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STAFF TRADITIONS: It’s not Christmas without spiced pecans (recipe included) and the Griswolds

Spiced pecans recipe

A batch of spiced pecans baked especially for the staff at The Picayune Magazine. A 50-year-old family recipe, we share it here with our readers so you can cook up your own tasty holiday tradition. Staff photo by Hannah Ottaway

Daren Ottaway never knows exactly when the mood is going to strike, but when it does, he pulls out the VCR and pops in his long cherished VHS tape of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

“It’s usually when something silly happens,” said Daren, husband of Victory Media designer Hannah Ottaway. The couple lives in Lago Vista with their 11-year-old daughter, Chloe. “It just depends on whatever is going on, but I always make a point to watch it before Christmas is over.”

As a couple, the Ottaways have been watching the Chevy Chase comedy since they married 13 years ago. Daren has been watching it since it moved from the big screen to VCR in 1990. He missed its 1989 premiere on the big screen, but has made up for that over the years.

As a wholesale salesman of the latest in computer hardware, even Daren wonders why he still watches on VHS.

“I guess that’s how it all ties together — watching an eighties’ movie on a VCR,” he said. “If it ever breaks I’m sure I’ll a have a moment of panic, though I do realize I can always stream it. Not sure it will be the same though.”

A night of popcorn and Chevy Chase is just one of the Ottaway’s favorite family traditions. They also bake, invite family and friends for open house events, and put up a real Christmas tree. That, too, goes back to the iconic holiday film.

“That’s where the movie starts, with the Griswold’s hunting for the perfect tree,” Daren said. “Rather than whacking it down, we hunt for ours in Costco.”

Hannah attributes the high level of Christmas Spirit in her home to Daren and Chloe, although Chloe is not allowed to watch the PG-13 movie just yet. The younger Ottaway likes the baking.

“Chloe loves to help in the kitchen,” Hannah said. “We make lots of pies and she likes to decorate the sugar cookies with icing. We have an assembly line for cookies.”

The dish that family members expect to see on every holiday visit, Spiced Pecans, comes from a more than 50-year-old recipe from Daren’s mother, written out in long hand on notebook paper. Daren and Chloe cooked up a batch for The Picayune Magazine team and agreed to share the recipe with readers.

“We’ve tried other recipes, but none are quite like this one,” Daren said of the Spiced Pecans.

They go particularly well with a vintage viewing of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”


  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 1 slightly beaten egg white
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups pecan halves

Add water to beaten egg white. Add sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and salt to egg white mixture. Mix well. Let stand until sugar dissolves.

Put the pecans in the mixture and coat well. Spread on greased cookie sheet.

Bake for about an hour in very low oven (250 degrees).

(You can double the pecans if there is enough mixture to sufficiently coat the note.)