CLEAN PLATE: Pumpkin Piecans: Healthier than your average snack | Features

With the holidays bearing down like a crazy, tinsel-strewn runaway train, it can be hard to plan ahead or think creatively about what you’re going to cook. In my experience, most families have a pretty clearly defined division of menu when it comes to holiday dinners. Grandma makes the turkey or ham, Cousin Betty makes the pie or potatoes or whatever, and Great-Aunt Hortense brings her famous Jell-O-marshmallow-whipped cream monstrosity that no one likes, but everyone compliments anyway. “Great-Aunt Hortense won’t be with us forever, you know. Be nice.”

First of all, why does all of the holiday meal-cooking fall on the ladies? Most men know how to work a stove. Pause the football and go brine a turkey with your wife. Secondly, why do we adhere to the same old traditional menu items year after year? We already know what mashed potatoes taste like! Branch out and have some fun. If you try something and it doesn’t work out, there’s always next year. Plus, nothing will be as bad as the Jell-O-marshmallow-whipped cream nightmare dessert.

In that vein, my friend, Sarah Bender, did some experimenting with two of the fall’s finest ingredients, pecans and pumpkin spice. Deeming it a delicious success, we will now share it with you, so you can bring something surprising, delicious and healthier than your average dessert or snack to the work potluck this year. You could even make them up, package them all fancy and give them as an awesome gift. Look at you, winning at fall!

PUMPKIN PIECANS

A seasonal, aromatic cousin to Pecayennes — pumpkin pie without all the labor of making filling and crust. These tasty bites have a wonderfully spicy taste with a creamy touch. These can easily be made vegan; just leave out the powdered milk — they’re still delicious.

2 cups whole raw pecans

3 T. maple syrup

1 tsp. coconut oil

1/4 tsp. Himalayan pink salt

1½ tsp. cinnamon (powder)

1/2 tsp. ginger (ground)

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Dash cloves (powdered)

1/2 tsp. coconut sugar or evaporated cane juice (unrefined sugar)

1 tsp. non-fat powdered milk (optional)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place pecans in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl combine spices, sugar, and powdered milk (if using); set aside.

In small saucepan, combine syrup, coconut oil and salt and heat until mixture comes to a light boil.

Pour syrup mixture over pecans and toss to coat. Add dry ingredients and toss to coat. Spread out evenly on baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Wait at least two hours to serve so flavors set; 24 hours, if humanly possible. Just like well-made pumpkin pie or chili, these taste even better after a day or two. Best if stored in an airtight glass container, if there are any left to store.

Note: For a dryer finish, do not mix dry ingredients in with syrup mixture. Instead, spread pecans without dry ingredients added to syrup mixture onto baking sheet and then sprinkle dry ingredients over coated pecans. Follow same baking/stirring instructions, but with about five minutes less baking and drying time.

Miranda Beverly is the front-end manager and marketing coordinator at Maple City Market in downtown Goshen.

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