Foodie Tuesday: You are So Sweet!

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I'm bananas over you, my darling . . .

I love food of every kind enough that I’m often quite satisfied to have meals and days without much sugary content. But my craving for sweet tastes always returns at one time or another, and sometimes in overwhelming fashion, and then I may as well feed the monster with a little bit of indulgence rather than trying to be more abstemious than my nature will long tolerate–that always only ends in the eventual pendulum swing of brazen excess, if my history serves as any example. Besides, I don’t really have to be so very wild to find a little sweet solace.

Sometimes a great piece of fresh fruit will suffice for the need of the moment. Then, though I’m well aware I’m eating nearly pure sugar, it’s not so over-processed and hyper-refined as some treats and I console my conscience, if it’s at all nagging, that I’m getting a few dashes of vitamins or other goodies of however tiny nutritive value, as opposed to simply crunching down a fistful of plain sugar, which, you may be surprised to know, I don’t find all that compelling even when my sweet tooth is aching for appeasement. A glorious, juicy, perfumed peach or pear is pretty hard to resist, though, or a handful of brilliantly sun-ripened blackberries or strawberries bursting with juice. Now, I won’t lie: if there happened to be a piece of dark chocolate to nibble alongside said fruit, I would certainly not offend anyone offering it by refusing such an option, because I’m far too nice for that sort of behavior.

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With almonds, black and white sesame seeds, orange segments and pickled ginger and a citrus vinaigrette dressing, salad becomes close enough to pass for dessert . . .

Sometimes even the less dessert-oriented dishes, if I add a hint of sweetness to them, will happily assuage my yearnings for candy-like substances. The cabbage slaws and salads I make are by far most often on the sweet or sweet-tangy side rather than strictly savory, because I love the clean crispness of fresh crunchy cabbage and perhaps a little carrot or celery or cucumber or such when complemented with sweet tastes. A jot of honey or agave syrup, maple syrup (the dark, Grade B stuff, if you please–the whole point of maple syrup is lost if it’s refined to the point of tasting like sugar-water)–these bring so much, even in small quantities, to offset the heaviness or intensity of good fats, savory and umami tastes, and even to enhance them. Of course, if there’s any meat, especially a mild flavored one like pork or chicken, or maybe a nice solid seafood like sashimi grade tuna, wild-caught salmon or big meaty prawns on the plate, these can be so beautifully magnified in their satisfying richness with the addition of a bit of glaze: a sauce or a chutney, for example, with sweet or citrusy fruit, with reduced wine, with floral essences like rose or vanilla, that they can rein in my sweetness-compulsion quite nicely. Until the next time, at least!

Sometimes, of course, only something that seems genuinely like dessert will do. But it still doesn’t have to be an outrageously carbohydrate-centric sugar bomb to be perfectly marvelous and fully delicious. Rusticity, simplicity and even a little hint of good nutritional qualities can win the day when they’re just what I’m craving. Take the little baked custard I made when I was longing for pumpkin pie but really didn’t want to fuss over or consume a floury pastry piecrust: yummy as those can be, I’m finding the disagreement between wheat-based foods and my digestive system just isn’t worth the price of admission anymore. But when I took a plain little tin of prepared (plain) pureed pumpkin, stirred it up with a spoonful of vanilla, a pinch of salt, a good dose of raw wild honey, a couple of eggs and a big powdering of Vietnamese cinnamon, whipped it up and put it in a buttered ceramic bowl in the microwave (I ‘waved it, covered, on High, checking from about 4 minutes on until it was nearly non-wiggly), it came out willing to imitate a freshly baked pumpkin pie quite nicely and the sweet-toothed dragon was greatly mollified by the whole. It may not have been Thanksgiving Day, but I know I for one was thankful enough! And that’s all I really want from a bit of sweetness.

Ask my husband.

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I may be cracked, but the sweetness you give me keeps me feeling like I'm enjoying my just desserts . . .

Foodie Tuesday: She’s Completely Nutbar, but isn’t She Sweet?

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Won't You be My Baby, Oh, Honeycomb . . .

There’s little that can’t be improved by the addition of a sticky slick of raw local honey. I’ll concede that there might be something, but it doesn’t come to mind immediately. I could contentedly eat spoonfuls until comatose if it weren’t for the smidgen of good manners and even smaller atom of good sense preventing it.

Today’s supper was one of the times I restrained my sugar-rush inclinations, since I was making R’s favorite coleslaw and, with him persevering toward complete blood sugar control without the aid of medications, who am I to stand in the way of such valor? So I made the slaw with a natural non-sugar sweetener. But I still slipped just a hint of sugar into the mix, because the salad wouldn’t be entirely his favorite without his favorite add-in. It’s about the easiest ‘dish’ to throw together, if you can actually call something so ridiculously simple a dish. I’m no purist, so if you have strong Feelings about everything being homemade, organic, locally sourced, and so forth, you’ll probably want to squint a little during the next section to avoid unnecessary annoyance and then revise as needed to meet your needs.

