Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yuletide Sugarplums

I feel as if my life is at a standstill. There are no more exams, essays, or projects. There are no more car battles for the closest parking space on campus, running from class to class, or studying. I am no longer an undergraduate.

As of Monday, I am officially an Alumnus.

After turning in my paper and portfolio for Conflict Integration on Thursday, I joined my friends while they ate lunch. I was the only one who was completely finished, but there was talk that I could take another semester’s worth of classes, maybe a minor of fifteen credits or less. Joking or not, I was done with the student aspect of my life for a while, but what I am going to do to fill the new void where school was a part of me for more than sixteen years?

(On a positive note, fall graduates like myself are actually supposed to be part of the cap and gown walk in May, even though we get our diplomas in January.)

The word of the week is Obligation, as I have obligations with family, new and old, friends, my significant other, my work at the community center, and yes, definitely myself. My life isn’t at a standstill, per se, but I feel like my pants have been yanked from the back to keep me in place even though Life keeps on going. I have Obligations to others to go a certain way, but at the same time I have Obligations to go a certain way that may not be compatible. So I do what I can, but as the boyfriend explained it, Life is like an apple pie. You have enough ingredients to make two pies, which will satisfy sixteen people. But say there’s eighteen people; what will you do then? If you cut the pie pieces to accommodate the other two, the pieces won’t nearly be as satisfying for everyone involved, including the baker.

After he told me that, I knew he was right. I’ve been trying to satisfy too many people and as a result, I feel I have only done what had to done at minimum. On my end, it hasn’t been as fulfilling and believe me, I aim to fix this error… especially where stress management is concerned.

I have so much to be thankful for, and they are things that have made this Yuletide a glorious one. I am extremely lucky to have a family that has pushed me to succeed and had paid my way through college. I am humbled by the love I have for the people in my life and the love that is reflected right back.  


So here I am, an Alumnus with or without a plan for the upcoming year ahead of me. Will I attend Grad school in the fall?  Will I move into my own place by February? Will I have a job pertaining to what I want to use my discipline in conflict resolution in the spring? Will I travel on my own accord, make a garden to feed the people I love, run a 5k (or 10k), or start the art project I’ve been thinking about the last two months? Will I finally have the apple pie distributed in the manner that suits my liking?

True, I’ve been thinking about these questions. But at the moment, the only thing I’m thinking about is the holidays and the recipes it may bring.

This month has become the designated cookie month for many who have children, love baking for the holidays, and well, love cookies. At the same time I’ve been looking for something different for a Yuletide dessert, although I assure you cookies are definitely in the making. Alton Brown from Good Eats did a particularly festive episode titled “Twas the Night Before Good Eats,” and inspired me to have the Holiday Spirit in recipes other than in cookie form. Cassie from the amazing blog Back to Her Roots also inspired me with her sugar plums recipe, whose ratio I’ve used as the base for my creation.  

And wouldn’t you know it? The recipe happens to be gluten free without any help at all.

The history of sugarplums varies depending on the type. There is the literal sugarplum, which are plums oven-dried and then rolled in sugar, a delicacy during the Tudor period. Plum also denoted any kind of dried fruit, so it wasn’t always made with a plum. But then there is the archaic version, made with more than that. The recipe has changed throughout the eras, the Victorians even going to far as to hang them on the Christmas tree as an edible treat (similarly the same concept that I’ve done with putting candy canes on mine in the past).

From Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker to Moore’s "A Visit from St. Nicholas" to Field’s “The Sugar Plum Tree,” this delectable treat is, by far, a healthier indulgence than what can be expected in the remaining weeks of 2011. I used coconut flour in place of the powdered sugar as coating, but each piece is still two bites of heaven.

Yuletide Sugarplums
1 c. (112 g) Raw almonds
1 c. (120 g) Raw pistachios
1/4 c. (63 g) Creamed honey (regular if you don’t have it or maple syrup/agave nectar for a vegan friendly recipe)
1 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Allspice
1/4 tsp. Sea salt
3/4 c. (85 g) Dried apricots
3/4 c. (114 g) Prunes
15 Medjool dates, pitted
Zest of 1 Tangerine
Coconut flour, for dusting

Put the almonds and pistachios through the food processor until they are chopped into fine pieces.
Add the spices, dried fruits, and the tangerine zest, and pulse until the mixture is chopped and beginning to clump (I pulsed mine past what Alton Brown had done, but they turned out just fine).
To form the sugarplums, use the larger end of a melon baller (a tablespoon works also) to scoop the mixture and roll it into a ball with your hands.
Roll the balls into the coconut flour (or powdered sugar if you prefer) and shake off the excess before stacking them in a jar or on a plate.

Makes 44 sugarplums.

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