Thursday, October 14, 2010

Spiced Apple Cake

apple cake 1

I have an apple obsession…or so I’ve been told…I eat one just about everyday.  Not necessarily because apples are my favorite fruit (although I do love them), but because of their convenience.

What other fruit can you throw in your bag/purse that won’t get damaged and you don’t have to peel?  It’s a running joke that I always have an apple (or 2) in my purse.

apple cake 5

Apples are easy to find, relatively cheap (especially right now because it’s apple season), and there is a huge variety that all taste different.  I love pink ladies and honeycrisps.  That’s what I usually buy (unless some other variety of organic apple is on sale at WF…this week I’m enjoying galas at $1.49/lb).  I love a sweet, slightly tart crisp apple…no granny smiths for me, they are too tart!  I prefer red apples.  And I can’t stand when they are mealy or soft.  Which is the exact reason I love pink lady and honeycrisp apples…I’ve never had a bad one!

When I was little I loved when Bernie would peel and slice my apples.  But now being the health-conscious girl that I am, I eat the skin.  I usually eat apples raw, but sometimes I microwave diced apple with a little cinnamon and sugar for a warm apple treat.


And then there is this apple cake from the Williams-Sonoma New Healthy Kitchen cookbook.  It’s flavor of warm spices pair perfectly with the apples which melt and all but disappear into the batter.  And what else could be more appropriate for dessert (or breakfast) with the fabulous cool weather we are being spoiled with here in Louisiana?

Hil says it’s not as good as mom’s spice cake, but then again, she likes macaroni from a box too.  Try it for yourself…it might be the start of your own apple obsession.

apple cake 3

Spiced Apple Cake
adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Healthy Kitchen

makes 10 servings

2 large (or 3 medium) apples*
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoons granulated sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan (I used an angel food tube pan).  Quarter, core, and thinly slice the apples, leaving the skin intact.

In a bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla. Stir in two-thirds of the apple slices.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture stirring until just blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the remaining apple slices in a pattern on top, pressing them gently into the batter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.

Bake until the cake is golden and springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake stand in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the rack and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut into wedges to serve.

* You can use any type of apple that is in season…the cake will taste slightly different every time, but it will always be moist and delicious. 

Per serving (1/10 of cake) – 250 calories, 10 g fat (6 g saturated), 40 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein (exchanges: 2 starch, 2 fat; WW points: 6)

As a comparison…Betty Crocker’s Spice Cake

Per serving (1/10 of cake) – 324 calories, 16 g fat (4 g saturated), 42 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 5 g protein

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup 1 When I first moved to Houston in 2007, there were many things about Louisiana that I missed.  My family and friends, the studio, a home cooked meal (cooked by someone other than myself).  It was a similar experience when I moved to college (although this was just a 1 hour trip home…not the long 4 hour drive from Houston). 

I remember the feeling of pulling up in my parents driveway  my first year of college…my mom would be in the kitchen cooking something…something that I couldn’t wait to eat! 

But for a whole year in Houston this feeling was few and far between.  Until Jill move home, that is.  Jill, one of my mom’s best friends, and her family had been in Malaysia for 7 years.  But while I was still living in Houston, they returned home and began satisfying my craving for home-cooking.

Split Pea Soup 2Jill is a great cook.   And she has the most incredible cookbook collection…really…it’s like visiting a library of nothing but cookbooks.  So not only was I now getting home cooked meals, I was also able to “check-out” new cookbooks from her library.  But it gets better…she would always send me home with leftovers.  LOVE!

Jill was the first person to introduce me to this split pea soup.  I don’t remember if she made too much (probably) or didn’t like it (there’s no way…its too good), but I ended up with a lot of soup.  Into the freezer it went (in small individual servings).  Perfect for when I got home late at night from teaching dance, dancing, or working at LifeTime

I love split pea soup.  It reminds me of my mom.  And the fall…and since we are having the most AMAZING fallish weather, I figured it was the perfect occasion to make it myself.  But just so you know, this isn’t your ordinary split pea soup…the addition of potatoes, carrots, and in my version ham, really elevates the soup to a whole new level.  Make a lot (maybe double it if you aren’t cooking for one like me) and freeze it…you won’t be sorry!
  Split Pea Soup 3

Split Pea Soup
adapted from Ina Garten

makes about 9 1-cup servings

1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (not as much if just using regular salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups medium-diced carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
1 cup medium-diced red boiling potatoes, unpeeled (3 - 4 small)
1 pound dried split green peas, divided
8 cups chicken stock or water
1 ham hock, optional…but good!

In a 4-quart stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic with the olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper until the onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, 1/2 of split peas, chicken stock (and/or water), and ham hock. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Skim off the foam while cooking.

Add the remaining split peas and continue to simmer for another 40 minutes, or until all the peas are soft*. Stir frequently to keep the solids from burning on the bottom.

Remove ham meat and bone from pot and set aside.  When ham is cool enough to handle, shred meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding bone and fat.

Return shredded ham to the pot.  Taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot.**

* Some of the reviews on the Food Network website complained that some of the peas were still crunch…the point of adding them in 2 batches is to have some of the peas turn to mush and some to retain their shape, but NOT to be crunchy.  Make sure you cook them long enough after the last addition.

** The finished soup will continue to thicken as it stands but can be thinned with some water when reheated.  You will definitely need to do this when reheating any frozen soup.

Per serving (based on 9 1-cup servings per recipe) – 316 calories, 6 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 41 g carbohydrates, 15 g fiber, 25 g protein (exchanges: 3 protein, 2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 fat; WW points: 6)