meticulously clean fingers. You should have a fairly smooth paste-like consistency.
Add the pecan halves and mix them with the sugar, oil and spices until you have them all coated well.
My mixture was a tad lumpy due to the cold coconut oil, but it still worked out fine. I just used my fingers to pack or press it onto some of the pecans to make it stick better.
If your oil is more liquid, a spoon will do the job.
Spread the coated pecans out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet or pan and toast them in your pre-heated 350 degree (Fahrenheit) oven for 3 to 6 minutes. There's no need to take them out and turn them, but you can do it if you don't feel like they are toasting evenly.
A batch of this size usually takes a total of about 5 minutes, but since ovens can differ in temperature, you might need to take them out sooner or leave them in a little longer. Just be sure to remove them as soon as they've turned a a slightly darker golden brown and you can see the spice mixture sizzling or bubbling a wee bit.
Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool thoroughly. (at least 10 minutes) The sugar and spices form a yummy crispy coating as they cool.
You can use them in a light dinner salad (like this Autumn Harvest Salad with Chicken and Sweet Cider Vinaigrette) or for sandwiches in the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad that I mentioned previously. If you aren't in the mood for either of those, you can just put them in an air-tight container and keep them in a cool dry place as a super yummy (and slightly addictive) sweet and salty snack. You might want to make a double (or triple) batch, if you happen to have pecan lovers in your house. ;~)
|Autumn Harvest Salad with Chicken Recipe HERE|
|Sweet Cider Vinaigrette Recipe HERE|
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