Tasty Tuesday: Grandma’s Apple Cake

It’s time again for Tasty Tuesday. On Tuesdays I typically share a recipe, a cooking tip, or some combination of both. :-) You can always find all the Tasty Tuesday posts by clicking on the words “Tasty Tuesday” in the menu bar above or in the list of categories on the right.

As I’ve mentioned beforeSeptember is Apple Month around here. I have two recipes for Apple Cake, both of which I love. They are quite different, actually, considering how similar the ingredients are. Last week I made “New Apple Cake.” This week, it’s my grandmother’s Apple Cake, which is a slightly more European/Old World recipe.

My grandmother, may her memory be a blessing, used to make this recipe quite often. Whenever she was invited to a gathering, she would bring this Apple Cake. And she was asked so often for the recipe that she finally came up with a plan. Whenever she brought the cake somewhere, she would also bring several cards with the recipe. She was very generous with her baking recipes. It was just adorable. The hostess would unpack the cake and find the recipe as well. 😉

So here it is…

Grandma’s Apple Cake

Printable version of Grandma’s Apple Cake

1 cup sugar
3 eggs
grated rind of ½ lemon, optional
½ cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1¼ cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
7 apples peeled, cored, and sliced
¼ cup dried cranberries (well, grandma used raisins, and her recipe says optional)

Beat eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy, add vanilla, lemon rind and oil and continue to beat. In another bowl combine flour and baking powder. Mix into egg mixture and beat until well blended.

Grandma says “place half the batter in an 11″ x 7” greased baking dish. But I’m telling you: don’t use half the batter! Instead, use as little as possible to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. That’s my advice!

Toss the apples together with the cinnamon, and spread them on top of the batter. Sprinkle the cranberries onto the apples.

Place remaining batter on top of apples. [OK, well, grandma made it sound easy, but for me it has always been a bit complicated. I spoon the batter into small mounds on top of the apple mixture, and then spread them out as much as possible. It’s not an exact science! But it doesn’t have to look perfect.]

Bake at 350°F for about 1 hour or until top is brown and center of cake springs back. And enjoy!

Grandma would be so happy to know that you were enjoying her cake.

This post is linked to: Tasty Tuesdays at Beautiful Mess and at Beauty and Bedlam, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

Posted in Baking, Recipes, Tasty Tuesday | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

What’s your favorite wedding memory?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the wedding of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Vanessa Nadal (my invitation seems to have gotten lost in the mail! or something :-D).

[If you don’t know of Lin-Manuel Miranda, he’s the Tony- and Grammy-winning creator, composer and star of In the Heights, among many other achievements.]

But luckily there is an online video of one of the wedding highlights: a wedding toast delivered by Lin-Manuel and his new father-in-law, which gradually turns into a musical performance not to be missed. With the addition of the groomsmen, the bridesmaids, the groom’s family — and don’t forget the choreography — it’s definitely something to see.

At my wedding, we didn’t have any entertainment nearly as exciting…but then again, I am not a Tony- and Grammy-winning composer, either. Believe me when I tell you that none of you wanted to hear me sing!

Of course we all know that the marriage is much more important than the wedding. We’ve all heard the saying that the wedding is just one day, and the marriage is for the rest of your life.

I’m not arguing with that assessment. I completely agree that the marriage and your whole life is far more important than any one day.

That said, most people’s weddings are the biggest party they will ever throw. And for people like me who don’t commonly host large parties, I think it’s still a pretty darn big deal.

When I got married, oh so long ago, what I remember most from the wedding is the joy of being surrounded by family and friends. I loved dancing with my new husband, and lots of other guests. My mother made a beautiful huppah (a Jewish wedding canopy) and my grandfather made the poles to hold it up. I was thrilled about the beginning of a new chapter in my life with a man I wanted to be with. And, um, well, that might be about it.

The food, music, decorations, rabbi, even the toasts — I actually don’t remember much about those details. [Although I bet Lin-Manuel and Vanessa, in the video above, will remember that incredible show!] I just remember the joy of the wedding and having so many people who loved me (and who I loved) all there.

What was your favorite wedding memory?

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Happy (Jewish) New Year: L’Shana Tova U’Metuka

The photo above is my ‘shofar,’ an instrument made out of a ram’s horn, which is a traditional part of the Rosh HaShanah ceremony. Personally, I am unable to make any sound come out of the shofar, but both of my kids are quite adept at it. Don’t ask me how they learned it — I have no idea!