Stupid-Easy Sweet Cole Slaw

Throw together everything ‘to taste’: Shredded cabbage (yeah, I’m often wonderfully lazy and use the pre-shredded slaw mix with red and green cabbage and carrots); lime juice, sweetener (honey is, of course, wonderful–or dark agave syrup, or sugar of any kind, whatever floats your cabbage-eating boat); a spoonful of mayonnaise (I’m still fond of good ol’ Hellman’s classic artery-hardener); add-ins.

So: cabbage, lime juice, sweetness, mayo and Fun Stuff.

The add-in of choice in this house is minced pickled sushi ginger.

Other goodies sometimes join the party: sesame seeds, toasted sliced almonds, chopped apple . . . whatever fun yummy junk is on hand, pretty much. It’s the ginger that I think of as the personality of the House Slaw, and anything that complements that is welcome along for the ride. But most of the time, it’s just the basic ingredients chez nous.

It was the other day that I got my honey fix. The day I went Nutbar. When the man of the house is away at any of his various work-related salt mines, I indulge in both foods that Mr Supertaster can’t or won’t eat and also in a bit of sugary madness. I made some chewy granola-style bars that work pretty nicely as a breakfast or brunch munch, especially with a nice spoonful of thick Greek yogurt drizzled with the aforementioned lovely honey and a toss of crispy carrot chips.

You’re going to sense a trend here: I’m all about the lazy approach. I love to eat what tastes delicious to me, but I have to really be in a certain rare mood to get into the groove of fixing super elaborate and labor intensive foods. More often I’m pleased to spend a day or two of heavy lifting in the kitchen in order to ‘put up’ a big, divisible, freeze-able batch of something that we can dig into at will over the next however-long. A slow cooker loaded with broth fixings is a common enough happening, mainly because I can use the resulting broth so many different ways, and also because it takes so little effort in total to throw a batch of prepared bones, roughly chopped mirepoix, herbs and spices and the like into the cooker and let it go for a long, slow simmer. I’ve got the straining thing down to a science, having learned to line a big pasta-strainer pot with a clean flour sack dish towel, spoon the skeletal remains out of the broth with a big sturdy spider, and dump the rest of the crock into the lined pot. Then all I have to do is hoist the pasta strainer high enough to lift out the dish towel by its corners, give that a quick squeeze to get the rest of the soupy goodness to flow through, empty the grisly remains in the trash, and pour up my broth for cooling. Lots of mileage off of a very humble process and the unfussiest of ingredients.

About those Nutbars. Again, easy-peasy. Simple contents, very simply prepared, not difficult to store, and quick-as-a-bunny to grab and nibble.

nutbars, yogurt & honey, carrot chips

. . . and you thought I was referring to my sanity when I said "Nutbar".

Going Nutbar

Ingredients: nuts, seeds, dried fruits, butter, spices, whey protein powder and gelatin, sweetening and salt.

I filled my trusty Tupperware 8-cup measuring pitcher with about 6 cups of mixed almonds (whole, raw), roasted/lightly salted macadamia nuts, dried dates and figs and apricots, and a handful of candied ginger, and filled in the gaps between all of them with about 3 good scoops of vanilla whey protein powder, a handful of raw sesame seeds, and a healthy dose of cinnamon with hints of cardamom, mace and cloves. I pulsed all of that mix in the blender in batches until it was all pretty well reduced to a chunky flour. Then I just mixed in as though for a very dense dough: 3 big tablespoons of gelatin melted in water (you can just leave this out or use agar agar if you’re vegetarian, but I like the chew and the added nutrients available in either of the add-ins), a little sweetener (I used a splash of sugar-free hazelnut syrup that I have around, just for the flavor), about 3 tablespoons of melted butter, and a bit of Maldon sea salt. All almost quicker to do than to record here.

The rest is finishing: line a cake pan (I used my ca. 10×14 Pyrex baking dish) with wax paper or plastic wrap, press the “dough” into it evenly, cover with more of the wrap, and (if you’re a little shaggy on the pat-in like I am) give a quick flattening treatment with a jar or can as your pan-sized rolling pin. Stick the pan in the refrigerator overnight and slice the bars up for storage next day. I cut them in granola bar configuration since that’s what they resemble a little. The bit of butter means they don’t stick together very badly, so I laid the bars on edge right next to each other with wax paper between layers. Some are lying in wait in the freezer, and the rest are being gradually eaten out of the fridge, with or without yogurt, honey, carrots . . . .

Did I mention honey? Guess I’m just a sucker for sweet things. Must be why I love you so.