BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Leftover Links: December Edition

Another month brings us another batch of sweet eats and food for thought, so let’s get right to it and dig in!

‘Tis the season for simple sugar cookies, and if you don’t yet have your recipe lined up, I have an excellent new option for you to consider. Made with a combination of standard all-purpose and sorghum flour, this unique blend turns out a dough that is easy to roll, won’t spread in the oven, and still retains a soft, chewy texture. Ideal for painless prep and enjoying later, it’s a win-win cookie for both the baker and the eater.

Winter weather may not be synonymous with cool, refreshing smoothies, but I’m doing my part to change that. In the winter issue of Allergic Living, I’ve shared three seasonal blends that are sure to satisfy, even if snow lines the ground in your neck of the woods, too.

Hurry on over to The Recipe Renovator for a chance to win five awesome new cookbooks (Easy as Vegan Pie included, of course) plus a whole bunch of fun kitchen toys and treats! You only have until tomorrow to enter, so don’t wait around to throw your hat in the ring. Stephanie has also shared my recipe for Rock’n Roll Elvis Pie, which you won’t want to miss, if only for that addictive Oinkless Bacon Brittle.

And for the curious, you can catch a brief interview with me written by Ellen Kanner, plus the recipe for Chocolate Chipotle Sweet Potato Pie at the end of the article.


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Another Iron in the Fire

Holiday shopping mania is predictably growing to a fever pitch yet again, making expeditions into any store a veritable mine field of aggressive sales pitches and tempting impulse buys. Shiny new toys beckon to both young and old, crowding out more rational thoughts of measured resistance. It’s easy to get sucked in, especially when deeper discounts promise “the best deals of the season!” no matter how many times the price is still sure to drop. Though I’m far from immune from this siren song, and probably the worst person to consult about saving vs. splurging, it’s simply become too much to stomach. Tired of watching every outing turn into yet another spending opportunity, I’m ready to swear off the stores and start shopping through my own dusty shelves instead.

There’s a whole trove of rarely used culinary treasures stashed away in kitchen cabinets and buried under the everyday staples. Move aside the gently warped sheet pans and cake tins flecked with faint patina, and once prized possessions suddenly come back into sharp focus. Humble, common, and yet so rarely employed, it’s the waffle maker that sits at the bottom of the stack, one of the oldest kitchen residents aside from the storage unit itself.

A victim of dish washing aversion, it’s not the usage, but the cleanup afterward that prevents me from plugging in and firing the iron up. Once silly excuses can be put aside, that small inconvenience is quickly forgotten by the ease of preparation. Putting it into perspective, such hassle is on par with managing mini muffin pans and their many crumb-filled crevasses that must be addressed. That’s a small price to pay for breakfast bliss, especially compared to the price tag of yet another superfluous gadget.

As for the waffles themselves, you truly can’t go wrong no matter what flavor adventure you embark upon. Basic batters tend to get a more appreciative reception around here, so I kept mix-ins to a minimum while infusing a pronounced pomegranate taste into every bite. If it were just me eating, I would toss in a generous handful of arils without a second thought, but that uniquely crunchy texture can be rather polarizing, as I’ve found with my typical panel of taste-testers. Regardless, the pomegranate molasses is not optional or replaceable, since nothing else will deliver the same deep, tangy, and slightly earthy punch.

Should that secret ingredient prove to be elusive, don’t let that become another excuse to let your waffle iron remain cold for another season! Consider the recipe below merely a template for crispy yet fluffy waffles of any flavor, given a few quick swaps. Use any fruit juice or even plain old water instead of pomegranate, lose the cinnamon or add more spices to the party, and consider maple syrup, agave nectar, or standard molasses instead of the pomegranate molasses. Once you start waffling again, you’ll wonder why you ever stopped in the first place.

Pomegranate Waffles

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
2 Cups 100% Pomegranate Juice
1/2 Cup Canola Oil
1/4 Cup Pomegranate Molasses

Begin by heating up your waffle iron so that it’s ready to go as soon as the batter is, too. Combine all the dry ingredients and then add in the wet. Stir to incorporate, but don’t over do it- A bit of lumpiness is just fine!

