During a conversation about something entirely unrelated yesterday, the HH uttered that well-known truism: “There are only two things you can really count on: death, and taxes.”
Well, I have to tell you (and I said this to the HH, too, of course), that hasn’t quite been my experience. For instance, I’ve found over the years that you can also count on the government to increase taxes every few years. And that the second I switch lines in the grocery store, the woman just ahead of me will pull out an item without a price code, necessitating a long and protracted search on the store shelves. And that winter will feel far too long, no matter how few snowfalls we receive.
And you can always–always–count on Britney to do something that prompts a flurry of media squealing, while concomitantly providing literature students everywhere a real, flesh-and-blood embodiment of the word, “bathos.”
Most of us also have our “old reliables” that we count on in the realm of food. My friend Sterlin, for instance, habitually cooked up Date Pasta whenever she required a quick and dependable meal to impress a potential beau (sadly, while the food always turned out great, the beau did not). The Nurse, on the other hand, can count two “Wowzah!-Zowie!-Sacre bleu!” recipes in her repertoire, both guaranteed to dazzle friends who drop in on a moment’s notice; they’re invariably bowled over when presented with a plate of still-warm, enticing and from-scratch hunks of cake within 30 minutes of arrival (either a fragrant, warming Cinnamon Coffee Cake –recipe handwritten, grease-stained and fading, on an old index card from my mother’s collection–or a lickety-split Chocolate Cake from the legendary Second Helpings, Please!, nowadays known as Wacky Cake).
In recent years, the Butterscotch Blondies from Sweet Freedom (which can be mixed, baked, and ready to eat in about 35 minutes) have asserted themselves as my new standard “old reliable” recipe. Before the blondies, however, my favorite quick and easy dessert was always apple crisp.
Which is odd, not least because apple crisp contains no chocolate. It’s neither a dessert I crave, nor even one I particularly love. Part of this indifference stems from a distaste for baked apples (at least, until I tried these). Still, apple crisp is easy, it’s quick, it can be made with relatively few ingredients, and it’s familiar, comfort food. It can pass for pseudo-healthy (an apple a day, and all that). And it’s even permitted within my ACD-determined restrictions on sweeteners, since it relies on the natural sweetness of the fruit itself.
Last week, when the HH and I were invited to dinner at my friend Eternal Optimist’s place, I returned to my Granny Smith roots and threw together a stevia-sweetened crisp to feed the five of us in attendance. Though the dessert went over well, I wasn’t entirely pleased with the texture of the crumble topping, which seemed a tad dry without sugar to caramelize and provide gooey binding power.
The following day, I’d cooked up some savory pumpkin biscuits based on this recipe (I subbed pumpkin for sweet potato, omitted the sweetener, used flax instead of Ener-G and added sage and garlic salt to the mix–fab!), and subsequently found myself wondering what to do with the leftover pumpkin. Then it hit me: why not mix it with the apples in a crumble-type bar? It seemed the perfect solution, adding texture and flavor to the humdrum apple. (“Mum, that combination sounds a little odd to us, actually. And you know we could have helped you dispose of all that extra pumpkin, no problem.”)
So I played with the original and came up with this layered bar that boasts a moister filling and softer crumble than the all-apple one. The topping, when pressed into place, also forms the bottom crust; the filling is tart and textured, with tender shoots of grated apple suspended throughout the pumpkin purée.
If you like your fruity desserts sweet, though, take note: my version only barely verges on what could be called “sweet” (in fact, the HH informed me it wasn’t quite sugary enough for his taste). Feel free to add more stevia, agave, or other sweetener, as you like. And less sweet means you needn’t feel guilty if you decide to consume the leftovers for breakfast the next day–if there are any, that is. But I wouldn’t count on it.
Apple Pumpkin Crumble Bars (ACD Friendly–Phase II)
Dense, moist, and not too sweet, these bars are a perfect afternoon snack or weekday dessert. The fruity filling isn’t gooey like that of a true apple crisp, but more like unsweetened applesauce. The bars are even better the second day, after the crust has a chance to absorb some of the moisture from the filling and softens up a bit.
1/3 cup (80 ml) melted coconut oil, preferably organic
2 Tbsp (30 ml) yacon syrup or agave nectar (or maple syrup would work, too)
20 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely ground flax seeds
1/3 cup (80 ml) plain or vanilla soy, almond or rice milk
zest of one lemon
3/4 cup (80 g) walnut pieces
1/2 cup (90 g) natural almonds (with skin)
1 cup (115 g) old-fashioned whole rolled oats (not quick cook or instant)
1/3 cup (45 g) coconut flour
1 Tbsp (15 ml) cinnamon
1 tsp (5 ml) ground ginger
1/4 tsp (1 ml) cardamom (optional)
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) fine sea salt
2 cups canned or homemade unsweetened pumpkin purée (sweet potato would make a great substitute here)
3 medium sweet apples, peeled, cored and grated on large holes of a box grater
2 Tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
20-30 drops plain or vanilla stevia (to your taste), or 1/4 cup-1/3 cup (60 ml-80 ml) agave nectar
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line a 9″ (22.5 cm) square pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, yacon syrup, stevia, flax seed, soymilk and lemon zest; set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend together the walnuts, almonds, oats and coconut flour until the nuts are ground and mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the cinnamon, ginger, cardamon and salt and blend just to mix. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in the bowl and toss with a fork (as if making pie dough) until it comes together in a very moist yet crumbly dough (it will stick together if pressed, but should readily separate into crumbles if tossed with the fork). Set aside while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling, mix together the pumpkin, apple, lemon juice, vanilla and stevia.
Take about half the crumble mixture (you can just estimate) and press it firmly into the bottom of the pan. Top with the filling, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture evenly over the filling and press gently with the palms of your hands.
Bake in preheated oven until edges are browned and the top of the crumble begins to brown a bit, 45-55 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through. (The filling won’t bubble the way typical fruit pie fillings do). Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting into squares; reheat if desired to serve. Makes 9 large servings. May be frozen.
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© 2010 Ricki Heller