Monday, October 15, 2018

Quince Jelly

When we first moved to our rural property over 30 years ago there was a shrub near the old farmhouse (circa 1904) that had fruit on the boughs that looked like pears, but with fuzz on them. In September they started to turn yellow and in late September the fuzz mostly disappeared and they were bright yellow and smelled wonderful, but not like pears. We found out that this was a pineapple quince shrub and that the fruits were hard and not edible until cooked.

One of the easiest things to do with the quince is to make jelly because you don't even need to peel them, just remove the stem and core them, then cut into quarters or chunks. I do give them a good wash before I do that and I remove the flower end, too. Since I don't spray the shrub or fruit with any kind of chemical spray, the fruits also often include evidence of insect infestation, so those parts need to be cut out, too.

This time I cooked a larger quantity than in past times. Turns out that wasn't the smartest thing to do because as I boiled the mixture to bring it up to the correct temperature, the mixture threatened to boil over and eventually did, making a big mess on the stove. I did end up with over 8 pints of jelly instead of 6-7 pints, but next time I plan to go back to the amount in the recipe!

This makes a wonderful jelly that isn't available in most stores. It has a bright ruby color and an almost floral fragrance and taste. If you have access to quinces, do try it. It makes a nice, and unusual, gift, too. Never too early to think about Christmas gifts. This is obviously a seasonal recipe since quince are only ripe in the fall, but if you find some ripe quince, go for it now. You'll be glad you did.

Quince Jelly
3 1/2 lbs of quince, washed, stems removed, cored, quartered (leave skin on)
7 cups water
Enough sugar to add almost a cup of sugar (about 1 cup) for every cup of juice (about 4 -5 cups)

1 Put quince pieces in a large stockpot with a thick bottom and add water (if you are eyeballing it, put in enough water to cover the pieces of quince by about an inch.)

2 Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the quince pieces are soft.

3 With a potato masher, mash the quince to the consistency of slightly runny applesauce. Add more water if necessary. If the mash is too thick, you won't get enough juice out of it.

4 To strain the juice from the pulp, place a metal strainer over a pot. Drape 2 layers of cheesecloth over the strainer. (Can skip the cheesecloth if you are using a fine mesh strainer). Ladle the pulp into the cheesecloth. You may need to have two strainers set up this way. Let the pulp strain for 3 to 4 hours. If you aren't getting enough juice out of the pulp, you may need to mix more water into the mash.

5 Measure the amount of juice you have. It should be about 4-5 cups. Pour into a thick bottomed pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Measure out the sugar – about a cup for every cup of juice. Add sugar to the juice.

6 Bring to a boil, initially stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved, so that the sugar does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Insert a candy thermometer to monitor the jelly temperature.

7 As the jelly cooks, skim off the foam that comes to the surface with a spoon

8 As the temperature rises above the boiling point of water (212°F), you will notice the consistency of the jelly/juice begins to change. When the temperature is approximately 8 degrees higher than boiling point at your altitude (anywhere from 220°F to 222°F at sea level) the jelly is ready to pour into jars.

Note that candy thermometers aren't always the most reliable indicators of whether or not a jelly is done. Another way to test is put a half teaspoonful of the jelly on a chilled (in the freezer) plate. Allow the jelly to cool a few seconds, then push it with your fingertip. If it wrinkles up, it's ready.

9 There are several ways to sterilize your jars for canning. You can run them through a short cycle on your dishwasher. You can place them in a large pot (12 quart) of water on top of a steaming rack (so they don't touch the bottom of the pan), and bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes. Or you can rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.

10 Use a large ladle to pour the jelly into the sterilized jars to 5/8 inch from the top rim of the jar. Use canning jars with canning lids to seal the jelly. Sterilize the lids by letting them sit in just boiled hot water for a few minutes. You will hear a popping noise as a vacuum seal is created as the jars of jelly cool.