Once your iron is nice and hot, grease with cooking spray or margarine, and ladle a healthy portion of batter on top. It really depends on the size of your waffle iron, so don’t be discouraged if your first couple are a little bit funny looking. Cook for about 4 – 6 minutes or until golden brown all over and serve immediately.

If you’d like to save them for later, allow the waffles to cool for completely on a wire rack. Wrap them tightly in a clean plastic bag and stash them in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Yields about 4 – 6 large waffles, or 8 – 12 small, depending on the size of your waffle iron.

Printable Recipe


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Stick With It!

Less than a week’s time separates today from the Great National Food Coma, otherwise known as Thanksgiving. More hotly anticipated than any splashy movie premier, most plans for this year’s grand event have long since been laid, solidified, and are now gradually shifting into gear. Menus are set, tasks have been doled out to eager participants, and non-perishables have been procured; no detail, neither big nor small, shall be left unattended.  Only the actual cooking remains for the particularly well organized and industrious few. Knowing just how much work goes into such a grand production, I wouldn’t dream of waltzing in here and suggesting that you turn your carefully crafted game plan completely upside-down with crazy new dishes, not yet passed the test of time. You’ve already got the raw components for the typical fixings, right? I’m merely imploring you to consider them from a new perspective.

All the classic accoutrements threaded neatly onto portion-controlled, hand-held, and highly dippable little packages, Thanksgiving kebabs are the answer to menu malaise. Stick with tradition, keep the Brussels sprouts and “turkey,” but present them in a whole new light. Consider this concept with an open mind for the greatest degree of success, since all the ingredients can be effortlessly swapped with your own holiday favorites, or tweaked to achieve ideal proportions and flavors. Consider adding cubes of sourdough or sturdy cornbread to evoke stuffing; pumpkin or sweet potato could be excellent understudies for butternut; trimmed green beans can comfortably slip into any empty spaces; these kebabs are limited only by a lack of imagination.

Small skewers could be fun teasers for guest to enjoy while awaiting the full spread, but more generous cuts fit perfect on the dinner plate for the main event, too. Send out a heaping platter of kebabs nestled cozily atop a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, gravy for dipping on the side, and you could be on the cusp of a whole new annual tradition, with all the familiar flavors comfortably intact.

Thanksgiving Kebabs

Amounts will vary depending on how many people you plan to serve and which vegetables/add-ins you choose, but the concept remains the same. What follows is largely a reflection of what is pictured above, but the formula is entirely open to interpretation.

Seitan, Tempeh, or Vegan “Turkey,” Cubed
Peeled, Gutted, and Cubed Butternut Squash
Small Brussels Sprouts, Cleaned and Trimmed
Large Fresh Cranberries*

Marinade:

2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Grade B Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Tamari
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 – 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Pinch Rubbed Sage

To Serve:

Mashed Potatoes (Optional)
Gravy, for Dipping (NOT Optional!)

*When selecting cranberries, be sure to use particularly large berries and skewer them precisely in the center, as they have a tendency to wither and/or split while baking.

Before you start prepping vegetables or turning on the heat, submerge your wooden skewers for at least 20 minutes to prevent them from burning (or worse, catching fire) while in the oven. If using metal skewers, go ahead and skip this precaution.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a shallow baking dish that can accommodate the full length of your skewers.

Thread individual vegetables and “meat” on the skewers in any pattern or proportion you like. There’s no right or wrong answers here, just do what’s easiest, looks good, and tastes good. Just make sure that all your components are roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. Place the finished skewers in a single layer in your prepared baking dish. If you’re making enough for a big party, you may need to consider a second vessel.

Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade and brush it generously over the skewered “meat” and veggies. If you have any leftover, reserve it to baste the skewers once more halfway through the cook time. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the size of your vegetables, flipping after 10 and basting if desired. The vegetables should be nicely browned and tender when done.

Serve immediately over hot mashed potatoes with a small bowl of gravy for dipping on the side.

