- 2 cups pureed or mashed fruit, such as applesauce, bananas, pumpkin, zucchini, pear sauce, peaches, or whatever
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar; if the fruit you are using is very sweet to begin with, substitute up to half a cup of powdered milk for an equal amount of the sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or other flavoring of choice)
Okay, remember a couple of weeks ago when I made my Applesauce Bundt Cake? (follow that link to the original recipe)
Well, I discovered something interesting the other day when I made it–or something like it–again.
The recipe takes 2 cups of applesauce; I only had one. But I also had a cup or so of pumpkin puree from the pumpkin oatmeal breakfast cookies. So I thought…well, it should work, right? Why wouldn’t it?
It would. It did. It was actually really really good, even made with 100% whole wheat flour instead of half white and half wheat like the original recipe. My kids even love it. So here’s the amended version:
Some Kinda Fruit Sauce Cake
Preheat oven to 350
In a large bowl mix till smooth and maybe a little foamy:
Add (just till mixed):
- 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (or combination of white and wheat in whatever proportions you choose)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- (and/or other spices in lieu of the above, as you see fit and have in your spice rack)
- A cup or so of raisins, nuts, or other dried fruit
Mix well and bake for about an hour in a bundt pan or two loaf pans, 40 minutes in 2 square pans, or maybe 30 minutes for muffins.
I have not tried every combination or permutation of this, but I strongly suspect that, aside from the obviousness of other root veggies, almost any mashed or pureed fruit of which you happen to have two cups would work just fine, and give all kinds of delicious different variations (none of which, in the interest of full disclosure, I have actually tried):
- peaches, and add 1/4 tsp cardamom to the spices (Trader Joes has a nice spiced peach sauce…though you’d then definitely want to diminish the sugar in the recipe)
- all pumpkin, with some ginger added with the spices
- banana, and maybe substitute 1/2 a cup of unsweetened cocoa for 1/2 cup of the sugar (although I already have a recipe for something very like this…)
- what about pear sauce instead of applesauce? I think I might go with white flour for that one…
- Or whatever weird combinations of fruits you have…that brown banana plus some applesauce and isn’t there still a half cup or so of pumpkin butter from breakfast the other day?…I find it hard to imagine much that could make this cake actually bad, you know?
- UPDATE: re that previous comment? I tried it substituting nut butter for half the oil; the result was a little too dry, or maybe I overbaked it, and had a sort of funky taste…not enough nut to assert itself, just enough to make you go, “hungh?”–I’ll work on it. In the meantime…yeah, maybe not.
Just pay attention to your proportions, and it should work just fine.
A note about flour type–I find that the more “autumn-y” the fruit combo I’m using is, and the more pronounced the spices, the less likely it is that my children will notice that I’ve used all whole wheat flour. If I were doing something with, say, peaches and raspberries, I’d probably err more on the side of the white flour, whereas with applesauce and pumpkin I’d go for the wheat. Again, it depends on your tastes and your situation.
If you don’t have or don’t wish to use a bundt pan, you could also do this in two loaf pans–or make a number of smaller loaves. As you wish…This is seriously good, and is a great way to turn some of those leftover dregs of Stuff in your fridge into a yummy snack or easy way to ingratiate yourself with your co-workers…
Okay, I have absolutely no idea why fried rice is something that’s intimidated me for so long, but now that I’ve tried it I will definitely be making it again. It depends a lot on having leftover rice (which I tend to make in quantity anyway) and veggies and stuff in the fridge. Also on having in one’s fridge that one key ingredient that at least for me sort of makes the difference between “I am pretending I’m cooking something sort of Asian” and cooking something that actually tastes sort of Asian. That ingredient is toasted sesame oil–a must-have. Fortunately, it keeps just about forever.
The rice has to be cold, and the pan has to be very hot, and you have to pretty much pay real attention for the entire 5-7 minutes or so it’s cooking.
Veggie Fried Rice (quick!)
- Chop up a little onion, celery, cabbage, carrots, zucchini, whatever.
- Saute on very high heat in as little olive oil as you can manage, in a fairly big pan, till just beginning to brown. The food needs room to move around, or it gets juicy and steamy.
- Sprinkle with a little garlic powder and/or ginger powder. Or, much better, add a little real minced or grated fresh garlic or ginger. (I would have just said that, except I promised you “quick.”)
