Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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Savory Mediterranean Cheesecake

by Danica Waters

 

Who says cheesecake is only for dessert?  This savory Mediterranean Cheesecake is undoubtedly as addictive as its sweeter cousin.  Not too rich, but substantial enough to satisfy, the rich flavor of Parmesan mingles with the mild tang of feta to hit all the right spots for all kinds of partygoers.  Unbeatable as an hors d oeuvre or as an accompaniment to soup or salad, it is also a visual showstopper, guaranteed to rock any buffet table it’s invited to.

 

This recipe is for 1 – 9 inch cheesecake, which will feed a rather large crowd.  Because it freezes extremely well, try making two smaller cheesecakes out of one batch.  Homemade Cracker Bread is a perfect accompaniment, and is also easily made ahead of time so you have one less thing to worry about on party-day.

 

Enjoy!

 

Savory Mediterranean Cheesecake

(Fine Cooking Magazine)

 

1-1/2 C Panko Breadcrumbs

6 Tbsp butter, melted

 

3/4 C butter

¼ C minced green onion

¼ C chopped fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (10-oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, or enough fresh spinach that has been chopped well and wilted to render approximately 1-1/2 C.

3 – 8 oz packages cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, softened

¼ C heavy whipping cream

4 large eggs

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

2 – 2.5 oz cans sliced black olives, drained

1 C grated good-quality Parmesan cheese

1 C crumbled feta cheese

 

Sour cream

Fresh chopped herbs

*

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

 

In a small bowl, combine panko and melted butter.  Press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (or use two 5-inch springform pans).  Bake 8 minutes.

 

In a medium skillet, melt ¾ C butter over medium high heat.  Add onion, parsley, and garlic.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender.  Add spinach, and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and set aside.

 

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, cream, and eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Beat in oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  Divide mixture evenly into two medium bowls.  Stir spinach mixture into one-half of cream cheese mixture.  Pour into prepared pan.  Sprinkle evenly with sliced olives.

 

Stir Parmesan cheese and feta cheese into other half of cream cheese mixture.  Spread cheese mixture evenly over olives.  Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes (for 9-inch springform;  if using smaller pans, adjust time accordingly).  Let cool completely in pan.  Gently run a knife around edges of pan to release sides.  Cover, and chill.

 

Prior to serving, remove cake from springform ring.  Top with a light spread of dairy sour cream, and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

 

Serve cheesecake at room temperature with assorted crackers (try homemade Cracker Bread)

 

Note:  Cheesecake can be made up to one month ahead!  Wrap tightly in heavy-duty plastic wrap, and freeze.  Simply let come to room temperature before serving.

Posted October 27th, 2011.

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Mediterranean Seven Layer Dip

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of Cornell University

 

By now, we should all be  familiar with the wildly popular Mexican version of a Seven Layer Dip.  This recipe is an equally delicious alternative, featuring the warm, fresh flavors of the Mediterranean for an exciting change of pace.

To round out a Mediterranean hors d’ oeuvres table, try serving this delicious dip along with a platter of Falafel balls, tzatziki, a gourmet selection of olives, and some baklava.

Enjoy!

 

Mediterranean Seven Layer Dip

Serves 8

1-1/2 6-inch pita pockets, cut into 12 wedges, tops and bottoms separated  to make 24 wedges in all
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup loosely packed baby spinach, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 ounces)

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

2 Tbsp red onion, finely chopped

2 Tbsp Kalamata olives, finely chopped

1/2 medium tomato, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1/4 medium cucumber, peeled and finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1 tablespoon snipped fresh mint

1/2  C crumbled feta cheese

 

Make Pita Wedges:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the pita wedges in a single layer on a large baking sheet without overlapping the wedges. Lightly brush each wedge with olive oil; bake for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and slightly crisp (the pita wedges will crisp more as they cool).  Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

 

Make Seven Layer Dip:
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, process the chickpeas until coarsely chopped. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the lemon juice and process until blended. Add the water and pepper. Process until smooth.

Arrange the spinach on a serving plate. Gently spread the chickpea mixture on top, leaving a border of the spinach. Sprinkle the oregano over the spread. Arrange the tomato on the spread. Top, in order, with the cucumber, onion, olives, mint, and feta.  Serve with the pita wedges.

