Russian Apple Pie

Russian Apple Pie

It’s wonderful having friends with rich heritages. Years ago, when a friend / former co-worker of mine started dating a wonderful Kazakh gal, I suddenly started noting how the food she brought in for lunch was influenced. She used to be a raw salad and kombucha person, like clockwork, but soon, plastic containers of borscht started to make regular appearances. Even years later, it is quite common to see Russian Apple Pie appear at their house parties. Granted, it’s more akin to a cake than a traditional pie, but the name remains as is!

Recently, when Irina celebrated her Big 3-2, Melissa was in the kitchen whipping up that luscious dessert. The directions? So simple! She had the ingredients written down in a notebook with one note, verbatim: “Bake 350 20 min.”

I figured I could give it a try, eh?

Russian Apple Pie

This past weekend, I went up to Connecticut for a family event, celebrating Christmas a few weeks late and the pending of arrivals of two cousins’ babies. I offered to make an extra dessert, this easy dish in mind.

Russian Apple Pie

Perhaps, unfortunately for me, barely anyone touched it because I was unaware that a giant fondant elephant-topped chocolate mousse cake to celebrate my cousin Simone’s son would also be present. But hey, more leftovers for me to nosh on!

Russian Apple Pie

Russian Apple Pie
(Serves 8)

Ingredients:

– 1 cup flour
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 3 eggs
– 1/2 cup water
– 2 Granny Smith Apples, unpeeled
– 1 cup walnuts, whole or chopped

Before We Get Started…

– Apples must be Granny Smith or another tart variety. Do not use sweeter apples in this dish.

– Walnuts can be whole or chopped, depending on the texture you prefer. I’ve made the pie with both and they’ve been wonderful!

– Though this could be baked in a variety of pans, I make this in a pie plate or a round cake pan.

– That original note stated “Bake 350 20 min”, but I found I had to bake it longer. Bake for at least 30 minutes, but check the pie at the 20 minute mark, as different ovens bake slightly differently.

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.) Core and slice apples into eight even sections. Place slices at bottom of a lightly greased pie plate or round cake pan; the slices should cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer, so if you start to pile slices on top of each other, remove those extra slices. Sprinkle apples with walnuts.

3.) In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon; whisk until combined. Add eggs and water to dry mixture and whisk again until combined.

4.) Pour batter on top of apples and walnuts; the batter should coat / cover everything, but if a few apple slices or walnuts break out of the top of the batter slightly, that is fine!

5.) Bake for 30 – 35 minutes; remove from oven and allow to cool on cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving.

 

This is a photo of the Russian Apple Pie from my friend’s birthday party. She used a smaller pie plate than I did to make this recipe, hence the smoother top. Still delicious, regardless!

 

apple pear blondies

Apple Pear Blondies

WELL…uhhhhh…it’s been an interesting few days here in the ol’ U.S. of A, hasn’t it?

I’m part of the more than 60+ million folks that are shaking their heads in disbelief in this moment, and I am currently going through my own grieving at this time. There really is no other way to say it. I’m not about to get fully political in this post, as I’m sure you came here for a recipe and not a rant. All I can say is stand up for what you believe in and don’t be afraid to take peaceful action that will move us all forward. Be sure to deal with your emotions in healthy ways. Take time for self care and know that it’s okay to feel emotional right now; if you feel that your emotions are getting the best of you, don’t hesitate to reach out for a helping hand!

Okay, now, shall we move onto some deliciousness?

apple pear blondies

Since the election, my two coping mechanisms have been levity and eating. As Waz from Let’s Nom Nom posted on one of my Instagram photos the other day, to paraphrase, she’s been a carboholic since November 8th. Me too! Ha! Handpulled Chinese noodles, queso fundido, tacos, rice and beans, donuts, you name it! During my lunch break today, I had some zucchini in my Old Beijing Bolognese noodles from The Handpulled Noodle. I thought to myself, “Well, hey now! A vegetable! I’m being healthy again!”

