Saturday, September 26, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Apple & Walnut Cake and Apple Pie Spice and Apple Varieties

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Pumpkin is usually included in our traditional holiday meals.
But what’s Autumn without apples?
MacIntosh, Ambrosia, Granny Smith…
Pies, Cobblers, Cakes…
There are so many new apple varieties and new apple recipes to try.

A few weeks ago I posted the recipe for Ma's Apple Kuchen.
Hope you tried - and liked - it.

The new varieties of apples can be a little overwhelming.
Not sure if you’ll like a different type of apple?
Here's a quick guide to some of them to get you started:
Ambrosia - aromatic, sweet
Braeburn - tart, spicy
Cortland - mild, sweet
Fuji - juicy, sweet
Granny Smith - tart, tangy
Honeycrisp - crisp, juicy
Jonagold - snappy, sweet
MacIntosh - tangy, classic
Pink Lady - tangy, crisp

And they can be served in so many ways!
Here are a few of Ma’s favourite recipes:

Apple Cobbler & Apple Crisp (also Rhubarb and Peach Variations)

Have leftover Ritz crackers after a holiday gathering?
They can be used to make a Mock Apple Pie.
Waste not, want not!


Don’t have applesauce?
Use a mashed ripe banana instead.

Prefer an all Granny Smith, or all Gala or all Macintosh apple cake?
Use what you like - or what was available at a good price.

                        Apple Pie Spice Blend

1/4 Cup cinnamon
2 Tablespoons nutmeg
2 Tablespoons allspice

Makes 1/2 Cup
Apple Pie Spice would also add a nice touch to apple cobblers and warm apple sauce.

                    Apple & Walnut Cake

Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan

Mix together in a medium bowl
2 Cups flour
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice blend

In a small bowl combine
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar 
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Peel, core, and dice
2 medium Granny Smith apples
2 medium Gala apples
Set aside.

Chop enough walnuts to make !/2 Cup.
Spread on a cookie sheet and toast at 325º F about 2 minutes.
Watch so that they don’t burn.
Remove from the oven and set aside.
Place the rack in the middle of the oven.
Preheat oven to 350°F         

In large mixer bowl place
1/4 Cup oil
1/2 Cup applesauce
Mix well.
Add, one at a time, beating well after each addition
2 large eggs
Add 1/4 of the flour mixture and stir just until mixed.  
Make 3 more flour mixture additions, stirring just until mixed after each one.
Then add 
the diced apples 
the toasted walnuts 
Stir until just mixed.
Turn batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly.
Top with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes.
A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. 
Cool cake in pan before serving. 

Before serving dust with
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Magic Cookie Bars - Harvest Moon, Super Blood Moon & Total Lunar Eclipse!

A few days ago I suggested buying a box of crushed graham cracker crumbs to make Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars.
I mentioned that you’ll use them.
Got an email asking where else the crumbs can be used.

I understand… the bills came in from summer vacation trips and back-to-school purchases.
You want to know these crumbs won't just sit on the shelf and gather dust.

Okay…. the graham cracker crumbs can also be used in the following recipes: 

Ma also had another recipe that uses crumbs which she had discovered by mistake.
Pop’s mistake, not her mistake.
She had asked Pop to pick up a few things from the local A & P.
Just some prepackaged and canned stuff.
How much trouble could he get into looking for that kind of stuff?
She wasn’t asking him to pick through the fresh produce.

Pop went to the store and got directions for where the canned milk was kept.
He went to the aisle and looked around.
Then he knew he was in trouble.

Ma’s list had made perfect sense to her.
She had written “2 cans milk”.
By that she meant two cans of evaporated milk.

Did you see Michael Keaton in the 1983 movie Mr. Mom?
Do you remember when he asked the deli lady for some cheese and ham?
What could've been simpler?
Remember Keaton's expression and mounting panic when he was listening to the clerk as she rattled off all the different kinds of cheese and ham?
I guess his wife had written the same kind of list.

Well, 20 years before Mr. Mom came out Pop had the same kind of problem.
Ma had written what was to her a clear list.
Pop could read her writing.
The list was pretty straight forward.
Who knew there was more than one kind of canned milk?

This was in the 60s.
Pop couldn’t whip out a cellphone to ask for further instructions.
He grabbed a can of evaporated milk and a can of sweetened condensed milk.
Pop was a glass half full kind of guy.
One of them had to be the right can of milk, right?

Ma just gave him The Look when she saw the sweetened condensed milk.
It wasn’t worth a fight or a second trip to the store just to exchange it. 
Ma was also curious about the recipe that was on the label.
So she put the can in the cupboard.

After a few weeks she gave the recipe a try.
She used what she had and, after adding a few of her special touches, a new family favourite was born.


