ta-da!

As the year draws to a close, I can’t help but feel somewhat happy regarding my resolution retention. For the first time in my life, I’ve managed to stick with something for longer than two months. Well, except for marriage but that doesn’t count because it’s fun. Oh, and pregnancy because I had no choice it’s fun, too. (ha.) This time last year, I started this blog with the mission of not only recording recipes and stories but being a little more open about my life. I’m a horrific sharer, particularly about life events. I’m still not very good at it, but I’m trying. Not sure why I’m trying, but it seems important. You know, one of those adult things like replacing lightbulbs (hate that chore) and recognizing that pop-tarts are not a balanced meal (they have fruit, Husband!) and graduating from jungle juice to cocktails.

The last year has been wonderful and exciting but you’ve already read all about it. For my next trick, I will attempt to obtain a degree (still confused about why I thought I needed it) and have a baby at the same time. Oh, and work full-time, and bake, and try not to let anyone starve or the house fall down around me. It’s going to be epic. Buckle your seat belts!

Anyway, as kind of a here’s-what-happened-this-year, I’m re-sharing the five favorite posts, as voted on by the people who read this. Or maybe the Internet. Or the Googler. I’m not sure I really know the difference. But I got an email saying these were the favorites so I’m going with it.

(Click on the picture to be taken to the page.)

And here’s to another year of adventure! Cheers!

number five:

baby book party.

Such a wonderful time. Wish I had better pictures! (Story of my life)

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number four:

paleo (GF) raspberry cheesecake.

The picture is of the ugliest-looking food in the world but I guess everyone gave the recipe a shot and seemed to like it.

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number three:

love story, part one.

You saps love the mushy stuff.

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number two:

cards and anniversary coupons

Again with the mushy stuff. Maybe the internet is trying to tell me that my recipes and stories are terrible and I should make Husband coupons all the time. (Husband approves of this new plan)

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and…..the number one, most popular post of the year (by a landslide) is….

chantilly cream cake!

Can’t really say I’m surprised. It is pretty delicious.

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from our home to yours

I had this fantastic idea for a Christmas card. It didn’t work out. Maybe next year. I also meant to send out cards to everyone the first week in December. That didn’t work out either. What did work out is this digital version. (Unless you’re our immediate family. Then you got a real one with one of the leftover photos from the baby announcements that didn’t happen.)

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So, from our family to yours: Merry Christmas!

special thanks to Deirdre at Pictures of Prose for the beautiful photo and Jessica at j&paper for the lettering!

baby hunter

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This year has been another big one for the Hunter house – they just keep getting better. The biggest news is that we’re expecting a baby boy in February. Cassie is having a hilarious time losing brain cells and gaining pounds. Thankfully, this was well-timed enough to allow for leggings, giant sweatshirts and lots of Christmas fudge with no judgment.
She has also spent the year trying to find a hobby. There have been many failed attempts at knitting and baking and gardening and do-it-yourself projects. Her blog project is still going strong. She is enjoying writing but still doesn’t understand the internet or how to work a computer.
The man of the house’s year has been filled with cookies which have led to many miles being put on his running shoes. His year has also been filled with schoolwork, actual work, and a never-ending “honey-do” list – all of which he has handled excellently. He is looking forward to being a dad and teaching Baby Hunter all about football.
Ranger and Tonto and Chuck and Welly still continue to prove Darwin wrong: they are definitely not the fittest but still keep surviving to dig new holes in the backyard. They are all extremely happy and can’t imagine a better day than getting to run in circles and eat kibble (Chuck and Welly included.)

All in all, another year filled with fun and blessings.
We wish the same for your family through the coming year and pray that you, too, have a very merry Christmas.

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A Christmas tradition in Husband’s family is to have a sugar-cookie decorating extravaganza. Naturally, that carried over to our family. One problem: neither Husband nor I have the patience for such a task. And even if we did, we are also seriously lacking skills and desire for said tradition. However, we continue to do it. Because it’s tradition. And the results are pretty tasty. It doesn’t even matter what they look like.

