Tuesday, March 22, 2011

what in the world is "cheapie dessert"? and a recipe for homemade organic cake mix

as always, it is impossible for me to just answer the question.  i need to tell you a story...so...here goes...

last week was our book club meeting.  i have told you about this group many times...we get together each month to discuss the selected book (we really do discuss the book), but the emphasis always seems to be on eating, drinking, talking and laughing.  this month we read a visit from the goon squad by jennifer eagan.  our hostess, my friend rachelle, sent the following message regarding the food theme:

"To fit in with the "time is a goon" theme, I thought it would be fun if we each brought a dish that played a significant role in either your childhood or in your family's history. OR, if that stumps you, bring something that you would like to make a significant part of your culinary future."

photo courtesy ashley nicole teplin

so i thought about all the dishes my mom is known for and for some reason decided it was time to immortalize her "cheapie dessert".  you would have to know my mom to understand the significance of the name.  let's just say my mom loves deals...and specials...and sales...and coupons.  oh my!  it is not like she is cheap...she is one of the most generous people you will ever meet.  my sisters and i have to fight with her to pay for a meal...we never win.  but tell her about a sale...and her eyes light up.  it is a running joke in my family.  i swear, you could be anywhere in the world with my mom and she will suggest a restaurant for dinner by saying "i just happen to have a coupon for buy one, get one".  she has two freezers and they are always full because she cannot pass up a special at the market.

so, anyway, back to the dessert.  i just found out by prepping for this story that the recipe is actually called dump cake (what a bad name!) and that it is pretty famous.  i had no idea.  when my sisters and i were really little, our next door neighbor mr hartzler taught my mom to make a version of the dessert i am going to share with you...but he never told her the name and we all assumed he invented the concoction.  i have since learned it is called "dump cake" because you dump cherry or apple pie filling into a baking dish, top it with a box of dry cake mix, drizzle a stick of melted butter over the top and bake for a hour.   i know it sounds weird and bad but everyone loves it. 

my mom insisted i tell you that she made it because "in those days you could buy cake mix on sale for 79 cents a box and pie filling for 39 cents so it was really cheap to make".  hence the "cheapie dessert" moniker.  as she says, "it is now much more expensive to make, but people love it so i keep making it".  and, i must admit, it is true...people love it.  i have memories of my now almost 15 yr. old nephews asking for "heapie dessert" when they were two because they couldn't quite pronounce the c.  my mom usually makes everything from scratch...and her cakes, cookies, cream puffs and brownies are amazing...but the "cheapie dessert" remains a mainstay. i think it is because it is so fast and easy.

so...with a name like "cheapie dessert", i knew it would be perfect for book club.  but i decided to give it the napa farmhouse 1885 treatment.  my goal was to reinvent this dish and make it healthy while retaining its easy, fast and delicious reputation.  the fruit part was a no brainer...i make pies all the time, so a mixture of organic apples, with organic citrus zest/juice, seasonings and agave nectar was the easy part.  the cake mix was a bit trickier because i honestly didn't know what was IN cake mix.  after walking the baking aisles of the grocery store and studying the ingredients of a number of brands it seemed like...once you eliminated all the preservatives...the mix was flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and fat.  so i experimented with proportions until i came up with a blend that i really like.  to keep it "cleanse friendly" i have been using vegan "buttery" sticks...i like the brand "earth balance", but regular butter works just as well.  best of all you can actually use this to make cakes!!  but, today..."cheapie dessert"

when i told my mom about the revisions i made to her recipe she said, "diane you are pushing my buttons".  when i told her my next experiment was to tweak it to use extra virgin olive oil and cornmeal with a blueberry filling she said "now you are really pulling my buttons" ?? :)  but don't you think that sounds good?

so...to wrap up this long tale...book club girls loved the dessert, i have a blog story and the world now knows about "cheapie dessert"...  success!  oh, and try the recipe...it really is delicious...kind of a cross between a crisp and a cobbler.  (and my version is not very expensive either...serves 10...maybe not "cheapie"...but reasonable)

did you grow up eating dump cake?  if so, please tell me how you or your mom make it....

connie's "cheapie dessert" my way

cake mix topping
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
1 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup vegan "butter", room temperature and cut into small pieces

3 lbs organic apples (i used both granny smith & suncrisp), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
zest of one meyer lemon + 2 tbsp juice
zest of one orange + 2 tbsp juice
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chinese 5 spice powder

1/2 cup vegan "butter", melted
1/2 cup grapeseed oil

preheat oven to 350 degrees.  butter (1 use vegan) a 2 qt shallow baking dish and set aside.

