French Apple Coffee Cake

In which I explain child development to a child

I came home to tears and explanations.

I had gotten up early that morning and prepped French Apple Coffee Cake while I drank my first cup of coffee. I got it baking while I got my shower and got ready to go.   As I was leaving, I told the kids to go ahead and eat as much as they wanted from one of the coffee cakes (the recipe makes 2) and to leave the other because I still needed to get some photos.  They agreed and I left the house for my job interview feeling a little confident and a little smug because I had accomplished so much already.

DSCN2755It must’ve helped because I think the interview went really well.  But when I got home and opened the door I was met with two children.  One of whom was crying, the other of whom was trying to explain.

“She’s crying because she wanted a WHOLE coffee cake to herself and I told her ‘No’.”

 

I picked up my crying daughter and put my hand on my son and walked into the kitchen.  One of the coffee cakes was completely gone except a small pile of apples in the bottom of the pan.  The other, as I had requested, was untouched.DSCN2758“So…you liked the coffee cake?”

“It was delicious, but…” and he launched into another tirade about how his sister is selfish and doesn’t understand things.  I listened and tried to patiently explain AGAIN how it’s all developmental and has nothing to do with anything other than how little kids are.

 

After I got pictures of the other coffee cake, it sat until the next morning so that John could have some for breakfast.  It didn’t even take 24 hours for both coffee cakes to be eaten.

I have no idea why this coffee cake is considered French.  Can someone explain?

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I made a small substitute in the recipe.  I ran out of butter so I replaced the butter in the icing recipe with cream cheese.  I recommend you do this also.  The slight bite of the cream cheese works well with the tartness of the apples.  From the quick devouring of the cake, I think everyone else agrees.  French Apple Coffee Cake

Mama’s Apple Pecan Pie

In which I bake a pie.

Nicholas requested an Apple Pecan pie for his birthday.  At first it was a pumpkin, apple, pecan pie, or pumpkin pecan.  I started suspecting him of just throwing things out there to see what he could get away with asking.  Finally he settled on Apple Pecan.  He had also requested chicken pot pie as an entree.  That kid loves pie so much we call him 3.14.  (not really).

He also loves his birthday.  He starts getting excited about a month before.  He counts down and after we get through Caroline’s birthday, he is nearly intolerable until his is over.  I use the opportunity to relay his birth story to him.  The day before I start out with “x number of years ago, I woke up at 6 AM and was sure that I was having a baby that day.  I knew it could be a while so I went into work about 45 minutes away from home.”  Around 10 AM, I tell him that my friends at work convinced me to go to the hospital.  Throughout the day I update him on what was happening.  I tell him about making dinner (black bean and corn pasta salad) and going to watch the Elvis impersonator up the street.  I tell him how we went and hung out with some of our friends, during all of which I was contracting.  I tell him how at around 10 PM we finally got to the hospital and then relay all of the events up to the emergency C-section the next morning (so much for my knowing that he was going to be born the morning before) and my first impressions of him. He loves the story almost as much as he loves pie.DSCN2726To make this pie I used a pie crust leftover from when I made Shrimp and Olive Pie.  The recipe said the No-Fail Pie crust was good in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, so planning ahead (or laziness in not making another pie during that time period) meant I had pie crust ready to go.  The apples on the trees were ripe, so that was taken care of.  I assembled the pie without any problems.  It’s easy.  However, I did have a bit of a problem when it came to baking the pie.  The recipe says to bake until a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean.  That never happened.

I had just enough time to bake the pie for the recommended amount of time before our friends came over and we went to an escape room.  But the pie was still unset in the middle.  I turned the oven off and figured that the heat may continue to cook the pie without burning it and that perhaps when we got home, it would be done.  I tested it when we got home, but the knife didn’t come out clean.  I restarted the oven, put foil around the crust so it wouldn’t burn, and baked it longer.  The middle of the pie looked set, but the knife still had stuff on it when I stuck it into the pie.

I didn’t have time or ingredients to make another pie and I didn’t want to ruin Nick’s birthday, so I evaluated the entire situation and came to the conclusion that the pie was actually done, the eggs were cooked, it was fine.  The knife was never going to come out clean, despite the pie being done.  The crust was darker than I would’ve liked, the edges were more caramelized than I would’ve liked, but whipped cream hides a multitude of sins.  DSCN2729This pie was incredible.  It had all of the richness of pecan pie with a slightly oozy texture.  The tartness of the apples cut through it just enough.  The leftovers would have easily been gobbled up, but Nicholas wanted to share a slice with his dad.  I don’t exactly understand how the mix-up happened, but his dad ended up with close to half a pie which he declared to be fantastic.

This recipe is one to hang onto.  Mama's Apple Pecan Pie

Tomato-Apple Chutney

In which I make confessions about preserving.