Tip: The pita wedges and chickpea spread can be made up to one day ahead. Store the pita wedges in an airtight container at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate the chickpea mixture. The remaining ingredients can be chopped and stored in the refrigerator up to 8 hours in advance, but the dip shouldn’t be assembled until right before serving.

Posted October 26th, 2011.

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Nifty Napkin Folds: Basic Buffet Roll

by Danica Waters

With Holiday buffets lurking around the corner, today’s lesson in nifty napkin folding is the incredibly simple, sturdy, straightforward Basic Buffet Roll.

Enjoy!

 

Nifty Napkin Folds:  Basic Buffet Roll

 

Step 1:

Lay napkin face down in front of you.

 

Step 2:

Fold one corner down to meet the opposite corner, forming a triangle.  Position the triangle so that the open corners face away from you.

Step 3:

Place your utensils along the bottom and in the center of the long side of the triangle.

Step 4:

Fold one end in to cover the utensils.

Step 5:

Fold the opposite corner in to completely cover utensils.

Step 6:

Roll tightly from bottom up.

Voila!  You’re done!

 

While this fold holds just fine on its own, you can tie a bit of decorative ribbon, raffia, or other decorative on each roll to dress it up a bit.

Posted October 24th, 2011.

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Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

by Danica Waters

When simple ingredients can be combined in a manner that inspires not just the palate, but excites the soul, this is the true magic of good cooking.  This salad is just that magical.  It is one of the crown jewels of my personal recipe collection.  The vertical presentation is visually breathtaking; the flavors and textures are nothing short of inspired.

 

While this simple salad is intended to be a first course, beware:  it is incredibly filling.   Be sure to judge your pear size according to the way you intend to serve this little culinary gem.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

(serves 4)

 

4 perfectly ripe, smooth-skinned (not overripe, not underripe) pears

2 C watercress

2 Tbsp toasted pecan pieces

1 Tbsp dried cranberries (optional)

2 oz crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Raspberry or red wine vinaigrette salad dressing

Lemon juice

Honey

 

Gently wash pears with a natural fruit and vegetable wash; set aside.

Toss watercress with pecans, cranberries and gorgonzola; drizzle with salad dressing and gently toss to combine.

Core pears from bottom, leaving the stem intact.  Slice each pear in four horizontal slices; brush all sides generously with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

On individual salad plates, reassemble pears with salad mix in the middle and between each pear layer.  Drizzle with honey.

Posted October 14th, 2011.

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Marbled Blackberry Pound Cake

by Danica Waters

 

Having grown up under the influence of heavy-duty Southern Sensibilities and then steeped in the sweet civility of British living once or twice, I must admit that I have come to truly appreciate the merits of a good pound cake.  While most folks shudder at the thought of what a pound cake can do to a diet, I personally feel better if I’ve got three or four of them tucked away in my freezer for gift giving and emergencies.  And tea.

My Nana was famous for handing out pound cakes to visitors.  It was just what she did.  The mailman came with packages during the summer and received pound cake and lemonade to go.  Mothers would come to pick up their kids after a play date, and they, too, received some version of a delectable pound cake.   A cake walk or a bake sale at the school?  Yep.  Pound cake.  She always spoke to the fact that a good pound cake went with everything, was admired by everyone,  remained virtually indestructible during transport, and always showed up looking good at a party.  While that sounds more like a great travel garment than something you’d eat, go figure; I now find myself collecting great pound cake recipes, baking them in wee tiny pans and putting them away for gift giving, emergencies, and yes, afternoon tea.

This is a lighter version of a pound cake I found on Martha Stewart’s website.  It could easily be made with any type of jam, but is completely smashing with a  fresh blackberry swirl.  As a footnote, I chose to leave my blackberries crushed but not pureed, and the result was fantastic.  Super easy to make ahead and freeze, this is a great way to get a head-start on the holiday season.

Enjoy!

 

Marbled Blackberry Pound Cake

(Martha Stewart)

 

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

6 ounces blackberries (1 1/3 cups)

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; butter parchment. In a food processor, puree blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar. (Or, for a more rustic texture, simply crush blackberries and combine with sugar.)  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Transfer half the batter to pan and dot with 1/2 cup blackberry puree. Repeat with remaining batter and puree. With a skewer or thin-bladed knife, swirl batter and puree together. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 30 minutes. Lift cake out of pan and place on a serving plate; let cool completely before slicing.

