Apple Crisp

by Nancy on December 13, 2011

in Desserts,Fruit

Fruit crisp is an easy dessert to make but one that I only make when I have fresh fruit. I use any firm fruit that I happen to have available – apples, pears, peaches, or cherries. I usually use apples though so I call it apple crisp. If my fruit is tree ripe and sweet, I don’t add any sugar to the fruit, just a little tapioca to thicken any juice that cooks out. I particularly like this topping because it has oatmeal in it for both the texture and the flavor. I pile the fruit high in the baking dish as it will shrink about half after baking.

Apple Crisp


  • 6 cups peeled and sliced apples
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  1. Toss apples with tapioca and place in 1 1/2 or 2 quart glass or ceramic baking dish.
  2. Mix sugar, flour, oatmeal and cinnamon in bowl.
  3. Cut room temperature butter or margarine into mixture with pastry cutter or fork until crumbly, like pie crust if you make pies.
  4. Pour mixture over apples.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees until apples bubble up around crust, about 45 minutes.


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Prepare Coconut

by Nancy on August 30, 2011

in Fruit,Tips and Tricks

Most grocery stores only carry one kind of dried coconut. It’s very fine and very sweet. It doesn’t taste much like coconut either so about all I buy it for is making tinted Easter grass for decorating cookies and cakes. When I want coconut with real coconut taste, I go to a store that carries bulk foods (Whole Foods where I live). I can usually find a large-flaked, unsweetened coconut in the bulk bins. You can also order this large-flaked coconut from Bob’s Red Mill who is a supplier of bulk ingredients and who has been a sponsor of Kuchen Together supplying us with some ingredients for our recipes (although I bought my last supply of large-flake coconut from the store). The 3.5 lb. mail order size is pretty big but you can freeze dried coconut to keep it fresh.

Sometimes the large-flaked coconut still isn’t large enough for what I want. In my trail mix I want coconut chips! I’ve never seen chips in a store so I have to make them myself. I do live in a culturally diverse area where fresh coconuts are available in the supermarkets year round. Preparing your own fresh coconut isn’t hard but it is a little time consuming. Plan half a day to complete the process. Select an “old” coconut. Recently I’ve seen “young” coconuts in the stores along side “old” coconuts. Young coconuts are not fully developed and the coconut meat inside is still in a jelly stage. Some people will split open a young coconut and eat the insides with a spoon like pudding.

With a large nail and hammer, pierce two or three of the eyes in the coconut.

Turn coconut upside down over container to drain. You have to leave at least one hole a little “up” from the others so air can get into the interior of the coconut as the liquid drains out. If the liquid doesn’t drain, make the holes larger.

Place coconut in 300 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. If you are lucky, the shell will split.

Use a hammer to break into the coconut if it didn’t split and then to break it into smaller pieces.

Wedge a thick-bladed knife between the shell and the meat working around the inside of the shell until the meat comes free.

Peel the skin from the outer surface of the meat with a potato peeler.

Slice or grate the meat to the size you want. For my trail mix I cut the meat into 1″ wide strips and then slice it about 1/16″ thick.

Fresh coconut can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer.

For dried or toasted coconut, place sliced or grated coconut in a single layer on a flat tray. Bake at 200 degrees (or as low as your oven will go) checking and stirring every 15 minutes for grated coconut or 30 minutes for sliced. The coconut will dry and then brown. Remove when it is as dry as you like. Store as for fresh coconut.

For my trail mix the coconut slices (or chips) need to be very dry or moisture from the coconut will melt the candy coating on the chocolate pieces. Dry and toast the coconut until it is brown over at least half of the chip’s surface. Check for dryness before adding to trail mix by placing coconut in a container with a few chocolate pieces. Leave 1 day and see if the candy coating melts or not. If it does, place the coconut back on a tray in the oven and dry some more.



Cranberry Orange Sauce

by Nancy on November 16, 2010

in Fruit,Vegetarian

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Fourth of July were all celebrated by getting together with extended family for a big meal when I was young. All of these meals were accompanied by traditional foods, some of which we didn’t eat any other time of the year. Turkey and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving was one of those once-a-year meals. Everyone liked turkey and cranberries, you just couldn’t buy either of them any other time of the year. Turkey growers geared their entire production to Thanksgiving with some frozen birds still available into the Christmas season. It’s only been in the last 20 years or so that the turkey industry has tried to expand turkey season to year round and started promoting turkey in forms other than a whole bird such as lunch meat and hot dogs.

Cranberries had a similar seasonal fate but for a different reason. They are only sold fresh in the fall because that is when they were harvested. Excess berries are canned or made into juice. Market expansion seems to have gone into expanding the drink market. If you crave cranberry sauce in the summer, you can buy an extra bag of berries in the fall and put it in the freezer just as it comes from the market. Fresh or frozen berries work equally well in this recipe.

This is another of those really simple recipes that I love. I’ve been making this recipe for 40 years and have never written it down until now. It’s as simple as 1 pound of berries, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water and 1 orange. Be forewarned, this is a noisy dish to make. As the berries heat up they pop!

Cranberry Orange Sauce

  • 1 pound fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 orange
  1. Grate rind of orange taking just the orange part and leaving the white underneath. Use the medium size if you have a grater with three sizes of holes. You want at least a tablespoon of rind but use more if your orange is large.
  2. Peel the orange. Break into segments and then cut segments into 4 or 5 pieces each with scissors or knife.
  3. Place all ingredients in 3 quart or larger saucepan.
  4. Stir frequently until sauce reaches a rolling boil that can’t be stirred down. Remove from heat and refrigerate.