(To be safe, we put the jars full of jelly, topped with sterilized lids and bands, into a canning pot, added boiling water to cover, plus an inch, and simmered that for 45 minutes, then let cool. Check the lids for a good seal my noticing if the lids are concave. If not, push down on the center. If the lid stays down, it is sealed. If not, refrigerate and use the jelly within a week. )

Makes 4-6 cups of jelly. We got 6½ 8-oz. jars of jelly.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

The Perfect Fall Day

Sunday was just perfect! We started the day by having breakfast with a friend and with our daughter at Redwood Cafe in Cotati. One of the great things about the place is that you can split an order, so breakfast becomes a reasonable portion of food. A full serving can keep you through lunch time. Sweetie and I enjoyed a scramble of bacon and mushrooms, a cup of mixed fruit each, and a half an English muffin.

After breakfast we took Pi for a walk at the Laguna and admired the water and wild grapes.

Then Katherine and I drove out to Armstrong Redwoods for a 4 mile hike, including the East Ridge Trail.

A waterfall and, later a small pond, were unexpected delights. Usually it is too dry in early October for those.

The redwoods always are a source of awe. They have beautiful bark, burnt out openings in some of them called 'goose pens',

and they ascend into the heavens for many yards. Their tannins apparently discourage insects, grass, and birds. We did see a banana slug but that was the only wildlife.

After our hike, we stopped in Guerneville and had a nice lunch, then headed home. The whole time we had blue skies and sunshine, light breezes and low 70s warmth, all of which were, truly, perfect.

Hope that your Sunday was just as nice.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Fall Flavors in a Crust

Recently I came across a recipe online that looked really perfect for fall. It was for a crostata filled with Italian sausage, fresh oregano, ricotta, honey and delicata squash. Although the recipe called for making your own buckwheat pie crust, I went with super easy but still tasty ReadyCrust by Pillsbury. I used almond milk ricotta by Kite Hill instead of regular dairy ricotta, but otherwise pretty much followed the recipe. Delicata squash is a great winter squash with a mild flavor and you don't need to peel it, which eases prep time, plus it bakes up tender and moister than acorn squash, which is also a short-time keeper squash.

Well, other than the fact that I only filled half of the crostata with the sausage/squash mixture. The other half had a filling I made up, inspired by the fresh figs that I received from a friend. The second filling included bacon, red onions cooked in the bacon fat, chicken, the fresh figs, chopped walnuts and reduced balsamic vinegar. Those ingredients went on the ricotta filling from the other recipe. After baking, the sausage half was drizzled with honey and the chicken half with the balsamic vinegar syrup. Do find ripe fresh figs for this filling...they make all the difference and are such a wonderful fall fruit.

I have to say that I liked the chicken version better, mostly because the flavors were intense and more layered, but the sausage side was delicious, too. Sweetie and I each had a small wedge of each kind plus a huge green salad for dinner and saved the rest for the weekend.

You could choose one filling or the other and make a whole free form pie with it, or do as I did and make half and half. If you have a crowd to feed, make a whole pie of one filling and a whole pie with the other. If you make this could you let me know what you think? If you create your own filling, could you tell me about it in the comments? Part of the fun of doing posts is getting the feedback. Even if you don't comment, I hope you make one or both fillings and enjoy these rich and delightful flavors of fall.

Two Fillings Fall Crostata
Inspired by a recipe by Dana Frand and Andrea Slowecker of Food and Wine

1/2 package pie crusts like Pillsbury ReadyCrust (or make your own favorite pie crust recipe)
Sausage Filling -Note: The following makes enough sausage filling for a whole pie. If using for half a pie cut ingredients in half or save second half for another use.
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz. mild Italian sausage bulk (or remove from casings)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 delicata squash, halved, seeded and sliced very thinly (you may only need half the squash)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
honey to drizzle

Chicken Filling - Note:Chicken filling is enough for half a pie. If using for a whole pie, double the amounts.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup chopped, cooked chicken
1-2 fresh figs, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons toasted walnuts, chopped

For both
2 cups ricotta
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
Flaky sea salt like Maldon

Roll out one of the pie crusts on a lightly flour work surface to 15 inches in diameter. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Cover with plastic wrap and chill while you make the fillings.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Sausage Filling- In a large frying pan heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage in the olive oil, stirring in the fennel right away so that it gets browned, too, about 15 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into small pieces.Remove from heat and add the squash slices, black pepper and salt. Stir to combine, then set aside.

