Waffled French Toast With Sautéed Apples, Walnuts and Maple Syrup

Since retiring my mornings have become a time to ease into the day without the rushing that work mornings were filled with. I still have some rush mornings, days that I volunteer I don’t have the luxury of easing, but there are more days of easing than rushing and the mornings I do rush I am definitely OK with it because in just a little while I am going to be doing something I really love and with people I really like. You can’t always say that about work, at least in my past experience that was oft times true.  Easing is definitely something I look forward to practicing. A great habit I wish I had picked up long ago.

A morning of easing can bring about creativity, like this morning. I’ve put off going to the grocery store for over a week now so choices are becoming scarce, food wise. I almost went to the market yesterday when I was out and about but it didn’t happen. And so it was that I found myself this morning wondering what I could put together for breakfast, my favorite meal.

After foraging around in the refrigerator I came up with; an apple, a spoon or two of greek yogurt, a bit of soy coffee creamer, an egg and a heel of seeded bread. I keep a supply of different kinds of nuts in the freezer so I grabbed a hand full of walnuts when I got out the coffee beans, yes I keep them in the freezer too. The menu would be waffle style French toast with sautéed apples, maple syrup and walnuts, topped off with Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon and a cup of fresh brewed coffee.

Apple, walnuts, syrup

A while back I saw an article on making french toast using a waffle iron and I have adopted that idea in preference to just making french toast in a skillet. The toast cooks much faster, since you’re cooking both sides at the same time, and there are all those little indents that are wonderful for holding syrup or butter or what ever you decide to put on top.

To prepare the toast, I use 1 egg with 1/2 egg shell full of milk or in this case coffee creamer, for each piece of bread. Beat the egg and milk/creamer together then pour the mixture over the bread and let it soak in. Turn the bread in mixture at least once so both sides coat well.

DSCN6884Peel and core the apple then cut into 1/4” slices and sauté in a little butter until slightly browned then turn to brown the second side. When the apples are just browned on the second side drizzle a little maple syrup over them and add some chopped walnuts and let bubble a little to caramelize the nuts. Keep warm.

DSCN6888Cook the egg soaked bread in a preheated waffle iron until done. Place on serving plate, top with apple, syrup walnut mixture, top with Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

The odds of getting this lucky again tomorrow are right around slim and none so I think a trip to the grocery store today will be high on my “to do” list today.

More French toast ideas can be found at Camp Toast with Maple Syrup Poached Fruit and Trou Pain Perdu.

Anderson Valley, Apples and Apple Cinnamon Loaf

Traveling south along Hwy 1, after three beautiful days exploring in and around Fort Bragg, my sister Gwen and I decided to take yet another backroad detour off the main highway. Backroads can be beautiful and enjoyable experiences, sometimes they are just the opposite. This time we would try a road headed inland from the coast through the tiny town of Comptche, then south to Hwy 128 just west of the town of Navarro in the Anderson Valley. It turned out to be both beautiful and enjoyable.

The Anderson Valley occupies an area about 25 miles long, extending northwesterly from Hwy 101 towards the Coast along Hwy 128. Early  European settlers described it as “a long valley stretching to the northwest, surrounded by dense woods on the southwestern side, and grassy hills to the northeast. There was abundant meadow grass, and water. Deer, elk, bear, and small game animals are abundant and roam the valley and surrounding hills.”

The settlers started arriving around 1850 and with them came the changes that transformed this wooded valley into the thriving agricultural community it is today. From what I can find in the histories apple production here began just before the turn of the century. Today apples still grow in this region but many orchards have been replaced by vineyards. Since 1964 winegrowing and winemaking has become a big part of the economic landscape of the valley. But then that’s another story for another day. Today it’s about apples.

DSCN6633 As we entered Anderson Valley I remembered a historic fruit stand that I had visited many years ago and wondered if it was still there. Much to my delight Gowan’s Oak Tree was still there, unchanged and best of all it was open. I had to stop.

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DSCN6634Gowan’s has been around since the 30’s when Grandma Gowan would sit under the oak tree, that now shades the building, and sell apples to travelers passing by. Around 1950 they built the fruit stand and have been selling to travelers and neighbors ever since.

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They had a nice variety of apples and pears to choose from but no persimmons even though the sign said they did. During the summer months they sell peaches, plums, berries and home grown vegetables.

