WARM, SWEET, AND SPICY PUNCH FOR HAPPY HOLIDAY TOASTING

Latin-Twist-cover-300Authors' photo

 

As a food blogger, my aim is to share those tasty bites and sips I think you will find as delightful as I do. I recently had the pleasure of meeting two exceptional authors and food bloggers at a presentation at Melissa’s Produce in Los Angeles (Melissas.com). Vianney Rodriguez and Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack teamed up to create a true thirst-quencher, Latin Twist, a gorgeous book filled with 97 traditional cocktail recipes from 18 Latin countries plus Spain.

At Melissa’s I was sampling five delicious “mocktails,” that is, the cocktails without alcohol. After tasting Ponche Navideno, I was enthralled with the flavors imparted by the exceptional combination of fruits, some familiar and some exotic. Not only did this festive beverage taste great, but it also emitted irresistibly sweet, spicy, and fruity aromas throughout the room. This was a recipe I knew I must share.

Don’t let the 20 servings discourage you from making this wonderfully satisfying punch. If you’re not serving a large group, you’ll have plenty for a cozy gathering of celebrants to enjoy seconds and thirds. You’ll need a large stockpot, about an 8- to 10-quart size.

PONCHE NAVIDENO

Ponche Navideno(Mexican Christmas Fruit Punch)

 Ponche Navideño is a hot punch served with or without alcohol during the holiday season and most generally during Las Posadas. On those chilly nights this fragrant infusion warms you from the inside out. The intoxicating aroma and perfumed air in your home will certainly entice your guests to give the drink a try. After that, they’re hooked. Brandy or tequila can be added, making it Ponche con Piquete (punch with a sting).

Makes 20 servingsCinnamon sticks

16 cups water

2 cinnamon sticks

8 whole cloves

5 long tamarind pods, husk removed, and seededTamarind pods

1/2 pound tejocotes or crab apples, left whole

6 large guavas, peeled and cut into large bite-size chunks

2 red apples (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks

1 pear (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks

2 (4-inch) sugarcane sticks, peeled and cut into small chunks

1 cup pitted prunespiloncillo

1/2 cup dark raisins

1 orange, sliced

8 ounces piloncillo, chopped, or 1 cup dark brown sugar

1 ounce brandy or tequila per cup (optional)

Directions:

Ponche NavidenoPlace the water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, tamarind pods, and tejocotes or crab apples in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. After it starts to boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the tejocotes are soft.

Remove the tejocotes or crab apples from the pot with a slotted spoon, peel, remove hard ends, cut in half, and deseed. Return them to the pot.

Add the guavas, apples, pear, sugarcane, prunes, raisins, orange slices, and piloncillo. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. Discard cinnamon sticks and cloves.

To serve, ladle into coffee cups or mugs, making sure each cup gets some chunks of fruit. If desired, add 1 ounce of brandy or tequila to each cup.

*************************************

The two charming authors generously shared another warm, fruit-filled punch recipe from from Latin Twist that’s typically enjoyed at Christmas. Ponche de Frutas is similar to Ponche Navideno but has a few additional exotic flavors such as coconut, plantain, and a hint of ginger. Both can be sipped and thoroughly enjoyed with or without alcohol.

PONCHE DE FRUTAS

Makes 15 servings

16 cups waterhandful allspice berries

3 cinnamon sticks

4 whole allspice

1-inch piece fresh ginger

5 whole cloves

2 (8-ounce) bags dried fruit mix

1 pineapple, husked, cored, and diced

1/2 medium papaya, diced

4 red apples, diced

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup prunesplantains

1/2 cup raisins

3 plantains, diced

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark rum (optional)

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil with the cinnamon sticks, allspice, ginger, and cloves.

Add dried fruit mix, pineapple, papaya, apples, and coconut. Follow with prunes, raisins, plantains, and sugar. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. When the fruit is cooked and sugar dissolved, remove from the heat and pour in the rum (if using).

Serve hot with some of the diced fruit.

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I SAID CHEEZE! AND PUMPKIN CHEEZE-CAKE APPEARED!!!!

