Of Yellow Transparents and Dolgo Crabapples...

The other day my friend Deena told me (that one of her friends told her) that with kids you could do all of the same things as you could do without kids — it just now takes twice as long, and is half as fun.  I'm not sure about the half as fun part, but boy does the twice as long ring true.  

Last Saturday, I bartered a pan of cinnamon rolls for some overripe (but still sauce worthy) Yellow Transparent apples from Klee's Out on a Limb Acres.  Standing out in the orchard, the baby resting in the shadow of an apple tree, chatting with Omer about things was just about the best way to spend a Saturday morning, and as I had suspected even before leaving home, I was inspired by the ripening orchard and came home with more than I figured on.  All in all I've been pretty good this year about not over-preserving especially the sweet spectrum of things.  But when my new orchardist friend was telling me about Dolgo crabapples, how beautiful the jelly is that they make, how he used to help his grandmother pick them for preserving and ate so many in their un-sugared tart state:  I just had to get some to play around with.  One smell of them sealed the deal.

dolgo crabapple

Then I ate one fresh from the tree.  Though super tart, once my mouth was accustomed to it I could really taste how they could be transformed into something amazing, if not just eaten plain as Omer did as a child.  They were beautiful looking as well, like near red balloons when freshly picked.  As they sat around my house for a few days, they seemed to deepen in color.  They infused the lot of my preserving this week with their cheerful bright pink.  

After getting home Saturday afternoon, I steamed down 4 pounds of them right away and let the juice strain for jelly.  I'm quite sure I've never worked with a fruit with such a good amount of natural pectin, the juice was silky and thick, bracing to taste on its own, but really not unpleasantly sour.  I got to making the jelly yesterday and got almost 4 half pints... I may have over cooked it just a little, but I'm not worried about it since the flavor is so good.

crabapple jelly
crabapple jelly.

I still had quite a few crabapples left over, and I remembered my Dad saying how much he liked whole spiced crabapples that his grandmother used to can.  Never having tried one, I tried not to remember the awful, fake red spiced apple slices that I'm sure I've eaten on more than one occasion at a Friday night fish fry with endless salad bar.  I looked in my Ball book to see about that, and settled on a recipe that looked pretty straightforward and old-fashioned.  I added ginger and used powdered allspice after there were no allspice berries to be seen at my co-op this morning.  The result was amazing, just like I knew it would be... and not at all like those garish nibbles on the side of a Friday night salad plate.

spiced whole crabapples

Whole Spiced Dolgo Crabapples (adapted from Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving)
yields 5-6 pints
  • 8 cups stemmed Dolgo crabapples, pricked with a fork (about 4 lbs.)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 T. whole cloves (place them in a tea ball, or tie in cheesecloth)
  • 1 t. powdered allspice
  • 2 fat coins of ginger, each about 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 c. water
  • 2 1/2 c. white vinegar
In a large preserving pot, combine spices, ginger, sugar, water and vinegar.  Heat over medium high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer the syrup for 10 minutes.  Add crabapples and return the syrup to a boil, stirring very gently once in a while.  Reduce the heat and just simmer the crabapples until nearly tender, about 10-20 minutes.  (They might try to burst along the seam where you pricked them with a fork if the heat is too hot.  I aimed for "al dente" apples...)

Meanwhile, ready a hot water bath and heat freshly washed pint jars.  (I like to hold them in a 250 degree oven, and pull them out just prior to filling.)

When crabapples are tender, use a slotted spoon to pack them into hot jars, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace.  Ladle hot syrup into the jars to cover the apples, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  Release any air bubbles and adjust syrup level accordingly. 

