BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Have a Bigger Slice of the Pie

Gingerly slicing through the packing tape and lifting each flap of the cardboard carton, one at a time, unboxing my very first copies of Easy as Vegan Pie was, both predictably and surprisingly, unreal. Entering the lineup as my fourth cookbook, the creative process had become second nature, from dreaming and scheming to writing down the results. It was all the same routine, albeit more challenging subject matter than ever before, producing the luscious glossy pages I had been imagining for well over a year, through all of the flops and resounding successes alike. Exactly as I expected, the content felt as familiar as the back of my hand, having poured over the tiny details for hours on end to reach this point.

But holding the hardcover in my hands, flipping past photos and recipes that had each taken on their own unique personalities with stories to share, the sensation is indescribable. It’s hard to believe that this really came from my own hands, while it feels close enough to be an actual piece of me, out in bookstores everywhere. I couldn’t be more proud to share my heart, and my pies, abroad.

This isn’t about me though- I know you’re here for some sweet and savory satisfaction! Yes, it’s true, there are indeed savory recipes thrown into the mix, for the first time in any of my personal publications. A book for everyone, the range of flavors covers all tastes, and includes many gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free options throughout. The “look inside” feature on Amazon.com has yet to go live, so in the meantime, allow me to tempt you with a taste of the recipes within:

Custard, Cream, and Pudding Pies

Adzuki Bean Pie
Banana Tapioca Pudding Pie
Buckeye Pie
Cannoli Pie
Chocolate Chipotle Sweet Potato Pie
Cookies ‘n Creme Fried Pies
Double Chocolate Truffle Tart
Figgy Pudding Pie
Greek Silk Pie
Kiwi Coconut Pie
Lemon Chia Seed Meringue Pie
Mud Pie
New York Cheesecake Pie
Nutterscotch Pie
Pistachio Pudding Pie
Raspberry Red Velvet Pie
Rock ‘n Roll Elvis Pie
Skinny Mint Tart
Speculoos Pumpkin Pie
Sweet Corn Crème Brûlée Tartlettes
Watermelon Chiffon Pie
Yogurt Parfait Tartlettes

Frozen Pies

Acai Bowl Pies
Blood Orange Creamsicle Pie
Hula Pie
Kahlua Pie
Malted Strawberry Milkshake Pie
Mojito Pie
Persimmon Chiffon Pie
Raw Eggnog Pie
Root Beer Float Pie
Spumoni Pie
Winter Wonderland Peppermint Pie
Nut Pies
Baklava Pie
Caramel Macadamia Crumb Tart
Chestnut Crunch Pie
Gingerbread Walnut Pie
Hazelnut Tassies
Marzipan Crostata
Pomegranate Pecan Pie

Fruit Pies

Apple Burgundy Betty Pie
Apricotta Tart
Bella Bellini Tartlettes
Black and Blue Licorice Pie
Black Forest Pie
Concord Frangipane Pie
Cran-Cherry Impossible Pie
Drunken Apricot Pies
Frankenstorm Pie (AKA Banana Ganache Pie)
Grapefruit Shaker Pie
Island Breeze Pie
Killer Apple Pie
Ma’amoul Pie
Mahalapeño Pie
Mango Chutney Pie
Membrillo Pie
Pear Praline Pie
Rhubarb Heart Pies
Roasted Strawberry and Tomato Galette
Rosemary-Peach Tarte Tatin
Strawberry Cereal Streusel Pie
Sugared Plum Tart

Wild Card Pies

Birthday Pie
Black-Bottom Macaroon Pie
Carrot Cake Pie
Chess Pie
Chocolate and Zucchini Pie
Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Pie Pops
Jack-O-Lantern Pies
Mango Sticky Rice Pie
Maple Shoo-Fly Pie
Margarita Jelly Shot Tartlettes
Matcha Mochi Pie
Old Fashioned Oatmeal Pie
Pup Tarts
Snickerdoodle Pie
Stained Glass Pie
Torta di Verdura

Savory Pies

Caramelized Onion and Apple Tart
Cheesy Mac Pie
Fried Green Tomato Pies
Primavera Pot Pies
Reuben Pie
Spaghetti Squash and Meatball Pie
Taco Pie
Tamale Pies
Tea Tart
Thanksgiving Quiche
Wasabi Pea Pie

…And that’s to say nothing of the wide range of crusts, accompaniments, toppings, and variations included as well. Of course, you’ll also find tons of tips on how to make your best pies ever, going into great detail on equipment, techniques, and ingredients.

