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Viva Fiesta (Pecans)!

As we approach mid-April in South Texas, we approach also FIESTA season. Anyone with me? The time of year when the colors get brighter, the food gets a little bit spicier, and celebration is in the air.

And what better way to celebrate than with a little kick of something different? This recipe comes from my dear Oma's (my grandmother) lifetime recipe book. This is clearly a compilation of all sorts of clippings and scribbles---from Better Homes and Gardens to the San Antonio Express News to her friends and family. I am honored to call this book my own now. How nostalgic it is to read through her notes and musings, as well as the instructions of those sharing the recipes! People love to share and care through food. Some things never change.

And for me, reading through the types of food, the suggested menus, and even ingredients that no longer exist, is like unearthing an artifact from another time. it's telling the food story of people in a time gone by---with its own trends and priorities and even cultural climate of the time.

Today's recipe is called Fiesta Pecans. It's ironically a trend that's come right back into vogue---that is, sweet and savory and a little bit spicy. You may be asking yourself, "Okay...but what does one do with said pecans?!" So glad you asked. I'll tell you. Toss a handful on top of plan greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey, of if you're a fan of parfaits, add half a peeled, chopped blood orange and a sprinkle of granola. Or add a healthy dose to a salad with goat cheese, dried cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette. If you're more of a purist, just enjoy these like bar nuts for a little happy hour snack with your drink of choice.

Pecans: For anyone who might be reading, know that I am pronouncing this "pe-kahns" in my brain each time I type it. Not to offend the deep south, but I'll never understand the whole "pee-can" thing. Locally grown pecans, if you live somewhere that sells them, are always great! But any pecans will do-you can sometimes find a better deal on them in the produce department than in the baking aisle if that's something that matters to you. People I think forget you can eat pecans on their own-they're rich in Vitamin E, monounsaturated fats (MUFAs for all my RD friends out there), and of course other minerals. They are high in fat, which is totally NOT a bad thing; it's what makes them satisfying!!

Tabasco: If you live in the south, you know this. It's on every restaurant table, room service tray, and grocery shelf down here. If you don't, or just don't want to go buy a bottle of something new, you can use another red pepper sauce, such as Cholula. Everyone seems to have their loyalties, so by all means adhere to yours! Then use the leftovers on eggs, avocado toast, or nachos.

Egg White: Seems like the outlier ingredient, right? Well, don't underestimate its importance! It's the biner, the glue that holds the whole Fiesta together. Funny, I almost wrote "Fiesta party" there--whew, good call not repeating the same word in two different languages! If you're unsure of how to separate an egg, watch this tutorial. You don't need a separator tool to do this at all, I like to use the shells. And practice makes perfect! The egg whites are the reason these nuts need to be refrigerated after baking, do this to keep them safe and fresh/not soggy!

The recipe below is a slight twist on the original--but many thanks to its creator, Margaret Shelton. I can't help wondering what newspaper or magazine page this was so lovingly tugged from.

Fiesta Pecans

1 egg white

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper*

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/4 teaspoon black pepper (fresh ground is best!)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon paprika*

2-4 tablespoons brown sugar

2 1/2 cups pecan halves

*note: the quantities of the spices can be increased according to your taste-but I wouldn't add less than the quantities listed!

Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine the first 9 ingredients in a bowl, beat well. Add pecans and stir well. Make sure the pecans are evenly covered. Drain and spread onto a greased, foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 300°F for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Look for medium-brown color, and make sure edges of the pecans aren't burning. While the pecans are in the oven, lay out a large piece of parchment or waxed paper. When you remove them from the oven, immediately slide the pecans onto the parchment/waxed paper until completely cooled. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can freeze them for up to 3 months if you like!

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