Apply lids and rings, and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.  Remove the canner from the heat and let the jars stand in the hot water for 5 minutes before removing to a towel lined counter to cool completely.

spiced whole crabapples

Before I had even tackled the crabapples, I made my year's supply of applesauce.  Before a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of a Yellow Transparent apple:  so named for the pale yellow skin that looks nearly invisible.  I found a website, Orange Pippin, that lists apple varieties, tasting notes, and other attributes, and found that the Yellow Transparents are a good bet for sauce.  When I finally saw the apples in person, Omer explained that they are notoriously short lived, and when overripe, they can pop almost like a kernel of corn.  First, he had me taste an overripe apple, which was mealy and lightweight for its size.  Despite the negative marks against it, it did have good flavor, and when I then tried a perfectly ripe apple, I could see why people seek out this gem of a fruit.  

yellow transparent apples
Overripe on the left, perfect specimen on the right.

Fortunately, even the overripes were excellent for sauce. I added several crabapples to the pot as I started cooking them down to infuse the sauce with a little pink color; the extra pectin in the crabapples was just a bonus, and the finished sauce was sweet-tart and silky.  I added no sugar.


All told, I got 17 pints of applesauce, which I was very thankful for after not making any at all last year.  Not bad for a pan of cinnamon rolls!  I had my older son help me turn the crank on my Gram's old Victorio strainer, and after all of the sauce was finished and resting we helped ourselves to big bowls full of still warm fresh pink sauce.

So it's true it took me 4 days to work through what normally would have taken me about 32 hours or less, but it was still pretty fun.  Estimating the newest boy's sleeping pattern sometimes worked and sometimes didn't, and having an extra pair of hands to hopefully learn a bit about preserving and to help in the kitchen was nice too.  I sure hope both of my boys will grow up and be as excited as I am to see things growing and have the pleasure of preserving it!

Apples: Pressing, Cider, Vinegar, Pectin, Crisp.

cider apples

Last Thursday, my Parents, Kiddo and I went to Weston's Antique Apple Orchard. I have been buying apples from them at the West Allis Farmer's Market for several years; they have been a vendor there for 45 seasons. I never thought of looking to see if they had a website until I learned that I inherited my Gram's apple press, and I needed a good urban source for great apples. I called and spoke with a older man, who informed me good-natured-ly that I'd interrupted his nap, "Since I'm retired!" he'd said. I told him it was our first year with a press, and we just wanted to do a couple of bushels of apples to see about approximate yield and ease of the workload. We negotiated a price for windfalls, and I figured that any price would be worth seeing the land where some of the most exotic apples I've ever tasted have grown for generations.

Even though I'd called back the cell phone number he gave me, I wasn't entirely certain that we would find anyone at this antique orchard when we drove out in my Dad's truck on Thursday. But fortunately we found a sole worker: a middle-aged man in heavily patched pants and a lifting belt who had been debriefed about me and my desire for 2 bushels of apples. A talkative man, he explained that the orchard's brother and sister team worked 7 days a week with just a few helpers like him. He mentioned they were both notoriously difficult to get a hold of, and that we could pay him and then just walk around in the orchard and see which trees had fresh fallen apples. "If you wonder what they taste like, just find one on the tree, shine it up on your shirt, and try one," he reminded us. And we did. Some hard, yellow and tart, leather skinned and bursting with autumnal dryness, others as sweet as honey, plum colored and snowy white inside - the apples the witch likely offered the gullible Snow White.

We spent a hour or so wandering around collecting the bounty of fruits under some trees that seemed perfectly perfect, reminding my Kiddo to show us each apple before tossing it in the bushel basket in case it was buggy or bruised. I had wished the whole while I hadn't already done my applesauce with budget (but perfectly serviceable) apples from the farmer's market. My Mom was more excited that I was, we tried many types and each one distinct and almost unreal. Antique apples are the way to go. If you have a few minutes, just read about some of the unusual varieties that are grown at Weston's Orchard.

