Wham, Bam, Thank You, Jam!

No matter where you are, you are probably seeing hints of a changing season all around you.  The leaves are changing and transforming the landscape with their fiery reds, oranges, and yellows.  Geese and other birds are migrating.  The early mornings and the late evenings are getting a little chillier.  And, most of all, you notice that you are craving soups, breads, and other hearty autumn comfort foods that keep you cozy.  You’re probably also thinking of all the possibilities of what you can do with your apple, plum, and pumpkin crop.  I and many our friends are in the middle of candemonium, you know, canning everything from tomato sauce to apple butter at the expense of socializing to make the best of the harvest.  (My friend cancelled tentative plans with me because she was canning….I was in the middle of canning myself!  I have pretty awesome foodie friends.)  Well, now you have all this canned apple butter, and jam, and other preserves.  What do you do with plum jam or apple butter aside from eating in on bread?  Fill pastries with it!  I am not a huge eater of bread (well I LOVE bread, but I don’t usually buy it or bake it because it would be gone way too quickly…), so I choose to use some of my preserves in the form of a bar cookie that is full of flavor from a variety of fruits and nuts.  The cookie has a vanilla shortbread base, a layer of jam, and a dried fruit, pistachio, and orange zest-laced crumb topping.  YUM.  In the photos for this recipe, I used loquat jam that my boyfriend and I made last spring.  We had about 30 lbs of this fruit that is ubiquitous in Austin, TX.  It tastes like mixture between apricot and starfruit when fresh, and like a tart apple when cooked.

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These are loquats!

Because loquat jam is not likely to be on the shelf of your favorite grocer, you’ll probably try a different jam for your filling.  I love raspberry jam best for this recipe, but really, this is a great recipe with which to experiment.  I’ve made this once without the orange zest, replaced the pistachios with hazelnuts, added chocolate chips, replaced the apricots with cherries and had a layer of cherry jam.  Go crazy with the variations!  And now, for the recipe.

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Wham, Bam, Thank You, Jam Bar Cookies:

Shortbread:

2 1/2 cups unbleached pastry flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup soymilk

3 Tbsp flaxseed meal

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup Earth Balance soy butter

1/4 cup agave nectar

Filling:

1 pt of raspberry jam, or jam of your choice

Crumb Topping:

1/2 cup flour

1 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup Earth Balance soy butter

1/4 cup agave nectar

Fresh zest of 3 oranges

20 dried apricots (I have also used 10 or 12 chopped dried figs for this recipe, but prefer apricots)

2/3 cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped

1/2 cup unsweetened, dried shredded coconut

Preparation:

1)  Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

2)  Grease a 9 x 13 pan with Earth Balance.

3)  To make the shortbread, begin by combining flour and salt in a large bowl.

4)  In a small bowl, combine flaxseed meal & soymilk and let sit for a few minutes.

5)  Add softened Earth Balance, agave nectar, and vanilla to the flaxseed meal and soymilk mixture and whisk until well combined.

6)  Slowly add wet ingredients to the dry, stirring constantly until just combined.  Do not overmix.

7)  Flatten the shortbread dough into the greased pan, covering the entire bottom of the pan evenly.

8)  Cover the shortbread with the jam in an evenly distributed layer.  Set aside.

9)  To make the crumb topping, begin by mixing oats & flour in a medium bowl.

10)  Add softened Earth Balance, agave nectar, & soymilk to mixture and stir until combined.

11)  Add orange zest, chopped dried apricots, coconut, and chopped pistachios to mixture and stir until well combined.

12)  Crumble mixture over jam layer.

13)  Bake in 350 deg F preheated oven for 30 minutes.

 

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Back on Track…Now with More Beans!

Hello friends!  I’m sure you have been just waiting for an email notification for a new post from twigfood every since I left you hanging months and months ago, right?  Of course you were.  I’m sorry, beautiful people, I encountered some very busy times in my life.  I was too busy working more than full time, applying to grad school AND Bike & Build, training for Bike & Build, and oh, BIKING ACROSS THE COUNTRY with Bike & Build,

My Bike & Build team stopped over in Breckenridge, CO where we made a salad in the biggest bowl I’ve seen in my life.

to justify taking pictures of food and then writing extensively about it.  My apologies, my dears.  But now, I am in a place where I am working less than full time and am taking only six credits in my first semester of graduate school.  I am attending the University of Montana for a M.S. in Environmental Studies with an emphasis on Sustainable Food & Farming.  There is nothing better than writing about, thinking about, talking about, and of course eating, food all the time!  I think I made the right choice.

During my journey via bicycle across the U.S., I pedaled through the wilted waves of grain, as I saw firsthand how the drought was affecting the already water-intensive industrialized agriculture that is so dominant across the agricultural centers across the United States.  It made me rethink my consumption of beloved soy, that comprises the milk substitute I drink, the tofu I eat, the Tofurky ‘dogs I occasionally chow down on, and so many other things that you and I both eat.  The soy (&corn&wheat&alfalfa) fields spanned for hundreds of acres in the form of a biodiversity desert swath of monoculture.  Whereas farming soy and any other plant is significantly less energy and water intensive than farming animals, and does not produce methane, it is still not great to grow plants in this way.  Seeing this, and coupling it with the reading I have been doing lately for class, I will try to eat a little less soy.  But it’s so delicious!  And now for a bean recipe…

This recipe is something I have been making for a crowd-pleasing, hearty meal that is protein-packed and has a fiery kick, to boot, for my time as disaster relief cook to famished vegan rider on Bike & Build.  The response is the same:  Can I please have the recipe?!  I eat this during all times of the year, but it feels appropriate now, as we’re all feeling, well, except maybe you folks in Texas, hints of the coming autumn.  Pair this with some warm tortillas, some salsa and avocados, and voila!  You have a dinner that will warm your bones and do a body good.  Bon appetit!

Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos:

-1 medium sweet potato, diced into 1/2 cubes

-1/4-1/2 large onion, chopped or sliced

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 1/4 c. molasses

– 1 7.5 oz can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

– 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

– 6 cups cooked black beans

– 2 tbsp chili powder

– 1 1/2 tsp alderwood smoked salt, or any smoked salt*

– Olive oil

1)  In a medium pan, heat the olive oil over low heat.  Add the sweet potatoes and cook until lightly browned and cooked through.

2)  Add the onions and cook until transparent.

3)  Add the garlic and cook until transparent, being careful not to burn it.

4)  Add the remaining ingredients and heat until boiling.  Let simmer for 5 or 10 minutes until flavors have melded and mixture is heated through.

-Enjoy!

* I usually use Liquid Smoke ™, but only had this delicious smoked salt on hand.  If you have Liquid Smoke, I think a teaspoon will do at most.  A little bit goes a long way, so feel free to experiment.