I had intended a lovely post today, in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving long weekend to the south of us.  But time constraints (read: massive, unwieldly pile of essays and assignments to mark) have prevented me from following through. So I’ll just have to wait till the next batch of holidays in December to post about some new, frost-and-snow inspired, treats.

Instead, I thought I’d pull together a few recipes from previous posts that are suitably festive for a holiday table, or the breakfast table the following day (I’ve also got a few detox recipes on the blog–I’ll let you seek those out yourselves, as required).  Most of these are fairly quick to make as well, as long as you’ve got the ingredients on hand.

Hope everyone enjoys some togetherness with friends and family, great food, and a bit of time to relax and play.

See you after the holiday!

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Mum, will Elsie be able to play again after the holiday?  I mean, it’s just so boring with her out of commission. . .

Main Meal Dishes:

Side Dishes:

Desserts:

Breakfast Dishes:

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

Sometimes, you just want to eat something now.  I’ve decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly, or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required.  Here’s today’s “Flash in the Pan.”

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One of the advantages of having a little baking business as a sideline is that you can buy some ingredients in bulk, and save a little on the price of more expensive items (such as nuts or dried fruits) by purchasing them in 2-kilo or 5-kilo bags.

At the same time, one of the disadvantages of having a little baking business is that you end up with 1.8 kilos or 4.9 kilos of leftover bulk items, such as nuts or dried fruits, when no one happens to order baked goods that contain those ingredients, and they’re left languishing in huge plastic bins in your basement, and you sometimes have to throw them away, and they end up costing you more than if you’d just bought the regular size at the retail store (and your distress over that fact causes you to write really long sentences).

A few weeks ago, I noticed some dried cranberries that, clearly, had had better days.  They were perfectly servicable if scattered in muffins or cookies (they are, after all, already preserved by dehyrdation); but they were just a little too crisp on the edges for my taste, sporting that whitish, frosty patina that figs, dates, or other highly sweetened dried fruits seem to acquire when they’ve been sitting too long.  Worse, their rimed exterior reminded me too much of winter (the agony is still too close), so I knew I’d have to find another use for them–STAT.

“Hey!” I remarked to the HH, “I could make cranberry jam out of these!”

He stood and stared at me for a second, clearly flummoxed. “Um, wouldn’t that be just the same as cranberry sauce?” he asked.  Hmm.  The guy had a point.  And while I do enjoy an occasional daub of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, I don’t really care for it very much any other time of year. 

But the idea of cranberry jam did appeal to me. With sweet-tart berries and the right cooking method, I knew I could end up with something akin to raspberry or blueberry preserves, perfect for spreading, baking, or little gift jars.  

Since the cranberries were already sweetened (pretty much all dried cranberries are), I didn’t need to add anything more.  I simply popped the contents of my bin (about 2 cups) into a pot, covered with fresh orange juice, and brought to a simmer.  Then I let the mixture bubble, stirring every so often, until the cranberries had broken down and almost dissolved into a soft, gleaming crimson, spreadable preserve. 

One that bears absolutely no similarity to cranberry sauce, I might add.

The spread is perfect on muffins, scones, or even Quinoa-Oatmeal Croquettes for breakfast.  You could also mix this with a little spicy chili sauce for a great dipping sauce (try it with squares of Nut Roast–fantastic!).

Oh, and since it did, in the end, resemble that jam I was seeking, I’m submitting this to the Putting Up event, hosted by Pixie of You Say Tomato, and Rosie of Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake.

Cranberry Preserves

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Quick. Easy. Two Ingredients.  Need I say more?

dried cranberries, at least one cup (but more if you like)

orange juice, enough to cover the cranberries in a pot

Place cranberries in a pot and cover with the juice.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; lower heat to simmer, cover, and allow the mixture to cook softly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and the cranberries soften and begin to fall apart.  Stir to create a smooth mixture with a few chunky bits.  Transfer to a jar or other container to cool.  Will keep about a week in the fridge; or freeze for later use.

