Family Favorites · Gluten Free · New Traditions · Vegan · Vegetarian

Spiced Pecans…favorite of the Holidays

Spiced Pecans are a family and gift tradition started a few years ago. I do not remember where the recipe came from, but it is an all-time favorite. It makes a great gift for friends and family and a nice change from the traditional sweets of the holidays. Spiced Pecans can be made early in December and given throughout the holidays. I typically triple the recipe and make several batches.  Enjoy!

IMG_3676 IMG_3682

SPICED PECANS

2 cups pecans

SPICE MIX:
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

GLAZE:
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pecans on a baking sheet for 6 minutes.
  • Stir together the spice mix in a small bowl.
  • In a saucepan, combine the glaze ingredients. Bring glaze to boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Stir in toasted nuts and continue to stir until all the nuts are shiny and the liquid is gone (1-2 minutes).
  • Place glazed nuts in a bowl, sprinkle on the spice mix, and toss well to coat. Spread the coated nuts on a cookie sheet and return them to the oven for another 4 minutes.
  • Remove and cool.

Yield: 2 cups

Family · Holidays · Home · Humor

Aunts and Uncles…storytelling…treasures of the family

Aunts and Uncles are a bit like Grandparents.  They get to spoil the nieces and nephews, shower them with affection and love, and leave when they are amped up on sugar and fun.  It’s a good gig! I was an Aunt at age 7 and grew up with my niece and two nephews. It was wonderful having playmates and helping out my older sister and brother. A highlight of every year was when they came to stay with us and go to Bible School at the rural Carlton Brethren Church, a half mile from our house. There were sticker charts, ice cream, indoor picnics, dress-up (sorry Jeff and Duane), and so many stories!

Aunt Cathy and Sherri
Aunt Cathy and Sherri

sherri duane and jeff christmas about 1969

After college I moved out-of-state and was always sad not to be closer to my family but treasured each of the visits back to see everyone. I was very fortunate to have wonderful Aunts and Uncles as well.  Not all of them lived close but my siblings and I always knew we were loved with the hugs/kisses that went with their visits.

At this state of my life, I have 3 Aunts and 1 Uncle.  Uncle Jack will be 90 this month and planning a big celebration.  Aunt Joyce (Jack’s wife) turned 86 in February. Aunt Lora (also my Mother’s BFF in school) turned 94 this year. Aunt Wilma will turn 100 next June.  From these wonderful people I learned the importance of family/loyalty, laughter, music, traditional dishes prepared for holidays and family gatherings.

Several years ago, when camcorders were new to the market, we traveled to Iowa with our newborn daughter to celebrate Christmas.  Christmas Eve day several of my family members were visiting at my Mother’s House.

Cathy and Uncle Jack
Cathy and Uncle Jack

We turned on the camcorder asked our family members ‘what is your favorite Christmas memory?’  I tear up just thinking about it.  The heart-warming, loving, funny, and sarcastic stories were great at the time but are true treasures now.

Stories
Stories (Photo credit: Enokson)

This holiday season let’s spend our time BEING PRESENT and sharing stories for our children and grandchildren to treasure.   Break out the smart phone and make a video, perhaps the best PRESENT of the season!

What’s your story?

Czech Heritage · Family · My Roots

Father’s Day Memories

My Dad,  Archie, was one of the funniest men I ever knew.  His sense of humor was direct, often dry, and accepted by all.  He could say things to people that no one else could say and they would laugh heartily and love him dearly.  Love of laughter is one of the great gifts my Father gave to me.  I miss him.

When I was 12 years old my Father died as a result of a farming accident. From that day forward my life changed forever. He would never attend one of my high school sporting or music events…he wouldn’t walk me down the aisle…he wouldn’t get to hold my children in his arms and play with them. But he is always with me…always.

Photographs of my Father and I are near and dear to my heart because there are few. Taking a photograph ‘back in the day’ required film, developing, flash bulbs and they were treasured….not to mention that my Father was camera-shy.

Before my Mother died, she passed on photos my Uncle Mahlon ‘Sparky’ took when I was little.  These are some of the most treasured photos of my childhood.

Archie and Cathy Smaha

The sweater my Father is wearing in this picture, is one I wore through high school and still have in my Mother’s cedar chest (if you’re under 50, you probably don’t know what that is).

Dad, I know you’re listening, and know I love you and miss you! Heavenly hugs to you and to Mom.

Family Favorites · Holidays · My Roots

Fruit Bread your friends and family will beg for

Fruit Bread conjures up visions of old-fashioned fruit cake that is hard as a rock and entire communities have contests to see how far they can chuck the cake. NOT the case with this Fruit Bread recipe.  In fact, it is really a banana bread with chocolate chips and chopped cherries.  It makes a festive bread to give or to serve during the holidays.

This recipe originated with my Aunt Joyce.  When I was younger, she made it every Christmas and it quickly became a family, and personal tradition.  Each year I make several batches and give to family and friends.   I hope that you’ll try the bread and it will become one of your traditions!

FRUIT BREAD

Double or triple the recipe to make several loaves.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour (plus 2 T. if baking at high altitude)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup maraschino cherries
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Cream butter & sugar. Add eggs & beat well.  Sift baking soda & flour; add to egg mixture alternatively with mashed bananas.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Pour into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Holidays · New Traditions

Cinnamon Hard Candy for the Holidays

Cinnamon hard candy is a holiday tradition that began in my household about 12 years ago. Daughter, Megan, received a bag of candy from a friend and we were instantly in love with it.  We’ve made several batches every year to give to family and friends.  The sumptuous smell of cinnamon lingers in your home for the day. The candy keeps for a long time, especially in the dry Colorado climate.  It’s pretty to wrap up in festive bags for gifts.

Cinnamon Candy Gift Bag

CINNAMON HARD CANDY

1 cup white sugar
1 cup karo syrup
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon oil (usually behind the prescription counter at your grocery store)
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring                                                                     powdered sugar

Ingredients for Cinnamon Hard Candy
  • Combine sugar, syrup and water in a sauce pan.
  • Boil without stirring, over medium-high heat until it reaches hard crack stage (300-310 degrees).
  • Once the candy starts to thicken and turn golden brown, watch carefully or it can scorch.
  • When done, remove from heat and quickly add cinnamon oil and food coloring
  • Pour into a metal pan that has been lined with about 1/4 to 1/3″ powdered sugar.
Cinnamon Hard Candy Mixture poured into pan with powdered sugar
  • Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of candy immediately. Let cool until the edges start to firm up and then immediately begin to score the pieces from around the edges and keep cutting inward, in squares, as the candy hardens.  This makes it easier to break into more uniform pieces once the candy has hardened.
Cinnamon Hard Candy scored in pan