Honey, I Shrank the Squash

If the current state of seasonal produce has you down in the dumps, dreading another farmers market haul of little more than potatoes and onions, take a closer look at the hardier squash. You might have missed one bright spot of culinary inspiration on the shelf, tiny as they are at no more than 6 inches tall. Honeynut squash look like miniature butternuts, but boast a remarkably intense sweetness beyond compare. Darker, creamier, denser, and overall richer, they’re everything you know and love in conventional gourds, amplified and intensified into a pint-sized package.

All it takes is a touch of heat to yield a flavorful side; even the skin is edible, if you so desire! The very best approach is to anoint with oil and perhaps a savory marinade before sending seeded halves through a blazing hot oven.

Of course, I can never leave well enough alone, and can’t resist the opportunity to take the name more literally. Brushing homemade vegan honey over wafer thin slits, allowing the nectar to penetrate the flesh in all its dulcet golden glory, takes only a tiny bit more effort that pays off in spades. Scattering a handful of crisp sliced almonds on top brings in a world of textural contrast, although I’d be tempted to try a more resounding crunch with chopped pecans or walnuts next time.

If you thought there was nothing to get excited about for wintertime harvests, stock up on these small squash. Just one bite will chase away the hibernal gloom.

Continue reading “Honey, I Shrank the Squash”

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Easy Like Christmas Morning

Light filters in through frosted windows, gently painting the tinsel-clad branches of pine, dancing across silken wrappings, glinting off glossy greeting cards. All is still, silent, and calm. The air is just a breath too cold for comfort, but nothing the sun won’t fix in another minute, glowing and growing stronger right before sleepy eyes, still clouded with dream of feasts from the night before. Christmas morning, in the best situation, is a magical time, the split second right before children squeal with glee to mark the start of joyous mayhem. Controlled chaos will soon describe the scene as paper is torn and tags go flying. The last thing you want to fuss with is a fancy breakfast that would tear you away from these fleeting moments, but a bowl of cold cereal just won’t cut it today.

Before calamity descends, take the wheel and prepare yourself well in advance. Sticky buns or cinnamon rolls are the classic daybreak decadence for this annual celebration, but who wants to wake up at 5am to start mixing dough? Not me, even if I don’t have children to beat down the stairs or a tree to furnish before Santa slacks off.

Save yourself some time and labor by turning out one giant, majestic, family-style spiral, rather than individual little buns. Dazzling with warm rivulets of cinnamon sugar goo dripping into every tender spiral of dough, wrapping around crisp pecans like a pillowy blanket, you’ll think you’re still dreaming when you take the first bite.

Perhaps it will be the scent of buttery dough or cinnamon spices that awaken Christmas spirits, rather than the sunrise this time around. All the hard work is done the night before, so in the morning, all you need to do is preheat the oven and pop in the pan. It’s not exactly holiday magic… But it may just taste like that.

Continue reading “Easy Like Christmas Morning”

New Year, New Stew

Rubbing the sleep from our eyes as sunlight floods the room, still slightly subdued from last night’s festivities, we all wake to greet the new year: Welcome, 2018! Ripe with potential, the days ahead unfurl before us, bright and gleaming like gems, a treasure to discover along the way.

Encouraged to seize this opportunity for personal renewal, the temptation to reinvent oneself is strong. We’re encouraged to set lofty goals for a “new year, new you.” The hype has grown considerably quieter over the years, thankfully, but still it persists. I’m here right now to say that if you’re still feeling tempted by those invasive marketing tactics, you’re not alone, but you’re already good enough. Smart enough. Pretty enough. Fit enough. Kind enough. If you’re even considering what you’d like to improve about yourself, you’re thoughtful and motivated and intelligent enough to make it happen, if that’s what you really want. But you don’t need to, and you don’t need to pretend to, if you don’t. You’re exactly the same person you were before the sun set last night and the ball dropped at midnight, and that’s exactly who you need to be. You are already the best YOU out there. DON’T throw it all away in an attempt to start with a “new” you all over again.