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Oh, and they had Arkansas Black apples. One of my favorites and not always easy to find.  To link to a recipe for Fresh Apple Cake and more about these beauties see my previous post Arkansas Black Apples.
DSCN6637This little basket of Lady Apples intrigued me, begged me to try one. So I did. It had a semisweet flavor and was crisp and juicy. The sad thing about these little gems is that they aren’t widely available.

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From what I could find about them, they were first cultivated by the Romans and are the oldest apple variety known. The French, it is said, loved them and considered them as royal; early American colonists thought of them as a symbol of wealth. Pretty impressive history for such a tiny fruit.DSCN6684

Always looking for something new to try and having a nice variety of fresh apples on hand, I decided to try this recipe for Apple Cinnamon Loaf by Sharon Whitley posted on Just A Pinch Recipes. The perfect recipe for brightening a cold winter morning. The only thing I changed was to add 1 cup of chopped walnuts with the apple and use mini loaf pans instead of the 9 x 5. The aroma of this loaf will drive you crazy when it’s baking. Is there anything better smelling than cinnamon and sugar? Quick to fix and yummy.

A Birthday Brunch at the Wildlife Area

Today was not unlike most Monday mornings. I awoke at 5am and began my morning routine finishing with a light breakfast around 7am. Now I was ready to start a very important deviation in my morning routine. Today I am baking an apple crisp to take to  a brunch at work. It is the Director’s birthday and and we want to do something special for this very special lady.

At most places of work a birthday brunch would mean gathering around in an office setting and sharing a variety of delicacies. Not where I work. It meant that we were headed out to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area to do some bird watching, look at some of the newest research and restoration projects and of course, have our birthday brunch amongst a beautiful wetland setting with the birds singing and the sun shining down on us.

The Wildlife Area is a very special destination for all of us at Yolo Basin Foundation, but it is especially special to Robin, our Director. Robin was part of a handful of people that came together in 1989 to begin the conversation of restoring the wetlands of the Putah Creek Sinks located in the Yolo Bypass. As a result of these conversations  the Yolo Basin Foundation was founded in 1990 as a non-profit dedicated to the stewardship and appreciation of wetlands and wildlife through education and innovative partnerships. In 1997 the Wildlife Area opened to the public, the beginning a long-term partnership between the Yolo Basin Foundation and the California Depart of Fish and Game to provide public outreach and educational programs at the Bypass. The original area of preservation was 3,500 acres and that number has grown to over the years to over 16,000 acres. I can’t think of a more appropriate place to have her birthday celebration.

I have been thinking about how to make this crisp for days now. One member of our staff doesn’t eat foods containing gluten and another is allergic to walnuts. I want everyone to be able to enjoy the crisp so I combined ideas from a couple of recipes. I used Annie’s Apricot Crisp recipe to create the topping, but this time instead of using wheat or oat flour I used almond flour. Another potential problem was that some folks who are gluten intolerant don’t eat oats and I definitely wanted to include rolled oats in the topping so I checked to see why something that doesn’t have gluten in its makeup was on the avoid list. A Google search turned up http://www.glutenfreeoats.net/. Their reasons were: “The concern is that if oats are grown in a field that previously grew other gluten containing grains, some of those other gluten containing grains will naturally grow in the oat field the next year, which will then cause the oats harvested from that field to be contaminated. If a farmer uses the same equipment to process all his grains, that can also cause cross contamination. If the coop or transport company that brought the oats to the processor has stored and transported other grains, that can cause cross contamination. If the processor processes other gluten containing grains, there can be cross contamination.” Makes complete sense to me so I found some certified gluten free oats to use not wanting to take the chance of using cross contaminated oats. The second recipe was from Simply Recipes. It gave me the basic ingredient ideas for the apple part of the crisp; apples, lemon juice, vanilla, brown sugar and cinnamon. I added some nutmeg and increased the cinnamon and vanilla amounts over what they recommended. After a half hour of peeling, slicing and mixing the apples with the lemon juice, vanilla, brown sugar and spices, the mixture was poured into a 9 x 12-inch pan, then the topping with the almond flour, certified gluten free oats, chopped pecans and butter mixture was added. It looked great and if it hadn’t been a foggy morning with very little natural light coming in the kitchen windows I would have taken some nice pictures to show you. I really don’t like how food pictures turn out when you use flash. In my opinion the look is very unnatural and unappetizing and Annie is definitely not into unappetizing looking foods.