I struggle with preserving.  I am a process person and need to be completely organized when I begin.  This was a struggle.  I often psych myself out of beginning because the workflow seems intimidating.  Canning is really not that hard.  It helps to have everything in place and set up before you begin, but the process is not overly complicated.  This is a place, however, where my training in project management and creating work flows helps.  I am able to visualize everything that needs to happen including timelines so that I don’t get in over my head.DSCN2741However, problems come in when in the middle of chopping everything, I realized I only had half the amount of celery that I needed.  And then comes the struggle.  I want to be true to the recipes, but there have to be some cases where substitutions are allowed.  I split the difference on this one. I went to the store and got the celery, but I did not go to Penzey’s to get cayenne pepper and used Berbere seasoning instead.  Berbere is an Ethiopian spice blend, the main ingredient of which is cayenne pepper.  When I consulted mom, she reassured me that great-grandma probably left it out all together.  Whatever.  We are talking about 1/4 tsp in a vat of tomatoes, apples, celery, and onions.

And since we are doing true confessions here, I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned.  I put a garden where the dog kennel used to be.  I grew a lot of weeds where I didn’t put down landscaping fabric, but I also managed to get some usable veggies out the situation including tomatoes.DSCN2747This recipe seems exotic for 1950’s Iowa, but I can see where it would be a good use for those vegetables that are still hanging on when the apples are starting to ripen.  Chutney, though, is one of those things that I sometimes have a hard time using up.  It’s a relish and goes with roasted meats.  It can be mixed into mayo and put on sandwiches.  Mix some into some veggies to make them more exciting.  I have no better ideas to use it and jars of it to use.  Please help.  dscn2751.jpgThis is a good basic chutney.  Not something you’d find in an Indian restaurant.  It might have a little too much celery for my taste, but it’s good.  It’s that nice mix of sweet and tart and spicy that chutney should be.

Tomato Apple Chutney

 

 

Apple Marmalade

In which I refrain from making the obvious comparison between apples and oranges.

The air is getting cooler, the nights are getting longer, I don’t automatically reach for shorts to put on when I wake up.  Occasionally in the evening I will put on a sweatshirt.  The air conditioning is off, the windows are open.  Labor Day is rapidly approaching and with it the new school year.  Pumpkin spice is appearing in stores and in coffee shops, but I prefer the smell of apples to pumpkins, which is good because I have apples like you wouldn’t believe.

I spent time today raking up some of the apples from under the trees.  I have the blisters to prove it.  Before the weather cleared enough to do that, I roped John into helping me process some of the bounty from the day before.

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I am obsessing over Great-grandma’s apple recipes right now, so you get to be along for the ride.

First up is Apple Marmalade.  I know there are some anglophiles out there that will scold me for calling something that isn’t just peel “marmalade”, but it does have peel in it. I think in the overall categorization of fruit spreads, this is probably really a jam.  The way I have been taught is just juice=jelly, fruit chunks or puree=jam, whole fruit=preserves, peel=marmalade, and nuts and dried fruit with fresh fruit=conserves.  Feel free to correct me.

I have no idea what kind of apples are on my trees.  The “good” has apples that are slightly rosy and have a soft glow.  They remind me of a MacIntosh, but aren’t that red and aren’t that flat.  They are crisp and slightly sweet.  The “bad” tree has apples that are streaky and red-green.  The apples are crisp and tart.  They make your salivary glands clench in a good way.

 

And “good” is good because it has more fruit on it than the “bad” tree.  You should understand that when I say that the bad tree has less fruit, it still has more apples on it than I have ever possessed at one time in my entire life.  In less than an hour using only the stepladder, I was able to fill a laundry basket and a bin full of apples mostly off the “bad” tree.

 

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Back to marmalade.  This marmalade smells like Christmas and tastes like sunshine.  I sent some home with a friend and she reported it gone almost immediately.  I spread some on zucchini bread.  It was delicious.

I chose to use blood oranges when I made mine since the type of orange was not specified.  It might have been a slightly defiant choice.  I do that.  I just thought that the red pulp would be pretty.  It is.  The red flecks in the orange spread make it look spicy.

It also occurred to me when I was reading the recipe that it said to seed the oranges.  I don’t remember the last time I’ve eaten an orange I had to seed.  This led to a conversation with my mom about the advent of navel oranges.  And how our grocery stores rarely carry any type of orange or orange-like fruit that have seeds.  I’m sure this has greater significance and says many more things than I’m willing to go into here, but food for thought…(see that pun?)

 

 

DSCN2740And just because it’s probably in everyone’s best interest, please adhere to the proper guidelines when preserving your food.  If you go to open a jar of this and it seems off, throw it out.  From what I’ve heard, botulism isn’t that much fun.

 

 

 

 

Apple Marmalade

 

Found on the Back

In which I reveal the back of a recipe.

As I paged through the recipe books and the loose recipes, I realized that me scouring over the recipes had the potential to damage them.  In order to preserve the books in their current states, I started to scan every single recipe into my computer.  Besides being better for the books, it also allows me to sort recipes by category and keep better track of which recipes I’ve used and which ones I haven’t.

