Thursday, September 22, 2011

Southern Living Fresh Apple Cake

Sorry for the has been CRAZY busy lately and a head cold didn't help matters much!
Last weekend, we went to see some very dear friends of Don's who helped him through some rough patches earlier in life.  They were visiting other friends in Keller and there was an afternoon pot luck cookout for them (which we enjoyed tremendously!!!  We hadn't see some of these folks for quite some time!). I took a fresh black bean "caviar" and this apple cake (taken from a Southern Living recipe online that had really good reviews), which received raves from everyone.  This is a very moist recipe - for that reason, I really think it's worth working on.  As usual, I would've made some changes, which I will note in the recipe.  I apologize for no picture on this one.

(By the way, the Black Bean caviar was very delicious and we turned it into a tortilla soup that even Don loved!  That recipe will come later...)

Fresh Apple Cake With Choice of Two Toppings

1-1/2 cups chopped pecans     
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar                            
2 large eggs                             
1 t vanilla                                 
2 cups APF (all purpose flour)                                                                  
2 t ground cinnamon  (I would prefer 1 tsp, possibly a bit less)
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
2-1/2 lbs. (about 4 large) granny smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4" thick wedges

Preheat oven to 350*F.

Bake pecans in a single layer in shallow pan 5-7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.  Set aside.

Stir together melted butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in large bowl until blended.

Combine flour, cinnamon, soda and salt.  Add to batter mixture, stirring just until blended.  Stir in apples and 1 cup pecans.  BATTER WILL BE VERY THICK - LIKE COOKIE DOUGH.  I used my hands to get everything incorporated and spread into a 9"x13"x2" (this is another change I would try to make - the cake comes out pretty thin...I would try baking in a 9 or 10-inch springform pan, as I would like it to be thicker/taller) baking pan sprayed with PAM.

***Please Review Toppng Choices Below Before Continuing!***

Bake at 350*F for 45 minutes or until pick comes out clean.

Now For the Toppings.....

The cake I made last Saturday had a Browned Butter Frosting, which everyone asked about, stating they had never tasted anything quite like it and asking for the recipe.  I thought this was pretty good, however it was too sweet for my taste.  Growing up, my wonderful mom made an apple cake with a baked-on topping that I think would've been much better, so here are your choices (maybe it would be good with both?):

#1 Sour Cream Delight Baked-In Topping

1 cup sour cream                             1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs                                      2/3 cup chopped pecans

Combine sour cream and eggs.  Pour and spread evenly over top of cake batter.  Sprinkle evenly with sugar then nuts.  Bake as directed above.  Watch the nuts - if they begin to brown too quickly, cover lightly with foil.

#2 Browned Butter Frosting

1 cup butter                                         1/4 cup milk
1 lb. powdered sugar                           1 t vanilla

Cook butter over medium heat in small saucepan, stirring constantly 6-8 minutes or until butter begins to turn golden brown.  Remove pan from heat immediately and pour butter into small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or until butter is cool and begins to solidify.

Beat butter on medium speed with electric mixer until fluffy.  Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with milk, beginning and ending with powdered sugar.  Beat well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.  Spread over cooled cake.

Monday, September 5, 2011

September = Apples

I grew up in Northwestern Missouri (and Michigan, but that's beside the point).  I graduated from Liberty High School.  Fall meant leaves turning, the beginning of school and football, and harvest.  Harvest what?  Apples!  We would go to apple orchards and pick our own apples, getting up on ladders in the trees and filling wooden baskets as full as we could.  We would eat the apples, make and can applesauce, pie fillings and bake! 

Liberty, like many Missouri towns, held a Fall Festival every year.  This was held, not only on the town square, but it was so large that the booths were spread all over town.  Our ward would have several booths, one for the missionaries to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, a priesthood booth where the men would hand out Family Home Evening manuals, and a Relief Society booth where we had examples and a sign-up sheets for women in the community to attend what was then called Homemaking Meeting.  All of the sisters would bake giant Ranger Cookies and sell them in a fourth booth in front of the United Supers on Hwy. 291. Our booths were extremely popular!   Most all of the local churches did the same kinds of things.  There was a feeling of comraderie and togetherness - neighborliness.  How I miss those days!

