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For tasty holiday treats, think pecans

December 19, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.
Many traditional desserts for this time of year, like pecan pie or pralines, feature these tasty, nutritious nuts. Submitted photo

For many, the holidays are not complete without desserts or dishes baked or cooked with pecans. Many of our traditional desserts for this time of year, like pecan pie or pralines, feature these tasty, nutritious nuts. We find pecans in so many holiday dishes partly because they are in season, which makes them an economical addition, and partly because so many people like them.

Pecans make a great addition to our holiday treats because they are a good source of protein. Pecans also pack important vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, phosphorous and thiamin. They are also a source of fiber. Pecans do contain fat but no more than most nuts.

Pecans in the shell are the most economical. When purchasing them in the shell, choose nuts that are clean, and free of holes, stains, splits or cracks. They should feel heavy for their size.

If you are purchasing pecans already shelled, decide whether you need halves or pieces for your recipe. Choose nuts with plumpness and that are fairly uniform in color. A golden brown color will give you the best pecan. Before you use shelled nuts, you will want to check them for bits of shell or bad spots.

Unshelled pecans will hold their freshness in the freezer up to two years, however, shelling before storage will reduce bulk almost by half. Shelled or unshelled pecans can be kept in the refrigerator in airtight containers for up to nine months. Unshelled pecans resist insects and aging much longer than shelled nuts.

While I am not a huge fan of pecans, my husband is. So, when he found out I was focusing on pecan recipes for this article, he was excited (he makes the sacrifice as one of my taste testers for all the recipes used). These recipes are easy to follow, make great desserts to bring with you to a holiday get-together and can be made ahead of time for when you need to grab something and go.

If you would like to learn ways to make your favorite holiday dishes a little healthier without sacrificing the taste or how to protect your waistline at the buffet line, contact the Garland County Extension Service at 501-623-6841 or email [email protected] Follow us on Facebook @garlandcountyextension.

Alison Crane is a Family and Consumer Science agent with the Garland County Extension Service.

Glazed Pecans

Ingredients:

1 egg white

4 teaspoons water

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound pecan halves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, beat the egg until frothy; whisk the water and vanilla into the egg. Stir the sugar, cinnamon, and salt into the egg mixture.

Add the pecans; stir to coat completely. Spread the pecans onto the prepared baking sheet.

Roast the pecans in the preheated oven, stirring about every 15 minutes, until the coating forms a glaze, about 1 hour. Allow to cool on the baking sheet at least 10 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information: Makes approximately 4 cups. Serving Size: 1 oz, 1/4 cup

248 Calories, Total Fat 20.3g, Sodium 111mg, Total Carbohydrate 16.9g, Protein 3.3g

Source: Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service

Scrumptious Turtle Cheesecake

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup (9 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons chocolate flavor syrup

4 tablespoons caramel syrup or ice cream topping

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup mini semi-sweet morsels

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease 9-inch springform pan.

To make the crust, mix crumbs and butter in a medium bowl. Press on to the bottom and 1 inch up the side of the springform pan.

For the filling, beat cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk in large mixer bowl until smooth. Add sugar, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla extract; beat just until combined.

Melt 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips in microwave until melted. Chips may retain some of their shape. Remove two cups of the cheesecake batter and stir it into the melted chocolate chips.

Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the caramel sauce over bottom of the crust. Alternately spoon cream cheese batter and chocolate batter into the crust, beginning and ending with the cream cheese batter.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the edge is set and the center moves slightly. Cool in the pan on a wire rack, or in the oven with the door slightly ajar. Run knife around the edge of cheesecake.

Once completely cooled, add your toppings. Drizzle chocolate and caramel syrup over the cheesecake. Sprinkle with pecans and mini-chocolate chips.

Refrigerate overnight or for several hours to allow the flavors to meld together. Remove the side of the springform pan.

Nutritional Information: 14 Servings, 506 Calories, Total Fat 35.1g, Saturated Fat 17.2g, Cholesterol 115mg, Sodium 236mg, Total Carbohydrate 41.4g, Protein 9.2g

Source: Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service

Healthier Pecan Pie

Ingredients:

frozen pie crust (or make your own)

¾ cup honey

3 large egg whites

2 Tablespoons light flavored oil

½ cup raw pecan pieces

½ cup pecan halves

4 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 Tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Chop pecans then mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

Pour batter into the raw pie crust and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes.

The pie should raise in the oven and have small cracks in the top when it is done. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving.

Nutritional Information: 12 Servings, 223 Calories, Total Fat 12.6g, Saturated Fat 1.7g, Sodium 77mg, Total Carbohydrate 25.8g, Protein 2.6g

Source: Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service

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