Printable Recipe


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A Call for Comfort

If there’s anything good to be said in favor of the colder, wintery climate slowly but surely settling in across the northern hemisphere, it would undoubtedly be about baking. No longer does the kitchen itself become a sweltering sauna upon preheating the oven, and whipped meringue stays fluffy and pert, regardless of the duration. Holiday cookie plates aren’t the only reason why bakers return to their sugary arsenal around this time of year; the seasonal shift triggers an instinctive need for warmth and comfort, both of which can be found in ample supply within a fresh batch of flaky apple danishes, still steamy within, or gooey chocolate chip cookies, soft as non-dairy butter.

The soothing capacity of homemade baked foods isn’t limited to any single genre, and exactly what sweet treat one pulls out of that radiating electric range is a highly personal choice. For me, tender, sticky gingerbread would be on the menu every day if I was living solo. Since variety is the spice of life, or so I’m led to believe, perhaps it’s a good thing that my family members all have their own words of wisdom once the oven roars back to life after its summer hibernation.

Hands down, scones will always rank near the top of the list for my mom, whether they’re served with extra icing for dessert or a smear of jam for breakfast. My tried-and-true formula, that fool-proof ratio of flour, liquid, and fat effortlessly yielding golden brown and delicious biscuits, rarely varies. The mix-ins are what keeps each subsequent batch exciting, preventing palate fatigue before the frozen earth outsides begins to thaw.

Looking to shake up the standard pastry routine, I was in luck when Meduri Fruit offered to send me a sample of their wares. Calling these morsels “boutique-quality dried fruit” sounds like a dubious compliment at first blush, but these specimens were truly outstanding. Whereas bulk bin picks are certainly more economical, they often dry out to a consistency better suited to beefless jerky, deterring more frequent purchases. None of that can be found here. Each variety is clearly dehydrated with care, maintaining an incredibly soft, chewy texture in each sweet piece.

Using such intensely flavorful dried fruits allows the kitchen-sink approach to work so brilliantly in these unassuming scones. Their inner beauty is revealed with each bite, the essence of a different fruit coming forward in alternating nibbles and crumbs. The specifics aren’t terribly important when selecting your own dried fruits; quality counts above all else.

Fruit Basket Scones

1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Almond Meal
2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/2 – 2/3 Cup Mixed Dried or Candied Fruits, Chopped into Raisin-Sized Pieces if Necessary
3 – 5 Tablespoons Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Almond Extract
1/4 Cup Sliced Almonds

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or a silpat.

Mix the flour, almond meal, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl until thoroughly blended. Cut the margarine into tablespoon-sized pieces before dropping them into the dry goods. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the margarine until you have coarse crumbs with chunks of margarine no larger than the size of a lentil. Add in the dried or candied fruits of your choice, tossing to coat with flour before drizzling in 3 tablespoons of non-dairy milk along with the lemon juice and almond extract. Mix thoroughly, using your hands to bring the dough together if necessary, and slowly incorporate additional non-dairy milk if the mixture is still to dry to form a cohesive ball.

Gather up the dough into a big round and place it on your prepared baking sheet. Pat it out into an even round about 1/2-inch in thickness. Use a very sharp knife to slice it into four equal wedges, and then sprinkle them with slice almonds. Press down gently to make sure the nuts adhere to the tops of the scones.

Bake for 18 – 20 minutes, until golden brown all over. Serve warm or cool on a wire rack for later. Place in an air-tight container or wrap tightly in plastic and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Makes 4 Scones

Printable Recipe


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Chili for Chilly Weather

I don’t mean to alarm you, but there is a very real threat to the whole northeastern area right now, encompassing hundreds of miles and countless souls. Snow, the frozen menace that has become the bane of my existence, has re-entered the conversation after months of blissful warmth. No longer can mere sunshine keep us safe from that fluffy white terror, as current predictions indicate a chance of flurries at any point this week. Sure, it’s nowhere near a definitive statement of fact nor are the conditions expected to be severe, but the mere suggestion has set me on high alert. Glancing up at the sky tentatively every hour or so, just to make sure that nothing is falling out there, I feel a bit like Chicken Little, having histrionics about an absurd implausibility.

Truth be told, the basic concept of snow is actually quite enchanting, especially the first snow of the year, lightly dusting the world like confectioner’s sugar atop a dense, dark bundt cake of earth. This vision of gentle elegance prevents me from hating it thoroughly and unconditionally. An intolerance of cold hits much closer to the heart of my vitriol- Visible, tangible flakes in the air are just easy scapegoats when the going gets tough and the temperatures plunge. Whether or not those ominous clouds decide to open up and let loose a wave of frozen precipitation, one this is certain: It will be cold.

