Baked Apples!

baked apples

OK.  Yum.  Yummity-yum-yum YUM.

We like dessert after dinner at my house.  I shoot for fresh fruit most nights but lately Valentine candy (shoot me now) has been dessert.  When I can find a nice fairly healthy dessert I consider it a great accomplishment as it makes everyone smile, including me (and no shooting required.)

Bonus number two with this particular recipe: both of my daughters can make it single-handedly!  I kinda prefer when Josie makes it because she cleans up her work space without any evidence of food preparation lickity-splickity.  Rhea needs a reminder.  And then sometimes another reminder.  And then I go back and finish the clean up.  But that’s OK.  This is why kiddos have mamas, right?   We’ll get there.

Baked Apples

Ingredients: 4 apples, 2 tbsp. maple syrup, few shakes cinnamon.

Directions: slice up your apples and leave the skins on.  Pour on syrup and add the cinnamon.  Mix it all up so all the slices are coated evenly.  Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes if you like your apples cooked but a bit firm, longer if you like them softer.  Serve warm in a little bowl because then your dessert can be tasty and cute.

Unsolicited tips: There a tons of other ingredients you can use for baked apples.  Brown sugar, butter, vanilla… but I like this recipe because it’s simple and really tasty–plus way healthier without all that other stuff.  Most of the recipes I found online for baked apples directed me to peel the fruit.  This, however, is not only an added step, it also simultaneously removes one of the most nutritious parts of the food!  So, if you need to peel’m.  If not, don’t!  My guys love it with the skin on.

Final tip: most recipes called for more maple syrup, but I have found that a little bit is all you need to add some sweetness but not overpower the other flavors.

If you’re interested in health benefits of cinnamon and maple syrup consider yourself thus informed!

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French Toast Baby

french toast

I love living in my almost 100 year old house that is just a tad chilly in the mornings this time of year.  I put on my Uggs (knock offs), wrap up in a fleece something-or-other, make my coffee (my mouth is watering right now) and think about what’s for breakfast.

French toast baby.  Who doesn’t like French toast?  Actually I have a finicky nephew who won’t eat it but I still love him (even though he’s clearly very weird.)

Just like when I make pancakes, I make a TON of French toast–I literally use an entire loaf of bread or more at a time–that keeps great in the fridge or freezer for the next crisp fall morning.  Assuming not everyone is interested in mountains of breakfast stuff, however, I will now present to you a recipe for, like, a normal amount of French toast.  K?

Michelle’s Buttermilk French Toast:

Ingredients: few slices of bread (getting old is dandy) 4 eggs, 3/4 cup butter milk, two tsp. vanilla, two tsp. sugar, tons of cinnamon.  Additional options include a dash of almond extract (careful with nut allergies,) dash of nutmeg, pumpkin spice, stuff like that.

Directions: Set bread aside.  Whisk everything else together and  dip each piece of bread completely into the mixture.  Then place the soaked bread onto a heated cooking surface with a little oil (forgot to mention that in the ingredients)  Cook both sides on a medium heat.  Top with maple syrup or delicious other things like powdered sugar or tasty jams.  My mouth is watering again!

Tips: as I mentioned above, bread that is getting a bit dry is fine, in fact some folks like it better as it will soak up all the buttermilk-eggy mixture even better.  My favorite bread to use is a hearty whole wheat sour dough.  I like the sour dough contrast with the sweet syrup or whatever… so good.

Beauty and the Beasties… Michelle’s Fruit Crisp!

nectarine

(keep reading for a great summer fruit dessert recipe below!)

Beautiful.  And funny looking–just like nature intended.  Perfectly ripe white nectarines make my mouth and heart smile.

All the stone fruits are in coming into season at my local farmer’s market.  White nectarines are my personal fave right now.  They taste milder than yellow nectarines, but–and at the risk of sounding like a cheesy poet–I appreciate their more delicate and subtle taste.  There.  I said it.

Not everyone has the time or inclination to hit a farmer’s market on a weekly basis, but if you enjoy good fruit, I highly recommend hitting one at least once this summer.  In Southern California, in the summer, you will not be disappointed with this experience.  (If you are please let me know and so that I may rethink my entire existence.)

