Cinnamon and Vanilla Walnuts

These nuts are slightly sweet and salty and laced with cinnamon and vanilla. I’ve made candied nuts quite a bit in the past, but I love this newest recipe. It’s not as sweet, so I like them better for snacking on or for putting in salads. They add just the right amount of sweet and saltiness to a salad. Yum! This method of using an egg white coating adds a very nice crunchy texture.

This simple recipe is perfect for doing with children. My four year old loved making these nuts with me (despite the fact that she doesn’t enjoy walnuts as much as I do). They would also make a very nice homemade gift if packaged in a nice jar (and perhaps a bow?).

Of course, if you wanted a sweeter version, you can easily up the sweetener, up to double. Other variations I’ve thought of include doubling the vanilla, and trying it with different nuts (I think this combo would be delicious with cashews!).

Cinnamon and Vanilla Walnuts

1 egg white
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of rapadura, sucanat, maple sugar, or palm/coconut sugar
2 1/2 cups of walnuts

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees (the rack should be in the middle of the oven). And either lightly coat a cookie pan with coconut oil or butter or cover with parchment paper.

1)Lightly beat the egg white with a whisk (just until a bit foamy). Add the cinnamon, vanilla, salt and sugar. Stir in the walnuts, coat the walnuts well.

2) Remove the walnuts with a slotted spoon (allowing extra coating to drip out), and place on the cookie sheet. Spread out on the cookie sheet so that the nuts aren’t touching for the most part. Place in the oven for 25 minutes.

3) Remove from the oven and cool for 20 minutes. Serve or store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Cheesecake In A Mug

 

 I had some cream cheese and sour cream in the refrigerator and played around with a microwave cheesecake. The first time I overcooked it, but the second time was a charm. It was creamy and delicate from the first bite.

This cake is great for people at work, in dorms or if you just want cheesecake…fast! My Cheesecake in a Mug, is so good and versatile that you can have a different topping each day…well, maybe each time you make it! One time I added chocolate chips, and then the next I swirled in some cherry jam.

Instead of a crust, I added a crumb topping. I found a crust just gets soggy on the bottom, but as a topping it is perfect. The hardest part of this easy cheesecake is standing with your spoon waiting, while it cools in the refrigerator!

Microwave Mug Cheesecake

2 ounces low fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons egg white, slightly beaten (egg whites in a carton work fine)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch (prevents liquid from forming)

For “mix ins”, add 1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips, or swirl in (not stir) 1 tablespoon jam of choice.

In a 1 cup or larger microwave proof mug, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy with a small whisk. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla, sugar, egg, lemon juice and cornstarch. Whisk about 2 minutes until light. Alternatively, the mixture may be mixed in a small bowl with a hand held electric mixer and then poured into the mug. Add any “mix-ins”,

or swirl in jam at this time.

Microwave on medium for 2 1/2 minutes* (in a 650 watt microwave). Since microwave powers are different, you may need to experiment. You want the center to just start to bubble, and then stop cooking. If it is allowed to bubble and cook further, the mixture will “break” and you’ll need to start over. Make a note of the successful cooking time for your microwave. Take out of the microwave and let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until fully chilled, about 1 1/2-2 hours. If any liquid has formed, carefully pour out. Sprinkle with graham cracker mixture and top with any topping of your choice.

*I also had success with 1 minute 50 seconds on high.

Serves 1.

 Cracker Topping

1 tablespoon crushed  crackers
1/2 teaspoon melted unsalted butter

Mix  cracker crumbs and melted butter together in a small bowl. Sprinkle on top of mug
cheesecake.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

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Something had to be done.  We’ve been picking zucchini on a daily basis now, and so far we’ve been using everything in savory dishes…grilled zucchini, for example.  But there’s only so many times a week (or a day) we want to eat it after a while, so I said I’d make zucchini bread to use up some of the excess.

I know I mentioned this before somewhere in this blog, but many years ago I used up a TON of zucchini from someone’s garden by making 17 different kinds (yes, seventeen) of zucchini bread, all pulled from the various cookbooks I owned at the time.  I ended up with 23 loaves.  I froze most and gave some away.

One of the more memorable recipes was for a Chocolate Zucchini Bread.  It wasn’t a sweet bread, not like, say, a carrot cake.  It was moist, and flavorful, and utilized a cup of shredded zucchini per loaf.