Now, if you’ve made it all the way through that cruel temptation of recipe titles, you definitely deserve an actual slice of pie. Although I can’t ship one of these crusted beauties safely through the mail, I would be delighted to send you the blueprint to make scores of your own. To celebrate the official release of Easy as Vegan Pie, I’m giving away one signed and personalized copy, straight from my own reserve. I’m bursting to share this gem, so I can’t wait for it to reach book shelves any longer! If you’d like a big slice of the pie for yourself, enter by leaving me a comment below with your name and email in the appropriate boxes before October 16th, Midnight EST.  The only restriction is that you must have a US mailing address. Tell me about the best pie you’ve ever eaten, or which pie listed above you’re most looking forward to sinking your teeth into!

UPDATE: The entry period is over and a winner has been selected by the trusty random number generator. The participant who’s about to start rolling in dough very shortly is…

Commenter #97; Lizze! Congrats Lizzie, you’ll be hearing from me very shortly about how to collect your prize. Don’t despair if this wasn’t your lucky day. There will be many more exciting giveaways to come…


60 Comments

Tall Tails

Not one to dwell on the negative, there are still countless happier things to share. It’s the first of December after all, prime time for merriment and holiday spirit, no conditions required. Normally, I’d be the first to snark about the rampant consumerism that hollows out these events into shallow dates that only manufacturers can celebrate. This year, however, it all feels different. Homemade gifts are great, still the best choice, but if you want to buy shiny new toys for every last person on your list? More power to you. If retailers want to tempt shoppers with deep discounts? Fantastic, grab those deals while they’re hot. If that’s what makes the holidays real, if that’s what feels right, then what on earth is so bad about that?

So in the spirit of gift-giving, I’m delighted to share these adorable MugTails by Korin. This sweet set of two bushy-tailed squirrels arrived on my doorstep as an early Hanukkah gift, but it would seem greedy to keep both matching cups. That’s why I’m giving one away, no strings attached. Anyone can enter since I’m able to ship it directly, no matter where you live. Just be sure to leave me a comment before midnight EST on December 8th with a valid email address in the appropriate box. Anything goes, but if you’re feeling short on words, tell me what’s at the top of your wishlist.

UPDATE: And the winner is…

Commenter behind door number #38! That means that andrea, you’ve scored yourself one adorable little squirrely mug! Congrats, and keep your eyes peeled for an email from me shortly.

In case you haven’t figured out your entire shopping list yet, I do have an additional suggestion: A cookbook! Yes, one of my cookbooks would be particularly lovely. In fact, to further sweeten the deal, I’ll send you a free signed bookplate if you purchase any one of my books (My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, or Vegan a la Mode) through the month of December, 2012. This one I must unfortunately restrict to residents of the US only. Once you’ve purchased your book, email me at hannah @ mysweetvegan . com (no spaces) with either a screenshot for online purchases or an image of a scanned receipt.