A forecast that promises highs of no greater than 40 degrees at the most is my call to arms. Fighting off that assault is only possible by warming oneself from the inside out and thus, I return to the kitchen for ammunition. Only the heartiest, most rib-sticking dishes need enlist for the task. At times like these, nothing but a big bowl of chili will do.

Contrary to my usual approach of going heavy on the vegetables, this wicked red brew is a real meat-lover’s delight, made with vegan sensibilities of course. It also happens to be the easiest, quickest chili I’ve ever slapped together, thanks to the convenience of ready-to-eat spicy Andouille-style “sausages.” Not even beans are invited to this party this time, creating a rich, ultra-meaty chili that I’d like to think would make a pure-bred Texan proud. Packing in the heat with every fiery bite, it’s impossible to feel one degree of winter chill with this fortifying stew on your side.

Easy, Meaty Vegan Chili

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Large Red Onion, Finely Chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 14-Ounce Packages Artisan Tofurky Adouille Sausages
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 28-Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
2 1/2 Cups Mushroom Broth
Salt and Pepper

Toss the olive oil and chopped onion into a large soup pot over medium heat on the stove. Saute for 4 – 5 minutes, until the onion has softened and is fragrant, before introducing the minced garlic. Cook for another 4 – 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the aromatics are lightly browned.

Meanwhile, place the “sausages” in the work bowl of your food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, much like chunky ground meat. If you have a smaller machine, you may want to do this in two (or even three) batches. Be careful not to overdo it, since “meat” puree is definitely not what we want here! Once properly processed, add the “sausage” crumbles into the pot along with the vinegar, chili powder, tomatoes, and 2 cups of the broth. Stir well to combine.

Turn down the heat to low and let simmer gently for 45 – 60 minutes, allowing plenty of time for the flavors to meld. Stir every 10 – 15 minutes to make sure that nothing is sticking and burning on the bottom of the pot, and add in the remaining broth when it begins to look too dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Makes 6 – 8 Hearty Servings

Printable Recipe


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Frost Warning

Scrolling across the top of the screen like a slowly spreading poison, the headline “Severe Frost Warning” stops me in my tracks. Every gardener tempts fate near the end of a prolific growing season, pushing the elements to squeeze out the very last drops of warmth and sunshine. Sure, we’re firmly enmeshed in November now, but temperatures rebound and swing wildly for weeks to come. There could still be more produce to reap yet. I’m no gambler though, so the imminent threat of dewy ice crystals sinking their teeth into fragile leaves set off alarm bells. Save the tomato babies! Don’t let the poor things freeze to death!

Hastily plucking all the immature green orbs and thus severing them from their nurturing vines does present a new, obvious problem. Unripe tomatoes can be coaxed to soften and blush to a redder hue with a bit more time on the counter, but with my luck, the stubborn things will refuse to cooperate as nature intended. Half will likely remain just as hard and inhospitable as the day they were picked, while the other half will simply give up the fight early and rot.

Well, not this year. This time, embraced for the astringent, punchy fruits that they are, every last one will be eaten and devoured. Pickled and preserved, this year’s premature harvest will be cherished as if the timing was intentional.

Sticking largely to traditional additions, the goal was to infuse my green cherry tomatoes with a fresh, brightly flavored brine while still yielding a comfortingly familiar sour snack. My dad grew up enjoying larger pickled green tomatoes served on the relish tray all through childhood, either sliced or quartered, but always present no matter the season. His approval will be the ultimate test, so whether or not they pass muster is yet to be seen. Truthfully, I can’t speak to the end results yet, as fresh tomatoes will still need at least a week to attain pickled perfection, but this is a recipe that can’t wait to be shared. Quickly, before the first frost, gather up your own green tomatoes and let them shine with what they already have to offer. With a tiny bit of prep and planning, you’ll have delightful little salty, sour additions to cocktails (best Bloody Mary ever, anyone?), salads, appetizers, and everything in between.