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[This week’s Lucky Comestible is sweet potatoes; here’s part 4 in the series. ]

Finding recipes that use familiar ingredients in new ways is almost as much fun for me as finding completely new ingredients.  For instance, I loved it when I started to bake with all kinds of veggies in cakes, cookies, or other desserts (I’ll be writing more about that on Monday).  The first time I tasted sweet cashew cream (a vegan substitute for dairy cream), I was immediately enraptured (I mean, a cream redolent of cashews and maple syrup? Talk about a no-brainer!).  And don’t even get me started on olive soup.

So when I discovered that sweet potatoes made an excellent base for a salad (true, I was a little late coming to that realization; I’ve always been somewhat of a late bloomer), I was thrilled to be able to use one of my favorite vegetables at room temperature as well as in cooked foods and soups. 

I’m already a great fan of a Sweet Potato-Ginger Salad recipe that I found in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food.  Then, by chance the other day as I avoided marking browsed some blogs, I came upon an intriguing recipe for Sweet Potato-Cranberry Hash from new blogger Karen at Test Drive Kitchen.  With the post title, “My Favorite Side Dish of All Time,”  how could I resist?

The recipe looked easy to make, and, as Karen mentions, contained gorgeous, brilliant autumnal colors courtesy of sweet potatoes, cranberries, and glossy green onions (and–bonus!–I got to use up the cranberries I had from yesterday’s scones). 

I set about baking the potatoes only to realize I had no green onions in the house, so I used a regular onion and sauteed it along with the cubed apple.  To compensate for the lack of green, I added some chopped parsley at the last minute.  The result was an equally brilliant palette of colors.

The hash/salad turned out yummy, though my personal preference would be for more spice.  And I do think it would have been better with the original green onions, which would have added a flavor kick that was lacking in sauteed one. 

Sweet Potato and Cranberry Hash (adapted from Test Drive Kitchen)

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This is an easy-to-prepare, visually stunning dish that tastes great.  It’s a wonderful side dish for any holiday meal, or, in our house, a main course on its own.

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As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

 

 

[This week’s Lucky Comestible is sweet potatoes; here’s part 3 in the series. ]

It’s a snowy, windy, perenially grey landscape here in DDD land.  The snow is so fine and dense as it swirls and sweeps by my window that it appears almost like some giant Scotsman is smoking his pipe and blowing smoke round the corner.  Well, come on in, O Accented One–I’ve got scones to serve! (And they are part of your heritage, after all.)

 Since breakfast is my very favorite all-time meal (yes, I’m sure I must have mentioned that before), I’m always on the lookout for a good scone recipe.  This can sometimes be a bit challenging, as I don’t use butter or eggs, evidement, but I also don’t use vegan margarines.  If you’re looking for an acceptable whole food that can substitute for butter, your only real bet is organic coconut oil.  Now, that’s fine with me, as it’s solid at room temperature and tastes quite yummy.  I use the one in the big black jar as it doesn’t impart any real coconut flavor (not that there’s anything wrong with that–just not always what I fancy when I want the other flavors in the dish to shine).

So for me, scones are generally a mix of spelt flour, soured soymilk or other non-dairy milk, and coconut butter.  I generally throw in a dried fruit or fresh berries, scoop, and voila!–pseudo scones.  Most of the time, I just drool over the recipes I find on other blogs and move on.  This week, I thought sweet potato scones would be perfect, as I love sweet potatoes and often have lots of puree in the house (it’s also something I often feed to The Girls as well).

In my search for the perfectly adaptable recipe, I came across many winners.  Hannah over at Bittersweet baked up some yummy looking Orange-Cranberry Scones, courtesy of an original recipe on Bakingsheet; and while I love cranberries in scones, I was on the lookout for something that could incorporate sweet potatoes without too much protest.  So it was on to a savory sweet potato scone recipe from Tartelette. Adapted from an original recipe on Recipezaar, this one featured onions, so that was out for me (though maybe for another day. . .).  But the recipe that really caught my eye was the one for Pumpkin Scones by Johanna over at Green Gourmet Giraffe.  After salivating over her photos of these butter-soaked scones (or are they biscuits? see what Johanna says), I decided that, with a few modifications, I’d have my dream scone! With some extra cranberries in my freezer and sweet potato puree in the fridge, I was ready to go.

