Category Archives: fruity patootie

Apple-Pecan Upside Down Cake

Those who know me well know that while I am a pretty good cook, baking is simply not my forte.  I think it has to do with the fact that baking = precision and chemistry, whereas cooking is more freestyle and loose.  You can experiment a lot more during the cooking of a dish than you can during the baking of something–after all, have you ever been able to make adjustments mid-bake to a cake you put in the oven?

We are headed to my aunt’s tomorrow for a get-together of a few of my mom’s siblings (she has 12 that still survive of the original 15), and I offered to bring a dessert.  I wanted something that wasn’t traditional holiday fare, like pumpkin, apple or cherry pie.  I was inspired on a trip to Central Market last week by the gorgeous apple display they’ve got in the produce department–there are no fewer than a dozen varieties of apples there!–and decided I’d bake a cake using apples.  But what kind of cake to bake?  After a bit of thought, I decided I’d go the upside down route.  Furthermore, I decided I’d get crazy and bake it in the Dutch oven I’ve got.  The result:

A variation of the upside down cake with a bourbon-tinged glaze that uses tart Granny Smith apples to balance the sweetness of the cake.

Earlier in the week, I’d made one that didn’t turn out nearly as beautiful as this one, but that was equally delicious.  I took a few liberties with this recipe and made it my own.  Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons good bourbon (Knob Creek is what I used)
  • 1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup (I used this due to SB’s corn allergy; you may use corn syrup as Lyle’s is a specialty item)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons thawed apple juice concentrate (or if you have the patience to make it, boiled cider)

Place all of the above ingredients into a microwave safe bowl and heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes.

For the cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons thawed apple juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup good bourbon (I used Knob Creek)
  • 3 very large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease the inside of a 5-quart Dutch oven (or use a sufficiently large cake pan, with at least 4″ walls) and line the interior of the pan with parchment paper.  Grease the parchment paper as well–nonstick cooking spray is excellent for this purpose.

Peel and core one of the apples and slice it horizontally into 1/4″ slices so that the apple slices come off as rings.  Layer the apple rings in the bottom of the greased parchment in two layers that overlap one another (you can see this in the finished cake above).  Pour the glaze over the apple slices and allow this to sit while you make the batter.

Peel, core and grate the remaining apples and reserve in a bowl.  Set aside.  They will turn brown, but no worries since you will be folding them into the batter later.

Place your flour, salt, baking soda, and spices into a mixing bowl and sift them together, setting this aside.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy.  Beat in the bourbon and vanilla, and then add the eggs one at a time.  Slowly beat in the flour mixture until it is fully incorporated with the sugar and eggs.  Finally, fold in the shredded apples.

Pour the batter into the pan containing the apples and glaze.  Cover the top of the batter with the pecans, taking care to evenly distribute them across the surface of the batter.  Bake for 70 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Once done, allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes.   Here’s where the removal gets a bit dicey.  I’ll tell you what I did to get it out of the pan, but feel free to remove it however you see fit.

I had two plates at the ready–one for serving, and one to hold the cake while I inverted it.  I pulled the cake out of the Dutch oven using the parchment paper and carefully laid it on one plate (not the serving platter).  I very carefully peeled the parchment from the perimeter of the cake, which took little effort since I sprayed the paper down with nonstick cooking spray.  Then I laid the serving platter upside down onto what is the bottom surface of the cake (pecan side) and carefully turned the cake over onto the serving platter and slowly removed the parchment so that I wouldn’t lose any apples from the top surface of the cake.

Now, I haven’t eaten a piece of this one but based on the one I made earlier in the week, I can tell you it is sweet and really needs either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream to temper it.  It is a moist cake, owing to the shredded apples throughout, and is just plain GOOD.


Bright Mango Salsa

SB and I were invited to a friend’s house for dinner tonight, and like the good guest I am, I asked if there was anything I could bring to accompany our meal.  My friend said that we were having fajitas, so I should bring something that could be eaten with that.  I got to thinking, hmmm, what should I bring to eat with fajitas?  Could bring guacamole, but that’s easy and she’ll probably have that already…hmm…aha, salsa!  I’ll make salsa.

But I wasn’t going to make the traditional tomato-based salsas that you think of when you think of fajitas.  No, no, dear readers.  I decided to do something a bit different and go with a fruit based salsa (yes, I know tomatoes are technically fruits but hear me out here).  I wanted something sweet and spicy all at once, so I began thinking of what things I could combine to create that flavor profile.  Et voila:

An alternative to tomato-based salsas, this mango salsa is sweet and as spicy as you want to make it--whatever peppers you choose will amp up the heat.

