AHHH Christmas is SO close!! Like, four and a half days away close!! My mom teases me a lot for feeling this way, but I always start to get just a tiny bit sad when it gets close to Christmas because that means it’s almost over! I love this season and I hate to see it go – I remember I actually cried one year after opening Christmas presents because I was so sad that Christmas was ending.
Anyways, one very special part of Christmas for me is eating my grandma’s delicious, sugary candied pecans. They’re just one of those quintessential Christmas treats that I look forward to every year. After making Divinities in my food lab this year, I asked my grandma if I could help her make the pecans this year. I thought it would be hard since some candy recipes are kind of finicky, but the pecans were totally easy to make!
Gamma’s Candied Pecans
– 5 cups halved pecans
– 1.5 cups granulated sugar
– 1/2 cup boiling water
– 1/4 cup honey
– 1 tsp vanilla
Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Pour the sugar and honey into a big, heavy bottomed pot. Once the water comes to a boil, pour half a cup of it into the pot and begin to stir the mixture. Turn the heat under the pot to medium heat and let the mixture come to a boil.
Most people might use a candy thermometer to figure out when the mixture is ready, but my grandma does the old fashioned way – dripping the sugar mixture into a cup of water to see if it forms a “soft ball” at the bottom. Basically, you just use a spoon to drop a tiny bit of the mixture into some water, and if the mixture immediately sinks to the bottom and forms a round “ball” shape, then you’re set! Once it gets to that stage, turn off the heat, then add the vanilla and mix. Finally, add the pecans and stir continuously to coat them until the sugar mixture starts to cool and turns white. It will start getting really hard to stir at the end, fyi!
While I have my delicious sugar coated pecans, other people have a little something called fruitcake. I grew up thinking the stuff was absolutely disgusting. I mean, every Christmas movie and cartoon makes fun of it as if it’s anthrax or something. I had not even SEEN a real fruitcake until yesterday, when my other grandma offered me some after we went out to lunch for her and my grandpa’s 55th wedding anniversary.
I tried the fruitcake. And I liked it. (Also, I had veal. Again. In the form of meatloaf. It makes me feel like a terrible, cruel person…sort of.)
It’s absolutely delightful! It tastes almost exactly like a LARA bar, except with an extra punch of gummy sweetness from the candied fruit. I can see why so many don’t like it, but if you’re a fan of dried fruit and lots of fun textures, go try some fruitcake, pronto.
And finally, here is the other recipe I promised. It’s nothing special, just a fun oatmeal recipe. Just so you know, my oatmeal obsession has waned substantially.
Butter Pecan Oatmeal
– 1/3 cup oats
– 1/3 cup water, plus more during cooking
– 1/3 cup milk
– 1 small, ripe banana
– 1/2 tsp vanilla
– 1 tsp butter
– 1 handful of chopped pecans
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 2 tsp brown sugar (more to taste)
Add the oats, milk and 1/3 cup of water to a boil. Slice the banana into relatively thin slices, reserving five or six to put on top. Stir the mixture to break up the banana slices. Add the cinnamon and the vanilla and stir again.
In a small pan, melt the butter then add the chopped pecans and the reserved banana slices. After a few minutes, flip the banana slices and stir the pecans, then sprinkle a teaspoon of brown sugar over the mixture. Take the pan off the heat.
By now your oats should be bubbling, so start stirring constantly to help the bananas blend into the mixture. I always find that my oats start to get a little gummy, so I add more water (you could do milk, too) to pump up the volume. Once your oats are cooked to the consistency you like (it should take at least five minutes), add the other teaspoon of brown sugar and mix.
Pour the oats into a bowl and top with the pecans and browned banana slices. EAT UP!
I really like this combo – the browned bananas make it look fancy and the pecans add a nice texture and a great nutty, buttery flavor. Like I said, it’s nothing special, but it’s a nice way to jazz up your typical bowl of oatmeal.