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My Dad had brought baskets for us to use, those mysterious things that never seem to wear out and have appeared from nowhere. My Parents have all sorts of gardening baskets like that, old wired things with history that just seem immortal. The press was really something too. My Gram had an apple tree in her yard that was extremely prolific most years. We never knew which variety it was, but it was on the tart side and made the best sauce. There was always enough fruit for anyone who wanted any. She hadn't had the press for that many years, but my Dad cleaned it up thoroughly and carted it down here just so we could try this experiment that none of us expected to be so life changing.

apples in the truck

In less than an hour, we had pressed our 2 bushels (less the amount my Mom took home for pies, and a couple of pounds that she left me for eating). My Mom washed each apple in the kitchen sink, her nurse's credo preventing her from just hosing them off outdoors like my Dad and I figured would be fine. The press is amazingly efficient, and when we weren't even half done, we had agreed that next year we have to have a family pressing out at the farm. The mess was actually minimal compared to what I thought, we hauled most of the expired, squeeze-dried fruit to my compost bin and I saved one 8 quart bucketful to make pectin with. I am letting it drip now as I write, and will pick up some rubbing alcohol later this morning to see if it gels. To test if the pectin is developed, you mix 1 t. of pectin with 2 t. rubbing alcohol. If it forms a solid mass that can be lifted up with a fork, the pectin has enough gelling power.

I made my pectin according to Linda Ziedrich and several other concurring sources online. For every pound of fruit in a large, covered pot, add two cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, then drain through a jelly bag for at least 4 hours. Return the juice to the pot, and boil it rapidly to reduce by half. It can be stored in the freezer, or water bath processed for 10 minutes for shelf stability.

cider pressapple grinder

pressed apple pulp
pulp, for pectin.

ground apples
ready to press.

I also threw together an apple crisp this morning. I seem to never follow the same method twice when making fruit crisps this year. I didn't skin my beautiful apples, I added perhaps too much ground ginger, a tablespoon each of flour and brown sugar, and topped it off with a crisp topping which I had leftover in the freezer. I like a lot of different crumble toppings, but this one was fairly exceptional. It could be because it has a fair amount of butter in it, but I mix it up in a snap, adding everything including the yogurt to the food processor. Unlike Heidi, I don't even melt the butter, I just pulse it with the flour a few times before adding the oats. I also like to add about 1/2 c. of nuts - walnuts are a favorite of mine with apples. I usually mix up a double batch, and eyeball how much I want to include on top of a makeshift crisp. It does also freeze well.

unpeeled apple crisp

Crisp Topping (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour, AP flour, or whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c. butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 3/4 c. rolled oats
  • up to 1/2 c. brown sugar or cane sugar
  • 1/2 c. walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, or other (optional)
  • 1/2 t. or more cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 c. plain yogurt
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and butter. Pulse several times until the butter is the size of tiny peas. Add the rest of the ingredients except the yogurt and pulse to combine into a uniform texture. Add yogurt, pulse once or twice to incorporate. Use right away, store in the fridge for a day, or freeze for impulse baking.

fresh, unfiltered apple cider

As soon as the amber colored cider made it's way down to the waiting bucket, we all stood mesmerized, as if we had no idea that apples under pressure would indeed give up their juice. It's silly really, all of us so excited that we took little cups and stood in the crisp air drinking the best cider we've ever tasted - probably the best since we went through so much work to get it. It was so sweet, thick, tart and refreshing. We got about 4 precious gallons of cider all accounting, and we split it up pretty evenly. We let it sit to rest for several hours, and then I ladled it into jugs and canning jars - setting some aside a little more than a half gallon right away to try and open ferment for eventual vinegar. We didn't filter it into oblivion like we had seen recommended - all of us agreed that having a little sediment was perfectly fine with us.

bottling cider

I have had my issues with vinegar. Making "mock" flavored vinegars (out of Bragg's cider vinegar) this summer made me feel a little better, but like I've said before I felt like I was cheating. This easiest thing seems to be a great challenge for me, and I suspected that I could easily waste my good-as-gold cider trying to ferment and then vinegarize it. Fortunately, yesterday morning, I saw the bubbles of fermentation first appear. This morning, the foam is about a half inch thick, and I suspect in a couple of days I'll be able to strain it into clean jars and inoculate it with mother. Meanwhile, my other quarts of cider are in the fridge waiting to see if their fate will also be vinegar. It is my sincere hope that I can get at least a gallon of homemade cider vinegar, and I don't want to jinx myself, but it looks as if I may be on my way toward that goal.

