The year’s first evening run with noticeably more daylight requires celebration. Accordingly, upon returning from that run, I took myself on a date. I went to my favorite Albuquerque chain, Flying Star, and ordered the Huge Blueberry Pancake (its official name) and a Blue Moon. Hey, frankly, at suppertime, beer goes with pancakes as well as anything else does.
After practically licking my plate clean, I sat there in poochy-stomached contentment, paging through Time magazine [Flying Star has magazines that you can peruse and return; I love it]. Then I drove home, declared myself too full to do anything productive, and curled up with Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life – a book I can only read directly after eating, otherwise it makes me hungry with all its tantalizing recipes – until bedtime.
To say that my stomach rules my life may be overstating it a bit. Then again, to say that I turn sort of evil when I let myself get too hungry really isn’t an overstatement at all. So who knows?
After Christmas, my “food sense” dulled a little. How could it not, after eating all those fantastic Mom-cooked meals? I returned to Albuquerque and immediately commenced a self-imposed baking hiatus, for fear I would turn into a giant chocolate chip if I set my oven to 350 one more time.
That means one thing: citrus time.
Maybe it’s an overload of rich sweets over the holidays that make the tanginess of oranges and grapefruit so appealing come January, or our bodies crave Vitamin C amidst the trenches of cold season, but citrus just hits the spot right now. Grapefruit is a fairly new interest for me, so every winter around this time, I suddenly remember how much I adore it. My parents had an ample supply of it at their house during Christmas; eating the sweet/sour/scrumptious fruit there rekindled the spark, and I now feel an irrepressible need to buy three or four Ruby Reds on every grocery trip. I add a drizzle of honey and yummmm.
Savory dishes also elbow their way back into the spotlight this time of year. Meat, vegetables, cheese – what else do mid-winter taste buds need??
I’m spoiled by my friends Tara and Randy. A recent dinner at their house consisted of ribs and latkes – an extremely delicious, if slightly, er, unorthodox, combination. The scent of latkes lingering on every single scrap of clothing I wore that evening was utterly worth it. Another evening we had home-cooked chicken wings – way better than any sports bar’s; plus, we could watch whatever game we wanted without a blocked view or boisterous MMA fans.
It was for one of these dinner parties that I came out of my baking hiatus. I took a recipe for Pumpkin Harvest Bars from The Cookie Bible, and, per my habit, modified it to suit my mood. And by “mood,” I mean “ingredients that I actually had.” I called the result “Epiphany Bars” since I made them on Epiphany Sunday, and it sounded kind of fitting for a New Year, fresh-start recipe. They turned out light and moist, with a little sweetness and a little tang – perfect for re-entry into baking! I thought I’d share the recipe, with the original ingredients in brackets:
1 ¾ C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp grated grapefruit peel [orange peel]
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
¾ C sugar
½ C butter [applesauce]
½ C pumpkin
1 whole egg
1 egg white
2 tbsp milk [absent]
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ C dried orange-flavored cranberries [raisins]
½ C dark chocolate chips [absent]
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13×9-inch baking pan. Combine flour, baking powder, grapefruit peel, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. In another bowl, combine sugar, butter, pumpkin, whole egg, egg white, milk, and oil. Add dry ingredients to wet ones and stir until well-blended. Stir in cranberries and chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick/knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 15-20 minutes and cut into bars.