Today is the Jewish holiday of Rosh HaShanah, which is the Jewish New Year. According to Jewish tradition, Rosh HaShanah is the anniversary of the creation of the world. In Hebrew, we say L’shana Tova U’metuka (שנה טובה ומתוקה) — meaning for a sweet new year.

As the New Year, Rosh HaShana is a celebratory holiday, but there are also deeper meanings as well.

Jewish tradition teaches that Rosh HaShanah is also the Day of Judgment. On Rosh HaShanah, God is said to inscribe the fate of every person for the upcoming year in the Book of Life or the Book of Death. The verdict is not final until Yom Kippur, 10 days later. Thus, Jews spend this time (called the ‘Ten Days of Awe’) reflecting upon their actions over the past year and seeking forgiveness for transgressions — all in hopes of influencing God’s final judgement.

Well, the truth is that I am not very religious. I don’t think of myself as a believer. And yet, I completely identify as Jewish. For me, a cultural connection to Judaism without a deep connection to some sort of deity is completely comfortable. But I frequently find myself in the position of explaining it to people who seem to think that there are only two extremes: completely religious or completely secular.

Why should I have to choose?

On Rosh HaShanah, I choose to spend the day in the synagogue. I choose to sing the ancient melodies of my ancestors (out of tune, but there’s not much I can do about that!). I choose to think about the past year, paying particular attention to the things I could have done differently. I choose to consider the person I want to be, the person who I believe I can be, and changes I might make to get closer to that ideal.

I do these things because I believe they are good for me. I also believe that my family, my community, and the world around me benefits when I take this time for self-reflection. Some sort of belief that God, god, the gods, or any sort of deity will strike me down if I do not do these things — well, that just doesn’t factor into it.

[And I just want to say… others may choose to do these things for different reasons. Or, they may choose to do some of these things, or none of them. And that’s fine, too, of course.]

So tonight, I’ll be enjoying Apple Cake made from my grandmother’s recipe. And I’ll say the ancient prayer:

May it be your will, Adonai our God and God of our ancestors,
to renew us with a sweet new year

And I’ll also say my own prayer:

May the new year bring
health, happiness, joy, and peace

L’ Shana Tova U’Metuka

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Tasty Tuesday: New Apple Cake

It’s time again for Tasty Tuesday. On Tuesdays I typically share a recipe, a cooking tip, or some combination of both. 🙂 You can always find all the Tasty Tuesday posts by clicking on the words “Tasty Tuesday” in the menu bar above or in the list of categories on the right.


September is Apple Month around here. Apples become available around the very end of August, and we like to go apple picking at least once a year. Also, apples are part of the symbolism of Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish holiday) which is normally in the early part of this month. (Jewish holidays are determined by the Jewish calendar, which is different from the regular calendar.) Anyway, the point is that we tend to use a lot of apples around here in September, and I’ll be sharing several apple recipes over the next few weeks.

I have two recipes for Apple Cake, both of which I love. They are quite different, actually, considering how similar the ingredients are. Next week I’ll share my grandmother’s Apple Cake, which is a slightly more European/Old School recipe. Today’s recipe is a bit sweeter, and the apples are cooked first which gives the cake a whole different type of taste. This one is called “New Apple Cake” just because the recipe is newer than my grandmother’s recipe. Both recipes are delicious, I promise.

New Apple Cake

printable New Apple Cake recipe

Fruit filling:

4 cups peeled, chopped apples
1 cup water
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsps lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
¹/3 cup corn starch

Cake batter:

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter (or margarine)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 tsp. sugar

Topping:

½ cup sugar
½ cup flour
¼ cup butter (or margarine)
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

[Oven temp, 350°F, 9×13-inch pan, cooking time 45-50 minutes]

Fruit filling:

In a saucepan, combine the apples, water, and cinnamon. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 5 minutes, or a bit longer, until the apples are soft. Add the lemon juice and stir the mixture, then add the sugar and cornstarch. Cook, stirring often until the mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and let it cool.

If you haven’t used cornstarch as a thickener before, here are some tips. When you first add the cornstarch (and the sugar) to the apples, the liquid will look sort of cloudy. You don’t have to stir it constantly, but you should stir it often. After a few minutes, it will start to bubble and boil, and you will feel it thicken. Keep cooking until the liquid takes on a more clear look, like colored glass. That’s when it’s done.