82 Comments

Mad Props

Prop shopping can often be the most fun, or the most frustrating, part of food styling. Endless accessories to match any style are out there, waiting to be discovered; the thrill of the hunt can turn any outing into an impromptu prop acquisition mission. Though the food will always be the star of the show, it still needs strong supporting actors to complete the production, so it pays to have a sharp eye for design and for deals. Expenses are what prevent these searches from being carefree, as any blogger knows well. While those hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind serving pieces are obvious budget busters, it’s surprising to see how badly plain linens can eat through any allotted funds. Yes, I’m talking about fabric napkins, props that rarely get the attention they deserve. Adding pops of color while softening the scene, giving it motion with an effortless drape or order with a tight fold, napkins often pull the whole image together. Problem is, most napkins come in sets, because what normal person wants just one or two of a hundred little scraps of fabric? Rarely will more than two even fit on my set, not to mention the inflated price tag that comes with those matching bundles.

Thank goodness for online shopping. Current blog sponsor Dot and Army provides the perfect solution, packaging fun, whimsical fabric napkins in every color and design you can dream up, instantly giving you dozens of different ways to dress up your food photography. Don’t see a ready-made set that strikes your fancy? Custom packages are also possible. It’s like having your very own personal prop shopper who has impeccable taste!

Just imagine this image without either napkin in place. While they may be overlooked as a stylistic element by the average viewer, they add tons of color to this otherwise plain white background, while reinforcing the concept of a dainty tea party. All I had to do was explain my needs, and these two examples were part of the bundle I got from Jennifer, the talent behind this treasure trove.

This one is even less prominent, but take a gander at the vintage checkerboard napkin way in back. When I asked Jennifer to simply surprise me, this was one of the patterns she picked out, and it has already become an important part of numerous photos. Even if they aren’t the main focus of a shot, or even in focus, it’s those subtle touches that turn a fine photo into a memorable one.

Now, do I have a treat in store for all you budding and established food stylists… Jennifer has very generously offered to give away some of her fabric finds to one lucky reader! The winner can pick any 2 sets of 12 napkins, or choose a customized set to match their kitchen. Enter by commenting about your current favorite prop shop, be it local or online. For two extra entries, like Dot and Army’s facebook page and/or pin your favorite item from the shop on a Pinterest board. Be sure to come back and leave separate comments for each action you take if you want to make them count! You have until Wednesday, October 10th at midnight EST to get your entries in, so make haste and start commenting!

If you simply can’t wait to dive into all the goodies on display (and I sure don’t blame you) go ahead and add those treasures to your cart. When you checkout, enter the code “bittersweet” for a 20% discount on any orders (excluding custom orders.)

UPDATE: The random number generator has spoken, and the winner is…

Lucky commenter #52, Amy! Check your email for info about collecting your winnings, Amy, and enjoy your stylish new fabric napkins!


39 Comments

MOO Who?

As an ardent and rather stubborn DIY-er, it can be difficult to hand over the reins of a project to someone else. That’s why I was reluctant to accept an offer from MOO.com to lend a hand with printing. Why did I buy that bulky, large format professional photo printer anyway, and didn’t they only produce business cards? Au contraire, although best known for their brilliantly colored, multi-photo business cards, it turns out they also produce equally stunning stickers of all shapes and sizes, not to mention the greeting cards, too. The endless possibilities presented by a pack of completely customizable stickers was the spark that started my creative fire.

With Vegan a la Mode due literally any day now, I began to think towards future book signings, and how I wished I could have a greater reach in my two-state “tour.” Book plates could solve all of that! A simple sticker that could be mailed in a standard envelope, no muss, no fuss, for those abroad who might want a signature. Rather than slap together something reasonably decent, this was a job for MOO, plus the adorable illustrations of the ultra-talented Michelle Cavigliano.

Have happy ice cream scoops ever looked better on sticky paper? I think not. The color quality and sharpness is impeccable; What came in the mail less than a week after placing my order was a flawless replica of my original submission. (There’s just a bit of glare in the photo, not a printing issue at the bottom of the sticker.) Certainly better than I could have done alone, and about 100 times easier.