fermenting cider

Every time we visit, I remember how insanely lucky I am to have such amazing Parents. They get every bit as excited as I do for good food and hard work, experimenting and being together with family. As I helped my Dad hoist that press back up onto his truck (and I didn't think that I'd be able to lift it, maybe I need to start a weigh lifting regimen...), I knew exactly where I get all my quirky obsessions and experiments from. The press traveled 500 miles to my house and another 180 back to the Farm, where it will over-winter in their ample garage or outbuilding until next apple season when we will meet there and be as excited again to see such an amazingly simple thing as cider drip casually from an iron and wooden press directly into our waiting cups. In those moments of simple pleasures, I feel so full up with appreciation for life and the sweet tart of it that I can not really express it. What an amazing way to enter the Thanksgiving season.

Sourdoughizing: Applesauce Cake

It's actually been a long time since I've made dessert with my sourdough starter. It used to be, that I felt so guilty about my excesses of starter that I was attempting to put it in everything. But, that was before the perfection of sourdough pancakes. Now, most mornings the Kiddo tiptoes into the kitchen moments after waking and asks, "Is the starter good?" If I've fed it the day before, which oftentimes I have, then I say yes - and he immediately goes to the closet to grab his footstool to help me mix up pancakes. 100% sourdough starter pancakes take less time to mix than time to heat the pan, and I couldn't be more thankful that my picky child loves them as much as I do.

Now that Fall seems finally to have arrived, the onset of apple season has me trying to use the final few jars of last years applesauce from the shelves. Yesterday I couldn't help but wonder if fermenting sourdough starter with a pint of applesauce and flour would produce an even better version of the Spanish Bar Cake that I told you all about last year. I would say that this is the finest sourdough cake I've made to date, and no one would know any different that it is in fact healthier for you due to the long fermentation time. (We'll just ignore the sugar content, ok?) This cake is so apple-y, you would swear you added fresh and not canned sauce, and the cake is so moist you would swear it had a pound of butter in it. But this is oil cake friends, and coconut oil is my miracle oil of choice for producing stellar results in baked goods. If you have a cupful of 100% hydration starter in need of using, give it a try. You will then bask in the chill of Fall with ample apple sustenance to carry you through a brisk day.

100% hydration starter is sourdough starter that you feed equal amounts of flour and water. I keep my starter well fed, since I am a habitual baker, but if you keep yours in the fridge, I'd recommend giving it a feeding or two before baking with it. I let my cake ferment for about 8 hours before continuing, but you probably would have a bit of play on either side of that time frame. If you mixed it after supper, you could easily continue with the baking after breakfast - or if you allow a few minutes in the morning, you could bake it in the evening as I did.

Sourdough Applesauce Cake (adapted from this Spanish Bar Cake I posted last year)
1 9x13 cake

For the ferment:
  • 1 c. 100% hydration starter
  • 1 pint applesauce (about 2 c.)
  • 2 1/4 c. AP flour
To continue the cake:
  • 2 c. sugar
  • scant 1/2 c. coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly (or same amount of any cooking oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. cinnamon (I use Cassia)
  • 1/2 t. ground cloves
  • 1/2 t. ground allspice
  • pinch salt
  • 1 c. raisins, optional
  • 1/2 chopped walnuts, optional
Combine the starter and applesauce in a large bowl and mix well. Add the flour, stir well to mix, cover and leave at room temperature to ferment at least 7 hours before continuing.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 and butter a 9x13 pan.