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sugar cookies

adapted from foodnetwork.com
1 C shortening + splash of water
1 1/2 C pure cane white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2-3 Tbsp buttermilk
zest of one orange

1. Cream together shortening and sugar. Add egg and vanilla.
2. Gradually stir in dry ingredients and orange zest.
3. Add buttermilk, a little at a time, until dough is moist but not wet.
4. Chill dough for at least 30 minutes then preheat oven to 350.
5. On a floured surface, roll dough to desired thickness. I like thick and chewy sugar cookies but it’s your call.
6. Cut out shapes and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet.
7. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until almost golden brown. Don’t overbake them!
8. Move to wire rack to cool and then decorate as desired.

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After trying all sorts of decorating methods and fancy icing, Husband and I have settled on our favorite: cream cheese frosting from the can and a ton of sprinkles. That’s it. Are they the most beautiful cookies? No. But they really are the tastiest. I promise.

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Ranger kept begging to help. Poor guy just wanted some sprinkles.

the one who makes muffins

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Husband and I are on vacation.

Hallelujah.

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This year, our annual winter sojurn to Montana is not marred by studying or a long to-do list or any other such nonsense. We can really say we’re on vacation. Two days in and we’ve done pretty much nothing except eat. And it’s been amazing. As I sit here in front of the fire and sip my coffee as the sun comes up over the mountains, I’m convinced that I’m just going to stay on vacation forever. If you never hear from me again, you know what happened. I’ll leave you with some muffins, though, so you don’t forget about me entirely.

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I think that’s all I’m known for anyway.

As told to me by a coworker:
Coworker: Oh, you need to go talk to Cass Hunter about that.
New Girl: Who?
Coworker: Hunter. Tall, dark hair.
New Girl: ….
Coworker: You know, the pregnant smiley one who makes muffins.
New Girl: Oh ya! I love her!

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See? If I didn’t make muffins, I’d be completely forgotten. You can write that on my headstone: Here Lies The One Who Makes Muffins. Not a bad thing to be remembered for, if you ask me.

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Anyway, here are the muffins. I had some cranberries left over from Thanksgiving and decided to do a little experimenting. I also had some sugared pecans left and decided to throw those in. I think it sealed the deal on these being the best cranberry muffins ever. Regular pecans (or no nuts at all) would still be delicious, but you can never go wrong by adding more sugar. I’ve never baked with fresh cranberries before, only dried ones so I have no idea if I’ve done something wrong or not. No one was poisoned though and the office proclaimed them delicious.

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spiced cranberry muffins

1 C butter, softened
8 oz 1/3-fat cream cheese, softened
1 C pure cane white sugar
1/2 C pure cane brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 C fresh cranberries (I chopped 1 C and left 1 C whole)
zest of 1/2 an orange
1/2 C sugared pecans, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugars until fluffy. Add in eggs and vanilla.
3. Stir in dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.
4. Fold in cranberries, orange zest, and pecans.
5. Pour into prepared muffin tin. I usually use about 1/4 C of batter per muffin. Sprinkle top with sparkling sugar.
6. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
7. Move to wire rack to cool or just feed straight to Husband.
8. Now you, too, can be forever remembered as “the one who makes muffins”

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week thirty. and twenty-nine. and some pancakes.

week 30

week thirty

Well, I missed week 29 entirely and this one’s a wee bit late.  I blame that ridiculous paper I had to write and that place I have to go for 40+ hours a week in order to pay my electric bill.  And you’ll notice the lovely glare from the camera.  I don’t have the time, energy, willpower, nor computer/camera knowledge to fix that.  Eh.

Babysaurus is approximately 16-inches long and weighs around 3 lbs.  The internet says this is the size of a cucumber, but I’ve certainly never seen a cucumber that size.  Or one that’s shaped anything remotely like what I’m hoping my child will be.  I disapprove of this particular vegetable analogy.  This week, though, he now has the muscle strength to grasp things.

highlight of the week: VACATION!  The little dude celebrated by firmly lodging his feet in my rib cage for the entire 6 hours of flying.
things I miss the most about not being pregnant: bending over.  And wearing my cute snow clothes.  They don’t make snow pants for preggos.  I guess they figured we wouldn’t be tumbling down too many mountains.
things I love the most about being pregnant: cinnamon rolls with no judgement
cravings: chicken fried steak and eggs craving was satisfied this morning but I could always use more.
things that make me sick: being tired. and plane rides.
symptoms: all of them? The baby book has a “list of things you might be experiencing” I can check every box. woohoo.
things I’m looking forward to: 10 more weeks until I can lay on my back! Yes!

