Rants, restaurants, and a couple of recipes to keep forever


I know I said I wasn’t in the mood to cook much, but we still have to eat and I still need to teach class.  We still need a treat once in a while and the grand kids and the folks still need their treats.  Meals have been very easy and simple.  Lots of soups and casseroles. And then, Kansas City had Restaurant Week at the end of January.  Both the Mister and I felt it was our civic duty to participate.  The chefs in over one hundred restaurants created a special lunch and dinner menu for a flat price and part of the proceeds went to Harvesters to help feed the hungry in our area. It was a win-win for all of us.  It was a good thing.

February was the big celebration month.  The Mister and I celebrated 40 years of marriage.  I know, I know, we don’t look old enough to have been married that long.  But we have. We went to Puerto Vallarta to take in some sun, whales, dolphins, and great food and drink. Even though it rained most of the days we were there, we still had a great time.  Then, I had to suffer the wrath of traveling: I caught an airline cold.  Now things are better and I’m ready to get down to business after a two month semi-hiatus from writing and cooking.

I had a bag of apples that needed to be used up and I needed a good apple cake recipe.  I found one at The Cookie Shop.  It looked a lot like a German Apple Cake I used to make back in the early days of our marriage.  A  very simple cake made with lots of fresh apples and I lost the recipe in the early 80’s.  So, I thought I’d give this one a try, with a little twist…I love a good apple cake with a caramel sauce. I will not lose this recipe.

I have a bit of a cooking dilemma. My stove has a ceramic smooth top cooking surface.  I’m not a big fan of it.  I’ve all but given up on caramel sauce, fudge sauce, and chocolate syrup.  I had a horrible time making a buttermilk syrup all due to the nature of the beast.  I just can’t seem to regulate the heat close enough to get the syrupy stuff made without burning it.  There is a fine line of done vs. burn and my darn stove jumps to the burn faster than I can react.  Pilot error…maybe.  Crappy stove…I’m pretty sure.  I’ve tossed enough burned messes in the trash to make me a believer. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  While I’m ranting about my stove, I also can’t leave a pot to simmer all day on it.  The instructions that came with the stove said it was a huge no-no.  So, any braising that needs to be done, is done in the oven or the slow cooker. I feel much better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest.

Cooking is much like operating a computer, there are many ways to do one task. That being said, I started digging around online for a caramel sauce that would not require such a precise cooking temperature to get the job done,  and yet, still be good enough to top a totally awesome apple cake. I found one over at the Tasty Kitchen. So, thanks to food surfing on the internet, I have two very good recipes I’d like to share.  Both recipes are incredibly easy and incredibly good. Go for it!

Apple Cake from The Cookie Shop

3 cups all purpose flour or a mixture of whole wheat and all purpose flours

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups canola oil

2 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

4 apples, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used Fuji and Gala, you can use any crisp apple)

1 cup chopped nuts such as pecans or walnuts (optional)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; you can use an angel food cake pan or even a large round cake pan.

2.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

3.  In a mixing bowl combine oil, sugar and eggs; mix on high speed until lemony yellow.

4.  Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture and mix on medium speed until incorporated.

5.  Add apples, vanilla, and the optional nuts to the batter. Mix on low to medium speed just until everything comes together.

6.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 75-90 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

7.  Remove from oven when done and cool slightly on a wire rack.

8.  Invert the cake onto the wire rack; turn cake right side up to cool completely.

Serve dusted with powdered sugar and drizzle with the caramel sauce.


Easy Caramel Sauce by Ree at Tasty Kitchen

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup half and half

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Mix butter, brown sugar, half and half, and the salt in a saucepan over medium/low heat.  Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker.  Add vanilla and cook another minute to thicken a bit further.  Remove from heat and pour sauce into a jar.  Refrigerate until cold.  The cold caramel sauce will be pourable.

This is good on cake, ice cream, and even in coffee.  It is so good you may want to just eat it by the spoonful, at least that’s what I’ve heard.


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