In celebration of my third cookbook‘s imminent release, I want to start by giving away 5 of these adorable book plate stickers, signed, to anyone who pre-ordered or won’t be able to see me in person- Or just loves the design (I don’t blame you; Michelle totally exceeded my expectations on the cute factor.) In addition, MOO.com was so generous as to offer both a pack of 50 Business Cards AND 50 Retangular Labels to 3 more lucky readers! That’s 8 chances to win right there. All you have to do is leave me a comment and specify if you want to be in the running for both a book plate and the printing prize packs from MOO, or just one. If you want your own MOO.com business cards and stickers, tell me about what you would have printed on them. Make sure you fill out a valid email address in the appropriate box, and please, only one comment per person.. This contest will be open to entries until June 5th at midnight EST.

UPDATE: The random number generator has spoken, and the winners of the MOO.com prize packs are…

Amanda and Jessica K!

And the lucky five getting signed book plates are…

Jill, Kelly C, Sarah, veganamericanprincess, and Aya!

Congrats everyone! Keep an eye on your email, and expect a message about your winnings from either me or MOO shortly.


151 Comments

Batting a Thousand

For a soft-spoken gal with a powerful fear of public speaking, one thousand posts is a stunning, if not downright shocking, milestone. Who knew I had so much to say in the first place? Strung together in bits and pieces, wedged between questionable punctuation, and tucked around photos and recipes, it’s taken an unbelievable number of words to glue this little blog together. Ironically, I’m having trouble verbalizing what all of those words mean to me, and the fact that anyone would take the time to read them all.

Can you feel the love?

That’s why, on this 1000th post, I want you to do the talking. Tell me about anything you’d like, be it about blogs in general, things you’ve enjoyed on this blog (Have you made my recipes? Tried my craft patterns? Call me a narcissist, but I love hearing about that!) or just what’s on your mind at the moment. Free choice! In exchange, I want to share with you my biggest giveaway yet…

The email marketing provider Little Green Plane has given me 6 x $25 Amazon.com vouchers to give away. For those playing along at home, that’s a total of $150 up for grabs! Though you’re free to choose anything your heart desires, I might suggest that it’s the perfect amount to snag one of my current cookbooks, or pre-order the latest to complete your collection (I can dream, right?)

To reward all you faithful regulars, this will be a speed-round contest. It will run only through the weekend, until Midnight EST on Sunday, April 22nd, with the six (!) winners announced shortly thereafter. Just make sure you enter a valid email address so that I can get in touch, and do me the favor of only entering once per person. It makes it so much easier to determine the winners via the all-knowing random number generator.


90 Comments

Six Years, and Counting

Happy Birthday, BitterSweet! You are officially six years old today.

It was a mundane decision to start a blog, another tiny voice in the sea of millions, that even I had no expectations for. Initially, I didn’t tell friends or family; I didn’t have any online acquaintances; It was just a public journal, filled with craft junk and crappy snapshots.

Nearly 1,000 posts later, it’s hard to put to words the indelible impact it’s made on my life. I don’t even want to imagine what would have become of me if I hadn’t typed out that first meek post and hit “publish!”  With every new comment that comes in, I’m grateful that someone, anyone, took the time to read my lackluster early entries, and stick around for the ride. You guys gave me the courage to keep going, to keep creating, and now I’d never dream of turning back.

So this is all to say….

THANK YOU for reading, lurking, commenting, questioning, and otherwise being there, no matter what stage of the journey you joined in!

I mean it, and I truly do wish I could give out gifts to everyone, but considering shipping costs and logistics, that sort of extravaganza will have to wait until I have the same notoriety as Oprah. Considering how far this blog as come, it could just happen! For now though, I’d like to giveaway another set of my favorite crocheted pot holders to one lucky person.

I’ve made this pattern so many times now, I can almost whip through a set without looking at the color chart. Crafted in a springy combination of blue ombre and light yellow, this particular pair are a cheerful but subtly subversive addition to any kitchen. Made of cotton yarn, they’re functional, durable, and best of all, machine washable.