make the cake mix:  combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a mixer or food processor and mix just to combine.  add the sugar and agave nectar and pulse a couple of times.  add the "butter" and pulse until thoroughly incorporated in the the dry mix.  set aside.

make the filling:  add the apples to a large bowl.  add the lemon and orange zest and juice and the agave nectar and stir to combine.  add the cinnamon and chinese 5 spice powder and stir until mixed.

pour the apple mixture into the prepared baking dish.  using a large spoon scatter the cake mix topping over the apple mixture until the entire top is covered.  you want about 1/2 inch of cake mix topping.  **NOTE, you will have leftover mix, save for another cheapie or for baking a cake**,  drizzle the melted butter over the top of the cake mix.  drizzle the grapeseed oil over the butter. 

place on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until topping is golden brown and apples are bubbling.  let sit 15 minutes and serve hot, warm or room temperature.  delicious as is...even better with ice cream.  (note, i have been eating ice cream make with coconut milk and sweetened with agave nectar.  still in the "healthy" catagory...and amazingly good.  i like the brand luna & larry's organic coconut bliss.)  or just use your favorite organic ice cream....

with the best intentions, i brought home a piece of the dessert to photograph the next morning.  i am so not a professional photographer and need the sun for halfway decent photos.  i came into the kitchen to find peter eating the "cheapie dessert" for breakfast...he loved it!  happy about that...but, sadly, no photos of cut pieces for the blog.  if you make the dessert and decide to photograph the filling or a piece of the dessert...please send me a copy and i will add to this post :)

happy spring everyone and, mom...i love you!


diane padoven

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "

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Friday, March 4, 2011

what's killing our buzz?

i received the following email from slow food, usa regarding the diminishing bee population in north america.  slow food asked me to forward the email to 20 of my friends...i thought i would take it one step further and share with all of you.  please take a moment to read the post...and sign the petition...only takes a couple of seconds.
"Dear Diane,

Spring's going to be a lot quieter this year. Something is killing off almost 40% of North American honeybees each year, and it's threatening our entire food chain. Mounting scientific evidence suggests agricultural pesticides are one of the culprits.

The Environmental Protection Agency has the power to investigate and ban the pesticides thought to be responsible but, despite their own scientists' advice and under pressure from pesticides companies, they're dragging their feet.

Much of the plant-life we depend on for food exists thanks to honeybees. Now the bees are depending on us to return the favor. Click here to sign our petition calling on the EPA to solve the mystery that's killing our buzz.

Bees don't just make honey: from apples to lemons, much of the food we eat may disappear with the bees. Even milk and beef production could be threatened: guess what makes the plants that feed the cows? Our friend the honeybee.

What's more, bees add $15 billion to the annual US economy, and their loss will have a devastating impact on food production and food prices. But the EPA is under pressure to do nothing about it from pesticide companies and the pesticide 'scientists' those companies bankroll.

The EPA has already acknowledged it should look into the causes of "Colony Collapse Disorder". We need to counter the pesticide lobby's pressure and hold the EPA to that commitment, by sending them a message they can't ignore: click here for the petition.

Everyone stands to lose with the threat to our food chain known as CCD. That's why everyone needs to stand together to counter the pressure the EPA is under not to do it's job: protect the things we rely on to survive.

Many Slow Food chapters are also hosting screenings of a new CCD documentary, Vanishing of the Bees. It's a great way to get together in your community and learn more about what you can do to help solve this problem.

Time and again Slow Food members get together to celebrate the importance of food. It's now the time to take action to protect that which binds us together, and stand up for the bees that make it all possible.

Thanks for spreading the buzz,
The Slow Food USA team

PS - Can you help spread the buzz? For every 100 signatures we collect on our petition to protect the bees we depend on for our food, we'll send a bee-shaped postcard to the Director of the EPA’s Pesticide Programs. Imagine those on the wall the next time the pesticide lobby pops in!

Slow Food USA and the Slow Food USA Logo are registered trademarks of Slow Food USA.
20 Jay Street, Suite M04 Brooklyn, NY 11201 Tel: 718 260-8000 or 877 SlowFoo(d) Fax: 718 260-8068 info@slowfoodusa.org"

we are fortunate to have a lot of bees on our property(we try to be as organic as possible)...they especially love the lavender bushes and meyer lemon trees...and while i need to be a bit careful when harvesting...i attribute the amazing crops we get each year to the massive amount of bees swarming around. the declining bee population is a big concern to me....i appreciate your help!
photo courtesy show food, usa


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "

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