I looked and looked, and found the recipe in the book Fast Breads!  by Howard Early and Glenda Morris on pgs. 66-67.  The recipe is actually for a Chocolate Potato Bread, but in a couple of paragraphs after they original recipe, they suggest substituting a cup of zucchini for the potato.

And since we had a bunch of zucchini, I figured I should make more than just one loaf.

So I made four.

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So in the photos, you’ll see HUGE amounts of the ingredients, but keep in mind the list of ingredients below is only for ONE batch.  Just figured I’d mention that, just in case.

So here we go with the recipe.

Wet Ingredients:

1 C shredded zucchini

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3/4 cup skim milk

1/2 cup oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

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2 eggs

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(By the way, if you want to see all of the pictures like these two, head over here.)

1 oz melted or grated unsweetened chocolate (I grated mine right into the bowl of wet ingredients)

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Dry Ingredients:

2  1/2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

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What to do:

Combine the wet ingredients.

Combine the dry ingredients.

Mix together the dry and wet ingredients.

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Pour into a greased medium-sized loaf pan.

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Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes.

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Let the bread cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan.

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And enjoy!  I gave one loaf to our friends across the street, froze two, and we’re in the process of eating the other one.

And the zucchini is still coming.  There will be more zucchini recipes to come….

Strawberry Almond Cream Cake

Ingredients

1/2 cup Love’n Bake Almond Paste
1/3 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons
6 eggs, separated
Zest and juice from 1/2 lemon or orange
2/3 cup cake flour
Powdered sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup raspberry jam
1 quart ripe strawberries, washed and stems removed

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the sides of the pan. Dust a large sheet of parchment paper with powdered sugar.Beat the Love’n Bake Almond Paste and 1/3 cup of sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle. Mix until the mixture is uniform and looks like moist sand. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing until the mixture is smooth. Increase the speed to medium high and beat the mixture until the mixture becomes pale yellow and falls from the paddle in thick ribbons, about 6 to 7 minutes.

In a separate clean bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar then continue whipping until the eggs hold medium peaks.

Fold the egg whites into the almond and egg yolk mixture alternating with the flour in 4 additions.

Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Dust the surface of the batter with powdered sugar.

Bake the cakes until they are lightly and evenly browned and spring back gently when pressed, about 16 to 18 minutes.

Invert the cakes onto the powdered-sugar-dusted parchment paper. Let them cool completely before filling.

To fill the cakes, whip the cream until it holds firm peaks. Place one cake on a serving plate. Spread it evenly with the raspberry jam. Then spread it with an even layer of whipped cream approximately ½-inch thick. Place the other cake on top. (Insert a few toothpicks into the two cakes to keep them from slipping should you want to transport this cake.)

Spread a generous layer of whipped cream on top of the cake. Using a sharp paring knife, slice parallel cuts through each strawberry keeping the stem end intact. Fan out each strawberry before arranging them decoratively on top of the cake. Dust the berries lightly with powdered and pipe a decorative border with the remaining whipped cream.

Keep refrigerated until serving. This cake is best when served the day it is made.

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars

Another one of my favorite holiday treats are nanaimo bars. Nanaimo bars are another Canadian dessert and they consist of a chocolate and coconut wafer layer topped by a a layer custard butter icing and a layer chocolate. I really like the chocolate, coconut and custard combo and these chilled treats are always welcome. I had not had a nanaimo bar in a long time and I thought that it would be great to make my own this year. Since this was my first time making nanaimo bars I decided to stick with the standard recipe that seems to be everywhere on the web. As I was making the bars I was thinking that it would be nice to try tweaking the flavours in the different layers and I was thinking about mint in particular; though I will save that for another time. Because there are three layers that each required time to chill before the next layer can be added these bars take a bit of time to make. Despite the time needed they are super easy to make and well worth the effort. The nanaimo bars turned out great, just like I remembered them. I like to eat the nanaimo bars chilled, directly from the fridge but, they are also really good at room temperature. These bars also freeze well so you can make them ahead of time and store them until needed. I like to keep them in the freezer and pull one out at a time to snack on whenever I feel like one.