My sister and her family still takes part in the Liberty Fall Festival every year.  I promise myself annually that I am going to go up there and attend the parades and walk from booth to booth to sample/purchase wares and foods. Someday I will make good on that promise.

The point of my sharing these fond memories, besides sharing a special time in my life, are the APPLES.  Apples will be the subject of my recipes for at least this week and possibly next week.  Towards the end of the month I will add pumpkins in there, as there are also many fond memories of taking the kids to the real pumpkin patches, where the pumpkins were grown and sold along with apple cider, apple doughnuts, pumpkin doughnuts, fresh produce (harvest) and canned jams, pie fillings, pies and such.  The owners of these pumpkin patches and apple orchards had barns full of these items.  It wasn't necessarily the purchase of the fruit/veggies/homemade products, but the experiences created for the children and family.

I will begin with something savory then move on to the expected apple recipes - the sweets.

Cinnamon Apple Pork Loin With Almond Green Beans

Lean Pork Loin, 3-5 pounds, sliced into 1" thick slices
(or you can buy boneless pork chops, but it's usually more cost effective to buy the pork loin and cut it yourself)

   1 cup apple juice or apple cider
   1/4 cup olive oil
   1/2 tsp. salt
   1/4 tsp. pepper
   Pinch ground ginger
   Sprig of fresh rosemary

Combine above ingredients in a gallon size baggie. Add pork loin and zip lock top, once removing the air.  Refrigerate 4 to 8 hours or overnight.

2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1/3cup brown sugar  (Diabetics can use Splenda brown sugar or other sweetners as you deem appropriate)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch salt
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup apple cider (preferred) or apple juice
4 medium, tart apples, such as granny smith, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Heat 2 T. olive oil in large hot skillet over medium high heat.  Remove pork loin pieces, discarding marinade, and placing in skillet. Brown each side then place in oiled (PAM) baking dish.  Place in 300*F oven until centers are 145*.  Remove from oven and let stand, covered for 10 minutes.

While pork loin is baking, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cornstarch.  In same skillet, over medium heat, melt butter.  Add apple slices and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Remove apples then add cider and dried ingredients, stirring until thickened. (If too thick, add a little more cider.)  Add apples back into sauce and stir in cranberries.

Once pork loin has been removed from oven, pour cinnamon apple sauce over, cover and let set 10 minutes before serving.  Serve over a rice pilaf if desired.

For the Almond Green Beans:

2 lbs. fresh green beans
1/4 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1/4 cup sliced, toasted almonds  (toast in shallow pan in 350*F oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly toasted and fragrant)

In heavy skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until translucent.  Add garlic and saute another minute, without allowing the garlic to brown and become bitter.

Cook green beans in 1" boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain then add to skillet with onion and garlic.  Add butter, salt and pepper to taste, and almonds.  Toss to combine then place in serving dish.

...Happy Dinner-Making!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tiki Drink Cake

Last Wednesday afternoon, a coworker informed me that we were having a birthday party for my director - a "hawaiian/beach theme," as she was about to leave on a Hawaiian girl trip with her mother and sisters (mom and sisters take note!!!).  My coworker was having a difficult time trying to find a cake to fit the theme.  As soon as she said that, my mind immediately drifted to a recipe or really a "how to" article from the Food Network magazine that showed how to make a cake that looked like a drink in a coconut.  It was PERFECT for the occasion.  I told her I would attempt to make this cake look as good as the picture.

Here is the picture of the article I cut out from the Food Network magazine:

And here is how I put this cake together, per the instructions in the article:

Cake Baked In Two Bowls and a 6-Inch Pan

Bad Picture But It Shows Strip of Marshmallow Fondant

And here is the finished product:

The recipe called for a chocolate cake mix.  I don't normally like to use cake mixes, but thought it would be best, trying this idea for the first time, to follow the directions.  I didn't know if this process required a cake that was heavier  in order to hold up for the shape or not.  Later I wished I had used one of my own recipes because you can always tell the taste of a mix.

At any rate, here is what you will need to make this cake:

One 6" cake pan
Two 1-quart oven proof bowls
PAM Spray

Paper umbrella
Two dried pineapple rings
Wooden Skewer

Cake mix or recipe of your choice for a two-layer cake
Chocolate frosting
Vanilla frosting or marshmallow fondant
1-1/2 cups toasted coconut
(To toast coconut:  Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Put in a 350*F oven for about 7 minutes, then stir
 every minute until golden brown.  Be careful, as it can burn quickly if you don't stay with it.)