Combine the remaining ingredients, except the raisins and walnuts if using, and mix well. Add to the fermented applesauce mixture, which should have risen considerably. Mix well by hand with a sturdy wooden spoon or a dough whisk until well blended. Stir in optional raisins and walnuts and stir just enough to disperse in the batter.

Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for 35-45 minutes until brown and a tester comes out clean from the center. Cool completely before frosting with maple cream cheese frosting if desired.

I will likely keep playing with this recipe. It's really one of my favorite things, since it is so deliciously reminiscent of Fall, but it also because it reminds me of my Gram. It is as good with the morning coffee as it is with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the evening. Even die-hard chocolate cake fans like this simple spice cake, and being successfully sourdoughized makes me more happy than I can relate. Does this mean that cake season is upon me? I think so. I'd better go brew another pot of coffee, since it looks like rain for the next few days...

This post has been Yeastspotted.

Applesauce Cake, a.k.a. Spanish Bar Cake.

Growing up, it is safe to say that we were a dessert family. There was a Boston Baked Bean crock, seldom devoid of cookies, that had permanence on the edge of the kitchen counter. I could usually hear the telltale rattle of the pottery lid just after my Dad would step in the door from work. Now that I'm an adult and a parent myself, I can appreciate that my Parents wouldn't ordinarily let us kids indulge before supper ourselves. I think of Jerry Seinfeld saying " as adults we understand, even if you ruin an appetite, there's another appetite". If we adults want, we can go ahead and squander our current one on as many cookies as we can hold.

That, my friends, is probably why I don't keep a cookie jar, and save the bulk of my cookie baking for Christmastime. Cookies are just too small and bite sized for me to resist. Cake, however, I am (usually) dutifully able to ignore until after dinnertime, when proper adults who have eaten responsibly for the day are free to indulge. While the family of my childhood always had cookies at the ready, my Mom also frequently had other desserts for those of us who ate our dinners. Cake, pie, kuchens, coffee cakes that were flaky and shaped like enormous tennis shoes (oh, but they were sooooo good!), fruit cobblers or crisps, rice puddings or tapioca. Seldom were we to end the evening without a few bites of something sweet.

One dessert that my Mom often made, also a favorite of my Gram, was this applesauce cake. They both made it in a 9x13 aluminum lidded pan, also with the telltale lid rattle I could hear from a mile away. Most families have a cake or two like this, ones that are made entirely of pantry staples and remind them instantly of home. For me this is that cake. While I most love chocolate cake, this is the cake that takes me straight back to the Northwoods, my Gram's kitchen. Her silver percolator of coffee hot, and this out of the oven just long enough to be frosted in maple cream cheese frosting. We had plate sized pieces, the bunch of us satisfying that Mendez sweet tooth heartily - and with ample amounts of vanilla ice cream alongside it no doubt.

My Mom grew up in Chicago area, a south suburb that at the time was almost rural. She remembers her dad picking up a cake similar to this at the A&P every Sunday and it was called Spanish Bar Cake. My grandfather was Mexican, so when she told me this years ago, I just figured it was something that he affectionately called this moist applesauce cake and didn't consider that the A&P store did actually have a cake of the same name. It's also true I hardly know what an A&P store was, since where I grew up there were no such things.

It's unclear to me the exact origins of our cake recipe. The A&P version (according to many Google perusals) was a dark spice cake with a fluffy, white frosting. Some recipes use molasses or a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder, but all use applesauce and shortening or oil and no butter. Most are studded with varying amounts of walnuts and/or raisins. I'm certain our version comes from a newspaper somewhere over the years, and was written down in my Gram's lovely cursive on a 3x5 index card that has yellowed and browned over time. Our instructions call for the use of a pint of applesauce, since my Gram's tree had, and still has, the best of the best apples for sauce.

Last year's applesauce, from Gram's tree... just a few pints remain before the 2010 batch kicks off.