And right now, I have the time.

For the first time in my life, I am a stay-at-home parent.  I have been a parent for over 12 years and this is the first time that I have actually been at home all day, every day with my kids.  I’ve gotten to get a lot of organization done around the house, really had a chance to assess the needs and figure out some systems, get the gardens figured out a little bit, you know, just stuff.  I can see the need for a routine.  I can see where I could’ve done better in the past.  It’s a very different sort of challenge for me.

When I hang out with adults, I find myself downloading information onto them.  I crave conversations where I’m not breaking up stupid fights, or teaching someone manners.  I need to talk to people that have fully developed frontal lobes and have had a little life experience.  I need to feel like I went to college for a reason and that my brain is being used.  When I have a chance, I need to do something for me (like make old recipes and write about them)  Which brings me to this.

As I scan recipes into the computer, I often read the backs of the newspapers and magazines and try to place the recipes in their proper place in history.  Often it’s just snippets of things.  I found a recipe with the showtimes at a theater for Aristocats.  Quick check on IMDB told me that the movie came out in 1970.  Suddenly the recipe meant a lot more.  I have one recipe whose back discusses the funeral for an astronaut, another that mentions the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  These recipes all have roots.

Anyway, back to the original point of this whole thing.  I found this on the back of one of the recipes.  Right now it speaks to me.  No idea when this was published or which newspaper.  I could hazard a guess, but that’s not the point.  Just take a second and read what is written, even in its incompleteness.

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It would be easy to talk about sexism here.  It would be easy to talk about wasted potential.  I don’t have to do that because you already know.  Being an actual housewife where you raise the children, where you clean the house and have supper on the table is a hard job.  And this applies to men that do the job also.

Not to be ignored, however is the little blub in the second column.  Were you aware that over half of vacuum cleaner attachments are not being used?  I’m guessing that’s true even today.  Maybe this is the sort of experiment the first column suggests we do?

Sweet and Sour Bean Combo vs 4 Bean Salad

In which I make 2 bean dishes.

It’s time for the ultimate showdown.  The world holds its collective breath and waits while the final verdict is determined.  In the battle of the beans, who will come out on top?  A bean dish served warm with a cooked sweet and sour sauce, or is it a dish served cold (like revenge) with a simple shaken dressing?

It may be surprising to learn that I don’t actually remember eating bean salad until last summer.  I’ve seen it on potluck tables my entire life.  Who in the Midwest hasn’t?  Usually nestled in there between some cheesy potato casserole and a layered Jell-O salad.  The thing is, bean salad of any variety does not look that interesting.  The colors are kind of clashy.  It kind of has that look of a 70’s kitchen.  It just doesn’t look like it would actually taste good.  And everyone knows that we eat with our eyes first.

Ok, so these two recipes have a lot of similar ingredients.  Both use kidney, wax, and green beans.  The Sweet and Sour Bean combo allows for fresh.  The 4 bean salad calls for cans.  This is not major.  Either could be switched out for the other (except good luck finding fresh kidney beans).

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The cooked dressing in the Sweet and Sour Bean Combo calls for using the liquid from the beans.  Do NOT use the liquid from the can of kidney beans.  It does nothing for the texture of the sauce.

 

The 4 Bean Salad, as you will notice when you look at the recipe calls for 1 can of kidney beans, 1 can of green beans, and 1 can of wax beans.  There is no fourth bean unless you are counting that it’s being served to a human bean…We discussed options for 4th bean. You could use both dark and light kidney beans or throw some edamame in there.  Garbanzo might be ok.  I think I’d veer away from canned lima, but frozen/thawed might be ok.  And realistically, it was probably supposed to be called 3 Bean Salad, but people get moving too fast and write things down without thinking and then never bothered to change it.

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The overall flavor of the cold 4 Bean Salad was much better than the hot Sweet and Sour Bean Combo.  The only thing we liked about the Sweet and Sour Bean Combo was the kidney beans.  This is not good.  You should not make food where you only appreciate one ingredient of the finished dish.  We tried it again the next day to see if the flavor was improved.  It wasn’t.

Make the 4 Bean Salad.  Add another bean if you like.  I might think about reducing the sugar and using fresh beans.  This salad is light and refreshing.  It’s a compliment to whatever meat you are serving, but can also be used as an ingredient in a larger salad.

 

Make sure the onion is sliced thinly and you may even consider cutting it into half moons instead of rings.  It all depends on how much you like large pieces of onion.  If you are using olive oil instead of another type, you may end up with chunks of cold oil in your salad.  This is perfectly normal. As the temperature rises, the chunks will melt back into oil.  If you prefer, you can pretend it’s oil “caviar” and you have performed some feat of molecular gastronomy.

4 Bean SaladSweet and Sour Green Bean Combo