Ground Apple Cake

IMGP9176This past week, I was lucky to experience fall in all its glory in Michigan.  All the stores had their fall decorations out on display, the leaves were turning bright fall colors, and almost every meal involved squash, pumpkin or apple.  So naturally it made sense to learn some fall recipes from Grandma, like this delicious ground apple cake.  As a big fan of apple pie, I was excited to learn about a new apple dessert.  You know it’s a good recipe when the recipe card looks like this.

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Now that is a well-loved recipe card.  But before we get into the details of this cake, you should know that the apples for this cake came from a trip apple picking at the family farm.  That’s right, none of that commercial farm business.  No, no, this apple picking involves four apple trees in the front yard that haven’t been touched with any kind of pesticide and no one is really is totally sure what variety they are.  Doesn’t really matter what kind they were though, because we picked half a bushel (love being able to say that!) and they were beautiful!  Just look at them.

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Really, sometimes you can’t even find that nice of an apple at the store.  And guess what?  They were perfect for our cake!  Ripe, crisp and free of worms (for the most part – we had to toss a few!)  I love it when a plan comes together.  So, now onto this delicious cake that I got to eat this week.  It turns out that ground apple cake is a lot like carrot cake (which is a great thing for us, we loooove carrot cake).  The chopped apple pieces make the cake crumbly and soft with a natural apple flavor.

What I love the most about this cake is that the sugar doesn’t overwhelm you the way that it does with apple pie.  Instead, the apples are the highlight of the cake.  So if you’re looking for a more natural and less sugary version of a pie for your fall sweet tooth, I definitely recommend this recipe.  In fact, if you could find a way to substitute in something else for the butter, this recipe would even be vegan!  Even better, you can throw in extra add-ins like dried sour cherries (for more sweetness) and pecans (for more crunch) like we did!  It’s also pretty delicious when topped with ice cream.  But that seems kind of obvious.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 – 4 1/2 cups ground or chopped raw apples with the skins on
  • 1 cup white sugar (or can substitute in 3/4 cup honey & 1/4 cup sugar)
  • 1/2 cup regular flour + 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (adjust flour based on moistness of apples)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • If unsalted butter or margarine, it’s recommended to add a 1/4 tsp of salt
  • Add-in options: raisins, dried sour cherries or nuts – in this version, we used dried sour cherries (1/2 cup) and pecans (1/2 cup chopped)

Directions:

  • Hand chop apples into 1/4ths with skin on, scoop out core and seeds
  • Blend apple pieces in a food processor until chopped until small pieces
  • Mix remaining ingredients with apple
  • Pour into greased 8 x 8 glass pan – we baked it in a larger pan and it was still delicious, but it would be a little more fluffy in a 8 x 8 pan!
  • Bake at 350 for 45 minutes

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What about you guys – do you have a favorite fall recipe that I should try?

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Grandma’s Soft Spice Biscotti

IMGP9040For about the next week or so, I’ll be bringing you some favorite family recipes from Michigan.  Now it’s my understanding that grandparents are not supposed to pass even remotely healthy recipes down to the grandkids.  They pass down the recipes for cookies and cakes and pies that their mom’s mom made in the farmhouse with butter they churned on the front porch.  Maybe your family doesn’t have farm roots, but we’re Midwest country on both sides going back before the Great Depression.  So when we learn a family recipe, it’s likely to call for a pound of butter and more sugar than your pancreas can handle, but oh man is it worth it.  So fair warning – if you’re looking for healthy recipes these next few posts you are going to be sorely disappointed, because we’re about to embark on a carbo-loaded sugarfest.

The first of these family favorite recipes is Northern Michigan Grandma’s biscotti.  Every grandma seems to have her food that everyone loves and biscotti is this grandma’s specialty.  This biscotti is so famous in the family, in fact, that I had the fortune to not only hear about it, but eat it multiple times before I even met her.