The crisp came out of the oven 45 minutes later, smelling wonderful as only apples drenched in sugar and cinnamon can and looking perfect. I wrapped it in a towel to keep it warm, loaded the car with my laptop and some serving utensils and headed off through the fog to work. The closer I got to work the sunnier it got which is unusual since there is always more fog in the rural areas and that’s where our office is, in a field surrounded by agriculture.  At work we loaded the food each of us had brought; bagels and cream cheese, just picked tangerines and freshly shelled walnuts, hot water for coffee, tea or cocoa, and Greek yogurt to use on the crisp.  Plates, silverware and hot cups were placed in a basket and loaded into the fifteen passenger van along with a loaded ice chest. Party supplies all loaded we all jumped in and headed two miles to the east to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area where we drove south into a closed area to view a project area and some recently restored wetlands.  It took us a while, every time we got started down the road one of us would see a bird or birds that we would have to stop and watch.  Sometimes it was to make an identification. I was sitting in the third set of seats from the front, warm crisp on my lap and the basket of the other goodies and a co-worker beside me. My views were through windows that do not open and have not been washed for who knows how long. It was not good viewing, with or without binoculars, and definitely not good at all for picture taking. Since I couldn’t take any pictures of the birds we saw I took this picture to show you my view of everyone else bird watching. I thought it was funny. There they sat with their binoculars all at attention, the part you can’t see or obviously hear is the discussion as to which bird it was that was spotted and where it is amongst the hundreds of other birds out on the water. Then there is the discussion by a few of them that are using the iBird app on their phones to research or justify identification. It was definitely entertaining and not atypical of birders, which all of us, with the exception of two are. Actually the app was great help since some of the female ducks are really hard to identify. We also used it to confirm some eared grebes that are not common to the area.

When we got to the southern part of the wildlife area we stopped and had our brunch. Since we didn’t stop in an area with a table we used the ice chest and the seat and step of the van to set up our feast. The crisp went quickly and this is all that was left after eight hungry women had finished with it. At one point this morning I had considered making a 9 x 9 pan, glad I didn’t. Yes I ate again. I had to see if the crisp tasted as good as it had smelled all morning. It was delicious if I do say so myself. Guess what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow morning. Love leftovers!

As we pulled to the top of the levee to leave the wildlife area we were given one more memorable moment, we spotted five river otter playing in the water just below us. As we sat watching their antics I couldn’t help wish that I could just stay and spend the rest of the day as carefree as the playing otters seemed.  That wish would have to wait; there was work to do back at the office. But I knew as we drove off that I would be back out to the Wildlife Area the next day, this time with a class of excited school children and we would continue the exploration of this wonderful area.

To see pictures of the wildlife area and some of it’s inhabitants click here.

Astoria (Oregon) Sunday Market

Recently two of my sisters and I took advantage of low Southwest airfares and flew to Portland. When we left Sacramento it was raining and in the 50’s. We arrived in Portland to sunshine and 86 degrees. That was a rarity. It should have been the other way around. Eighty-six is pretty warm but we weren’t complaining.

First order of business was to head over to the car rental pick-up location and load up our rental with our luggage. Then it was off to one of my favorite farmers markets, the Portland market at Portland State University. Unfortunately, we arrived with less than an hour before closing and had just enough time to make a quick perusal of the possibilities for lunch. We sat under the beautiful big trees and ate our lunch as the vendors broke down their stalls and packed their trucks. Next time I’ll make sure I have a couple of hours of shopping time. Tummies full and anticipation high we headed back to the car for our leisurely drive from Portland to the coast, then north to Long Beach, WA and five days of a much needed vacation. If you’re ever in Portland on a Saturday between 8:30am and 2:00pm, check out the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University. It’s open 8:30am – 2:00pm March 19 – December 17  and  9:oo am – 2:00 pm November and December. If the PSU market won’t fit into your visit there are markets happening in Portland everyday but Friday. You can find out more about locations, days and times here.