Pickled Green Cherry Tomatoes

1 Pound Green (Unripe) Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 Pound Frozen Pearl Onions, Thawed
1 Teaspoon Whole Peppercorns
Approximately 1/4 Ounce Fresh Dill (A small bunch; a few springs; however many you like)
4 Large Cloves Garlic, Thinly Sliced
1 Cup Water
3/4 Cup White Vinegar
3/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt

Thoroughly wash and dry your tiny tomatoes and remove any stems. Set out four 1/2-pint glass jars and divide the pearl onions equally between them, along with the pepper corns and fresh dill. Add one clove of sliced garlic into the bottom of each, and finally distribute your tomatoes on top, filling the jars to the brim.

In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, combine the water, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt. The lemon juice will make your brine cloudy, but it tastes so much fresher and brighter than just straight vinegar- It’s a sacrifice worth making! Cook, stirring periodically, until the mixture comes to a full boil and the salt has completely dissolved. Pour the hot brine right into your packed jars without letting it cool, and immediately secure the lids.

Allow the jars to come to room temperature before moving them into the fridge for safe keeping. These are quick pickles, so they won’t last quite as long or have the same shelf life as traditionally canned pickles. Let the tomatoes cure for at least a week before enjoying, and keep for up to 4 months in the refrigerator.

Makes 4 Pints

Printable Recipe


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Fresh From the Freezer

Little additions add up to big flavors in any successful dish, as it’s the subtle nuances that set apart a great meal from an adequate one. Sometimes that can mean just a few extra minutes at the stove, toasting garlic to the perfect shade of golden brown, or simply adding in an extra dose of ginger, heightening those bright, spicy notes right at the end of each bite. The same principle is true for simply getting food on the table in the first place; every helping hand counts, and reliable schemes for easing that process are not to be overlooked. I’ll swallow my pride and admit that sometimes, utterly drained from a day in the office, weariness penetrating straight through to my bones, I’ll reach for the old bottle of dusty, dried out garlic powder as my one and only seasoning, omitting dozens of ingredients out of sheer laziness- Not to mention a poorly stocked fridge, nary a fresh leaf of greenery to be found. Needless to say, these are not exactly meals to be proud of, let alone serve to anyone else with any taste buds.

Dorot has been my savior lately, providing the perfect culinary shortcut that doesn’t cut corners on quality. Offering myriad raw ingredients minced, frozen, and formatted into neat little cubes, it’s effortless to cook full-flavored delights, even when there’s no time to shop for fresh herbs or spices. Beyond the convenience factor, which does admittedly weigh heavily in mind as I snatch up a stockpile of crushed garlic and ginger, it’s especially handy for these cold winter months when nary a sprig of basil can be found. I relish eating seasonal, embracing the new flavors as they ripen and develop each month, but I still crave the herbaceous bite of pesto all year long. The frozen basil cubes have been the antidote to my autumnal gloom, adding the distinctive aroma of a summer’s garden to previously drab, dull meals. Even before the company offered me samples for a more in-depth review, I was already filling my freezer with these edible green gems in preparation for colder (and busier) days.

So with all of this aromatic ammo, locked and loaded in the chill chest, what does one do to bring out their full potential? Make a highly flavorful yet delicate curry, bursting with bold notes of that luscious basil of course, but assembled with finesse so that you taste far more than just heat. Easily falling on the mild side of the spectrum, my Green Garden Curry is all about soothing, warming, and invigorating tastes, and not so much the sheer spice level itself. The beauty of using Dorot’s ingenious frozen herbs and spices is that they turn this recipe into a truly season-less dish, equally delicious and accessible 365 days of the year. Though I had spring on my mind while composing the original, feel free to swap out vegetables to suit your own seasonal cravings. Green beans would be an excellent replacement for snow peas, and shelled edamame or lima beans could be gracefully slipped into the spot previously occupied by fava beans. As long as you have frozen herbs in your arsenal, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying an equally savory, satisfying meal in no time at all.