These turned out great.  They have a light interior with just a hint of sweetness, and the tart, juicy cranberries are just the right counterpoint to the sweetness of the scone.  And with a touch of apple butter and some faux coffee, they made a heavenly breakfast.

(“Mum, we could use some breakfast, too, you know.  And we adore sweet potatoes! So if there’s any of that puree left over. . . . “)

Sweet Potato-Cranberry Scones (adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe)

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Every year, when my sisters and I were kids, for our birthdays we each got a made-from-scratch, personally decorated birthday cake for our party.  One year it was Little Bo Peep, another it was Barbie, still others it was a pretty array of colorful frosting flowers splashed across a chocolate rectangle.  Cake, always cake; but never can I recall having cupcakes for my birthday.

Well, times have changed. In just a few years, cupcakes have become all the rage.  Little cupcake-only shops have sprouted in every major city; and my friend Angie tells me that, in Dallas, they’ve reached a peak of price and exculsivity. One might even say that cupcakes are poised to take over the world!

And so, this season, though I’ve been asked to bake for several children’s parties and an at-home Christmas celebration, in every case I’ve been asked to bake up a batch of cupcakes. 

As a vegan baker who uses neither refined sugar nor margarine, I can sometimes find it incredibly difficult to come up with substitutions that will approximate the same look and taste as conventional recipes (even though I own, and have carefully persued, every page of Isa and Terry’s phenomenal book, and send major kudos their way–especially for the agave-based vanilla cupcakes).  I find it fairly easy to substitute organic coconut butter for margarine, but sugar really is one of a kind, especially when you’re talking buttercream.

So, while I continue to experiment with an agave-based buttercream frosting (and to post to Holidailies), I am left with my old standby, agave fudgy frosting, for cupcakes.  Though delicious and thoroughly chocolatey, it’s not airy in the least, and not as easy to pipe into ruffles or scallops or drop flowers. It tends to sport a high-gloss finish, and can be a bit stiff, sometimes firming up so much that it won’t agree to be piped at all.  When the vanilla version is colored for decorations, it resembles the type of gel-like icings you buy in little tubes in the grocery store–not much fine detail to work with, there. 

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[cupcakes with a scoop of frosting, waiting to be transformed. . .

So, when I received an order for some last-minute cupcakes decorated with a holiday theme, I wasn’t sure what to do.  Without any formal training in cake decorating (which, I’m fairly sure, wouldn’t be much help with this type of frosting, anyway), I had to improvise.  So I thought about simple line drawings of bells or bows that I could pipe onto the cupcakes, or how I might fill in an outline with colored frosting, which would then be smoothed flat, with something like a stained glass effect.

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[The blank canvas waiting for inspiration] 

Well, in the end, I would say the experiment was a semi-success.  You can tell what I was trying to achieve, but the icing just wouldn’t smooth out, so my holly leaves have little bumpy ridges on them.  Still, they tasted great (what? I couldn’t very well give them away without sampling to ensure quality, now, could I?), and I know that the kids who’ll be eating them will be thrilled. 

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[chocolate and agave holiday cheer] 

With precious little time left before the holiday and so many people on the lookout for Christmas recipes, I’ll contribute one more festive cookie.  These are a dense, chewy round that combines a peanut butter base with chocolate chips and cranberries.  If you bake them the full suggested time, they’ll be crispy on the edges and soft but dry inside.  Bake a little less, and they’ll cool to a moist and chewy goodness.  These are actually better the second day, as the PB flavor intensifies.

Hmm.  Peanut butter, chocolate and cranberries. . . I may just have to bake some of these myself. In the meantime, I’ll keep working on that sugarless vegan buttercream.

Holiday Cranberry Chippers

 

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