1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugar and egg. Stir in flour, vanilla and pecans. Mix well by hand. Shape into balls about the size of walnuts, place on cookie sheets and flatten to about 1/8 inch.
2. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely and harden.
Winner Jean McGree of Flossmoor "bores everyone, " she says, with this family tale of Christmas praline cookies: "Since the time Mom had been a little girl, each November Grandma would surround her back yard pecan tree with sheets to catch the falling nuts. But most of the nuts had to be knocked from the branches with her long-handled broom. Then she would spend hours stooped over those sheets, picking up the pecans and sorting the good ones from the black and hollow shells.
"When her daughter married and moved away, the nuts were carefully picked over, packaged and shipped 'up North.' Free time in the first week of December was always marked for shelling the pecans. Sore hands and stiff backs were repaid with secret nibbling and promises of praline cookies for Christmas.
"Soon, I'll start looking for a package from Great-Grandma in South Carolina. Then, as we crack the pecans, I can retell the 'pecan story' to Michael and Ann, who know that Santa always looks for pralines on Christmas Eve." from the Chicago Tribune annual Food Guide Holiday Cookie Contest