A recipe for goblin candy

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about goblins, it’s that they eat most of the same food as chickens: fruit, bugs, and various forageables. At least, the goblins in Pumpkin Goblins do. Even though I have chickens, this is actually a weird coincidence. I did the earliest work on Pumpkin Goblins almost two years before the chickens came on the scene. Since Pumpkin Goblins is coming out later this month, it’s occupying a lot of my mental space. So much, in fact, that it has seeped into my snacks. Thus, here is the story of how I ended up making goblin candy.

Every time I needed a goblin to mention some kind of food, my first thought was: Worms? Or graveworms? Goblins eating bugs was an easy option, kind of a default idea, and I usually like to challenge those and do my own thing. Since the goblins snatch pumpkins rather than growing them, I figured they weren’t big on agriculture. Their village is in the middle of the woods, so it didn’t seem like a great place for any sort of farmland. They weren’t going to be raising pigs and cows, or eating bacon cheeseburgers. But I could imagine them growing little gardens, or picking fruit from the woods. The bugs still fit the image I had in mind, and every time I mentioned goblin food, it was mostly bugs and fruit:

“A conspiracy as vast as an ocean of soup, as intricate as a puzzle box or a lattice-weave pie crust. As dangerous as undercooked cricket brulee with the crunchy top.”

A goblin from the front row stepped forward and handed Hobkit a lumpy biscuit.

“Thank you, yes. Bat-darnit, I was hungry.”

and

The smell of burnt applesauce hit him as soon as he started down the ladder. Applesauce with mothwings and nutmeg, an Ebleween favorite. The familiar scent tugged at Torlik’s memory.

The idea of goblin candy came from a very quick bit of dialogue in Pumpkin Goblins:

Amber shared a bit of her Halloween candy with Falkit, who in all her years as a driver, had never tried it. Spitting it out, the goblin dramatically pretended to throw up. “It doesn’t have any apples,” she complained.

“It’s a chocolate caramel, not a caramel apple.”

“No apples, no worms. Nothing juicy-good like goblin candy.” She spat again. “Sticky.”

Even though this is a very minor bit of the story, I have a vivid image of what goblin candy is like: dark and fruity, gooey in texture, with a hint of spices.

Goblin candy: not known for its looks. In fact, it inspired someone to tell me a story about a prank in which chocolate was presented as bear poop.

My recipe for goblin candy is based on a recipe for No-Bake Pecan Chocolates from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I’ve made the original recipe many times, and at this point, I kind of make it my own way. Since it’s a deliciously sticky mass of chocolate and nuts, I thought it would be a good starting point for goblin candy. Btw, I highly recommend Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, vegan or not. And I’m not; it’s just a collection of awesome, unique cookie recipes. Their gluten-free flour mixture alone is worth the cost of the book.

Goblin Candy

1 cup chocolate bits
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup almond meal
1 cup dried cherries and currants
1/2 cup chopped pecans
A pinch each of allspice and cloves

Directions:
Melt the chocolate on the stove, over the lowest heat possible. Stir in the brown rice syrup, salt, and vanilla. Stir in everything else. Form into candy blobs, preferably on parchment or waxed paper. Dip hands and utensils into water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking. Refrigerate until firm.

Bugs are an optional ingredient. I do know people who eat bugs. If there’s a bug out there that complements fruit and chocolate, and you eat that bug, why not add it?

Aiming for a caramel vibe, Vegan Cookies calls for brown rice syrup. But the book is for vegans, and if you’re not, you could probably go straight for the caramel. Point is: sweet and very sticky.

Likewise, it doesn’t really matter if you use almond meal (which is my own addition, anyway). Point is: ground nuts of some variety. Cornmeal would probably be a terrible substitute (I don’t know why that even popped into my head.) I’m sure you could swap out the pecans too. In fact, I’m not sure how much goblins really like recipes, so if you want to ignore the whole thing and smash ingredients against the walls of a haunted house, that might work too.

Peanut Butter Rice Pudding and Pickiness

With all the constantly created recipes on food blogs, constantly cloned onto other food blogs, and constantly combined with other recipes to form mutated recipe-spawn, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a recipe. Yet once again, The Internet failed me. Actually, this happened twice in the past few weeks, but I just don’t feel that drive to write a blog post about the Fruit Dip Disappointment.

I had leftover rice, and I wanted to make it into rice pudding. But not the same two types of rice pudding I always make with leftover rice. I wanted the rice pudding version of my brother’s peanut butter cookies.

When I posted about the Banana Gingerbread Granola I made awhile back (by adapting another recipe), I referred to myself as a “granola curmudgeon.” That’s true, but it also implies that I have this one quirky thing where I’m super picky about granola, but pretty chill about other foods, and maybe other things in general.

If I were rich*, I might say things like, “Gracious! You mean to say your chef used those geese in the park who so haunt my morning constitutional? In the foie gras? How creative!” And then I would share a sidelong judgmental glance with my blonder-than-blonde lady friends.”

