On my refrigerator is a magnet that declares, “My family tree is full of nuts.”  As I recall, one of my sisters purchased it for me; maybe she wanted me to use it to remember her.  On the other hand, she probably thought of me when she bought it.

One of my favorite “nuts” was Uncle Carl.  He was actually my great uncle, but he was only eight years older than my dad.  Uncle Carl was a great storyteller, and one of the things I enjoyed most about our family reunions each year was listening to him spin his tales.  Besides relating interesting anecdotes, he often had a good joke to share.  I vividly recall one of the last ones he told.

My dad and his brother Tom were often the butts of Uncle Carl’s pranks.  It seems that a teenage Carl acquired a car part (I think it was either a spark coil or a generator) that he hooked up to metallic objects in order to shock people.  Bob (Dad) and Tom, tired of being jolted by electricity, decided to get even.  They were spending the night at their grandparents’ home; Carl was out on a date.

In those days, bed springs were metal.  The two younger boys put Carl’s springs on top of his mattress and hooked up the electricity-producing device to the springs.  They were supposed to be asleep in another bed in the same room; however, they lay awake in anticipation.  As was his custom, Carl did not turn on the light when he arrived home.  He removed his clothing and flopped down on his bed.  Before he realized it was not as it should have been, the other occupants of the room switched on the device that would seal their revenge.

As he related this tale to his children, my father’s eyes would sparkle with glee.  Carl received the shock of his life.  He was quite unhappy, complaining to his mother (who came to find out what the screaming was about) about the meanness of his nephews.  She was unsympathetic, declaring that he got what he deserved.

One would think that Uncle Carl would have learned a lesson, but he continued his shocking ways.  His dad was in the habit of scrubbing his face, getting soap in his eyes, then groping for a towel which hung on a wire above the sink.  The day Carl electrified that wire and zapped his father was overlooked.  Conversely, when he brought his mother’s wire clothesline to life, his “toy” was taken away and never reappeared.

Life does not always work the way we think it should.  Dad passed away several years before Uncle Carl.  True to form, Uncle Carl attended the viewing, and I still remember the good things he had to say about my dad.  The pair of them were definitely two of the “nuts” on my family tree!

I love nuts, so I am glad April is National Pecan Month.  For me, pecans rank right up there with almonds, which are my favorite.  I chose recipes from past columns to use this week.  After reading about them, now I want to prepare them again.  Since I don’t need to eat all the results, I will leave the making to my readers.


Hot and Spicy Pecans

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups pecan halves

1 tablespoon chili powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In medium bowl, mix butter, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper, salt, and garlic powder. Stir in the pecans, and gently toss with chili powder to coat.

Spread coated pecans on a medium baking sheet; cook 30 minutes in preheated oven, stirring approximately every 10 minutes.


Citrusy Pecans

1 egg white

2 cups pecan halves

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons grated orange rind

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Whisk egg white in a medium bowl until frothy; toss with pecans.

Stir together light brown sugar and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add pecans and toss.  Drain well.  Place pecans in a single layer on a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 325 degrees, stirring every 5 or 6 minutes, for 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes 2 cups.


Pecan Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Stir together honey and mustard; spread on both sides of chicken and dredge in pecans; arrange in lightly greased baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes or until done (internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees).


Pecan Pie Bars

1-1/3 cups flour

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar, divided

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 eggs

1/2 cup light corn syrup

3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

In small bowl mix well flour and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. With fingers, work in 1/2 cup butter until dough begins to hold together. Press onto bottom of greased 9-inch square pan. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 12 to 15 minutes or until just firm.

In medium bowl lightly beat 1/2 cup brown sugar and eggs; add corn syrup, pecans, melted butter, vanilla, and salt; mix well. Pour over crust. Bake 25 minutes or just until edges are lightly browned.  Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut in 3-by-1-inch bars.

Makes 27.


Pecan Drop Cookies

1/2 cup shortening

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup self-rising flour

1 egg

1/2 cup pecans (chopped)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream shortening sugar. Beat in the egg, then add vanilla. Mix in the flour. Stir in the chopped pecans. Drop by spoonfuls on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until light brown.