This cake is topped with a cream cheese frosting flavored with the artificial maple flavoring, Mapleine. As far as the fake stuff goes, it is my favorite. It's a molasses-black bottle made by Crescent and it really isn't all that artificial. It's caramel colorant makes the otherwise snowy frosting into a rich, fall-like color, and it's syrupy sweet maple essence is the key to the Mendez version of Spanish Bar Cake. I was also able to make powdered sugar out of my raw sugar for the first time thanks to the new VitaMix. Even though it was completely powdered, the finished frosting had that crystalline raw sugar bite that I really love. I think everyone in my family knows how to make this frosting, and we never measure, we just add liquid and powdered sugar until the frosting feels like frosting. I will approximate the amounts below.


Spanish Bar Cake (a.k.a. Applesauce Cake)
one 9x13 pan (easily halved for a 9x9 inch pan)
  • 2 1/2 c. ap flour
  • 2 c. sugar (I used raw)
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. cloves
  • 1/2 t. allspice
  • 1/2 c. shortening or equivalent oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 1/2 c. water (I used raw apple cider I had on hand)
  • 1 pint applesauce (approximately 2 cups)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. walnuts, chopped (or more)
Preheat oven to 350.

Sift or mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients (I melted my coconut oil first) in a medium bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry, and stir until well incorporated but do not over mix. Fold in the raisins and walnuts.

Spread into a 9x13 inch pan and bake for 25-35 minutes. Cake is done when tester comes out clean, and the top is lightly browned. (Time varies depending on the size and variety of your pan.)

Cool completely, and frost with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (follows).

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • powdered sugar (3-4 cups more for thicker frosting layer)
  • milk (2-3 T.)
  • 1/2 t. (or more) Mapleine
  • (optional 1-2 T. butter)
Using a hand mixer (or by hand), beat the cream cheese and optional butter until well mixed. Add Mapleine and enough powdered sugar to create a thick frosting. Thin with a bit of milk, and correct with additional powdered sugar should it get too runny.

(I made a sourdough version of this cake as well!)

Many similar recipes call for soaking the raisins, but I don't bother.

These days, I half the recipe and make it in a 9x9 glass baking dish, since I have one boy who won't eat any sweets, and one who eats far too many. I find it's the best way. Not to mention, I would totally eat a 9x13 pan of this cake and it's better to just resist temptation at the baking stage.

I've been thinking about this cake a lot lately, ever since Julia posted her version of the Applesauce Cake. Admittedly, hers is more virtuous in the sugars department (frosting free and all), but I have to wonder if way on down the line, we are using the same recipe. Like language and nomads, recipes have a way of circumnavigation that is mind boggling. I wonder when just exactly it was that I first ate this cake myself, and now that I've set it free into Internetdom, where it will end up next, and for how many generations. I think about the staple foods of my life, the simple things like apples and how some years, the tree didn't produce. Somehow, there was always enough sauce to get by until the next harvest. Who planted that tree - and how old is it? We don't even know the variety of the apples...yet there were always plenty for everyone who needed them.

Pleasant questions for a chilly day - the stuff my daydreaming is made up of. Tomorrow morning, you can think of me with my coffee and perhaps a plate sized piece of this cake for breakfast, since after all - I am an adult, and there will be more appetites. I can always be more responsible the day after tomorrow.

The Best of 2009: Personal Food Photography Favorites.

I think when I look back, the whole reason that I started food blogging was because I was taking all of these food pictures, and I was only showing them to the same 3 or 4 people. I've loved my kitchen for quite a few years, but only somewhat recently entered the digital age of photography. I like to think that I know what's going on with technology, but yet really, I'm in the dark ages. Until I got married, I never even had a computer in my home, and most people were surprised at how many computer-related things I knew for really not being all that interested in them.