Sunday morning we decided to drive over to Astoria, a nice two-hour drive away and check out their Sunday Market. The Astoria market is easily the largest farmers market in the Columbia-Pacific region — and one the largest statewide, with up to 200 vendor spaces. In addition to its size it’s one of the few Oregon markets open on Sundays.  After a wonderful breakfast at Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe (They also have a booth at the market which sells yummy bakery items) we walked a couple of blocks to the market which was already very busy. The market is a mix of food (ready -to-eat and fresh), art & photography, handmade clothing, things for kids and pets, body care products, crafts and jewelry and plants and garden items. There is also a prepared food section where you can sit and eat and listen to some local music.  This isn’t one of those flea markets where products come from everywhere all products sold at the Astoria market are made or grown by the vendor, so you’re supporting local folks.

One of the most interesting things I found at the market was a young entrepreneur selling goat milk soaps. This bright young lady named  Mary told me her title was, Milkologist and Monster Master of Mary\’s Milk Monsters.  With a title like that and a smile like hers who wouldn’t take a few minutes to listen to what she had to say.  She told me she got into making soaps because her goats (her 4H project) give a lot of milk and she was looking for a new way “to make use of their hard work.” By adding her own hard work she has come up with a wonderful little business. You can find out more about how she makes her soaps and  meet some of her goats on her website. If you won’t be in Astoria anytime soon, you can buy her soap through her website. A very nice way to support a very engaging and energetic young entrepreneur.

After talking with Mary, and browsing, and shopping for non-food items for a couple of hours we finally got down to the business of buying food and bought chives, goat cheese, eggs, apples and some amazing goodies at the Blue Scorcher Bakery booth to take back to our little cabin in Long Beach.

If you are going to be up in the Northwest this summer take time to visit one of their Farmers Markets. You’ll meet some really nice folks, you’ll find fresh local foods and crafts and sometimes you’ll even meet someone you’ll never forget.

A Guide to North Coast Farmers Markets

Astoria – open 10am – 3pm, Sundays, from Mother’s Day through the second weekend in October
Commercial and 12th Street, Astoria, OR
astoriasundaymarket.com
 
Newport-open 9am – 1pm, Saturdays, May 7-Oct 29
US Highway 101 and Angle Street, Newport, OR
newportfarmersmarket.org
 
Lincon City – open 9am – 3pm, Sundays, May 1 – Oct 16
540 NE US Hwy 100, Lincoln City, OR
lincolncityfarmersmarket.org
 
Tillamook – open 9am – 2pm, Saturdays, June 11 – Sept 24
Laurel and 2nd Streets
tillamookfarmersmarket.com
 
Manzanita – open 5 – 8pm, Fridays, June 10 – Sept 23
Fifth and Laneda Avenue
manzanitafarmersmarket.com
 
Cannon Beach – open 2 – 5 pm, Tuesdays, June 14 – Sept 27
Midtown public parking lot
cannonbeachmarket.org
 
Seaside – open 1pm – 4pm, Saturdays, July 2 – Sept 24, except Aug 27
2315 N. Roosevelt Drive
no web address
 
Columbia-Pacific – open 3 – 7pm Fridays, May – September
Downtown, Long Beach, WA
longbeachwa.gov/farmersmarket
 
Scappoose – open 9am – 2pm, Saturdays, mid May – September
E 2nd Street entrance to City Hall parking lot on E Columbia Avenue
scappoosefarmermarket.com
 
Two Island’s Farm Market – open 3 – 6:30pm, Fridays, May – October
59 W Birnie Slough Road, Puget Island, WA
stockhousesfarm.com/farm.html
 
 
 
 

Maybe they should be called “The Glory of Morning Oat Muffins”!

I was going through some recipes the other day looking for something new to try and I came across an oat muffin recipe I had copied off a blog I follow. I have one that I love and make all the time but wanted to try something new. This one looked intriguing; raisins, carrots, apple, coconut, applesauce and pecans. What’s not to like? The recipe is called Morning Glory Oat Muffins and comes from Honey & Jam, a visually beautiful site that has great recipes.  Anything that is beautiful and tastes good too is a winner in my eyes.

So last night I measured and grated, and grated and measured, then mixed and filled and baked; then I cleaned up. I really should have waited until daylight so I could take some decent photos but I didn’t. So if you want to see lovely photos of these luscious muffins look at Hanna’s her work is inspirational. Everything looks soooooooo good.

I have to tell you the smell of these baking was pretty hard to resist. But, resist I did. I didn’t eat any until this morning at breakfast and they were well worth the wait.  As Hanna said on her blog, “It’s basically cake for breakfast”. But even better than that, it’s healthy cake.