Understand that in all honesty, I’m saying this as much for you as I am for me, because sometimes it’s easier to see the goodness in others than yourself. That doesn’t detract from my conviction in those words, but further strengthens the sentiment. If you can start to see positivity and have a more optimistic perspective of your world, you can manifest that same light, too.

Motivational pep talk out of the way, let’s move full steam ahead into the best year yet, shall we? Embark on this new journey forward with something hearty, soul-soothing, and utterly effortless in case holiday revelry is still ringing in your ears.

Murky gruel the color of swamp water is typically the defining characteristic of split pea soup, but beneath the surface lies true inner beauty. Mixing in frozen sweet peas at the very end brightens up the situation considerably, lending both fresh pops of pigmentation and flavor. Unlike most bean soups, no soaking is necessary to tenderize the legumes, cooking quickly into an instantly creamy, thick stew.

Yield: Makes 3 - 4 Servings

Simple Split Pea Soup

Simple Split Pea Soup

Mixing frozen sweet pea into classic split-pea soup brightens up the resulting stew, lending both fresh pops of pigmentation and flavor. Unlike most bean soups, no soaking is necessary to tenderize the legumes, cooking quickly into an instantly creamy, thick entree.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Small Red Onion, Diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Medium Sweet Potato, Peeled and Diced
  • 2 Tablespoons Reduced-Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 1 Cup Split Green Peas
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Stock
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Rosemary, Minced
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Cup Frozen Green Peas
  • Salt, to Taste

Instructions

  1. Heat your pressure cooker on the sauté setting and add the oil. Add the onion and garlic, cooking until translucent and aromatic; about 6 or 7 minutes. Add in the sweet potato, soy sauce, split peas, vegetable stock, paprika, rosemary, and pepper, stir to incorporate, and lock in the lid.
  2. Once sealed, cook on High Pressure for 18 minutes. Let stand for 3 minutes longer before opening the valve to release the remaining pressure.
  3. Stir in the frozen peas (no need to thaw in advance) and season with salt to taste. Give the mixture a vigorous stir to further break up the split peas for a thicker, smoother texture, if desired.

Notes

To make this soup on the stove top, without a pressure cooker, simple cover and simmer on low heat for 35 – 45 minutes instead.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 154Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1087mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 6gSugar: 9gProtein: 6g

Perfect Party Pearings

Take a deep breath: You’ve survived another grueling round of holiday merriment. Feasts have been devoured and mountains of torn wrapping paper lay in ruin. It may very well look like a bomb went off in the living room, complete with tinsel shrapnel and carpet stains that will haunt you for the rest of your days, but the deed has been done, the festivities successfully completed.

But before you lock the doors tight, entering into full hibernation mode, don’t forget that one last hurrah remains. In less than one week’s time, the calendar mandates yet another grand celebration, demanding every last iota of enthusiasm remaining following the Christmas craze. With dishes still stacked precariously in the sink, it’s a lot to consider. For the New Year, however, it’s time to give yourself a gift if you’re bold enough to take the reins as host or hostess once again, and just take it easy.

Skip the elaborate dinner menu in favor of simple, snackable small plates. Your guests are undoubtedly worn out from holiday excesses as well, happily munching at a slower pace while enjoying each others’ company. Crostini (or bruschetta, if you prefer) are the ideal vehicle for any sort of sweet or savory toppings, so for my festive suggestion, I would like to raise a literal and figurative toast to both ends of the taste spectrum.

A golden platform of crusty bread supports a creamy, rich schmear of cream cheese, contrasted by the tender, sweet, and slightly tart bite of pomegranate-infused pears. Sturdy enough to withstand advanced prep and a full evening at ambient temperature, these understated yet spectacular little morsels are your ideal party guests. They’re guaranteed to never overstay their welcome, either.