Chicken Filling - In a small, wide pan or skillet heat the balsamic over very low heat, stirring every two to three minutes if needed, until reduced and syrupy. Set aside.
In a large skillet brown the bacon, then remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate. Cook the red onions in the bacon fat until browned, then use slotted spoon to remove them to the same plate as the bacon. Reserve bacon fat for another use or discard.

Ricotta Filling - In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, oregano, honey and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Remove chilled dough from fridge and spread with the ricotta filling, leaving a 2-3-inch border.
Scatter squash filling over half and on the other half evenly place or spread the bacon, onion, chicken and figs, then scatter walnuts even over that half. Drizzle lightly with the balsamic syrup.

Fold the border without filling up and over the filling, pleating as necessary so that it encloses the filling. Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle generously with the sea salt.

Bake in the preheated oven until browned and crisp. Check at 30 minutes but it may take up to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle the squash half with honey and the chicken half with the balsamic syrup. Scatter fresh oregano leaves over all and serve at once.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Fall Skillet Apple Spiced Caramel Pie

My favorite season has come...Fall!...and I have finally been home long enough to bake with some Gravenstein apples from our trees. I saw this recipe online a while ago and saved it until I had time and reason to make an apple pie...and then I changed it significantly (so what else is new?).

Sweetie has been losing weight on purpose for the last couple of months and I've been cooperating by baking far, far less than usual. It's been good for us both (I'm lighter too...funny how it works that way) but I miss the creativity of baking. This one required a lot of creativity, plus knowledge of the ingredients, but the resulting pie was fabulous! If at all possible, use a cast iron skillet to make this. A pie pan will work, I suppose, but the cast iron gives you a lovely bottom crust.

Last night we celebrated the birthday of a good friend so I had an excellent excuse to bake and to bake this amazing apple pie. I highly recommend that you bake it. Sweetie is not a big fan of apple pie, but he really liked this one.

One of the major changes to the recipe came about because Gravenstein apples, the kind we grow, tend to bake up very soft and they throw off plenty of juice, too. I also added some pie spice because an apple pie without spice just seems wrong. It doesn't fight with the vanilla and bourbon, but enhances each.

If you are using Gravenstein apples, you need to do the microwave part because with heat they shrink and also give off a lot of juice. If you skip it you will likely get a top crust that is high over a void before you get to the apple filling and the bottom crust will likely be soft and swimming in juices as you cut the pieces.

If you are using apples like MacIntosh, Braeburn, Granny Smith, etc., that keep their shape and don't exude lots of juice, just skip the microwave part and only use 1/3 cup of the caramel sauce to mix in with the apples...keep the rest to serve with the pie. The sauce is lovely all by itself and would be great over ice cream or fruit and pound cake.

The resulting pie when made with Gravenstein apples is fairly dense, not high, just sweet enough and there is a lovely, flaky crust that is browned on the bottom because of the cast iron skillet. The aroma of apples and spice is intoxicating and the flavor of apple is enhanced by the caramel sauce. You will likely have trouble eating only one piece...but that leaves some for breakfast!

Skillet Caramel Spice Apple Pie
a variation of a recipe on
Serves 8

1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup non-dairy margarine (or butter)
3 tablespoons non-dairy creamer (I use Original Silk Soy Creamer) or 1/2 & 1/2
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Penzey's Pie Spice, or cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 set of prepared pie crusts (I uses Pillsbury ReadyCrusts)
3 pounds apples, peeled and cut into 1/2" thick slices
4 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided (only 2 1/2 needed if not doing microwave part)
1 lg egg yolk, lightly beaten (reserve egg white for sealing crusts)
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon sanding sugar (optional)

In a medium pot melt the margarine or butter. Stir in the brown sugar, , soy creamer or 1/2 & 1/2,  salt and pie spice or cinnamon. Over medium-high, cook the mixture, stirring until it bubbles. Continue cooking, stirring for 2 more minutes until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and, if using, the bourbon. Cool almost to room temperature, about 30 minutes, stirring at about 10 minutes to keep a skin from forming.

Fit one pie crust in the bottom and press up the sides of a 9" cast iron skillet. Put in the refrigerator to chill.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, making sure that one rack is in the bottom position in the oven.

Toss apples with 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch in a large bowl. Pour 1/3 cup cooled caramel sauce over the apples and toss to coat.