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake 2Recipe Below

First, allow me to whet your appetite with Laura Theodore’s delicious holiday dessert- PUMPKIN SPICE CHEEZE-CAKE. The recipe is one of many luscious dishes found in Laura’s new cookbook, Vegan-ease.Vegan-Ease by Laura Theodore

Let’s Take a Peek Inside the Cookbook

Vegan-ease:

An easy guide to enjoying a plant-based diet

By Laura Theodore

Jazzy Vegetarian, LLC

Hard Cover $26.95

No, it’s not the salad dressing Vegenaise! It’s a cookbook called Vegan-ease filled with well-crafted vegan recipes that won’t keep the home cook in the kitchen for hours. Laura Theodore, the Jazzy Vegetarian, has done it again by creating a colorful and charming cookbook that will wow her many fans and draw a crowd of newcomers to the plant-based kingdom.

Many TV viewers and radio listeners know the Jazzy Vegetarian and take delight in her programs and books.

Laura’s home cooking energies took off when she moved from the scurry-flurry of New York City to a quiet country spot in New Jersey. Without the convenient, close-to-home shops of the big city, she had to be resourceful and began to create her own tasty dishes and convert non-vegetarian standards into plant-based versions. She convincingly says, “If plant-based food looks and tastes scrumptious, everyone will welcome it!”

A quick browse through her colorful new cookbook with its abundance of delightfully SQUASH LAURA ZELenticing, full-color photos is attractive enough to bring curious folks to the table–even better–maybe, even lure them into the kitchen to cook.

The author makes a strong case for going “veggie” because she knows that decision supports the environment, reduces greenhouse emissions, protects animals, and enhances the health of the human species. She stresses the “ease” in finding ingredients, preparing the dishes, and making money go further. For those new to cooking or to the vegan kitchen, she covers basic ingredients and shopping guide, kitchen tools and equipment, and nutritional benefits of a plant-based diet.

The recipe section, the main part of the book, is an adventure for the senses beginning with Fast Appetizers and Fun Beverages that introduces starters that novices can confidently prepare. Appetizers like Raw Veggie Kabobs threaded in combinations of colorful veggies on a skewer or Mini Sweet Peppers sliced in half lengthwise and stuffed with Hummus appeal to experienced cooks, too.

Breakfast dishes like Oat and Blueberry Breakfast Cake and Spinach-Tomato Vegan Omelet are so eye appealing they sell themselves and the enticing Muffins, Quick Breads, and Baked Delights are seductive. The beautiful Giant Cookie-Coffee Cake, studded with chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, is perfect for breakfast or brunch guests with its hearty base of rolled oats, bananas, and whole wheat flour. If not that recipe, then perhaps bake the Walnut-Orange Quick Bread with its rich, dark color and spiced whole-grain ingredients.

The Quick Sweet Potato Soup is definitely quick to fix with its bright chunks of sweet potatoes, celery, and cabbage. The Quick Red Lentil Curry Soup is truly vegan-ease where everything is added to the soup pot at once and simmered until the veggies are tender. Both make delicious and satisfying meals during cold-weather season along with the remaining eight recipes in the Soup section.

Vegan-ease is filled with an abundance of mouth-watering salads, dressings, pastas with flair, creative pizzas, and innovative main dishes that become a feast for the eyes. The beautiful Oven “Fried Rice” Casserole, for example, lets the oven do most of the work.

 The dessert section is divided into two parts–first come the “easiest desserts ever” like mousse, puddings, bars, and cookies followed by Fancy Finishes with fussier sweets like Blueberry Cheeze-Cake Squares and Lemon “Buttermilk” Cake with Maple Glaze.

Stress-free Holiday Recipes include all categories featuring breakfast items, soups, salads, mains, and desserts and bring the book to conclusion with menu-planning tips and a dozen special-occasion menus comprised of recipes in the book.

Vegan-ease succeeds in making vegan cooking uncomplicated. Novice cooks and old timers will find this compendium of recipes an inspiration for making colorful and tasty meals.