I went with a mango-based salsa, to which I added 3 types of peppers, avocado and cilantro.  Normally, I would add in a purple onion which would make a good addition here, but I left it out of this one so that SB could partake as well.  Mind you, there is a lot of chopping and dicing that goes into this recipe, but trust me, one bite of this salsa and you’ll know it was all worth it.  I think this would be excellent on seafood and grilled chicken, which is how I plan to serve it the next time I make it.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 2 mangoes
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large Poblano pepper
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 ripe avocado (not too ripe, you want the flesh to be a bit firm)
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • salt to taste

You will need a medium size glass mixing bowl.

Wash the mangoes, and cut the fruit into small dice.  If you don’t know how to dice a mango, here is an excellent instructional video that demonstrates how to do this:

Add the mango to the mixing bowl.  Next, cut the red pepper into large pieces so that you can remove the seed cluster in the center of the fruit.  You will also want to trim down the inner membrane of the fruit (called the placenta), as it is bitter tasting.  Julienne each of the pieces of pepper, then cut into small dice.  You will want to do this with the Poblano pepper as well.  Repeat this process with the jalapeno, except you want to mince the jalapeno, unless you want large pieces of really hot pepper.  In that case, go for it!  Remember, when buying jalapenos, if there are more cracks on the outside of the fruit, that is an indication that the flesh is hot!

Slice the avocado in half, and remove the pit by carefully sticking the knife into the surface and gently turning it to loosen the pit from the flesh.  The pit should come right out.  To dice the avocado, remove the skin by slicing off a little bit of each end.  The skin should come off easily in one piece.  Cut the avocado into 1/4″ slices, and then turn the stack of slices on its side to cut them in half horizontally.  To dice the avocado, then cut down the stack vertically to create small cubes.  Repeat this process with the other half of the avocado and place the cubes into the mixing bowl.  Mince your cilantro and add it to the bowl.

Finally, add the lime juice, pouring it over the entire bowl of fruit, and using a rubber spatula, gently fold all the ingredients together.  You may or may not need to add salt; it is up to your preference.  I did not add salt to mine, as the flavors of all the ingredients together simply did not need it.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  I stored mine with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface (to prevent too much contact with the air), and then covered the bowl in another sheet of plastic wrap.

Because of the avocado, this is best if made and consumed the same day.  The lime juice will keep the avocado from oxidizing too much, but really, avocadoes once skinned are best eaten that same day.

This recipe made 4 cups of salsa.


Summer in a Bowl

Summer is my favorite season for fruits, especially here in Texas.   When I was a kid growing up, I spent summers with my grandparents in Anthony, New Mexico, which is practically desert.  What made the hot summers much more tolerable was eating what I am sure were tons of watermelon and peaches.  Grandpa Viro would take us to the fruit stand just out of town and buy fruit by what seemed like the bushelful–melons, peaches, plums, apricots, grapes and bananas.  I still remember biting into the peaches, the juice running down my chin, making my face and fingers sticky with the sweetness of the fruit lingering behind.

Ah, summer…summer brings to Texas some of the sweetest peaches and melons–grown here, but few people outside the state know this.  Tragic, really, as Texas peaches are really a hidden treasure that more people ought to know about!  But I digress…

This evening, we had barbecued chicken drums for dinner–an easy favorite of mine to fix–and I had a hankering for a fruity dessert.

Enter Parker County peaches, and a carton of Texas blueberries. Initially, I was going to make a peach-blueberry cobbler, but then I looked at how many cups of peaches I had and determined that the berries and peaches wouldn’t fit in the baking dish I had. I needed to use the berries though, so I thought about it and decided a blueberry sauce would be the perfect accompaniment.  Peaches and blueberries are bffs, right?  I also wanted something that would be easy enough to put together that could bake while we were enjoying our dinner.  Et voila:

Easy to assemble, this cobbler will be a hit at your summer dinner table.

Here’s how to make this easy dessert.  You will need:

For the cobbler (modified from The Pioneer Woman’s recipe):

  • 4 large peaches, pitted and sliced into eighths
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 cup, plus 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup self-rising flour*
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter

*if you do not have self-rising flour, substitute 1 cup of all-purpose flour that has had 1 teaspoon baking powder plus 1/8 teaspoon salt added to it.

For the blueberry sauce:

  • 1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot starch, dissolved in a bit of warm water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish.  Place your sliced peaches in the bottom of the dish and sprinkle them with 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon.  To make a nice juice as the cobbler cooks, sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of sugar over the peaches.

To prepare the batter for the cobbler, into a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Melt the butter in a microwave-safe container.  While the butter is melting, whisk the milk into the dry ingredients, and then drizzle the melted butter into the batter until all ingredients are well-combined.