I don’t have a “before” photo, I’m sorry. I forgot to take one! But here’s the apple mixture when it’s done:

Cake Batter:

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in 1 cup of butter (or margarine) until you end up with fine crumbs. Like these:

In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, and vanilla. Add these to the flour mixure all at once, and mix gently until blended. [As a reminder, if you overmix these liquid and dry ingredients together, your cake will be heavier. Go lightly instead, and just combine the ingredients without overmixing.]

Topping:

[Right around here is when I usually turn on my oven. It preheats fairly quickly, and I hate to heat it too early, especially on a warm day.]

Combine the flour and sugar. Cut in ¼ cup of butter (or margarine) just as you did above, until you end up with coarse crumbs. Then stir in the walnuts.

Putting it all together:

Grease a 9×13-inch pan. Spread half the batter evenly across the bottom of the pan. Then spread the cooled apple mixture over the batter. The goal is to spread the other half of the batter on top of the apples, but the reality is a bit complicated. I spoon the batter into small mounds on top of the apple mixture, and then spread them out as much as possible. It’s not an exact science! But it doesn’t have to look perfect, because you are going to cover it with the topping. Here’s a photo of this step:

Last thing is to sprinkle the topping over the whole thing.

Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes at 350°F or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry.

Let the cake cool, and enjoy!

This post is linked to: Tasty Tuesdays at Beautiful Mess and at Beauty and Bedlam, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

Posted in Baking, Recipes, Tasty Tuesday | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

Book Review: The Pirate Queen – A Giveaway

UPDATE:
This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the lucky winner.

I won! I won! I was so excited, I could hardly contain myself. Not just one, but two copies of a book called The Pirate Queen. I don’t think I’ve won a single giveaway before this year, and then I won 3 in a just a few months. Thrilling!

Plus, this was supposed to be such a fun summer read, according to the review at 5 minutes for books. I was delighted. I planned to read one copy and offer the other as a giveaway here, on 1SentenceDiary.

You what they say about the best laid plans? Well, I think they were referring to me. The problem is, I didn’t think the book was that great. And I’m far too honest to mislead you about that.

I asked my Facebook fans for suggestions, and got two ideas. One: be honest about my opinion of the book, but still offer it as a giveaway. Or, Two: just donate the books to charity. I’ve decided to do both, since I have two copies. (Details on the giveaway are at the bottom of this post.)

In the meantime, let me tell you about the book: The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman.

The story takes place in the southern U.S., amidst the trappings of wealth. The heroine of the story, Saphora, lives a life of luxury that begets envy in all her so-called friends, but she is not a happy woman. Her husband laughingly tells her, “I always win.” He is genteel and calm, but he always gets his way, seemingly uninterested in what Saphora wants or needs. He is an admitted philanderer and has been for most of their 30-year marriage.

She prepares to leave him, but just as she’s packing her bag he comes home unexpectedly early and breaks the news: he’s dying. Their relationship is such that he doesn’t even tell her what he is dying from.

The story is ostensibly about how this devastating news and the short time he has left bring them together. Saphora, who thought she wanted to be alone, ends up surrounded by family, neighbors, and a few strays, and learns that she likes it that way. Her husband also apologizes for his misbehavior — which seems to make everything suddenly alright between them.

I guess, truth be told, I didn’t have a lot of compassion or empathy for either Saphora or her husband. In addition, I found the “transformation” of their relationship to be too simplistically described. It’s not that I think relationships can’t be transformed. I just didn’t buy this particular metamorphosis, as it seemed very shallow.

One more complaint: there are some very awkward passages where I couldn’t figure out who was speaking which line. In other places, small things seemed to happen out of order. I am neither a novelist nor a writing expert, but it occurs to me that perhaps the editing could have been better.

All in all, I was enthusiastic about the idea of the story, but the reality of the book didn’t live up to my expectations.

Still interested in winning a copy of the book? I’m sorry if I’ve scared you off. Obviously, from the glowing reviews, plenty of other people had a very different opinion.

To enter to win this book, leave a comment below and tell me about your favorite summer reading book. Be sure to use a valid e-mail address in the form so that I’ll be able to reach you if you win.

I will pick a winner using random.org on Friday, Sept. 10. Please enter only once, U.S. residents only.

UPDATE:
This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the lucky winner.

And if you’ve read The Pirate Queen I would love to know what you thought of it!

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Can I, or should I, unclutter the sentimental items?

