Fall (or any) fruits crisp



This is both are-post and update, but mostly the latter. When I first posted it, it was as a plum (or any fruits) crisp.  Everyone has a favorite crisp recipe, and this is mine. I love it for for the flavorful versatility and simplicity. But even favorites need to evolve, and I haven’t made this recipe as originally posted for years. I’ve switched sweeteners and cut back on overall amounts, for one thing. I also typically make the gluten-free version with chickpea flour (Anyone want to play predictions with when I’ll tire with chickpea flour? Unless some nutritionally explosive news comes out that paints garbanzo beans in a dramatically negative light, I’m thinking maybe never.)

fitty-cuttingOne thing I really, really love about this crisp is how fail-safe and fun it is. It’s perfect for using just about any blend of overripe fruits, and joyously perfect to create with kids, not least because there are infinite ways to adapt to any level. In fact, next week my Plot to Plate (now Kids Create Healthy Plates) teammate Melissa and I will be whipping up take-and-bake personal versions with our after school enrichment cooking group, and in preparation I made some with my budding 3-year old chef this evening.

For our class next week, we’ll be tasting a variety of fall fruits, reflecting on texture, taste, and compatibility. We’ll make thoughtful comparisons: fresh and processed versions, and “processed from the kitchen versus from a box. We’ll delve into the definition of “fruits”, according to botanists, chefs, and eaters. We’ll spend time on hand-washing and cutting skills. And then the best part, when we play. Because with a recipe like this, you really can play. No matter what you throw in, or how large, ungainly, or shredded the pieces, you’re in for sweet, fragrant, warm cinnamon deliciousness when you pull the ultimate concoction from the oven. You can sort, compare, follow the recipe, tie in measurement, and afford to be lax on quantities, too. Tasting and experimenting as creative healthy kitchen scientists.

Fall (or any) fruits crisp
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  1. roughly 8 cups sliced fall or other seasonal fruits (apples, plums, peaches, pears, and nectarines strawberries and rhubarb, peaches and blueberries)
  2. 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup for vegan option
  3. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  4. Optional pinch each of ground nutmeg and ginger
  5. Cooking spray
  6. 1 cup rolled oats
  7. 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  8. 2/3 cup whole wheat or garbanzo flour
  9. ¼ cup cup olive oil
  1. Combine fruit, sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl; let stand 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°.
  3. Spoon fruit mixture into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  4. Combine oats and flour in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, stirring until crumbly.
  5. Sprinkle oat mixture over fruit and bake 30-40 minutes.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

Lighter blueberry baked French toast casserole


This dish could be made gluten-free I’m sure, with the right, hearty gluten-free bread. It could work nicely vegan, if you’re happy with egg substitute. And it could definitely be considered “healthy”–quotes probably needed–or more aptly, “healthier”, as long as the context is in relation to the original model. I haven’t yet made this fitting any but the third criteria, but I have to share the recipe, because I can’t help but say so, this dish is delish. And really, it is much, much lighter than one might expect it to be. Fewer eggs, sweetened with gooey honey, and significantly less overall sweetener  than is standard. 

I know I’m making a blanket assumption here, but we all have those things that may not fit into our general philosophy about something, but which get a sentimental pass…don’t we? For me for instance, all kinds of Chinese food. Hand me a plate of dim sum and as long as it’s (mostly) meatless, I am apt to consciously choose not to question a rich, sloppy, greasy bite. Because, so many things. My mom, trips to Chinatown growing up, the splendor of the reds and golds, the dragon scales, and the stimulating buzz of clicking chopsticks and carts overflowing with steaming wares gently colliding. Love, loyalty, and probably a dash of guilt.

This baked French toast casserole…it isn’t the type of thing I usually make for breakfast. It was such a fun opportunity to create for Madhava , and their fabulous Cinnamon Brown Sugar honey made cutting sweetener back to 1/2 cup for the filling, 9 X 13 inch pan a piece of cake. Two cups of almond or other milk, 6 eggs, a loaf of crusty sourdough bread, cinnamon and blueberries combined blissfully to immediately become a go-to company breakfast/brunch. Something that envelops you with warmth and sweetness, and also happens to be so incredibly easy to prepare! Easy to cut bread up and combine in a pan with whisked eggs, milk, honey and vanilla the night before. Twenty minutes max. Easy to cover with blueberries and sprinkle with pecans, then bake, the next morning. Easy, and delicious, and one pan goes a long way.