I didn’t get around to a chalkboard picture at week 29, but here’s one from our office Christmas party instead:

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and in even happier news: PANCAKES!

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Pancakes are one of my ultimate favorite foods and this recipe is a never-fail. We’ve tried improving upon this recipe to make it our own but it just can’t be done. These are the best. The secret is the sour milk. You’d think buttermilk pancakes are the best but no. Sour milk is where it’s at the winner. (Even I couldn’t let that grammar catastrophe go un-checked.)

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When I’m not in the mood to torture my poor digestive system, I use gluten-free cake flour and they turn out great, but not as fluffy as the regular kind. You win some, you lose more. ‘Tis the life of a gluten-free eater. Oh, and I’ve decided it’s impossible to get a good picture of pancakes at 6 o’clock on Sunday mornings. It just can’t be done. Also, I got hungry so my caring factor was pretty low.

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fluffy pancakes

from allrecipes.com
baker’s note: the original recipe says this makes 8 pancakes. The most we’ve ever been able to get is 6. Maybe it’s 8 elf-pancakes or something.
3/4 C milk
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 C flour (if you use GF, make sure it contains xanthan gum, or add some yourself)
1 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 Tbsp butter, melted

1. Heat griddle to 375. I have this awesome stove that has a built-in griddle-pancake-cooker-thingy. I have no idea how to use anything else. You’re on your own.
2. In medium bowl, whisk together milk and vinegar. Allow to stand for at least 5 minutes or until it no longer looks like milk you’d feel safe drinking.
3. Whisk in butter and egg.
4. Gradually add in dry ingredients and whisk just until all of the big lumps are done.
5. Pour batter onto heated skillet. Flip when you see bubbles on top.
6. Flip again when the underside is golden brown or you get impatient. Both ways work.
7. Serve with butter and warm syrup.

I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they eat their pancakes.  Husband has a very precise and methodical application to ensure the perfect syrup-pancake ratio and drizzles syrup on his perfectly stacked pancakes like he’s auditioning for an IHOP commercial and then carefully cuts each bite.  I prefer the destroy-and-devour method whereby I annihilate cut up my pancakes and then proceed to drown them in a lake of extra butter and syrup carefully and sparingly apply butter and syrup.  This says a lot about our approaches to life in general.

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Husband’s perfect pancakes

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and mine

just when you think you know a person

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In my happy attempts to bring festivity to muggy, backwoods Florida (it’s 83° and 100% humidity today), I searched the grocery store aisles for inspiration. And came up with this:

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Husband has been begging for cookies and cream cookies for quite a while. Actually, I think it’s just that he never stops asking. Same story with s’more cookies.  Whatever.  I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and make a holiday mint version.

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No ground-breaking changes were made to the recipe, I just swapped the Oreos and chocolate chips out for their mint counterparts. I did have to use a few of my Robin Hood skills to redistribute the wealth of Oreo cream (creme?) but everyone ended up happy.

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I fully expected Husband to give these an “eh” rating considering how much he loves the regular ones and how I didn’t think he liked mint. Turns out he loves mint and says he loves both versions equally and that these taste like mint chocolate chip ice cream, which is one of his favorites (I had no idea). Just when you think you know a person, it turns out they actually like mint. That’s one of my favorite parts about marriage. Not the mint-liking part (although that totally worked out in my favor), but the always-learning-something-new-part.

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oreo mint chip cookies

baker’s note: I tried to make these at 11pm and without my glasses so I added 3/4 C of white sugar and 3/4 C of brown sugar. Thankfully, I realized my mistake before it was too late and plucked out 1/2 C of the brown (the white was a lost cause), resulting in the opposite of my usual sugar ratio and leading to the conclusion that it totally doesn’t even matter.
1 C shortening
6 tsp water
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C pure cane white sugar
1 (4.2 oz) pkg Oreo instant pudding
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 pkg Nestle Winter morsels (dark chocolate and mint mix)
1 pkg mint Oreos, halved

1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. In mixing bowl, blend shortening, water, and sugars until creamy.
3. Add pudding and mix well. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
4. Slowly add flour, baking soda, and salt. Combine well.
5. Gently stir in chips.
6. Separate Oreos and place each half on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll dough into golf-ball sized balls and place on each Oreo half. Flatten slightly with fingers.
7. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes. Cookies will still look gooey, but let them rest on the pan for a few minutes, then move to wire rack and you’re good to go.

