Pecans…I remember walking in the yard with my Pawsie (my grandfather for those in the North!) picking up pecans and putting them in an empty K&B (another Southern thing!) ice cream bucket. (Don’t laugh, they were very sturdy plastic with a metal handle and a lid.) He taught me how to spot the good ones from the rotten ones. We would walk and talk all the while keeping our eyes down looking for the treasures. We would occasionally eat a couple of pecans but knew the more we saved the more treats there would be later. We were fortunate to gather pecans by the buckets. This made my MeMaw (my grandmother for those in the North!) very happy. She loved to have bowls full of pecans out throughout the house, so any guests that would stop by for a chat could have a nibble. Looking back, I guess this was her way of tempting her guests with what was to come…her famous fudge and cheese straws! That meant lots of shelling of pecans, but it was fun sitting around the kitchen table “working” with my MeMaw and Pawsie. (My brother couldn’t sit still long enough for this part!) But I would go home with a bucket for my mom. Pralines were her holiday treat, so I won on both ends! (Just like Santa visited at both houses!!)
Today in memory of my Pawsie and MeMaw, I am making her famous pecan cheese straws. It is a basic cheese straw recipe and the one I remember helping her mix and roll out in the kitchen. It is quick and simple. She loved to cook but she loved to talk, too. Less time in the kitchen meant more time visiting, especially during the holidays. They had many fudge and cheese straw deliveries to make! (Oh, the fudge recipe? I was sworn to secrecy years ago!)
Pecan Cheese Straws: Here it is, can’t get any easier than this! This time of year, I also have pecans in a bowl on my counter and some leftover shelled pecans from Thanksgiving pie baking. You should have everything else in your “go to” supplies.
1/2 cup flour (a little extra for dusting)
1/2 cup Sharp cheddar cheese (the sharper the better, the tastier!)
2 TBSP melted butter
1/4 cup toasted pecans,chopped (Remember how to toast nuts?
dash of favorite seasoning (Memaw used cayenne pepper)
*1 batch makes about 2 1/2 dozen depending on how you cut them-*I always double this recipe-you’ll want extra for snacking!
Add in the melted butter and pecans. Then it’s time to get your hands involved–there is no way around it. (At least you don’t have to get the mixer out!) Mix all the ingredients by hand until well combined and you can form a dough ball.
Roll out until flat. Run tines of a fork over the whole surface. (This is the old-fashioned way) Then roughly cut into short strips. (Use knife, pizza slicer, or dough cutter) I like different size strips, makes snacking more fun! Place strips on a lightly greased sheet pan. (My sheet pan refused to have his picture taken… should I dare say, he is well aged, I mean well seasoned!!)
Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Enjoy!
Have any broken little pieces? Delicious as croutons in a salad!!
This next quick recipe is one of my favorites to do for cocktail parties. Since we are talking about cheese and pecans, I thought I would share it. (Guess I’m trying to make up for the “forbidden to tell” fudge recipe!)
Pimento Cheese Pecans: I hope everyone who is reading this makes their own pimento cheese, but if you’re in a pinch, buy some and mix in a little cream cheese. Your secret is safe with me.
Toast pecan halves.
Take some pimento cheese and spread it on one pecan half. Top with another pecan half. Press gently together. Arrange on a pretty platter. Sprinkle with parsley. Add some crackers and off you go to the party!
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: With my MeMaw’s basic cheese straw recipe, you have the chance to personalize your own. Use a cookie cutter to make fun cutouts! What other cheeses and spices would be good? I also love pepper jack cheese and garlic. Don’t be afraid to use fresh herbs, too! What other nuts? Walnuts are good with Swiss cheese! What else could you add? How about crumbled bacon? It’s the holidays, so why not?
FOOD FUN: Do you have a holiday treat you like to share with friends and family? Is the holiday season the only time you make this treat the whole year? (My brother would go crazy if I missed making his chocolate covered pretzels!) This is the season for sharing, so when you make the next batch of your signature holiday treat, make a few extra and pass it on. The mailman? The elderly person you see dining alone each Sunday after church? The bus driver? The server who knows you by name? The neighbor who picks up your mail while you are away? You get the idea. It can be a perfect way of saying “Thanks” or “I’m thinking of you”. Share the holiday spirit with someone and the holiday spirit will shine brighter upon you.