Microwave part: Put the apple slices that have been coated with cornstarch and 1/3 cup caramel sauce and microwave on full power for one minute, with bowl covered with a large piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Stir then microwave again for one minute. Apples will have reduced in volume and there will be a lot of juice. Remove any cover and place bowl in refrigerator. Stir every 15 minutes and keep refrigerated until apples are cool to the touch. Remove from the fridge and use a ladle to remove 1/4 cup of the juices from the bowl. Add an additional 2 tablespoons cornstarch to the juices and stir or whisk until the cornstarch and juices are totally combined. Stir that mixture back into the apples. Stir in the rest of the caramel sauce and stir until apples are coated. Now you are ready to put the filling into the prepared pie-crusted skillet.

Note: If you are using apples that hold their shape and don't release a lot of juice when cooked, skip the microwave part. You will still toss prepared apples with the 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch and the 1/3 cup caramel sauce until coated, but the remaining sauce will be available to drizzle over the finished, served, pie. The additional cornstarch won't be needed.

Remove prepared crust from the fridge. Pour apple filling into prepared crust. Place remaining pie crust over apple filling. Seal by lightly coating the exposed side dough in the skillet with egg white and pressing the top crust to it. Crimp crust edges together.

Use a sharp knife to cut 6 - 8 one inch slits in top crust to let steam escape. Whisk together egg yolk and water and brush over crust. If desired, scatter sanding sugar over.

Bake on bottom rack of preheated over for 55 minute - 1 hour. After about 30 minutes, shield crust with foil if needed to prevent excessive browning.

Bake until crust is golden, apples tender, and filling bubbly. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely 3 hours. Serve & enjoy.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Travels, Fall Color and a TJs Meal

It's been an interesting couple of weeks. Portland was delightful as always, with not a lot of fall color yet, but good times with Susan, Kate, McMenamins and Powell's Books. Visited SCRAP PDX, a fantastic place for crafters because they recycle all sorts of crafty items that are donated, so the prices are very low. I bought a scrap of black leather that had already had lots cut out of it, but was big enough for me to fashion a phone case (at some future date), plus a handy strap to attach to the case...from another bin. Took in the semi-final game of the Portland Thorns, which they won! First professional women's soccer game I've seen in person and it was wild. The fans are amazing, creative, and vocal. Did a little shopping, some fun eating, took a hike in the Bishop's Close at Eagle Rock along the river and had fun in an antique shop, too. Good times!

Home for two days with a sore gut...probably something I ate on the way home. One busy Wednesday of feeling O.K, then off to Denver to help my brother celebrate his birthday. My older sister was there, too, in from North Carolina via Michigan. It was a Big Kids reunion. Had a good time the first evening and next day, then came down with Sweetie's cold. Still managed the birthday party during the weekend, but hope that I didn't get everyone else sick!

One of the highlights of the trip was the last day there. We took a drive to Estes Park and finally got to see some fall color because the aspen that high up (12,000 feet above sea level at one point) were turning their amazing golden color with hints of orange. Because they are almost always surrounded by dark green conifers, the color pops even more. Photos below.

While I was gone Sweetie got over his cold and worked on the deck some more. It's almost finished and looks really good. He is a true craftsman. Will post photos soon.

While in Portland I had a great vegan dish that you might want to try, especially if you love Trader Joe's. It was created by Kate's friend Jackie, who works at TJs. Doesn't look like much, but it is delicious and filling, too. First you bake some sweet potatoes (yams actually) until they are soft, then you cut them in half and top with Trader Joe's Cowboy vegetarian patties (from the freezer section), which you have baked along with the sweet potato during the last 10 minutes or so. When I made it I couldn't get the oven to work, so I just pan fried the patty and it was fine that way too. You can divide the patty up into three or four pieces. Add some Trader Joe's garlic spread and some sliced avocado or guacamole on top and you have a great meal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Headed to Fall Color

Having just returned from a quick visit to Portland, the city that embraces the unusual, maybe even weird, now I'm headed to Colorado for some fall color (I hope) and family time. Sweetie and Pi will keep the home fires burning. The painting above was on the wall of the home where I stayed in Portland and is quite lovely, as are other pieces of art there.

