Category Archives: fruits

Recipe: Not-Mincemeat Pie (Spicy Apple & Dried Fruit Pie)

The combination of sweet, savory, and above all, spicy found in mincemeat hearkens back to the pre-modern kitchen. Finely chopping (mincing!) meat and mixing it with suet, fruits, and spices not only used up leftover, odd bits of meat but stretched the available protein. The use of late apples and dried fruits made it a perfect winter dish, and it was a Christmas specialty by the sixteenth century. Gradually, less actual minced meat was included in the recipe (though suet is still commonly used), and by the mid-nineteenth century, mincemeat in both England and the Americas was what we would recognize today.

I didn’t grow up with it, but I sure do love me some mincemeat. I don’t think it’s common in Hawai’i at all, but every Christmas when we were shopping at Kahala or Pearlridge, Mom and I would stop by See’s Candy for mincemeat and marzipan chocolates (they have since discontinued their mincemeat candies, due to the lack of a reputable supplier. Jerks.). I loved them; they were so foreign, so exotic, and yet so quaint, something out of a Louisa May Alcott or L.M. Montgomery novel. I didn’t get to try a mincemeat pie until I was twenty-one, and visiting my relatives in Western New York (Buffalo). My Cousin Johnny Stevenson’s Quebecois then-wife baked one for my little sister and I, and it was a revelation (she also introduced me to turnips and rutabagas–oh, my!). I was in love at the first bite, and have often been baffled that mincemeat pies are so unpopular in the Pacific Northwest. After all, they use some of our finest ingredients, such as apples and dried berries. When I found this pie in November’s Sunset Magazine, I knew I had to make it for Thanksgiving.

For my pie, I used half Calville Blanc and half Newtown Pippin apples, both heirloom varieties I picked up at the Portland Nursery Apple Tasting Festival this year. They made for a phenomenal pie, with perfect taste and texture. This is a very messy, bubbly pie, so be sure to either place a foil-lined cookie sheet on the rack beneath your pie, or line the floor of your oven. This is a very rich, intensely-flavored pie, not for the faint of heart or full of stomach. Continue reading


Recipe: Apple Crumb Pie with Nut Crust

After the Apple Tasting Festival at Portland Nursery, I found myself in need of some apple pie–amazing how that works out. I couldn’t find the recipe my sister Maiya gave me last year, so I looked for a patty-pan crust and nice crumb topped recipe to try. The first one I came across that looked delicious and trustworthy was Martha Stewart’s Apple Crumb Pie with Almond Crumb Crust. This worked out nicely since I had some walnuts I wanted to use up before they got rancid, and well, apples and walnuts go really well together. This also gave me the perfect opportunity to use my little nut grinder, which I so dearly love. I used a few Newtown Pippins and  two Spitzenberg apples; you’ll remember the latter from last year’s Apple Tasting, but the Newtown was a runner up, only picked because they were out of Cox’s Orange Pippin and all the new heirlooms I wanted to try (save the Calville Blanc, which is excellent). They were fantastic in the pie, with a complex sweet-tart flavor.

I must say, this was not only the best apple pie I have baked, it might be one of the best I have ever tasted. I don’t know whether it was the perfect combination of apples, nuts, and recipe, or what, but everything came together marvelously. The filling was almost custard-like in its rich smoothness, but the apples retained their bite. The crust was like a nutty shortbread, and not at all soggy. The only improvement I would try would be to use brown sugar, but I was out of it. Guess I’ll just have to make it again! I wanted to try a hazelnut crust, or even the original almond, anyways …. Continue reading

Recipe: Tangy Apricot Frozen Yogurt

Homemade Tangy Apricot Fro-Yo

Homemade Tangy Apricot Fro-Yo

Schatzi: I haven’t eaten much frozen yogurt since my Eighties childhood, when the TCBY craze swept the nation. When they built the new shopping center in Mililani, the one with the Star Market and Cookie Corner, they put in a TCBY, too. As a treat, my mother would often take me to the TCBY, where I always ordered the same thing: a waffle cone sundae with hot fudge and colored jimmies, no nuts. The flavors of yogurt I picked varied with their offerings, but I never wanted anything else. Frozen yogurt is back, but with a difference; places like Pinkberry and Portlan’d own Pop Culture–among others–have ushered in a new era of frozen yogurt, one with a tangier yogurt flavor than the soft-serve TCBY standard. And that’s not a bad thing.     click here for the fro-yo recipe

Recipe: A Simple Banana Bread

a loaf of banana bread

a loaf of banana bread

Schatzi: The earliest banana breads seem to have developed during the Twenties and Thirties, with recipes in print by 1933. This coincided with the popularity of baking soda and powder for use in quick breads. During the Twenties and Thirties, both bananas and pineapple were wildly popular, and banana bread was a quick, simple item to bake. It had another resurgence in the Sixties, one appearing in my 1961 Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook, and another five in the 1962 Good Housekeeping Cook Book.