I’m picky. Not about vegetables, or trying new foods, but about quality. That’s how I was raised: no Hamburger Helper, no Shake ‘n’ Bake, and no freakin’ cake mix. Baloney was, and still is, an object of derision for my dad, an ersatz almost-food he pities others for eating because they don’t know any better. We didn’t eat anything fancy. My parents never ranted about how unheathy processed food is or talked about organics**. It was just an unquestioned fact that we had homemade cake on our birthdays. The cake was not a lie.

Learning to cook, after being raised in such an environment, only made me pickier. I developed the observational skills to taste things and complain about how little nutmeg they contained. I’ve even developed a reputation as a good cook, but the truth is that I’m an average cook who’s damn picky.

Did you want to see a picture of mushy, nut-tinged rice? Yeah, that’s what I thought. You’re welcome.

So I knew precisely how peanut buttery, sweet, and tinged with cinnamon I wanted my rice pudding, and I rejected score after score, tab after tab, of online recipes. Well, I looked at seven or so, anyway. Any rice pudding recipe calling for uncooked rice failed immediately. Because making rice pudding by starting with uncooked rice should be an activity reserved for some circle of hell where poor souls are punished by stirring slowly-absorbed liquid until the implosion of time at the end of the universe.

That’s how long it takes to use uncooked rice. Eff that.

In the end, I don’t know why I bothered to check the internet for a recipe, since it took me all of two minutes to figure it out for myself.

Peanut Butter Rice Pudding

  • 1 cup leftover rice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

To make, heat all ingredients except vanilla in a pot on the stove.  Use whatever heat your stove needs to be at to make this simmer and bubble, but not violently or in a volcanic manner which will result in lava rice exploding onto your face.

Stir very frequently, until it thickens, then add the vanilla.

It might not win the internet awards for best or fanciest, or Healthier than Thou, but it is the one my pickiness demanded.


 

*Ok, rich, verbose, and living at least one hundred years ago, in a place with parks. I live in the sticks. Everything is the park. And there are geese everywhere.

**It was the 90s. Few did.

The Ultimate Smoothie of Power

Now, I could have called it an Ultimate Power Smoothie, but that’s the jock name for it, and I prefer my smoothie to sound like something my Dungeon Master rolls up for me after I defeat five trolls.

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I blend my smoothies in a six-bladed blender. To add insult to injury.

I like the idea of starting my day with an Ultimate Smoothie of Power. The problem is, I’m a degenerate who cannot manage to make a smoothie in the morning. I can tell myself, “It’s just throwing things in the blender, no biggie,” but realistically, my torpid morning-self needs 30 minutes to make a smoothie. I can manage to roll out of bed and eat leftovers for breakfast, or if it’s a weekend, some kind of omelette that my partner makes me.

The paradox of the Ultimate Smoothie of Power is that I would have to have already imbibed it in order to have the energy to make it. So for me, smoothies are a lunch item. They are for when I would like to eat a fuckton of fruit without having to chew it.

Smoothies have certain requirements, as determined by some governing body, which I have made up in my head and believe to have a clever acronym, like ISAACTRON, whatever that stands for.

Here are the requirements for a beverage to earn the designation of smoothie:

  • Frozen banana. Frozen bananas make smoothies smooth, creamy and sweet. I am no longer happy with a smoothie that does not contain frozen banana.
  • Dairy. In the form of milk or yogurt, or at least coconut milk. Because more creaminess. If there is no dairy, it’s not a smoothie, it’s a fruit slush. These are technical classifications, which I have decided on in my head.
  • Protein. They need to have protein, in addition to the protein already in yogurt. Afternoon-self moves at a better clip than morning-self, but that doesn’t mean afternoon-self is interested in making time-consuming fruit drinks and still having to make lunch as well.
  • These ingredients must be pulverized, otherwise they’re just a bowl of yogurt with a lot of stuff in it.

Because of these requirements, in my world, there are really only four types of smoothie: Fruit Smoothie, Chocolate Smoothie, Pumpkin smoothie, and Smoothie That Has Oats In It.

Here, then, is the recipe for Fruit Smoothie, also known as the Ultimate Smoothie of Power.

Ingredients:

  • one banana, previously frozen.
  • two handfuls berries, possibly also frozen.
  • plain, full-fat yogurt.
  • almond butter
  • crystallized ginger
  • more cinnamon than you think you need
  • maple syrup or honey, if additional sweetening is needed
  1. Put all the ingredients in your blender.
  2. Add more cinnamon.  MORE.
  3. Turn on the blender.
  4. Do not drink the Ultimate Smoothie of Power while the blender is running, even if you’ve somehow convinced yourself that this might be a good idea.
  5. Drink the Ultimate Smoothie out of some kind of appropriate container. Or, one shaped like a penis.

TROUBLESHOOTING

Help! The ginger is still in chunks, and I can’t handle it because food texture is a huge deal for me.

Make the smoothie in two steps. Blend the ginger with the frozen banana so it all the hard stuff gets puréed together, then add the goopy ingredients.

Help! I want more protein in my smoothie, but I don’t have any nut butter and I’m too scared to add meat to my smoothie and still drink it.