A recent story on my beloved National Public Radio (NPR) has grabbed my attention. The news article discusses the victims’ feelings when thieves steal items that have sentimental value. I quote from the article:

“When something sentimental is stolen,” says Kelley Richardson, who lost a necklace that was in a box her father had brought back from Vietnam, “it’s not that they stole a possession, but more like they’ve stolen this tiny piece of your heart.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, as I continue on my quest to unclutter my house and my life. I’m finding it easier and easier to give things away, even expensive items, to someone who will use and enjoy them more than I do. But I’m having much more difficulty with the sentimental items.

Again, from NPR’s article:

People connect with certain objects. That’s how we hold on to memories. What victims of theft seem to miss the most are the things they associate with irretrievable moments and people in their lives.

That’s exactly how I feel. I greatly enjoy using my grandmother’s piano, my grandfather’s screwdriver, and the crystal goblets that my (other) grandmother gave my mother and which she has now passed on to me. I have a piece of needlework which my mother started, my grandmother finished, and my grandfather mounted. I am so glad that I have these items. Of  course, I would remember my grandparents without them, but I get much pleasure from using them.

It goes without saying that the photographs of my kids as they have grown are too precious for words. (And no, I’m not at all biased. Why do you ask? :-))

But I simply do not have room for everything. And I do not want my home to be in any way museum-like. (Um, considering the mess, there’s no need to worry!) Clear and open space in my home makes me feel calmer and more relaxed. I’d like to have more relaxed feelings and less Stuff.

So what do I do with these lovely items? For example, my grandfather’s chess set. It’s beautiful, but no one in the household plays chess. Or the small red rock I picked up while on a trip to Sedona with two of my best friends. Or the statue of a horse that my favorite (older, idolized) cousin won for me at a fair, when I was about 10. Do I keep these items, stored in a box somewhere? Deep down, I’m afraid that if I let them go, the memories they contain will be gone as well.

What would you do? Do you have sentimental items that you don’t know where to keep but with which you don’t want to part?

Posted in Happiness Project, Uncluttering | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Tasty Tuesday: Baked Apricot Chicken

I know that Tasty Tuesday around here usually means baking, but today I’m interested in…chicken. I made the most delicious, and incredibly easy, chicken recipe the other day, and I feel compelled to share it.

One of the best parts of this recipe is that you can prepare it up to 24 hours in advance. So it’s perfect for busy days: just prepare it the night before, and then when the time comes all you have to do is stick it in the oven. Or, in my case, ask another household member to stick it in the oven. 🙂

So if you came looking for baking, I’m so sorry. Please come back next week, or check the baking category on the right for past recipes. Sorry for the inconvenience.

We invited some friends for dinner, and we enjoyed a lovely evening. I used three new recipes! I made the chicken (don’t worry, the recipe is below), salad with the Non-Consumer Advocate’s salad dressing recipe, and brown rice. For dessert, I made The Frugal Girl’s chocolate peanut squares. And though the food was good, the company was even better. Hanging out with friends = an excellent weekend evening!

Our dinner table -- informal and relaxed

Recipe: Baked Apricot Chicken

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

¾ cup apricot jam
¼ cup lemon juice
3 tsp. soy sauce
1½ tsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. olive oil
12 dried apricots, coarsely chopped

Place the chicken breasts in an oven-safe dish with sides, just big enough for the chicken to be in a single layer.

In a bowl, combine all the other ingredients, except the dried apricots. Pour this mixture over the chicken, then place the dried apricots on the tops.

For best results, cover the dish and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 2-24 hours. If you prefer, you can bake it immediately.

Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes (or less if you didn’t marinate) at 350°F. Remove chicken to a plate for serving, and save some of the cooking juices to use as a sauce or gravy.

Enjoy!

This post is linked to: Tasty Tuesdays at Beautiful Mess and at Beauty and Bedlam, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

Posted in Recipes, Tasty Tuesday | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Four kitchen items I never knew I wanted

I’ve been spending some time trying to clear out stuff from my house. The other day we went through all the spices, and (believe it or not) I actually threw some out. (Sorry I don’t have a “before” picture. I didn’t think of taking a photo until the process was already well underway.) I know I will not use coriander, or savory, or fennel. I’ve had those spices for many years and have never used them. It’s hard for me to throw away things that I think are “perfectly good.” But I’m tired of having so much Stuff, and I’ve decided that if it can’t be reasonably given away or sold, I would rather throw it out than keep it. It’s not that I want to fill up the landfill, but I also don’t want to fill my house with Stuff I won’t use.

