Johnny Appleseed Cake

Johnny Appleseed Cake

March 11: Johnny Appleseed Day

In elementary school, we enjoyed “movie mornings” when we learned about legendary people of the American frontier like Johnny Appleseed. Formally known as John Chapman (September 26, 1774-March 18, 1845), he was an eccentrically-dressed man who was famous for planting apple trees and establishing orchards across the Midwest. While planting apple seeds, the New Church missionary was also planting seeds of his faith by living simply, touting the health benefits of his fruits, caring for animals and showing kindness wherever he traveled. Johnny Appleseed is also associated with this hymn:

“Oh, the Lord is good to me,

and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need,

the sun and the rain and the appleseed.

The Lord is good to me.

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.”

There are many tales about Johnny Appleseed as there are variations of the Johnny Appleseed cake. Some recipes are made from scratch using fresh-diced apples, while others use shortcut ingredients like canned apple pie filling or jarred applesauce. We chose the easiest one because 1) a child can participate in making this delightful dessert during a teachable moment and 2) we had a coupon for “buy a cake mix and get a can of pie filling for free”.

Celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day and bake an easy Johnny Appleseed Cake.

Recipe

(Adapted from Mr. Food)

Ingredients

  • 1 box yellow cake mix (may use sugar-free)
  • 1 can (21 ounces) apple pie filling (may use sugar-free)
  • 4 eggs (may use egg substitute)

Directions

Mist a 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, apple pie filling and eggs. Mix until smooth.

Johnny Appleseed Cake

Pour the batter into the prepared ban. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Slice into squares and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon (optional) or enjoy plain with a cup of tea or coffee.

Johnny Appleseed Cake

Notes

Absinthe Cake

March 5: National Absinthe Day

As we were looking ahead to find green-colored recipes on the Internet to try for our upcoming St. Patrick’s Day festivities, we found a loaf cake made with “The Green Fairy”—also known as the alcohol Absinthe.

The legendary licorice/anise/fennel tasting spirit was a popular drink in Europe in the 18th century. The fluorescent green liquid’s strong flavor and aftereffects are believed to have inspired “creativity” in artists and writers like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Oscar Wilde.

Absinthe developed a reputation for causing hallucinations and was thus banned in a few countries such as France and America, especially during the Prohibition years. However, the crazy claim has been exaggerated, only adding to the alcohol’s mystique. It was just as recent as 2007 that America lifted its ban on the purchase and consumption of Absinthe.

Now we are legally able to try a recipe for Absinthe cake, the glaze topping of which follows the traditional style of serving the drink: place a sugar cube on a special slotted Absinthe spoon over a glass filled with a shot of Absinthe and slowly pour ice water over the sugar cube to dissolve and sweeten the beverage. The glaze itself is a mixture of sugar and Absinthe. Overall, it is definitely an adult dessert! Though the cake is not green, its ingredient “The Green Fairy” can give the leprechaun some serious competition this month. Go crazy and bake a boozy cake containing Absinthe on National Absinthe Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from “The Sweet Life in Paris” by David Lebovitz)

For the absinthe cake

  • 1 ¼ teaspoon anise seeds, ground fine
  • 1 ¼ cup cake flour
  • ½ cup stoneground yellow cornmeal (see Notes)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick/8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup Absinthe
  • orange zest

For the absinthe glaze

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup Absinthe

Directions

Grease a 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with wax or parchment paper. Set aside. Grind the anise seeds with a mortar and pestle or spice mill. Add the ground anise seeds to a bowl of cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Combine well.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs. In a small bowl, mix the milk and Absinthe. Stir in about a teaspoon of orange zest.

Beat the eggs into the butter mixture. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk mixture. Blend well but do not overbeat. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack over a foil-lined lipped pan to catch any glaze drips. Use a toothpick or skewer to poke several holes in the warm cake.

Make the glaze by mixing the sugar and Absinthe in a cup but do not let the sugar dissolve completely. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drizzle down the sides. Sprinkle additional orange zest on top (optional). Let cool completely. Slice and serve.

