self talk... and pecan bars

I recently made Audrey's "Nutty Pumpkin Pecan Cake" (blog: Unconventional Baker).  I made her recipe into bars, and then threw together a ginger lemon glaze (fresh grated ginger, powdered sugar, and meyer lemon juice).  the bars were yummy, but all I could think was "I should've used a 10" tart pan".  as I shared the bars with friends, I fixated on the fact that I used a little too much lemon juice in the batter.  I worried the middle was too gooey, since I opted not to use the tart pan and instead use a couple baking dishes - which made the bars thicker and wetter.

everyone loved the bars.  I don't think anyone took a bite and thought, gee, there's too much lemon in here or damn, I wish she'd used a tart press to make this. 

I know if someone had served me the pecan bar as it was, I would've thought it was delicious.  but because I made it, I kept worrying about all the things I could've done to make it better.  it's easier for me to appreciate that which others do than it is for me to congratulate myself when I am trying something new.

and... ain't nobody got time for that.  ain't NOBODY got time for that!!

james asked me early on if I would talk to a friend the way I talked to myself.  and my self talk really has come a long way in most regards.  but now i'm here to remind myself that that work is not done.

the best adventures in life are chock full of lessons.  right now, my lessons lie in the kitchen.  not literally - I don't measure my success by soggy bottoms (WAHOO if you get my british baking reference) and perfect bakes and well-staged pictures.  I measure my success by how gentle I am on myself as I learn to do things I've never done before.  

99% of life is practice.  the people who excel at what they do have put in time and effort and energy.  I don't care that social media makes everything look effortless because I know it's not.  no one learned how to whip up a perfect cake - or in this case, perfect pecan bars - overnight.  

so today I take my own words to heart.  I give myself permission to view my accomplishments with the same delight that I reserve for the works of others.  it's okay to share pecan bars and just say, damn, I did a good job.  I don't have to focus on all that could be better - it's enough just to be proud.

with that, here is Audrey's recipe from her blog.

you need:

  • 4 cups pecan halves {walnuts, almonds, and other similar nuts would work too}
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • Spices: 2 tbsp cinnamon, ½ tsp allspice, ⅛ tsp nutmeg, ⅛ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1½ cups pumpkin puree {I used canned pumpkin}
  • 1½ cups maple syrup, or liquid sweetener of your choice {like agave, brown rice syrup, etc.}
  • ½ cup olive oil {or a cooking oil of your choice}
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup raisins
  • Optional: If you want it even sweeter, add 6 medjool dates

then you:

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a cake pan and set aside {I used a 10″ shallow pie plate, but any pan or oven-safe dish of a similar size would work}.
  • Place the pecans in a food processor and process into a flour consistency {the coarser it is, the more “textured” the cake will be. I ground mine pretty fine. Just make sure you don’t over-process the mixture into a nut butter :) }. Add in flax seeds, tapioca, spices, and salt, and pulse a few times to mix the dry ingredients through. Add in all remaining cake ingredients, except raisins, and process the mixture to combine into a batter. Add the raisins {and dates if using} in and pulse to mix and process them into the batter.
  • Transfer the batter into a prepared pan and smooth it out into an even layer with a spatula. Top with extra toppings if using.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven for approximately 1 hour and 15 mins {or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out dry}. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely.
  • When the cake has cooled completely, prepare the frosting. Place cashews into a glass bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow the cashews to soak for about 15 mins to soften up, then strain and discard the water. Place all frosting ingredients into a blender and process until the mixture is completely smooth {I used my vitamix for this. If not using a high-power blender, add in a bit more non-dairy milk as needed — 1 tbsp at a time — to help with the blending, and be patient! :) You don’t want it to be grainy or chunky…}. Drizzle the frosting onto the cooled cake, reserving the extra topping for individual slices. Slice, plate, serve, and enjoy! :)
Hannah Smith