nut free

Plum Streusel Cake

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Even though it happens every year, somehow I am always sort of surprised that the Jewish holidays come in such a jumble. We celebrate one holiday on top of another and are busier than ever, observing and celebrating.

Not to mention — LOTS of food. 

I don't want to even count the calories.

And there's still Sukkot to come. 

This year I didn't make my usual Plum Torte for Rosh Hashanah. I needed a change of some of my menu items.

But I still can't resist those once a year Italian-style prune plums (President/Empress plums), so I decided to use them for this Plum Streusel Cake. It turned out to be one of my favorites during the holiday.

If you are still looking for a fabulous dessert for Sukkot -- try this one. Btw, you can make this with any variety of plum. But plum season is almost over, so do take advantage while you can.

 

Plum Streusel Cake

Streusel:

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Place the sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and mix until well blended. Pour in the butter and blend it in. Let stand for 4-5 minutes, then crumble the mixture using your fingers. Set aside.

Cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 cup milk

  • 6-8 Empress plums, sliced, pit removed (President plums, 10-12 Italian prune plums)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the streusel and set it aside. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon peel in the bowl of an electric mixer. In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk and melted butter. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and stir only to combine: do not overbeat. Turn the batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with the plum slices. Cover with the streusel. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the outer ring from the pan and let the cake cool completely.

Makes one cake serving 8

Banana Applesauce Cupcakes

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One of the greatest pleasures in life is cooking with children.

Children are enthusiastic, creative and joyful abut anything they've cooked or baked.

These cupcakes are a melange of my grandchildren's ideas about what to make for dessert. It had to be dairy free. We had a few bananas and some leftover applesauce that we wanted to use.

The cupcakes were yummy. Even the adults thought so.

Decorations, including the one lone banana slice in the center, by the kids, of course, .

 

Banana Applesauce cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and whisk the ingredients to blend them thoroughly. Place the sugar, vegetable oil and applesauce in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat the ingredients at medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until well blended. Add the eggs and beat them in. Add the bananas, apple juice and vanilla extract and beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes or until well blended. Spoon equal quantities of batter into the muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Makes 12

frosting

  • 1 cup margarine, shortening or mix of coconut oil and margarine 
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • apple juice as necessary

Place the margarine, confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl (or use an electric mixer) and beat with a hand mixer at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until well blended and creamy. If the mixture seems too thick to spread as frosting, mix in a teaspoon or two of apple juice.

Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

 

Banana Crunch Cake

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I am always amazed at the amount of fruit that I buy -- and that is consumed -- when my children and grandkids come. Quarts of berries of all kinds. Mangoes, pineapples, grapes and kiwi fruit. In season, also stone fruit such as peaches, fresh apricots, plums and so on.

Plus oranges, clementines, grapefruit.

Apples of course.

And bananas. Lots of bananas.

Usually I am left with nothing, which is why I am always amazed, just at the sheer quantity of what has been eaten.

And I am not complaining at the lack of leftovers! Eating fruit is a good thing. Glad my family is good with that.

IF and when I have leftover bananas I use them for banana bread or cake. I have so many different recipes it's difficult to choose one or another, so I often come up with something new.

Like this. The crunchy crust gets it one step beyond homey, making this suitable for company.

 

Banana Crunch Cake

Crust:

  • 1 cup crushed raisin bran or similar flakes
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons liquid coconut oil (or use melted butter)

Combine the cereal, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Pour in the coconut oil and mix until the dry ingredients are thoroughly coated. Set aside. 

Cake:

  • 1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Make the crust and set it aside. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a small bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the vegetable shortening and sugar together at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until creamy and well blended. Add the eggs and bananas and beat the ingredients for another 2-3 minutes or until thoroughly blended. Mix the water and lemon juice together. Add the flour mixture alternating with the lemon-water and blend in ingredients thoroughly. Stir in the vanilla extract. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Cover the top evenly with the crust mixture. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12-16 servings

 

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I used to bake a fresh pumpkin when it was time to make the usual seasonal pumpkin pies and cakes. I'd buy one of those small, round, sweet "sugar" pumpkins, carve it up, sprinkle the pieces with salt and give it a roast until the flesh was tender.

It was all good. The house smelled like autumn, the pumpkin was nice and dry -- perfect for baked goods.

But.

I got busy. And sometimes I couldn't find the right variety of pumpkin.

So I switched to canned.