Ingredients:

Base
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup walnuts (chopped)

Filling
1/3 cup butter (room temperature)
3 tablespoon custard powder (or vanilla pudding powder)
1/4 cup milk
3 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar)

Topping
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoon butter

Directions:

Base
1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan.
2. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder until smooth.
3. Whisk in the egg and vanilla extract and remove from heat.
4. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and walnuts.
5. Press into a greased 8 inch square pan and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Filling
1. Cream the butter.
2. Beat in the custard powder and milk.
3. Beat in the sugar slowly.
4. Spread over the the base layer and chill in the fridge until it sets.

Topping
1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a pan and stir until smooth.
2. Spread over the filling layer and chill in a fridge until the chocolate begins to harden.
3. Score the chocolate where you will cut it into bars and chill in the fridge.
4. Before the chocolate hardens, cut into bars. (Use an hot knife and wipe clean after each cut.)

Carrot & Walnut Pesto w/ Baked Vegetables and Vegeroni

Carrot & Walnut Pesto w/ Baked Vegetables and Vegeroni

Recently I rediscovered a great little book from the 1970’s that I inherited from my beloved grandparents. Eydie Mae’s Natural Recipes for the Living Foods Gourmet is a wonderful healthy recipe book crammed with simple and creative raw recipes and I’ve been getting a little excited about all the healthy and delicious combinations.

The heath benefits of eating raw foods are obvious and while this dish is not a raw dish it does benefit from including raw carrots which are one vitamin and mineral packed little veggie! The carrot is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, high in dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and manganese and raw carrot contains beta-carotene, a strong antioxidant that can help prevent cancer. Good for your skin, your digestive system and your overall health carrots are super healthy and super tasty too.

The ‘pesto’ is easy to prepare in a food processor and with the addition of dry roasted nuts and spices is super delicious. The recipe below makes a double batch of the pesto which means you’ll have enough leftover to enjoy in a sandwich, with crackers or like we did here in a fresh salad wrap. Combined with the tasty baked vegetables and tossed through warm pasta this vegetarian recipe is a wonderful way to enjoy lots of healthy vegetables in one dish. Served warm it makes a great pasta dish or try serving cold for a colourful and delicious pasta salad the whole family will enjoy.

Carrot & Walnut Pesto w/ Baked Vegetables and Vegeroni

Preparation time: 45mins
Serves 4

Carrot & Walnut Pesto

  • 4 cups grated carrot (approx 4 carrots)
  • 100g (3½oz) walnuts
  • 60g (2oz) raw almonds
  • 1 tsp za’atar spice mix [or use any combination of spices you like, try sesame seeds, cumin, turmeric and/or sumac]
  • 1 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs tahina
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • ½ lemon, juice only

Dry roast the nuts and spice mix in a frying pan over a medium/low heat for 4-5 minutes tossing frequently until they are golden, being careful not to burn them, allow to cool.

Combine the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, tahina and lemon juice together in a small bowl.

Add the grated carrot and dry roasted nuts and spices to a food processor and process until well combined, adding the apple cider vinegar mixture as you continue to process until the carrot and nuts form a fine pesto like mixture, set aside.

Carrot & Walnut Pesto w/ Baked Vegetables and Vegeroni

  • 1½ tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 470g (16½oz) vegetables, diced into 3cm (1½ inch) cubes [we used pumpkin, zucchini & capsicum]
  • ½ the prepared Carrot & Walnut Pesto [head over to Veggie num num’s flickr for an idea on how to use the remaining carrot pesto]
  • 375g (13oz) vegeroni (or any small shell like) pasta

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/392°F

In a large bowl combine the diced vegetables with the olive oil and sumac and toss until well coated. Transfer the vegetables onto a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until vegetables are soft and edges golden. Remove from the oven a set aside.

Meanwhile cook the pasta to the packet instructions, drain well and set aside.

In a large bowl toss the carrot pesto through the warm pasta until evenly combined, add the baked vegetables and gently toss through.

Either serve warm as a great healthy pasta recipe or cold for a delicious bowl of pasta salad perfect for your lunchbox.

Carrot & Walnut Pesto w/ Baked Vegetables and Vegeroni

Moroccan Pizza

Two of my favourite things combined; pizza and Moroccan flavours… bliss :)

This is a very simple vegan pizza with wonderful spicy flavour and it is so colourful! Homemade pizza dough is so very simple and any excess freezes well so you can make a batch and keep any left over for whipping up pizza anytime YAY!