The winner will be chosen at random, so it doesn’t matter if you remember the awkward beginnings or just clicked over today- Everyone’s eligible! To enter, leave a comment with your name and email in the appropriate slots, and tell me about an awesome blog that’s new to you. It doesn’t have to be newly created, but something that’s recently caught your eye and you can’t get enough of. In honor of the birthday, this giveaway is open only today, so make sure you chime in before midnight, EST.

Spread the blog love; leave a comment today!

UPDATE: Ultimately, I couldn’t possibly turn anyone away, so I allowed a “grace” period of an extra day or two to enter. I owe you one, after all! And so, as chosen by everyone’s favorite random number generator, the winner is…

Commenter #44, Maureen! Congrats!

In case this wasn’t your lucky day, never fear- There will be many more giveaways, and even more pot holders to share in the years to come.


11 Comments

Can’t Hold a Candle to This Cookbook

Is the suspense getting to you, too? Well your patience will be rewarded, because we have a winner! I wish I could give everyone a copy of the beautiful and inspiring Candle 79 Cookbook, but barring some crazy lottery miracle, I’ll have to settle for sharing a small taste.

Do yourself a favor and click through to check out the Heirloom Tomato-Avocado Tartare. Easy enough to whip up for dinner at the last minute, this dish will effortlessly jazz up the average weeknight meal. Even if you slap it on the table with only a bowlful of tortilla chips on the side, I don’t think anyone would bat an eyelash. It’s just that good.

Back to the main event: As chosen by the wise and all-powerful random number generator, our giveaway winner today is…

~Kris J.- You’ll be able to try those Moroccan-Spiced Chickpea Cakes for yourself now. Congrats!


79 Comments

Fine Dining For All

Vegan cuisine has come a long way in just the past decade. Beginning as humble hippie fare, there are now numerous restaurants elevating the meatless and milkless to the level of fine dining. Candle 79, self-proclaimed “vegan oasis” in New York City, is one of the first restaurants that come to mind in this category, as they’ve consistently excelled in the field even before mainstream diners were aware of the growing movement. Be that as it may, two outposts in one city creates a relatively limited sphere of influence, and vegetable-lovers all throughout the country could only drool and dream over their lavishly written menus. As of 2012, that unattainable fantasy is now a concrete reality, thanks to the release of the Candle 79 Cookbook. Scores of elegant dishes, complex flavors, and fancier fare than the standard weeknight meal, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a solid entry in this field of vegan cooking. The previously released Candle Cafe Cookbook could almost be viewed as the starting point on a journey up the fine dining staircase; this new entry finally makes it to the top.

Seeking an elegant starter to whet my appetite, the Heirloom Tomato-Avocado Tartare (page 6) was a stunningly easy recipe to whip together. Not entirely dissimilar to chunky guacamole, minus the heat, fresh, bright, and clean flavors balanced in delicate harmony. The addition of oyster mushrooms struck me as particularly brilliant, lending a subtle savory undertone without disrupting the texture. Speaking of which, the combination of creamy avocado and the garnish of crunchy tortilla strips was spot-on, and although that finishing touch may appear minimal, do not feel tempted to leave them out! While the rest of the tartare is very clean and light, that fried topping brings a touch of decadence and whimsy back to the dish.

Moroccan-Spiced Chickpea Cakes (page 66) were a clear choice from the moment I cracked open the book’s binding. A more involved plate calling for three separate elements, it could certainly be simplified with a store-bought chutney or curry sauce, but you’d be missing out, because the real winner of this combination was the Red Bell Pepper-Curry Sauce (page 117.) I was scraping my plate clean with a spoon long after the chickpea cake was devoured, and have plans to make a new batch of sauce for pasta, veggies, and anything else I can throw together. Subtly sweet, mildly spiced but incredibly flavorful, this is an absolute winner. Even though I cheated a bit and used yellow peppers instead of red, I don’t think this dressing suffered in the least.