No recipes, just a note that the quince are almost ripe and that they will be plentiful this year. Maybe I'll actually get around to making the recipes in the Quince cookbook I purchased 3 years ago. Hope so. The walnuts are falling, making noises in the night on the new deck. The acorns ping on the barn roof, then slide down toward the driveway.

Gravenstein apples are still with us but will soon be gone. Perhaps there will be a pie when I get home.

The zucchini are still producing but the squash stay smaller. The time for 'baseball bats' squash is probably past. Love that the bees are dancing around the tiny flowers on the sunflowers where the seeds form. A lovely fall treat. Soon there will be seeds like these.

That's all for now. Stay warm, stay dry, and stay safe.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Lentils and Eggs

When I was visiting Los Angeles in the summer (yes, it's still summer but it's beginning to feel like fall and school has started again, so summer seems like it's in the past) we went for brunch to a place called Playa Provisions in Playa Vista (I think). They had an eclectic menu but not a lot of items that were non-dairy. One dish that sounded good was lentils with tomatoes and egg and kale. It was outstanding! A touch of vinegar when served added just the right note against the beany flavor of the lentils and the richness of the soft boiled egg. I came home and decided to see if I could replicate the dish, or at least come close.

After searching the Internet I found a recipe by Bon Appetit that was close so I made a few tweaks and served it for dinner a few nights ago. It was delicious and filling and Sweetie enjoyed it, too. One of the key elements is a soffritto of onion, carrot, celery and garlic (the Bon Appetit recipe had fennel and not celery but I don't like fennel flavor) which is cooked almost into a paste. This plus the tomato sauce really flavor the lentils in a great way!

This is a vegetarian dish but could be vegan if you skip the egg. The Bon Appetit recipe called for serving it with bread that had been fried in olive oil, but I just toasted some seeded sourdough and put on some non-dairy margarine for me and butter for Sweetie. I also sprinkled on a bit of Parmesan cheese on his serving and he said that made it even better.

You could probably serve this the day it is cooked, but I like to 'age' dishes with onions, so I put it in the fridge in the pot it was cooked in for a couple of days. That made reheating it easy. The already cooked spinach was reheated in the microwave and spooned on top of the lentil mixture before I added the egg. I actually forgot to add the red wine vinegar, but plan to do it next time (there were leftovers) since the sharpness is a great foil for the relatively bland legumes. The bread is nice for sopping up any juices. I served it in a shallow, wide soup bowl and that works really well because there are some juices.

Lentils and Tomato Stew with Egg and Spinach
serves 4

1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups lentils (preferably French green), picked over and rinsed
1 cup baby spinach, rinsed
4 large eggs
4 sliced crusty bread
red wine vinegar and grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)

Pulse onion, celery, carrots and garlic in a food processor until soffritto is finely chopped.

In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the soffritto, stirring to coat the vegetables with the oil. Season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-12 minutes, until soft.

Stir in the tomato sauce and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown and very soft, about 10-12 minutes. Add a splash of water if it is browning too quickly. You want to caramelize the vegetables.

Add the lentils and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are almost tender, 30-35 minutes. Uncover and simmer for another 10 minutes to reduce the liquid.

Skim about a cup of the liquid at the top of the pot and place it in a microwave safe dish. Add the spinach and cover with foil. Let sit to wilt the spinach. Refrigerate this spinach mixture.

Taste the lentil mixture and adjust for salt, if needed.

Refrigerate the pot of lentils at least 24 hours and no more than 48 hours. You can also just make the rest of the recipe from this point without refrigerating the stew, but the flavor is better with a rest.

On serving day, reheat the lentil stew over low heat, stirring as needed to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the eggs and cook at a simmer for 9 minutes. Removed from the pot and run under cold water until just cool enough to handle. Carefully remove shell while keeping egg whole. Place on a cutting board.

Reheat the spinach mixture while the eggs are boiling. Toast and butter the crusty bread.