The pizza dough recipe here is enough for 4 pizza bases so use the rest topped with your favourite ingredients or freeze the remainder in 3 separate batches for use later. Always use a top quality bakers’ flour to get the best results. This dough gives a lovely thin and crispy base perfect for pizza or for pizza style bread to serve with dips and spreads.

For non-vegans add a little feta cheese if you like; but it really doesn’t need it. Spicy and crispy, crunchy this vegetarian Moroccan Pizza is perfect for serving up to friends and family or for a quite night on the couch with good company. Bon appetite!!

Thin & Crispy Pizza Dough

Preparation time: 25mins (+2 hours)
Makes 4 pizza bases

  • 300ml (10.5 fl oz) lukewarm water
  • 7g (0.25 oz) yeast
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp raw sugar
  • 450g (1 pound) strong/bakers’ plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt

Add the yeast and sugar to the water and set aside for a few minutes until the yeast begins to react; begins to foam.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture, drizzle the olive oil around the outside of the flour.

Bring the mixture together with your fingers to form a mass, when the mixture has come together turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Roll into a ball and place in a large greased bowl, cover with a damp tea-towel and set aside for 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.

‘Punch’ the dough once to remove air bubbles and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal portions (freeze any portions not needed separately in plastic wrap).

Roll one portion of dough at a time out until thin and transfer onto a lightly oiled and preferably pre-heated baking tray or pizza stone.

Moroccan Pizza

Preparation time: 35mins
Serves 4

  • 1 quantity pizza dough prepared as above
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1½ tsp Harissa paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small eggplant (aubergine), sliced thinly
  • 1 zucchini, sliced thinly
  • 1 red chilli, diced
  • 1 yellow chilli, diced
  • ¼ cup mixed pitted olives, sliced in half
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • olive oil
  • fresh mint leaves

Pre-heat the oven to 225°C/437°F

Combine the tomato paste with the harissa and garlic; using the back of a dessert spoon smooth the tomato mixture over the prepared base; spread evenly.

Arrange the eggplant and zucchini on top on the base; scatter with the olives, chilli and caraway seeds. Drizzle over a little olive oil and place in pre-heated oven for 20-25mins until base is crisp and golden.

Remove from the oven and scatter with torn fresh mint leaves before serving. Enjoy!!

Pea & Avocado Penne

Pea & Avocado Penne

This simple penne pasta recipe came about with a desire to create vegan creamy pesto style pasta. I love pea mash, the colour and sweet flavour and avocado seemed an ideal ingredient to produce the right texture. Throw in some more green with baby spinach and green beans and you have a colourful, healthy and really tasty vegan pasta recipe.

I included the pine nuts because they are a favourite of ours and give the dish an authentic pesto taste; for a non vegan version crumble through some feta cheese before serving. The pea and avocado mash would also work great as a spread on bruschetta or as a dip with crispy bread.

Quick and easy to make this vegetarian pasta is delicious served warm or could be made ahead of time and served as a cold pasta salad. Green, creamy and delicious; perfectly yummy penne pasta for happy bellies :)

Preparation time: 25mins
Serves 4

Pea & Avocado Pesto

  • 45g (1.5oz) pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 cups baby peas
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • lemon juice

Pea & Avocado Penne

  • 300g (10.5 oz) Penne Pasta
  • 250g (9 oz) green beans, trimmed
  • 1½ cups butter beans (tinned or cooked)
  • olive oil

Cook the penne pasta to the packet instructions, strain and set aside.

Bring about 3 cups of water to boil in a small saucepan, cook the peas for 1-3 minutes until just tender; strain, rinse and set aside.

Roughly chop the toasted pine nuts reserving a few for garnish.

In a bowl mash the avocado with the cooled peas, garlic, chopped pine nuts and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Mash well to get a nice creamy texture but insure not to squash everything to a pulp : ) then stir through the shredded baby spinach until well combined.

Steam the green beans for 3-4 minutes until just tender; set aside.

Heat about two tablespoons of oil in a large deep pan; add the steamed green beans and butter beans toss for 1-2 minutes over a medium heat. Add the cooked pasta and toss well.

Reduce the heat to low and toss through the pea and avocado pesto. Toss until well combined and warmed through.