apple pear blondies

This dessert has a good dose of fruits in it, between sweet apples and tender pears. The blondie mix itself lends to a buttery and slightly caramelized flavor to the overall dessert. I can not claim this to be healthy by any means, but you could do worse.

apple pear blondies

Go ahead. Eat a few of your feelings. We’re all allowed! Just continue to stay on that good grind for the most part. 😉

Apple Pear Blondies
(Makes 9 large squares)

Ingredients:

– 1 stick butter, melted and slightly cooled
– 1 & 1/4 cups flour
– 1/2 cup white sugar
– 1/2 cup dark brown sugar (light brown sugar can be used)
– 1 egg
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 tablespoon lemon juice
– 1 medium apple, cored and diced into small chunks
– 1 medium pear, peeled and diced into small chunks

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350 °F.. Lightly grease and 8″ x 8″ pan and set aside.

2.) Melt butter in microwave or over stove top until melted. Set aside and allow to slightly cool while you mix your other ingredients together.

3.) In a large bowl, combine apples and pears. Toss with lemon juice and set aside.

4.) In a large bowl, whisk egg. Add sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk together until combined. Slowly add melted butter into mixture, whisking continuously to avoid the residual heat from the butter cooking the egg. Add all dry ingredients to wet mixture until combined; the batter may be a little thick and sticky, but that is normal!

5.) Gently fold apples and pears into the mixture until all fruit is combined and coated.

6.) Add mix to prepared baking pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the blondies comes out clean or with virtually no crumbs.

7.) Remove from oven and cool on cooling rack, in its baking pan, for at least one hour before cutting and removing from pan. Wrap blondies tightly in plastic wrap if not eating immediately.

apple pear blondies

apple pumpkin oatmeal

Apple Pumpkin Oatmeal

In the world of blogging, one thing you need to do is find at least one good person to collaborate with. It’s beneficial to everyone involved. Ideas are crafted. Bonds are formed. Comfort levels are expanded. Traffic is increased and analytics become more interesting! (Sorry, I work in data outside of this food blog. Ha! Numbers occasionally make me geek out. 😉 )

For many years, I’ve been following Yoga By Candace by Candace Moore, a well-known yoga instructor who runs a healthy lifestyle blog, incorporating her practice into it as well as fitness tips, recipes, and wonderful healthful products. She just released her first book, Namaslay: Rock Your Yoga Practice, Tap Into Your Greatness, & Defy Your Limits, which lays out best practices for the craft as well as how she’s persevered after a very serious illness. I’ve started reading though, and as a non-yoga practicer that has been interested yet a bit intimidated by the whole concept of yoga, she breaks it down in a way that soothes my angst about doing it incorrectly.

Can I throw it back? I’ve actually known Candace since we were nuggets! We lived a few houses away from each other and would play together a lot as kids. If there is one thing I’ll always remember, it was listening to “Love Shack” by The B52s on vinyl (before it was technically vintage and still a primary way of listening to music if you didn’t want to rewind a cassette tape) and lip syncing along; Candace, I’m not sure if you remember this, but you always made to lip sync Fred Schneider’s parts of the song while you got to lip sync Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson’s parts. I was always upset you never let me do the female parts, though, in hindsight, doing Fred Schneider’s parts is pretty cool. Ha! Also, in a throwback surely all 80s babies can appreciate, we, along with our neighbor Amy, attempted to form a Babysitters’ Club…I remember the excitement of conceptualizing our version of it, but don’t remember it actually panning out. Haha. Needless to say, life happens, adolescence happens, and we had our own friend groups by the time we got to high school. Around 2013, I discovered her blog via a mutual friend on Facebook, and started following along, impressed by her posts. Social media can work in many ways, sometimes driving people apart (hello, politics!), but social media definitely brought us back together again. After posting a status on my personal Facebook page, encouraging my friends to follow this blog’s IG feed, I got a message from Candace over Facebook messenger, and, well…

As I attempt to move this blog from mere “hobby” status into possibly more of a side business in the next few years (I have my eyes on the prize of, one day, crafting a cookbook), I am thankful for all of the opportunities I have to expand my reach, and having Candace reach out to me has made me so incredibly happy. I am glad to have her help, and I am also glad to (hopefully!) enrich her site with wholesome recipes that her readers will enjoy.