Notes

  • Cornmeal adds a bit of a crunchy texture to this cake. Substitute with ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of pistachio or almond meal, if preferred.
  • The green color from the Absinthe alcohol bakes out. So tint the batter with a tiny bit of green food coloring, if desired. Author David Lebovitz suggests adding chopped candied angelica (looks like green licorice sticks) to the batter before baking.
  • Learn more about Absinthe from Wikipedia

Sesame Choy Sum

Sesame Choy Sum

February 17: National Cabbage Day

We always made plans to celebrate the Asian lunar new year with our friend Phyllis S., a Chinese-American and fellow expatriate local from Hawaii, and her family when we lived in South Texas. Since we have moved, we still try to observe the cultural holiday, as Islander has Chinese relatives as well. Phyllis introduced us to Sesame Choy Sum, a simple yet symbolic side dish with a salty-sweet sauce that is poured over quickly cooked “Chinese flowering cabbage”. Traditionally, the vegetable represents health and its green color symbolizes money/wealth. So cook up some Sesame Choy Sum on National Cabbage Day or during the Asian lunar new year for health and wealth!

Recipe

From Phyllis S.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh choy sum
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (we used Aloha Shoyu brand)
  • ½ tablespoon sesame seeds

 Directions

Wash the choy sum and trim the bottom. In a large pot, boil some water. Add the choy sum and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the stovetop and drain well. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Run cool water over the choy sum and squeeze out excess water. Place the choy sum on a platter.

Sesame Choy Sum

In a measuring cup, combine the oyster sauce, sesame oil and soy sauce. Mix well and let stand for 10 minutes. Drizzle over the choy sum. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. May be served hot or cold.

Sesame Choy Sum

Notes

  • Phyllis likes to cut the choy sum in half and boil the stems for a minute or two before adding the leaves to the pot, as the stems are thicker and take longer to cook.
  • Search our blog for other recipes containing cabbage as an ingredient.
  • Kung Hei Fat Happy (Lunar) New Year!

Rice Krispies Footballs

February: Super Bowl

Celebrate Super Bowl Sunday and the end of football season with a simple sweet treat: Rice Krispies Footballs. Islander makes these and other game day desserts ahead of time so she can help Highlander prepare other foods when we host a Super Bowl Sunday supper and invite our neighbors, Glenn and Anna Maria B., to join us to watch the game on our big screen TV. Score a touchdown at the table with these Rice Krispies Footballs. They are fun and festive and are sure to be a favorite football food!

Recipe

(Adapted from Rice Krispies)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 package (10 ounces) or 5 cups chocolate-flavored regular marshmallows
    (or 4 cups miniature marshmallows)
  • ½ cup peanut butter (optional)
  • 6 cups chocolate-flavored rice cereal (Cocoa Krispies)
  • white fondant (optional)
  • white tube frosting

Directions

In a large pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows (and peanut butter, if using) and stir until completely melted. Mix in the cereal until combined well. Remove from heat.

Generously butter hands and form mixture into football shapes. Place on a tray lined with waxed paper. Set aside. Roll out a small ball of white fondant, if using, flatten into 1/8-inch thickness and slice into thin strips.

Position on the football shapes (brush a little water on the strips before positioning, if necessary). With a small round trip on the white tube frosting, squeeze out the stitching detail on the football shapes. Yield: 18 two-inch size Rice Krispies footballs.

Notes

Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

January 6: National Shortbread Day and Epiphany

“…for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” ~ Matthew 2:2

Guided only by a wondrous star, three kings (Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar) from the Orient (east) made an incredible journey leading westward to visit the King of Kings (Jesus Christ). This biblical account concludes the traditional celebration of the 12 days of Christmas on Epiphany.

To celebrate the Feast Day of the Three Kings, which coincides with National Shortbread Day, we were wise to cut simple star shapes from a brown sugar shortbread recipe. We also sprinkled the cookies with sparkling sugar crystals to give it texture and brilliance, like a star with royal beauty bright.

Bake brown sugar shortbread stars and enjoy both Epiphany and National Shortbread Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Southern Living: Incredible Cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar, dark
  • 2 cups flour
  • sparkling white sugar crystals (we used Wilton brand)

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until well blended. Gradually add the flour. Mix well until a dough is formed.  Roll into a ball and flatten into a disc between sheets of waxed paper. Press down with a rolling pin and smooth out the dough to ¼-inch thickness. Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

Remove from the refrigerator and peel away the top layer of waxed paper. Cut out star shapes on the flattened dough. Use a spatula to transfer the star cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a lightly greased foil). Space the cookies about an inch apart. Continue to re-roll and flatten the scraps of dough and cut more star cookies, refrigerating the dough if it becomes too soft. Sprinkle sugar crystals on top of the star cookies. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until edges are golden.  Remove from the oven and leave to set for about five minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

Notes

  • We halved the recipe above to feed a small group of friends.
  • We used mini star cutters for this recipe. Other shapes besides stars may be used to cut into the brown sugar cookie dough.
  • Search our blog for other shortbread recipes as well as Epiphany-themed recipes.