A few months ago, we had to invest in a terabyte of extra storage, since I was taking thousands of photos in super high resolution. It seems ironic that food photos were eating up tons of space. I've since started shooting in smaller formats, but still have a day or so in the future I must devote to paring down the digital clutter. Digital clutter, it seems to me, is much worse than the physical type, since you don't see it and it overwhelms your computer before you know it. More than once everything has frozen up due to space issues, and I've frantically had to transfer things over and cross my fingers that I wasn't loosing anything.

That said, I've dug into the external hard drive storage to unearth some of my favorite food photos from each month of 2009. Since I started blogging in April, I have quite an online collection of photos both here and on flickr. The ones below are of die hard obsessions, and are compositions that appealed to me, if not to the larger photographic community.

Off we go:

Granola from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Granola is absolutely an obsession with me, and its one that appears to have no waning in sight as we enter a new decade. Of the many varieties that I've tried and tweaked and eaten (I can not imagine the pounds of rolled oats I've eaten this year...) this one is still one of my most favorite. In fact, I made a batch today, in spite of the lack of freezer space. In addition to being obsessed with granola, I am obsessed with frozen granola. I love it mixed in with day-old oatmeal, sprinkled on top of a Wheatabix biscuit, sprinkled on ice cream or poured directly into my mouth from a ramekin. You really must try it.


Dorie Greenspan's Cupcake.

Yes, it is the same as the banner cupcake above. I made them for a Super Bowl party, which is ironic since the thing I love most in the culinary world is chocolate cake, and the thing I hate most would have to be football. I forgot that I took quite a few different shots of this ganache topped beauty, and I like how it appears that I was shooting in a glamorous white facility somewhere and not on my sunlit dining room table. I'm pretty sure I ate a lot of them myself, and like I've said before, it is truly a miracle I am able to maintain my current weight.


Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Granola.

I went through a DVRing craze of watching Nigella on Food Network near the end of last winter. While I can't say I've watched much Food TV lately, I guess when the holidays are over and the rush of January is gone, and the whole of winter and snow seems to be beating me into couch potato-ing submission, I do catch up on DVR'd obsessions. As I recall, I was also watching all of the Jamie Oliver's I had recorded as well - so I must have been feeling rather British at the time.

This granola
is so different than any of the others I've tried, and has the benefit of being the recipe to introduce me to brown rice syrup, which is seriously one of my favorite things. It's so good and not so sweet, and has the best crunch of any I've tried.



I started the blog this month, and it was just a couple weeks after unexpectedly loosing one of my uncles, who was quite young. I think a great silence fell over me, since though I was far away from him, I remembered him so well from when I was small - and my brother and I were regularly (and gladly) tormented by all of my Mom's brothers (she had 4!). He had such a natural ability to be funny. Not just funny - an incredible wit that goes unmatched to anyone I've ever met. I like to think that the Northwoods are missing the laughter that he brought to everyone who knew him.

Eggs will forever remind me of this, and for a good reason. They do embody the necessity and the circle of life. It seems like a cruel truth, until closer observation. There is such joy to be found in every part. God has given us this set clock to which all of us are bound, and there is no escaping it. Whatever you believe, "When the game is over, all the pieces go back into the same box" as a fortune cookie I had once said.

While it seems like a strange way of coping with something so unexpected, eggs for a week in April did help me, though I felt in no way able to help my family as much as I would have liked to.

Alton's English Muffins.

My boys went to Chicago, and I stayed behind to catch up on knitting and being alone. Of course, this found time led me to do some rare shopping and I bought some egg rings. (Read more about it here.) It took me three tries to get them to turn out properly, but they were very tasty and ready for their photo op...


Black Beans.

I think this is just a random picture from one dinner one night back in June... before I was aware that I would be obsessed with Rancho Gordo, I'm sure these were just regular Non-Gordo's. I am always amazed at the agriculture in our country, and that even if you are short on cash, you can step into any supermarket and buy a pound of beans for about $ .99. These were mostlikely from the bulk bin at my food co-op, so they may have cost slightly more.

I took this
related picture in November (with a Rancho Gordo variety), and one of my favorite flickr contacts left the nicest comments aboutthe respect due a black bean... you'll have to click over and read it.


