“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace but it’s a start.” – Anthony Bourdain

Season’s Greetings and welcome back to Uncle Tom’s gaily festooned corner. Peace on earth/world peace. Noble aspirations both. I can only wish the tree was decorated, the stockings were hung by the fireplace with care, yadda, yadda, yadda. Maybe next week. In the meantime, clean-up continues from Thanksgiving. By clean-up I mean I hope the snow melts enough that I can clean and stow the smoker until time for the next go-round.

My contribution to Inside Educated Minds is supposed to be about grilling, barbecue and, to some extent, cooking in general. At this time of the year a good part of mostly everything is about feasting, drinking and general revelry. The dinners, the parties, all of it. Included are detailed instructions on how to cook prime rib, beef or pork tenderloin, lamb…you name it. Whether prepared in a smoker, on the grill or in the oven ultimately it comes down to the people around you. For kids it’s the presents. When you get a bit older its more about family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Speaking of the smoker and the snow, just because one doesn’t conjure up visions of the other doesn’t mean that they are mutually exclusive. Since the season of feasting is upon us (but then when isn’t it except right after the New Year when the Resolutions kick in and the Failure follows?) I thought I’d share some hors-d’oeuvre and appetizer recipes that I got from who-knows-where and the hint of smoke adds just one more dimension to the flavor profile. “Where there’s smoke there’s flavor.”(Spoiler alert: None of this stuff qualifies as a health food). Mostly I’m going to focus on “chestnuts roasting on an open fire  althoughI probably wouldn’t recognize a chestnut if a bucket of ‘em fell on me so, for the purposes of this blog, we’ll substitute.

Candied & Spiced Nuts

  • 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 2 cups mixed salted nuts, such as almonds, pecans, cashews and macadamias
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Hickory wood or chips


Preheat the smoker to 375⁰.

Whisk together the brown sugar, thyme, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, powdered mustard and chipotle powder in a medium bowl. Pour the nuts into a baking pan, then add the brown sugar mixture and the oil, stirring to coat evenly. Spread the nuts in a single layer.

Place the pan in the smoker, close the lid and smoke for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm


Smoked Candied Pecans

These sweet and smoky treats are great for parties. Whether or not they qualify for the paleo diet is another discussion entirely.


  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 lb. pecan halves
  • 2 tbsp of bourbon or amaretto


Set the smoker for indirect cooking at 300°F.

Mix sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl.

Beat the egg whites and water together in a separate bowl until they are frothy and peaks begin to form. Add the bourbon or amaretto until combined. Toss the pecans in the egg white mixture, and then mix the sugar mixture in until the pecans are evenly coated. Spread the coated pecans onto a baking sheet.

Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until pecans are evenly browned; this should take about 1 hour.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

The Calendar:

December 20 The first of the college football bowl games (with another 39 games between now and

                           the championship game)

December 21 Winter Solstice/Shortest day of the year

December 22 First day of Hanukkah

December 23 Festivus

December 24 Christmas Eve

December 25 Christmas Day

December 26 First day of Kwanza

December 30 Last day of Hanukkah

December 31 Liberty Bowl-Kansas State vs. Navy (Go Navy!)

                          New Year’s Eve

January 1 New Year’s Day & Last day of Kwanza

January 13 NCAA National College Championship Football Game

Whether celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza,  The Winter Solstice or Festivus

A time to remember those no longer with us

Decorated trees, menorahs, wreaths, 7 candles

Eight days of oil

12 days of Christmas

Elegant and refined

Gaudy and bawdy

Rites and rituals

Traditions and victuals

The star in the East

The travels and visit from the Magi

The avalanche of catalogs urging us to buy, buy, buy

Ebenezer Scrooge or It’s A Good Life

Over the bridge and through the woods

Gifts-Practical or cheesy

Humorous or sleazy

Always with the “It’s the thought that counts”

Shopping, shopping, shopping

Santa kneeling before the crèche

Carols. White Christmas.

Taking to time to breathe deeply, to remember the real purpose of the season and to reflect on the Christmases, Hanukkahs, Kwanzas, Festivuses past. Choose one or more. For me, thank you for allowing me this bit of therapy for another year. I wish you a Merry Christmas and, on that note, to all a good night.

See you back at Uncle Tom’s Corner in 2020.