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Ranger and Tonto always have a hard time waiting for cookies to finish baking.

Side story: you’ll notice Ranger’s beloved pig has now been replaced by a plastic pumpkin.  Mr. Pigglesworth met an untimely end when we accidentally trusted Ranger and he took him outside and ate him.  I’m fairly certain Ranger hasn’t even noticed the switcheroo.  (As long as he has something to hold in his mouth, he’s happy.  That dog is weird.) Except that we conveniently dismantled the pumpkin squeaker (he loves squeakers) so he can’t be as annoying maddening cute when he squeaks the thing all. day. long.

Tonto got a pumpkin too (because they were $.75 at Petsmart).  She’s only interested in it when you trip over it and kick it across the room.  Therefore, her pumpkin squeaker stayed intact.  Ranger often tries to fake us out and switch pumpkins to the annoying maddening cute squeaky one, but we’re smarter than him.  By a lot.  He’s horrible at being sneaky.

instincts might not beat the back-up camera

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Husband and I bought a new car last month. (Hooray!) The good news is, it’s awesome. The bad news is, it’s like the cockpit of the space station and neither of us really know how to work all of the buttons. For instance, it has one of those back-up camera things to show you what kinds of things you’re running over when you pull out of the driveway.

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backing into the driveway at home…
Husband: I never know whether to look at the camera or to use the mirrors and trust my instincts.
Me: Try the camera thing. That’s why it’s there.
Husband: Eh. I don’t trust it. I’ll go with my instincts.
[suspicious thump as we back over the curb]
Husband: ….
Me: …I think I’d go with the camera next time if I were you…

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So, the instincts might not beat the back-up camera but they sure come in handy in the kitchen. For instance, adding orange zest to everything. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that before, but it’s one of my basic rules of baking:
1. Always add more cinnamon.
2. Always add more vanilla.
3. When in doubt, add orange zest.

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Thus, orange zest (and extra cinnamon and vanilla) made it into my gingerbread cookies. Husband (who feels the same way about gingerbread as I do about vegetables) proclaimed them delicious (I was shocked) and has eaten half a batch.

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He even pitched in the with decorating, because I got a hand cramp 15 gingerbread men in. (true story) He laughed at me until his hand started to cramp. Neither of us are big fans of cookie decorating.  Neither of us are very good at it either (which is why the pictures are intentionally blurry), but somehow we feel a twisted obligation to do it every year. Weird.

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gingerbread men

1 C shortening
4 tsp (ish?) water
3/4 C pure cane white sugar
3/4 C pure cane brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
zest of one orange
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup (or molasses – I use whichever I have in the pantry)
3 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 rounded tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
pinch salt

1. Cream shortening, water, and sugar together until creamy.
2. Add in egg, vanilla, orange zest, and corn syrup.
3. Stir in dry ingredients until completely incorporated.
4. Chill dough for at least 2 hours.
5. Preheat oven to 350
6. On flowered surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes.
7. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. As with all cookies, it’s important to take them out before they look done. If your cookies look cooked, you’ve gone too far. Unless you like crispy cookies.
8. Place on wire rack to cool.
9. When cool, frost with royal icing.

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royal icing

2 egg whites
3 C powdered sugar (more or less depending on thickness)
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
2 tsp flavored extract (I use orange or lemon for gingerbread, almond for sugar cookies, vanilla for everything else)

1. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
2. Stir in corn syrup and extract.
3. Gradually stir in powdered sugar until desired consistency.
4. Frost cookies.
5. Watch out for hand cramps.

