Celebrating Special Days with Special Treats

Cake imageThe joyful birthday of our country on July fourth happens to be right next to and between my husband Stephen’ birthday on the third and our wedding anniversary on the fifth. Over the many years of our life together what a wonderful time we have had with our celebrations. In the past we would share what we used to call our three days of peace and love with friends. They would come from everywhere and stay for the three days, overflowing our large home and even camping in the back yard. The pool and the hot tub were frequently in use. They were joyous occasions.

Today we live more quietly, yet we still celebrate and have friends in to join us, though not so many or for so long. Special recipes are always fun to share for these occasions. One of Stephen’s favorites is a cake made with Almond paste or Marzipan. The main ingredient can be purchased at almost any market. This cake is not the kind to be frosted however you could also decorate it with fruit. In my case if I decide to make it this year I might spell out Happy Birthday Stephen with pieces of strawberry.

Marzipan Cake for Special Occasions

Preheat oven to 325

Grease and flour, or grease and line with parchment an 8″ round cake pan.

Ingredients:

7 or 8 oz almond paste or marzipan

¾ cups butter

2/3 cups sugar

3 large eggs, beaten

¼ teaspoon almond extract

¼ tsp baking powder

1/3 cup all purpose flour

Method: Crumble almond paste into bowl. Add butter. Beat well until blended. Gradually add sugar and beat well until mixture is light in color and texture. Add beaten eggs, continue beating for 3 minutes. Add flavoring. Sprinkle in baking powder by pinches. Fold in flower. Scrape batter into prepared baking pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until firm and browned on top, and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes on a rack. Slide a thin knife around and under the cake to detach from pan. Invert on rack then turn right side up and finish cooling. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

This cake is a wonderful treat, and can easily be made gluten free by using a flour mix from Bob’s Red Mill or another one you might like. It really helps to have a mixer, as it would be very labor intensive to mix it by hand, though it would also be excellent exercise. Whether I make this recipe or another I am fond of, I know I will enjoy celebrating these special days.

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Recipes Can Be Useful by Tasha Halpert

Kitchen ImplementsSometimes I use recipes, sometimes not. I have loved to cook ever since I was a small child when I made up mud and berry pies and added dandelion fluff for decoration. I had a spot in the lilac grove on one side of our yard where I kept my play dishes and utensils. When the wind blew, the boards for shelves I stuck between the branches would fall to the ground along with my dishes. That was a most unsatisfactory pantry. I did not learn to cook with real food until after I was married. . My mother did not allow me to make anything but salads and brownies. She did not consider me responsible enough for meal preparation.

These days in my kitchen a heavy magnet holds a collection of recipes to my refrigerator. There are always more of them than I can reasonably expect to attempt. Some, when I go over them as I must do from time to time will prove too time consuming. Others will require ingredients I don’t have on hand or want to invest in. Still, when I first saw them I had considered making them, and might even have done so were I inspired to.

Every few months, when the collection is beginning to outgrow the magnet I go through it. Then I discard those that, while they seemed tempting no longer appeal to me. Then I generally pull out one or two of the remaining ones to try. Some will become great favorites and get written into my spiral recipe notebook or pressed into the pages of a loose-leaf notebook that holds the recipes I have accumulated over the years. I truly enjoy cooking and like many who do, have collected recipes for most of my adult life. I also create my own recipes for that spiral notebook.

My husband and I are fond of garlic. One day I invented this recipe for fried eggs that is now a real staple. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Cover the bottom with three or four large sliced garlic cloves. Turn the heat down to medium low and break in three or four large eggs. Place fresh basil, cilantro, or in a pinch parsley leaves over the eggs. Cook until whites are firm. Carefully divide and turn eggs over. Cover with slices of your favorite cheese. Take from heat and cover. Let cheese melt, then serve to two.

Mushrooms and eggs go beautifully together for supper. Beat three or four eggs with two tablespoons of water. (Using water greatly enhances their flavor.) Add fresh herbs to taste, or even dried ones. I like tarragon, thyme is lovely, as is parsley or sage. Add a half a cup of cheddar or Swiss cheese squares to the eggs. Melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Slice in 4 or 5 mushrooms of medium size. They should cover the bottom of the pan. stir and turn until they render up their juice and are cooked through. Add and melt another tablespoon or so of butter. Pour the egg and cheese mixture over the mushrooms. Turn gently as eggs cook until they are done and serve to two.

Apples by Tasha Halpert

Apples 2

Apples

When we moved to Grafton in 1989, one of the first joys I discovered was the wonderful apple orchard on Creeper Hill. The owners grew many of the old fashioned apple varieties and I went there each fall to purchase the different kinds they sold. Sometimes they would talk to me about their varieties and I enjoyed learning from them. In the spring I looked forward to seeing the orchard of pink apple blossoms that filled the air with their scent.

Then one year I went to see them, only to discover that the trees had been cut down. Houses were being built where the trees had been. I cried. Part of me grieved the loss of the precious old trees. Another part remembered the orchard I had played in as a child. My great grandfather delighted in planting different varieties of fruit trees. As well as apple, there were several varieties of pear trees. There were also quince trees with hard fuzzy green fruit. They could not be eaten raw but were delicious stewed or made into jelly.

Every year I look forward to the fresh apples of the fall. I love making applesauce, apple crisp, and what I call Sauce of Apples. This is not applesauce. For one thing I peel the apples, cooking them only long enough to be cooked through but still more or less keep their shape. For another I add vanilla for flavor and enough raisins to make them nice and sweet. They can be served over cake, pudding, ice cream or simply as a low calorie dessert.

My old Fanny Farmer Cooking School Cookbook–10th edition 1959 has apple desserts that most may not have ever heard of, let alone eaten. it is rare for these recipes to be found in modern cookbooks: Apple Brown Betty, Apple Gingerbread Upside Down Cake, Apple Cobbler, Apple crisp, Apple Kuchen, Apple Pan Dowdy, and Apple Indian Pudding. There are also several recipes for apple pie, one with cranberries and raisins. I just found a tasty looking bread pudding made with applesauce I want to try.

The apple crisp I made tonight is sitting on the stove for tomorrow’s enjoyment. I think it tastes even better the next day. A food processor simplifies the topping. I peel and slice enough apples to fill an eight inch square pan, pour a little maple syrup over them, sprinkle with cinnamon and stir well. Then I cut up a stick of butter and put it in my food processor with a half cup brown sugar and a half cup flour. Whirl until they are nicely mingled, then add a half cup of old fashioned rolled oats. Whirl briefly to combine then distribute the mixture over the apples and bake for an hour in a 350 degree oven. Yummy!

Hereabouts there are multiple farm stands throughout the area that sell a wide variety of apples. There are also opportunities to pick your own. My great grandfather planted his small orchard with many varieties of apples. I played there often, picking up fallen apples from Late August until November. The trees he planted bore fruit all throughout the fall. It was most likely there that my love affair with apples began.