Thursday, November 9, 2023

Eat Like an Author: Sarena Ulibarri

 When most people get bored, they eat. When I get bored, I brainstorm new series and features for the blog, and THEN eat. A few years ago, as I was brainstorming and contemplating what I wanted to eat, I thought how cool it would be to have a mini-foodie series where authors share the things they like to eat. Photos and recipes and all. And so I asked them, and amazingly they responded, and I dubbed it EAT LIKE AN AUTHOR. 

Today, Sarena Ulibarri joins us to share a little insight into her forthcoming book Steel Tree, releasing in December! 


Pirlipat Tarts (Dairy-Free Pecan Tassies)


My novella Steel Tree starts with a winter party, where the farmers for an off-world colony are celebrating after the winter harvest. Several of the characters stuff their faces with “Pirlipat Tarts,” a pastry made from the nuts of the local Pirlipat tree. Steel Tree is a science fiction story based on The Nutcracker, and Pirlipat is a princess who appears in the original tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E.T.A. Hoffman. In that story, Princess Pirlipat is cursed by the Mouse Queen to transform into an ugly doll. (And for a good reason, though no fault of her own.) Similarly, in my book, one of the characters who gobbles up the Pirlipat Tarts accidentally consumes one made with a nut that has a dangerous mutation—and it transforms her into a giant rat.


But don’t worry, most Pirlipat Tarts are perfectly safe, and since the Pirlipat tree only grows on Eta, and not on Earth, we’ll need to substitute pecans, which have an even lower probability of transforming you into a giant rat. This is a dairy-free recipe, because while the farmers of Eta do have chickens, no cows were transported there from Earth. And also because I’m lactose intolerant, like a lot of Earthlings, so this is a tasty treat that won’t ruin a holiday party for me. In my opinion, Violife “Just Like Cream Cheese” Original is by far the best cream cheese substitute (I’ve practically tried them all). For the butter, I used Miyoko’s Plant Milk Butter. My cheese-fiend husband didn’t notice any difference, and even complimented the consistency of the dough. If the plant-based butter and cream are room temperature when you start, they will mix better.


Using a shallow muffin pan, this recipe makes six tassies. Using a mini-cupcake pan, it could yield as many as 24.



For the shell:

½ cup plant-based butter

3 oz. plant-based plain cream cheese

1 cup all-purpose flour


For the filling:

1 large egg (or 1 tbsp egg substitute to keep it vegan)

¾ cup brown sugar

1 tbsp plant-based butter, melted

1/8 tsp salt

¼ tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup chopped pecans


With a whisk or hand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together in a bowl, then combine with the flour. Cool dough in the refrigerator for half an hour.


Crack the egg into a bowl and whisk to mix the white and yolk. Mix in the sugar, melted plant-butter, salt, and vanilla, then fold in the pecans. Cool in the refrigerator.


Pre-heat the oven to 365° F. (And consider pre-ordering Steel Tree, while you’re at it.) Grease a small cupcake pan.


Roll the dough into a ball that will fit in your cupcake pan, and press down in the center to spread it and create a cup for the filling. Make sure the dough cup extends all the way up the sides.


Spoon the filling into the dough cups, about 2/3 of the way full.


Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the tassies take on a light golden-brown tone. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before digging in. Place an extra pecan half on top of each one, for style.




About Steel Tree


The voyage from Earth to Petipa isn’t cheap, but those who can’t afford it can pay off the trip by working the farms of Eta, the fertile moon that feeds humanity’s new colony. Klara Silber’s parents paid their debt, but left her behind, in charge of the orchards and the android nutcrackers. She’s sure if she follows their example, she’ll earn her invitation to ascend the space elevator and join Petipa Colony in no time. Only, the android nutcrackers have been malfunctioning all season, and some of the other farmers have suddenly gone missing.

They were told Eta didn’t have any native animal life, but the annual winter party is abuzz with rumors of large creatures lurking in the shadows. When one of the party guests inexplicably transforms into a giant rat and goes on the attack, Klara is sure the night can’t get any stranger. That is, until a fairy-like creature who communicates through dance appears, and a whole hidden history unspools about how the humans conquered these alien lands. To prevent the nuts that caused the giant rat mutation from being sent to Petipa, Klara needs to get two very different communities to work in harmony, even if it means she may never earn her way to the colony.



Sarena Ulibarri lives, writes, and plants trees in the American Southwest. Two novellas were published in 2023: Another Life from Stelliform Press, and Steel Tree from Android Press. Her short stories have appeared in DreamForge, GigaNotoSaurus, Lightspeed, Solarpunk Magazine, and elsewhere, and her essay in Strange Horizons, “Horror and Hope in Climate Fiction” won the 2023 Utopia Award for nonfiction. As an anthologist, she curated two international volumes of optimistic climate fiction, titled Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers and Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters, and also co-edited Multispecies Cities: Solarpunk Urban Futures. Find more at

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