Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Practicing Thanks on Black Friday

Thanksgiving represents a time in our nation's history when the first European settlers feared they would not have enough food to survive through the winter. The Native Americans taught the new settlers how to grow and reap local foods and to protect themselves against the impending cold. As a result, they were able to survive, and feasted with the Native Americans as a symbol of brotherhood. On Thanksgiving Day, we remember to be grateful for the abundance that we have, and look for abundance in places where it seems we have none.

Thanksgiving Day is right around the corner, and with it comes the infamous Black Friday. One of the busiest shopping days of the year in the US, Black Friday arrives with deep discounts at many major retail stores to kick off the holiday shopping season.

We live in a country where we have so much food we throw 40 million tons of it away each year. Much of our culture now revolves around things that are single-use or disposable. We buy and throw away and buy again. We have more abundance than could have been fathomed on the first Thanksgiving.

The past few years have been economically challenging for many Americans, and to many of us the ability to buy presents for our friends and family is loaded with the symbolic weight of our ability to provide. But studies show that the satisfaction of obtaining material possessions is dwarfed by spending quality time with family and friends. Abstaining from overindulgence or even just not purchasing things regularly helps you to appreciate those things more when you do need to buy it. Many shoppers find that the experience of shopping and finding the deal is far more thrilling than having the things that they bought. That high disappears once they get home with all their stuff, sometimes with hundreds of dollars of added debt.

Rather than dropping your hard earned money on deals that you may not need, let your appreciation for abundance from Thanksgiving Day carry over into Black Friday and into the Holiday Season. Talk to your family about celebrating the holidays by doing something fulfilling together. Go on a camping trip, teach someone a family recipe, donate to a charity they feel strongly about, make a playlist of your favorite songs for someone, volunteer together. Thanksgiving is about sharing the wealth, and even with our recession, we have more than enough wealth to give. Like the name implies, it's not just about Thanks, it's about being Giving too! Remember to share the love. And until next time, keep it clean!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Apple Bundt Cake With a Twist!

With the holidays upon us I have been looking all over the place for the perfect recipe for our families thanksgiving get together! I always love pie, but its very traditional for thanksgiving and I wanted to try bringing something a bit different. I opted for a cake! I found this fabulous recipe online and wanted to share! :)

Apple Bundt with Brown-Butter Vanilla Bean Glaze

for the apple bundt:
1 T. butter and some flour for preparing the pan
4 medium apples – peeled, cored, & shredded (use the big holes on your grater), to make about 3-1/2 cups shredded apples – I used 2 Granny Smith, 1 Gala, and 1 McIntosh
1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1-1/3 c. white sugar, divided
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. mace
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. applesauce
4 large eggs
1/2 c. apple cider
2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a 12-cup bundt pan by smearing butter over every little nook and cranny of its interior. Then add some flour and tilt your pan so flour sticks to all of the buttery surface. Set pan aside.
Stir the shredded apple with lemon juice and 1/3 cup of the white sugar. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining 1 cup white sugar, brown sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, apple cider, and vanilla. Mix to combine. Then add the flour mixture and combine once again. Add the apples and mix until the apples are evenly distributed. Pour into prepared Bundt pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out of the cake clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto your serving platter.

**If you are going to top the cake with the glaze, start making the glaze immediately, while the cake is still warm!

Another option for serving this cake would be to finish it with a simple dusting of powdered sugar once it is cool. A dollop of slightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream would also be very good.

for the brown-butter vanilla bean glaze:
2 to 3 T. half and half
2 c. sifted powdered sugar
vanilla bean seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean (split bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds)
4 oz. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
First, pour 3 tablespoons of half and half into a small bowl and set aside. This is just to take the chill off, while you prepare the rest of the glaze.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sifted (don’t skip the sifting!) powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the butter until golden brown. It should smell delicious and toasty. If it smells burnt, you went too far! This should take about 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully pour browned butter into the powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds, leaving the darkened butter sediment behind. Add 2 tablespoons of the half and half, then add the vanilla. Stir vigorously until smooth. You want the glaze to be somewhat thick, but easily pourable. If it seems too thick, add the remaining tablespoon of half and half.  
Pour the glaze over the cake while both the glaze and cake are still warm. The glaze cools quickly, so don’t delay! Let the glaze set. Then slice and enjoy!

Until next time, keep it clean! :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Easy Weeknight (Dessert) Recipe: Pineapple Crumble

   I love a dessert that is easy to throw together with ingredients I already have on hand. Nothing pleases me more than transforming a few simple items into something extraordinarily delicious. The other night I found myself craving something sweet, but it being the day before grocery day, I was left with little options to choose from. So I grabbed a few ingredients from the pantry and fridge, mixed them up together and tossed it into the oven. The results were nothing short of amazing. ;)

   Simple Pineapple Crumble
You will need:
  • Pineapple, sliced and diced (I used one whole pineapple but in a pinch you could use canned, just drain the liquid first. Also, feel free to substitute ANY fruit in place of the pineapple. :))
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Flour 
  • 1/4 Cup + 2-4 Teaspoons Butter, diced small
To Make:
   First you want to preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Next, "grease" your oven-safe dish or ramekins (I used two ramekins for single serving desserts) with butter. Toss your diced pineapple (or other fruit) with the 2 tbs brown sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Pour into the dish or separate equally  into each ramekin. For the topping, mix together equal parts brown sugar and flour. Then add the diced, cold butter and cinnamon. Using a fork or your hands, mash the butter into the dried mixture. You will want to do this until all of the topping has some butter and is crumbly. I used my hands and just "massaged" the butter into the dry ingredients until it was all incorporated. Spoon the topping over each ramekin or the entire baking dish. Top with a few teaspoons of sliced butter and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until topping is brown and the sides are bubbling. Let cool slightly and enjoy with vanilla ice cream!

   I hope you enjoy this weeks' recipe and let us know if you try it with any other fruit in the comments section below! Thank you and have a great week! Like always, keep it clean!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dia de los Muertos

Today is the start of the Dia de los Muertos holiday. Dia de los Muertos is a traditionally Mexican holiday to pay homage to family and ancestors who have died. Many historians date the celebration back almost 3,000 years. Though the holiday used to be celebrated in August, it has been moved to coincide with All Saints Day on the Catholic calendar. November the First is often dedicated to children who have passed, while November the Second is usually extended to adults.

During the celebration, families come together and clean and decorate the graves of those who have passed with flowers and offerings, called ofrendas. Altars are often set up in the home for the souls of the dead to participate in the celebration. Families will find and leave small gifts they think those who have passed would have enjoyed in life, such as their favorite candy. Toys are left for children and infants, while drinks such as tequila are often left for adults. Food is also set out for the dead to enjoy. Pillows and blankets are sometimes left for the souls to rest after their journey.

The most distinguishing symbol of Dia de los Muertos are the calaveras or calacas, the decorated skulls and sugar skulls.   The skulls are often brightly colored and feature flowers around the eyes. Calaveras appear on candy, bread, figurines and are sometimes painted on the faces of the people who participate in street festivals. The street festivals are an Austin staple, with many to choose from this year.

The changing season from Fall to Winter holds in many cultures the symbolic passing from mid-life to old age, or from life to death. Even if you do not traditionally recognize Dia de los Muertos, it seems a fitting time of the year for remembrance and reflection on those who have brought us here, where we have come from and where we are going. Take time today to remember a loved one and be grateful for the life that you have. And until next time, keep it clean!