 Laura Theodore is truly a master of making home cooking easy on the cook, yet she doesn’t shortchange on featuring wholesome, unprocessed ingredients. Throughout the pages are simple-to-make recipes perfect for everyday meals and slightly fussier dishes for company or holiday feasting with a bright splash of color.

About Laura

Laura Theodore is an award-winning jazz singer and songwriter and actor who became interested in vegetarian cooking over 20 years ago. She is the on-camera host and co-producer of the Jazzy Vegetarian Cooking Show on PBS, a show in its third season where she dishes up gorgeous plant-based recipes. Laura also hosts a weekly podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio on Blogtalkradio, sharing tips, recipes, and celebrity interviews with a touch of upbeat jazzy music to give it verve.

Laura is the author of exceptional cookbooks; Jazzy Vegetarian and Jazzy Vegetarian Classics that contain recipes featured on the Jazzy Vegetarian Television Show. She shares a delicious holiday-ready Pumpkin Cheeze-Cake recipe from her new cookbook Laura Theodore’s Vegahn-ese. The beautiful cookbooks are truly a feast for the eyes with a blast of full-color photos, jazzy tips, and menu plans.

To discover more information about Laura’s television show, radio podcasts, recipes, and cookbooks visit http://www.jazzyvegetarian.com.

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake 2

PUMPKIN SPICE CHEEZE-CAKE

Makes 8 to 10 servings / Ease Factor 3

This delicate yet rich-tasting cake makes the perfect dessert for any winter holiday event. Served with a generous dollop of Vegan Whipped Topping (page 201), this cheeze-cake will be dressed to impress!

CRUST

1¾ cups cookie crumbs (ginger cookies work well)

¼ cup vegan margarine, melted

FILLING

2 tablespoons rolled oats

14 to 16 ounces firm regular tofu

1 can (about 16 ounces) unsweetened pumpkin purée

2⁄3 cup dark brown sugarPumpkin Spice Cheesecake 1

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon allspice

TOPPING

3 tablespoons cookie crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally coat a 10-inch round springform pan with vegan margarine.

To make the crust, put 13⁄4 cups cookie crumbs and the melted margarine in a medium-sized bowl and mix with a fork until well combined. Pat the crumbs firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes.

To make the filling, put the rolled oats in a blender and process into coarse crumbs. Add the tofu, pumpkin purée, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and allspice and process until smooth and creamy.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Cool for 15 minutes, then carefully run a table knife around the perimeter of the cake to ensure it does not stick to the side of the pan.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of cookie crumbs evenly over the top of the cake, gently pressing them into the top, so the crumbs adhere. Release the side of the springform pan to unmold.

Cover the cake very loosely and refrigerate 3 to 24 hours before serving. Serve with Vegan Whipped Topping (page 201) on the side, if desired. Covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator, leftover cheeze-cake will keep for about 2 days.

Nutritional Analysis: Amount per serving, based on 10 servings: 154 Calories; 7g Fat; 1g Saturated fat; 5g Protein; 62mg Sodium; 20g Total Carbohydrate; 15g Sugars; 2g Fiber

Recipe © 2015 Laura Theodore, published by Jazzy Vegetarian, LLC, reprinted by permission.

WHAT’S FOR DESSERT ON THANKSGIVING? BET YOU CAN GUESS!!`

 WILLIAMSBURG PUMPKIN PIE

Wiliamsburg Pumpkin‘Tis the season for pumpkin! There’s no doubt about that. Everywhere I look there are recipes for Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin soup, pumpkin stew, pumpkin scones, pumpkin breads, pumpkin sauces – you get the idea!

And wouldn’t something as highly anticipated as pumpkin pie be missing from the dessert table on Thanksgiving if it weren’t there? There’ll be no dessert disappointment for my family–pumpkin pie will take center stage at dessert time, along with a creamy and compassionate Satin Whipped Cream to spoon on top.

You can’t miss with this recipe that captures the spicy taste and aroma we’ve come to expect. The Pilgrims would have really appreciated this treat, especially with a dollop of Satin Whipped Cream as a finishing touch.