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week twenty-eight and spiced cider


week 28

week twenty-eight

Babysaurus is now the size of an eggplant. But a couple of weeks ago he was the size of a head of lettuce so either I live in a place with very small eggplants (likely) or he’s shrinking (not so likely considering my ever-expanding belly). Apparently this week he has also developed eyelashes and can dream. Hopefully really big dreams of becoming an NFL quarterback and buying his mom and dad an island in the South Pacific.

highlight of the week: week 28 doctor’s appointment and happy to report that all is well. And I’ve only gained 3 lbs in the last 6 weeks. (woot) Apparently I did this pregnancy thing backwards and gained 30 lbs in the first 4 months and now it’s just all shifting around to the front and adding little bits of filler (aka turkey and stuffing) here and there. Dr says I’m a “special case” but also incredibly healthy so we’re going with it.
things I miss the most about not being pregnant: taking a real breath. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to not have my lungs full of baby.
things I love the most about being pregnant: back rubs. Husband rocks.
cravings: chicken fried steak and eggs
things that make me sick: forgetting my snack stash at home and having to go more than 2 hours without food. It wasn’t pretty.
symptoms: Everything hurts and it feels like I’ve gotten in a wrestling match with a Mack truck. And lost.
things I’m looking forward to: third trimester! 12 weeks to go!

And in the spirit of Christmas and my soon-to-fail attempt to provide festivity to your computer screen, I’m passing on my newly-discovered recipe for spiced cider. (Thank you, Paula Deen) We served it at our Christmas party last weekend and it turned out pretty tasty. Especially when you put a little Fireball whiskey in it. Or so I was told. I thought the baby-friendly version was yummy.

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Obviously this picture is too pretty to be mine. Thank you, Google Images.

hot spiced cider

8 C apple juice
6 C cranberry juice
1 C orange juice
1/4 C brown sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp whole cloves
1 orange, sliced

1. In large pot, mix juices and whisk in sugar until dissolved.
2. Place cinnamon sticks and cloves in a mesh bag (we have these fancy things that Husband uses for his beer but panty hose would work just fine) and dunk in juice.
3. Bring juice to a boil. Then add the orange and reduce heat to low.
4. Allow to “brew” for 30 minutes (ish) and then remove spice bag. Continue to keep warm and serve.
5. This is the part where you add the adult-only parts and garnish with cranberries and cinnamon sticks.
6. May your Christmas be a little merrier!

 

next year i’m starting in july

happy december!

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I had this brilliant idea to have 25 Days of Christmas
(side story: I’m drinking coffee while writing this and then suddenly coffee started coming out of the back of the (brand-new) computer…I guess I spilled some? No idea. Hopefully computers like coffee. Otherwise it’ll be back to the stone age for me. Oops. This is why we don’t have nice things. That, and nice things are expensive.)

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Anyway, I had this brilliant idea to have 25 Days of Christmas on the blog where I’d do a festive recipe a day starting December 1st – like an advent calendar of cookies. How cute, right!? Apparently I developed a severe case of “I-forget-how-busy-my-life-is-itis” at the same time because it’s obviously December 2nd and this is my first post. Also, there’s no way I could make something everyday. I’m pretty sure diabetes is not all Husband wants for Christmas. And I just don’t have the time to clean my kitchen bake something daily. So instead, consider your December sprinkled (probably sparingly) with holiday festivity. Maybe next year I’ll start baking in July and then just put them up here in December. I’m pretty sure I could fool everyone that way and the internet would think I’m a fantastic housewife.

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So you might not get a recipe-a-day, but here’s one that always signals the start of the holidays around the Hunter House: sugared pecans. I’m not sure why these are festive, but I only make them around Christmas and they never last long.

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In fact, I left these on the counter and went to bed while Husband finished doing whatever he does on the computer. (He says it’s homework but I think there is probably a lot of zombie gunship happening.) When I got up the next morning, there were suspiciously fewer than the night before.

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Husband looked guilty. So did Ranger but he always looks guilty about something. He probably dug a new hole while Tonto loosened the fence boards in order to prepare their escape to the neighbor’s yard (again). I’d better go check.

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sugared pecans

2 egg whites
3 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp vanilla
1 C pure cane white sugar
1 C pure cane brown sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon
pinch salt
2 lbs pecan halves

1. Preheat oven to 250
2. In large bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy. Add water and vanilla.
3. Whisk in sugars, cinnamon, and salt and mix until thoroughly combined.
4. Stir in pecans and keep stirring until completely coated.
5. Dump pecans (and goo) onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. The parchment-lined part is very important. If you forget that step, your pans will never be the same. Speaking from experience.
6. Bake at 250 for 1 hour, stirring pecans every 15 minutes.
7. Allow to cool and then eat. Yum!

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