Healthy Apple Dump Cake

22 Nov

This month’s Recipe Redux theme is “food memories” for which we are grateful. Most of my best (and some worst) memories have food associated with them. Homemade lasagna, garlic bread, salad and cake were served every single birthday to a party of my family. I was always grateful to spend my special day with the people who loved me so much, enjoying a meal made specifically for the occasion. But I’m not making lasagna for you today. Today is a different memory, which I’ve made healthy. I hope you enjoy it!

Since kindergarten, I have an active Girl Scout. Yep – I sold cookies to the neighbors, earned badges and patches, did a ton of crafts, and even earned the Girl Scout Gold Award in my senior year of high school. As an adult, I volunteer my time at Girl Scout activities, and led a girls at day camp for years. More importantly, I’m grateful for all that Girl Scouts has done for me – being a member and now volunteer, I’ve gained many important life skills, professional abilities, lifelong friends and even some forms of cooking!

In fact, day camp is where I learned many unconventional cooking techniques: making s’mores in a foil-lined box, cooking mini cakes in orange peels, making lasagna in a dutch oven surrounded by hot coals, stirring up “bug juice” for us to drink, and even baking dump cake over a fire!

Healthy Apple Dump Cake |

In its simplest form, dump cake is just that: a few sweet ingredients dumped into a pot and baked. Boom, done. A perfect solution for when you’re out camping and craving something warm & sweet. Unfortunately, it’s also very unhealthy. Traditionally made with boxed cake mix, canned pie filling and a stick of butter, there are all sorts of chemicals, fat and sugars involved.

A homemade whole wheat cake mix ensures no added chemicals or preservatives, while increasing the healthy side at the same time. Stovetop pie filling will taste fresh, instead of “tinny,” and you can easily adjust the sweetness level. And replacing the stick of butter with just few tablespoons of coconut oil is an obvious health boost – less fat overall, and only good fats used!

So let’s leave the traditional dump cake for actual camping, and whip up this healthier version at home. Your family will thank you.

Healthy Apple Dump Cake 

Serves 10-12

Apple Filling, adapted from Inside BruCrew Life 

  • 7-8 apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 C cornstarch
  • 1/2 C organic brown sugar
  • 1/2 C maple syrup (or honey if not strictly vegan)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 4 C water

Whole Wheat Cake Mix, adapted from Your Cup of Cake

  • 2 1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 C organic cane sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C powdered milk (non-dairy of choice)

To Assemble:

  • 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 C walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Let’s start with the apple filling. The cooking portion is pretty easy, but it takes some time to come together. First, peel and chop your apples. This took me about 20 minutes for all 8 apples. Keep them in a bowl with the lemon juice as you progress.

In a large pot, mix together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the syrup and water. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in the apples and bring back up to a boil. Cover with a lid, reduce heat to medium-low and let cook for 13 minutes.

Healthy Apple Dump Cake |

Remove from the stove, take off the lid, and let the apple filling cool completely, about two hours. The sauce will thicken in this time.

Healthy Apple Dump Cake |

As for the cake mix, combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl, whisking together to avoid clumping. Confession: I used powdered dairy milk in this mix, but any non-dairy variety will work just as well!

Now to put it all together! Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×13″ baking dish with olive oil spray or melted coconut oil.

Dump cooled apple filling into the pan. Sprinkle the whole wheat cake mix evenly on top to cover completely. Drizzle melted coconut oil all over the top of the cake mix. Sprinkle chopped nuts all over as well, if using.

Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes, uncovered. Place a large baking sheet on the rack below the cake, to catch any bubbled-over apple gooeyness. Let cool 10-15 minutes before serving and devouring.

Not the most aesthetic cake, but it tastes SO good!

Not the most aesthetic cake, but it tastes SO good!

Serve hot with ice cream, whipped cream, or as-is! This also tastes amazing as cold leftovers the next day. Simply store any remaining dump cake in the fridge, covered with foil.

(Please note that this is a closed link-up for Recipe ReDux posts only. Any links added to this collection for non-ReDux posts will be deleted.) 

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

21 Nov

Yesterday I showed you how to make homemade, whole wheat and vegan gnocchi. But you can’t just have pasta without some kind of sauce! So today I present you with that very component. This sauce is hearty, flavorful and packed with vitamins (thanks, squash!) It’s also vegan (if you leave off the cheese), so that’s pretty cool.