Make your own cake recipe or make the following:

1-18.5 oz. box chocolate cake mix
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350*F.

Combine all ingredients and divide evenly between the 2 - 1 quart bowls and the 6" cake pan, sprayed with PAM.  Bake cake pan for 25 minutes and bowls for 35 minutes.  Cool for 15 minutes.  Unmold.  Trim all cakes to make them level.

On one of the bowl cakes, hollow out about 1" inch deep on the smaller end. This will be the top with the opening where you will place the straw, umbrella and fruit.

Put layers together as shown in above picture #2: Bowl cake on bottom with wide end up.  Spread layer of frosting, then put the 6" cake on top.  Spread another layer of frosting, then put the last bowl cake on top, small end up.  At this point, you may want to freeze the cake - it makes it easier to frost and finish.

Frost the outer rim and inside the hollowed out area with white frosting.  (If using fondant, roll and cut a one inch wide strip to go around the rim, then cut a circle the size of the bottom.  Make sure that the circle is very smooth, as it's supposed to look like liquid.)  If using frosting,  put remaining frosting in a resealable bag and microwave for 5 seconds. Snip off a corner and squeeze the frosting into the top of the cake so it looks like liquid.

Spread remaining chocolate frosting all around outside of the cake up to the vanilla frosting or fondant then press on handfuls of the toasted coconut, covering the cake completely.  To finish, thread dried pineapple rings onto a wooden skewer and insert into "liquid" part of the cake.  Add the paper cocktail umbrella and straw.

The recipe states this makes 8 to 10 servings.  We served almost 20 people a thin slice with a little bit left over.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


We have so many great neighbors that have helped us during Don's health issues, so last Tuesday night, I decided to try to make them some biscotti as a "Thank You."  I had purchased a package of biscotti from a bakery at the Fort Worth Farmers Market three weekends ago and thought they were really good - not too sweet, and crunchy (I like crunchy cookies!).  Biscotti is an Italian cookie that is twice baked and is often used to dunk into coffee (it's crunchy, so it stands up to being dunked).

It just so happens, there had been a recipe in (who else?) Paula Deen's magazine that I had cut out last week and it seemed so easy.  Guess what?  It IS easy!!!  So without further ado, here is the recipe:

Pecan Biscotti

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt   (I thought it needed more salt, so I added 1/2 tsp instead)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 T. turbinado sugar (raw sugar that is less processed - light brown in color - larger cystals)

Preheat oven to 325*F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed with a mixer until fluffy.  Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until combined.  Stir in chopped pecans. (Dough will be sticky.)

On a lightly floured surface (with floured hands), shape dough into a 12"x4" log.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Lightly beat remaining egg; brush over log.  Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Bake for 27 to 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let set on a wire rack until completely cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 300*F.  Using a serrated knife, carefully cut log crosswise into 1/2" to 3/4" slices.  Place slices on baking sheet, cut sides down.  Bake for 15 minutes, turn over and bake for another 15 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Baked Chocolate Biscotti Log Before Slicing

Almond & Cranberry Biscotti, Completed

Bagged Biscotti-Thank You Gifts For Neighbors

Ideas for different biscotti:
  • Decrease flour to 2 cups and add 1/2 cup cocoa to make chocolate (cioccolata).  Add chocolate chips?
  • Add almonds (or any other nut of choice) instead of pecans.
  • Add craisins, dried fruit, dates.
  • Add toasted coconut.
  • Instead of turbinado sugar, use large sugar crystals, chopped nuts, toasted coconut.
What are some of your ideas?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Is It Too Hot For Soup?

Sure is!  But I did it anyway.  I was really in the mood for some Italian Wedding Soup last weekend but didn't think guests would appreciate it, being so hot outside.  I made some large shells (pasta) filled with ricotta and several cheeses in a marinara sauce, then served it with meatballs.  I used the meatball recipe from the Italian Wedding Soup recipe for that, then made some tiny meatballs that I saved for having the soup later on in the week (I baked them along with the big meatballs instead of waiting to cook them in the broth, as the recipe states), saving about an hour on dinner when I made the soup.

