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Archive for Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Squirrels go after juicy apple crop

September 6, 2006

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Down the hill from our house is a pasture where three apple trees grow, nurtured no doubt by the fertilizer deposits of generations of beef cattle. These apple trees are a source of deep irritation for my husband, who often remarks, as we drive by, on the abundance of large, juicy apples weighing down the branches of these particular trees.

This is apple envy, pure and simple. While the apple trees in our backyard have produced a good number of apples many years - and might well have done so this fall, our trees now find themselves completely barren of fruit. Just when we should be thinking about harvesting, all of the baby apples that covered the trees a couple of months ago seem to have disappeared.

Welcome to life with squirrels during drought. With no available water to drink, the local squirrel population, which is considerable this year, has sought alternate sources of hydration, including the peach crop earlier this summer, several melons and even tomatoes from the garden - and now the apples.

After the peach debacle, I discounted someone's suggestion that I provide water for the wildlife that were preying on our fruit. Earlier in the season it seemed hard to imagine that the dry conditions would continue, and I feared an open water supply would not only exacerbate the mosquito problem but encourage all manner of deer, raccoon, rabbit and squirrel to stop in for a drink.

In hindsight, providing a shallow pool of water might not have been a bad idea. In any case, we'll be buying our apples this fall to make desserts like this easy recipe from this month's Cooking Light. I made this moist, almost pudding-like cake in a round springform pan. Also, two apples provided more than enough slices for a double layer of apple.

Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake

1/2 cup fat-free caramel topping

2 cups peeled Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup toasted wheat germ

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup applesauce

5 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Drizzle caramel over the bottom of the pan. (Caramel will not completely cover bottom of pan.) Arrange apple slices over caramel, overlapping pieces slightly.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and level with knife. Combine flour, sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Combine buttermilk and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in applesauce and remaining ingredients.

Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, and stir until just blended. Pour batter over apple slices in prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Place a plate upside down on top of the cake and invert it onto the plate. Serve warm.

Makes nine servings.

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