Green Garden Curry

1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
3 Medium Shallots, Diced
4 Cubes Frozen Minced Garlic*
3 Cubes Frozen Minced Ginger**
1 Medium-Sized Fresh Jalapeno, Finely Minced
1 1/2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
3 2-Inch Long Stalks Dried Lemongrass or 1 Stalk Fresh, Bashed and Bruised
1 1/2 Teaspoons Cumin Seeds
1 Teaspoon Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Fenugreek
1/4 – 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 Cup Full-Fat Coconut Milk
1 Cup Snow Peas
1/2 Cup Frozen Green Peas
1 Cup Shelled and Peeled Fava Beans, Fresh or Frozen
4 Cubes Frozen Chopped Basil**
Salt and Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Brown Basmati Rice, to Serve

*1 cube is equal to 1 whole clove.
**1 cube is equal to 1 teaspoon.

Set a large saucepan over moderate heat and add the coconut oil in first, allowing it to fully melt. Once liquified, introduce the shallots, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Saute for 6 – 8 minutes, until the cubes have broken down and the entire mixture is highly aromatic, as the shallots begin to take on a golden-brown hue. Deglaze with the lime juice, scraping the bottom of the pan to ensure that nothing sticks and all of the brown bits are incorporated. Next, introduce your whole but bruised lemongrass along with the remaining spices. Stir periodically, cooking for 5 – 6 minutes until it smells irresistible.

Pour in the coconut milk, turn down the heat to medium-low, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the snow peas, green peas, and fava beans next, stirring to combine, and let stew gently for 10 – 15 minutes, until the snow peas are bright green and the fava beans are tender. Pop in the basil cubes last, cooking just until they’ve completely dissolved and melded seamlessly into the curry before removing the pot from the heat.

Season with salt and pepper according to taste, and serve immediately over brown rice.

Makes 3 – 4 Servings

Printable Recipe


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Scare Up Some Berry Good Sweets

BOO!

Okay, so I’m not the most fearsome creature you’ll meet this Halloween, but I do have a terrible tale that should strike fear in the heart of any sensible human being. I may be sugar-coated, but this story is not. Just imagine: A world that progressively grows colder, harsher, inhospitable to life itself. The ground freezes solid, impenetrable as steel, strangling off all the plant roots and shoots within. Nary a weed can grow, let alone the delicate and highly perishable foodstuffs we’ve come to depend on. Sun shines but thermometers remain unmoved, staunchly refusing to thaw. As a result of the harsh shift in climate, there are no more blueberries; not here, not anywhere.

Positively terrifying, right? Mercifully, that tragedy is only based on real life, more fiction than fact. Though we are swiftly moving past the prime growing season with winter soon to come, there’s no end in sight to the supply of Frozen Wild Blueberries. Whether it’s 100 degrees or -10 degrees outside, they’ll still be waiting for happy homes and hungry mouths, just as plump, ripe, and sweet as ever in the freezer aisle. That consistency and predictably high quality standards make them the ideal addition to any fruit candy formula, demanding precision to turn out.

That’s where my batty family and I come into the picture. Try finding decent fresh berries now and you’d be straight out of luck, yielding nothing but bland blue marbles unsuitable for consumption. Spare yourself the horror and hit the chill chest instead, where Wild Frozen Blueberries remain every bit as flavorful and vital all year round. By introducing such a powerful superfood, touted for its antioxidants and nutrients the world over, you can reason that indulging in a sweet wild blueberry pate de fruit instead of any commercial candy out there is by far a lesser evil.

I don’t mind if you or your little goblins are clamoring to take a bite out of me- I’m completely irresistible, after all! My crunchy sugared exterior gives way to a soft, jam-like center, each bite a balance of bold, fruity sweetness. Mysterious and dark, black cocoa contributes to my fetching hue while adding a rich, smoky, earthy sort of flavor. Blend that with a tiny pinch of cinnamon and a splash of lime for an unexpected, yet completely complementary twist, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t scare up some sweet treats out of Frozen Wild Blueberries sooner.

Boo-Berry Bats

2 1/2 Cups Frozen Wild Blueberries, Thawed
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
1/4 Cup Black Cocoa Powder
3 Cups Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Lime Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
2 (3-Ounce) Packages Liquid Pectin

About 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar, to Coat

Place both the Wild Blueberries and applesauce in your blender or food processor, and thoroughly puree.  Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl every now and then, until the mixture is completely smooth. Add in the cocoa powder and blend briefly to combine.