Prices for stone fruits right now range from 2.00-2.50/lb. which is not much different from the regular market.  You can also find the “seconds” bins where the less attractive fruits find a place to rest before being snatched up for, often, 80 cents a pound!

80 cents a pound right now bought me a whole slew of some “beasties,” aka: not so purty apricots.  No problemo.  Josie and I made our absolute favorite summer dessert, which we have aptly titled cheap fruit crisp.

Cheap Fruit Crisp (as the name implies, this can be made with a variety of stone fruits.  This time was apricots.)

Ingredients: 3 cups apricots, diced, 1/4 cup cup flour, 2-3 tbsp. sugar, few healthy shakes cinnamon, 1 cup raw oats, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, few pads of butter

Directions: toss the fruit with flour, cinnamon and sugar.  Spread in a baking dish like this:

fruit crisp step 2

Sprinkle oats, then brown sugar on top.  Add a few pads of butter like this:

fruit crisp step 3

Bake at 350 for 30 or so minutes, or until fruit is cooked to your liking.  When it’s done it should look divine (like this:)

fruit crisp baked

Tips: We love our cheap-fruit crisp served fresh and warm with a scoop of ice-cream on top.  Not only did this whole entire delicious concoction cost me, like, less than 4 bucks to make (no joke)… it’s also much healthier than a pie or cobbler which contains all that yummy–and fattening–crust.  Took about 10 minutes to whip it up and clean up too.  Great with apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines… buy the cheap ones with bad spots.  Why not?

If you’re trying to make use of bland fruit, add a splash of lemon juice to the first step.

Final tip: Near the end of the summer, I like to make one of these and put it way back in my extra freezer.  Then, when fall is in full swing and we begin to miss our sweet stone fruits, I toss the crisp in the oven and wah-lah!  A summer memory ready to gobble up!

Josie helped me record the recipe… Of course I generally eye-ball everything, but for the purposes of spreadin’ the love, we thought we’d better write it down.

Josie's fruit crisp recipe

Breakfast Introspection

breakfast

Before I begin, check out my monthly post on Hometown Pasadena!

Tomorrow my youngest child turns six.  Of course he’s all excited about getting older (OK, yes, and getting presents.)  For whatever reason, I always get a little teary the day before my children celebrate another year of life.  My mind drifts back to what I was doing the day before they were born.

In Grayson’s case, with a scheduled C-section, six years ago today, I knew it was the last day of my pregnancy.  With a one-year-old and two-year-old at home with me (I know, right?), being a 38 year-old pregnant woman with a 10 lb. baby in my belly I was mostly focused on gettin’ that kid out.  FAST.  I seem to recall a tearful checkup with my OB where I pretty much begged him to move up my delivery date by a week as I just didn’t think I would make it to the finish line.  He didn’t.  I did.

The aching back, insomnia, swollen feet and baby shoved so far up my rib cage I couldn’t bend forward to even wash the dishes by this point… all those memories have dissipated by now.  Mostly now I think back and realize that six years ago today I was pregnant for the last time in my life.

I felt then and still do feel so incredibly lucky to have carried three amazing little people in my belly.  From the first to the third I marveled at them from the moment I looked into their brand new eyes.  I kept them in the hospital room with me and despite exhaustion and the opportunity to rest before returning home, even with my not-so-little guy I held him and gazed at him constantly.  Just couldn’t get over the miracle of the whole thing.  Still can’t, really.

Tomorrow I’ll be awakened early–I know it–by an eager kindergartener who can’t wait a moment longer to open his gifts.  But today I will sip my coffee for just one extra minute and bask in these quiet memories.

Introspection French Toast

Ingredients: for every 3 eggs, 1/4-1/3 cup butter milk, dash of sugar, dash of vanilla, 1/2 dash almond extract, few shakes cinnamon.  Bread of any kind. (I don’t really measure–sorry Teri and Lisa.  These measurements should work though!)

Directions: Put bread aside.  Mix everything else together.  Dip bread into mixture and cook on griddle.  Serve with butter and real maple syrup whenever possible.

Tip: I often make this recipe with a dozen eggs and an entire loaf of bread.  Freezes great, pop it in the toaster and wah-lah!  French toast any time you want.  Life contemplation is optional.