 

Posted October 11th, 2011.

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Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes

by Danica Waters / nature photos courtesy of www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm

 

I first discovered this recipe about ten years ago, in the back of an issue of Taste of Home magazine.  It was October, the aspen were ablaze in the Colorado high country and I was excitedly planning an annual autumn picnic for a large group of friends and family.  Although our family made frequent pilgrimages to the mountains throughout the year, our October excursion was special in a spiritual sort of way.

 

In the lush valleys of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, October heralds the return of the giant elk as they descend from higher elevations to mate and prepare for the onset of winter.  It is a humbling, transfixing ritual to observe, as old as time and as beautifully executed as a waltz in a king’s court.

 

On this particular October excursion, we arrived with enough time to spend the day hiking, and, of course, daring each other to dip our toes in the ice-cold burbling streams.   Finally, as the late afternoon chill set in, we returned to the small parking lot on the far side of the meadows. Wet, shivering children got tucked into clean, dry socks and loads of blankets; hearty picnic dinner offerings were devoured and steaming cups of hot cocoa were passed around as we, and the many other nature-lovers around us, waited for the elk to appear.

 

Venus twinkled over Long’s Peak, shining like a  diamond in the deepening periwinkle sky; then, as if by magic, the soft sounds of laughter and conversation suddenly gave way to reverent silence with the first sighting of a bull elk. He appeared from the shadowy depths of the forest and walked slowly and deliberately into the meadow, completely aware of and unfazed by our presence; we were mere courtiers in the presence of a King.

 

He assumed his position center stage in the tall grasses and stood magnificently still, waiting.  Then, on an impulse, he thrust his head back and let out a haunting, lonely cry that reverberated all the way through the valley.  The ensuing silence was nothing short of deafening; it was as though every molecule of every being in the entire valley had been suspended in time.

 

Ever-so-slowly, from the forest shadows appeared the does.  With almost-choreographed precision, they made their way, one by one, in front of the group of onlookers and then past the King, only to disappear back into the trees on the opposite side of the meadow.  After the last doe had made her appearance, the King turned and followed them, swallowed by the shadows of nightfall.

 

The whole experience was like a dream; we had to sit a minute to digest what we’d just seen.  Kids being kids, they decided this was the perfect opportunity to remind me that we hadn’t yet served dessert.  I absentmindedly broke out these little cupcakes, and suddenly realized I was experiencing another kind of dream, because that same sudden, magical hush fell over everyone in our group as they took their first bite.  Even the kids were quiet.  No joke.

 

Need some magic?  Try these.   Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes are the best cupcakes in the WORLD.  They have no frosting.  Instead, they have chunks of chocolate and walnuts baked into a peek-a-boo cream cheese center. Not too sweet, modestly decadent, easily transportable, and visually stunning; this is the perfect cupcake to make for every occasion.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes

Taste of Home August/September 1994

1-1/2 C all-purpose flour

1 C sugar

¼ C baking cocoa

½ tsp salt

2 eggs lightly beaten

¾ C water

1/3 C vegetable oil

1 Tbsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Filling:

 

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/3 C sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/8 tsp salt

1 C semisweet chocolate chips

1 C chopped walnuts

 

In large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add the eggs, water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla; mix well.  Pour into 18 greased or paper lined muffin cups.  For filling, beat cream cheese and sugar in another mixing bowl.  Add egg and salt; mix well.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Drop by tablespoonfuls into center of each cupcake.  Sprinkle with nuts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Makes 1-1/2 dozen.

 

Posted October 7th, 2011.

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Golden Raisin Irish Soda Bread

by Danica Waters

 

Bread with soup, soup with bread – to serve one without the other seems almost an act against NATURE. (Ok. That’s totally too dramatic.  But in any case, soup without some sort of bread – even a cracker, for heaven’s sake – seems just plain wrong.)

In contemplating the virtues of soup’s trusty, crusty counterpart, I wondered: “Is it truly possible to improve upon a savory “crusty loaf”? Really?”

