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Butterscotch Figgy Bites

Some of my favorite recipes have been developed on the fly.  Combine a little of this with a little of that and often the result is something quite delicious.  That’s what happened when I made these Butterscotch Figgy Bites.  I usually don’t keep desserts in the house unless we’re having company, but Jon was in the mood for something sweet.  So I stared at the pantry shelves for a minute until some promising ingredients revealed themselves to me: figs, butterscotch chips, and bran cereal flakes.  I never combined figs with butterscotch before but somehow I thought their flavors would be wonderful match.  And they really are.

Into the food processor went about 1 1/2 cups of figs (just cut off the hard tips).  The first time I made these I used kalmyra, this time I used mission.  The figs should be dried (as opposed to fresh) but moist, not all dried out. To the figs I added about 1/2 to 3/4 cup vegan butterscotch chips (the Food Lion store brand is vegan, although there may be other vegan brands available).  To hold it all together I added about 3/4 to 1 cup of ready-to-eat bran cereal flakes.  I processed the ingredients until everything was well chopped and would hold together when pressed.

When I made these the first time, I pressed the mixture into an 8-inch baking pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  For this batch, I pressed them into a mini muffin tin (also sprayed with cooking spray).  They could actually be eaten as is but I think the flavor is better if you bake them for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  The baking lets the butterscotch chips melt a bit and allows the flavors to combine.

For only containing three ingredients, these little bites are extremely rich-tasting with a great depth of flavor. If you can’t find butterscotch chips, they might be good made with chocolate chips, but I haven’t tested out that theory yet.  If you try them (with either butterscotch or chocolate chips), let me know what you think. 

 P.S. Yes, that’s a glimpse of this year’s lilacs in the photo.  They bloomed a full month earlier than usual and are now almost gone, when normally they’d just be starting to bloom!

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Craving Couscous Cake

I discovered a great post and photo of my Pumpkin Couscous Cake from Vegan Planet on To Live and Eat in LA — a blog that I very much enjoy reading. All the talk about couscous cakes reminded me of how much I like making (and eating) them!
I started making couscous cakes many years ago when I was cooking without flour or sugar. This cake couldn’t be easier to make – it’s basically just couscous and fruit juice. Really. I discovered that, by simply cooking couscous in fruit juice instead of water, it took on a mildly sweet flavor that was both delicious and satisfying. Over the years, I’ve made this cake using apple juice, white grape juice, and pineapple juice. You can also add bits of fruit, nuts, and even melted chocolate to the couscous mixture. When you press the couscous evenly into a springform pan and chill it in the fridge, it comes out looking almost like a cheesecake, although it tastes more like bread pudding. You can garnish the cake with fresh sliced fruit or a pureed fruit topping (or nuts or chocolate, depending on the flavor combination). You can find a recipe for Pineapple Apricot Couscous Cake from Quick Fix-Vegetarian, in my January 16 post.

The first photo shows another variation using mangos (recipe below) — at the last minute I sprinkled some brown sugar on top and ran it under the broiler to caramelize a bit. It was so good! Next time I may use coconut milk and a little palm sugar instead of the mango juice and millet instead of couscous. It’s fun to experiment.


The second photo shows a slice of Couscous Breakfast Cake with Pear and Dried Plum Compote from Vegan Planet. The recipe for this one follows the mango version. A slice of this cake is great for breakfast or brunch. If you like dense bread puddings that aren’t too sweet, you’ll love couscous cakes.


Mango Couscous Cake
This is the easiest version of couscous cake there is, with a minimum of ingredients and a minimum of fuss. To dress it up, you could spread a thin layer of mango puree under the sliced mango and add some finely minced candied lime peel or crystallized ginger to the couscous mixture. It’s also great topped with a sweet cashew-coconut cream sauce or vegan whipped cream.

2 cups mango juice
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 fresh ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and chopped

Bring the mango juice to a boil in a saucepan. Add the couscous, sugar, and ginger and simmer for 1 minute. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 5 minutes or until the juice is absorbed.
Press the mixture evenly into a lightly oiled 8-inch springform pan (or individual springform pans). Cover loosely and refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up before serving.
Serves 6

Couscous Breakfast Cake with Pear and Dried Plum Compote
Couscous cake is great for breakfast or brunch because it can be made the day before. Made with fruit juice, the cake is dense and moist without being too sweet – a great way to start the day. For a sweeter cake, add a little maple syrup or natural sugar. This recipe is adapted from Vegan Planet.

2 1/2 cups apple juice or pear juice
Pinch salt
2 cups couscous
Pear and Dried Plum Compote (recipe follows)

1. Place the juice and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the couscous. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes.
2. Lightly oil an 8-inch spring form pan and spoon the couscous into it, spreading it evenly. Use the back of a spoon or a spatula to press the couscous firmly into the pan. Cover the cake and refrigerate it several hours or overnight to make it easier to slice. To serve, cut into wedges and spoon some of the compote on top.
Serves 6

Pear and Dried Plum Compote
1 ripe pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
4 ounces dried pitted plums (prunes)
2 ounces mixed dried fruit
1/4 cup sugar or maple syrup
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups water
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the pear slices, dried plums, dried mixed fruit, sugar, lemon juice and zest, orange juice and zest, cinnamon stick, allspice, and nutmeg. Stir in the water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the pear slices are soft and the dried fruit plumps up, about 15 minutes.
2. Set aside to cool then transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for several hours or until ready to use. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving. When ready to serve, return to room temperature for best flavor.
Serves 6