It’s just a few days into December, but the holiday spirit has gotten a little out of hand is in full swing at our house. My husband started playing the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack two weeks into November. We went to Elgin and chopped down a tree even before we’d washed all the Thanksgiving dishes. By evening, we were downing St. Arnold Christmas Ale, singing carols, and trimming the tree (or trimming carols and singing the tree, depending on whose account you trust regarding the number of beers consumed). And we decided to go all eco-friendly with the lights this year. Thing is, nobody informed us of how very, very bright LED lights are. There are approximately 1,214 tiny bulbs adorning the outside of our house and every time a plane flies by overhead we’re worried it will land on our street. So it’d be an understatement for me to say that I’m anxious to get into the kitchen and start whipping up batches of holiday gifts. Instead of bringing you a squash recipe (though I may or may not have a recipe for pumpkin-chocolate bark, if you ask nicely), I’ve decided to work the Texas pecan into my homemade gift-giving escapades. I grew up helping my grandfather pluck pecans from the yard, and then wishing I could help shell them in the garage (too dangerous) while he blared polka music on the radio (maybe the polka was the dangerous part). And then my grandmother would bake the shelled pecans into cookies and pies all season long. I don’t have one of her recipes to share, but here are three of my favorite – and easy – ways to incorporate the fruit of the state tree into homemade gifts this holiday season. Head to your nearest market and get a couple of pounds – but be sure to buy (or pick) ones born and reared in our great state. Sweet and Spicy Pecans These are a favorite of mine. They’re perfect for snacking on (think holiday appetizer table), but even better when added to a spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Chocolate Pecan Quick Bread To share the joy holiday baking, give your kitchen-abled friends a recipe in a bottle. Quick bread is great for this; you just pack all the dry ingredients in a quart-sized mason jar and tie on the cooking instructions. Bakers will simply need to add a couple of wet ingredients to complete the recipe. You can follow these instructions, but sub chopped pecans for the walnuts. Chocolate-Covered Coffee Toffee with Pecans I won’t even pretend to have made up this toffee recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but I can attest to having made it. Multiple times. I tried to make a batch to share with friends, but we ate most of it before I could wrap it. Swap the chopped hazelnuts for (you guessed it) chopped pecans. (Image: Flickr member MGShelton.) Posted by Amber Byfield