This is the same soup served at our 2009 Christmas Eve dinner, along with that yummy black bean soup.

Italian Wedding Soup
Giada DeLaurentis

To make the meatballs:

1 small onion, grated  (I finely dice the onion because I hate grating it!)
1/3 cup chopped fresh italian (flat leaf) parsley
1 large egg
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 slice fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces (I use about a 1/2 c dry bread crumbs)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
8 oz. ground pork
8 oz. ground beef
Freshly ground black pepper

Stir first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend.  (Lightly) stir in cheese, pork and beef.  Using 1-1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs and place on a baking sheet.

To make the soup:

12 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 pound curly endive or escarole, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs
2 T freshly grated parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

***These are the original ingredients.  I do not use the escarole or endive, I use fresh spinach.  But I don't add it to the soup to cook (because I don't like cooked spinach!). See below.  I also add a cup of acini de pepe or orzo pasta.***

Bring broth to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and endive and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the endive is tender, about 8 minutes.  Whisk the eggs and cheese together in a medium bowl to blend.  Stir the soup in a circular motion, gradually drizzling the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin strands of egg, about 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve.  Finish soup with parmesan cheese, if desired.

I like to ladle the soup over the fresh spinach - I think it makes a nice presentation that way.  As you can see, I added the orzo this time, as well as some chopped carrots.  It was serve with a panzanella salad (bread salad), in which I cubed some 9-grain bread, lightly tossing with olive oil then baked at 400*F for about 10 minutes, turning once. I let that cool, then combined quartered cherry tomatoes, diced fresh zucchini and some cubed fresh mozarella.  I tossed it all in some oil and vinegar, seasoned with salt, pepper and a little oregano.  And there you have it, a nice weeknight meal for Don and I. It was pretty yummy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Now For Some Goodies!

Pound Cake With Chocolate Ganache Filling and Toasted Marshmallow Frosting
So, I have amazing administrators at work. One of them had a birthday last Friday. Thursday night I was looking around at (where else - my favorite place) SteinMart where I saw this cute, colorful mini cake plate for $14.99.  I had a coupon to apply to it so I got it for around $12.00.  My mind went into full baking gear, trying to figure out what to put on this cake plate to give to my administrator the next day.

I have 2 - 4-inch springform pans, so I made 2 layers of pound cake with chocolate ganache filling (I also frosted the whole cake with it before the final frosting) and marshmallow frosting.  After it was all put together, I got out the little kitchen torch to toast the frosting.  A little fresh strawberry topped it off nicely.  After that, I took different colored curling ribbon and cut into about 10-inch pieces.  I lightly curled them then placed them somewhat evenly around the cake, securing with a spot of ganache.

This is my favorite pound cake recipe - very simple and VERY yummy!!!  The order of the ingredients is a little different than usual, but I follow it - I don't know if it would make a difference??? ( Because I used the 4-inch cake pan this time, I made cupcakes, pulled out the centers, filled them with the ganache then topped them with a little ganache and the marshmallow frosting.  The cupcakes were torched til light brown/toasted.)

Grandmother Paul's Sour Cream Pound Cake
From Paula Dean

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) butter, softened                    
3 cups granulated sugar                                 
1 cup sour cream                                          
   (I often add a couple of drops of coconut oil)
1/2 tsp. baking powder  
3 cups all purpose flour 
1 tsp. salt (it could probably use 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 tsp)
6 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla                                                  


Preheat oven to 325*F. 
Spray 2 loaf pans or a 10-inch tube pan.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy (4 or 5 minutes). Add sour cream and mix until incorporated.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt together (or use a whisk to mix and lighten).  Add to the creamed mixture alternating with eggs, beating each egg 1 at a time.  Add the vanilla.  Pour mixture evenly into 10-inch tube pan or divide evenly between 2 loaf pans.

Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes for tube pan.  Watch loaf pans after 1 hour.

