Book review: Apples of North America.

books

Apples of North America – Tom Burford (2013, Timber Press, Portland)

Here is THE book for anyone who loves apples – whether that means eating and cooking with them or growing them. Orchardist Tom Burford has assembled a thoroughly-researched guide to 192 apple varieties found in North America, offering tips on how to successfully grow apples in both orchard and home garden settings, from seed to harvest and storage.  There are even detailed instructions for cooking apple butter, drying apples, and pressing and making apple cider (my favourite!).  The individual apple portraits are the best part of this book:  each page is complete with photographs (so you can see the variations of colour and striping), and a short blurb about the apple’s history, outstanding tree characteristics, interior and exterior descriptions, notes about disease resistance, and ratings for use (dessert, baking, frying, drying, cider, applesauce, vinegar, landscape design, etc.) and storage.  Not only informational, this book is a delight to pore through – I wasn’t familiar with most of the varieties in the book as few of them make it to our grocery or markets, so it was a treat to see how they all varied in size and colouration.  The breeding history of each one is fascinating as well – Burford goes beyond the science to tell the stories behind each apple.

Mmmm…now all I can think of is apple crisp warm from the oven (can you tell I haven’t eaten breakfast yet?).

What are your favourite apple varieties – and your favourite ways to eat them?

Bananas for breakfast.

I’m one of these people that needs to eat breakfast pretty much the second I’m up and out of bed.  Trouble is, lately I don’t know what breakfast is.  (Although, the past few days, it seems to be Christmas cookies – oops!).

I hate cold cereal (plus, I have nut allergies and have you noticed that just about every breakfast cereal you can buy has almonds or walnuts or pecans in it?) and while I do make various types of grain-based hot cereals, I don’t want to eat them everyday.  Same with all the versions of eggs – I don’t want to eat them all the time.  (Boredom is a big deal when you’re talking about food, don’t you find?).   Smoothies are no good – it doesn’t matter how green they are or how many different types of fruit, dairy products or grains I put in them, they’re not filling enough.  By the time I hit my coffee break at work, I’m…well…an exceedingly grumpier version of myself.  Ahem.  I’ve been eating toast or bagels but I really have to get back into making my own breads again in the new year – I’m just not a fan of supermarket bread products.  A co-worker has been bringing in day-olds from a good bakery to share and those have been a delight.  I ought to frequent the place she gets them from.

So, where does that leave me?  Muffins, perhaps, as long as they’re not sweet cupcakes thinly disguised as muffins (ie: I forgot to ice them!).  Or maybe fruit or veggie-based quick breads.  Early last week, I found a recipe for banana bread on the blog My Sister’s Pantry and I figured, why not?  This is definitely a different version of banana bread than I’m used to – for one, it has molasses in it, and while it has all the beautiful moist texture you associate with banana bread (particularly given the fact that it also has applesauce as an ingredient), it really doesn’t taste significantly banana-ey.  It’s dense and delicious and not very sweet – plus, I’m actually finding that it’s pretty filling.  It goes along really nicely with a bit of yogourt and my morning cup(s) of Earl Grey.

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Please scoot on over to My Sister’s Pantry for the recipe.  (They’ve got a pile of GF, DF, vegan, vegetarian, raw, and sugar-free recipes over there as well, plus some excellent nutritional tips).  I made a couple of changes because of my allergies, swapping out the nut butter for tahini and omitting the pecans.

What are your favourite breakfast dishes?  Do you regularly change up your morning meals?  Or do you even eat breakfast at all?

Parsnip cake.

We went straight from Zucchinipalooza to Carrotextravaganza around here this fall.  While I had only a modest harvest of carrots from my community garden plot this year, the farm that provides us with our CSA share baskets had a positive bumper crop, and so for quite awhile now, we’ve been pretty much swimming in carrots.  It’s not a bad problem to have – we’ve had various carrot breads, soups (click through to see my purple carrot soup), and a cake with cream cheese filling.  My hubby, the avowed Meatatarian, will actually eat carrots, so we’ll get through the rest of them with little trouble.

The parsnips are another story.

I didn’t grow parsnips this year (nor have I ever – they’re on my list of Crops to Plant One Day in the Nebulous Future).  But our CSA baskets have been FULL of them.  According to the owner of the farm, this is only the second year they’ve grown parsnips, but their success was “amazing.”

Of course, my hubby won’t touch them with a ten foot pole.  He won’t even eat them roasted, glazed with a bit of butter and brown sugar, which is really my favourite way to prepare them.

So I took a cue from the carrot madness we have going on and baked a cake.

Parsnip Cake

3/4 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup pure maple syrup (you could use agave syrup if you don’t have maple, but maple tastes best)

3 eggs (if you wish to substitute a flax gel* in place of 1 egg, you could)

2 cups all-purpose flour (you could sub out 1/4 cup of white flour for whole wheat, if you prefer.  I’m also thinking of experimenting with almond meal)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp cardamom

3 cups parsnips, peeled and grated

1 apple, peeled and chopped finely

Juice of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease two loaf pans and line with parchment.

Melt butter and cool slightly.  Add sugar, maple syrup, and eggs, and mix thoroughly.   Add flour, baking powder, and spices and combine.  Fold in parsnips, apple, and orange juice and stir until evenly distributed throughout the batter.  Pour into prepared loaf pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

(*To “make” an egg out of flax, mix 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed in 3 tbsp. water and let sit until it gels, about 5 minutes).

Handy Conversion Calculator

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And that is how you get someone to eat their parsnips.  😉

Do you grow parsnips in your garden?  More importantly, do you EAT parsnips?  What are your favourite parsnip recipes?

Related posts – Parsnip Cake (From Sewing Room to Potting Shed)