Yes, it is.  And this is it.

Irish Soda Bread is incredibly easy to make, with almost guaranteed no-fail results every time.  Don’t let the golden raisins fool you:  this version of Irish Soda Bread is definitely a savory.  But the golden raisins stand out on the palate like little glimmers of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy day.

This is the perfect accompaniment to Parsnip and Leek Soup.

Enjoy!

 

 

Golden Raisin Irish Soda Bread

(Gourmet Magazine)

 

2 C unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for sprinkling

¼ C wheat bran or toasted wheat germ (not bran cereal)(optional – it gives a lovely texture but don’t panic if you don’t have it!)

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ stick (1/4 C) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1 C golden raisins

1 C buttermilk or plain yogurt

 

Preheat oven to 400? and sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour.

 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, bran or wheat germ, baking soda, and salt.  Add butter and toss to coat with flour.  With fingertips rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add raisins and toss until coated.  Add buttermilk or yogurt and stir until dough is moistened evenly.

 

On a floured surface, knead the dough 1 minute, sprinkling lightly with additional flour to prevent sticking (dough should remain soft).  Shape dough into a ball.

 

On a prepared baking sheet, pat dough out into a 6-inch round.  Sprinkle round with additional flour and with fingertips spread lightly over round.  With a sharp knife cut a shallow X in top of round.

 

Bake bread in middle of oven 35 – 45 minutes, or until golden brown.  Wrap bread in a kitchen towel and colon a rack 1 hour. Unwrap bread and cool 1 hour more.

 

Posted October 5th, 2011.

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Blackberry Cobbler: Alice Bay Cookbook

by Danica Waters
Following our coverage of the National Can-It-Forward Day held mid-August out of the world-famous Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA, the Allspice Chronicles traveled up the West Coast just in time for blackberry season.  Called “brambles” in the UK, blackberries grow EVERYWHERE in the great Northwest.  They line the freeways, small country roads, back yards, you name it.

We were  informed early-on that the locals could spot a tourist from 100 yards away simply because they were picking blackberries at the sides of busy roads;  old-timers and people in-the-know stay away from these berries because of the contaminants they pick up from car exhaust.   While it seemed a terrible waste, there were plenty of walking paths and offbeat hiking trails that rendered  BUCKETS of these beauties.

On our first berry picking excursion, less than an hour of picking rendered over three quarts of berries.   Because blackberries are extremely perishable, they need to be frozen or cooked quickly.  Of course, the first thing that came to mind was to turn the first fruits of the season into a juicy cobbler, so that’s precisely what we did.

My sister-in-law, who is an impeccable housekeeper, a fabulous cook and creative, over-the-top entertainer in her own right, produced what she referred to as the Northwest “Recipe Bible” from her kitchen cabinet.  It was a relatively small, thick, pink book called Alice Bay Cookbook:  A Savory Sampler from Washington’s Skagit ValleyInside is a collection of the most delicious heirloom recipes, each a celebration in its own right of the bounty of the land, the rivers, and the oceans that make up the Great Northwest.  Originally published in 1985, the Alice Bay Cookbook celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010.   Authored by Julie Wilkinson Rousseau, it was noted by the New York Times Bestseller List as “Paperback Best Seller”, and with good reason.  No matter where you live, if you like to cook, this is one book you should have in your collection.

Please note:  before you gasp at the thought of using eight whole cups of blackberries for a single cobbler, please understand that this recipe is designed to feed a very large crowd, and is easily scaled down.  It is the most delicious cobbler you’ll ever care to taste.  Be sure to top it off with vanilla ice cream or some heavy cream – it is simply to die for.

Enjoy!

 

Blackberry Cobbler:

(Alice Bay Cookbook)

1½ cups sugar
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups blackberries
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter

BISCUIT TOPPING:

2 cups sifted flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
2/3  cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix together sugar, flour, salt, berries, and lemon juice. Pour into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, and dot with butter. Bake for 15 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
Meanwhile, make biscuit topping:   Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add milk and beaten egg, and stir with a fork until blended.
When blackberry mixture is hot and bubbly, spoon biscuit mixture on top in 10 or 12 dollops. Return to oven for 20 minutes, until biscuits are browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Posted September 30th, 2011.

