Apple Blondie Cake

apple blondie cake logo 004

Apple Blondie Cake

This is a nice twist on an apple cake. I call it Apple Blondie because it bakes like brownies. It is a little crunchy on the outside and softer inside.The cake is dense but not high.  The recipe makes two 8″ cakes. Top a slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream – or serve it simply plain with a dusting of powdered sugar.

I received this recipe from a young woman who grew up on a farm. When I interviewed her, she was preparing to leave home to attend Johnson & Wales Culinary Arts School. She called the cake Green Apple Cake. Whether red or green, use a firm, ripe apple for this cake.

I love this recipe’s versatility. The original recipe called for a 13″ X 9″ pan. But I find that it bakes much better in two 8″ pans – square or round – or one of each. The great advantage to using two separate pans is that you can custom make each one to serve your guests their favorite. I often add walnuts to one cake and leave the other plain. Or, add raisins and do the same. In the cake above, I’ve added walnuts and raisins to both.

The batter is very thick. I use a stand mixer to make it. You can fold in the apples with the mixer on the lowest setting, or try folding them in by hand (builds strong arm muscles!). When placing the batter in the pans, use a knife or spatula to even out the batter, making sure to push it into the corners or even it out for a round pan.

Apple Blondie Cake apples

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-38 minutes (top of cake should be a light golden brown). Grease and flour two 8″ pans.

Ingredients:

3 cups peeled and chopped apples (about 3 medium apples) – not a fine chop

2 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup chopped nuts and/or raisins (1 cup total)

Directions:

Sift dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

Beat eggs, add sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, mixing until blended.

Fold in apples and nuts or raisins.

Place in two pans. Using a knife or spatula, even out ingredients in pan.

After removing cake from oven, run a knife around the rim of the pans. Allow to cool about 20 minutes before removing from pans.

Fun Facts About Apples: Source: http://www.nyapplecountry.com/about/fun-facts

It takes about 36 apples to create one gallon of apple cider.

Apples are a member of the rose family of plants, along with pears, peaches, plums and cherries.

Pilgrims planted the first U.S. apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Archeologists have found evidence that humans have been enjoying apples since 6500 BC.

(photo of “Apples” courtesy of zdiviv @freedigitalphotos.net)

FREELANCE WRITING – A ROLLER COASTER RIDE

roller coaster ride

I thought I’d get personal with this essay. I know many freelance writers are out there hanging on tightly to that roller coaster ride. The ups are incredible. Seeing your published byline is a real high. However, the downs, in the form of rejection, give you that same sinking feeling the roller coaster delivers on the downward trajectory.

I’ve been on this rocky ride for 35 years now. I’ve had great, satisfying success and crushing disappointment. Sometimes, I’ve experienced both with the same project.

A case in point: My first book: ALZHEIMER SOLUTIONS: A Personal Guide for Caregivers.Alz. Book Cover

I co-authored the book with Jim Knittweis. Jim’s father had succumbed to Alzheimer’s. After his father’s passing, Jim wanted to find a way to help others that were in his position as a caregiver. He combined his knowledge of psychology and gerontology with his personal experience to conduct ten years of research. He asked if I’d be willing to help him turn that mountain of research into a caregiver’s guide. The result was a book we wrote in an easy-to-follow, Q & A form. We were both proud of what we had accomplished.

After a year of write, write, write, followed by edit, edit, edit, we began the treacherous search for a publisher willing to take a chance on first-time authors (despite the fact that I had many years of published work and Jim had the academic credentials). We finally found one! It was a one-person, small publishing house willing to take a chance on our manuscript and turn it into an actual book!

The first time I held a copy of the book in my hands was magical. Yes, it was like that first glimpse of your baby after waiting so long for its arrival.

The publisher did her best to market the book with a limited budget. Jim and I did most of that work ourselves. Fortunately, I had public relations experience. We received glowing reviews from newspapers, magazines, and medical journals, but we never received the widespread publicity needed to push real book sales to the very people in need of such a book.

ALZHEIMER SOLUTIONS was published in 2002. After a few years, we began having difficulty with our publisher. Her strategies didn’t always make sense to us. Something was wrong, but we didn’t know what that was yet.

Life is full of irony – and not always in a good way. We learned that our publisher had developed Alzheimer’s! Her publishing house would be closing down. We were crushed.

We requested the rights back to our book, which were graciously granted. The book is still listed on Amazon and is available through a group of independent book sellers. However, Jim and I receive no royalties on those sales. But we are glad that the book is still available to those who need it.

