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Come August, there is nowhere I'd rather NOT be than in Texas. Steamy, sultry, and hot, living in Texas in August is like trying to breathe in a tightly-covered pressure cooker.
But in November, I remember the joys of Texas. Cool breezes and balmy fall days refresh the senses and invite us outside once again. On streets and in parks, pecans are ripe for gathering and shelling.
Those of you who think pecans come in 6-ounce plastic supermarket packages have missed the true texture and flavor of a real Texas treat. Best of all are the small native pecans with shells like granite. But once you've cracked them, there are no better fall treats to be had.
With the holidays rapidly approaching, we want to share a couple of our favorite recipes using Texas pecans. Even if you're forced to use those supermarket replicas, these recipes are great!
Cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs.
Stir in the corn syrup, pecans, vanilla and salt.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell. Spraying the pie pan with PAM or a similar no-stick spray before placing pie shell can help keep the pastry crisp.
Bake the pie in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until it is just set in the center. Cool completely before serving.
Back in the eighties, I spent an unforgettable Christmas with my daughter who was, at the time, studying in Kyoto, Japan. Because of her love of pecan cookies, I made a double batch to take with me, fully aware that taking foodstuffs into Japan was not allowed. I figured I might lose the cookies, but what the heck? I might get lucky and sneak them past customs.
Arriving in Japan after a 26-hour flight, I was confronted with a Japanese customs agent who went through everything in my luggage. Nothing was too small or insignificant to escape his scrutiny. When he came to the tin of tightly packed cookies, he eyed it with a quizzical expression.
"Desu ka (what's this)?" he questioned me.
In my best schoolgirl Japanese, I explained that this was a Christmas present for my daughter, hoping that he would go on to the next item. It was not to be.
As I watched in horror, he opened the tin and was immediately enveloped by a dense cloud of powdered sugar.
"Ah," he announced. "Clismas plesant!" And beaming, he clapped the lid back on the tin and waved me through.
He was right. The holidays just wouldn't be as pleasant without these pecan gems.
Beat until soft ½ cup butter.
Blend in two tablespoons sugar.
Add one teaspoon vanilla, one cup ground pecan meats, and one cup cake flour or regular flour sifted several times.
Roll into 32 ½ inch balls, one teaspoon full at a time.
Place on greased baking sheet. Bake in 300 degree oven for 45 minutes or 375 for 25 minutes. While cookies are still hot, roll in confectioner's sugar. Roll again after cookies cool.
Stored in air-tight tins, these cookies will keep indefinitely.
Editor's Note:Phyllis Staff, Ph.D. - Phyllis Staff is an experimental psychologist and the CEO of The Best Is Yet.Net, an internet company that helps seniors and caregivers find trustworthy residential care. She is the author of How to Find Great Senior Housing: A Roadmap for Elders and Those Who Love Them. She is also the daughter of a victim of Alzheimer's disease.