Monthly Archives: October 2009



Supermarket produce bins are filled with many different kinds of apples, and at such good prices–but if you live in an area where apples are grown, or can get to a Farmer’s Market–you may find even better prices. One year when my brother Bill was visiting me, we went to Oak Glen and were able to buy a big box of different kinds of apples for about ten dollars. It was late in the season and the apple grower was happy to get rid of some that were a little past prime – but I had apple sauce in mind and didn’t care. Not very long after that, Bob & I bought an apple tree of our own and for the past decade, it produced all the apples we could use. I still have many quarts of applesauce in our jelly cupboard from our crop last year. These weren’t Granny Smith apples, but a close cousin–a green skinned tart apple, idea for apple sauce and pies with the name of “Beverly Hills.” Living in the San Fernando Valley, I knew we needed an apple tree that didn’t require a frost. Now, living in the high desert, we’ll have frost–and snow–so more apple varieties are available to us. We bought several fruit trees from a nearby nursery last spring.
Did you know that the saying “As American as apple pie” is referred to as the symbol of America? The word “apple” itself comes from the Old English word “aeppel.” and there are approximately 10,000 different kinds of varieties of apples grown in the world with more than 7,000 of these varieties grown in the United States. Apples are a member of the rose family of plants and the blossoms are much like wild-rose blossoms. I can attest that the pink/white blossoms in the spring are beautiful and aromatic. When the English pioneers first arrived in North America they found only crab apples–the only apple native to the United States. European settlers arrived and brought with them their English customs and favorite fruits. In colonial time, apples were called winter banana or melt-in-the-mouth. An apple a day keeps the doctor away is a very old English saying; ownership to the saying has been long forgotten.. Today, the expression still rings true, as our knowledge of apples’ many health benefits increases.
One of the most interesting facts I was able to uncover is that most historians fail to mention that those early orchards in the New World produced very few apples because there were no honey bees. Historical records indicate that colonies of honey bees were shipped from England and landed in Virginia early in 1622. One or more shipments were made to Massachusetts between 1630 and 1633, others probably between 1633 and 1638. The Indians called the honeybees “English flies” and/or “white man’s flies.”
One of America’s favorite legends is that of Johnny Appleseed, a folk hero and pioneer apple farmer in the 1800s. There really was a Johnny Appleseed whose real name was John Chapmen; he was born in Massachusetts. Appleseed’s dream was for the land to produce so many apples that no one would ever go hungry. Most historians today consider him to have been eccentric but very smart businessman, who traveled about the new territories of his time, leasing land and developing nurseries of apple trees. It is estimated that he traveled 10,000 square miles of frontier country. He collected apple seeds from cider mills, dried them, put them up in little bags, and gave them to everyone he met who was headed West. For forty years he traveled through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa (planting seeds every place he considered to be likely spots). He did more than just plant apple seeds. He began nurseries to take care of the apple orchards as well as other fruit, vegetable, and herb plants. He walked alone in the wilderness, without gun or knife. He chopped down no trees and killed no animals. Appleseed believed that God wanted him to go around and read his Bible to people and plant apple trees. He was respected and appreciated by the Native American tribes and the new settlers alike. For the rest of his life, he traveled alone and denied himself the companionship of a wife.
Apples are the most varied food on the planet, with more apple varieties on record than for any other food. The list of apple varieties topped 7,500 the last time someone counted, including more than 2,500 varieties grown here in the United States. Each apple variety has its own unique flavor, and best uses.
Previously I mentioned making apple sauce – which I consider to be the easiest food of all to can and we sometimes got at least 30 quarts of applesauce from our one tree. However some of the apples went into desserts and I have gone through some of my files searching for favorite recipes.
First, here is a recipe for Spiced Baked Apples (low in calories, high in fiber!)
To make SPICED BAKED APPLES, you will need:
2 TBSP dark brown sugar (I use Splenda brown sugar)
½ tsp apple pie spice
¼ tsp salt
4 favorite sweet apples, cored and halves
2 TBSP chopped pecans
Combine brown sugar, apple pie spice and salt; sprinkle evenly over cut sides of apples. Place apples on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or under tender. Sprinkle evenly with pecans and bake 5 minutes more or until pecans are toasted.
Original recipe suggests serving with some nonfat vanilla yogurt or no-sugar-added fat free frozen vanilla yogurt. Or you could add a small dollop of fat free or sugar free Cool Whip.
Per serving, 110 calories, 23 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 3 g fat, 3 g fiber, 145 mg sodium. Weight Watchers, this dessert is 2 points without any topping.