It would be easy to sulk about that experience, but I don’t. Many positive things came out of my time as a non-fiction author. Most importantly, I learned that I could write a book, especially one that was entirely outside my personal realm of experience.

Also, I conquered my fear of public speaking. I returned to my college alma mater to address a class of nursing students. That felt great! Jim and I were invited as guest speakers at an Alzheimer conference on Cape Cod, which was exciting for us. We met many wonderful caregivers at our Meet the Author gatherings. They were so anxious to have a guide for what is a monumental task, and they were eager to talk with Jim about his own time as a primary caregiver. I gained tremendous respect for Alzheimer caregivers.

An unexpected gift from that experience is that I published a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness, titled “Never Say Never.” That has become my philosophy for the writing life.

So, if you are a freelance writer, jump on that roller coaster. It’s worth the bumpy ride!

Fun Facts About Writing: (Source: http://www.yellowwallpaperwriters.com/ways-writers-write/)

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) wrote with a lead pencil.  He went through as many as 60 a day.  The edges of hexagonal pencils hurt his fingers, so he used round ones.

While Margaret Drabble (1939 to present) was writing “The Needle’s Eye” she didn’t buy any new clothes because she didn’t feel her character, Rose, would buy any.  “I was incredibly shabby by the end of the book,” she said.

Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) burned his first unpublished novel, “The Temple at Thatch,” after a friend said he did not like it. He also tried to drown himself, but returned to shore when stung by jellyfish.

(photo of Roller Coaster Ride courtesy of foto76@freedigitalphotos.net)

Pineapple Cheesecake

current homemade cheesecake

Just about everyone loves cheesecake. It is a dessert that has stood the test of time.

Many incarnations and dozens of different recipes have survived.

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, cheesecakes from the bakery usually came packaged like this:

old cheesecake

Today, most home-baked cheesecakes are made in springform pans.

All types of fruit and specialty toppings grace today’s cheesecakes. But the ones that live in my memory were delicious pineapple cheesecakes with the fruit on the bottom. Recently, I came across my well-aged recipe card for pineapple filling, so I made a pineapple cheesecake for old friends. It brought back fond memories for all of us.pineapple

If you’d like to try this specialty from bygone days, use your favorite cheesecake recipe, or try mine. I received my recipe from one of my interviewees back when I wrote articles for a newspaper food editor. The young woman named her recipe “Disappearing Cheesecake” because it seemed to disappear quickly in her house! Here is my old recipe for the pineapple filling placed on the  graham cracker crust before adding the cheesecake ingredients.

Pineapple Cheesecake

Use either a 9″ or 10″ springform pan. If you lightly butter the inside rim of the pan, you will have a smoother look when the cake is removed from the pan.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cake bakes for 35-40 minutes. Then turn off oven and allow the cake to stay in there for one hour.

Pineapple Filling

Ingredients:

One 20 oz. can crushed pineapple in natural juice, drained (reserve 1 cup of juice)

One 2.9 oz. package vanilla cook and serve pudding mix (not instant)

Directions:

Drain pineapple, reserve one cup of the juice. Cook vanilla pudding mix and juice together until thick. Mix in pineapple. Allow to cool while preparing cheesecake.

Cheesecake

Crust:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (12 whole crackers)

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons melted butter

Mix crumbs with sugar. Add melted butter. Stir until butter is thoroughly mixed with crumbs. Press into bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9 or 10″ springform pan. Chill until filling is ready.

Add prepared pineapple filling.

Cake:

3 8-oz. packages cream cheese

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 1/2 cups sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

a light sprinkle of cinnamon, optional

Directions:

Soften cream cheese at room temperature. Place cream cheese in mixer bowl and beat until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar.

Add eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream and vanilla.

Pour into pan. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon, if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Turn oven off and leave cake in oven for one hour. (Cake may appear to not be done, but it will “finish” in the turned off oven.)

NOTE: Try not to fret if the cheesecake cracks. It happens. Doesn’t affect the taste at all. If you are a perfectionist (something I am guilty of from time to time), you could save the pineapple filling to place on top of the cake if you know the crack will truly bother you. If you use the filling as a topper, don’t add it until the cake has chilled overnight.

Chill overnight in pan. Before releasing cake from pan, run a knife around the inside edge of the pan.

NOTE: Make sure the cheesecake is completely cooled before covering and refrigerating. Otherwise, you might find droplets of moisture on top of the cake. If that happens, just lightly tap a piece of paper towel over it to absorb the moisture.