When I made this, I was so reminded of a strikingly similar brunch dish my mom makes that I felt somewhat chagrined to share and reveal it had been a ‘work project’ when my parents visited recently. Love, loyalty, and a little guilt again, I guess.  Yet when it appeared at the kitchen table she exclaimed, “Ooh, this looks nice, what is it?” Which reminded me of a time in Taiwan, when I prepared a lunch of “Chinese food” (I thought) for a group of friends and my family, visiting from the States. While eating, I overheard Chinese friends asking each other, “Have you ever had American food before?” 

It’s funny, how the mind frames moments.  How we search for the beloved and familiar in ways that may not outwardly make sense, or pack a whole bunch of meaning into one nostalgic bite. It’s all down to point of view. But whatever your perspective, chances are good it needn’t be very tough to modify this dish into a go-to company brunch for you, too. 🙂


Baked cinnamon blueberry French toast casserole
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
  1. 1 (16 ouce) loaf  crusty sourdough bread, cut into cubes
  2. 6 eggs
  3. 2 cups almond milk
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. ½ cup Madhava Organic Cinnamon Brown Sugar Honey, plus extra for serving (or use regular honey plus 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  6. 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and drained
  7. ⅓ cup chopped pecans, toasted
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. 2. Prepare a 9 X 13-inch baking pan with a light coating of butter or cooking spray.  Evenly distribute cubed bread in a pan.
  3. 3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs, almond milk, honey and vanilla. Pour over bread, turning cubes to evenly coat.
  4. 4. Cover tightly and store in the fridge several hours or overnight.
  5. 5. Sprinkle blueberries and pecans over egg mixture.
  6. 6. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until set and just crisped on the top. Slice and drizzle with additional honey to serve.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

What’s in a name, and slow cooker ‘Moroccan’ sweet potato chickpea chili


I have a habit of taking convoluted routes of reasoning in order to make connections, or perhaps more as a means to justify talking about seemingly unrelated things at the same time. I know this. And I know that today, the connections existing between content in this post are a stretch, even for me. There is an explanation, and a recipe at the end. The common thread, aside from an unshakable internal need to bring things full circle, is a question of names.

20130823_130644_llsAll throughout pregnancy, Dave and I spent many hours tossing potential names, letting them roll and ripen over our tongues as we imagined how they might fit baby, teen, and adult. Felix took staunch hold at the top, but we were fixated on the happy, lucky meaning behind it more than we were in love with the name itself. And then, he arrived. Looking into those bright, dark eyes, there was no question. ‘Felix’ was perfect, like him. 

As for my own name, I’ve never been a fan. There are things I appreciate, of course. That my parents picked it, for one. Also, its Peter Pan origins and wandering nature. In my Kindergarten classroom, I didn’t mind much when students found out my first name. ‘Wendy’ just seems to fit into Kindergarten. It has a problem growing up, however. A lot like me.  I can’t be the only Wendy who has struggled with Wendydom. Once in a book I read at age eight, the main character, Wendy, described her name along the lines of a “fat cat sitting on a pillow.” I don’t remember anything about that book except that there were horses, which I loved, and that.

Aside from feeling a little put out by my first name growing up, it was a matter of severe significance that I wasn’t given a middle name at birth. My parents were purposeful in their choice. They thought, rightly, that one day I would just drop it and take on my maiden name, Schuyler, as a second. For a sensitive child with a hyperactive desire to fit in, however, this would not do. It bothered me so much that in Kindergarten I lied. Or,  probably more accurately, I wanted something so badly my brain changed its truth. When it came out through school records that there was no Wendy Elizabeth (everyone in my mind had the middle name Elizabeth, which made it the best), we had to trek down to the town hall to officially re-register. I was even re-baptized. Today, Elizabeth doesn’t figure in any documents. I guess I just outgrew it.