Semisweet Chocolate Ganache
From the Book "Death By Chocolate" by Marcel Desaulniers
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 T. unsalted butter
2 T. granulated sugar
12 oz. semisweet chocolate broken into small pieces
       (Yes, you can use chocolate chips but the quality won't be optimum)

Heat the cream, butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat (I just nuke it until it's hot).  Stir to dissolve sugar then bring to a boil.  Place chocolate in a bowl.  Pour hot cream mixture over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes (put your timer on).  Stir until smooth.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  (If you refrigerate it, you can make truffles but scooping and rolling about a tablespoon, then rolling into cocoa, chopped nuts or whatever else you can think to use.)

Marshmallow Frosting - Recipe From Jennifer Shea of Trophy Cupcakes
8 large egg whites (room temperature)
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
    (Again, I usually add a couple of drops of coconut oil)

Place egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a heatproof mixing bowl.  Set over a saucepan with simmering water.  Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.

Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form - 5 to 7 minutes.  Add vanilla and mix until combined.  Use immediately.

What Else Can You Do With These Recipes?

Let Your Imagination Run Wild!

Pound Cake is good for Strawberry Shortcake, a Fruit Trifle, Grilled with Pineapple 

The Marshmallow Frosting Recipe can be used on any Cake or Cupcakes.

The Ganache can be used on Cake or Cupcake, for Truffles or Fillings.

What are some of your ideas?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Becoming Self Sufficient - Some Things to Consider

As you know, Don and I went to Baltimore for his surgery at Johns Hopkins in late July.  While in the area, we visited some sites in Pennsylvania (Gettysburg) and Washington D.C. (the Mall, Smithsonian, Lincoln Memorial).  My favorite was Mount Vernon, George Washington's home, sitting high above the Potomac.

Mount Vernon Was Getting a Face Lift When We Visited

We were struck with President Washington's self sufficiency.  I know you pretty much had to be self sufficent in the 1700's, but his dedication to survival was artful and magnificent!  He had an orchard, but he also grew pears, apples, plums, peaches and grapes in his garden by the espalier method in which the trees are pruned and trained to grow along a fence.  Many of these trees were loaded with fruit:

Plum Tree That Stood No More Than Three Feet High

Grape Vines

Lower Garden

I think it's (passed) time to sit down with our families and map out how we can become as self sufficient as possible, as quickly as possible.  A garden might be out this year, but what else can we do?  My sister Shauna and I were talking about all of this a couple of weeks ago, when she said that one of her friends has a pressure cooker and over 1,000 canning jars! They have nothing in them, however that person has the ability to can anything-meat, veggies, fruits, fish caught from a stream.  That made me stop and think. How self sufficient are we?  We have a three months supply of food for two, we have flour, sugar, oil, some beans and rice (basics).  We have a 55 gallon container for water, but is it filled?  Nope.

My goal is to plant blueberry bushes in the front of the house - why not?  They are bushes just like what we have now, they just grow berries that can be canned or frozen or turned into jam.  The problem is most blueberries (probably most any food source) don't like it where we live very much!  We are planning on moving the grapes to the fence to use just like any other vine on a fence, with blackberries and raspberries in a corner and some fruit trees along the east side of the house, espalier-style.  We will also begin a garden in late February/early March.

Don is looking into solar and wind powered energy.  He is also looking at heating our water differently.  We have also looked into putting a wood stove in the family room fireplace.  Our problem is that we look into these things haphazardly instead of making a list and having those goals in front of our faces.  Interest wanes after awhile when finances don't allow for those things right now.  Could we get more creative? Yes.  First
things first.  We need to get out of debt.  I know I need to be more diligent in working towards that financial freedom.

What are your goals? Have you written them down and put them where you  see them every day?  We haven't.  What are your plans for caring for your family?  Do you know how to shoot a rifle?  That could help you put meat on your table and protect your family.  What about your finances?  Are you working to get out of debt?  How reliant are you on others, especially the government, credit cards/banks?  Do you have a savings account with enough $$$ to get you through a couple of months?  What about cash around the house in case it's needed and you can't get to a bank - or worse, the banks are closed?  Do you keep your gas tanks full all the time?

Here comes Debbie Downer- - - - -

I am not trying to preach.  If so, I'm preaching to myself, as Don and I have a long way to go - maybe further than some of you.  I just want all of us to be ready for anything that may come our way - job loss, bank closures, lawlessness ( think London or the flash mobs in this country).  Things look a little rocky right now - our nation could teeter in either direction.  The future doesn't look too positive right now.

Just some things to think about...