I have already thought of several ways I want to try these using different ingredients. I would like to try using oat or almond flour instead of the wheat; try different chopped dried fruit instead of the raisins and try walnuts or toasted almonds instead of the pecans. Sliced almonds sprinkled on top might be nice too. Definitely going to freeze what I have left over so I can enjoy then for the rest of the week.

Tonight I’m going to revisit the turnip gratin I posted last January. I got some beautiful turnips at the market this morning and have a couple of potatoes that need to be used. Some sautéed mushrooms and chard on the side and I’m going to be a happy camper. I may even open myself a bottle of wine to go with the feast. Have a great week everyone!

Arkansas Black Apples

This morning I found one of my favorite apples for sale at the Sacramento Farmers’ Market. It’s called Arkansas Black. I was first introduced to it about fifteen years ago at the Davis Farmers Market. Ever since then I keep a watch out each fall for it’s brief, but welcome, return. Evidently there aren’t too many farmers raising this variety, which is said to be a direct descendant of the Winesap and originated in western Arkansas in the mid-19th Century. Thanks go out to whoever brought it to California’s fertile soils. They obviously had good taste when it came to apples.

The Arkansas Black is a large, late season apple with a distinctive dark red skin encasing yellow flesh that is firm and crisp with a tart aromatic flavor that mellows as the apple ages. Generally a very dark red on the tree, occasionally with a slight green blush where hidden from the sun, the apples grow darker as they ripen, becoming a very dark red or burgundy color. With storage the skin continues to darken.

I love just eating them out of hand but they are also good for cider making, applesauce and baking. Here’s a tasty, yet simple, little cake to try them in.

Fresh Apple Cake

2 cups chopped apples

½ cup sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup oat flour

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch pan. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and apples, set aside. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom and salt.

In a large bowl, stir together the oil, egg and vanilla. Add, the apples and sugar, mix well. Stir in the dry ingredients, then the nuts. Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until cake springs back to the touch. When cool,  dust cake with sifted powdered sugar or serve warm with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.

When The Season Hands You Lemons – Bake a Danish Lemon Apple Tart!

This weekend I picked up some plump, juicy Eureka lemons at the Farmers Market knowing just what I was going to use them for. Lovingly tucked away in my recipe files is a clipping, from Sunset Magazine circa 1970, highlighting a scrumpshish Danish Lemon Apple Tart. The clipping is yellowed, the paper is limp when you handle it and there are numerous little spots spattered about from years of use. It’s just one of those keepers I find I use over and over.

First you make the pastry crust by placing 1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour into a bowl with 2 tablespoons sugar. Add 6 tablespoons butter and crumble with your fingers until mixture becomes fine and crumbly, Stir in 2 egg yolks with a fork, then work dough well with your hands until it forms a smooth, non-crumbly ball.

On a lightly floured board, roll out dough to fit an 11-inch fluted tart pan with a 1-inch rim.

Press dough in place and prick with a fork.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on rack.

For the filling, beat four eggs in the top of a double boiler, then beat in ¾ cup sugar, 4 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, and grated lemon peel from 1 lemon.

Place over simmering water and cook, stirring constantly, until lemon mixture becomes thickened. Remove from heat; chill.

For apple topping, peel and core  four large apples and slice into 1/16ths. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a frying pan, add 2/3 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and the apple slices. Cook over medium heat, lifting apples with a fork to cook them evenly, until they turn transparent, about 10 mintes cooking time; cook down juices until they almost disappear.

Spread the cooled lemon filling in the baked crust; with a fork, lift hot apple slices one at a time onto the filling, arranging them as in the first photo. Spoon any remaining apple syrup over the apple slices. Chill before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market

Lemons

Apples – Any of these varieties are recommended: Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Jonagold, Jonathan, Liberty, McIntosh, Melrose, Newtown Pippin, Rome Beauty, Spartan, or Winesap

Eggs

Postscript: It only took a second, as most accidents do, and my beautiful Lemon-apple tart  had  a large candle smashed onto one side of it. Apparently I bumped the candle when I was moving around trying to get the best angle.  Well, thank goodness I still had three good sides to photograph. The photography complete I fixed myself a cup of hot tea and I ate the broken pieces. When I brought out the tart that evening my grandson didn’t even ask why there were pieces missing. He was just happy I had dessert to offer.