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Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #43 and Apple Cinnamon Upside-Down Cake

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This upside-down cake formula is the stuff!

One pan baking, no frosting needed, rich caramelized topping over yummy (and healthy) fruit over dense and moist cake–what’s not to like? We’ve posted banana upside-down cake and pineapple upside-down cake, and gotten lots of response on each.

So, in a new year’s resolution of sticking with a good thing, this week we have Apple Cinnamon Upside-down Cake. After all the flash and excitement of the holidays, it’s good to get back to basics and even better to keep our cooking efforts simple and to the point.

This cake is the perfect January dessert–appropriate for breakfast, lunch, dinner (dessert) or a snack, it’s easy to prepare, serves neatly, and keeps well in the fridge. Just take it out tomorrow or the next day, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds, and you’ll have a treat that tastes like it just came out of the oven.

Because in this early new year, post-holiday lull, we need to keep things simple and to the point. And what better point is there than this quick and easy and versatile dessert?

upside down apple cake

Apple Cinnamon Upside-Down Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (divided)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup milk or buttermilk

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 large apples, peeled and sliced

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Have an 8 or 9-inch round nonstick cake pan ready to use.

Add half of the butter (1/4 cup) to a mixing bowl with the granulated sugar. Cream these ingredients together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, and whisk until all of the ingredients are incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and slowly mix into the batter. Before the flour is all the way incorporated, add the milk and remaining 1/2 cup of flour, and slowly mix until all of the ingredients are well incorporated, careful not to over mix.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of butter to the round cake pan and place in the preheated oven. Once the butter is melted, remove from the oven and stir in the brown sugar. Lay sliced apples onto brown sugar mixture until all of the brown sugar and butter is covered. Pour the cake batter over the apples. Place the cake in preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake springs back slightly when touched. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before inverting over a serving plate. Serve this cake warm with whipped cream or ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.

Makes 1 round cake, or about 8 servings.

apple cinnamon upside down cake

{Adapted from Babble}

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #43, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #43, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #33 and Apple Crumb Pie Baked Apples

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So you like pie but you don’t like making the crust. It’s time-consuming and doesn’t always turn out right. Plus it’s full of fat grams and calories and not much nutrition (like maybe zero–or negative nutrition, if there is such a thing). You can use a pre-made crust but you still have the calories and who wants to use something pre-made if you don’t have to?

Reading and Recipes to the rescue! (Can you see our cape with the red R&R on the back?) This week we have a pie recipe with no crust! Well, actually there is a crust–nature’s very own crust: the skin and outer layers of the apple! Just remove the core and most of the inside of the apple, add the filling, finish with the crumb topping, and bake!

And you will have two single-serving apple pies ready to eat, with none of the time or trouble or fat grams of a traditional pie crust–just nature’s own crust made a little better.

(Personal confession time: I love pie crust, probably because it’s full of fat grams and calories–the more buttery and flaky, the better. But I have to admit, these Apple Crumb Pie Baked Apples are a whole lot easier, quicker, fun to eat, and healthy. Can’t do much better than that!)

apple crumb pie baked apples

Apple Crumb Pie Baked Apples

3 large apples*

Apple pie filling:

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 Tablespoon warm water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Streusel topping:

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

pinch of cinnamon

1/2 Tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

apple pie baked apple

Make the apple pie filling by combining the cornstarch and warm water in a small bowl. Whisk the cornstarch and water together until the cornstarch is fully dissolved. Peel, core, and dice ONE of the apples. Into a saucepan, add the cornstarch mixture, diced apple pieces, cinnamon, and granulated sugar. Heat this mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Once the mixture begins to simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Allow this mixture to cool for 15 minutes.

While the mixture is cooling, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Prep the two remaining apples by slicing off the top of each apple. Using a spoon, scoop out the core, careful not to puncture the side or bottom of the apple. Spoon the apple pie filling into the cored-out apples. (You may have some filling leftover; cover and store in the refrigerator for later use.)

Make the streusel topping by combining all of the ingredients until mixed and crumbly. Divide the streusel and sprinkle over top of each apple.

Place the apples in a 5×7 inch baking pan. Bake the apples for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the topping is golden brown. Remove the apples from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Makes 2 baked apples.

*Firm apples work best. I used Honeycrisp apples, but any firm variety will be fine.

baked apples

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #33 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #33, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #33, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #31 and One-Bowl Apple Cake

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So it’s the season of apples, at long last. They’re plentiful and delicious and healthy and not very expensive if you buy them in quantity at the roadside produce stands or the farmers’ markets.

But if you buy in quantity (say, a bushel), the question is–What do I do with all these apples? You could eat one for lunch every day, but it might take you about ten years to finish the whole box (and they might not be as tasty ten years from now). We like to turn large quantities of apples into homemade applesauce–just quarter and simmer till soft then run them through a food mill. Mmmm-mmmm good!

