Go Nuts, it's National Pecan Day in America

by Thrive Now Nutrition

Chocolate Chili Spiced Pecans                        

Chocolate Chili Spiced Pecans                        

Today I noticed that the National Pecan Shellers Association (www.ilovepecans.org) is celebrating National Pecan Day. This is, they describe, the anniversary of the planting of pecan trees by George Washington, a gift from Thomas Jefferson.

For me, this plant strong whole food is a health-supportive gift that I unwrap with frequency. Pecans are a mainstay in my diet for reasons worth mentioning. The American Heart Association certifies that pecans are a heart-healthy food. They are a rich source of good fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Pecans are a crunchy, buttery nut that satisfies my hankering for something sweet. And best of all, it's another good reason to just eat more plants.

Considered "America's nut" for the abundant pecan harvest in the U.S., pecans are pack a punch nutritionally. Be sure to chew them well to promote digestion and satiety. By doing so you can avoid falling into the temptation of eating them by the handful. While a nutrient powerhouse, pecans are calorie-rich so they should be eaten with discretion.

In celebration of National Pecan Day, I opened up a fresh jar of my favorite nut butter - Pecan Butter from Artisana Foods. My mouth waters just thinking about it. Here's a nut butter made exclusively of nuts. It's raw, organic and vegan too. Eaten alongside my morning oatmeal or spread of warm sprouted grain bread, it’s a feast for the senses. Right out of the jar it's pure pleasure.

I relish cooking with pecans. Chocolate Chili Spiced Pecans are a new favorite. I made a batch recently and stored them in the freezer for when I have a hankering for something sweet 'n spicy, or simply want to add pizzazz to a stir-fry, Buddha bowl or salad.

This raw, organic nut butter is made exclusively of nuts.

This raw, organic nut butter is made exclusively of nuts.

I was introduced to this recipe concept on a visit to recipe blogger Katie Webster’s  site www.healthyseasonalrecipes.com.  Since it is a constant goal of mine to upgrade recipes so they provide the most bang for your nutrient buck and can support all-day energy, I have eliminated  the dairy and refined sugar from her recipe. I'm confident you won't miss a thing. 

Often I'll recommend that my clients substitute processed sugar in recipes with more 'whole' food sweet alternatives such as medjool dates or sulfur-free dried apricots that can both be whipped into a paste that mix easily with other recipe ingredients, but in this case,  the grit provided by the sugar roasted on top of the nuts makes these chocolate spiced nuts too memorable to strike this specific ingredient. So I upgraded to coconut sugar.

Here is my plant-powered version of CHOCOLATE CHILI SPICED PECANS : 

 3T  organic coconut sugar

1T pure maple syrup

2 tsp Earth Balance organic whipped buttery spread, melted

2 cups pecans

1 tsp raw cocao powder  (raw variety is more nutrient dense and ends in ‘O’ not ‘A’)

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp chipotle pepper powder

½ tsp fleur de sal (French sea salt)       

Three bites of pure decadence made of just 'plants'.

Three bites of pure decadence made of just 'plants'.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Stir coconut sugar, maple syrup and Earth Balance in a medium bowl. Add pecans cocoa, chili, chipotle and salt and stir to coat. Spread the nuts out on the lined baking sheet and bake until the cocao mixture is bubbling. 8 to 10 minutes. Stir nuts and continue to bake until nuts are sticky and maple mixture is coating them - about 4 to 5 minutes longer. Let cool. They freeze perfectly.                                                                                                

For dessert recently, I challenged myself to find something that would completely satisfy me in just three bites. I dove into my freezer for a small piece of a favorite plant-based brownie I had made previously without flour, sugar or dairy. I proceeded to top it with a smidge of a healthy, decadent chocolate coconut butter.  It would have been enough to stop there but I love a plant-powered challenge so I crowned it with one perfectly inspired chocolate chili pecan. Three bites never tasted so decadent.

This was a sweet reminder that eating less can render all the satisfaction a craving sometimes demands and hit you with health benefits to keep you thriving. 

Happy National Pecan Day. Go Nuts!

Peace and plants,