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Ask Addie: Help! I've lost my favorite spiced pecan recipe from 30 years ago

Addie Broyles
Austin 360
Cracking pecans is an annual tradition for many families, and some cooks, including former Austinite Jill Smith, like to toast them with sugar and spices.

This is probably a long shot, but I lived in Austin in 1989 and 1990, and around that time frame, you all ran a recipe for spiced pecans and it won the Christmas cooking contest.

I've lost it, and I really loved that recipe. I was just wondering if there was any way to find it again. I would be so appreciative if you could tell me how to get that recipe. I live in South Carolina now.

Jill Smith

For 20 years, the Statesman hosted a Christmas Cookin' Contest, an annual holiday contest that was as much a community recipe swap as a competition. Kitty Crider retired the series in 2001, and after I took over her position in 2008, we hosted a couple of cookie contests that were also a joyful excuse to connect with home cooks who take pride in what they can whip up at home. 

In recent years, we've transitioned this into #Austin360Cooks, a year-round call for reader tips, recipes and food ideas that is mostly based on social media, but I occasionally hear from readers who remember the Christmas Cookin' Contest. 

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That happened last week when I got the above voicemail from Jill Smith, who couldn't find the spiced pecan recipe from Sharon Kunkel that was a finalist in the food gift category in 1989. 

"Food is about more than sustenance. It's about people and sharing," Crider wrote in the farewell to the contest in 2001. "That's been the heart of this Central Texas contest, whose participants have ranged in age from 8 to 80. To them, we say a big food-felt thanks."

That "big food-felt thanks" is what I felt when I called Smith to thank her for the call and to give her the recipe she'd been looking for. "I'm so happy, you have no idea," she said over the phone from her new place in South Carolina. The original recipe clipping for these spiced pecans disappeared in a recent move from Wisconsin, she says, but it's just not Christmas without them. "It's just a unique taste. Everybody loves them. I try to make them every Christmas. Sometimes even when it's not Christmas."

Helping bring just a little bit of nostalgia to Smith's holiday certainly made my day, and maybe revisiting this recipe will bring a bit of that joy to your kitchen, too. 

If you ever think of a recipe you've lost track of or want to request that we republish a dish you've held onto over the years, reach out to me at abroyles@statesman.com. If you want to share a new dish or culinary discovery, send me an email or put #Austin360Cooks on the post on social media.

Happy cooking this holiday season!

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Spiced Pecans

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon red pepper

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon curry

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups nuts (pecans)

Blend spices in olive oil over low heat for a few minutes. Pour over pecans. Toss and layer singly in pan. Bake 15 minutes at 325 degrees. Watch carefully. Do not let burn. Let cool in pan.

— Sharon Kunkel