Put about a quarter of the lentils in a bowl. Top with a quarter of the spinach mixture. Slice the hot eggs in half lengthwise and place, yolk side up on top of the veggies in the bowl. Add a splash of vinegar and sprinkle with Parmesan, as desired. Serve with the toasted bread. Serve at once.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Dusky Blondes

It felt a little bit like fall today, which is great. I've always liked the season of fall best of any season. It wasn't too hot this morning, so Sweetie and I went downhill to the pear tree and picked some pears. They are colored greenish gold and gold, but still hard, which is exactly right. I'll wrap them in newspapers and check them regularly until they are the perfect, juicy ripeness. If you pick them off the tree when they are ripe the inner part of the pear is usually gritty and overripe. Picking them early solves that. We also picked some Gravenstein apples from the two trees that are left. When we moved here there were more apple trees, but they were pretty old. I plan to make applesauce and maybe a pie or apple crisp. I love them baked, too. They tend to turn very soft when cooked, but have a wonderful, sweet-tart flavor.

Gravenstein apples are part of the Slow Food movement because they are dying out. People want apples that they can store and that ship well. Gravensteins are easily bruised and don't keep well at all. If you can find them, do enjoy some fresh or baked into your favorite treat. But this post is actually about cookies that are almost, but not quite, as dark as brownies.

Yesterday I baked  a version of blondies bar cookies. This time I added some espresso powder, which made them almost as dark as brownies, but not quite...I'm calling them Dusky Blondes. The flavor is still richly butterscotch, but the addition of coffee makes them more sophisticated. The coffee addition inspired me to use prunes for the dried fruit and walnuts for the nuts. I used only dark chocolate chips and the results were absolutely wonderful...and sort of fall-like. The chocolate is a supporting player here so they really aren't at all like a brownie. They are moist, rich, chewy and addictive. I froze about half of them so that I will limit how many I eat. Straight Shooter is visiting, so I know he will eat four or five of them this weekend and Sweetie likes them, too. Bet you will too, if you make them!

Dusky  Blondes
A variation of a recipe by Jill O’Connor in Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey, Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup plain applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder

1  cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried plums (prunes), chopped
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Use cooking spray to lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Melt the butter and sugars together in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter and sugars are blended and completely melted and starting to bubble gently. Remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, vanilla and salt.

In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and espresso powder.

Slowly whisk the cooled butter and sugar mixture into the eggs mixture just until combined. Whisk in the flour mixture to form a loose batter. (Make sure the batter is cool before stirring in the remaining ingredients, otherwise the chocolate will start to melt before the bars are baked.)

Stir the chopped  nuts, chopped prunes, and dark chocolate chips into the cooled batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake until the top is shiny and slightly crackled and feels firm to the touch, 30 – 35 minutes. A wooden skewer inserting into the batter should come out with moist crumbs clinging to it. Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature, then cut into bars and serve.

Makes 16 large or 32 small bars.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Summer Is Winding Down

Have not been posting here much because I've not been baking and even our meals have been pretty simple...sliced tomatoes with a scattering of fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar plus salt and pepper, baked potatoes, grilled zucchini with some herbs and pepper, grilled meats or chicken, the occasional salad with fresh veggies in it.

Part of that is due to hot weather, part due to time spent traveling and in the garden, and part because Sweetie asked me to slow down on baking while his back gets better. He has little resistance to my baking and right now can't be active enough to burn off the calories. He is doing much better and we took a good walk at the Laguna this morning.

So instead here are some garden photos:

I have so enjoyed the day lilies this summer. They are all gone now, but I had bright orange greetings each morning for over a month!

The morning glories are taking over this yellow rose bush but soon everything will get pruned back and the annuals will get tossed in the compost, so I'ts OK.

I've been weeding and cleaning up but there is soooo much garden to get to. No photo of it, but the main planting of bearded iris have all been weeded and the leaves trimmed, ready for winter.

Sunflowers are really just getting going, with two in full bloom and another about half way open. There are a few more that should bloom in September.

The lovely red rose by the barn, which I purchased years ago at the Russian River Rose Garden in Healdsburg, just loves the spot where it is planted and it keeps getting bigger and taller each year.

 Last in the alphabet, but not in my heart, are the zinnias. I planted them in the big pots with the flax and some herbs and another flower whose name I forget, and they are constantly blooming, making the front walkway a very cheerful place.

The flower at the top is a red California poppy, one of a number of different colors of poppies I grew this year.

That's all for now. Hope to have something food-ish to post soon.
Happy Labor Day Weekend!