Speaking of outgrowing, here’s what I really wanted to say in this post: I’m bidding a fond and slightly relieved farewell to ‘Fit and Frugal’. ‘Natural Kitchen’, which is really the essence, is still here. Only now I  feel more like ‘we’, and ‘we’ are ‘Happy Apple’. When I first started this little journal, it was recipes, garden debacles, a ton of idle rambling, and the worst phone pictures you can imagine. I guess a lot of that still holds. But then, I was intently and passionately focused on triathlon, marathon racing, fueling sport. I’m still ardently devoted to running in particular, but my posts really aren’t about fitness. As for the ‘frugal’ side of things, I try to prioritize economy, but at the same time, we spend  a big chunk of our overall budget on food, slashing entertainment funds in favor of groceries. Being frugal is so subjective, too, and the potential for implied smugness or any sort of monetary presumption just bothers me.

Felix Chef compressed-3

Happy Apple, though. It feels a happy fit, for now. Becoming a mom, I’ve reveled in the fascinating journeys and impact of  healthy food in a whole new way. Sharing joyful preparation and appreciation alongside my little adventurous eater, I’ve been increasingly aware of the incredible, impact of positive role modeling. Creating and sharing nutritious, plant-based food that nourishes our active family, and even just recounting the process, I picture my little Chef’s rosy apple cheeks and sparkling eyes and I feel nourished. Being his role model, I’ve been gentler and more loving with myself. The little face that inspires that change will change faster than I’m prepared for, but the feelings won’t. 

Those of you who read this blog–the kind handful of you–I’m sorry if I’m throwing you off at all. It’s truly just a turnabout in name and not identity. Thank you so much for checking up on us every so often, and for your presence. It sounds facetious I know, but it means a lot. And HUGE thank yous to the moon and back to Dave, patient and supportive and brilliant, for somehow squeezing in the time to re-do this site and complete the transformation. 


Now for the gratuitous stretch of a connection just so I can sort of justify inclusion of a recipe I’ve been loving and making a lot of lately: I don’t really know why I call this veggie-full slow cooker sweet potato and chickpea chili ‘Moroccan’. It was once based off a Moroccan Buffalo Chili recipe I saw in Clean Eating years ago, but I don’t really know why that was ‘Moroccan’, either. I’ve never been to Morocco but understand the cuisine is rich in a wide range of spices. Is using some of those key spices enough to qualify a dish as ‘Moroccan’? Maybe. Or maybe I just like the way adding ‘Moroccan’ elevates sweet potatoes, chickpeas and vegetables with a punch of something more exotic.

Whatever the case, there’s a lot to love about this twist on a chili. The ease of throwing everything in the slow cooker, for one thing. The fail-safe invitation to vary with whatever’s in the fridge, another. And obviously the silken, lovely texture and taste of sweet potatoes from the slow cooker with nutty chickpeas, bright veggies and heady aroma of this combination of spices. That’s enough. (The end. ;))

Slow cooker Moroccan sweet potato chickpea chili
Serves 8
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Prep Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
  1. 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  2. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  3. 1 onion, chopped
  4. 1 stalk celery, chopped
  5. 2 carrots, chopped
  6. 1 zucchini, chopped
  7. 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
  8. 1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drainked
  9. a pinch saffron threads
  10. 1 teaspoon paprika
  11. 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  12. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  13. a pinch cayenne pepper
  14. 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  15. 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  16. 2 cups water
  17. sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on high 4 hours or low 6-8 hours.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

Fudgy Vegan Tofu Frosting (and a bunch of cupcakes)

