Monday, October 01, 2007

Let Us Eat Cake...and Cobbler...and Muffins

We had a dessert-heavy weekend. Alex made an apple cobbler, and a chocolate zucchini cake. I made pear and granola muffins. Actually the muffins aren’t so much a dessert, as a mid-morning snack item, but I’m grouping them with dessert (hey, the twins called them “cake”; work with me on this one).

The apples and the zucchini both came from our new house. Until about two weeks ago, my cousin lived in a rental house near where we’re building our new house, and they planted a garden in the spring. Now they’ve moved into the house they built for themselves, and the garden of the rental house has been left untended. My cousin told my husband he was welcome to whatever he could find in it (which to date is a really big zucchini, and a lot of tomatoes that need to have something done with them fast).

The whole island we live on was once strawberry fields and apple orchards. There are still a few apple trees (OK, more than few—a lot of apple trees) scattered around on various properties, including ours, so he picked a few and brought them home. I have no idea what kind of apples they are. Red ones. Ones that made a really good cobbler.

The cobbler was Saturday night’s dessert. He had asked me to find him a recipe, so I pulled out The New England Cookbook: 350 Recipes from Town and Country, Land and Sea, Hearth and Home by Brooke Dojny, on the grounds that a cookbook that focuses on the food of New England should have an outstanding apple cobbler recipe. Brooke didn’t let me down, but somehow things didn’t work out as planned. Not realizing what I was marking, he looked at the page, saw a recipe title, assumed that was it and dismissed it because it called for whole apples (it was Maple Baked Apples or something; he’d already started cutting them into cubes).

I suppose this proves the rule that the human eye falls to the right. The recipe I was marking was on the left facing page, although admittedly the title was not. The title appeared at the bottom of the previous page, just under the headnotes. I think this is a layout problem with that book as a whole—it’s the case in more than one instance—but I’m willing to overlook it because the recipes in general are pretty good. Not that the recipe he ended up making wasn’t good—it was, very—but it wasn’t the one I picked out for him to make.

So Alex pulled a recipe from the Bon Appetit Cookbook, which was supposed to be a pear cobbler, but for which he substituted apples. I would like to take a moment here to encourage everyone who has their complete cookbook collection unboxed and under one roof to pause and give thanks for this. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have had to cull down my collection to almost nil because we’re in a teeny little rental house. The only cookbooks I really have accessible are the twenty or so I deemed critical to my survival, and the ones I’ve collected since we moved (a frighteningly high number, actually—let's just move on).

Anyway, the cobbler, served with vanilla ice cream, was an excellent dessert after baked pork chops, Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glazed Red Onions, and oven roasted Yellow Finn potatoes. Very autumnal and perfect for a rainy night in late September.

The chocolate cake was also a Bon Appetit Cookbook recipe, and used two cups of grated zucchini (sadly, our monster zucchini made about four cups shredded; we may be having some kind of fried zucchini cake for dinner one night this week). This my older son adored, because it was chocolate cake. Of course, he did ask what the green thing in the cake was. In typical dad style, my husband stumbled and stuttered, not wanting to tell him it was a vegetable, but not sure how else to get out of it. Mom, of course, always knows what to say.

“It’s part of the flour. Flour sometimes does that.”

Say anything in an authoritative tone, and people will believe you, even skeptical four-year-olds.

The muffins were from an old issue of Everyday Food. I noticed them a couple of weeks ago, and decided to make them to have as a morning snack. Every morning around 10 a.m. I feel the need for a snack. I often eat an apple, but I’m finding I’d like a little something more to carry me over to lunch (which keeps getting later and later as I get busier at work). So I made the muffins, using the last crumbs of a box of Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal. I’ve found that once you get down to the small pieces of that cereal, it’s just not worth much on yogurt (which is how I usually eat it), and besides, it’s usually stale by that time. So making it a muffin ingredient worked out well.

I planned to make them while Alex took my older son to the (indoor) swimming pool, and the twins and the baby napped. What I didn’t bargain on was one twin taking a scant hour long nap. Thus, I measured, peeled, chopped and folded, all the while answering the same three questions over and over—What are these? (Muffin tin liners); Where is Matthew—is he in time out for throwing toys? (No, he’s napping); and We’re not supposed to throw toys, right? (Right).

In the end, they were a success (the twins ate one each, Chris said they weren’t as good as the chocolate cake, Alex wasn’t sure about the crisp topping, but said the flavor was good), and I’d make them again, but I think I might pulse the pears in the food processor. Even though I cut them into the ¼” chunks the recipe calls for, I still found the pieces to be a little big. Otherwise they were fine, except that the topping did burn a little bit. I’m not sure how to get around that. Using the topping the recipe called for, as opposed to the Kashi Go Lean Crunch, might help. I might try it the next time I make them.

So I have my to do list for this week: find something to do with remaining shredded zucchini, make notes on pear and granola muffin recipe to chop pears finer and figure out how to keep topping from burning, and make tomato sauce with the tomatoes before we become a headline in the local paper: Family of Six Consumed by Swarm of Fruit Flies.

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