Want less crust?
1 1/2 Cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 Cup butter or margarine, melted

The can of sweetened condensed milk I’m using in this recipe is 300 mL.
That’s 10 ounces or 1 1/4 Cups.
You can use either regular or low fat sweetened condensed milk.

If your store carries a sweetened condensed milk that comes in a different sized can, that's not a problem.
Just measure what you need or adjust your dry ingredients to keep in proportion.
Ma would use what she had - sometimes more chocolate if she was short on nuts.
It’s a forgiving recipe.

The original recipe called for pecans.
Ma usually used chopped walnuts.
Peanuts are good, too.

The original recipe called for semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Ma used other kinds of chocolate, too.
I remember one Christmas when she used only white chocolate and added a layer of chopped maraschino cherries on top.
They were quite pretty for the holidays!

The temperature given is for a metal pan. 
Bake at 325º F if you’re using a glass pan.

                        Magic Cookie Bars

Line a 9" x 13" pan with aluminum foil 
Have a generous overhang so you can lift it out of the pan.
Preheat oven to 350º F

In a medium bowl combine
2 Cups graham wafer crumbs
3/4 Cup butter, melted
Spread in prepared pan.

Pour evenly over the crumb crust
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Sprinkle over the milk covered crumbs
1 1/3 Cups chopped nuts (optional)
1 Cup butterscotch chips (optional)
1 1/3 Cups chocolate chips
1 1/3 Cups flaked coconut
Press down firmly.
Bake 30 minutes, until lightly browned.
Let cool 5 minutes in the pans.
Remove from the pan.
Cool thoroughly and cut into bars.
Store covered at room temperature.

About the moon this weekend…
According to the Farmers Almanac:

On September 27 we’ll see a Full Harvest Moon!
The Moon is also at its closest point to Earth.  It's only 221,870 miles from Earth.
The absolute closest that the Moon can come is 221,400 miles from Earth. 
This makes this full Moon an official super moon.  
It will look up to 14% larger and be up to 30% brighter than a normal full Moon.

It’s called the Full Corn Moon or Full Harvest Moon because it marked when corn was supposed to be harvested by Native Americans. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice, the chief Indian staples, are now ready for gathering.

In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September.  But in some years it occurs in October. 
Farmers can work late into the night by the light of this Moon. Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. 

On September 27 there will also be a total lunar eclipse!
A lunar eclipse is when the Moon passes into the Earth’s shadow. The total lunar eclipse is visible from most of North America (except Alaska and northernmost Canada) after sunset on September 27.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Pumpkin Smoothie

I got a few emails.
You’re absolutely right.

The Thanksgiving ads are all around us.
They’ll be followed by Christmas ads.
And each ad will have a pumpkin pie in it.
Oh, yeah... and topped with whipped cream.  For sure.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars and Pumpkin Pie are not a dieter’s best friends.
But to paraphrase an old saying…
The taste buds want what the taste buds want.

What’s a dieter to do?
Make a smoothie.

A smoothie is similar to a fruit milkshake.
They have been popular for quite a while around the world.
Smoothies are found in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine.

Health food stores on the U. S. West Coast sold smoothies in the 1930s.
By the late 1960s smoothies were widely sold across the states by ice cream vendors as well as health food stores. 
From the early 1970s ice milk was sometimes added to create the fruit shake.

Smoothies are easy to make.
And, like any good Maltese recipe, open to lots of variations.
So what are you waiting for?

This smoothie is like a liquid pumpkin pie… with less calories!!


If you have frozen bananas, you can use one in this recipe.
If not, a regular banana will be fine.
A frozen banana will give the smoothie a thicker texture. 
Chilling the pumpkin will help the smoothie stay cold when you blend it. 

Add more milk to thin it out, if it is too thick. 
Add more ice cubes for a thicker texture, if desired. 

Add more or less spices to taste.
Try adding nutmeg, cloves, ginger, allspice or cinnamon for more punch.

Use whatever milk or yogurt you prefer.
It’s your smoothie!

                        Pumpkin Smoothie

Place in a blender
1 banana
1/2 Cup vanilla or plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1/2 Cup milk
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
2/3 Cup pumpkin (canned or cooked and pureed)
1 Cup ice
Blend on high for 5 minutes or more until smooth.
Scrape down the sides of the blender as needed.
Garnish with
whipped cream and nutmeg (optional)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars and Pumpkin Pie Spice

It’s mid-September.
The holiday season is fast approaching.
If you live in Canada Thanksgiving will be on October 12.
Yeah… that’s less than a month.

Pumpkin is a popular ingredient in many Fall / Winter holiday menus.
Pumpkin is also a popular ingredient in Maltese cooking, especially in our vegetable soups.
Pumpkin is everywhere.
In the stores they sometimes give you a free pumpkin pie if you buy a couple of things.