Mango Salsa.

My first post back in April was about mangoes and mango salsa. I think I ate mango salsa or a mango crisp for so long that the last time I bought one I made it into salsa and then couldn't even eat it! This never happens to me very often, but I think a new category has emerged: Foods I'm Tired Of. They still are amazing, and I wouldn't want to offend any mangoes who happen to be reading this. I'm pretty sure it's just a phase, and maybe by next June, I'll be ready to devour them once again.



In a Saveur article from this fall, I read about a "real life Johnny Appleseed". I never gave so much thought to the "American-ness" of apples before reading this article, and having it explain how there are so many unique American varieties due to the unique way that apple trees are propagated. I think that each tree must then taste unique to itself, since that is why this sauce is the exact taste that comes to mind when I think of applesauce, since I've been eating it pretty much since birth.

The applesauce I made above was from my Gram's tree in Northern Wisconsin. I don't know the variety, but it is sweet and tart. I didn't add any sugar to it at all - and if you'd ask the Boy-O, I know he'd agree that it is plenty sweet. I had a great time being a whole season canner this summer, and looking back at all of the photos I have of my processing, reminds me of this everyday miracle of food preservation.

I am indeed still looking for someone to eat beets with, since this batch of fine looking noodles is still snuggled in the frozen depths of my deep freeze... I just haven't had the occasion to serve them. I may just have to invite a new food blogger friend over to indulge with me...


Tostadas de Salmon Ahumado and Rancho Gordo Christmas Limas.

Mostly Foodstuff's Majestic and Moist Honeycake

There are three photos for October, since I couldn't choose. GOP turned my eye to the amazing Rancho Gordo in October, and I am forever grateful. Sometimes, there is this thing called "perceived value" which can be an inflated idea of greatness that you inflict on something you really want to be wonderful.

But, dear reader, Rancho Gordo is not included in this definition.The day I placed my first order, I made the delicious smoked salmon tostadas, and the first cooking experience with said beans was this amazing Christmas Lima. They were so good, and only improved with refrigerated residence. I have the other half pound from this batch, and am going to have to make the same meal again.

And as for the cake, well this cake, is the cake of all cakes... at least for a cake lover such as myself. It is so wonderful, and only more complemented by Deena's post about it. I'll say no more, you must try it for yourself. Just look at it gleaming there, you know you need to turn on the oven and brew yourself a pot of coffee...


Turkey Sandwich with Spicy Dilly Beans.

This was a great use of the little bit of leftover smoked Thanksgiving turkey. These dilly beans are going to be a staple at my house from now on. I could easily eat as many of them as an actual side of vegetable instead of the one of a pickle that it actually is. It's spicy, and dilly: It's Foodinjars Spicy Dilly Beans! And by all means add that extra cayenne pepper.


I come from a teetotaling family, so the making of homemade hooch wasn't exactly the first thing that came to mind when I was completely obsessed with tart cherries this last July. Curiosity, however, is the mother of experimentation over here at Casa RCakewalk...

I poured a tiny little cordial cup the other day to see how it was coming along, since the recipe I used suggested letting it rest for several months. It's very sweet, I'll say that, but it's also very cherry. I'm for sure going to have to make a black forest type ice cream, I know this much. It also, strangely, didn't seem overtly strong - but I think the sugar was fooling me. At any rate, it made a very nice picture for the end of the year.

So, at year end, thank you to my small handful of loyal readers that inspire me to continue taking photos and ruminating on life (usually as it pertains to the kitchen) around my house. I've had more fun doing this than I ever thought, and I've met some interesting people who are amazing canners, cooks and bakers! It does seem like the year has evaporated on me once again, and sometimes I wish I could just put the lid on it to slow the process. But then I remember the eggs, and realize that it is all a part of the plan,and that each of these 3 grey hairs I recently noticed are par for the course.

Happy New Year!!!