- Remove veggies from pan. (It should be pretty dry at this point–not much, or any, juice floating around in there.)
- Into very hot pan, put a little toasted sesame oil
- Add about a cup of cooked cold brown rice. Stir around and saute until lightly browned. Put in a tbs. or so of soy sauce. Add veggies to pan, stir around a little more. (This would be the place to add any veggies you don’t want browned, like baby peas or something…
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Optional–somewhere in the rice-stirring part, add just a little dollop of peanut butter and smoosh around till it’s melted and evenly distributed…or if you want to do it right, mix with the soy sauce and heat a bit so it mixes better. But the smooshing method works just fine. Serve with a little fresh lime juice squeezed on it–this gives it that sort of pad thai vibe.
This is SERIOUSLY yummy and ridiculously quick. If you want a little more protein, you could scramble an egg in there somewhere between the veggie step and the rice step, and then put it all together at the end. And for those of us trying to cut calories without feeling deprived–remember that the higher the veggie-to-rice ratio, the more you can eat for the same number of calories!
Another of my favorite breakfast-on-the-go recipes–Baked Oatmeal.
I’m not sure really what to call it–it’s not a quick bread, it’s not a cookie, it’s not a muffin–there’s no flour, so its consistency is really just that of, well, oatmeal. Except cool and in bar or muffin form.
The basic original recipe I put up here a while ago; this time I varied it a bit to see if this would work. So:
Baked Oatmeal Recipe, Banana Variation
- 1.5 cups oatmeal
- 1/8 cup oat bran (optional)
- 1 tbs. brown sugar
- 1 mashed banana
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch salt
- Few shakes cinnamon, ginger, and/or nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (opt)
- 1/2 cup (or more!) dried fruit, like cranberries, currants, raisins, blueberries, whatever (add last)
Spread in 8×8 greased baking dish. (or 9×9, because that’s what I have, it’s just a little thinner) or divide into 12 portions in a muffin tin. (They will be only about an inch thick.)
Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes in a baking pan or 20 minutes in muffin tins. Let cool. Cut into squares, or remove from muffin tins. Store in fridge if it’s not going to be gone within a day or two.
VERDICT: Delicious. Honestly, even too sweet with the little bit of brown sugar added, because of the banana; next time I’d just leave it out. I wonder what this would be like with a little peanut butter…or with 1/2 cup pumpkin puree in place of the banana, and maybe a little orange juice in place of some of the milk…seriously, any of the funky variations to which we treat oatmeal could be applied here as well…
It’s fall, which means pumpkin starts to sound just YUMMY.
So I went looking for a recipe for pumpkin-oatmeal cookies, the hope being that this could be a breakfast-cookie kind of thing I could munch on the go or have as a desk-drawer snack here and there.
The original recipe was found here, and it looks absolutely delicious…but that cup of butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar thing had to go. So played around with it.
So here’s what I tried:
Guiltless Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies (makes about 2 dozen)
Just so you know what I did–I substituted nonfat yogurt for about half the butter, and stevia for about half the sugar. I used whole wheat flour instead of white.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 1/3 cups old fashioned oats
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- ½ tsp stevia
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ tsp each nutmeg and ginger
- ¼ tsp cloves and cardamom
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter – softened
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup currants, raisins, or other dried fruit of choice (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper (I used parchment)
Combine flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, stevia, salt, and spices in one bowl. (Or skip this step, which I always do…you just have to be more careful when combining them with the wet ingredients so you don’t get all your baking powder in one little lump in the cookie to the front of the baking sheet…)
Cream butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add honey, yogurt, pumpkin, egg and vanilla – mix well.
Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add dried fruit; mix again. Do not over mix. Chill dough for 30 minutes.
Drop cookie dough onto baking sheets by spoonful, depending on how big you want them; remember larger cookies will take a little longer. I sort of made each one golf-ball-sized and then flattened them a little.
Bake 20 minutes for this size cookies, or a little longer for bigger ones. Cool on baking sheets for a couple minutes and then transfer to wire cooling rack.
VERDICT: A keeper; I like them a lot. It should be noted that they definitely taste more breakfast-y than dessert-y–soft and cakey, rather than crunchy. Husband and son sort of squinted and said, “It’s okay.” Daughter, “Delicious! But I don’t want any more.” Which also means she’s not bowled over. I think they are very good, though, and this means I just don’t have to share them. I made some with currants and some without; the ones with currants are definitely better. I can very faintly taste the stevia-aftertaste, but mixed with real sugar in the recipe it is almost invisible. Next time I might leave it out all together and throw a mashed banana in there for extra sweetness. Someone wiser than I would have to do calorie calculations on this–but there’s really not much to complain about in this ingredient list.