Fun Facts about cheesecake: Source: http://www.cheebonnet.com/blog/2011/8/5/weekly-update-and-fun-cheesecake-facts.html

The largest cheesecake ever made weighed a hefty 4,703 pounds.  Philadelphia Kraft Foods Mexico made the giant cake, which set a Guinness World Record on January 25, 2009 in Mexico.

The Golden Girls,” cast consumed more than 100 cheesecakes (the characters’ favorite dessert) over the course of the TV show’s seven-year run.

(photo of A Homemade Cheese Cake courtesy of Mister GC @freedigitalphotos.net)

(photo of Fresh Bake Cheese Base Cake courtesy of pansayaporn @freedigitalphotos.net)

(photo of Pineapple courtesy of foto76 @freedigitalphotos.net)

SHABBY CHIC – I DON’T GET IT

wooden shuttersBeauty is in the eye of the beholder…

I know. I know. To each his or her own. I am from that generation wanting everything shiny and new. Of course, we didn’t always get what we wanted. Setting up house as newlyweds back in the ’60s usually meant gladly accepting the family’s hand-me-downs. So, I am surprised by the shabby chic phenomenon.

I wrote this story more than a dozen years ago. Shabby chic has survived! I still don’t get it…

(This story appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2002)

Tired of new being old. The latest goal in home decor leaves a lot to be desired.
By Judy Harch

Shabby chic. I just don’t get it. Why would you take a brand-new piece of furniture or pottery and turn it into something you would ordinarily walk past at a garage sale? This latest rage in home decor must be part of the generation gap.

I was born just as World War II was winding down and the American postwar economy was heating up. Returning servicemen and women were staking out their chunk of the American dream. Upward mobility was in. Many young newlyweds had a house full of shabby hand-me-down furniture that they would have labeled anything but chic.

After my father returned from the war, my parents worked hard for the opportunity to decorate our home in upholstered furniture covered with crisp, new, wrinkle-free fabrics.

The current rumpled look of cotton, ruffled slipcovers, and chenille “throws” tossed over furniture for that casual, lived-in appearance is the very style my parents’ generation tried to escape.

The 1950s brought the often impossible standard of a well-scrubbed, everything-in-its-place, squeaky-clean home. When guests came calling, every pillow was fluffed, and every piece of furniture was smoothed to a state of perfection that would pass military muster.

And heaven help anyone who would toss a blanket of any sort over the arm of a chair.

When my generation married, the old stuff was cleaned out of attics and garages and given to the newlyweds.

When my husband and I set up housekeeping, our first lovely living-room suite consisted of my in-laws’ redwood patio furniture. Talk about the rustic look. Donated old wooden pieces of furniture were stripped bare and given a fresh coat of paint or stained and varnished to make them appear new.

So excuse me, Martha Stewart, if I don’t quite understand the chipped-paint look. I’ve watched Martha and many other mavens of shabby chic commit atrocities against new tables, chairs and bedroom bureaus. They add bumps and bruises to the wood with chisels, chains, and other instruments of torture. Then they apply some kind of crazy gunk that gives the appearance of crackled and chipped paint. The result – an item that looks like a refuge from Grandma’s attic.

I appreciate the beauty of a gently aged heirloom of cherished furniture. But that’s just not the same as a coffee table that has a knocked-around, banged-up look about it.

And don’t even get me started on verdigris. That’s the so-called lovely green patina that takes over anything copper as it ages. Personally, I like my copper to look copper-colored. To my generation, verdigris was what you got when you didn’t polish the copper bottoms of Revere Ware. As Martha would say, it was not a good thing.

It never ceases to amaze me that shabby-chic queens will spend hours glopping up terra-cotta pottery with endless chemical solutions to encourage that aged, green look to new planters. I live in a heavily wooded area, and my neighbors and I call that mildew. We’ve got it all over everything in our yards and the north sides of our homes.

While we’re battling the green slime with bottles of bleach, those seeking the comfy cottage look are paying extra for it.

I guess it’s as true about home furnishings as it is about clothing design. If you hold on to something long enough, it will be back in style.

***

heart and candles

I am a “live and let live” person. If shabby chic sets your heart afire, here are a few websites you might like:

http://decozilla.com/2014/02/interesting-facts-about-shabby-chic-country-kitchen-design/

http://www.things-to-make-and-do.co.uk/other-stuff/how-to-shabby-chic-furniture/how-to-shabby-chic-furniture.html

http://www.interior-design-it-yourself.com/shabby-chic-decorating.html

(photo of Wooden Window Shutter with Heart Shape courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography @freedigitalphotos.net)

(photo of Heart and Candle Stock Photo by dan @freedigitalphotos.net)