WILLIAMSBURG PUMPKIN PIE

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie: 6 to 8 servings

1 Oatmeal Crumb Crust (recipe below)

Filling

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch, (plus 2 tablespoons arrowroot for butternut squash)

1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk

1 (12.3-ounce) box extra-firm silken tofu, drained

2 cups canned pumpkin or cooked, mashed butternut squash

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons organic sugarPumpkin pie

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch of salt

1 recipe Satin Whipped Cream (recipe below)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare the Oatmeal Crumb Crust.
  2. To make the filling, combine the arrowroot and soymilk in a blender. Process at high speed for 1 minute until smooth and slightly thickened, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Set aside in the blender to thicken further.
  3. Put the tofu, pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt in the food processor. Process until smooth and creamy, leaving no bits of white tofu visible, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl.
  4. Process the arrowroot mixture again and add it to the batter in food processor. Process until well incorporated.
  5. Spoon the filling into the prepared crust. Use the back of the spoon to spread the filling to the edges and smooth the top.
  6. Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes. The center of the pie will still be slightly soft but will firm when chilled. Let cool completely.
  7. Cover the pie with an inverted 9 or 10-inch pie pan or form a tent with aluminum foil, and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours or overnight. Serve with Satin Whipped Cream on the side, if desired.

Oatmeal Crumb Crust

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup walnuts

4 1/2 tablespoons organic canola oil

3 tablespoons organic sugar

3 tablespoon maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Have ready a 9-inch pie pan. Pour the oats into the food processor and pulse 12 to 15 times. Add the walnuts, canola oil, sugar, maple syrup, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse and process until the mixture is a fine, crumbly meal and holds together when pinched.
  2. Spoon the crust mixture into the pie pan and press it firmly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan with your fingers. Press on the edges to firm.

Satin Whipped Cream

1/2 cup cashews

1 cup water

1 small banana

6 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Put the cashews in a food processor. Process until ground into a fine meal. Transfer to a blender. Put the water, banana, sugar, xanthan gum, and vanilla extract in the blender with the cashew meal. Process for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mixture becomes thick, smooth and creamy.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a covered container and chill for 8 to 12 hours to firm. Covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator, Satin Whipped Cream will keep for about 4 days. Before serving, fluff the mixture with a gentle stir.

Vegan Holidays highresYou can find this recipe and a host of other delicious dessert and celebration recipes in my Vegan for the Holidays Cookbook.

SPICE UP THE HOLIDAYS WITH A CREAMY NOG!

 

Nogs on platter closeupSPICED HOLIDAY NOG

Festive holiday gatherings beg for a celebratory nog with a spicy personality that measures up to the spirit of the season. What better way to welcome your guests to a holiday gathering than to hand them a small cup of silky smooth vegan nog as soon as they’ve taken off their coats.

Faces light up and smiles spread widely even before their first taste. You wait anxiously for their first sip, anticipating their positive reactions, and, then, sure enough, the mmmmmms and aaaaahhhhs begin to flow.

Far better than any commercial “eggnog” or should I say “eggnot” one can find in the grocery store, and much purer, too, this fragrant, homemade nog doesn’t have preservatives or artificial colors–just the richness of seasonal spices, a generous measure of cashews, and soymilk.

What makes this nog so aromatic is the abundant medley of spices I’ve included, making the spicy flavors jump to the forefront and bringing refreshing delight to the palate. By assembling just a few familiar ingredients and giving them a simple whirring in the blender, you’ll offer your guests a festive beverage that tastes extravagantly rich, feels satin-smooth and ultra thick and creamy, and offers a joyful moment as friends and family raise their glasses and toast the holiday.

If you’d like to pump up the holiday spirit just a bit, add 1/4 cup of brandy to the blender and give it a whirl. Enjoy the nog with or without the extra spirits. Now it’s time to raise your glass and wish everyone Holiday Cheers!.