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Now, my main issue with biscotti is that it is usually tough to eat and you need to soak it in coffee before you can break off a piece.  First world problem, I know.  But unlike most biscotti (biscotties?), this kind is soft from the get-go.  It melts in your mouth the instant you eat it.  And when you put it in coffee it’s even softer.  Perfect biscotti, in my opinion.  (Not to undercut her double-baked chocolate cherry biscotti, which is also delicious.)

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So this trip to Michigan meant I had to get this recipe so I could share this wonderful biscotti with you guys.  Apparently biscotti is technically considered a cookie, but I refuse to accept that as my reality because it would mean I had four cookies with breakfast.  No, no, biscotti – and especially this biscotti – is meant to be a breakfast meal.  It also goes well with mid-morning coffee, afternoon tea and/or evening decaf coffee with dessert.  It is cinnamon-y and fall-y and makes your day so much better.  So roll up your sleeves and try this recipe out, I swear you won’t regret it.

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Ingredients:

Makes about 2 dozen biscotti

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp water
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Cooking spray

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Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 (or 370 with the convection setting)
  • Combine the first 9 ingredients (through the eggs) in a large bowl + beat at a low speed for 1 minute
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour + baking powder in a separate bowl
  • Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beating until well-blended (dough will be soft!)
  • Put dough on a lightly floured surface + shape into 3 6×4 inch rectangles
  • Flatten rectangles to about 3/4 inch thickness
  • Spray baking sheet with cooking spray + place dough rectangles on sheet
  • Bake at 375 for 25 minutes
  • Remove biscotti from baking sheet + place on cutting board
  • Cut each rectangle diagonally into 3/4 inch slices + let cool on rack

Storage tips (because grandmas think of everything): Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. If needed, they freeze well too!

Vegan Quinoa Salad

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Happy Monday!  While y’all are trudging off to work, we’re in Michigan visiting our grandparents, being fed all-American food and watching the fall leaves change color.  Yeah, you’re jealous.  I’ll share more about our trip (and some yummy recipes!) later.

Today I’m featuring one of my favorite staple foods – quinoa!  Adam and I eat a lot of quinoa because it’s a great substitute for pasta and even sometimes meat (like quinoa black bean burgers, soooo good).  I love quinoa so much in fact that I have a Pinterest board dedicated solely to recipes involving this magical little grain.  I’m always on the lookout for new quinoa recipes that we can use now that we’re sort of vegetarians.  Yes, we’re only “sort of” because we refuse to give up sushi and sometimes when we’re really lazy we’ll eat meat, but we try to eat vegetarian as much as possible.  So when I tried this quinoa salad at a café near our apartment, I knew I needed to try to replicate it.  Thankfully I knew what ingredients they put in it, but I had no idea what amounts.  So I had to experiment a bit, but I think I figured it out because it is oh so good!

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Basically this quinoa salad is chock full of nutritious stuff, including kale, tomatoes, radishes, almonds and pumpkin seeds.  I didn’t know until recently that you could even eat pumpkin seeds.  All these years of carving jack-o-lanterns and I’ve just been throwing away little nutrient packed snacks every October!  Turns out, pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, zinc and healthy omega 3 fats.  They have a little bit of a salty, nutty flavor that we really like.  And in this salad they blend in really well with the slivered almonds, so they make a great addition of nutrients without changing the consistency of the salad!