I think of banana bread as a very Sixties and Seventies treat, which is a bit odd because I wasn’t even born yet. But my mother baked it, and there is still a stained recipe card for Banana Bread in the recipe box, one with her younger, more childish handwriting. I can imagine her baking it in high school back in the Sixties, just as she later baked it for us when we were growing up. I remember Mom baking banana bread pretty frequently when I was little, but it seemed like she stopped almost entirely when I was older, though she never did stop saving black bananas in the freezer. We happened to have several nicely brown ones on hand, and I was possessed of a desire to bake some banana bread. click here for the Banana Bread recipe

Recipe: Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

a piece of Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

a piece of Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

And when it came to the pie–Mr Perry, a neighbor of Laura’s parents, tasted his first. Then he lifted the top crust, and reaching for the sugar bowl, spread sugar thickly all over his pie. “That is the way I like it,” he said. “If there is no sugar in the pie, then every fellow can sweeten his own as much as he likes without hurting the cook’s feelings.”
Mr Perry had made the meal a jolly one. [ … ] Everyone laughed and talked and was very friendly, but Laura felt mortified about her beans and her pie without any sugar in. She had been so hurried when she made the pies; but how could she have been so careless? Pieplant was so sour, that first taste must have been simply terrible.
The First Four Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Schatzi: I wondered for years what “pie plant” was, only to discover it was simply rhubarb! Spring time in the Pacific Northwest is rhubarb time, and I promised myself (and Maiya!) a rhubarb upside down cake. Unlike poor Laura, I didn’t have to worry about remembering to sweeten the tart rhubarb since upside down cake is characterized by a gooey layer of sugar and butter on a moist yellow cake. Though it’s a decidedly homely dessert, it is a satisfyingly sweet-tart finish to any springtime meal. click here for the recipe!

Date Bars

date bars

date bars

Schatzi: I can and will wax rhapsodic about Liliha Bakery (Coco Puffs! Hot cross buns! The pancakes! Real ice cream sodas!), and I go every time I have the chance, but I can also try like fun to replicate their recipes at home. Particularly since they’re roughly three thousand miles away from me at the moment.

One of my favorite treats from Liliha Bakery are their date bars. They are a humble treat, a bit homely and simple, but luscious and richly sweet;. They are sold in a homely package consisting of a paper tray in a plastic sack, and are dark, thumb-sized bars dusted with confection sugar, and at first site are rather unprepossessing. But once you put them in your mouth–! These are not a bar cookie like a lemon bar, with a crust and filling;they’re almost more confection than cookie, really. In fact, I’ve never seen anything like them elsewhere.
click here for more pictures and a Date Bar recipe!

Christmas Cookies: Fruitcake Bar Cookies

this years batch

this year's batch

Schatzi: So I came across the original of this recipe last year while idly paging through a Real Simple from the previous year (see, I am vindicated in my habit of holding onto magazines), and was immediately intrigued. After all, I do love fruitcake. As a “fruitcake cookie,” however, it was distinctly lacking. One cup of cranberries and one cup of nuts? The cranberries are a nice touch, but those proportions hardly make it fruity! Since I already had extra fixings from the Fruitcake Cookies, I decided to experiment a little. I added golden raisins, and I also added the glaceed fruits that are the trademark of the modern American fruitcake. (You could use a mix of glaceed fruits, or combine citron, cherries, pineapple, and citrus peels in your own preferred proportions to equal one cup. If those types of fruit are just too unbearable, one could probably make a delicious variation on this recipe with just dried fruits: cranberries, raisins, currants, dates, cherries, blueberries, apricots, etc. In fact, I may have to try that later this week!)

The proportions in which I added fruit last year weren’t quite enough, so this year’s batch had more, and the difference is visible. I also added a dash of spice this year because they seemed a little bland, otherwise. The end results were surprisingly delicious and popular–even with a few people who don’t care for fruitcake.

I must say, though, these are only superficially like fruitcake. They simply don’t have the moist, rich density or complex flavor of a good fruitcake. They more closely resemble lebkuchen, the German gingerbread.

EDIT: This Christmas (2009), I further experimented with the recipe, substituting one tablespoon of molasses for one of corn syrup, and it made such a difference in these cookies! The texture was much softer, more like that of a brownie than a cookie, and the flavor was much deeper and spicier. I left some corn syrup in to keep sugar from crystallizing and to also hold it together a bit. The recipe has been altered to reflect this. Also, if you do not or cannot eat nuts, it is perfectly delicious without them. Everyone raved about these this year, more so even than last year; they were nearly a different cookie entirely, and makes them much more closely resemble a fruitcake taste and texture.

continue reading for the Fruitcake Brownie recipe