Here is another simple recipe for BAKED APPLES;
To make Easy Baked Apples, you will need
4 medium size tart apples, cored
4 tsp low sugar strawberry spreadable fruit
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ cups unsweetened orange juice
Place apples in a foil lined 8” square baking dish. Spoon 1 tbsp fruit into the center of each apple; sprinkle with cinnamon. Pour orange juice into pan. Bake, uncovered, 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
This dessert has, per serving, 109 calories, trace of fat, 1 g. protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, no cholesterol 9 milligrams sodium. Weight Watchers, this dessert is also 2 points per serving.

MAPLE APPLES WITH CINNAMON CREAM is another heart-healthy low cal, low fat dessert. To make Maple Apples with Cinnamon Cream, you will need:
3 medium apples, peeled (if desired*) cored and sliced
½ tsp grated orange peel (optional)
2 TBSP natural or sugar free maple syrup
1 tsp margarine or butter
½ cup reduced sugar or sugar free nonfat vanilla yogurt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Place apple slices and orange peel in a one quart microwavable baking dish. Drizzle maple syrup over the apples; toss to mix. Dot with butter. Cover loosely; microwave at high power 3 to 5 minutes or until apples are crisp tender, stirring once.
Meanwhile in a small bowl, blend yogurt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spoon apples, hot or at room temperature, into serving dishes. Drizzle each serving with yogurt mixture.
Per serving: 87 calories, 1 g fat, O mg cholesterol, 32 mg sodium, 20 g. carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 3 grams fiber.

Sandy’s cooknote: eat the apple peel any time it’s possible–it’s good for you!

My grandmother often made apple fritters and served them dusted with powdered sugar – yum! One of my favorites to this day. To make Old Fashioned Apple Fritters, you will need:
1 cup sifted flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp salt
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup milk
2 tsp cooking oil
1 cup diced pared apples
Cooking oil for frying, confectioners sugar
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Beat egg well and combine with milk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients, then add diced apple. Drop batter by tablespoonfuls into hot cooking oil heated to 375 degrees F. and cook about 4 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

To make Old T own Apple-Cinnamon muffins, you will need
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups flour
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
1 ¾ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups milk
1 cup peeled, chopped Granny Smith apples, packed
Cinnamon sugar
In mixing bowl, cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating until well combined. Add vanilla. Toss together flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl. Then add, alternately over low speed, with milk to butter-egg mixture just enough to blend. Fold in apples. Fill 12 paper-lined muffin cups at least 2/3 full with batter. Sprinkle each muffin with 1 tsp of cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Serve warm. Makes 12 large muffins.
Cinnamon Sugar
½ cup sugar
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, tossing to mix well. Makes ½ cup.
Each muffin contains 354 calories, 13 grams of fat, 0.12 grams fiber. Each muffin is 8 points on Weight Watchers (you might want to eat just half of one! Or instead of making 12 large muffins, aim for 24 small ones which would then be 4 points each).

Happy Cooking!



When someone told me that my fruitcake recipe sounded good – but she couldn’t eat fruitcake because she is on Weight Watchers – I replied “Not true. I’m on Weight Watchers too – and I know you can eat fruitcake; it’s really all about portion control” – and that’s true up to a point. But I told her, “I bet I can find some fruitcake recipes for you in my Weight Watcher cookbooks – or else I can find fruitcake recipes that are low in fat and/or sugar…”

I was excited by the challenge and more than delighted with what I have been able to find. And just like “yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” I am ready to report that “Yes, Marlene, there is a Weight Watcher fruit cake” I am so thrilled with what I have been able to find (in my own personal collection of cookbooks) that I can hardly wait to try some of these recipes.

This first recipe is on a clipping from the L.A. Times that I cut out years ago; it doesn’t have a date on it – but on the back of the clipping are sale items for Lucky’s, a store that hasn’t been around in SoCal for many years. This is a simple no-bake fruitcake and based on the calorie/fiber/fat count, I figured it to come out to 3 points per serving.