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce |

Of course, you could just use this on any old pasta. But if you’re going to do the work of butchering a butternut, you might as well make your own pasta too! Either way, get cooking. Squash is totally in right now, so let’s make the most of it!

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce |

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce, adapted from FoodNetwork

Serves 4

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 C water or vegetable broth (add more if you like it a bit more liquidy)
  • shreds of Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cut the squash in half. Scoop out seeds and peel away the skin using a paring knife (without hurting yourself). Cut into small cubes.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Saute shallots for 5 minutes. Add the squash and some salt and pepper. Let the squash caramelize in the pan, another 5 minutes.

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce |

Add the spices and water. Stir well and cover the skillet with a lid. Let cook for 8 minutes until the squash is tender but not mushy.

Use an immersion blender (or stand blender) to puree the squash and liquid together, until completely smooth. Taste and add salt or pepper as necessary.

Toss with pasta of choice and serve with peeled Parmesan shreds (I took a vegetable peeler to my wedge of cheese). Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce |

Whole Wheat Potato Gnocchi

20 Nov

Gnocchi is something I discovered only recently in life. I think I ordered them at an Italian restaurant once and was so impressed and in awe at how amazing they tasted, the texture they presented, and the way they practically melted on my tongue.

The plump, pillowy pasta are a fantastic base to any kind of sauce. They’re generally simple to prepare and make a lovely, warm main dish on a chilly night. Packaged gnocchi can only go so far. Often, they’re dense and tasteless.

But homemade. It’s amazing how much flavor “love” gives to food. Because gnocchi from scratch do require a bit of labor, but it’s so worth it! The end result is fluffier, cloud-like puffs of pasta, made with soft potato and whole wheat flour. And salt. And that’s it! The ingredients are simple, the process is pretty straight-forward, and the options for sauces and serving are just endless.

Whole Wheat Potato Gnocchi |

Soft, melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi. Vegan AND healthy!

Plan to start these a few hours ahead of when you want to serve them. You can also prepare the potatoes earlier, and come back to finish off with the flour and kneading. Also note that these are vegan! The serving size is 3, and if that seems odd to you, they stay well in the fridge and reheat nicely for leftovers in a saute pan. In fact, I prefer to boil and then sear the gnocchi before serving with sauce. Check back tomorrow to see how I finished these! Hint: squash is involved. Because Autumn.

Whole Wheat Potato Gnocchi, adapted from Gouda Monster

Serves 3

  • 3-4 medium sized Idaho potatoes
  • 3/4 – 1 C whole wheat flour (or half whole wheat + half AP flour)
  • salt for the dough, and for boiling

Scrub potatoes and bring to a boil in a salted pot of water. Let them cook for a half hour, until you can easily pierce with a fork.

Drained the potatoes and allow to cool slightly. Use a pairing knife, or your fingers with paper towel, to remove the skins from the cooked potatoes. The peels should come off easily.

Preheat your oven to 200 fahrenheit. Line a small baking sheet with paper towel.

Use a grater to shred the peeled potatoes. Or use a ricer if you have one. Transfer potato to the prepared baking sheet. Place in the oven, turn OFF the heat, and leave the door cracked open. This will help dry out the potato so that later, the dough isn’t too wet to hold together. Once the oven has cooled off, remove the pan of potato.

Lightly flour a clean work surface with whole wheat flour. Combine potato with remaining flour and 1/2 tsp sea salt (start with 3/4 C and add more if necessary) and knead the flour and potato together. Be careful not to over-knead the dough as you don’t want the glutens to develop, which would result in a very dense final product.

Put a pot of salted water on to boil while you craft the gnocchi.

Take the dough into a ball and cut into 4 equal pieces. Roll each quarter into a rope that’s about 1/2″ thick. Use a knife to cut the gnocchi off, about 1″ nuggets. Repeat with all the dough.

Use a slotted spoon to carefully transfer the gnocchi to the boiling water – be sure it’s not a violent boil, but just a little less than that. Don’t crowd the pot either. Work in batches if necessary. The gnocchi are done once they float to the top – about 3-4 minutes. Scoop them out to a serving bowl. Continue to do this until all are cooked through.

Whole Wheat Potato Gnocchi |

Hot and bothered. I mean boiled :)

Now, you could eat them! Seriously, try one plain. It’s amazing. Simply toss with whatever you like and serve. Or, if you’re like me, you could heat up a skillet and saute the cooked gnocchi in some hot olive oil and then toss with sauce. Come back tomorrow for the sauce I used with these bad boys!