But how about apple desserts? The traditional apple pie is great, but a lot of work making and rolling out the bottom then the top crusts. An apple-crumb pie, with a cinnamon and brown sugar top crust, is a little simpler but still a lot of effort (and a lot to eat).

So this week we’re offering a small size, very easy One-bowl Apple Cake as a simple way to have a fresh apple dessert in a manageable quantity (three or four generous servings) made in a short amount of time. That way you can make a fresh apple dessert every night till that bushel of apples is gone!

Or maybe not. Do it for a week then turn the rest into applesauce. Applesauce freezes well and you’ll be glad for the yummy treat in the dead of winter or next spring.

apple cake

One-Bowl Apple Cake

1 egg

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 large apple, peeled and thinly sliced*

one-bowl apple cake

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 5×7 pan with cooking spray, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, cinnamon, and vegetable oil. Slowly mix in the flour and baking soda until combined, careful not to over mix the batter. Fold the apple slices into the mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown and set. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream. Cover and store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 small cake.

*Gala, Fuji, Honey Crisp, or other similar varieties of apple work best.

one bowl apple cake

{Adapted from My Recipes}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #31 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #31, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #31, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #27 and Apple Pie Smoothie

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Depending on where you live, fall may be making an early appearance or summer may be hanging on (or, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, winter is clinging or spring is getting started early). Wherever you live, mid-September is a time of transition–saying good-bye to one season, getting ready for the next.

And this week’s Apple Pie Smoothie is designed to ease you through that transition with its mix of subtle fruit flavors and a touch of sweetness for a filling and healthy snack. It’s cool and refreshing (if you’re caught in a heat wave) but also rich and energizing (if you’re experiencing a cold snap or–Heaven forbid!–a dusting of snow).

I also like to think of this as a tasty intro to apple season. You can sip on this smoothie and think of all the great ways you can prepare those crisp, fresh-picked apples starting to show up at the farmers’ markets.

Because mid-September is a time of transitions. And here at R&R we’re helping ease you through those changes!

apple pie breakfast Apple Pie Smoothie

1 frozen banana*

1 cup unsweetened applesauce or stewed apples

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup uncooked oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1/2 cup vanilla yogurt or ice cream

1 handful of ice

apple pie smoothie

Add ingredients to a blender in the order listed. Blend on the highest speed for 30 seconds, or until ingredients are fully mixed. Serve immediately. If you desire, top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Makes 1 large smoothie, or two smaller smoothies.

*A fresh banana is fine too. Freezing the banana gives the smoothie a thicker texture.

apple pie smoothie drink

{Adapted from Gimme Some Oven}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #27 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #27, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #27, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #28 and Mini Apple Pies

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One of the great good fortunes of contemporary shoppers is that they can find fresh crisp and juicy apples all year round. This wasn’t always the case. I had an uncle that owned an orchard in New England and he was lucky if he could keep his apples fresh into the late fall–and only then at the considerable trouble of storing the apples in special sealed lockers. Nowadays you go to the grocery store and there are a half-dozen varieties of beautiful apples waiting for you to hand-pick as many or as few as you need, maybe a little more expensive than my uncle’s apples but–hey–nothing is free.

And fresh apples year-round means you can do apple desserts year-round. So to give us a little break from the drudgery of winter, turn our thoughts (however briefly) toward the bright sunshine of summer or the beautiful colors of fall, we’re offering Mini Apple Pies as this mid-January recipe. Not only are these pies easy to make and yummy to eat, they’re also cute and a little offbeat in their muffin-tin, single-serving size.

So have some fun and turn your thoughts to fairer weather and give thanks for the modern food-supply chain that gives you fresh apples in the dead of winter.

And if you want a unique dessert for next week’s Super Bowl Buffet, consider making a double batch of these gems. Your guests will love them and maybe even think they’re at a summer picnic or fall jamboree rather than a Super Bowl Party–at least till they start showing the ads.

mini apple streusel pies

Mini Apple Pies 

Mini Pies:

1 pre-made pie crust

1 cup diced, peeled apples (such as Granny Smith)

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Streusel Topping:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons oats

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

mini apple pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cupcake pan with cooking spray, and set aside.

Unroll pre-made pie crust. Using a 3-inch round cookie cuter or glass, cut 6 circles out of the dough. Return the remaining dough to the refrigerator for another use. Place each of the 6 rounds into the prepared cupcake pan, pressing each round into the bottom and up the sides of each opening.

In a mixing bowl, combine the rest of the pie ingredients (diced apples, granulated sugar, flour, and cinnamon). Divide this mixture between the 6 crusts. Using the same bowl, make the streusel topping by combining the flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon together. Mix in melted butter until the topping becomes crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over each of the 6 mini pies.

Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the pies become golden brown. Remove the mini pies from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 30 minutes before removing to serving plates. Serve warm. Cover and store any leftover pies in the refrigerator.

Makes 6 mini pies.

mini apple pies

{Adapted from Center Cut Cook}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #28 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #28, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #28, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #27 and Browned Butter Cupcakes

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Hello? Hello? You back with us now?

Yeah, Christmas is over (finally got the tree down; the needles–jeez!) and the fireworks of New Year’s have fallen silent (that pop you heard this morning was the neighbor’s old car backfiring in the cold). So it’s back to the business of ordinary life–and in the winter no less. What a bummer.

But not at Reading and Recipes! (Can you hear the kazoo band playing in the background?) We’re fired up to get back into the swing of things, launch our website into post-holiday 2015! 

And to do that we’ve got the perfect R&R recipe–Browned Butter Cupcakes. It’s a little bit trendy (brown butter is all the rage these days), a little bit healthy (applesauce and raisins and nuts), a little bit decadent (as in sweet and rich), and most importantly downright tasty and (pretty) easy. (O.K.–so the browned butter is a wrinkle. But you can learn this trick–got to stretch yourself in this great new year!)

Business as usual ain’t so bad–not with a little help from your friends at Reading and Recipes!

browned butter frosting topped applesauce nut cakes

Browned Butter Cupcakes


4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped nuts, optional

1/4 cup raisins, optional


4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon milk

applesauce nut cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with 6 liners and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg until well incorporated. Stir in the vanilla and applesauce until all ingredients are mixed together. Slowly stir in the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon until everything just comes together, careful not to over mix the batter. Fold in the nuts and raisins, if using.

Divide the cake batter between the 6 liners. Bake in preheated oven for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by browning the butter over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Be careful not to burn the butter. When the butter is ready, it will become a dark caramel brown and be very aromatic. Remove the butter from the heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Stir in the vanilla, 1 cup powdered sugar, and milk until all ingredients are mixed together. (If you want a thicker frosting, add 1/4-1/2 cup more powdered sugar.) Frost the cooled cupcakes.

Makes 6 cupcakes.

applesauce nut cupcake with browned butter frosting

{Adapted from Mott’s Applesauce}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #27 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #27, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #27, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #21 and Glazed Apple Craisin Scones

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We know you’re working hard. With the holidays bearing down, everything gets a wee bit jammed together. More shopping (of course), more errands, more decorating, more cleaning, more, more, more. It can all get a little tiring.

So this week Reading and Recipes is going to give you a working man’s or woman’s snack that will readily double as a tasty treat for when a long-lost friend or relative stops by one afternoon unexpectedly (just happened to be in town!). These Glazed Apple Craisin Scones are a modification of the traditional English scone that’s both easy and flavorful.

On top of that they keep well and transport easily–thus the worker’s snack angle. When you drop one of these scones in your purse or tote before you head out the door, think of yourself as in the long line of working stiffs down through the centuries, carrying their lunch pails to the mill or the jobsite. So maybe you’re going to the mall instead of the mill or dropping gifts by the school instead of lumber by the jobsite. You still need that mid-morning snack to keep you going.

These Glazed Apple Craisin Scones will get you through the holiday-preparations crunch in fine shape!

glazed apple craisin scones

Glazed Apple Craisin Scones


1 cup all-purpose flour

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

1/4 cup applesauce

3-4 Tablespoons milk or cream

2 Tablespoons craisins


1/2 cup powdered sugar

1-2 Tablepoons milk or cream

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

scone dough

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until all of the ingredients are combined. Add the cold butter and pulse into dry ingredients until crumbly and no large pieces remain. (The butter pieces should be no bigger than a small pea.)

In a separate bowl, whisk together the applesauce and 3 tablespoons of milk. Fold the dry and wet ingredients together just until everything is well mixed and you have a uniform dough, careful not to over mix. If the dough is a too dry, add a little more milk (no more than 1 tablespoon). Mix until the dough comes together. Lastly, fold in the craisins.

Form the dough into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Gently pat the dough into a 8×4 rectangle that is about an 1/2 an inch thick. Cut the rectangle in half and then cut each square diagonally into two triangular pieces.

Place the scones onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the scones just begin to turn golden brown. Remove the scones from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

While the scones are cooling, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk, and ground cinnamon. This glaze will be thick and is perfect for coating the entire scone. If you prefer to drizzle the glaze, stir in one more tablespoon of milk. Pipe or drizzle the glaze over the cooled scones. Allow the glaze to set for about an hour before serving or storing in an airtight container.

Makes 4 scones.

glazed apple craisin scone

{Adapted from Gonna Want Seconds}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #21 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #21, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #21, text © Jeffrey Anderson