Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Finding That Memory in Your Recipe Box

I'm not sharing a recipe so much as I'm sharing a piece of personal history.

It was about ten years ago and my family was having The Mister over for dinner so he could meet my grandmother. Of course, he wasn't actually The Mister yet. I remember it was a cold evening, so sometime in winter. My mother made an extra special meal. I decided to bake the dessert. There was a delicious sounding apple cake recipe I saw in, of all places, The Budget. That's the Amish/Mennonite newspaper, for my readers who don't know about it. It has a small recipe section. Those recipes are a real shot in the dark, sometimes with scant directions or misprints. A complete gamble.

The cake was a big hit, especially served warm with the caramel topping. When I told my grandmother that I had never made it before and I was glad that it turned out so well, she was aghast. She told me never to make an untested recipe for a special meal. Too risky, she said. Something might not turn out. 

I still do it all the time. I'm a risk taker. 

I never made that delicious apple cake again because for some reason, I recalled it as being a pain in the neck. Maybe it was the boredom of unwrapping all the caramels for the sauce. Anyway, when I found it recently it in my recipe box, all I could think now is that it sure looks easy.

It uses one box of cake mix, and if you don't feel like unwrapping caramels you can dab on a little of any caramel sauce from a jar. I'll provide a work around if you don't have a box of cake mix.

This makes a very moist and flavorful bundt cake. You don't have to believe me, read the reaction of The Mister at the end. 

1 package yellow cake mix*
1 cup water
4 eggs
1 package (serves 4) instant vanilla pudding
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large apples, peeled and chopped

20 caramel candies
1/4 cup milk

Grease and flour a 12 cup fluted bundt pan or 10-inch tube pan. Beat cake mix, dry pudding mix, water, eggs, and oil in a large bowl. Gently stir in apples. Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees.

Melt caramels and milk. When cake is cooled, drizzle over cake. (I actually put the sauce on when the cake was still a tiny bit warm and let it melt into the cake.)

*Cake mix recipe: 2 and 1/4 cup sifted flour
                           1 and 1/4 cup sugar
                           2 tsp. baking powder
                           1/2 tsp. salt
                           Cut in 1/3 cup shortening until finely crumbled. This is a basic cake mix.

Review from The Mister: You made this before? It's good. Why did it take ten years to make this again? It should have been in rotation. Can I have another piece?  

I would love to hear some of the good luck stories from your kitchen, and the bad, too. Please share!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Applesauce Time and Sweet Potato Enchiladas

The wind blew and the rain misted lightly on the day we planned to go to the harvest festival at the farmer's market. I could just imagine the bounce castle sailing off into the sky, if they were bothering to inflate one at all. All those country kids in camo and rain gear, a couple suspendered Amish boys, and a few hearty parents filming it all with their phones as the giant red marshmallow would sail off like a tornado. At least, that's how I pictured it would play out. No thanks. 

     After days of stormy skies I was heading to the apple farm on a hunch that apples had probably been sitting around unsold all week and would be at rock bottom prices that Saturday morning. My instincts were right! Baskets that normally went for twenty were now ten dollars. While I made the buy, Little Mister held court with the apple pickers. Young women in full coveralls and jackets who were on break snacking on, what else? 

"We're going to put him to work picking apples in the rain," one told me. Some threat. He would love that. 

     Back home, little hands sliced alongside mine and watched the stock pots boil until that magic moment when we could work the strainer. It was a productive afternoon as we held our own festival. I owe a lot to applesauce. I make it without sugar, instead preferring a blend of sweet apples. It's been extremely useful for my diet. You don't get as much sauce as you would with added sugar, but I'll trade the calories for a healthier sauce.

     After one recent sauce session I made these delicious black bean and sweet potato enchiladas for supper. I had tried several recipes, but all were a little too involved for my busy days. Sometimes I don't have time for chopping and frying AND making sauce. After trying a few recipes, I came up with this easy method where the sauce is up to you, and the filling is simple but tasty. I love the combination of flavors, and also have to add that eating a lot of healthy plant-based meals has also been helpful for my diet. This dish is also kid-friendly. See review at the end.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Serving Size: Use a 9x11 casserole dish, but be prepared for extra. 

Fresh veggies and cheese. If this doesn't look good then I can't help you.

3 sweet potatoes
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
 2 cups fresh chopped spinach
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups shredded cheese 
8-10 flour (or corn) tortillas

Enchilada sauce (Use your own, or canned)

Thinly sliced green onions (garnish) and sour cream.

Peel and dice the sweet potatoes into cubes and boil for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Add frozen corn during the last three minutes. Drain water and leave in pot until ready to use. I like to do this step in the morning during or after breakfast.

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large bowl combine the sweet potatoes, corn, spinach, cumin and garlic powder. Add in black beans and lightly mash with a fork. Stir in one cup of the shredded cheese. 
Divide the filling between the tortillas and fold burrito style. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce into your baking dish to cover the bottom. Place your rolled tortillas in the dish and over with sauce. Bake for 20 minute, add sauce, and bake for another five minutes. Top with remaining cheese and scallions. 

Serve with sour cream, or as is.

Review from Little Mister: What's that smell? Is that pizza? It smells like pizza! I want to eat it now. Cheese! (Nom nom nom) Yummm-YUM! 

Well, that worked out.


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