Breakfast on the go. A good thing.
UPDATED VERDICT: unfortunately, these don’t taste anywhere near as good the second…or third…day. They get sort of gluey and dry. I think the currants or other dried fruit would need to be upgraded from “optional” to “necessary” to make them a decent thing to keep on the list…
Over at Fun and Food Cafe, there is a recipe for a really lovely twist on “what to do when your bananas turn dark brown and mushy when you’re not looking.” By happy coincidence, today as I discovered that post I also realized that the mushy bananas my husband said he would freeze a week ago were still sitting in the fruit bowl on the counter. And they were past mushy by now, they were actually verging on liquid. (Eew, I know.) So I figured this would be a good day to give it a shot.
(Y’all know, don’t you, that if you peel, chunk, and freeze bananas when they’ve just turned too ripe to eat normally, they are wonderful for smoothies, right?)
I tweaked it a bit for healthiness reasons and because my hubby doesn’t do nuts…but still, Yow. Serious goodness here. And it was unbelievably easy.
Chocolate Banana Bread (updated 10/10)
In a large bowl mix, in order:
- 3 or so mushy overripe bananas, slightly mashed
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup neutral oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix well–I left some chunks in the bananas, but you could use a mixer and get it nice and smooth if you wanted.
Add all at once (best is to mix dry ingredients in one bowl and then add them to the wet; I never do.)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup white flour (or use all whole wheat flour)
- 1/2 cup baking cocoa (up from 1/4 cup)
- 3/4 cup sugar (up from 1 cup)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
Mix just until blended; don’t overmix or your dough will be tough. Add 1/2 cup chocolate chips and/or 1/2 cup toasted nuts, stir till just incorporated.
Bake in greased loaf pan at 350 for 55-60 minutes. Let cool, if you can stand the wait, and remove from pan.
This is SERIOUSLY good. I should also clarify that the chocolate chips make a really significant contribution to the difference between “delicious” and “ohmigod.” But this is really good. I bet you could go 100% whole wheat flour in this and it would be no less awesome…next time.
Because, yes, there will be a next time.
Okay, over the past few weeks I have made a few pickle attempts, various veggies and stuff that I’d put up in jars and brine, to sit and, well, pickle.
Tonight I broke open all three to see how they turned out, and how they tasted; last week we tried one of the others. In general, a fairly successful set of experiments–going three for four, anyway.
By far the most successful experiment was the spicy zucchini pickles. Bright, spicy, sweet, absolutely lovely. I wanted to just stand there with the jar and eat them all. I want to go buy more zucchini to make more. And more. (And wouldn’t this be the year my garden decided to be stingy and deny me any giant green behemoths? This would be the perfect recipe for the big tough suckers that have grown too much to just sort of eat.) I altered the recipe a little, choosing not to peel or seed the zukes and making them in spears instead of chunks–but it worked just fine. It’s a sweet-spicy recipe that reminds me a lot of the spicy watermelon pickles my mom used to make every once in a long while. Really lovely. (Beware using too many cloves…they will make your tongue numb.) But totally, totally, try these!
The caponata I made two weeks ago also had a little time to let the flavors blend and meld–and they blended into a really awesome condiment that didn’t really taste like any of the individual ingredients but had a lovely taste of its own. Verrry nice. I could get used to eggplant if it’s in stuff like this.
I also had made a very impulsive sweet pickle relish recipe from The Art of Preserving…or sort of . With pickles I’m not as worried about following recipes exactly. The recipe called for apple cider vinegar and bell peppers…I used white vinegar and carrots instead. Chopped up a mixture of cucumbers, half an onion, and a few carrots, put them into a half pint jar. Made a brine out of white vinegar, 1.5 times that amount sugar, 1/8 that amount salt. Into the jar with the veggies I put a teaspoon or so each celery seeds, mustard seeds, and half a teaspoon of allspice. Poured the brine over it. Processed in a water bath. I had some on a hot dog tonight; it made a very creditable relish, a little crunchier and fresher than traditional relish, but that may be because it only pickled for a couple of weeks; I’ll try it again in a month or so. (Yeah, I know, the seal’s broken now, but it should still keep for ages.) It’s good. And I know exactly what went into it–no weird ingredients, none of that bizarre radioactive-looking dye that turns it such an improbable shade of green (or sometimes almost turquoise–is that only Chicago where that crazy blue-ish pickle relish turns up?)…just fresh nice veggies pickled in my own brine.