This sauce keeps well. Because of the acid in the fruit and the high sugar content, it keeps like a jelly or jam. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to a year in a clean, air tight container. You can also freeze it or put it in jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.



by Nancy on November 9, 2010

in Desserts,Fruit,Vegetarian

We humans aren’t the only ones who like a sweet, juicy apple. I live in the suburbs so you wouldn’t think we have much wildlife around. Guess again. I have to fight off the scrub jays, sparrows, squirrels, raccoons, and occasionally rats, opossums and skunks, for the fruit on our trees. The Sunday football game on TV is sometimes interrupted with thud, thud, thud as an apple a squirrel just dropped rolls down the roof.

I fill the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator with perfect apples for eating fresh. I use less than perfect apples for cooking. Apples in the grocery store are always perfect. But did you know less than 40% of the apples in a commercial orchard are picked because the rest aren’t perfect? I don’t want to waste 60% of my home crop so imperfections such as sunburn, bruises and worm damage (actually the larva of a moth) are cut away and the remaining good apple used.

For me applesauce is a seasonal food. I only make it when I have tree ripened apples (I gave up buying applesauce at the grocery store because it is baby food smooth, flavorless and watery). All you really need to make applesauce is apples. If my apples are really sweet, I don’t even add any sugar. If I have an overabundance of apples, I may freeze a few pints. Just pack it in freezer containers and freeze.

The cinnamon applesauce recipe is from the mother of some children I babysat for when I was in high school. Cinnamon red hot candies give the applesauce a great cinnamon flavor and add sugar at the same time. The candies also add a beautiful red color.


  • 2 quarts peeled, cored apples
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4-1/2 cup sugar (optional)
  • 1 tsp. salt (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
  1. Place apples and water in 2 quart pan. The water will keep the apples from scorching as they begin to cook. Cover with lid.
  2. Place over medium to low heat so that just a tiny bit of steam is escaping from around lid. Cook until apples are tender and begin to break down into a sauce, 20 – 40 minutes depending on firmness of apples.
  3. Taste. Add sugar and salt to taste. Sweet apples may not need any sugar at all. If you add sugar, cook 5 more minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, add cinnamon if desired.

Cinnamon Applesauce

  • 2 quarts peeled, cored apples
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon red hot candies
  1. Place apples, cinnamon red hots and water in 2 quart pan. The water will keep the apples from scorching as they begin to cook. Cover with lid.
  2. Place over medium to low heat so that just a tiny bit of steam is escaping from around lid. Cook until apples are tender and begin to break down into a sauce, 20 – 40 minutes depending on firmness of apples.


Jonathan apple, my favorite apple, like this one growing in my back yard is rarely available commercially and may soon become an heirloom variety.

I live in a house on a 100 foot x 60 foot lot. That’s not much room especially compared to the 80 acre farm with 5 acres of house and yard that I grew up on. We always had a big garden when I was growing up. And we did a lot of canning and freezing of vegetables and fruits. The rural garden carried over to my suburban lot. I have a 10 foot x 30 foot vegetable garden, a 2 foot x 30 foot flower garden and fruit trees in both front and back yards. In fact, all of the trees in my yard except for the city tree in the front are fruit trees.

When I moved in 30 years ago, I planted 2 dwarf apple trees at one end of the back yard. The rest of the back yard was in patio and grass so my children would have a play area. I chose a Jonathan for summer apples and a Granny Smith for winter apples. I didn’t realize at the time that Jonathan isn’t suppose to fruit well here in our USDA 9 climate but I get good crops of apples from both trees every year. I say I grow the apples organically but really I just ignore the trees expect when they are flowering in spring and smell wonderful, need an occasional light pruning to keep the height down to a manageable picking level and when picking ripe apples.

My children are now grown and don’t play in the back yard anymore so my husband and I reevaluated how we use our back yard. We don’t use the back yard much except for reading, sitting in the fresh air and barbecuing on the patio so we decided that the best use was to plant more fruit. Fruit is perishable, seasonal and usually expensive relative to other foods. If we grow it ourselves we can chose our favorite varieties-even heirloom varieties that don’t ship well, grow fruit without pesticides, have fruit without preservatives like waxes used commercially to keep it fresh, and pick it when it is perfectly ripe and most flavorful whereas most commercial fruit is picked under ripe and doesn’t generally develop full flavor.

I am taking my time expanding my orchard as I search out the varieties I want. I have only 20 feet by 40 feet for more trees so I decided to add 6 ultra dwarf trees which should top out at 10 feet tall or less. I can prune them if they grow bigger than that. An ultra dwarf tree should provide plenty of fruit in season for the two of us and I’ll probably have enough left over for family and friends. So far I planted a Blenheim apricot which was one of the most common varieties of apricot grown commercially in this area before it became an urban jungle. Sweet cherries were also grown here so I added a Bing cherry. Pears are grown about 100 miles north of here so in went a Bartlett pear. Like the Jonathan apple, the Bartlett pear really needs more winter cold than we get so I’ll see if it fruits. If not I’ll take the tree out and replace it with something else. This year I will be looking for almond and plum trees, the ultra dwarfs are fairly new hard to find yet. I’ll probably round out the group with a sour cherry so I can make a proper cherry pie.