Transfer the puree into a medium pot with high sides, along with sugar, lime juice, and cinnamon.  Though it may seem like a lot of sugar, don’t forget that this is candy we’re talking about, and the pectin requires a certain amount of sugar to set properly.  Whatever you do, do not attempt to reduce the amount or swap it for a different sweetener!

Stir well and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. While that comes up to temperature, line a 9 × 9–inch square baking pan and lightly grease it in preparation for the finished candy.

Once boiling, add in the pectin, mix thoroughly to incorporate, and stir while the mixture boils for a full 10 minutes.  Continue scraping the bottom and sides of the pot with your spatula to make sure that nothing is sticking and burning.  Remove from the heat and pour the liquid candy into your prepared pan.  Allow that to come to room temperature before moving the pan into the fridge.  Let chill until set, at least 2–3 hours, before cutting into bat shapes using a small cookie cutter.

Toss the bats in granulated sugar and store in an airtight container. Kept away from moisture and in a cool place, the bats should last for 1 – 2 weeks, if they aren’t devoured before then.

Makes about 35 – 40 (2-Inch Long) Bats

Printable Recipe

This post was written for and is sponsored by Wild Blueberries, but all content and opinions are entirely my own.


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Pastilla, Bastilla, Bisteeya, B’stilla, or Bstilla; It All Means “Delicious”

I may have never known about the wonders of pastilla, the mysterious pastry with a half-dozen different spellings, if not for the ethereal prose of Fatima Mernissi. So inspired by her lavish, unrestrained words of praise, this was my call to action, to secure a literal piece of the pie for myself. A Moroccan inspiration clad in endless layers of flaky, buttery phyllo, authentic renditions are stuffed with pigeon meat, but more modern formulas concede that chicken will suffice. In a play on words, since we’re thinking in a literary manner anyway, chickpeas turned out to be an excellent substitute, staying true to the theme without compromising any feathered friends in the process.

Most curious, perhaps, is the incongruous addition of powdered sugar right before serving; a light dusting of confectionery snow, frosting a decidedly savory main course. A jarring suggestion to this westerner, raised with a deep mistrust of even gently sweetened dried fruit mixed into an entree, it took a leap of faith to give this coup de grâce a fair shake. Humbly, I must admit, it does work, tempering the hot, bold, and intense spices without turning the pastry into a dessert option. Though it could still taste equally delicious without, for those as hesitant as myself, I must urge you to just give it a shot. You made it this far- Get the full experience, at least once. It’s worth taking the plunge.

Chickpea Pastilla

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Medium Yellow Onions, Finely Chopped
2 Teaspoons Granulated Sugar
1 1/4 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 14-Ounce Can (1 3/4 Cup Cooked) Chickpeas, Drained
1/2 Cup Coarse Almond Meal
1/2 Cup Vegetable Broth
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
3/4 – 1 Teaspoon Salt

8 – 10 Sheets Frozen Phyllo Dough, Thawed
Confectioner’s Sugar, To Garnish (Optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and lightly grease a 6-inch round springform pan.

Heat 1 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sugar; cook for 8 – 10 minutes while stirring frequently, until lightly golden and aromatic. Incorporate the ground cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and cayenne, cooking for a minute or two longer to gently toast the spices, releasing their unique perfume. Add drained chickpeas and almond meal next, stirring to combine, before slowly pouring in the broth and lemon juice together. Cook for another minute to heat through and slightly thicken the mixture. It should be thoroughly moistened but not soupy. Season with salt to taste. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes before proceeding.

Lay 1 sheet of phyllo across the bottom of your prepared springform pan, allowing the excess dough to hang over the edges. Lightly brush with the remaining olive oil, and then place another sheet of phyllo on top, turning it slightly so that the points stick out at different angles. Repeat this process so that you end up with 4 – 5 sheets lining the pan, covering the sides completely. Gently spoon the chickpea filling into the center, smoothing it out so that it fills the pan evenly. If you end up with a bit too much filling to comfortably squeeze in, you can always use leftover sheets of phyllo to make individual parcels later.