Please follow this link for the recipe Apple Pumpkin Oatmeal, featured on Yoga By Candace.

apple pumpkin oatmeal

pork stuffed baked apples

Pork-Stuffed Baked Apples

Perhaps it was the fact that I was at my alma mater, Bay Path University, for 10 year college reunion this weekend – I’m an undergrad alum for the Class of 2006, a graduate alum for the Class of 2014, and $47k in the hole with SoFi. Ha! – but as I was taking that long boring bus ride back from Hartford to Manhattan, I was conjuring up all sorts of ideas for new recipes. Perhaps being back at school stimulated the ol’ brain synapses. I can’t tell you what spurred this idea. I was simply playing a matching game within my head. I thought, “Apples…pork…pork chops? No. That works, but I need to do something more interesting. Maybe sausage and apples? Maybe I could find ground sausage to stuff inside of the apples? YEAH!” Admittedly, I realized that I had started to talk aloud to myself as I caught a fellow busmate giving me a marginally amused sideways glance.

pork stuffed baked apples

As I arrived back in Manhattan 20 minutes ahead of schedule, I still had a long ride home; when you live above 168th Street and the A Train isn’t running above 168th, that makes for a fun commute home. *myeh* By the time I got to my beloved C-Town, there was no ground sausage to be found and the cheap price of ground pork made me say, “Whatever! I’ll dress this up my own way.” (i.e.: I was actually cranky, hangry, and not in the mood to shop around.) After I ascended the stairs to my 4th floor walk-up with my backpack, my overstuffed Madewell tote, and two grocery bags, I was feeling bushed yet inspired to create this recipe. I was surprised how quickly this meal came together! From start to finish, this took about 45-ish minutes, and its 30 minute baking time was perfect; I took a post-travel nap and let my iPhone’s alarm wake me up. Let’s be honest: What’s better than waking up to hot food?

pork stuffed baked apples

Okay, perhaps a few things, but this is what worked for me at the time. Ha!

pork stuffed baked apples

(P.S.: Please forgive the mediocrity of these photos. My professional camera’s card went a little wackadoo after I had already started to prep and bake, so I did the best I could with my iPhone 6S and decent-enough natural lighting. Haaa. I’m hoping to re-shoot more salivary gland-inducing photos in the near future.)

Pork-Stuffed Baked Apples
(Makes 4 – 6 servings)

Ingredients:

– 2 – 3 large baking apples (I used Rome)
– 3/4 pound ground pork
– 3/4 cup carrot, finely diced
– 1/4 turnip, finely diced
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 teaspoons honey
– 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

Before We Get Started…

– I used turnip in this recipe merely to switch things up a bit; I would have probably used celery if I had any, but I didn’t, nor did I want to buy a big bag! That being said, you can switch up the turnip for celery, if you have it.

– I highest suggest using Rome apples; they yield a soft flesh when cooked for 30 minutes, but still hold their shape when cut into.

– If any pork mixture remains, store in the refrigerator for future use; if you don’t use it in apples, its great added into tomatoes for a makeshift tomato sauce!

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 375°F.

2.) In a large frying pan, cook pork over medium to medium-high heat; allow to cook through completely and break up until finely crumbled. If there is excess fat, drain, if preferred.

3.) While the pork is cooking, cook carrot, turnip, and garlic in olive oil or butter over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes or until vegetables have softened. If vegetables start to turn brown, reduce heat.

4.) When vegetables are finished cooking, add to pork mixture, along with salt and honey. Mix until thoroughly combined.

5.) To prepare apples, leave skins on and slice in half. Scoop out seeds with a spoon, and continue to scoop out enough apple to allow pork to be stuffed into it. Once scooped, carefully spoon pork mixture into apples, being sure to fill the space.

