September 2009

A Taste of Autumn In Fresh Pear Cake

A few weeks ago, I came home to find two big baskets of pears in my sun room.  My neighbor had invited a family member over to pick these green jewels from his overburdened trees.

Two whole baskets full.  "What am I going to do with all these pears?" I asked.  I expect this sort of problem with zucchini, but not pears.

Luckily, I had this recipe for fresh pear cake.

This cake is as easy to make as if it were from a mix.  It's not iced and not too sweet, so you can feel justified having it with your morning coffee, if you like.  It's sturdy, so you can take it to a friend who needs cheering up.  You can freeze it for later.  And with sweetened whipped cream and caramel sauce, it dresses up for company.

Pears are considered a summer fruit, but to me, this cake tastes like the first crisp days of autumn.


Loukoumades

These golden little balls of fried dough are roughly like Greek doughnuts,

though they are lighter and crisper than doughnuts, and covered with a light honey syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon. They're often served, piping hot, from street vendors' carts in Greece. What makes these different from other sorts of fried-sweet-dough confections (I think that every culture has something like this and something vaguely like Swedish meatballs) is the slightly sweet and slightly crisp texture of the honey syrup after it has been applied to the piping hot balls; the syrup crystalizes. These are also usually hollow, so they're light, and crisp, and lovely—especially served with piping hot Greek coffee. These are a yeast-based confection, so you do need to allow the dough to rise.

Cucumber Cake Wins The State Fair

Seattle resident and amateur baker Alicia Comstock has submitted three recipes to the Washington State Fair in Puyallup - and each has won first prize.  Last year her cucumber cake (which she entered in the Vegetable Cakes category) not only won first place in its category, it also took Best Cake in the entire fair.

As the Seattle Times points out, although Comstock is not a professional baker, she is a professional foodie.  Comstock is "Washington editor of the Zagat Survey and regional editor for Northwest Palate magazine."  Clearly the woman knows her food!

Bite-sized Desserts for Fall Gatherings

It would seem that football season has begun. People are gathering at each other's homes to scream at the television and gorge themselves on pretzels, mini-dogs, and cases of beer. But, that's not all. There are the cookies, the brownie bites, the cakes, and the cocktails which will ensure that you inhale a week's worth of calories in one Saturday afternoon. You won't think twice about it until you stop fitting into your jeans by the next game. And another thing, anyone can buy store bought sweets and junk food. We all know what it looks like and we all know what it tastes like, no surprises there. Why not treat your friends to a little homemade smorgasbord of sweet, delicious goodness instead? I've compiled a list of easy to make recipe ideas that not only taste great, they will keep your figure looking great.

Today is National Popcorn Day

Obviously, the easiest way to celebrate National Popcorn Day would be to eat popcorn right out of the bag. But why settle for easy? Here are plenty of other ways to celebrate that involve either getting messy, creative, fed—or all three.

Experiment with flavors. Popcorn flavors are limitless these days. Why settle for plain old butter when you can have kettle corn, white cheddar, nacho cheese or parmesan? Other flavors you can purchase include barbecue, Cajun, chocolate marshmallow, ranch, and sour cream & onion.

Of course, you can also always create your own flavors; try sprinkling your popcorn with cinnamon and sugar, garlic powder, or your favorite herbs and spices. Add in some nuts or M&Ms, throw in some taco seasoning, or toss it with some salt and vinegar.

What's the Weirdest Flavor of Ice Cream You've Tried?

I have to admit, I’m pretty tame. The weirdest thing I’ve ever tried when it comes to ice cream is probably that Dippin’ Dots stuff, and my mouth was not a fan. I’ve also tried plenty of fruit, cookie and chocolate toppings—but so what? Everyone’s tried that.

So I was thinking about expanding my ice cream experience with some new novel flavors. I started to look up such things and was pretty shocked to find flavors like salad and bacon. They sound pretty gross to me—but hey, whatever melts in your mouth and makes you smile.

But it did get me thinking about what other flavors of weird ice cream there are out there. Here are the oddities that I came across:

Too Many Apples? Can't Happen! Buckles, Bettys, Clafoutisuses, And More

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we're at the beginning of the cresting apple wave.  Early varieties have already ripened, and by the end of the month, neighborhoods will be filled with trees surrounded by dropped and rotting fruit, their owners pretending not to notice.  

I remember one year my father was overjoyed when he told me what happened to his apples.  He was working in the yard one afternoon when a car stopped and hailed him from the street.  The driver had a pony farm, he explained, and would it be alright if they took a few of his apples? 

Dump the Vending Machine -- Make This Easy Honey Bun Cake at Home

I have a love-hate relationship with vending machines.  Sometimes they take my money and act like they didn't.  Other times, they give me what I asked for.  Sort of.  Did I ask for my food to be stale or greasy?  Did I ask for it to look stepped on?  I wish there were a button to press for good-looking, good-tasting junk food.

One of the worst switcheroos in vending machine history: the honey bun.  Ideally, it's a rich cake or pastry, wrapped around a cinnamon spiral, iced or glazed with a mixture of vanilla, sugar, and something vaguely dairy.   (Don't confuse it with its cousin, the cinnamon roll.)  Lately, every one I've seen has been flattened and oozing oil.

Luckily, I know a quick and easy way to get my honey bun fix.  This cake is good hot or cold.  It reheats like a dream.  It's moist and low-profile, so it keeps for days and it packs nicely in lunchboxes.

Like so many quick and easy desserts, it starts with a cake mix.  But when you're through, no one will be the wiser.  Are you ready for the list of ingredients?

Hallelujah, I made a pie crust!

I have long sworn by those grocery store pie crusts.  You know the ones I mean - you buy them in the dairy case near the Pillsbury products.  They come rolled up into a tube, two to a box, and you might a well save a dollar and buy the store brand.  

Honestly, these pre-made pie crusts work pretty darned well.  Most of the attention should be focused on what you put IN the pie crust, you know?  I make a pretty delicious apple pie, and as far as crust goes, I'm mostly looking for something that will contain my apple pie.  

(Here's my apple pie recipe, as long as it's come up in conversation: 6 cups sliced apples, ½ cup white sugar, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon or apple pie spice.  I believe in Keeping Things Simple.)