christmas bonus: bourbon pecan fruitcake bites

Like many folks, I have never been a fan of the traditional fruitcake.  Ridiculed for its brick-like appearance and studded with unnatural glossy green and red “fruits,” it never really tasted any better than it looked.

mini fruitcakes | sagebrousseau.com

Why does fruitcake have such a bum rap? Generally speaking, fruitcake is just a mixture of brandied fruits and nuts with a spiced batter to hold them together… sounds delicious, where did this holiday treat go awry? Since I enjoy reveling in Christmastime traditions, and fruitcake being among the most time-honored, I am determined to make a more palatable recipe!

Despite the fact that this is a dessert composed mainly of nuts and fruits, it is not technically a health-food. However, I did shop my favorite local natural-foods store for the necessary ingredients: dried fruits and nuts. I had all the other tasty ingredients already in my kitchen: butter, eggs, sugar… and bourbon, of course.

Bourbon Pecan Fruit Cake Bites bourbon pecan fruit cake bites | sagebrousseau.com

Yield 24

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups diced mixed dried fruits (I used dates, cranberries, and crystallized ginger– you could also try apples, apricots or golden raisins)
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • ¾ cup bourbon
  • ¼ cup butter, room temperature
  • 6 Tbls. brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ to 1 cup flour
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon

Soak nuts and an dried fruits (omit crystallized ginger, if using) in bourbon for 8 hours. Preheat oven to 325º Cream butter and sugar with an electric beater until light and fluffy, add egg and beat. In another bowl, whisk flour, salt and cinnamon. Reduce speed on mixer and add flour mixture. Batter should be thick. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fruits (including ginger) and nuts to the batter, fold into batter with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. If batter appears dry you may add some of the left over bourbon a teaspoon at a time.

Line mini-muffin pan with paper liners, use a measured scoop to fill each with a rounded teaspoon of batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly and the cakes are a light golden brown.

bourbon fruitcake bites | sagebrousseau.com

Because of the alcohol content, fruitcake may be stored (covered in the refrigerator) for up to one month, but these are so tasty, I don’t think that will be a problem! Happy Holidays.

not your grandmother’s rice pudding

You either love rice pudding or you hate it. I L-O-V-E it, and my grandmother’s recipe was actually pretty darn good.

coconut rice pudding | sagebrousseau.com

It’s so simple to make, and really may be my most favorite food. I loved when my Gram would make it for me when I was a little girl, it was her favorite too and we’d eat it together with spoons from the pot (“let’s not bother with bowls”), gobbling it down, right off the stove top.

Now, I savor every grain of warm, chewy rice before its warmth fills my belly, thinking about my Gram and imagining her here with me. It’s the perfect treat on a cool Autumn afternoon.

gram's rice pudding | sagebrousseau.comHere’s my spin on the classic recipe, scented of vanilla with a hint of cinnamon and coconut milk for a rich, creamy finish.

Coconut Rice Pudding

  • 1 14oz. can of coconut milk
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  1. Combine coconut milk, milk, rice and cinnamon in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer. Simmer, stirring frequently for for approximately 30 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and no longer liquidy.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar, salt and vanilla.
  3. Eat all of it immediately. Serve warm or chilled.

coconut rice pudding | sagebrousseau.com

cranberries: New England’s superfood

It’s no wonder why cranberries are a staple of holiday cooking and eating, since they are freshest and in season September through December.

cranberries | sagebrousseau.com

There is no food more quintessentially New England than the cranberry, documentation from Ocean Spray even suggests that the first commercial cranberry harvest took place in Dennis, Massachusetts in 1816. Not only are cranberries one of only three berries native to the U.S. (blueberries and Concord grapes are the other two), it is also considered a superfood full of antioxidants and rich in vitamin C and fiber.

Eating foods with antioxidants in them are believed to protect the body from “free radicals”, which are cells that have been damaged. Composed of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, the antioxidants help repair the damage to cells that free radicals have gotten a hold of and helps keep your immune system strong. Cranberries are higher in antioxidants than almost all other fruits and vegetables out there (outranking cherries, red grapes, and broccoli)!

cranberries | sagebrousseau.com

cranberry bread | sagebrousseau.com

I prefer eating my antioxidants in the form of baked goods, don’t you? Try this tasty cranberry bread recipe from the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association:

  • 1/2 C. Butter
  • 1 Tbs. Grated Orange Peel
  • 3 Large Eggs, Beaten
  • 2 1/2 C. Flour
  • 1 Tsp. Baking Soda
  • 2 C. Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, Chopped
  • 1 C. Sugar
  • 1Tsp. Vanilla
  • 3/4 C. Buttermilk
  • 1/4 Tsp. Salt
  • 3/4 C. Pecans, Chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray bottom only of 9″ X 5″ loaf pan with cooking spray. Beat butter, sugar, orange peel and vanilla in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Combine flour, baking soda and salt, add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating at low speed just until blended. Fold cranberries and nuts into batter. Turn into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool slightly in pan. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

 

apple cider donuts

Despite what the thermometer reads today, it is Fall in New England and that means it’s apple cider season!

