Pecans are tasty offerings that are ideal in both savory dishes and desserts. Like fruits of other members of the hickory genus of trees, pecans are not truly nuts, but drupes. A drupe is a fruit with a single stone or pit surrounded by a husk. With pecans, the outer husk dries out and splits open, exposing the “nuts” inside.
Georgia, New Mexico and Texas are the leading domestic producers of pecans, but Mexico grows nearly half of the world’s pecans. Pecans are heart-healthy and rich in antioxidants, several vitamins and minerals, and a good source of healthy fat. In addition, one ounce of pecans provides 10 percent of the recommended daily fiber intake.
Cookies may never be considered “health food,” but there are ways to make them more nutritious. The addition of beneficial ingredients like pecans can do just that. This recipe for “Cowboy Cookies” from “Live Well, Bake Cookies” (Rock Point) by Danielle Rye includes oats, pecans and coconut in the mixture, adding flavor and nutritional appeal.
Cowboy Cookies Makes 50 to 52 cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
11⁄2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3⁄4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans (see baking tip)
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and salt until well combined. Stir in the old-fashioned rolled oats and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar together for 1 to 2 minutes, or until well combined.
3. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, then mix in the vanilla extract until fully combined, making sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
4. Mix in the dry ingredients until just combined, then mix in the chocolate chips, shredded coconut and chopped pecans on low speed until fully incorporated.
5. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.
7. Using a 11⁄2-tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, making sure to leave a little room between each one. Gently press each ball of cookie dough down to slightly flatten it.
8. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are set and the edges are lightly browned. Remove from the oven, and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 to 10 minutes, then carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
9. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
Baking tip: For even more flavor, try toasting the pecans. Just cool them completely before adding them to the cookie dough.