The least successful attempt was just ordinary pickles, in my own pickling spice and brine. They aren’t bad, but they also aren’t anything to write home about. Which goes to teach me that I really ought to stick with recipes someone else developed.
I never thought of myself as a pickle person…but I could get used to this.
Okay, the other day I related my canning adventures…Today I broke into the nectarine preserves. (By which I mean, I opened them, not that I busted the jar or anything.)
Oh. My. God.
Unfortunately, I didn’t even use anything like a proper recipe–I started with the one from The Art of Preserving, and then kind of improvised from there. (By the way, improvisation is something to be wary of in home canning in a water bath, which can only be done with high acid foods. I sort of went on the theory that if you can make preserves out of raspberries, and you can make preserves out of nectarines, then combining the two shouldn’t be an issue, right? As usual, the disclaimer: please don’t read this blog, decide to do what I did about pretty much anything, and then blame me if you get sick. Do your own homework! I’m a musician, not a CDC worker.)
Just for those who are not canning-obsessed: Jam is a process that causes the fruit to break down and gel, either from its own natural pectin or from added commercial pectin. Jelly is like jam, only strained and clear. Preserves are pieces of whole fruit suspended in syrup, and actually a lot easier to make because you don’t have to worry about jell points and stuff.
Nectarine Raspberry Preserves
- Pit and quarter–or eighth–about 3 lbs of nectarines. (This was a pain in the tail, because the pits all split open.)
- Place in a non-reactive metal bowl with about 3 cups sugar. Let sit overnight in fridge.
- Here you have choices: most intelligent non-lazy recipes tell you to drain off the syrup from the fruit and boil it for half an hour or so, and then to re-introduce the fruit for another ten minutes. I found only one recipe that told you to just dump it all in a pan and boil it for 30-40 minutes or so, so naturally that’s the one I used, because I didn’t feel like getting my strainer all sticky.
- Five minutes before the end, throw in a cup of raspberries, 2 tbs lemon juice, and a splash of brandy.
- Using a slotted spoon, divide the fruit among 5-6 sterilized half pint jars. (More or less.) Fill with syrup to about a quarter inch from the top. (Leaving the head space is important.)
- If you have enough leftover syrup, pour this into another half pint jar or so; otherwise just save in the fridge.
- Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Wow. I mean, just, wow. You could probably do this without soaking the nectarines overnight–and this does make for a runnier syrup than you’d have if you drained and cooked it down before adding the fruit, or if you didn’t soak them–but the syrup is one of the best parts, so I am happy to have it.
And by the way–if you don’t feel like fussing with the hot water bath, just make the stuff and refrigerate it. I can almost guarantee it won’t go to waste, because it’s seriously delicious. imagine this over vanilla ice cream…(or yogurt, I guess, but ice cream would be my choice.)…or in a shortcake kind of situation…or in a trifle…
I am imagining those things too…while I sit there with the jar in one hand and the spoon in another.
Seriously, you gotta try this stuff.
Another in my series of experiments with my “berry easy muffins” recipe…
I used up all my sugar making plum jam, but I wanted to bake to take some hard-working choir members munchies to break up their long morning. So I looked up how to substitute honey for sugar in a recipe: turns out up to a cup, you just substitute honey for sugar in a 1:1 ratio. More than a cup and you start reducing the honey a little, because it’s actually sweeter than sugar. You are also supposed to reduce the other liquid in the recipe by about 1/4 cup per cup of honey added. You also add 1/2 tsp baking soda per cup of honey, to counteract the acidity; I didn’t bother with it in this instance.
So, this is how this recipe turned out:
Honey Cake with Berries
In a bowl, mix well:
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs water or milk
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix in until just blended:
- 2 1/2 cups pancake mix
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Mix in 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen berries. (I used mixed berries this time)
Pour into a 9×9 baking dish and bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes; if berries are frozen, it will probably take up to 10 minutes longer.
VERDICT: The best version of this cake yet. The honey is a really nice addition and adds great but subtle flavor. I might try it sometime using black coffee in place of the milk; I think that’s common in honey cake for Rosh Hashana, and it’s just sort of a variation that might be fun…
One needs to be careful of the honey since it browns more quickly than regular sugar, and I was just a little on the safe side of the center not being quite done even though the top looked nice and brown. But it’s fine. (40 minutes, frozen fruit.)
Yummy cake. My choir will be lucky if they get any.
I might as well confess it: my garden is giving me bupkiss this year. The plants are spindly, the cukes are shrivelled, the tomatoes are few and far between, and I got about 15 green beans total, enough for one batch of potato salad. The eggplants seem to be doing nicely, and eventually I might get some zucchini, but even that’s looking kinda sad…
On the other hand, my herbs are doing beautifully. I have a nice healthy rosemary plant on the patio, and my basil is kicking butt. Serious butt. So I finally made pesto. Checked out a bunch of recipes and in the end, as usual, sort of made up my own.
Now, just to give the disclaimer: I was not trying to make a lowfat or particularly healthy pesto here. I figure, hell, pesto’s one of those things you use maybe a teaspoon or two at a time, so why not make it count, in all its flavory and textury niceness? Why skimp on the olive oil? Or parmesan?
So, here it is:
Easy Basil Pesto
Add the following to a food processor, pulsing after each addition:
- 3-4 cloves garlic. If you really really love garlic, maybe make it 5. If you get too crazy and make it more like 6 or 7, because you think you love garlic so much that it’ll be awesome, be aware that your result will be better titled “Garlic Basil Pesto.” Don’t ask how I know this. (It’s still awesome, though.) Pulse till basically ground/almost pureed.
- 2 cups basil leaves. (To measure, pack the leaves down pretty well in the cup. It takes a lot of basil leaves to make two cups packed.) Pulse again till kinda pureed. (From here on out there’s very little grinding; don’t figure on chopping the basil more later…)
- While pulsing, dribble in half a cup of olive oil.
- 1/2 tsp salt; 1/4-1/2 tsp ground black pepper; 2 tbs. lemon juice. Pulse to mix in
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese; 1/2 cup lightly toasted pine nuts or walnuts. Pulse till you like the texture. (If you like more chunky pesto, only go a few times; if you like it smooth, obviously grind till it’s smooth. Seriously, maybe a couple of seconds might be enough.)
That’s it. Easy as pie. (A hell of a lot easier, actually. Pie is a pain in the tail, IMO.) This recipe makes a little over a cup of pesto, which goes a long way; I froze it in half cup containers to thaw as needed.
The secondary recipe:
Pesto Yogurt Dip
This is exactly what it sounds like: mix maybe 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt with a couple of tablespoons pesto (to taste). Delicious for dipping veggies or crackers or whatever. And lot healthier than most other dip recipes you’re gonna fine.
It’s not a bushel of tomatoes to can and make sauce from, but as the fruits of the garden go, it’s something…
I found a bag of frozen blackberries in the freezer this evening. They’d been there a while, and honestly they were a little freezer-burned. But I figured what the hey, it was a chance to try a variation on my Berry Easy Muffins recipe.
Click on over there, if you’re interested at all–it’s a really easy recipe that uses baking mix (alias Bisquick or some other brand, or for really nice results, make your own!) (In fact, the heck with the pre-made processed lots-of-preservatives-for-endless-shelf-life ones, just make your own to begin with!), milk, egg, oil, and sugar, plus some fresh or frozen berries or cut up fruit. Highly flexible, easy to vary.
Here’s what I did:
Blackberry Tea Cake
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a bowl, mix:
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup milk or water (or maybe yogurt? I did milk)
- 1/4 cup neutral oil
- 1/2 tsp lemon extract
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Add and mix just till blended:
- 2 1/2 cups baking mix
- 1/2 cup (or less, depending on sweetness of berries) sugar
Last thing, add 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries. (If frozen, do not thaw them first.) Mix just till berries are incorporated.
Put batter into greased 9×9 baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes. (Maybe a few minutes less if using fresh berries.)
This was delicious. (Okay, I could taste the freezer burn a little, but not much!) The little bit of vanilla and lemon gave the cake part really nice flavor; almond might have been nice too. Because I make my own baking mix, I could make it with a lot of whole wheat flour, which flies pretty well around here. Definitely, give this a shot!