The highlight of this dish, though, is the sauce you mix into the salad.  Made from mixing pesto and cashew cream, the sauce adds an extra depth of flavor to the salad, but is light enough that you don’t have that weighed-down feeling afterwards (like when you eat fettuccine alfredo or some other rich sauce).  If you’re unfamiliar with cashew cream, the simplified version (which I use) is you soak cashews in water for at least an hour and then blend them up!  The result is a nutty, creamy vegan sauce.  So go ahead and try this recipe and lemme know what you think!  Since nothing in it makes it too soggy, it’s a great recipe to make in large quantities and then have leftovers for meals the next day.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 3 small radishes, thinly sliced (remove and discard leaves)
  • Handful spinach or kale, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup vegan cashew cream
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 1 cup baby tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Directions:

  • Cook 1 cup quinoa in a medium pot (don’t know how to cook quinoa? Check out this link!)
  • While quinoa is cooking, chop radishes and spinach up + set aside
  • After quinoa cools, combine quinoa with cashew cream and pesto in a serving bowl
  • Add remaining ingredients to quinoa mixture, give it a quick stir and serve!

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Greens + Beans Salad

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I don’t know about you guys, but I love a good salad.  Sometimes I love them a little too much.  One of my all-time favorites is romaine, walnuts, mozzarella, craisins and balsamic vinaigrette.  It’s just a classic – in college I may have eaten one of those every day for a few months.  But while I have my favorites, I’m always looking for a new one to add to my list of salad staples.

So when I found this recipe in the newest Good Housekeeping, it immediately caught my eye.  Yes, you may wonder why I’m reading Good Housekeeping (I don’t think I fit their major demographic), but my mom got me a subscription and it actually has some really great stuff in it, especially in their recipe section.  (Thanks mom!)  This one is pretty straightforward and we already had most of the ingredients in the fridge, so I figured I would give it a shot.  It was delicious!  Massaging the dressing into the kale and brussel sprouts helps hide some of the bitterness that you might taste otherwise.

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I was also pretty excited to try out pecarino cheese.  I’d never heard of it before but I like the way the word sounds.  Even better is that there’s also a peppered pecarino cheese, which in Italian is called Pecarino Pepato.  Yeah, try not having fun saying that word.  Anyways, apparently pecarino cheese is an Italian hard cheese made from sheep’s milk.  I’ve had traditional cheese and goat cheese, but I’m not sure I’ve had sheep cheese until now.  Lemme tell you, it’s fantastic.  It tastes like parmesan but has a different flavor to it that’s a little nuttier.  I really enjoyed it!  Overall, the mixture of the kale, brussel sprouts, walnuts and cheese makes a really good Italian staple salad.  You could eat it on its own or as a side salad to a pasta dish.

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You can find the original Good Housekeeping recipe at this link.  I made a few alterations, but it’s still pretty similar!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups kale, ribs discarded + leaves thinly sliced or torn into small pieces
  • 1 cup brussel sprouts, thinly sliced
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1/3 cup walnut halves (they suggest toasted, I’m just a little too lazy for that)
  • 1 cup cubed pecorino cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

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Directions:

  • Remove ribs from kale and thinly slice or tear into small pieces
  • In separate bowl, whisk lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper + olive
  • Combine kale and liquid in a bowl + massage liquid into kale
  • Slice brussels sprouts, add to bowl + toss
  • Add can of washed cannellini beans, toasted walnuts and cheese
  • Toss all ingredients together + serve

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Do you guys have a salad recipe you just can’t get enough of?

Pumpkin Pie Green Smoothie

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I admit it, I’m a stereotypical white girl.  I love fall.  I love pumpkins and apple cider and brown boots and sweaters and all the leaves on the trees changing colors.  And I really, really love pumpkin spice lattes.  Judge me all you want, but those things are delicious. It has been so hot here, though, that I have been trying to hold off on drinking one until it is October.  I know I can get an iced one, but they’re not the same.  I want to have one when there’s  a slight chill in the air and I can enjoy holding a warm cup between my hands.  So while it’s been difficult to stop myself from just ordering one from the Starbucks I walk by every day, I’ve been using other fall recipes to try to keep my cravings at bay.

