Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's Apple Harvest Time!

One of America's fondest stories tells about Johnny Appleseed. John Chapman was born in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1774. His family moved to Pennsylvania where he left his father's carpentry shop to travel barefoot, using a saucepan for a hat. He preached a simple philosphy of life and lived as a vegetarian. He made it as far as Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he died in 1845 at the age of 71. John Chapman planted about 10,000 square miles of orchards.

From the Garden of Eden to Greek Mythology to the discovery of the health benefits of apples, everything you ever wanted to know about apples can be found here.  Fun reading while this delicious apple cake bakes!

2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup white sugar
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Bisquick baking mix
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups peeled cored sliced apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour one round 8 inch cake pan.

Beat oil and eggs with an electric mixer in a medium bowl until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat well. In another bowl combine baking mix, zest, salt and ground cinnamon. Slowly add this mixture to the egg mixture and mix until combined. The batter will be thick. Fold in the apples by hand using a wooden spoon. Spread batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until cake tests done. Let cake cool on a wire rack. Once cake is cool serve with a dusting of confectioners' sugar.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

First Butternut Pie of the New Harvest

Our butternut squash is local as local gets, right out of our backyard. My friend June says, "You sustainable people you!" and I laugh every time. But the truth is that home farmers contribute to a sustainable world with every bite of food grown. Negative environmental impacts are reduced in several ways. We don't use nitrogen based fertilizers the way industrial agricultural operations do. That means less nitrous oxide released in the air and less toxic runoff to damage the water table.

The only transportation homegrown foods require is to walk out back and pick the fruits and veggies we grow. The small scale of home farming makes using sustainable practices like composting, crop rotation, and mulching easy to accomplish. Not to mention the benefits of preserving homegrown foods. Jars of applesauce and stewed tomatoes are delicious reminders that once next spring arrives so will another season of fresh wholesome homegrown food! I think everyone should grow at least a small amount of their own food: a friend from NOLA now living in DC grows okra on her patio. When she cooks it, she's reminded of home. Sustainability fuels progress one bite at a time!

1 unbaked and chilled 8-inch pie shell
1 large butternut squash, cooked and pureed, about 1 1/2 cups pureed squash
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon ground Ceylon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Dash salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Place the whole squash, stem removed, on a oiled foil-lined baking pan; add about 1/2 cup of water to the pan. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 350° F for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the squash is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. Let cool completely then cut in half, scoop out seeds and scoop the squash out of its skin. Mash or puree the squash or put it through a food mill. Measure 1 1/2 cups of the squash for the pie filling and set the rest aside for other use.

Increase oven to 400° F and position an oven rack in the center of the oven.

In a mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat the squash with the sugars. Add eggs, half-and-half, spices, salt and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Pour the filling into the chilled pie shell and place on the center oven rack. Bake 15 minutes at 400° F then lower heat to 350° F for another 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Check after about 35 minutes and loosely set a ring of foil or a pie crust protector over crust so it won't get too dark.

When the filling is set, transfer the pie to a rack to cool at least two hours before serving. Serve just warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped topping or whipped cream. Refrigerate any remaining pie. Best eaten within 24 hours of baking.