Never fear! If you have nuts and a capable blender, first dump a bag of nuts into the blender and grind it into nut paste. Nut butter, if you will. You may need to add oil. Remove all the nut butter from the blender except for a couple tablespoons. Now you have nut butter AND a smoothie, and you didn’t need to turn this into two projects with dishes and everything.

Help! I have no frozen banana!

Rethink your life. You will never be able to drink smoothies professionally. Though, yes, you can use a room temperature banana with a handful of ice cubes.

Banana Gingerbread Granola for Maniacs

I’m a granola curmudgeon. “Call this granola? It’s all oats. Used to be they put nuts in granola but not these days, nosiree, get maybe two nuts in a bag… mutter mutter…”

There’s only one brand of store bought granola I eat, and there are only two granola recipes I use. I love granola with interesting flavor and texture combinations, but most of the time when I try to look up granola recipes online, I become irate and go back to my two standbys. The recipes either have too many oats, too much sugar, or not enough fat. Or, the recipe author is being condescending/cutesy, which makes me antagonistic towards the granola recipe, even if it’s perfectly good. Or, they’re being condescending/cutesy AND using too much sugar AND using too little fat AND telling me that I will not be able to tell how little fat is in the granola, which is not true because I’m a granola curmudgeon and I can always tell.

Think that’s bad? I’m even worse with yogurt.

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The “this is not a food blog” granola self-portrait.  Yes, self-portrait.

Anyway, one of my two standby granolas is this Pumpkin Spice Granola recipe. I make some changes to it, but it’s a solid recipe on its own. Or it was, anyway, until I became a crazed ginger addict.

I’ve always been a big fan of ginger, but lately it’s gotten out of hand. I would steal your TV and sell it and use the money to buy crystallized ginger on the streets, and I would refer to it as “ging” or “crys,” which would be a little confusing since my name is Kris. The last time I made the Pumpkin Spice Granola, I added powdered ginger, and then quadrupled the ginger.

The fact that it’s now Christmastime only means that it’s socially acceptable for me to eat ginger like a maniac because Christmas is all about gingerbread everything when it isn’t all about peppermint everything or eggnog everything.

Anyway.

Anyway.

Since I am both a granola curmudgeon and a ginger maniac, and I will only use two granola recipes, I had to use the Pumpkin Spice Granola recipe as the template when I decided I needed to make Banana Gingerbread Granola.

So. Here is how to make that.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Make it Fahrenheit, otherwise you’ll be even more grumpy about your granola than I am about most granola. Plus, you’ll have melted off your face.

Throw the following into a large bowl:

3 and 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup pecans
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons gingerbread spice*

A couple pinches of salt

Chop a ton of crystallized ginger. Pack it down tightly into a 1/2 cup, like you would with brown sugar. Mix into the dry ingredients.

Measure and rinse 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, unless you are positive it’s pre-rinsed. This isn’t like rice. Sometimes people say you have to rinse rice, but that’s a lie. Quinoa contains bitter saponins, and unrinsed quinoa will ruin your granola as surely as if you had set the oven to 617 degrees Fahrenheit, aka 325 Celsius.

Mix the quinoa into the granola.

Mash a couple of very ripe bananas. Mine came to about 3/4 of a cup.

Mix together the mashed banana with the other wet ingredients:
3 tablespoons ground flax

6 tablespoons water
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

If you don’t have coconut oil, use some other kind of fat. Just don’t leave it out. You could cut it down to 1/4 cup, because the Pumpkin Spice Granola only uses 1/4 cup. The last time I made the Pumpkin Spice Granola, I accidentally doubled the coconut oil. It came out extra crunchy, which I enjoyed.

Also, I usually measure the hard coconut oil into a 2 cup glass measure, then put it into the oven as it heats. Then I measure the other wet ingredients on top of it. Fewest dishes possible.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones.

Cover a couple baking sheets with parchment paper. Or maybe just grease them. Then spread out the granola onto the sheets. Sometimes I plan my time poorly and end up throwing the granola mixture into the fridge overnight before I actually cook it. Because of this, I learned that granola forms larger clumps more easily when you refrigerate it first.

For some reason, granola cooking directions never work out for me. Here’s what I do instead of whatever the recipe says:

Cook the granola for 20 minutes, then stir it. You should see steam come up when you stir it. This will not happen when the granola is fully cooked. Keep the granola in the oven at 325 (yes, we’re still using Fahrenheit, good question) until it starts to brown some, checking and stirring every ten minutes at this point.

Once it gets a little browned (it should be slightly dry as well), turn the oven down to 200. Continue to check and stir every ten minutes. At this point, it’s just dehydrating until most of the moisture is gone.

Let it cool on the baking sheets before putting it into a container. Because it has plenty of fat and it’s been well-dehydrated, it will stay good for weeks. If you want to store it long term, throw a dessicant pack into the container.


 

*I get angsty about having to measure out tiny amount of spices, like 1/64 of a teaspoon nutmeg and a micron of cloves. Last year I mixed up a bunch of gingerbread spices from a cookie recipe and put them into an old spice container so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. I think this was 4 tablespoons ginger and 4 teaspoons each of ground nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. If you don’t want to do this, reduce appropriately. It doesn’t have to be exact.