6.) Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove and eat immediately; store any leftovers! (This is meal that does save well for some work day lunches!)

sweet potato toasts sweet savory

Sweet Potato Toast, Two Ways – Sweet & Savory

If there is one thing I’m good at, it’s piggy backing on food trends that peaked a few months prior.

Hey, have y’all heard of this stuff called chia seed pudding?!

*snort*

In all seriousness (or, at least I’ll try my best to be serious), I read about the new sweet potato toast trend over the summer, and I viewed it with a bit of skepticism. I love smashing avocado onto a nice piece of toast as much as the next Millennial woman, but now we’re using vegetables as toast? I thought the vegetable – cum – bread substitute trend would have stopped at using stiff leafy greens in place of hamburger buns. Still, over the months, I scrolled, perused, and Googled many different sweet potato toast recipes, and my curiosity was getting the best of me. On a sick day home from work last week (that pesky cold floating around NYC since September finally met my nasopharynx!), I decided to take a sweet potato out of my fridge and experiment with items from my pantry.

sweet potato toasts sweet savory

Many recipes I read about sweet potato toast called for a toaster, alas, all I have are an oven and a toaster oven. I didn’t feel like turning on my oven to overheat my tiny Manhattan abode, I opted for the toaster oven. Boy oh boy, was that a bit of trial and error. Haaa. It almost made me wish I had just turned on the damn oven! However, I got my ish together eventually. After I produced two solid yet pliable pieces of sweet potato, I pondering toppings. I just went for broke and experimented with four different options! Once again, trial and error, trial and error. So. Much. Trial. And. Error.

img_8095

Ladies and gentlemen, I share with you the two sweet potato toasts that eventually won over my heart and my stomach.

img_9846

Sweet Potato Toasts, Two Ways – Sweet & Savory
(Makes 2 Slices)

Ingredients:

– 1 slice sweet potato, cut length-wise, into carefully measured 1/4″ slices

Sweet Sweet Potato Toast (Too redundant?):

– 1 heaping tablespoon nut butter of choice (I used The Peanut Butter & Co. Bee’s Knees peanut butter in these photos)
– 1 half apple, sliced (I used a Macintosh)
– Sprinkle of cinnamon

Savory Sweet Potato Toast:

– 1 heaping tablespoon hummus (I used Tribe’s Rosemary Focaccia Hummus)
– 1 7-minute boiled egg (See #3 in Directions for boiling instructions)
– Sprinkle of dill, dried or fresh

Before We Get Started…

– One sweet potato will likely yield 4 – 6 good pieces of “toast”, depending on the length and girth of it. Though I feel this goes without saying, I’ll say it: You can definitely make more than two servings with whatever you slice, and you can also use / store any extra unused sweet potato slices you may have.

– Attempt to cut the slices as evenly as possible while maintaining a 1/4″ inch thickness. If they are too thin, they’ll cook too fast. If they are too thick, they’ll take too long to cook and will be a bit too fibrous to chew.

– I have only tested these recipes using a toaster oven. Any other cooking experimentation is up to you!

Directions:

1.) To cook the sweet potato slices, arrange on a toaster oven-safe tray and place in toaster oven. Set oven to its highest toasting setting and cook. This should take at least 15 minutes, involving many individual rounds of toasting. (At its highest setting, my oven will toast food for 5 minutes; 5 minute rounds x 3 rounds = 15 minutes.) Be sure to check your slices after reach round of toasting to make sure it’s soft enough in the middle but sturdy enough to hold the weight of its toppings.

2.) For the Sweet Sweet Potato Toast: Spread peanut butter on slice until it is covered. Lay apple slices on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

sweet potato toasts sweet savory

3.) For the Savory Sweet Potato Toast: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Once boiling, add 1 egg and time for precisely 7 minutes. While egg is boiling, spread hummus on slice until it is covered. Remove egg from water once it’s done, peel, and halve. Place on top of hummus and sprinkle with dill.

sweet potato toasts sweet savory

4.) Devour that savory piece while the yolk is still runny and delicious! The sweet slice will make a lovely dessert. 🙂

sweet potato toasts sweet savory