I wrote this last week before leaving on a limited-internet-access vacation. By the time this post is published, our trip will be almost over and we might be cursing the snow but I bet weâ€™ll be fantasizing about moving back to the mountains.
Tomorrow Lee and I are boarding a plane for Denver, the city where we met. I anticipate heavy sentimentality saturating this vacation. Weâ€™ll be spending time in the mountains where so many of our early dates (and by dates I mean expeditions) took place. Maybe weâ€™ll drive past places we used to live, restaurants where we ate together, sights we knew.
Unfortunately, this kind of thing makes me very sad. I inherited this morose nostalgia from my father. Even looking back to see happy memories makes me sad that those experiences are over. I suppose this has something to do with my inability to live in and enjoy the present…gonna have to work on that.
In an effort to rescue myself and this vacation from despondency, I thought Iâ€™d share a little bit of my happy memories from the Colorado era of my life. I moved to Denver for graduate school in 2007, landed a career-changing internship with the National Park Service in the summer of 2008, and met my future husband in the same month.
I look back on that time as the happiest of my life. Lee and I went on adventures in the mountains together. We had season ski passes and spent almost every weekend doing something active outdoors. We spent time at my familyâ€™s cabin and dragged my dog up a few 14ers. I had good friends in my graduate program and landed a series of jobs in my field.
I wouldnâ€™t say that Iâ€™ve been unhappy since I left Colorado, life has just been more complicated. I left the hardest part of graduate school (writing my thesis) for after we moved back east. Once that was behind me, the years Lee and I spent travelling on our boat were simultaneously wonderful and excruciatingly difficult. We got married (yay!) but we also put our relationship and our individual strengths to the test.
Fruit cake, this month’s recipe swap dish, is sticky sentimentality manifested in food. I think of it as being saturated with buttery, sweet, dense, richness – everything that a holiday treat should be. I also associate fruit cake with vintage cookbooks, something Iâ€™ve been up to my ears in lately. We found two more boxes of my grandmotherâ€™s cookbooks and Iâ€™ve been drooling over the little time capsules of culinary history.
A James Beard cookbook that my great aunt gave my grandmother on her 39th birthday caught my eye first but it was The Southern Hospitality Cookbook that ended up on my lap one evening. I paged through recipes for Southern classics and wondered which of them Helen had made. Moussaka, of all things, was bookmarked but I found my way to a simple recipe for cranberry bread. I had fresh cranberries (from the CSA, of course) in my fridge. I had almost all the ingredients. As Lee would say, done and done.
This is not a fruit cake. It bears no resemblance to the classic fruit cake recipe Christianna sent us for this monthâ€™s recipe swap. True, it is festive, but it lacks the sticky-sweet sentimentality of fruit cake. Maybe thatâ€™s for the best. Clearly I donâ€™t need any more nostalgia in my life.
I know my fellow recipe swappers will give you a dose of the traditional and untraditional fruit cake you crave!
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil or softened butter
- 3/4 cup pineapple or orange juice
- 1 large egg
- Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon grated orange rind are nice additions.
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 2 cups chopped fresh cranberries (a food processor is great for this!)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- If melting coconut oil, place in oven in an oven safe dish.
- Oil one 9X5 loaf pan or several smaller pans.
- In a large bowl, stir dry ingredients (first 6) together with a whisk or fork.
- Cut in coconut oil or butter with a whisk, two knives, or a pastry blender.
- Beat egg, juice, and vanilla bean, if using, together in a separate bowl.
- Add liquid ingredients to dry, stirring until just moistened.
- Fold in pecans and cranberries
- Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan(s). The batter is rather thick so you might need to spread it around a little bit.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes for mini loaves and 45 minutes to 1 hour for a large loaf, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean and the top is slightly brown.
- Cool on a rack before slicing.
Adapted from The Southern Hospitality Cookbook