Pecans can be traced back to the 16th century. The pecan is the only major tree nut that grows naturally in North America. That’s right, pecans are as American as Pecan Pie! The name “pecan” is a Native American word of Algonquin origin that was used to describe “nuts requiring a stone to crack”.
In North America, pecans were widely used by pre- colonial people. Many Native American tribes used the wild pecan as a major food source during autumn. They ground pecans and added them to corn cakes and pounded pecans with water to make pecan milk. It also is said that Native Americans first cultivated pecan trees and they were also grown in the gardens of presidents Washington and Jefferson.
Pecans are popular at the holidays, but there are many healthy reasons to eat this tasty nut – year round. Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, and they’re cholesterol-free. Most vegetarians know that pecans are an excellent source of protein and can be substituted for meat, poultry or fish. Pecans also rank #13 among the top foods that contain the highest antioxidant capacity. Antioxidants can help fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and heart disease. And if it is fiber you are looking for, a handful of pecan halves contain the same amount of fiber as a medium-sized apple.
Bottom line, you can’t go wrong adding more pecans to your family’s meals.
Age to introduce: Over 12 months old, finely ground. Whole or pieces of pecans are choking hazards until a child is 2-3 years old. CAUTION Allergy: Pecans are a nut, and they are considered a high allergen.
Kid-Friendly Treat: Best Ever Granola
Granola can be great tasting hippie food. But buyer beware. On one side, some of the packaged brands cram a lot of unfamiliar flavors in the mix. While these ingredients are often healthy, the flavors can be tough to swallow for kids. On the flip side, the more mainstream brands cram a lot sugar and artificial ingredients into their products which put them on par with the nutritional value of a candy bar. Sticking to basic ingredients is the trick.
Simple flavors – oatmeal, pecans, and cranberries baked with natural goodness. This recipe is so simple, that homemade granola may soon become a staple in your house for breakfasts and snacks! Best Granola Ever is perfect for family members 3-99 years old.
- 4 cups of old-fashioned oats
- 1 ½ cups chopped pecans
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup cooking oil
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup dried cranberries
Directions: Preheat over to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the oats, pecans, salt and cinnamon. In a saucepan warm the oil and honey and stir in the vanilla. Carefully pour the liquid over the oat mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the mixture is evenly coated.
Spread the granola onto a large cookie sheet (15X10X1 inch). Bake 40 minutes, stirring carefully every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Stir in dried cranberries.
Storage: Store granola in an air-tight container at room temperature for one week or in the freezer for 3 months.
Makes 9-10 servings.
Pecans for the family
At the market: For convenience, purchase shelled pecans in the produce or baking sections of the market. Shelled pecans are sold in halves (most expensive) and chopped pieces (less expensive).
During the Fall, supermarkets often feature bins of nuts in the shell that are sold by the pound. Pecans are time consuming and hard to crack, but you may find the fresh sweetness of these nuts is worth the effort.
Storage: Shelled pecans can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 months but they are best refrigerated in a glass jar where they’ll keep for 9 months. They’ll also stay fresh in the freezer for up to 2 years (store nuts in a plastic freezer bag).
Preparation: You may read recipes that call for “toasted” pecans. Toasting pecans heats up the natural oils and enhances the nuts flavor.
Toasted pecans: Place shelled nuts (halves of chopped) in a non-stick skillet. Toss them over high heat constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. Stirring is important to prevent the nuts from burning. Immediately transfer them to a dish to cool.
Creative and simple ideas to include Pecans into your family meals:
Maple Glazed Pecans: Pecan halves or chopped pecans are delicious sprinkled over salads, but these maple glazed pecans will add a real flavor boost to foods!
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 24 pecan halves
Directions: Pour maple syrup into an 8-10 inch non-stick skillet and bring to a boil over high heat. When syrup begins to bubble, add pecans and toss with a wooden spoon to coat completely. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Immediately pour coated pecans onto a dish to cool. When cool, break apart the nuts that have stuck together. Store in an air- tight container in the refrigerator.
Use Maple Glazed Pecans to top:
- Mixed green and spinach salads
- Sweet potatoes
Ground pecans add a great taste and protein power: Making ground pecans is simple. Place 1 cup of shelled pecans in a blender and process until finely ground. Store in an air-tight container in the freezer for up to 1 year. Add ground pecans to:
- Pancake and waffle batter
- Muffin and quick bread batter
- Salad dressing
- Breading mixtures for chicken, fish or pork
Simple Pasta Dinner: Purchase frozen or fresh cheese ravioli, cook according to package directions. Toss with store-bought (or home made) pesto. Sprinkle with paremesan cheese and chopped pecans. It’s a winner!
A Perfect Pair: Blue cheese and pecans just taste wonderful together. Anytime you cook with blue, the dish will taste better with pecans sprinkled on top – guaranteed! Here’s an interesting appetizer to try.
Pecan and Blue Cheese-Coated Grapes
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans
- 6 ounces crumbled Blue Cheese
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 20 seedless red or green grapes
Toast Pecans: Place finely chopped pecans in a non-stick skillet. Toss them over high heat constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. Stirring is important to prevent the nuts from burning. Immediately transfer them to a dish to cool.
Cheese mixture: Using a wooden spoon, cream together the Gorgonzola and cream cheeses in small mixing bowl.
Assembly: Put one tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the palm of your hand; imbed one grape in this mixture, shape the mixture around the grape to cover it. Then roll the covered grape in the pecans before placing on a serving tray. Chill for 30 minutes until coating is firm. These should be bite-sized. If they are too large, use a sharp knife to cut into halves before serving.
More Pecan Recipes: