BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Flipping Over Pancakes

A hallowed date with many names, there is all but one antiquated nickname that I can fully endorse, even as a nonsecular participant. Sorry, but the title of “Fat Tuesday” no longer fits the bill for modern times, especially when the moniker of “Pancake Tuesday” can be readily swapped in for a far more appealing and accurate label. Born of religious traditions that involve gorging oneself before the leaner days of lent, the celebratory aspect is the only piece I’m interested in, quite frankly. That’s to say nothing of how the so-called fat pancakes of yore bear little resemblance to the eggless, dairy-free flapjacks that grace my skillet today, which could run circles around those early butter-laden diet bombs. It’s no wonder that revelers would feel compelled to repent after such a gut-busting day of indulgence.

It’s time to leave those feelings of guilt and regret in the past. Pancakes are the star of the day and deserve to shine with fresh flavors, just like this punchy little short stack right here. Fluffy, lightly sweetened pillows that are no pushovers, equal parts flour and cornmeal contribute a heartier texture in addition to a subtly savory cornbread flavor. Juicy raspberries and crisp jalapenos dot the surface of each disk, making every bite both sweet and spicy. Although you could certainly cut one or the other out of the picture to simplify, especially if catering to a strong sweet tooth or salt tooth, the combination is positively invigorating, no matter what time of day you prefer to celebrate your pancakes.

Raspberry-Jalapeno Cornbread Pancakes

2/3 Cup All-Purpose Flour
2/3 Cup Finely Ground Yellow Cornmeal
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2/3 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/2 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 Cup Fresh or Frozen and Thawed* Raspberries
1 Fresh Jalapeno, Seeded and Finely Diced

Additional Fresh Raspberries and Maple Syrup to Serve (Optional)

*If using frozen and thawed raspberries, just bear in mind that your pancakes will take on more of a pink hue overall, due to the excess juices. Try to drain the berries as best you can to mitigate the effects.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt, mixing thoroughly to both aerate and combine the ingredients. Separately, mix the oil, non-dairy milk, and vinegar before adding all of the liquids into the bowl of dry goods. Introduce the berries and jalapeno at the same time, stirring with a wide spatula to incorporate everything into the batter. It’s perfectly fine to leave a few lumps remaining, as it’s much better than running the risk of over-mixing and creating tough pancakes.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and very lightly grease the bottom. When hot, spoon about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan for each pancake, leaving a good amount of space in between so that there’s ample room for flipping. Lightly smooth out the tops to further round the shapes and even out any central peaks. Cook until bubbles appear all over the surface and the underside is golden brown. Flip with a spatula, and cook until equally browned on the other side.

Serve hot, topped with fresh berries and/or syrup if desired.

Makes About 4 Servings

Printable Recipe


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Rock the Boat

When it comes to food, little luxuries are not necessarily about overindulgence or decadence so much as they are small gifts you give yourself; modest treats to look forward to on an average day. Especially in the lean days of early January, it’s important to maintain these simple pleasures while everyone else seems to demand austerity, as if trying to atone for their holiday dietary sins. Luckily, it’s not difficult to reward yourself with something both sweet and healthy at the same time! Looking to the tropics for inspiration, a charming new juice shop in Honolulu offers papaya, re-imagined as a breakfast dish dressed beautifully enough to pass for dessert.

It’s far from a complex concept, but at The Salted Lemon, they’ve perfected the art of building an unsinkable papaya boat. Local orange and pink-hued fruits, more brilliant than a sunrise in paradise, are hollowed out and stuffed to the brim with granola, yogurt, banana slices, blueberries, and finished with a light shower of chia seeds on top. The contrast between creamy yogurt and crunchy cereal, flavored with the ripe and juicy fresh fruits, is so simple yet so satisfying. Eating this assembly is a rich experience that carries none of the guilt one might assign to traditional excess. Though the original is not vegan, the staff was more than willing to try something new, making use of my favorite almond-based yogurt once I snagged a cup at a nearby grocery store.

Lest you think that papaya boats are only the stuff of fancy cafes and languorous tropical vacations, just take a gander at the short and sweet formula below. They are effortless to whip up on any typical morning, no special occasion required, and no pretense need apply. All varieties of berries or cut fruits could be considered as welcome additions, so don’t be afraid to shake up the routine and experiment with new toppers.

While anything goes when it comes to vegan yogurt options, there’s no better brand to turn to than So Delicious, offering cultured coconut and almond bases, each boasting a full spectrum of enticing flavors. These prime alternatives make it a breeze to live dairy-free, which is why I wanted to share an equally easy concept as part of their 21-Day Dairy Free Challenge. Consider this your first step towards sweet, creamy satisfaction, and then join in on the initiative for even greater rewards!

Papaya Boats

1 Medium Hawaiian Papaya, Peeled and Seeded
1 Cup Granola, Homemade or Store-Bought
1 6-Ounce Container Vanilla So Delicious Almond or Coconut Yogurt
1 Medium Banana, Sliced
1/2 Cup Fresh Blueberries
1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds
Agave or Maple Syrup, to Taste (Optional)

Divide a 1/2 cup of the granola between two plates to set up a “foundation” for your papaya boat to rest on. This will help prevent it from capsizing when you eat it, and it also adds a nice additional layer of crunchy cereal to enjoy.

Place the remaining granola inside the papaya halves (1/4 cup inside of each) and top that with the yogurt, spooning equal amounts into the two boats. Arrange the sliced banana and blueberries as desired, and top with a sprinkle of chia seeds over the whole assembly. Finish with a light drizzle of syrup if desired, but with properly ripened, seasonal fruit, it should be plenty sweet enough without.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Makes 2 Servings

Printable Recipe

[Written for Go Dairy Free as part of the Dairy-Free Recipe Potluck, sponsored by So Delicious.]


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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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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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Breakfast for Dinner

How can it be that I’ve gone about my life for 24 years, blissfully ignorant of the glorious celebration that is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month? That’s 24 wasted Aprils, 24 missed opportunities to indulge in this childhood pleasure. No- Make that only 23 chances to indulge in melted cheesy goodness between two pieces of toasted bread, because this is the year that I start making up for lost time.

The time to start small with the standard assemblage has passed; I’m plunging in with gusto. Ditching the standard white or wheat bread, the party gets started with two fluffy pancakes on either end. Ever so lightly sweetened, they provide the perfect counterpoint to the salty, savory ingredients that they flank. After cooking and cooling, the pancakes go back into the frying pan, this time topped with a heaping handful of Mexican Style Shreds, so graciously provided by Go Veggie! (formerly known as Galaxy). Once melted to a magnificently gooey consistency, one pancake is topped with a hefty serving of the eggiest, creamiest tofu scramble I know, while the other is garnished with thinly sliced ripe tomato. Grilled until warmed through, the two halves come together to create one monster of a sandwich, better than a mere grilled cheese and yet one that carries the same comforting nostalgia. Break out the fork and knife for this one, because it’s messy, it’s sloppy, and oh so satisfying.

Oh April, if only I knew of your cheesy charms sooner. If this is just the start, this will be a good month, indeed.


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A Sweet Start to Spring

There may be a fresh coat of snow on the ground, but here’s some news that will surely put a spring in your step: The spring 2013 issue of Allergic Living Magazine has been been unleashed! Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate with our calendar-assigned seasonal switch, a responsible publication will always follow the rules. Like clockwork, the latest quarterly will hit newsstands near you well before the flowers bloom.

It was my pleasure to work with the incomparable Alisa Fleming once more, illustrating her latest batch of tempting recipes. For this issue, it was all about bringing a bit of sweetness to the early hours of the day, all without any gluten or dairy, and easy options to accommodate any dietary restrictions.

Crisp on the outside but light and fluffy within, Strawberry Shortcake Waffles are sure to pull anyone out of even the deepest winter funk. Softly whipped coconut cream tops off each ridged breakfast cake, complete with gently macerated and fork-tender ripe strawberries. It’s the complete package for anyone who’s craving a bit of decadence first thing in the morning.

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes were clearly designed with the voracious sweet tooth in mind, satisfying that sugar craving without starting the day in a sugar coma. Luscious ripples of brown sugar and cinnamon are swirled throughout each and every flapjack, perfectly fitting their namesakes both in taste and appearance. The whole short stack wouldn’t be complete without a light drizzle of icing, of course.

Recipes this good really shouldn’t be relegated only to the morning’s first meals… Either of them are more than worthy of a dessert or after dinner treat, too!


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The Second Storm

“This is the worst winter ever!”

“You do realize it’s still early November, right?”

To that I could only groan, burying my frozen face as deeply into my wind-whipped hair as the paltry jacket hood would allow. Flecks of snow and tiny, sharp pieces of hail battered us head-on as we climbed uphill. It was a silly mistake, really, underestimating the power of the latest apocalyptic weather predictions while overestimating the strength of the car’s tires. Everything would have been just peachy if we had stayed inside, tending the pumpkin seeds in the oven and putting off our trip to the store until morning. We were just too ambitious.

Our grave error in judgement came into clear focus as the car slid slowly down hill, hugging the curves just fine but continuing along without consulting the driver. It was this very Curve of Death that got me last year, so my mom smartly stepped up to man the wheel. Thus, we were in this together, assessing the situation minute by minute with carefully chosen words, attempting not to alarm one another. Eventually the bottom of the slope met our gently free falling vehicle, and it was game over. Nothing could have convinced those wheels to grip and carry us home. The only choice was to set the hazard lights blinking, abandon ship, and trudge a mile home. There are certainly far worse outcomes, but I can’t say it’s exactly how I wanted to spend my evening, nor the most fun challenge to tackle in open high heeled shoes.

Naturally, the pumpkin seeds we left for “just a moment” were roasted to an extra-dark shade of doneness… Otherwise known as burnt.

So what was it that compelled me to suggest leaving the warm, safe house in the first place? Some matter of pressing urgency, a critical need that needed to be addressed immediately?

Oatmeal. Pre-cooked and frozen steel-cut oatmeal from Trader Joe’s, if I must be humiliatingly precise. I never meant to get so impossibly hooked on the stuff, regarding it as a novelty at first but now depending on it for a daily fix. Every single day for at least three years now, this is the stuff that gets me out of bed in the AM hours. Proper oatmeal cookery continues to elude me, and the time required for this morning meal would otherwise be prohibitive. At least, that’s what I tell myself as I reach for a 4th and 5th box on my weekly Joe’s run.

No more. After this little incident, I’m determined not to be completely dependent on Joe to satisfy my craving. Better yet, I can make something that he can’t put in a box, something that can’t be bought, and will hardly take any additional time. It’s all thanks to my handy pressure cooker that it’s possible, and completely painless. Toss ingredients in, set the timer, and in mere minutes the oats are tender, pleasantly chewy, and creamy all at once. A crisp caramelized sugar topping puts standard steel-cut oats on a whole new level, perfect for a holiday breakfast, brunch, or just any day that a treat is in order. Straddling that fine line between healthy oats and indulgent custard, its far richer than the stuff from the freezer aisle, but still something to feel good about getting a second helping of. With or without the added thrill of a brûléed top crust, oats have never had it so good.

Steel-Cut Oat Brûlée

1 3/4 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Cup Raw Cashews
1/2 Cup Quick-Cooking Steel Cut Oats
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Brûlée Topping:

3 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Teaspoon Water

First, place the non-dairy milk and cashews in your blender and thoroughly puree, until completely smooth. This will create a thicker, richer “milk” to cook the oats in. If you don’t have a high-speed blender, soak the cashews for 4 – 6 hours beforehand so that they break down more readily. Otherwise, you may also substitute 2 cups of full-fat coconut milk or vegan creamer for the two ingredients and skip this step altogether.

In your pressure cooker, combine the blended cashew creme, oats, salt, and maple syrup, and stir well. Bring to high pressure and cook for 11 minutes, and then let the pressure fall naturally (natural release) until the seal is broken and the lid can be opened. Mix in the vanilla extract.

Divide the cooked oats equally between 4 – 6 ramekins, and let cool to room temperature. The oatmeal can be refrigerated and stored for up to 5 days at this point, frozen for 3 – 4 months, or Brûléed right away. If using frozen oats, allow them to fully thaw first, and if using chilled oats, allow them to come back up to room temperature.

Mix together the brown sugar and water to create a thick sugar paste. Spread 1 – 2 teaspoons over the tops of each ramekin filled with oats, to evenly coat the surface. Place the ramekins under a hot broiler set to high, and cook until the sugar bubbles and caramelizes. Serve immediately, with berries or sliced bananas if desired.

Makes 4 – 6 Servings

Printable Recipe

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