Here’s an added bonus: You can make the nog up to two days ahead and refrigerate it. If you need to double or triple the recipe, prepare it in separate batches and store it in a pitcher. Just before serving, give the nog a whirl in the blender to give it a fluffier touch.

Nogs on platter w:candycanesSPICED HOLIDAY NOG

Yield: 6 (6-ounce) servings

2 cups vanilla soymilk, almond milk, or hemp milk

1 cup cashewsSingle nog

1/2 cup apple juice

3/4 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for garnish

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

6 extra-long cinnamon sticks

  1. Put 1 cup of the soymilk and the cashews in the blender. Process on high speed for 1 minute, or until smooth and creamy. If you have a high-speed blender, you can put all the ingredients into the blender at once and process until smooth.
  2. Add the remaining 1 cup of soymilk, the apple juice, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves and process until thick and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar.
  3. To serve, pour the nog into glasses and sprinkle each with a pinch of nutmeg if desired. Add a cinnamon stick to each glass and serve. If preparing in advance, pour the nog into a 1 1/2-quart pitcher and refrigerate.

Note: The nog will thicken slightly and tends to separate when refrigerated. Refresh with a brief whirl in the blender or whisk vigorously just before serving. If needed, thin the nog with 1 or more tablespoons of soy milk or apple juice until you reach the desired consistency.

If any of your guests have an allergy to cashews, simply use almonds instead and blend a little longer.

HELLO, SUGAR PLUM FAIRY. THANK YOU FOR THE SWEET GIFT!

SUGAR PLUM SPICED NUTS

Dish w:white cupAn ideal gift for special friends at holiday time or simply an extra-special treat to serve on a dessert table, these nutty delights can be made well in advance of the holiday rush. They’re good keepers if you store them in airtight containers.

Wrap it for Christmas, tie it in blue and white Hanukkah colors, decorate it in red, green, and black for Kwanzaa–any which way you play with decorating the finished nuts, you’ll have a very special homemade treat for sharing or giving. Holiday cheers!!!!

Walnuts

The success of this recipe depends on two factors:

  •  Measuring all ingredients in advance of assembly
  •  Applying patience and stirring until the liquid is completely absorbed

Closeup on dish

The recipe actually comes together quickly once you have everything ready.

 

SUGAR PLUM SPICED NUTS

 Yield: 31/2 cupsChristmas jar

 1/2 cup powdered sugar or more if needed

Spice Mixture

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cloves

2 teaspoons ground allspice

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepperwhite cup

1/4 teaspoon salt

COATING

1 tablespoon organic canola oil

1/3 cup organic sugar

3/4 cup apple juice

3 cups coarsely chopped raw walnuts

  1. Place the powdered sugar in a medium bowl and set it aside.To make the spice mixture, combine the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl or cup. Stir the mixture well and set aside near the stove.
  2. To make the coating, pour the canola oil into a large nonstick skillet. Place the Hanukkah jarorganic sugar, apple juice, and walnuts in separate cups or bowls and set them aside near the skillet. Now you’re ready to begin.
  3. Heat the canola oil over high heat for about 1 minute. Add the organic sugar and stir another minute until hot and bubbly.
  4. Pour in the apple juice and stir constantly for about 1 minute, until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  5. Quickly stir in the walnuts and continue stirring over high heat until all the liquid evaporates and the mixture becomes sticky and shiny. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  6. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture and toss to coat the walnuts, stirring for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and add the remaining spice mixture, tossing continuously.
  7. Pour the spiced walnuts into the bowl with the powdered sugar and toss to give them a white dusting. Spread the walnuts in a single layer on a large dish or baking sheet to cool completely. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, Sugarplum Spiced Walnuts will keep for up to 1 month.

Note: This recipe is not limited to just walnuts. It works quite well with all nuts.

white cup w:ribbonGift wrapped jar

HOMEMADE WITH LOVE!

WINTER FRUIT BUTTER & SPICED PLUM BUTTERS

Nothing is quite as special as a homemade gift that’s irresistibly delicious, versatile, Plum Butt gifthealthful, and, best of all, made with that extra pinch of love! Here are two easy-as-pie fruit butter recipes that come together quickly and don’t require the fuss and extra time that canning involves. Refrigerated, the fruit butters keep for up to three months without losing their great flavors.

