Ready-Made

bundt

As a kid, I rarely ever experienced pre-packaged food. The “TV dinner” (and TV in general) remained a mystery to me, a concept that existed only in the fantasy world of books and movies. I remember sneaking in little snippets of TV shows on the rare afternoons when nobody was home. Lunchables were another forbidden fruit, neatly packaged in colorful plastic, the ultimate cool kid’s lunch.

My parents always emphasized the importance of home-cooked food. Even as my mom went back to work and everyone grew older and busier, we did our best to never reach for any pre-made dinner in a box (even Trader Joe’s pre-made Indian dinners, which are actually really delicious and managed to derail even my family). Eventually we resorted to takeout Thursday and reheated lasagna.

Simultaneously, my dad began to develop his latent and extensive cooking talents using all the weird left-over ingredients in the fridge. (Seriously, he’s at the point that he can taste dishes at restaurants and basically recreate them. It’s semi-frightening.) My sister spent a summer at culinary arts camp and…never ever cooked any of the dishes she learned for us. The point is, for my family, the home-cooked meal never lost its allure.

As a kid, I never fully appreciated how great it was to sit around the table with my family, just chatting and enjoying whatever my parents had made that night. I remember loving Lunchables because I could choose the ratios of cheese to sauce to pepperonis. I thought they fostered creativity. But at the end of the day, Lunchables are four ingredients in a little plastic box (as opposed to a refrigerator, which can literally house endless possibilities).

I’m proud to say that everyone in my family can cook. (And a little less proud to say I was the last one in my family to catch on.) As one of my friends said yesterday, cooking has ‘value.’ Now I just wish someone would let Stop N’Shop know stuff like this is not okay:

IMG_1485This is not a joke, not some plastic display of dishes offered in Asian restaurants. These are pre-packaged meals on a whole new level.

That being said, here’s yet another baking recipe. Sorry guys, I keep forgetting to take pictures of my dinners.

Chai-Spiced Apple Cake (adapted from Foodess and Smitten Kitchen

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups white sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

4 cups peeled diced apples (~4 apples)

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a nonstick bundt pan with cooking spray (I just buttered the pan) and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add half of dry ingredients to butter mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Add half of the buttermilk and beat again. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and buttermilk. Gently stir in 2 cups of apples.

Toss the remaining 2 cups of apples with cinnamon and sugar. Spread on the bottom of the bundt pan. Pour batter into bundt pan. Bake 50-60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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