You know what? We didn't even notice the difference when it came to my favorite pumpkin coffee cake.

So, make it easy on yourself. Use canned pumpkin if you wish (but not pumpkin pie mix, which is pre-seasoned). Or fresh baked pumpkin of course, if you can find a good variety and have the time to roast it. 

Either way, this cake is rich and gently fragrant. It has a wonderful salty-sweet balance.

You can freeze it too.

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

STREUSEL TOPPING:

  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter

cake:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup mashed pumpkin (canned is fine; not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange peel
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square cake pan. Make the streusel: place the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingers, a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly. Set the streusel aside.

Make the cake batter: beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer or electric mixer set at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the pumpkin, sour cream, egg and orange peel and beat the ingredients for 1-2 minutes or until they are smooth. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat the ingredients until they are blended. Add 1/2 of the milk and beat this in until it is well blended. Repeat this process again until all the flour and milk have been used up. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the streusel over the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then carefully invert the cake onto a cake rack, carefully flip it right side up. Let cool completely.

Makes one cake serving 8-10 people

 

Zucchini Muffins

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This summer I was finally able to grow tomatoes. I had lots of them and there are still more to come!

I feel as if I finally did it right because I have failed every year up to now.

It makes me confident about next year, and not just about tomatoes. I might try to grow peppers and string beans and all sorts of things.

Maybe even zucchini. Now's the time of year that several people I know are harvesting their zucchinis, and some are gigantic! I'd like to see those in my garden.

For now I have to rely on my neighbors' and friends' generosity!

Here's what I did with zucchini this week. These muffins are not too sweet so you can have them for breakfast as well as snack.

 

Zucchini Muffins

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 1 cup raisins, optional 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. In a large bowl whisk the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl combine the vegetable oil, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract and whisk until well blended. Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Fold in the zucchini and optional raisins. Spoon the batter into the tins. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert the muffins onto the rack to cool completely.

Makes 12



 

Cookies That Taste Like Home

I don't celebrate Christmas, but I do celebrate cookies. And cookies are a big part of the Christmas season. 

And so -- cookies.

When it comes to cookies, Lebkuchen is a seasonal special, with the magical fragrance of spices that make you feel warm and cozy when the weather's cold. I have tasted many many versions over the years, the best on a trip to Germany a few years ago.

So I tried my hand at baking some, a few recipes that were just okay. Then I baked these. My Hungarian friend Eva says they taste like "home." I took that as a win.

Happy holidays, whatever one you celebrate.

Lebkuchen Gingerbread Cookies

  • 3 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or shortening or butter)
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice (or use lemon juice)
  • 1 large egg
  • all-purpose flour
  • candied ginger, dried cranberries, etc, optional

Combine the flour, orange peel, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl (or electric mixer bowl), whisk to distribute the ingredients evenly and set aside. Place the honey, molasses, brown sugar and coconut oil in a saucepan and cook over low-medium heat, stirring to blend the ingredients, until the coconut oil has melted and the liquid is smooth and evenly colored. Pour the liquid into the mixing bowl with the flour mixture. Add the orange juice and egg and mix ingredients thoroughly to make a smooth, evenly colored dough (about one minute at medium speed). The dough will be soft. Sprinkle the dough with some flour, wrap the dough or place it in a covered plastic container and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Roll the dough (in portions) on a floured surface to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out shapes. Place the shapes on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving some space between the cookies. Garnish the center with optional ginger, etc., if desired. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove the cookies from the oven and brush with icing while they are still warm.

Icing:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare the icing while the cookies are baking. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the confectioners sugar and vanilla. Brush on the cookies while they are still warm.

Makes about 3-1/2 dozen 2-inch cookies

 

 

 

Pear and Ginger Crisp

I always buy bananas. They don't get eaten, so then I make a variety of banana breads.

Recently I have been buying pears. They don't get eaten, so I've been making sauce and baked pears and crisps.

What is this? Do Ed and I just not like fresh fruit?

I guess so, when, at night, I see that we are munching on popcorn and nuts instead.

But I keep trying. Meantime, the banana breads and the fruit crisps are very tasty. 

I just bought a lot of grapefruits. Let's see what happens.

Anyway, here's a recipe for a delightful pear crisp.

 

Pear and Ginger Crisp

filling:

  • 6 ripe pears
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt

crust:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cold margarine or firm coconut oil

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

To make the filling: peel, core and slice the pears and place them in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon, brown sugar, flour and salt. Toss the ingredients gently and place in a baking dish. Set aside.