You will need:

½ pound raisins
½ pound pitted dates
½ pound dried figs
½ cup walnuts
½ tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp dark rum

Combine raisins, dates, figs, walnuts, vanilla and rum in food processor. Blend until coarsely chopped. Do not over-blend.

Spoon and press mixture into 9×5” loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place heavy object on top to weigh down. Refrigerate 2-3 days to blend flavors. Unmold. Serve thinly slices. Makes 12 servings.

Each slice contains about: 162 calories, 4 mg sodium, 0 cholesterol, 3 g fat, 34 g carbohydrate; 1 g protein, 7 g fiber, 12% calories from fat. Exchanges 2 fruit, ½ fat.

What could be easier?

This next recipe for Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake is from a home-made cookbook I compiled with nothing but fruitcake recipes I think I started it when I was frustrated trying to remember where I had seen a favorite fruitcake recipe…the problem is, I have over 50 3-ring binders full of recipes (only one full of cake recipes, but 3 or 4 of Christmas recipes) plus a collection of over 200 filled recipe boxes (never mind how many cookbooks) – well, I thought getting all the fruitcake recipes in one place would be helpful). I think this was from a newspaper clipping.

To make Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake you will need:

2 cups dark raisins
2 cups dried sour cherries
½ cup maraschino cherries, drained
¾ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup brandy, very hot
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup cocoa powder, measured then sifted
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cherry or raspberry extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup raspberry or apricot jam
2 cups walnuts, broken
1 cup coarsely chopped semi-sweet chocolate or chocolate chips
Nonstick cooking spray
Brandy, for soaking

*Four hours or up to 1 day before baking, place raisins, sour and maraschino cherries, and cranberries in a large bowl. Toss with hot brandy, cover and set aside.

Ok, next day: Blend melted butter with eggs. Add sugar flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powdered, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

Add raspberry extract, vanilla, and jam to fruit mixture, then stir in walnuts and chocolate chips. Fold fruit mixture into batter. Blend well.

Spray 2 (9×5”) loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Spoon batter into pans. Place pans on baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees until dark brown, cake springs back when lightly touched, and toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean; 2 to 2 ½ hours. Cool in pans 15 minutes before removing to rack to cool completely. Makes 24 servings.

Each serving contains 113 calories, 10 mg sodium, 2 mg cholesterol, 9 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 0.77 gram fiber. For Weight Watchers, each slice is 3 points.

Here is another fruitcake recipe that is easy and low in calories–and no fat. The use of unsweetened applesauce takes the place of butter or cooking oil.

To make Easy Fruitcake, you will need:

1 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ tsp baking powder
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup egg substitute
2/3 cup dried apricots
2/3 cup dried pineapple
¾ cup dates
½ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray two 5×3” loaf pans with nonfat cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and baking powder and mix well. Add applesauce and egg whites, and stir until moistened. Fold in the dried fruits.
Spread batter evenly into prepared loaf pans and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool several hours before slicing. Serves 16.

Each slice contains 116 calories, 2 grams fiber, 2 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrate, 18 milligrams sodium. For Weight Watchers, each slice of cake is 2 points.

The following recipe is from Weight Watcher’s New Complete Cookbook and I am so excited with the find, I think I am going to make this cake, also, for the upcoming holidays.

To make Brandied Fruit Cake you will need:

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup reduced-calorie tub margarine
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 TBSP grated gingerroot*
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 cup fat-free buttermilk
½ cup egg substitute
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 dried apricot halves, chopped
½ cup golden raisins
6 large pitted prunes, chopped
6 dried dates, pitted and chopped
3 TBSP brandy, bourbon or rum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9” Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Sift the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium size bowl.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed, beat the margarine until creamy; add the brown sugar, gingerroot, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves beating until fluffy. Add the buttermilk, egg substitute, orange and lemon zests and vanilla, beating until well blended. Gradually add the flour mixture stirring just until combined. Gently stir in the apricots, raisins, prunes, dates and brandy. Scrape the batter into the pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack. Makes 12 servings.

