Underdog Holiday Favorite

Well hello there.

Are you not much of a “baker?” Are you looking for something completely mind-blowingly easy to make for the holidays to share with friends that will astound them with deliciousness?

Look no more, for I am about to share with you a classic favorite that has wowed many with whom I’ve shared this recipe.

It’s actually not even a recipe from my own family; it comes from one of my mom’s best friends.

But it is a HIT and you would never guess that these little babies would rock your world–but oh, they will.

There are four ingredients and about three easy steps. Sound good? Of course it does.

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Toasted Pecans à la Zoe Says

(This recipe can easily be doubled – and probably should be, since they’ll go fast.)

4 C. pecan halves     1/4 C. unsalted butter (same as 4T. or half a stick)
1 tsp. seasoned salt     1 tsp. aromatic bitters

If you’re wondering what the heck aromatic bitters are, it’s an elixir that can be found in most liquor aisles of a grocery store. Or you can go straight to a large liquor store, where they’ll probably have it. You can search high and low for bitters in the baking aisle but you will not find it – take it from me. It’s usually used in cocktails. And now, it’s also used to enhance toasted pecans.

Oh yeah, and if you have a nut allergy or are like my friend Meg who just thinks pecans look and taste gross (she says the wrinkles creep her out), then yeah, you won’t like these. But EVERYONE ELSE will.

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Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lay the pecans flat within a jelly roll pan or on a baking sheet that doesn’t have an open end on one side. Toast the pecan halves for 20 minutes. They will look slightly darker and your kitchen will smell awesome.

Gently melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave or over low heat on the stove until it’s liquified.

Mix together the butter, bitters and seasoned salt. Mix well! Drizzle this Magic Potion over the pecans. Toss the pecans to ensure they’re equally coated (using two spatulas is easiest).

Bake for another 15 minutes, tossing every 5-7 minutes until done.

Cool on paper towels. Amaze friends.

Note: If you are going to put these in a festive holiday tin, definitely line the tin with paper towels. It’ll prevent the tin from getting the salt and oil from the butter in it.

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Did I take illustrative photos? Naturally.

You know what melted butter looks like. I just like my little French bowl.

The festiveness is killing me.

The Lustre of Mid-Day (to Objects Below)

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! I don’t know about you but before researching this a little bit, I had never seen a photo of St. Nick before. So here you go.

Bam!

The lean and holy Saint Nicholas (pre fat and jolly Santa).

If you want to read a very in-depth back story, click here where this other blogger has laid it out so nicely for us.

The real question is…did anyone receive any coins or chocolates in their shoes this morning?

I don’t know about you guys, but when I was a kid, December 6 helped to build up our anticipation of Christmas Day even more because my mom liked to have us participate in the ritual of putting a shoe out by the front door. In the morning, we’d run to check it and we’d usually have “gold” (chocolate) coins and a few other candies stuffed inside our shoes.

In our chocolate induced haze, we came to associate St. Nick with Santa Claus, though I never really understood the motivation behind having the mini Christmas (or “feast”) versus everything we did on Christmas Day. Wikipedia does a nice job of filling in some holes, though.

Now that I’m all grown up, I’m not currently celebrating the chocolate-in-the-shoe thing but I definitely reflected briefly with a hint of excitement that Christmas is getting closer and closer (and if I were a kid, I’d have enjoyed some chocolate with breakfast…or for breakfast).

Instead, I’m using the Feast of St. Nicholas to do a quick Zoe Recommends. I thought the St. Nick’s day thing would be a fun segue. Today’s Zoe Recommends is…a sunrise clock! It helps to make your room glow with “the lustre of mid-day to objects below,” a line I snagged from the classic poem Twas the Night Before Christmas, which features our boy St. Nick, just in case anyone hadn’t clued in on that.

What’s a sunrise clock, you say? It’s a lamp which you set to go off at a certain time in the morning and for about a half hour, the light goes from very dim to very bright (you set the highest bright setting) and the natural “rising” of the “sun” helps to wake you up more naturally than traditional alarm clocks that we all want to throw through a wall every morning.

Some sunrise clocks look like this:

And others look like this (including mine):

I don’t know if all sunrise lamps come with sounds but mine will not just use the light, it forces you to choose an ambient noise, such as birds chirping or meditation sounds or the radio. I choose the meditation sounds because they’re repetitive but not awful and between them and the light, I much more easily awaken in the morning, especially in the winter when the sun doesn’t come out until after 7 o’clock.

Both Kevin and I have found it sooo much easier to wake up in the mornings with this little baby. We’re in better moods upon getting out of bed (most of the time) and we’re not as aware of the pitch blackness going on outside.

Our sunrise clock is the gift that keeps on giving, year after year, day after day, Feast of St. Nicholas to Feast of St. Nicholas. It’s the new chocolate/gold coins in my shoe.