Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gateway Books and Pecan Tassies

As a kid I was an omnivore of books. Put it in front of me, and there’s a pretty good chance I’d be happy to read it. Still, there were certain genres that drew most of my time and interest and others that I just ignored.

While I was a sci-fi guy early on and had enjoyed the standard issue Narnia books, fantasy never seemed like my thing. They were awfully long and kind of boring. Then, I picked up T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, which is indeed long and some would say boring. But it worked for me, and legends and myths and honor and, of course, cool stuff with swords came alive for me. From then on, I couldn’t get enough of fantasy.

Mystery’s another genre I didn’t spend much time with as a kid. Sure, I liked the Encyclopedia Brown books, but it had never occurred to me that there was such a thing as a mystery that took more than fifteen pages to solve. Then, I read The Westing Game. Brilliant! Mysteries could be fun, with layers of character development, plot, and actual thinking on the part of the reader.

I could go on and on with genres and subgenres that I unsuspectingly got sucked into (e.g., technothrillers via The Andromeda Strain), but you get the point. I expect most book lovers have had this same experience, when a book snuck up on them and opened a whole new world of reading possibilities.

So, how about it? What book surprised you? What genre were you amazed to see in bed with you when you rolled over in the morning? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Here’s a recipe I’ve adapted from one my momma made for us. Much like The Old Man in the Sea shocked me because I liked it even though I’d hated previous Hemingway experiences, this recipe always catches me off-guard because otherwise I don’t even like pecans. These pecan tassies, though, are so worth it.

Basically, these are bite-size pecan pies with just a hint of doctoring.

Pecan Tassies

Pecan Mix
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/3 c. chopped pecans
2/3 c. brandy
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. butter or margarine
2 c. flour

2 eggs
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Melt butter in frying pan on medium-high heat. Add pecans, stir until coated, and cook for 1 minute. Add brandy and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add brown sugar, and cook for another minute, stirring constantly, until pecans are slightly darkened. (Do not overcook!) Remove from heat and set aside.

Mix crust ingredients until crumbly. Shape into cherry-tomato-size marbles. Put marbles in mini muffin pan and press in center of each to spread along bottom and sides of each cup.

Mix egg, butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla and almond extracts. Then stir in pecans.

Put 1 heaping teaspoon of pecan filling in each shell. If there’s extra filling, each can be filled to the top of the shell.

Bake at 325° for 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan. Makes 48.

Basic Version: Use plain, uncooked pecans, omitting the brandy and other ingredients in the pecan mix.

Lower-Fat Version: I’ve cooked these many times with reduced fat butter (or substitute) and reduced fat cream cheese, and they turn out just fine.

Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. The first fantasy I ever read was Deer Skin by Robin McKinley. I've been hooked ever since!

  2. Cole, I have fond memories of reading McKinley's The Door in the Hedge in high school--lovely storytelling.