BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


18 Comments

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


24 Comments

Minty Fresh

Sparse vines reach weakly upward towards the sunlight filtering in between the thick blanket of leaves above, gently yellowing despite their youth. Choked out by the tall trees overhead that greedily suck down all the rich solar nutrition, our fragile, immature tomato plants never had a chance. Careful weeding and daily watering be damned- Not a drop of those efforts show. For reasons unknown, this will be our worst harvest ever, if you can even call it a “harvest.” It would be a joy to pull even a solitary ripe, red orb from those sagging knots of greenery, but I’m not so optimistic about even that kind of yield.

While I can only look on with envy as friends effortlessly produce vegetables of all colors and shapes from their own backyard gardens, I have but one tiny success to brag about: The mint. Known for being aggressively prolific, spreading like a weed and reseeding itself for years to come, ours finally broke the curse of our sad patch of dirt and actually followed suit. Sprouting and outgrowing the small patch originally allotted to them, the herbaceous leaves now cover nearly half of the paltry expanse, growing like a full, unruly mane of hair, much in need of a trim. And so, with no vegetables to temper my enthusiasm, trim I did.

After batches of mint chocolate sorbet, mint tea, and minted snow peas, the mint still kept coming with no end in sight. Fully confident that the supply would not run short, I went for the gusto and gathered as much as I could before the rainclouds above burst once again, snipping off every viable leaf to make up a fresh take on pesto. Before that quick spread could even finish whirling about the blades of the food processor, I already had a full recipe planned out to put it to work.

Borrowing from a Middle Eastern palate of flavors for inspiration, pomegranate proved to be a perfectly tangy match to this bright and herbaceous paste. Not only do the crunchy arils make an appearance to lend textural contrast, but the foundation of the salad itself, chewy pearls of Israeli couscous, are cooked in pure pomegranate juice as well. Cool, crisp cucumbers punctuate the mixture, lightening the whole dish considerably- And because, as we’ve established, I can’t go a single summer day without getting my cucumber fix.

Even if you don’t have ground cover of mint threatening to take over your entire yard, it’s well worth the effort to forage through the farmer’s market to make the pesto, if not the whole couscous salad. Consider tossing it into potato salad, spread it over crostini, or pack it into sandwiches. The recipe makes enough for leftovers, so you can easily spare enough explore all those delicious options, and then some.

Pomegranate Mint Couscous

Mint Pesto:

1/4 Cup Roasted, Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
1 – 2 Cloves Garlic
1 Teaspoon White Miso
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
2 Cups Loosely Packed Mint Leaves
1/2 Cup Loosely Packed Basil Leaves
1/4 Cup Flax or Hemp Seed Oil
Big Pinch Cayenne Pepper
Salt, to Taste

In a food processor, pulse the sunflower seeds and garlic lightly to break them down a bit, and add in the miso and lemon zest to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and introduce the mint and basil. Pulse again to incorporate, and then with the machine running, stream in the oil. Puree until mostly smooth but still slightly coarse in texture, and season with cayenne and salt to taste. Use right away, or store in airtight container in the fridge. The mint pesto can be made ahead of time refrigerated for up to a week.

Makes About 3/4 Cup

Pomegranate Couscous Salad:

2 Cups 100% Pomegranate Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Dry Israeli Couscous
1/2 Cup Frozen or Fresh Green Garbanzo Beans, or Frozen Green Peas
1/3 Cup Mint Pesto (See Recipe Above)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil, if Needed
1 Cup Diced Seedless Cucumber
1/2 Cup Pomegranate Arils
Pinch Ground Black Pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the pomegranate juice and salt to a boil. Add in the couscous, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the green garbanzo beans or peas while the pasta is still hot, thawing or gently cooking the beans with the residual heat. Transfer to a large bowl, and thoroughly mix in the pesto. Add in the oil if needed to loosen up the pesto and more evenly distribute it throughout. Toss in the cucumber, arils, and season with pepper to taste. Stir well, and chill thoroughly before serving.

Makes 6 – 8 Side Servings

Printable Recipe


19 Comments

Cheering for the Underdog

Cupcakes have fallen from grace this past year, going from star of the show to loathsome backup singer. It’s an unfair change in the program, and although they may have been overplayed a bit, cupcakes still deserve a spot on the dessert hierarchy. Maybe not at the top, or near the top, but they should make a good showing somewhere. For now, at least, I’m happy to place them squarely in my mouth.

Quick and easy to make, cute as a button, and only a small caloric investment in comparison to a full slice of cake, their winning features strike me as an ideal reason to keep the cupcake craze going strong, especially for Thanksgiving. Pie is of course traditional and required as well, but consider keeping an arsenal of bite-sized mini cupcakes on the side. Perfect to cap off a belly-busting meal with just a little morsel of sweetness, or tide over ravenous guests when the full feast is taking longer to cook than expected, these tiny desserts make up for their diminutive size in versatility. Almost any flavor can be paired with the epic Thanksgiving dinner, from the classic chocolate or vanilla to more experimental combinations, but it seems a shame to ignore all of the seasonal produce that his event is meant to celebrate.

Pomegranate and cranberry share some of the same tart, astringent qualities, which makes them a match made in the oven if you ask me. Neither of these ingredients tend to get fair play in my family’s menu, so I felt it necessary to give them a fair shake at Thanksgiving greatness this year. Plus, small batch means a minimal investment in both time and money, two elements typically stretched to their limits around this time. With just a pinch more patience, you could effortlessly convert the recipe into full sized cupcakes too- Simply double the recipe, and divide the batter between 12 – 14 standard muffin tins lined with cupcake papers. Bake for closer to 16 – 22 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

The cupcake certainly doesn’t need to be the star of Thanksgiving, but I think it should still be invited to the party!


Pom-Berry Mini Cupcakes

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
Pinch Salt
2 Tablespoons Dried Pomegranate Arils
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cranberry Juice, or 100% Pomegranate Cranberry Juice
3 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/2 Batch Fluffy Vegan Vanilla Buttercream
Fresh Cranberries and Mint Leaves for Garnish (Optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line about 12 mini cupcake tins with paper liners. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder and soda, spices, and salt until well distributed. Add in the dried pomegranate arils, and toss to coat with the dry goods, to prevent them from sinking to the bottoms of the cupcakes.

Separately, combine the juice, oil, vinegar, and vanilla before pouring the wet mixture into the dry. Stir just until the batter comes together and is mostly smooth; A few lumps are just fine.

Scoop about 2 – 3 teaspoons of batter into each mini cupcake paper, or enough to fill them up about 2/3 of the way to the top of the liner. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Allow the baked cupcakes to rest in the pans for at least 5 – 10 more minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting and decorating as desired.

Makes About 12 Mini Cupcakes

Printable Recipe

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,862 other followers