Maple Pecan Squares

These squares have been made a few times over the years, but each time I slightly veer from my recipe in using whatever I had in the kitchen. Sometimes I change up the amount of sugar (they’re a sweet one). I’ve used both Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread and Earth Balance Coconut Spread (though I prefer the former), and I’ve used walnuts instead. Regardless of what you do, try to get your hands on dark maple syrup — the taste difference substantial.

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Maple Pecan Squares

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup unrefined cane sugar (I like Sucanat)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/8 teaspoon fine sea or Himalayan salt
6 tablespoons nondairy buttery spread, such as Earth Balance (or EB Coconut Spread)

Top Layer
2 tablespoons nondairy buttery spread
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (recommend: amber or dark)
1/4 cup unrefined cane sugar
1 tablespoon nondairy milk (I like So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk beverage)
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

Position an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Line an 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, letting the ends hang over the edges for easy removal. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the bottom layer, put the sorghum flour, quinoa flour, tapioca flour, sugar, salt, and xanthan gum in a medium bowl. Cut in the nondairy buttery spread using a pastry cutter or two knives, until the mixture sticks together when you squeeze it in your hand. Press the mixture into the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake on the middle rack for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly while preparing the topping.

To make the topping, put the nondairy buttery spread in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until melted, then add the maple syrup, sugar, and nondairy milk. Once it starts to bubble, let it cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in the pecans, vanilla extract, and salt. Pour the mixture over the crust. Return to the oven and bake for about 18 minutes, until the topping is bubbling and thick. Let cool completely before removing from the pan. Cut into squares. These freeze very well.

 

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Gingerbread House with Icing and Decor

For the 2013 holiday season, I was contacted by Allergic Living Magazine to develop a gingerbread house free of all the top allergens. For their (and my) readers, I also wanted to create an eggless/vegan royal icing (you know–the kind that hardens) and offer candy/decor options as well.

Check out the recipe, template, and step-by-step detailed instructions on Allergic Living’s website here.

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Creamy Roasted Parsnips and Fennel

Spicy parsnips and fragrant fennel bond in a creamy, not-too-rich sauce full of fresh sage flavor. The nuts add just the right amount of texture, in this easy and quick dish that can be adapted to your tastes. Try potatoes and rutabaga with rosemary for another variation. This recipe was also featured on the California Walnuts website.

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Creamy Roasted Parsnips and Fennel

3 tablespoons (45mL) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound (454g) parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 large bulb fennel, cut into 3/4-inch slices
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons (45mL) sweet rice flour (see Note)
2 cups (480mL) unsweetened nondairy coconut beverage, such as So Delicious
2 tablespoons (30mL) finely chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon (3mL) freshly grated nutmeg
Sea or Himalayan salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup (80mL) finely chopped toasted hazelnuts, walnuts, or both

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Have an 8-inch square glass dish or 9-inch deep dish pie dish ready. Toss the parsnips and fennel with 1 tablespoon (15mL) of the olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until just starting to brown on the edges, about 25 minutes.

While the vegetables are in the oven, put the remaining olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1 3/4 cups (420mL) of the nondairy milk. Pour the remaining milk in a small bowl. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Once the mixture on the stovetop is steaming, slowly add in the flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly, to create a smooth consistency. Add the sage, and nutmeg. Continue to whisk the mixture until it has thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until the vegetables are finished baking.

Once the vegetables are finished, lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Put them in the dish. Top with the sauce mixture. Sprinkle with the nuts. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until bubbling. Serve warm.

Note: Sweet rice flour leaves a smooth finish, perfect for sauces and gravies. It is also sold under the names “glutinous rice flour” and “mochiko”.