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This pumpkin pie green smoothie is one of the ways I’ve been holding off my PSL cravings.  You would think that pumpkin puree wouldn’t be that good for you – I mean pumpkin pie isn’t the healthiest thing – but pureed pumpkin in and of itself actually has a number of health benefits, including nutrients like fiber and iron.  Now I’m not recommending you drink a pumpkin smoothie every morning, but when you’re hankering for a pumpkin spice latte or a slice of pumpkin pie, you can use this healthy recipe as an alternative!  When you combine the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and vanilla protein powder (especially Juice Plus Vanilla Complete, my fave!) it smells like fall and tastes like pumpkin pie.  Yummmmmm.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon chia seeds
  • Handful of spinach
  • Almond milk
  • 1/3 – 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • Dash of cinnamon

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Directions:

  • Blend spinach and almond milk
  • Add the remaining ingredients and blend
  • Add ice if needed to thicken!

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So what about you? Do you have any healthy fall recipes that you suggest I try?

Coconut Veggie Stir Fry

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Hello dear readers, I’m back!  I know I’ve been MIA for a few months now – it’s been a busy summer!  We had a lot of visitors, I went on a two-smoothie-a-day regimen for a month (more on that later) and I had an existential crisis about what kind of recipes I wanted to post on this blog.  So essentially, I didn’t cook much, and when I did, there was not a lot of variety.  I ate a lot of wraps and stir fry – the topic of this post.  But now that it is fall and the leaves are starting to change in other parts of the country, I’ve decided to start posting again!

So this first recipe will be about one of my staple meals of the summer, stir fry!  Adam and I usually eat stir fry about once a week.  It’s one of those meals that is relatively easy to make and packs a lot of veggies and nutrition into one meal.  Now, this is not your typical stir fry recipe.  Stir fry can take a lot of forms and this is a recipe that Adam and I have been tinkering with a lot lately.  Mainly, we started using coconut oil that we bought at Trader Joe’s to create a different flavor with the stir fry.  We weren’t sure how it would work, but combined with honey and soy sauce, it gives the stir fry a sweeter flavor than a traditional sauce.  In our opinion, it’s delicious!

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Adam and I like to vary our veggies (why eat the same thing every time?) so we tend to pick out different veggies at the store for each round.  If you want easy vegetables for your stir fry and you have a Trader Joe’s or Sprouts nearby, you can pick up a fresh pre-made pack of stir fry veggies.  Costco also sells a huge frozen pack of stir fry veggies, but we don’t like using it because the sauce almost always ends up too watery.  Some veggie staples include bell peppers, shitake mushrooms, zucchini and snap peas.  This time, we threw in some new veggies like edamame and bok choy.  We personally prefer using tofu as our protein, but this recipe can be easily switched to a chicken stir fry if you’re not a tofu fan.  Make sure to dry out your tofu before putting it in stir fry so it can soak up some more of the sauce flavor!  If you feel like you need a basic how-to on how to cook stir fry, check out this advice.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 container of tofu, cut into thin rectangles (sprouted or non-sprouted – we used sprouted here)
  • 1 cup edamame
  • 2 heads of baby bok choy, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups soy sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s brown rice

Directions:

  • Cut and dry out tofu before starting to cook, ideally starting one to two hours prior
  • In a bowl, combine 1/2 cup soy sauce with honey in a bowl or plastic bag and add tofu to soak for a bit before cooking (it’s not an exact science, but 15-20 minutes would probably be sufficient)
  • Chop up your veggies and place in a separate bowl to be added later
  • Heat wok or pan on stovetop on medium to high heat
  • When wok is heated, add 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • When oil is heated and starts to pop, add tofu from bag and stir occasionally until browned
  • Take tofu out in a separate bowl and add second tbsp of coconut oil
  • Add vegetables to wok and cook until slightly soft
  • Add soy sauce and tofu back to mixture
  • While waiting for vegetables to soak up soy sauce, prepare brown rice
  • When the soy sauce has cooked down, turn off stovetop and let stir fry cool
  • Add stir fry to rice and enjoy!

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So readers, what does your stir fry look like? Do you have any recommendations for us to try?