Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Yet Another Fruit Cake

I missed last Tuesday as I was up to my armpits in work and not feeling very much like writing or cooking. I do however cook almost every day in the interest of eating well and not busting the budget. It is ironic that when I am working the hardest that my diet suffers. Grabbing a bite on the run is not a great way to eat healthy at a time when you need good nutrition the most. I have discovered that eating vegan one day a week does not require as much forethought that I originally thought it would. I often find myself eating vegan without planning or knowing. By eating vegetarian it requires only small modifications to eat vegan.

I was listening to a local high school radio station the other day and the announcer was giving tips about eating at the holidays, more specifically not over eating. The way she tells it, is that the holidays are about so many more things than food. What a crock. The holidays are all about food. While we may not want to binge and bulge, food plays an integral part in holiday celebrations, fond memories and comfort once again. It does seem to me that we Americans have a lot of hang ups about food and that they do not serve us well. The anti carb craze, the grapefruit/high protein/liquid/pomegranate/white wine with a cracker and one grape diets give us a skewed view of what food is and should be. Remember the Fit for Life diet that wouldn't let you eat fruit with dairy? The high protein diet where you loose five pounds and your gall bladder too? We are afraid of food.

I'll admit to a few food hangups myself but I really believe that the holidays are a time you should relax a bit and enjoy family, friends and food. It is a bit problematic for me as I am a florist and am usually in a catatonic state by the time Christmas arrives. I do however resolve this year to stop and smell the roses a bit and enjoy some wonderful food. I am about to embark on a life changing change of venue and I need to relearn how to value some of life's simple pleasures. I need to relearn how to relax. It will be a challenge. I give my all to a job I love and stepping back is a concept I have a hard time with. All or nothing is my motto! Perhaps this blog and the resultant good food will help me to change my obsessive ways.

My last blog was about fruit cake and I encourage everyone and anyone to try the recipe. While I am fighting to limit bulge, the other half is on a twelve meal a day diet. So the thirty two servings were gone within three days. For the rest of the month I am going to experiment with holiday desserts, making them vegan and eating every one of them. Screw the fat and calories. Today, Pan Forte, an Italian Fruit Cake. It is more of a candy than a cake and is really quite healthy eating.Full of fiber and protein and WAY better than those protein bars that are all the rage. On Tuesday we substitute agave nectar for the honey (which I am still not sure why we are not eating). Next week we make Pannetone vegan and then I will try to make those thumbprint cookies that my mother was so great at baking. Talk about fond memories!

Pan Forte

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1 cup almonds toasted, whole or slivered

1/2 cup hazelnuts toasted, whole

1/3 cup figs, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup prunes, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup golden raisins

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup agave nectar(or honey)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

confectioner's sugar for dusting

vegetable oil spray

Combine nuts, fruit and spices. Mix in flour.

Bring sugar and nectar or honey to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for two minutes after the sugar is dissolved. Stir into flour/fruit mixture quickly with a wooden spoon and then quickly spread into an 8" cake pan that has been sprayed with vegetable oil spray and lined on the bottom with parchment. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for thirty minutes and then cool on a rack in the pan for two hours or overnight. Take out of the pan, dust with sugar, slice and enjoy. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

I considered making this with maple syrup as I had some grade a that I got as a gift. I think it would have been lovely and is probably easier to get in some parts of the country than agave nectar. I do not have and 8" pie pan so I used a 9" pan and I baked it five minutes less. It turned out thinner but still tasted great. Some recipes I found include chocolate. I think it would be a great addition. Who does not love chocolate? Don't expect it to taste like an English fruit cake, it does not. It tastes much better!

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