Serve topped with reserved toasted pine nuts and a few baby spinach leaves. Great warm or cold; a perfect vegan pasta dish for dinner or your lunch box.

Pea & Avocado Penne

Chocolate Pie with Oreo Crust

Last year, I made the best chocolate pie for Thanksgiving.  This year, we made it even better by serving it in an Oreo cookie crust.  Once upon a time you could buy Oreo cookie crumbs in a box just like you can buy graham cracker crumbs, but alas, no longer.  You can still buy the pre-made chocolate shells but for a really delicious, Oreo flavored addition, crush the actual Oreo cookies.  No need to add sugar, just a little butter to help the crust hold its shape when sliced.

Oreo Cookie Pie Crust

makes one 9 inch pie, prep 10 min, cook 10 min
  • 24 Oreo cookies
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place Oreos in a large plastic zip top bag and smash the heck out of them.  A flat mallet or rolling pin works great.  You could probably also use a food processor.  Try to get Oreos to a consistent crumby mush.  The filling should resemble moist crumbs (if you do this by hand there will be a few larger pieces in the mix, this is fine).
  3. Empty crumbs into a mixing bowl and stir in melted butter until well combined.
  4. Pat wet crumbs all over and up sides of pie dish, making an even surface.
  5. Bake crust for 8-10 minutes or until hardened.  Cool before filling.

This is a great replacement for graham cracker crust and add a nice touch to the chocolate pie.  A peanut butter pie would also be great!

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

We couldn’t decide between cheesecake or pumpkin pie and while I would generally just make both, Pumpkin Cheesecake just seemed like the perfect solution! This cross between a creamy, fluffy cheesecake and a spicy pumpkin pie goes great over a pecan crust topped with caramel sauce and candied pecans.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

prep 10 min, cook 1 hour 30 min, adapted from our family recipe
  • 16 oz cream cheese (2 bars)
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1  cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • pecan crust or graham cracker crust prepared in a 10 inch springform pan
  1. Prepare crust in a large spring form pan. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Using a stand mixer or high power hand mixer, cream the cream cheese, pumpkin, sugars, and vanilla together.
  3. With mixer running add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each one before adding the next. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  4. Add cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice, cream and salt. Beat on highest speed for several minutes until batter is light and fluffy.
  5. Stir in lemon juice.
  6. Pour batter into crust and bake for 1 hour. Place a baking sheet under just in case it spills. This cake is huge and will rise up over the sides of the pan.
  7. When the hour has elapsed turn the oven off and leave it for 30 minutes.
  8. Crack the oven door and allow the cake to cool in the oven about 30 minutes, then move to the counter to cool completely.
  9. Once cake is cool, place it in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

You can bake this in a waterbath if that’s your thing.  We actually like the fluffy texture of the cheesecake without the waterbath but it does develop cracks.  So if cracks bother you, feel free to change it up.

Pecan Crust

prep 5 min, cook 8 min
  • 2 1/2 cups finely ground pecans
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  1. Grind pecans in a food processor or buy ground pecans.
  2. Combine all four ingredients in a bowl until completely mixed (if you used a food processor in step 1 you can add the other ingredients to the food processor bowl and pulse to mix).
  3. Pat onto the bottom and up the sides of a spring form pan.
  4. Bake crust at 350°F

Making the candied pecans is really easy (and they’re really good!) but feel free to buy them at the store.

Candied Pecans

makes 1 1/2 cups, prep 10 min, cook 15 min, adapted from Bon Apetit, September 1999
  • Nonstick oil spray (not necessary if you use a Silpat)
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or any spice combination you like)
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray or use a Silpat.
  2. Combine corn syrup, sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in large bowl. Stir to blend.
  3. Add pecans to the mixture and stir gently to coat. Pour mixture out onto prepared baking sheet.
  4. Place a large piece of foil on your work surface. Bake pecans 5 minutes.
  5. Using a fork, stir and flip the pecans to coat in the sugar mixture. Continue baking until pecans are golden and coating bubbles, about 10 minutes.
  6. Use your fork to quickly separate and transfer the pecans to the foil. Cool pecans completely before tasting (they’ll hurt your teeth)!

These are great made ahead.  Store them in an air tight container so they don’t get sticky.  Enjoy them over the next couple of weeks in desserts and salads!

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