But, to be honest, after a while even a good pie can get a bit boring.

Mix it up.
Be a woman of mystery.
Serve pumpkin in a cheesecake.
After 60, this is as much excitement as we can stand.


Buy a box of crushed graham cracker crumbs.
Trust me, you’ll use them.

If you’re using pumpkin from a fresh pumpkin, don’t waste the pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin seeds, when roasted, are a great low calorie snack.

Refrigerate any leftover bars for up to 2 days, in an air-tight container.

Pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie are said to bring money and luck your way as well.
Low calorie they’re not. 

                        Pumpkin Pie Spice

1/4 Cup ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoons ground allspice

Makes a scant 1/2 Cup
Pumpkin Pie Spice also goes nicely on the mashed sweet vegetables and onions.

                        Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

The Crust

Line an 8" square baking pan with aluminum foil, with ends of foil extending over sides.  
Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350º F.

Crush enough graham crackers until you have
3/4 Cup fine graham cracker crumbs

4 Tablespoons butter, melted
Combine well
Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan.
Bake in the oven for 7 minutes.

The Filling

Combine in a large mixer bowl
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup pumpkin (canned or cooked and pureed)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice 
1/4 teaspoon salt
Beat at medium speed until smooth.
Add, one at a time
2 large eggs
Beat at low speed until smooth.  Do not over beat.
Pour the pumpkin cheesecake filling into the prepared pan.
Tap the pan against the counter to get rid off air bubbles on the surface.
Bake for 35 minutes.
The pie should be set around the edges, with a slightly soft centre.
Cool on a wire rack 1 hour or until completely cooled.
Keep the cake in the pan, and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

About an hour before serving remove the cake from the refrigerator.
Remove the cheesecake from the pan. 
Slice into bars, and place on a platter.
Garnish each bar with 
a walnut
whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg (optional)
a drizzle of caramel sauce and a sprinkle of cloves (optional)
whatever you like and have

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Apple Kuchen and The False Dawn

This is my 900th post!
I know, time just flies!
Thank you for visiting and for commenting here and on my FB page.
Also a big thank you to those who are following me on Twitter.
Love those retweets and favorites!

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe.
Here we are in September.

Yes, it's back to school time.
Don’t forget to bring an apple to the teacher.
First impressions mean a lot.

Apples are really coming into their own right about now.
Why not buy them while they are on sale and bake a few old favourites?

College Point in the 1950s was mostly made up of German and Irish families.
Ma worked with a lot of German women at Lily Tulip.
Well, you know how it is… the moms exchanged recipes.
Some were clipped from the papers and some were things they had always made.

Ma brought home quite a few recipes.
She also got a few German recipes from Mrs. Kekelia.
Of course the recipes were good as they were.
But, Ma liked to add her own touches.
Which were also good.

Want to get an early start on your Christmas baking?
Here are a few of my old favourites, compliments of Mrs. Kekelia:

Mrs. Kekelia's Stollen, German Christmas Bread

Mrs. Kekelia's Zimtsterne, German Christmas Cookie

Mrs. Kekelia's Pfeffernuesse, German Christmas Cookie

Mrs. Kekelia's Anise Springerle, German Christmas Cookie


If you prefer regular sugar in the cake, that’s fine.

I’ve been asked if regular or skim milk should be used.
To be honest, Mrs. Kekelia used butter and whole milk.
Back in the 50s who knew about cholesterol?

About the apples…
Back then we didn’t have as many apple varieties as we have now.
Our moms usually used macs since that was what was most available.
I’ve tried this recipe with Granny Smiths and it was quite good.
Use what you have and see what works best for you.

                        Apple Kuchen

Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan
Preheat oven to 375° F

In a medium bowl sift together
3 Cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a measuring cup place
1 Cup milk

Mix in a small bowl
1/4 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In large mixer bowl place
1/2 Cup margarine, softened
1 1/2 Cups brown sugar
Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
Blend in
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk (3 dry, 2 wet).
Mix well after each addition.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan.
Top with
3 Cups apples, peeled and sliced 
Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the apples.
Bake 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Serve topped with whipped cream (optional).

About the moon next week…
According to the Farmers Almanac:
On September 10 look to the east before dawn to see the ‘false dawn’.
It’s visible for the next 2 weeks. 
Don’t mistake the Zodiacal Light for morning twilight.  It’s a very faint, whitish, diffuse glow.  Its shape resembles a tilted cone, wedge or slanted pyramid.  
It is sunlight being reflected off of debris left over from the formation of the planets.
Omar Khayyam called it a “false dawn” in his poem ‘The Rubaiyat’.

Also look for the tiny waning crescent Moon team up with Venus in the predawn sky. 
If the sky is dark enough, look for Mars to the left of the pair.

New Moon on September 13.  You can’t see it, of course.