*This post is sponsored in partnership with The American Pecan Council. All opinions and words are my own, of course!
I have to say, I feel so lucky to be able to work with foods that I really, truly, genuinely love. Pecans are one of those foods and I was thrilled when The American Pecan Council reached out to me about developing a few recipes featuring pecans. If you are unfamiliar, the American Pecan Council is a group of growers and shellers who have banded together to promote this native nut and educate us on its many nutritional benefits. Pecans are the only tree nut native to America and have phytonutrients, antioxidant vitamins, plant-based proteins, fiber, and minerals. They are full of good fats, with only 2 grams of saturated fat. As a matter of fact, a 30 year observation study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that regular consumption of nuts led to a lower mortality rate, and overall better heart health compared to those who did not eat nuts. Pretty cool, eh?
So I’m pretty proud to count myself in as a regular nut eater. Pecans are my absolute favorite and I love to snack on them. I frequently buy a pecan mix that features black pepper, orange zest and cranberries. I can’t get enough, actually. I probably hoard them – but don’t ask my husband. That may unleash a diatribe on my inability to share good food. I’d say I’m working on it….but no.
I decided to make my own snack blend with those perfectly chosen flavors and take it one step up- to a chocolate bark. This bark is made with dark chocolate and topped with crispy, crunchy, maple glazed pecans and dried cranberries that are spiced with black pepper, cinnamon, orange zest, and vanilla. The vanilla is a game changer – it turns the spicy nuts into a smooth, mellow, buttery dream. Broken into pieces, this bark makes a fantastic treat for your Holiday parties or the perfect little gift, all wrapped up in a glass jar with a sprig of eucalyptus and twine.
Happy snacking and gifting!!
- 3 cups raw Pecan Halves
- 1 cup raw Pecan Pieces
- 1 cup Dried Cranberries
- zest of 2 small Oranges
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons Cracked Black Pepper
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla or the seeds of 1 small Vanilla Bean
- ½ cup Maple Syrup
- 1-2 teaspoons Coarse Sea Salt
- 10 ounces Dark Chocolate Chips (60-70%)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the pecan halves, pecan pieces, cranberries, orange zest, cinnamon, pepper, vanilla, and maple syrup in a saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the syrup to a boil over medium/high heat. Stirring constantly, cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the syrup has been completely absorbed by the nuts.
- Remove nuts from heat and pour onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the nuts out into a single layer. Bake them in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the pecans are a deep golden brown and give off a nutty aroma. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
- While the nuts cool, line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the chocolate chips in a saucepan and place over medium/low heat. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
- Pour the chocolate over the parchment lined sheet and smooth the chocolate out to a thickness of ¼ inch.
- Break up the cooled pecans and place them evenly over the surface of the chocolate.
- Set the chocolate aside for several hours to set. Once the chocolate has set, break up into pieces and use as desired.
Good news about pecans and heart health, according to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration: Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of
most nuts, such as pecans, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the
risk of heart disease. One serving of pecans (28g) has 18g unsaturated fat and only 2g saturated