Apple Cider Donuts

The onset of Autumn weather instantly fills me with a sense of nostalgia, I suddenly crave sweaters, bonfires, and apple cider. Of course apple cider is especially delightful served hot, but in my opinion the best way to consume cider is in donut form! Temptation got the best of me recently and I bought a donut pan… I know, now I have no excuse but to make and eat donuts all the time. Well, maybe not. But it is a lot of fun making your favorite treats at home.

ingredients

I can’t say these donuts are quite as satisfying as the true, fried variety, but they are tasty and you can bake these up at home and feel slightly less guilty when you polish off one (or more) with your morning coffee, or a glass of milk.

Ingredients:

yield: one dozen (this recipe can easily be cut in half)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp soft unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • for topping (optional):
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon (or to taste)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325. Spray two donut pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In another smaller bowl, blend the eggs, buttermilk, apple cider and butter. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just blended. Batter will be thick.

Spread batter into prepared donut pan. You want to fill each donut mold about 3/4th of the way full. Place donuts in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until fluffy and slightly golden. Invert donuts onto a cooling rack, and let cool while you prepare the cinnamon sugar topping.

Place melted butter in a small dish and cinnamon sugar on a larger dish. Brush each donut with the melted butter then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Delish!

bite of donut

just like honey from the bee

Busy like a bee this week working on some product shots for a local gourmet grocery, I can’t wait to share with you all the results… but here’s a taste:

honey from the bee

This was my favorite shot of the day. The serendipity of the hexagonal dish and the honey just did me in! And this was some damn tasty honey. Like nothing I’ve every had before, sweet, but slightly spicy. So good.

Tupelo Honey – Van Morrison

You can take all the tea in China
Put it in a big brown bag for me
Sail right around the seven oceans
Drop it straight into the deep blue sea
She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
She’s an angel of the first degree
She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee

You can’t stop us on the road to freedom
You can’t keep us ’cause our eyes can see
Men with insight, men in granite
Knights in armor bent on chivalry
She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
She’s an angel of the first degree
She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee

You can’t stop us on the road to freedom
You can’t stop us ’cause our eyes can see
Men with insight, men in granite
Knights in armor intent on chivalry
She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
She’s an angel of the first degree
She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee

You know she’s alright
You know she’s alright with me
She’s alright, she’s alright (she’s an angel)

You can take all the tea in China
Put it in a big brown bag for me
Sail it right around the seven oceans
Drop it smack dab in the middle of the deep blue sea
Because she’s as sweet as tupelo honey
She’s an angel of the first degree
She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee

She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
She’s an angel of the first degree
She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like the honey, baby, from the bee
She’s my baby, you know she’s alright…..

I scream for ice cream

Temperatures actually got above the teens today and it felt down right tropical!

icecreamMaybe, just maybe, spring is actually on its way… which means summer is just around the corner… which means ice cream! Ice cream is the best. I love ice cream. Making it, eating it, looking at it, it’s all good. Coffee is my absolute favorite, followed by black raspberry. How about you, what’s your favorite flavor?

It’s chess pie…

Are you familiar with Chess Pie? I had only heard about it for the first time a few weeks ago, and was very curious.

chess pieIt is a pie or tart with a filling made of eggs, butter, and sugar, according to Merriam-Webster. This one is technically a lemon chess pie because it includes lemon juice and zest. It tastes like a very sweet version of lemon squares– I recommend serving it with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

To say that this recipe is basic, made with simple everyday ingredients that most people have available in the pantry, is an understatement. Chess Pie also seems to be a Southern tradition, which goes along with chef John Besh’s explanation of the origin of its name– “it’s just pie” (say that with a slow, southern accent, it’ll make sense).

bird's-eye-view

Chess pie comes in variations with white sugar or brown sugar, with cornmeal or flour, lemon or orange juice, it’s clearly a recipe that adjusts easily to whatever’s on-hand. This time I used a pre-made pie crust and John Besh’s recipe, next time I may be a bit more daring and try different flavors or Chess Pie’s northern cousin the New England Maple Sugar Pie.

Chess Pie from John Besh’s My Family Table

Ingredients:
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk or whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cornmeal
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 unbaked pie shell

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Combine the eggs, sugar, milk, butter, cornmeal, and lemon zest and juice in a large bowl. Mix until the sugar is dissolved, but do not beat. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell.

2. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 300˚ and bake until the filling is set, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 6