Let’s not forget the chickpea cake in the glory of the curry sauce, though! Striking me as the perfect sort of burger patty, I would make those again in a heart-beat come grilling season. Between two buns, this fine fare could blend right in to the everyday meal. Moist without being mushy inside, crisp on the outside (admittedly, after an extra 20 minutes of baking) and redolent of smoked paprika, I can’t imagine anyone not loving this.

Next time, I could do without the chutney, which was doomed from the start knowing my distaste for fruit in savories. To make a more seasonally appropriate offering, and because I couldn’t possibly find apricots in January, I converted the Apricot Chutney (page 125) to a green apple chutney. The ginger pairs beautifully with the tart apples, so I think it would be a hit… With someone who appreciates such a thing.

Seeking a quick fix for dinner one day, the Setian Wheatballs (page 94) stood out as an easy, hearty entree. Normally not the sort of recipe that draws me in, I was most enticed by the fact that we had all of the ingredients on hand, and the falling snow outside dissuaded me from a quick grocery trip. Though tender and tasty enough, they seemed a bit too delicate for a “meatball,” and very mild in flavor. They almost disappeared into the mild-mannered store bought sauce (yes, I cheated) and plain spaghetti. Overall, inoffensive but forgettable.

Finally, ending on a sweet note, the Sourdough French Toast (page 136) had me intrigued. Using a custard that seemed more like unbaked cheesecake batter, it was clear that this would be far richer than my typical approach. True to form, it was not quite like a “traditional” egg-based French toast according to my omnivorous dining companion, but different does not mean bad. Lightly spiced and plenty sweet without any additional syrup, I can’t say it’s my favorite rendition, but it’s a nice change of pace from the norm.

If you’ve made it this far through my exhaustive descriptions, your patience will be rewarded because you now have a chance at winning your own copy of the Candle 79 Cookbook! It took some string-pulling and help from the gracious, lovely, and ultra-talented Mimi Clark to secure a second book, but I really wanted to share this unique text. To enter, your question is this: What Candle 79 dish would you most like to try? It can be a recipe from the cookbook or anything on the menu, past or present. Leave me a comment with your name and email in the appropriate fields before Tuesday, January 31st at midnight EST to have your entry count. This one is open to residents of the US only, because it is a woefully heavy hardcover to ship.


258 Comments

Free for the Baking

Releasing a cookbook out into the wild is much like what I imagine sending off your child to their first day of school would feel like. Anxiety is the first feeling that flutters in my chest, because they’ve never been on their own before. Without the conscientious oversight of their mother, who knows what might come flying out of their mouth, especially given their rapidly expanding vocabulary? And what if the other kids don’t see what a loving parent does, and can’t accept them for both their gifts and flaws? What if they face rejection, and can’t make friends?

Of course, a book is not something that needs to be consoled after a bad day on the shelf, nor will it come home beaming with a winning smile, bubbling over to share all of the wonderful adventures and exploits it went on with new buddies. That, my friends, is where I need you. How is my baby doing? Is it minding its manners? Making positive contributions to the class? I sure wish they printed these things with blank progress reports included.

In an effort to continue gathering more opinions, and above all else, spreading the sweetness, I can hardly keep from handing out my whole personal stash of hard copies. So I won’t fight it; I want you to have my book, in your hands and your kitchen! No follow-up reviews are required of the winner, but certainly would be appreciated.

If you’re interested in securing yourself a free copy of Vegan Desserts, just visit this thread on the PPK boards, wherein I’ve posted the full listing of included recipes. Browse through the titles at your leisure, and tell me: What is the first thing you want to bake when you get the book? What catches your eye? Is it the ever-popular Mint Chocolate Macarons?

Or perhaps one of my favorites, the Watermelon Bombe?

Whatever it is that strikes your fancy, just tell me about it in the comments! Please, only one comment per person, on THIS POST and not the PPK boards, left before midnight EST, May 18th. There is to be one winner, to be announced shortly thereafter. I’m very sorry to put a limit on this one, but since I can’t spring for international shipping with such a heavy book, I’m afraid that the contest is restricted to residents of the US only.

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