Marsala Veal

January 1: New Year’s Day (2015)

Inspired by the announcement that the Pantone company chose “marsala” as the color of the year for 2015, Islander cooked Marsala Veal for our first dinner of the new year—in our new home in the Gulf Coast area of Texas. We had moved from Southwest Texas only a few weeks ago during the hectic holiday season and are still organizing our kitchen and pantry.

According to Pantone, “Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, this tasteful hue embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness.”

We blogged about Marsala Chicken a few years ago. We revisited the recipe and used veal instead of chicken as the “propitious protein” for the new year and, like Pantone’s description of the color, Marsala Veal is a fulfilling meal, especially when served with other auspicious foods, such as noodles (“longevity”) or rice (“riches”).

Enjoy the color of the year as well as this recipe for Marsala Veal. Happy 2015!!!

Recipe
(Adapted from the Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 4-5 veal slices for scallopini
  • flour (seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • olive oil
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, cubed
  • 8 ounces mushrooms (baby bella, crimini, porcini, etc.), stemmed and quartered
  • 1 cup Marsala wine (sweet instead of dry)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (mixed with water to form a paste to thicken the sauce)
  • ¼ cup Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped and for optional garnish

 

Directions

Dredge the veal in flour, shaking off the excess. Heat a little olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Fry the veal until both sides are slightly browned, being careful not to overcook the slices or they will not be as tender. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. In the same skillet with the drippings, fry the prosciutto.

Add the mushrooms and sauté until brown. Pour in the Marsala wine and cook for about a minute. Stir in the chicken stock. In a small cup, make a paste with the cornstarch and water. Stir into the sauce to thicken. Put the veal slices back into the skillet. Simmer for about five minutes. Put on a platter and garnish with parsley flakes. Serve with pasta noodles or hot rice with the sauce poured over.

Notes

  • Good luck to Highlander in his new job in the Gulf Coast area of Texas (the reason we moved from our beloved San Antonio). Good luck to all our blog readers in the new year!
  • Search our blog for other new year’s recipes.

 

 

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

November 11: Remembrance Day/ Jour du Souvenir (Canada)

Canada, Highlander’s birthplace, and other Commonwealth countries observe Remembrance Day/ Jour du Souvenir on November 11, the same day the U.S.A. honors its war veterans and military personnel. Remembrance Day is their version of America’s Memorial Day. The Remembrance Day symbol is a poppy flower, as mentioned in John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Field”. The lieutenant colonel from Canada was moved to write it for a friend’s funeral during World War I.

For a Remembrance Day prayer gathering, we were inspired to use the iconic flower for a delicious dessert—lemon poppy seed cupcakes topped with fondant poppies. It was an appropriate tasty treat to remember the brave ones who sacrificed their lives to protect their countries. God bless their souls!

Recipe

For the fondant poppy flowers

  • Powdered sugar (for dusting the work surface)
  • Red fondant
  • Black tube frosting
  • Poppy seeds

Directions

On a surface that has been dusted with powdered sugar, roll out red fondant to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out poppies using a 5-petal flower cutter. Use the impression/veining tool and press to give texture on each petal. Place the cut fondant poppy on a foam pad and lightly press down the center with the ball tool.

Lemon Poppy See Cupcakes

Place fondant poppies on flower formers and let dry for about 3 hours or overnight. Dot the centers of each poppy with black icing. Sprinkle poppy seeds on the middle, brushing away the excess from the center. Set aside to dry.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

For the cupcakes and frosting

Directions

Prepare the batter for the lemon buttermilk poppy seed cake. Scoop into red cupcake papers. Bake and cool completely on a wire rack.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

Make the lemon buttercream icing (do not tint it yellow). Frost the cupcakes (we used Wilton tip 1M to make the swirls).

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

Position a fondant poppy seed flower on the top center. Serve at room temperature.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

Notes

  • Happy Veterans Day to all those who have served and are serving in the military, including Islander’s Daddy (retired U.S. Navy chief). Thank you!
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