As much as I’m working towards getting rid of Stuff, I am not a complete minimalist. There are many things that I’m keeping, in fact, that might seem surprising. Like the things on this list, for example.

Four kitchen items I never knew I wanted:

1. A kitchen brush. I call this a “pastry brush” but really I have no idea if that’s the correct name for it. I use it to brush oil on fish, to spread melted butter on cinnamon twist dough, and a myriad of other similar uses. Before I had this brush, I used the back of a spoon for these kinds of tasks, and it worked just fine. But I find the brush makes these tasks easier and faster. It doesn’t take up much space, and so I’ve decided to keep it. I did discard the other, plasticky versions of the brush that I never really liked, but I’m keeping this one. Do I sound defensive? Well, I guess I am. I know that I don’t need this item, but I still want it. So I’m keeping it. So there. 😀

2. An egg-timer. Not just a regular kitchen timer, but this specialized timer for eggs. It’s shaped like an egg. You put it in the water with the eggs when you make soft- or hard-boiled eggs, and it slowly changes color with the heat. By looking at it, you can easily tell when the eggs are done. I love it. And I’m keeping it, even though I don’t need it.

3. This handy-dandy bottle opening thingie. And uh, that’s the technical term for it. 🙂 This things has little teeth inside, and when you put in on top of a bottle or jar it grips the cover and makes it easy to open. It’s hard to explain, I guess, but it’s awesome. I never knew it existed until I saw it in the store. But now that I have it, I love it!

4. A French Press. It makes coffee. Those who know me, know that I don’t drink coffee. I’ve never drank coffee, I don’t like the flavor. Heck, I don’t even like coffee-flavored ice cream. But I do have guests! It’s easy to use and doesn’t take a ton of space. And the French Press makes good coffee. At least, that’s what I hear. I really wouldn’t know.

What about you? Do you have any kitchen items that you didn’t know you wanted but can’t live without?

Posted in Baking, Uncluttering | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

Kindness of Strangers

A recent post on RealDelia has me thinking about the kindness of strangers.

Some recent news stories:

A family in Missouri had their house condemned due to a mud-slide. Strangers came to their aid, helping them pack and move their belongings. They also rented a storage facility for the family, who could not afford one.

And on the other side of the fence, a woman caught on camera sweetly stroked a cat she found on the road, and then calmly put it in a garbage can and closed the lid. The video is awful to watch in that can’t stop myself from watching sort of way. The thing I find most interesting, though, is the public outrage. This woman now needs police protection, because people are so upset by her action. To me, this seems to be the flip side of kindness to strangers — some kind of punishment on behalf of strangers (in this case, on behalf of the poor cat, who was, by the way, rescued).

The fact is, most strangers are kind, helpful, and trustworthy. Bruce Schneier, a leading security expert, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

Most people are honest, kind, and generous, especially when someone asks them for help. If a small child is in trouble, the smartest thing he can do is find a nice-looking stranger and talk to him.

(Full disclosure: I met Bruce last year when he spoke at a conference I organized. I found him fascinating and somewhat eccentric.)

I think we all have stories of a stranger who came to our rescue at one time or another.

I was a college student traveling in Israel, using a bright red day-planner to organize my entire life. All the phone numbers of the people I was visiting, all my travel documents including plane tickets and passport (this was before the days of cell phones or e-tickets), and about 300 US Dollars in cash (which is a lot now but was an extraordinary sum for me at that time) were in that day-planner.

I pulled it out at a pay phone to make a phone call, and somehow managed to leave it there in the phone booth. When I realized my error, hours later, I was completely panicked. I asked my friend to drive me back to the phone booth, to no avail. The book was gone. I had no idea what to do, with no identification and no money. Even finding my other friends to ask for assistance was difficult because I didn’t have their phone numbers.

An hour later another friend of mine who lived nearby got a phone call from the person who found it. Through my friend, this incredibly kind woman got in touch with me. She asked me a bunch of questions that she felt only the owner of the day-planner could answer, and once she was satisfied that I was indeed the owner she delivered it to me. It had every single thing in perfect order, including all the cash.

I tried to give her something in return, but she wouldn’t take anything. To this day, I do not know what I would have done if she hadn’t found and returned it.

I’ve never found a wallet on the ground or any other valuable item, but I hope that I would behave as honorably and kindly as that woman.

What about you? What’s your best kindness of strangers story?

Posted in Observations, Random | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Vacation Haiku


Back from vacation
Happy, sunburnt and jet-lagged
Sleep in own bed, joy!


Posted in Random | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments