getting my feet wet with candied pecans

I’ve been feeling out of sorts in the kitchen lately. To be totally honest, I haven’t felt like cooking at all. I want to feel like cooking, but I just don’t. I flip through cookbooks and cooking magazines and the inspiration isn’t striking. The thought of having to prepare a meal is, frankly, overwhelming.

My cooking mojo has gone on hiatus.

Since Dad has been in the hospital, I’ve been spending much of my spare time sitting beside his hospital bed, listening to the beeps and dings of the monitors, holding his hand and holding vigil. We’ve been eating entirely too much take out in the evening, and the local food delivery guy has probably memorized our address by now. If weeknight cooking happens, it’s because Sam does it. By the time I get home in the evenings, my energy is sapped.

I guess I’m not as good at multitasking as I thought.

On Saturday I planned to immerse myself in the kitchen and cook something, anything. I just needed to hold a knife, chop a vegetable, stir a batter. The pile of food magazines on my desk has grown to epic proportions, but I wasn’t able to find inspiration there. And, rather than looking inviting, that pile just looked daunting. I had just received a new cookbook, Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South, so I hoped to find something promising there. His cookbook is pretty incredible – beautiful pages filled with gorgeous fonts and illustrations, fantastic southern recipes in each chapter – but I wasn’t up to even cooking from that. I needed Hugh to show up to cook for me. Or at least with me.

Instead, I thought about the bag of frozen pecans in the freezer, and I finally had an idea. I would make candied pecans and bring them as a gift to my dad’s nurse and respiratory therapist. They were so good with him – so caring and compassionate, but also confident and professional – while Dad was on the ventilator. Candied pecans wouldn’t begin to express my gratitude, but it would be a start.

It only took about 35 minutes, from start to finish, but it was just enough to get my feet wet in the kitchen again. A little measuring, a bit of mixing – nothing too taxing and definitely tasks I could handle that morning. The pecans were quite good. The combination of maple syrup and brown sugar was a natural match, and the cayenne pepper gave just a hint of heat on the back of the palate.

I feel bad about this, but the pecans were so good that we kept them all. That gift for Dad’s nurse will just have to wait a bit longer.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Thank you all for all of the warm wishes and happy, healing vibes and prayers you’ve been sending my way. Thankfully, Dad was taken off the ventilator two days ago. He’s now breathing on his own and talking again. He’s still in the Intensive Care Unit, but things are looking up. I may not have responded to each of you, but please know that every comment and every email has meant so much to me. Thank you.


Yield: about 3 cups

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Candied Pecans

These pecans make a great food gift for the holidays. They're very easy to prepare and you can double or triple this recipe to make a large batch. Package the candied pecans in jars, tie a pretty ribbon around the top, and you're set.


2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg white, room temperature
12 ounces pecan halves
1/8 cup maple syrup


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a half-sheet pan with non-stick aluminum foil and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix sugar, cayenne pepper, and salt; set aside. In a second, larger bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the pecans to the egg white and stir to coat well. Drizzle maple syrup over pecans and combine until all pecan halves are coated. Add sugar mixture to pecans and toss until well combined.

Spread pecans on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool completely. Store in an air-tight covered jar.

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14 Responses to “getting my feet wet with candied pecans”

  1. 1
    Janis — October 24, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

    Cooking will always be there to go back to. Sometimes more important things get in the way. My husband would love these pecans. I will have to give them a try.

    Glad your dad is doing better sweetie.

  2. 2
    Barbara — October 24, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

    How wonderful your Dad is on the improve.

    I made maple candied walnuts recently. They were delicious. Candied nuts are relly nice mixed with roquefort cheese in a sandwich.

  3. 3
    Carol Sacks — October 24, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

    So glad to hear that your Father is doing better and that you’re feeling more like yourself again. Take good care of yourself!

  4. 4
    DessertForTwo — October 24, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

    So glad to hear you’re in the kitchen again and picking up your camera.

    We’re still all sending love, prayers, thoughts, good wishes, great vibes your way 🙂


  5. 5
    Donna @ Cooking + Praying — October 24, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

    Thanks for the inspiration–for the neighborhood holiday cookie/treat swap. Shhh. . . don’t tell.

    Hope your dad pulls through soon and completely. I know what it’s like to sit and hold a father’s hand in the ICU. I’ve been there–my heart and prayers are with you.

  6. 6
    Joan Hayes@chocolate and more — October 25, 2011 @ 8:35 am

    So sorry to hear about your dad but glad he is doing better, will be praying for him. Here I Georgia, we are always looking for ways to serve up pecans, I have many versions of candied pecans but I haven’t seen one with the maple syrup. Will put this on my “must try” list for when pecans begin to drop this season!

  7. 7
    Winnie — October 25, 2011 @ 9:00 am

    I adore candied pecans, especially with that touch of spice from the cayenne. These are lovely, and I am glad your dad is doing better. xoxo

  8. 8
    Gail — October 25, 2011 @ 9:02 am

    Well, of course these pecans didn’t find their way to your Dad’s nurse. You had to do quality control and market research before any such gift could be made.

    We’re so glad to hear that your Dad’s making such big strides!!!


  9. 9
    Barbara | Creative Culinary — October 25, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    I always include some form of candied nuts in holiday gift baskets and these hit the right notes…just a subtle touch of heat with the sweet!

    Good to hear things seem to have turned for the better with your Dad. Mine is so far away, as hard as it has been, at least be grateful you are close at hand during this crisis.

  10. 10

    So glad to hear your father is making positive progress – that is certainly good news. Those pecans look and sound amazing. Must check out that cookbook.

  11. 11
    Nutmeg Nanny — October 28, 2011 @ 12:09 am

    I’m glad to see you got back into the kitchen. I’m also very happy to hear about your dad. Nightly prayers and good thoughts are being sent your way on a daily basis.

  12. 12
    Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga — November 4, 2011 @ 8:24 am

    The recipe looks great and your photos are beautiful, Merry!

  13. Pingback: Candied Pecans « jaynerly

  14. 13
    BC Pitcher — December 30, 2012 @ 7:51 pm


    Truly sorry to read about your father on this first visit to your lovely website. Having lost my wonderful Dad to lung cancer, it weighs on my heart to read of another loving daughter holding her Dad’s hand and praying.

    In response to a request on the spiced pecan recipe, you are, of COURSE, right; it is now, and always will be “pe-Kawns”. 😉

    Both this recipe and the spice pecans are very similar to mine, the one twist you might want to try occasionally is to add a dash of tumeric to the spiced version. I occasionally add a tablespoon of Droste cacao powder to my candied pecan recipe – love the bittersweet cacao with the cayenne on the candied pecans (a lingering love for chocolate and chili powder combos from living in Santa Fe).

    Do hope that your father continues to heal and know you are relieved that he is off the ventilator.

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