I’ve been eating more or less nonstop since around 3, when we kicked off the Christmas party on the Homestretch, followed by turkey dinner at my Mom-in-law’s, a party at a friend’s house, and finally wrapping gifts and stuffing stockings in close proximity to a bag of cheesies and tub of Nutella. But technically dinner would have been the turkey, cooked by Mike while I was working (a small 10 pounder stuffed with our usual simple stuffing of onion and celery sauteed in butter and oil, a small loaf from Urban Baker, torn into chunks, and plenty of sage) and transported over to his Mom’s; she added peas, (very) roasted potatoes, the same mashed carrots and turnips they have had for at least 20 years, and almost-grey Brussels sprouts, and half a Safeway chocolate cake. The menu (and even a good deal of the conversation and other goings-on) could have been plucked right out of the early 90s. Which in many ways is what makes Christmas so comforting, isn’t it? We regress to that childhood need for consistency and repetition, just because it’s so familiar.
W is nestled all snug in his bed, but I’m quite certain sugarplums are not among the visions dancing in his head. (More likely: snowmen, cutting Lou’s tail with nail scissors, The Monster at the End of This Book, being forced to eat peas against his will, the notion of a big old man in a fur-trimmed red suit sneaking into his house while we’re all asleep.) But I intend to bring back the sugarplum, not only during the holidays as a healthier (and gluten, egg and dairy-free; vegan, even) alternative to the chocolates and caramels and cookies I end up cranking out, but throughout the year as what I imagine would make a spanking addition to any cheese plate.
Sugarplums are made of finely chopped dried fruit and nuts; the types you choose really depend on what you have in the cupboard or what you’re in the mood for. I like using soft dried figs, on their own or with apricots; toasted almonds and hazelnuts, and the dark cocoa and honey (or Lyle’s Golden Syrup – something, come to think of it, I wish I had asked Santa for – the only thing in the world better than jam on buttered biscuits or crumpets or toast) make them sweet and chewy like candy, only better. Try flavouring them with cinnamon, orange zest or flavoured extracts; or try whizzing in a spoonful of mincemeat. If you put them in little paper cups and tell your three year old they are candies, they will totally believe you.
5-6 dried figs (stems trimmed)
7-8 dried apricots
1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted, or 1/2 cup toasted whole hazelnuts
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
3 Tbsp. honey or golden syrup (or less, if your fruit is nice and soft and sticky already)
a bit of grated orange zest (optional)
1/4 tsp. almond or vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
sugar, for rolling
Trim tough stems from figs and cut them in half. In a food processor, pulse the figs, apricots, almonds and cocoa until finely chopped. Add the honey, orange zest, vanilla and cinnamon and pulse until well combined. Add some extra cocoa or nuts if the mixture is too wet; some extra honey if it won’t stick together.
Place some sugar in a shallow dish. Roll the sugar plum mixture into bite-sized balls, then roll them in sugar to coat. If you like, place them in paper or aluminum candy cups, like truffles. (Sugar plums can be made up to a week ahead; store in an airtight container at room temperature, or in the fridge.)
Merry Christmas everyone. I sure am glad to have you in my life.
December 24 2008 11:39 pm | snacks