Pour the batter over the peaches, and then sprinkle the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the cobbler.  This will create a sugar crust on top that is really tasty, especially when the cobbler is eaten right out of the oven.  Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees, or until the top is nice and bubbly.

While your cobbler is baking, you can cook down the berries for the sauce.  In a small saucepan, pour the berries, water, lemon juice and sugar.  Heat this over medium low heat with a lid, until the berries start to soften.  Once the berries have softened, remove the lid and allow the liquid to reduce slightly, about 10-15 minutes or so.  Strain the sauce through a fine mesh wire strainer into a container for storage, and discard the mash (although I kept it for SB to eat in his morning yogurt; you may elect to do the same).  I also thickened my sauce slightly with a teaspoon of arrowroot powder that I’d dissolved in about a tablespoon of water.

To serve the cobbler, I poured about a tablespoon of the blueberry sauce into the dish you see above, then served a portion of cobbler atop the sauce.  I added Cool Whip, as it is what we had, but I am positive whipped cream or ice cream would also make excellent accompaniments.

This recipe makes 12 small (1-cup) servings, or 6 generous servings.  It’s going to be all I can do NOT to eat some with a glass of milk for breakfast tomorrow.

Orange-Scented Rosemary Rice

On tap for tonight’s dinner was pecan-crusted ruby red rainbow trout (its flesh is bright red, like that of salmon), sweet and savory green beans.  Originally, our starch was going to be mashed “fauxtatos”–the type made with Yukon Golds and cauliflower, so as to reduce the starch content.

Once I got to thinking about dinner, I wasn’t feeling the fauxtato side dish idea.  Something as light as fish and green beans needed an equally light-feeling side dish, so I thought rice would be a good, natural accompaniment.  But I didn’t want dirty rice, or plain rice.  I wanted something with a light flavor that would complement the fish, and I think this dish did a nice job.

A nice lightly flavored side dish, this orange scented rosemary rice is a great accompaniment to fish, as seen here.

I cheated a bit with this recipe, as I didn’t have any dry rice on hand, but I did have microwavable instant rice which worked equally well.  As I wanted to get dinner prepared in 30 minutes, the instant rice was handy to have!

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 2 1/2 cups cooked white rice
  • zest of one orange (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • salt to taste

In a medium-sized bowl, stir the orange zest, minced rosemary and orange juice to combine.  When your rice is done cooking (whether it is stovetop or microwave), pour the rice into the bowl with the citrus flavoring and quickly stir so that the citrus herb flavoring is evenly distributed throughout all the rice.  Don’t stir too much or you will get mushy rice.

This recipe made two generous 1 1/4 cup servings and would be a fantastic accompaniment for grilled chicken or shrimp as well.

Blueberry-Pecan Oatcakes

Today’s been a lazy sort of day–beginning with sleeping in way past my usual waking time during holidays and finishing up with breakfast for dinner.  I wanted to cook, but I just really didn’t feel like making dinner food.  Most traditional breakfast foods are out as they involve egg, and Sweet Baboo is allergic to yolks (I had no Egg Beaters in the house).  So I went in search of an eggless dinner we could eat that wouldn’t take too long to whip up and that would be relatively healthy.  Et voila:

Easy, healthy and tasty: yes, they can coexist in the same dish! These eggless pancakes are full of heart-healthy oatmeal, pecans, blueberries and YUM.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 3/4 cup oats (I used the quick-cooking type)
  • 3/4 cup oat flour (just grind up a bunch of oats in the food processor to make this)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cake spice (or you can substitute cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons Splenda brown sugar blend
  • 1 1/4 cups 2% milk
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed and rinsed (or use fresh, whatever you have on hand)

Heat a griddle or nonstick skillet on medium high heat.  You may want to spray a bit of oil on the cooking surface if you are not using a nonstick pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, use a whisk to blend all the dry ingredients together.  Once all the dry ingredients are combined and evenly distributed, whisk in the milk and vanilla.  Last, gently stir in the berries. Your batter will be a bit thick but this is okay as these are pretty dense pancakes.

Once your griddle/skillet is hot (a drop of water dances on the surface if it’s ready to cook on), use a ladle to pour the batter onto the pan.  Cook on one side until you see the edges start to brown and bubbles rise, about 3 minutes.  Flip the cake over and cook the other side, about 2 minutes more.  Serve while hot with butter and syrup, if you are so inclined.  A nice fruit syrup or applesauce would also make a good accompaniment.  This recipe makes 7-8 4″ pancakes.

These little guys were easy to whip up, and I am sure that they would freeze well.  I’m planning on making another batch and making my own version of McGriddles out of them with light breakfast sausage.  It should be noted that they are very dense and will fill you up pretty quickly due to their high fiber content.