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Crisp Chicken Tenderloins With Curry and Lemon

by Danica Waters

“Necessity is the mother of invention”. Amen.

And where there is a whole lot of necessity, there you shall find a whole lot of inventing goin’ on.  Let’s just say I happen to be on a roll these days;  indeed, I am one inventin’ so-and-so.  Happily, much like the FML day I concocted the Queen’s Rings, it seems to be working in my favor.  Happy for all the wonderful folks who follow my blog, I like to share.

You know THOSE nights when you realize too late that the grill is out of gas, everyone is starrrrrrrrrvinnnng, and dinner just needs to be UBER-delicious because even the dog appears to be out-of-sorts?  Yep. It was one of those.  (We are all down with nasty colds this morning, so that explains it.)

For some odd reason, when the mood is afoul, I seem to reach for turmeric and curry every single time.  (Probably because it works every single time.)  This time was no exception.  These crispy chicken tenderloins are not only visually stunning, with a rich golden color from the turmeric, they are just plain addictive with their crispy texture, the round, deep flavor of curry graced with the tang of freshly squeezed lemon and a hint of cilantro.

I am happy to report that the evening finished out with rave reviews of dinner, fresh blackberries over ice cream, and a healthy session of  “laugh-’til-you-almost-pee-your-pants”.  All’s well that ends well.  Thank you, Necessity.  You rock.

 

 

Crisp Chicken Tenderloins With Curry and Lemon

(Danica Waters)

 

8 chicken tenderloins, thawed

½ C flour

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp curry powder

¼ tsp cayenne, or to taste

Salt & pepper to taste

Chopped fresh cilantro

Fresh lemon slices

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Combine flour, turmeric, curry powder, salt and pepper in a medium-sized bowl.  Rinse chicken tenderloins and immediately dredge in flour mixture; set on separate plate to rest.

Bring large (12”) frying pan to temperature over medium high heat.  When ready, add enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan and heat until oil is hot but not smoking.

 

Using cooking tongs, add coated chicken tenderloins to hot oil.  Fry until golden brown; turn and repeat on other side.  After turning, sprinkle remaining flour mixture over the tenderloins and turn once more to brown.

 

Remove tenderloins to serving platter; sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro and serve with lemon wedges.

 

Note:  These are fantastic served with Flash-Cooked Green Beans and Garlic Mashed Potatoes (recipes forthcoming), or chop them up and serve them in a pita with lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki.

 

Posted September 29th, 2011.

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Gigi’s Apple Cake

by Danica Waters

 

Several years ago, I found myself in the waiting room of a doctor’s office… waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting some more.  Thankfully, the waiting room was stocked with lots and lots of great magazines, most of which contained great recipes.

 

One of the magazines contained a wonderful, heartfelt story about a Jewish grandmother fondly referred to as “Gigi”, who would make an incredible apple cake just like clockwork as soon as the long summer days gave way to the shorter, chillier days of autumn.   It seems the recipe had been handed down through the family for generations; I was happy I had a pen and an old grocery list buried in my purse.

 

I don’t remember the name of the publication, nor can I recall the name of the author who shared such a beautiful living memory of her dearly departed grandmother.  I can tell you that this is the best apple cake I have ever made or tasted; it is truly an autumn heirloom your family will treasure for generations.

 

Enjoy!

 

Gigi’s Apple Cake

 

1 C canola oil, plus more for greasing

2-1/2 C all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 tsp baking powder

3 tsp ground cinnamon

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

2-1/4 C granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1/3 C orange juice

2 tsp orange zest

2 tsp vanilla extract

 

 

Preheat oven to 350?.  Grease and flour a 12c Bundt or tube pan.  In a medium bowl, combine the 2-1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon.  Ina large bowl, toss the apples with ¼ cup of sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and set aside.

 

In a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the 1 cup of oil with the eggs, orange juice, vanilla, and the remaining 2 cups of sugar on medium speed for 1 minute.  Add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing until just combined.  Add the apples and stir to combine.  Transfer to the pan, leaving about an inch at the top, and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1-1/2 hours.  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before unmolding it onto a rack to cool completely.

Posted September 28th, 2011.

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