With the professional baseball games airing almost every day and every level of football fully keeping countless households of sports enthusiasts everywhere planning their game-time snacks and menus, a commercial during one of the weekend football games this past Saturday sparked my thoughts about people’s overall enjoyment of nuts of so many varieties. Over the years, I have written about so many foods that are great for parties, showers, tailgate outings and other occasions. But, as I pondered the two perfectly picked out bags of pecan halves that a neighbor recently game me, I thought about how nutritious homemade, nutty treats are.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines acknowledge that consumers may include moderate amounts of fat as part of their balanced diets. The fat, however, should be predominantly unsaturated fat – the same heart-healthy fat found in nuts – peanuts, cashews, walnuts, and pecans. And, the latest nutrition guidelines from the American Heart Association stress that dietary sources of vitamin E – such as nuts – may significantly decrease the risk of stroke. In addition to vitamin E, nuts contain important nutrients such as vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc and several B vitamins. Now that positive messages about the overall goodness of nuts are finally getting out, everyone can feel free to enjoy a handful of delicious, nutritious nuts every day.

Totally awesome six layer bars

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

6 ounces of chocolate chips

6 ounces of butterscotch chips

1 cup flaked coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the butter in a 9x13 baking pan and put it in the oven to melt it. Remove the pan from the oven. In a medium bowl, combine the cracker crumbs and sugar. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the melted butter. Use a fork to mix the ingredients together. Press this mixture firmly to make a crust. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Top the chocolate chips with butterscotch chips, then flaked coconut, then chopped pecans in layers. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk on top. Bake this dessert at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and allow the pan to cool. Cut this delicious dessert into small bars. Store them in an airtight container to retain their freshness.

Sugared Pecans

1 pound pecans

1/3 cup butter

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ginger

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In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Stir and simmer this mixture for a few minutes until the sugar is melted. Stir in the pecans until they are well coated. Pour the pecans onto a cookie sheet and bake them at 275 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring often. Store the cooked nuts in an airtight container to maintain freshness.

Tasty microwave peanut brittle

(Times are based on a 700-watt microwave, so please adjust your cooking time to suit your equipment.)

1-1/2 cups of raw, shelled Virginia peanuts (leave the skins on)

1 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

In a large, microwave-safe casserole dish, mix the peanuts, sugar, corn syrup and salt together until the ingredients are well combined. Cover the dish and cook the ingredients in the microwave on High for four minutes. Open the microwave and stir the mixture well. Put the cover back on and cook it on High for another four minutes. Remove the dish from the microwave and stir in the butter and vanilla. Put the cover back on and microwave on High for two minutes. Finally, remove the dish from the microwave, open the dish, add the baking soda and stir quickly until the mix is light and foamy. Immediately pour this peanut mixture onto a lightly-greased baking sheet and let it cool completely. To serve, break the peanut brittle into pieces, and be sure to store leftovers in an airtight container.

Contact writer at tgmhatchell@yahoo.com.

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