tofu frosting
So it happened, and I didn’t cry. I mean, I did cry, but not once it was real. Anticipation is usually the hardest. In any case, Little Monkey turned three. And, as has been his M.O. since before birth, in so many ways (with the major exception of his arrival) he made it surprisingly easy for me.  He was so proud, so of course I was/am so proud. “I’m free,” he’s been announcing to everyone sweetly.  “Mine party was in the mountains.”
 tofu frosting
Indeed, the “party in the mountains” was so much fun, both singular and signature to our joyful little Colorado kid, who devised the whole plan in specific detail himself. Tofu hot dog and roasted cauliflower loving, active boy was adamant, “little hiking party, not big one, Estes park.”  The low-key, casual focus…literally a hike around a scenic lake…made for relaxed planning, low-stress prep,  and tons of fun. Essentially, I got to throw myself with total abandon, as is my M.O. I suppose, into cupcakes.
tofu frosting2
Most people who know me know, I have a tendency to overthink food. Whether I’m providing, consuming or gifting, it has to be healthy (or healthy, considering), for one thing. A lot of symbolism goes into it. It’s always made with love, but it’s not always successful, and when that’s the case, I don’t very well let go. Seriously, apologies and even nightmares over bland soup that would have been otherwise forgotten by the recipient. I’m passionate, committed and invested when it comes to cooking, creating, and arranging meals. It may seem like obsessing, but I know about obsessing, and I’m not there anymore. It was a dark place.
For the past two years, I’ve taken bashful but blooming pride in Little Monkey’s gluten-free, vegan, low sugar/naturally sweetened birthday cupcake assortment. Those years, I stopped short of making “real” frosting, opting for plain melted dark chocolate instead. This year, I wanted something more frosting-like, something that would hold up well traveling to the mountains and potentially sitting in the sun awhile. And suddenly, as I channeled hyper energy scouring cyberspace for “healthy frosting”, suddenly I stopped. Not sure if paralysis or stillness is the more appropriate word. I started to think about my relationship with food, which is too intertwined with body image to detach as two separate entities, so I thought about that, too.
Fitty's party Lily Lake-13Food relationships and body image. With both, everyone has a long, evolving personal journey, and often one or both are painful and incomplete. For me, the former was where symptoms of the latter manifested most, and I have a lot to say about that, another day. What I will say is, there was a time a long time ago when I found myself landing in the hospital, gray in complexion, bruising easily, coughing up blood and shedding hair like sloughed-off summer skin cells, throbbing with self-loathing and anxiety that I “couldn’t even be anorexic right”, still failing to reach a fantasy, idealized thinness. So many factors played into the journey, both into and out of the void, and I can honestly, confidently say the winding road eventually developed into a gift that is now a healthy, loving, knowledgeable relationship with food. Again another conversation, another day. What’s important now, in this post about frosting, is that for a moment I startled myself by asking, what messages am I sending my child in my heartfelt flurry of baking? Will he grow up appreciating how his parents tried their best to raise him on a (mostly) plant-based diet, or rejecting and maybe resenting imposed choices? Will he go through a rebel phase of hammering hot dogs and blimping out on on burgers in actual spite? By contemplating withholding frosting am I prioritizing deprivation?
Fitty's party Lily Lake-18Life isn’t about yes/no questions. Any answers I may have now will just keep on changing shape and tone, and they’ll just be my answers, not a one for everyone. I won’t pretend I spent a huge amount of time that particular frozen moment spent contemplating. I was baking, after all. But what did rise to the top of thought was simply confirmation: I want to be the best role model I am capable of and know how to be in each moment. And, my darling adventurer and kale-craving adventurous eater can have some frosting.
This year, Little Monkey got to choose from gluten-free vegan sweet potato cupcakes, vegan double chocolate cupcakes, and grain-free low sugar banana cupcakes. They were not baked with angst over what people would think, and they were yummy. They were all topped with a chocolate tofu frosting concoction I stumbled upon because I couldn’t get vegan butter (dairy-based not an option for us). If tofu frosting hardly seems like flexibility attained from a moment of self-reflection, know: it does pack in a solid amount of sugar, but it’s merely 3 (or 4, with vanilla) simple ingredients, whizzed in a blender. It’s so easy, holds up great (as tested by a 3-year old’s mountain hiking party), and is delicious. Perfect cupcake topping so long as you’re ok with soy, and not such a sugar-rush that you’d consider shoveling in a bowl-ful. Thank you for your Happy Birthday, sweet Fitty. Whatever you choose to color your plate and your journey as the years roll by, we love you.
Fudgy Vegan tofu frosting
Yields 2
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  1. 4-ounce (1/2 block) soft (not silken) tofu
  2. 1 cup dark chocolate pieces or chips
  3. 2 cups powdered sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a small saucepan, gentle melt chocolate in a little water on medium-low, stirring, until smooth (or microwave on low until melted).
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine tofu, sugar, melted chocolate and vanilla. Blend until smooth.
  3. Scrape mixture with a spatula into a storage container, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before applying to cake or cupcakes. (Frosting will set in the fridge, and will hold up well even after brought to room temperature.)
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/