To make the crust: combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the fat in chunks and work into the dry ingredients with hands or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Scatter over the pear mixture. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving. Best if served warm.

 Makes 6-8 servings

 

Roasted Pears with Orange Maple Sauce

Somehow, even after after a heavy meal, most of us still find room for dessert. Me included! But I don't like feeling overstuffed, so I prefer something lighter, made with fruit, rather than a hunk of cake or pie.

I made these roasted pears recently -- the recipe is very easy and only has a few ingredients. It's a perfect finale to a Hanukkah meal, which tends to include lots of rich dairy foods and fried everything. You can make the pears a day ahead and stuff the hollows with whipped cream or ice cream, just before serving.

For us, the big Hanukkah meal is always a roasted goose with all the trimmings -- braised red cabbage, potato latkes -- the works! Roasted pears for dessert, for sure! Plain. Maybe with sorbet.

Roasted Pears with Orange-Maple Sauce

  • 3 large ripe Bartlett pears
  • half a lemon
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ice cream, whipped cream or sorbet

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the inner core and seeds. Rub the surface with the cut half of a lemon. Place the pear halves in a baking dish just large enough to hold them so they don’t tip over. Mix the juice, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla extract and spoon over the pears. Roast for about 25-30 minutes, basting occasionally with the pan juices, or until the pears are tender. Remove the pears and let them cool. Serve the pears with the pan juices and ice cream, whipped cream or sorbet if desired. (If the pan juices seem too thin, pour the liquid into a small saucepan, cook on high heat for a minute or so or until syrupy. Set aside to cool.)

Makes 6 servings

 

Pumpkin Spice Corn Muffins

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It's October, almost Hallowe'en, which means you're going to see "pumpkin spice" everything. Cake. Ice cream. Latte. Whatever.

I decided to get in on the act. Especially because I have been experimenting with mashed pumpkin for a variety of recipes and have (actually, had) loads of it in my fridge.

These Pumpkin Spice Corn Muffins are among the tastiest results.

Corn muffins are some of my favorite breakfast breads but sometimes they're too dry or too grainy. I have several good recipes though. 

Adding mashed pumpkin and autumn spices to the batter gives the corn muffins a warm and comfy flavor. In addition, the muffins are dense, moist and tender. Not dry, not grainy. 

Pumpkin Spice Corn Muffins

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/4 cups cornmeal 
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup mashed pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 10 muffin cups. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon until well blended. In another bowl mix the egg, milk, pumpkin and cooled butter until well blended. Pour the liquid into the cornmeal mixture and stir to blend the ingredients. Spoon equal amounts into the muffin cups.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 10

 

 

How to Substitute Ingredients: a Lesson for Kids and Everyone Else

Children learn a lot when they cook, and not just about food. You can ask the youngest ones to hand over the red pepper, not the green one. You can show them that a pie tin is round, a loaf pan is a rectangle.

Older kids can hone their measuring skills. Some begin to understand the difference between 1/4 cup and 1/2, what a dozen means, why a cake rises.

Recently my grandchildren, ages 3 and 5, learned another important cooking lesson: when and how to substitute ingredients. 

We happened to be baking Jam Cookies. 

I didn't have the chopped dates called for in my recipe. So we changed those to dark raisins.

I didn't have dried apricots, figs or cherries, so we used dried cranberries instead.

They wondered whether they could include chocolate chips.

Of course! Just throw some into the bowl.

Finally, we used a mixture of orange marmalade, rhubarb and apricot jam because I didn't have enough of any one kind except raspberry, which I couldn't use because of allergies.

The recipe worked.

But more than that, the cookies were absolutely delicious. Even the adults gobbled them. The children were happy, they learned more than they realized.

They want to cook with me again. I love that.

Jam Bars

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 14 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup golden or dark raisins or chopped dates or a mixture
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or chopped dried cherries or other chopped dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups jam

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9"x13" cake pan. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Add the oats and brown sugar and mix the ingredients thoroughly to distribute them evenly. Cut the butter into chunks and work into the dry ingredients (with fingers or process on pulse in a food processor) until the butter is completely mixed in and the mixture looks crumbly. Mix in the raisins, dried fruit and chocolate chips. Press the mixture evenly inside the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool in the pan. Cut into bars or squares. 

Makes about 24

 

 

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