Yield: Makes 16 - 24 Servings

Pomegranate-Poached Pear Crostini

Pomegranate-Poached Pear Crostini

Crusty bread supports a creamy, rich schmear of cream cheese, contrasted by the tender, sweet, and slightly tart bite of pomegranate-infused pears. Sturdy enough to withstand advanced prep and a full evening at ambient temperature, these understated yet spectacular little morsels are your ideal party guests.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

Pomegranate Poached Pears:

  • 3 Cups 100% Pomegranate Juice
  • 1 Cup 100% Apple Juice
  • 1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 Whole Vanilla bean, Split and Scraped
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 4 Firm Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc Pears, Peeled, Halved, and Cored

For Assembly:

Instructions

  1. Combine the pomegranate juice, apple juice, maple syrup, vanilla bean seeds, and black pepper in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Serve the spent vanilla bean pods for making vanilla sugar, or another recipe.
  2. Bring the liquid bring to a gentle simmer and add the pears. Cover and cook for 20 - 30 minutes, until the pears are just fork-tender. Remove the fruit from the saucepan and chill thoroughly before slicing. Don't toss the excess poaching liquid- It's fantastic mixed with a bit of chilled champagne for your New Year's toast.
  3. To assemble, spread the slices of toasted baguette generously with cream cheese and top each one with a slice of poached pear. Finish with a sprinkle of pomegranate arils and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Notes

Poached pears can be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

24

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 113Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 93mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 11gProtein: 2g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.

Poached Trade

At their bare essentials, all holidays are based around eating and drinking to some degree, but none more so than Thanksgiving. In fact, it’s the main event! Without the gluttonous, butter-soaked spread, it would be just another family meal. Our excuse is that we’re merely celebrating the great bounty we’re so fortunate to receive, but somewhere along the line, it becomes a battle between man and sweatpants, seeing which will give under the pressure first.

Today, I would like to offer you the antidote to that over-the-top indulgence, in the form of a persimmon. Elegant simplicity defines this plate; more of a procedure than a full recipe, the most essential step is one not written in the instructions. Start with only the very best fruit, or don’t bother starting at all.

I would never suggest that such a humble dessert, delicious as it may be, could ever replace the traditional slab of pumpkin or pecan pie. Rather, consider each one a sweet little snack that’s something extra special for the occasion. Serve these dainty orange orbs midday to stave off that familiar, gnawing hunger while dinner slowly roasts to prevent the inevitable frenzied binge. Alternatively, save them for the following day when those sticky, crumbly, half-eaten pies aren’t nearly so appealing.

Yield: Makes 5 Sevings

Poached Persimmons

Poached Persimmons

Gently simmered in pineaaple juice spiked the ginger and citrus, these dainty orange orbs are a study in elegant simplicity.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

Poached Persimmons

  • 5 Fuyu Persimmons, Stemmed and Peeled
  • 3 Cups Pineapple Juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Dark Rum
  • 2 Inches Fresh Ginger, Sliced
  • 1 Vanilla Bean, Split
  • Zest of 1 Orange, Peeled Off in Strips
  • 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch

Whipped Ginger Fluff:

  • 1/4 Cup Aquafaba
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 5 Tablespoons Toasted Pistachios, for Garnish

Instructions

  1. Core out the persimmons, removing the calyxes, and peel. Place them
    in a medium saucepan along with the pineapple juice, rum, fresh ginger,
    vanilla bean, and orange zest. Bring the liquid up to a boil, reduce to a
    simmer, cover, and gently cook for 20 – 30 minutes, until the fruits
    are fork-tender.
  2. Remove the persimmons with a slotted spoon, leaving the excess
    poaching liquid behind in the pan. Remove and discard the ginger pieces,
    spent vanilla bean, and orange peel. Whisk in the cornstarch and return
    it to the heat. Bring the mixture back to a boil, whisking
    periodically, until thickened. Set aside.
  3. When you’re ready to make the fluff, begin whipping the aquafaba in
    your stand mixer on low. Gradually increase the speed all the way to the
    highest setting and slowly begin adding the sugar and ginger together.
    Once incorporated, add in the vanilla. Continue whipping for about 10
    minutes, until light and fluffy.
  4. To serve, spoon a dollop of the ginger fluff on top of each persimmon
    and top with a tablespoon of the pistachios. Divide the sauce equally
    between the plates and enjoy warm.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

5

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 344Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 38mgCarbohydrates: 76gFiber: 7gSugar: 57gProtein: 3g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.