Whole Wheat Potato Gnocchi |

Gettin’ toasted in the pan!

What’s your favorite type of pasta? Have you ever tried making your own?

Slow Cooker Corn, Pepper and Potato Chowder

14 Nov

Let’s hear it for soup season! The temperature is officially down to freezing now on a regular basis. But we still haven’t had to turn the heat on inside. Granted…it’s currently 63 degrees in my home and my fingers are cold just typing this. But that’s what cooking is for, right? The oven heats up the kitchen, jalapeno seeds heat up your finger tips, and the steam floating upward upon opening the lid of your soup pot nicely warms your face. At least temporarily.

The real warmth and comfort come from eating and enjoying the soup! And this one is incredibly warm and oh-so-comforting. It’s packed with all sorts of good vegetables, is made creamy with potatoes and soy milk, and the spices add just a hint of fire to your tongue and throat as it goes down. Yes, this soup, or chowder, is where it’s at. And it only takes about 30 minutes TOTAL of prep time, at the start and finish! Yep, chop up a few things, saute for just a bit, and throw everything into your slow cooker. Dinner will cook itself and you can come home to the best smells and tastes a cold winter night begs for.

And of course this is SOUPer healthy. Tons of vegetables and flavor and it’s going to be very hard to go back to those boxed soups everyone raves about. I’d be willing to bet this even freezes well…assuming there are enough leftovers to warrant freezing! Go ahead – take some time to get this going and your whole family will be grateful.

Slow Cooker Corn, Pepper and Potato Chowder |

Slow Cooker Corn, Pepper and Potato Chowder, adapted from Oh My Veggies

Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, most of the seeds removed and diced
  • 4 C hot water
  • 1 vegetable bullion cube (or replace water and cube with 4 C veggie stock)
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 6 small Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups once diced)
  • 4 C frozen corn kernels, divided
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground sea salt
  • 1 C non-dairy milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Cook the onion, shallots and jalapeno for about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent.

Pour hot water over the bullion cube in your slow cooker (or pour in the stock). Add to that the sauteed veggies, diced pepper & potatoes, 1 cup of the corn, and all spices. Reserve the milk and remaining corn for later.

Cover and set to high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10 hours. Make sure the potatoes are tender.

Remove the lid and turn off the heat, allowing the soup to cool a bit – about 10-15 minutes. Use either an immersion blender or stand blender to puree the soup until creamy and smooth. Add the milk and remaining corn. Stir together, replace the lid, and turn on the slow cooker to high again for 20-30 minutes, to heat through.

Taste and adjust as necessary – some freshly cracked black pepper goes a long way!

Serve hot with a crusty slice of your favorite bread, like this beer flax bread.

Slow Cooker Corn, Pepper and Potato Chowder |

Beer Flax Bread

13 Nov

“Whole wheat flax bread” sounds pretty darn healthy, right? Well, let’s add some beer to that! The yeast in the beer makes this bread possible. It’ll go from mixing bowl to dinner table in just over an hour, and that’s something we can all be happy about.

Beer Flax Bread |

There’s no kneading, no rising, no waiting. Mix this up, bake it and serve it as you would any other bread. The whole wheat and flaxseed meal make it really hearty and full of fiber. And depending on the beer you use, it can take on any flavor! I like mild-flavored beer for most breads, as they lend just the right taste. But an IPA or amber would be just as delicious.

Beer Flax Bread |

Next time you want a quick bread to go with your dinner, throw some beer and flour together and voila! You’re good to go :)

Beer Flax Bread, as seen on Bob’s Red Mill Blog

Serves 10

  • 2 1/4 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 C flaxseed meal
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (optional, but even for savory applications, this is good to keep)
  • 1 bottle/can of beer – I used Point Oktoberfest

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with olive oil PAM.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Mix well to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and maple syrup. Stir in the beer of your choice. It’s fun to experiment with different beer styles, so have fun with it!

Mix the wet into the dry until just combined. Transfer the mixture to the greased loaf pan – smooth the top as much as possible.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Remove and let sit in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Slice and enjoy! This makes great sandwich bread, is perfect for dunking into soups, or is lovely with just a smear of butter on top.

Beer Flax Bread |


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