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Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Today is what is known among nerdy/supercool circles as Pi Day (March 14th, or 3.14). Now, normally I’d be making a pie, because, well, pie. Through a twist of dessert-related fate, however, I find myself with a surfeit of same, and the thought of adding to the current cache of cookies (chocolate brookies and oatmeal toffee), cinnamon-sugar twist bread and ice cream makes my pancreas shudder in fear.

Instead, today we have two examples of that equally delightful treat, free fiction.

First we have Event Horizon 2017. This is an anthology of authors eligible for the John W.Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and it will be available until July 15, 2017 to anyone willing to part with an email address.

The second batch of goodness comes in the form of the 2016 Nebula Awards Ballot. Not every item is free (books and longer stories, for example, tend not to be), but the list is a great place to start expanding your to-read roster. It also includes links to the short fiction nominees, many of which are free.

Check it out, and enjoy!

 

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Today I’m applauding my mother, who wants to build a pollinator garden. What a fantastic idea, and one supported by the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, Honey Nut Cheerios (for obvious reasons), and many others.

She’s interested in planting a series of native plant species that will flower from early to late growing season and support bees and other pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds. And it doesn’t have to be a large-scale project to make a difference.

I’ve talked about bees here before but the point deserves emphasis: we need them. Which is why this week I’m lauding the pest control company Ortho for removing neonics, the neonicotinoid-based pesticides linked to wide-scale bee deaths, from their outdoor products. Here’s hoping other companies follow suit soon with this and other bee-friendly strategies, before this Whole Foods nightmare becomes a terrible coffee, chocolate and fruit-free nightmare. Coffee, people!

Dandelions are pretty (and if you don’t agree there are more targeted ways to get rid of them), weeding is good exercise, and seventy-five percent of US fruits, nuts and vegetables are pollinated by bees. And killing off millions of enthusiastic workers doing their jobs for free seems awfully self-defeating.

Why care about pollinators? Personally, I like bees, and I like food. I like to imagine a future filled with more possibilities, not less.

I also care because we’re more dependent on nature than we like to think. Because a future of limited food and little variety is a recipe for human and natural disaster (also? bland!). And because I don’t want to spend my declining years describing the rich red taste of ripe strawberries to children who have no idea what I’m talking about.

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🐛 #NationalGardenMonth #milkweed #monarchs

A post shared by Pollinator Partnership (@pollinatorpartnership) on

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I have recently discovered that stalwart of public television, The Great British Baking Show (known on the other side of the Pond as The Great British Bake Off). I don’t usually do reality programming but I was drawn in by the general aura of positivity, the educational content (so that’s how you cool angel food cake!), and of course, the food.

So I’m in a baking mood. This week I pulled out a classic recipe for Banana Bread.

For some reason teenaged me loved making banana bread. Maybe because it was easy and good, or because there always seemed to be over-ripe bananas in the house. I serve warm slices with Maple Cinnamon Butter (looking fine in a reusable Riviera Petit Pot with pretty new lid! I’d include a picture of the bread but, well, I ate it:).

Banana Bread

3 very ripe bananas, mashed, or 2 bananas and one apple, peeled and chopped fine or grated
2 eggs, well beaten
1/4 cup plain yogurt or 1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup (150 grams) brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 cups (250 grams) flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter a standard loaf pan, or four mini loaf pans.
3. Mix the fruit and eggs together in a large bowl. Add yogurt or butter, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda together, then stir into the banana mixture. Add the walnuts (optional) and stir until combined.
4. Pour batter into pan. If you’re feeling decadent (and I usually am) top the batter with more cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar, plus extra nuts or oatmeal if you like it crunchy. Bake for 55-60 minutes (35 minutes if you opt for the mini loaves) or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the pan to a rack to cool.

MapleCinnamonButter

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In my tradition of sharing recipes I like (and not incidentally storing copies in one easy-to-access place), here is a flour-less peanut butter cookie recipe. This version of the classic recipe has chocolate as well as peanut butter and is very easy to make. I like it. I hope you do too.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

2 cups [500g] peanut butter
2 cups [400g] brown sugar
4 Tablespoons [30g] cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
2 eggs

1. Heat oven to 350F.

2. Mix peanut butter, sugar and cocoa powder until smooth.

3. Add baking soda, salt and vanilla.

4. Add eggs one at a time. The mixture will be stiff.*

5. Roll into 1-inch balls, lay out on ungreased cookie sheet, flatten with a fork.

6. Bake for 8-10 minutes. They will be soft; let cool five minutes before transferring to racks.

* If your mixer isn’t up to this I recommend a potato masher.

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I was pleased to see Mary Robinette Kowal’s recent recipe for dairy-free faux parmesan and thought I’d chime in. As a recently-discovered lactose intolerant, I’ve spent more time than I’d like looking for lactose-free recipes. Sure, you can take pills but isn’t it nicer not to? Instead of timing your medication precisely and watching the clock to make sure you haven’t over-eaten your lactase welcome, or realizing too late that you’ve forgotten your pills, avoid the problem in the first place.

Lactose-free options also make life easier for hosts. I still wince at a dinner party we gave in my pre-intolerance days, where a guest who accepted the invitation with a breezy “Oh, no, I can eat anything,” looked at her cream soup and asked if I had anything without lactose. Whoops.

This modified version of Mark Bittman’s Mexican chocolate pudding recipe is rich and creamy, flour-less and lactose free. This isn’t one of those “good for an I-have-to-eat-this-way” recipes, it’s just good.

If you’re avoiding soy this isn’t the dessert for you, but otherwise I recommend it without reservation. It is fast, easy and delicious.

(Not All That is Creamy is Milk) Chocolate Pudding
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 pound silken tofu*
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted**
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. Heat sugar with 3/4 cup water over medium heat. Cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool slightly while the chocolate melts.

2. Put all ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides to combine everything completely. Chill for at least 30 minutes, although longer gives a denser final pudding.

Garnish with raspberries and fresh mint or eat directly from the container with a spoon, your choice. Serves 4 to 6. Or one very hungry writer.

Recipe notes:
* My grocery stores carry tofu in Tetra Pak boxes or water packed, but the important point is to find the silken variety. If you can only find 12oz boxes, I recommend getting two and increasing the recipe 1.5 times.
** Double boil if you like but I have good luck melting chocolate in my microwave at 20-30% power. I do this much chocolate ~three minutes at a time, stirring in between zaps. The chocolate taste is dominant so better is… better. While Valrhona is sure to be delicious I’ve had very good luck with a short ingredient list generic chocolate from my local grocery, so don’t feel constrained by the tyranny of premium labels. Look for one without added milk ingredients and off you go.

A final comment on lactose: I was surprised to find that a lot of the foods I thought were off-limits actually contain very little lactose. Imagine my joy to find that brie and many other aged or fermented cheeses are essentially lactose free, not to mention butter and long-fermented yogurt. Find your own comfort level, of course, but that was a game changer for me. A quick crib for cheese is to check the nutritional information chart on the label. Grocery chain Wegman’s put out a post on this, and also lists other cheeses with low lactose levels:

An easy way to check for lactose in cheese is to look at the Nutrition Facts under “Sugar” Since the sugar in cheese is lactose, you can easily see how much lactose the cheese contains. If the sugar is listed as zero, then the cheese contains no more than half a gram of lactose per ounce. Compare to 12 grams of lactose in an 8 ounce glass of milk.

Enjoy!

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