Each serving contains 212 calories, 3 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 268 mg sodium, 42 g total carbohydrate, 3 g dietary fiber, 5 g protein. For Weight Watchers, each serving is 4 points.

Tip: if you have the time, soak the dried fruit in the brandy for a few hours or a few days, in a tightly covered container.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: Rachel Ray suggests freezing ginger to have some on hand but I LOVE my tip for fresh ginger: peel the pieces of ginger and put them into a jar and fill it up with sherry. Keep refrigerated. The ginger will keep indefinitely.
It was with a bit of dismay that I discovered most of the fruitcake recipes in my files are sans (without) nutritional information, so I have skipped any that I can’t provide point values for without trying to break it all down mathematically (math was never my strong suit). But keep in mind that whatever fruitcake recipe you may choose to make, having a thin slice of it won’t break your diet.

Also, one of the recipes that calls for applesauce reminded me of some articles I clipped from newspapers and magazines in the early 1990s, when someone discovered that a paste made of prunes, vanilla and water could be used to replace butter or oil in recipes. Food editors all over the country jumped on the band wagon, trying prunes in place of butter, with a lot of mixed reports. But Ruth Reichl, now editor of Gourmet magazine, wrote an article about it which must have appeared in the L.A. Times in 1992. She wrote about using a standard brownie recipe from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book and making the prune paste using ½ cup of the paste to replace a stick of butter. She writes that while everyone thought prunes for butter was nonsense, the laugh was on them because the prune paste brownies turned out very good.
Then someone wondered – why prunes, why not other fruits instead? And so the search was on to develop a number of recipes using fruit purees, often using jars of baby food fruit puree. This is why you will often find unsweetened applesauce in various cake recipes, replacing much of the butter or oil.

To make homemade prune paste, in case you want to give this a try, take one cup of pitted prunes, blend with 6 TBSP water and two tsp vanilla. Substitute the paste for shortening in recipes for brownies, muffins, and other baked goods. This reduces the fat in the recipe by at least 75%. The mixture is best when used fresh but will keep in the refrigerator several days. Also bear in mind that prunes are very high in fiber (which for Weight Watchers is always a good thing).

In a lengthy article for the Daily News in 1992, food editor Natalie Haughton commented that baked foods with fruit purees are less caloric than their fat counterparts because fruits have only 4 calories per gram while fats have 9 calories per gram, but fat in a baked item helps yield a moist tender product and pureed-fruit replacement baked goods tend to have a rubbery tough texture and lack flavor.

Since these articles were all written over fifteen years ago–and prune paste and fruit puree substitutes for butter or oil have all but disappeared from our culinary landscape -you might surmise that it was an idea that didn’t hold up–but I have noted a number of recipes even recently that contain unsweetened applesauce…and I have been thinking that the prune paste might work well as a partial replacement for butter in a fruitcake recipe which – after all, – is a fruitcake.

Before ending this discussion on fruitcakes, I’d like to share with you a recipe that was given to one of my daughters-in-law by her mother, at the bridal shower. It’s called


To make Best Rum Cake Ever, you will need

1 or 2 quarts rum
1 cup butter
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp soda
1 tsp sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup dried fruit
½ pint lemon juice
1 cup nuts

Before you start, sample the rum for quality. Good, isn’t it? Now go ahead. Select a large mixing bowl, measuring cup, etc. Check the rum again. It must be just right. To be sure rum is of the highest quality, pour one level cup of rum into a glass and drink it as fast as you can. Repeat. With an electric mixer, beat 1 cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of the thugar and beat again. Meanwhile, make sure that the rum is of the highest quality. Try another cup. Open second quart if necessary. Add 2 arge leggs, 2 cups fried druit and beat till high. If druit gets stuck in beaters, just pry loose with a drewscriver. Sample the rum again, checking for tonscisticity. Next, sift 3 cups of pepper or salt (it really doesn’t matter). Sample the rum again. Sift ½ pint of lemon juice. Fold in chopped butter and strained nuts. Add 1 babblespoon thugar or whatever color you can find. Wix mel. Crease oven and turn cake pan to 350 gredees. Now pour the whole mess into the coven and ake. Check the rum and bo to ged.

On that happy note –
Happy cooking!