Double chocolate vegan cupcakes
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  1. 1 cup almond or other non-dairy milk
  2. 2/3 cup sugar
  3. 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  5. 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  6. 1/3 cup dark chocolate, melted
  7. 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  8. 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  9. 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  10. 1 tsp baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners. In a large bowl combine almond milk, oil, applesauce, sugar, apple cider vinegar,melted chocolate, and vanilla.
  2. Add in flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Mix well, until smooth.
  3. Spoon the batter into prepared cupcake pan, about two thirds full for each. Bake for about 22 minutes at 350F, or until the cupcake slowly springs back when pressed with a finger. Cool completely and frost with tofu frosting.
Adapted from Oh She Glows
Adapted from Oh She Glows
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/

Grain-free almond banana muffin-cupcakes
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  1. 2 eggs
  2. 2 very ripe bananas
  3. 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  4. 1/3 cup honey (I used Madhava banana flavored honey) or maple syrup
  5. 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  6. 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  7. 1 tsp baking powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  9. 3/4 cup almond meal/almond flour
  10. 3/4 cup chickpea flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tin paper liners
  2. In a large bowl, mash bananas. Stir in applesauce, honey or maple syrup, almond milk, vanilla, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. Add almond meal and chickpea flour and stir until batter is well combined.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool before frosting (or leave as they are for yummy muffins).
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://happyapplekitchen.com/
Sweet potato cupcakes used this recipe from last year, only with 1 cup tapioca flour and 1 1/2 cup brown rice flour. 🙂

Simple blender peach (or most fruits) sorbet


Who’s good at meditation? Not me. Those who have reached a zen level of practice and being would generously assert that just trying is succeeding, I know. But as the one most intimately aware with the specifics, I think I can fairly assess that I’m pretty abysmal. What I am good at is reading about meditation. I’m fascinated by it. Did you know, apparently mere minutes of meditation positive changes expression of hundreds, maybe thousands of genomes? Benefits are mind-boggling, covering anti-anxiety , anti-inflammatory, and pro-happiness benefits on a staggering scale.

Unfortunately fascination and even transcendent goals like obtaining inner peace and a longer, happier life do not easily translate into practice and work. But this summer, I’ve been trying to make short evening walks around the neighborhood, just me and doggie, into dual purpose walking meditations.

Since sitting and maintaining posture has been one of the most challenging aspects of attempting to meditate, you’d think the built-in activity of walking meditation would be loads easier. Just walk, breathe, and focus on said breath for a solid start. But walking is also conducive to lots of thinking, and observations that sometimes achieve such feelings of clarity they feel in line with meditation, yet deceptive distractions, too. They, and these walking meditation efforts themselves, are kind of like contranyms.

Contranyms, in case the word seems familiar but isn’t, are the opposite of synonyms, as they sound. Two disparate meanings. And yes, I deliberately found a way to insert that word because last week I remembered I had forgotten the weird existed and became reacquainted with it. And when that happens, (the reuniting part, not the associated question mark of memory loss and creeping senility), isn’t it so pleasant finding opportunities to play?

But, the whole point of this post… This sorbet. This summer, I had the happy task of getting to experiment and create some more with delectable Madhava honeys. Lemon ginger…it has the loveliest tang that is perfect for sweet treats like sorbet. And the other evening, there was something about the golden glow of the waning afternoon, the way it seemed to be bidding everything goodbye with warm kisses just as evening began to sweep in. I was distracted from my fumbling meditation with  a geekily cheerful image of this sorbet. Seriously. I am such a nerd.

But really, this sorbet. It’s like tasting the sunset, only chilled. Lemon ginger honey lovely, but you can go without. Just about any fruit combination works, too. You’ve probably seen a super cool video that has become ubiquitous on Facebook making sorbet with honeydew, and it is awesome. The flavor tastes treat-like yummy and grown-up somehow, too. Unique.

You don’t really even have to include honey to blend up deliciousness, and there is infinite room for variation. Whatever blend you go with, it’s going to feel blissfully indulgent yet also like an appropriate choice with breakfast. It’s so simple it seems to defy positing/writing up yet must be shared. It’s kind of its own contranym. (See what I did there? I know. Goofy. But are connections everywhere, when we want them.)

Simple Blender Peach Sorbet

  • 2 cups chopped peaches, frozen and slightly thawed
  • ¼ cup honey or less (I used Madhava Organic Lemon Zest Ginger Honey)
  • ½ cup water or coconut water
  1. In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine all ingredients.
  2. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Serve immediately or transfer to a container and freeze for 30 minutes to one hour.
    *This recipe can be adapted to most frozen fruits. Try mixed berries or honeydew for variety.

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