Day 359: Turkey Dinner #1, Party Food and Sugarplums

Sugarplums Day 359: Turkey Dinner #1, Party Food and Sugarplums

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.

Sugarplums

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.

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December 24 2008 11:39 pm | snacks

14 Responses to “Day 359: Turkey Dinner #1, Party Food and Sugarplums”

  1. Bonnie on 25 Dec 2008 at 5:37 am #

    A very Merry Christmas to you and your family, Julie. This website is my favourite thing for 2008 – thank you so much for sharing your unbelievably hectic life with us and some totally awesome recipes. The Sugar Plums recipe is bringing back childhood memories today. I’m doing a mental calculation to see if I have time today to make up a little batch for old times sake. If not today, tomorrow eh. :-)

  2. Pat on 25 Dec 2008 at 5:44 am #

    Merry Christmas to your family. I sure have enjoyed spending this year in your kitchen!

  3. Luann on 25 Dec 2008 at 6:20 am #

    A very Merry Christmas to you! Hope you have a wonderful relaxing day filled with delectable treats and happy kids.

  4. Kathy H on 25 Dec 2008 at 6:22 am #

    Merry, merry Christmas, Julie (my dear friend I haven’t met yet!) to you and all your family and blessings for a wonderful New Year!

  5. Erica B. on 25 Dec 2008 at 8:33 am #

    Merry Christmas & all the best to you and your family for the coming year! :D

  6. Cheryl on 25 Dec 2008 at 8:53 am #

    A very Merry Christmas Julie to you and your family! I frequently refer to your blog for ideas and inspiration, and I have deep admiration and respect for your relentless commitment, enthusiasm, humour and joie de vivre. You are a force girl! I hope you don’t collapse into a heap once the new year turns…your cyberspace friends will be bereft!! All the very best of the season, you deserve it!

  7. Christina on 25 Dec 2008 at 11:19 am #

    Merry Christmas!!! Hope you’re having a wonderful day with your family!

  8. Jen C on 25 Dec 2008 at 11:59 am #

    Merry Christmas!!!! I agree with Bonnie, and for me, one of the best things of 2008! I hope amongst all the hustle and bustle of this season, you manage to take some time to enjoy the quietness of it with W and M and enjoy it as a family.

  9. Sue (London) on 25 Dec 2008 at 3:39 pm #

    A very Merry Christmas Julie to you and yours. I am so often thankful for that day a few years ago that I felt compelled to email a young Canadian women who I first saw on Vicki Gabereau to say how much I loved her new book, One Smart Cookie. It has been such a pleasure to know you through your books and your blog. It feels like we know each other far better than we actually do. Thank you for inviting us into your hectic, full, busy, fun life every day this year. I will look forward to following you still in whatever capacity you chose after day 365!!

  10. Nancy Gibson on 25 Dec 2008 at 7:41 pm #

    Mystery solved! I have always wondered what a sugar plum was! Happy holidays to you and your family!

  11. jennifer on 25 Dec 2008 at 8:17 pm #

    oh heck happy christmas to you julie! hope you are having lots of relaxation with the family :)
    i too always wondered what “sugarplums” were…always thought they were plums with sugar on them!! haahaa
    have a happy new year, all the best to you and yours!
    funny about your W and the idea of a “stranger” coming into your house, my neighbours daughter (age 4) was up a few times through the night with the same “issue”!!
    cheers! :)

  12. Anonymous on 25 Dec 2008 at 8:44 pm #

    Merry Christmas Julie!! Thanks for( almost) a year of wonderful cooking!! I hope to see lots of postings in the New Year as well!!!

  13. Carolann on 25 Dec 2008 at 9:25 pm #

    Okay so Susan made your Mincemeat Cinnamon Buns for breakfast today (Christmas) and of course had to deliver a few to me tonight for dinner. They are humunguous and humunguously delicious. Thanks for a year of great recipes, insights into your private life and goings on. My only question “where do you get the energy”. Hopefully when I check blog on January 1st I’ll see you here – yes, I’m looking forward to another year or two.

  14. piccola on 29 Dec 2008 at 4:08 pm #

    Are we the only ones who change the holiday menus every year? Maybe one or two sides make a regular appearance – usually my mother’s tourtière – but even then, they’re never prepared exactly the same way.

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