 

Plum Butt Gift 2In winter, dried fruits lend such versatility. Imagine turning a clump of dried fruits into naturally sweet fruit butters you can spoon into little decorated jars and give as thoughtful gifts during the holidays. And how wonderful it is to be the lucky recipient of such a special gift.

Those who celebrate Kwanzaa place Kwanzaa Plum Buttstrong emphasis on giving homemade gifts. Wrapped in Kwanzaa colors–red, green, and black, either of these recipes make an ideal gift during the week of the Kwanzaa celebration from December 26 to January 1. Wrap the jars in blue fabric and ribbon for Hanukkah gifting.

Fruit butters also make delicious spreads on morning toast, pita crisps, or crackers. But Winter Fruit Butterthat’s not all–use the spreads in place of jelly to make the best P B & J you ever ate!

Here’s another easy and quick idea that can perk up a humdrum breakfast:

Put a few dollops of fruit butter on top of your morning oatmeal or hot cereal, sprinkle some nuts on top, and enjoy that little touch of something different for breakfast.

When I make oatmeal for breakfast, I usually make a fruit salad with whatever fruits are in season to put on top. Then I sprinkle raisins and nuts over the fruit. One day I decided to present something a little different and brought a bowl of fruit butter to the table. That small idea became a great idea, and received an instant thumbs up.

W Frut Butt w:toastThis is the recipe that began my fruit butter adventures:

WINTER FRUIT BUTTER

 Yield: about 2 1/2 cups

2 cups dried apple slices

18 pitted dates

12 pitted prunes

1 1/2 cups water, divided

  1. Combine the apples, dates, and prunes and 1 cup of the water in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and steam for 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer fruits to a food processor and add the remaining 1/2 cup water. Process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and use immediately or chill and use later.
  3. When ready for gifting, spoon the fruit butter into two 8- to 10-ounce jars, cover, and tie them with bright holiday ribbons.

Notes:

If you want sweeter fruit butter, add 2 or more dates to the processor.

If you prefer a softer fruit butter, add 1 or more tablespoons of water until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. The fruit butter will thicken as it chills.

************************************

As I experimented with enhancements to the basic fruit butter recipe, I became aware that it really didn’t take more that just a few spices to heighten the flavor.

Spiced Plum ButterThis thick, fruity butter with a subtle hint of exotic spices takes off where apple butter is left behind. With more depth of flavor and more robust volume than apple butter, this treat makes a thoughtful holiday gift prepared with loving hands and given from the heart. Spoon the fruit butter into attractive jars, tie them with bright ribbons, and they’re ready to make someone special very happy.

SPICED PLUM BUTTER

Yield: about 2 1/2 cups

20 pitted prunes (about 7 1/2 ounces)

20 pitted dates (about 6 ounces)

15 dried apricots or Turkish apricots (about 3 1/2 ounces)

1 1/4 cups water

2 sticks cinnamon

2 star anise or 3 whole black peppercorns

2 whole allspice berries

2 whole cloves

  1. Combine the prunes, dates, apricots, water, and cinnamon sticks in a 2-quart saucepan. Wrap the star anise, allspice berries, and cloves in a small piece of cheesecloth, tie it securely with string, and bury it in the bottom of the saucepan.
  2. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and steam for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the spices and cinnamon sticks and transfer the fruits and any remaining liquid to the food processor. Process until smooth and creamy. Spoon the fruit butter into two 8- to 10-ounce jars and set aside to cool at room temperature. Cover the jars, label them, and chill. Refrigerated the plum butter will keep for up to 3 months.
  4. When the plum butter is ready for gifting, create a colorful wrapping with cloth or paper and tie with bright ribbons.

Notes:

If you plan on making a double batch, you don’t need to double the spices. They will hold up well and still deliver great flavor.

If you have a spice bag, use it in place of the cheesecloth. Alternatively, put the spices into a tea ball and place it at the bottom of the saucepan.