Thursday, September 30, 2010

A chance encounter/ Apple cake




I had always considered myself somewhat of a minimalist. I never had a stocked freezer. No long shelf dates on the food in my kitchen. And I would never shop at a warehouse.  Honestly, who needs a years worth of toilet paper on hand?
Also, living in a really old house, I had no storage.
No closets.
No pantry.
Nothing.





But it worked. I shopped at the grocery store almost everyday and purchased only as much as I could carry...or balance on the stroller without tipping it (and the rider) over. It worked because I lived in a town where I could walk to everything. My kids and I would average 5 miles a day,  just running errands. We didn't worry too much about our weight.




Then we moved. A difficult decision at the time. A great one in retrospect. Lots of emotion and trepidation...and excitement.  With so many emotions flooding me all at once it was difficult to know what I was feeling at any given time. Lots of tears were shed. Then I learned I was pregnant.
With twins.
The Universe, it turns out, has a sense of humor.





Recap: new city, new job, new house, 2 more babies on the way.
Enter Warehouse Shopping. Enter toilet paper for a year. Enter Costco.






So now I shop at Costco as though it were a local Mom and Pop. I'm there every week and I still supplement at the Farmer's Market.  At first, they must have thought I was caterer. Or a party girl when I was buying wine. But now when they see me with my entourage: Catholic seems their most likely explanation.






These trips are often uneventful. But not always. On a recent outing, as I was loading up my car, I was approached by a gentleman who looked to be in his mid60s, although I bet in reality he was only in his early50s. "Ma'am, could you help me?" he asked wringing his old, tattered hat in his chapped, weather beaten hands. "My family and I just moved here and we need some help"





His clothes were stained and threadbare. 
His hair, gray and patchy.
His teeth, missing. 
His face was lined with hardship. 
Unshaven.
Tired.





In my younger years I may have felt threatened, but time and experience have mellowed and wizened me. I asked about his family, his children, his move. He looked at me with his kind, soft watery eyes and told me about his wife and his boys.  Pride, love and concern filled the pregnant pauses between his words. I looked at my bounty: lots of fruits and vegetables. I wanted to give him something that would fill and last, something everyone likes. Something that my kids would want. He may have preferred money, but I gave him my apples instead. He graciously thanked me and walked away. 




Sitting at the traffic light, my breathing became choppy, and my eyes filled with tears. Sadness, wonder, anger, happiness...too many opposing emotions to deal with at the same time.
So I cried. 
I cried for his hardship. 
I cried for his pain.
I cried for his love for his family.

And I cried for my good fortune.





Yes, it's true The Universe has a sense of humor, but it also has a way of grounding you. Chance encounters like this one make me look outside myself and appreciate the world around me.
This is an apple cake traditionally served at Hanukkah, but in my family we enjoy it at every holiday.  For me it is forever linked with family and the good fortune we have been blessed with.

Apple Cake adapted from Cooking Light

*prepare the apples just before adding them to the batter. This way they won't get brown, or too juicy sitting in the sugar mixture.


Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups sugar -- divided
1/2 cup stick butter -- softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces neuchaftel cheese
3 ounces goat cheese

2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
6 cups chopped peeled apples (4-5 apples...the more tart the better!)
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream together 1 cup sugar, butter and goat cheese and vanilla together. Add eggs, 1 at a time. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, and mix until just combined

3. Add cinnamon to 1/4 cup sugar. Toss apples with all but 1 tablespoon of sugar/cinnamon mixture until they are evenly coated. Combine apples with batter. Pour batter into an 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoonful S/C mixture on top.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.

* reduce the baking time if you are using smaller pans: for the 4in ones I made I baked the cakes for 45 minutes. I'd rather have this cake a little underdone than overdone.

*If, for some reason you do happen to over bake it, no problem: just have it with a healthy scoop of ice cream. Or dunk it in your morning coffee. 




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