Cover the filling with another sheet of phyllo, brush with olive oil, and repeat the same process as before, ending up with another 4 – 5 sheets on top. Fold the overhanging dough back over the top, smoothing it down as neatly as you can without driving yourself crazy. Give it a final brush of olive oil before sliding it into the oven. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, keeping a close eye on it since it cooks quickly at this high temperature, until the whole thing is golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before unmolding, and sift a fine dusting of confectioner’s sugar on top right before serving.

Makes 3 – 4 Servings

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Baker in the Rye

Few foods can link cultures and cuisines across the globe quite like the humble loaf of bread. A simple concept at heart, made of little more than yeast, flour, and water, the process of transforming dough into a fluffy, leavened loaf is a remarkable feat of science and art, all kneaded into one. This uniting factor has never been more true, nor more visible, than every 16th of October, when eaters everywhere celebrate World Bread Day. Now in its eighth year running, I’m proud to say that I will have proofed and baked with the best of them for the past seven; a pretty impressive record for someone who periodically neglects their blog for unspeakable stretches of time.

With a hard and fast deadline, the time to act was now, no room for dawdling despite a crazy work schedule. I can’t explain why this date holds quite such importance to me, but participating in the festivities became my top priority. Shaking the light dusting of flour out of my loaf pans and warming up the ice-cold oven, ambition surging through my weary heart after a full day’s work, it was nonetheless the perfect opportunity to tackle something new: Rye bread.

Sure, it’s not the most lovely or universally loved loaf, but rye has a dark, seductive charm all its own. Dense, hearty, and complex, it’s no anonymous sandwich bread, that’s for sure. Flecked with aromatic caraway seeds, the flavoring takes a sharp departure from tradition from there. Root beer, my favorite childhood beverage, adds sweet, woodsy nuances, perfectly paired with the unique character of rye. It won’t beat you over the head with root beer essence- This isn’t isn’t a soda cake, after all- but it’s definitely present in every savory bite.

Rather than merely munch on my new creation, lightly toasted and slathered with buttery spread, I thought it more fitting to dress the thin slices up for the occasion. Decked out for a party of any sort, my rye forms the foundation of bite-sized canapes, topped with a smear of tart, unsweetened Greek-style almond yogurt and a simple pimento olive tapenade. The salty, sour accompaniments compliment the inherent sweetness of the soda beautifully, without obscuring the flavor of this bold bread.

Happy World Bread Day! Be it a sweet or savory event, here’s hoping it’s nothing but delicious.

Root Beer Rye Bread

1 1/3 Cups Regular Root Beer Soda (Not Diet,) at Room Temperature
1 Teaspoon Root Beer Extract
1 1/4-Ounce Packet Active Dry Yeast
1 1/2 Cups Rye Flour
2 Cups Bread Flour
2 Tablespoons Flaxseeds, Ground
1 1/2 Teaspoons Caraway Seeds
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Olive Oil

To begin the dough, measure out the root beer and sprinkle the yeast over the liquid, and let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes, until bubbly and active.

Meanwhile, stir together rye and bread flour, ground flaxseeds, caraway seeds, and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeasted soda and olive oil, and slowly begin to incorporate the liquids into the dry goods. Use the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer to make light work of the job, or be prepared to get your hands in there and get dirty. The resulting dough is very dense, so resist the urge to add more water. Continue to knead the dough for about 10 – 15 minutes until smooth and slightly elastic.

Lightly grease a second bowl, drop the dough in, and cover with plastic wrap. Stash it in the fridge and allow it to sit overnight. It may not rise at all in that time, so don’t stress over the volume at that point.

If the kitchen is fairly warm, let it sit out until it reaches room temperature. Otherwise, use the “proof” setting on your oven to warm it back up.

Lightly grease an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan; set aside.

On a clean, very lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and use your knuckles to gently press it down down into a fairly even rectangle, being careful to keep the width no longer than the length of your loaf pan. Roll up the rectangle as tightly as you can manage. Pinch the seam closed and place the bundle with the seam side down in your prepared loaf pan.

Let the bread rise proof for 2 – 4 hours. That may seem like a lot, but it really does take its sweet time to rise. It won’t balloon up in a big way, but it should reach the top of the loaf pan. At that point, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until deeply browned all over. Let cool completely before slicing thinly.

Makes One Loaf

Printable Recipe

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