Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Sweet Idea & A Sweet Snack

It is early November and already in North America one can sense the rising excitement of the annual holiday season. For anyone looking for something meaningful and creative to do, I want to share some information about a tax-exempt nonprofit organization project called Drop In & Decorate founded by food writer Lydia Walshin; I am an ardent fan of her informative and excellent blog, The Perfect Pantry.

This will be the 8th year of cookies-for-donation in Lydia's kitchen. The idea behind Drop In & Decorate is simple: bake some cookies; gather a group of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, to decorate the cookies together; donate the cookies to a nonprofit agency serving basic human needs in your own community. Lydia assures us that she is baking-challenged and that no experience or baking expertise is needed to do this!

It’s a simple idea in a complicated world, and something anyone can do. Many of us donate necessities like food, clothing and personal items to our local non-profit agencies, and these are absolutely essential, no doubt about it. But there is something very special about getting a unique, hand-decorated cookie that someone took the time to make. It is a touch of whimsy and a splash of color where it is most required.

If you are looking for a smile or an "awwwww..." or a happy giggle in the next 5 seconds, you must visit the Drop In and Decorate flickr page. It seems like cookie decoration brings out the inner Warhol (and the inner child) in people!

There’s a free guide with everything you need to know to host your own party that can be downloaded from their website. If you’d like to host your own Drop In & Decorate event, Pillsbury and Wilton would like to help with coupons and cookie cutters. Write to lydia AT ninecooks DOT com for more info on how to get your free coupons and cookie cutters.

I have not hosted a Drop In & Decorate party yet, but I did go to an event last weekend that was similar in spirit. A bunch of us participated in a knitting marathon (24 hours where someone or the other was constantly knitting in the venue; I was only there for 2-3 hours), knitting/crocheting baby hats and blankies and socks to be donated to the local Children's Hospital. As items were made, they were hung up on a clothesline for all to admire. These kinds of events simply lead to much joy and camaraderie for all involved, and I hope many of us can participate in events like Drop In & Decorate in the coming months.

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As promised in the title of this post, here's a sweet snack.

My pantry "eat-down" was very successful last week. Two terribly mealy apples and a couple of carrots went into the loaf cake that follows. A large head of cabbage (and a bunch of wilting cilantro) was converted into a big pot of zunka. Cabbage being what it is, there was still a hunk of it left over, and I made some cabbage egg fry one morning for breakfast to eat with a few leftover tortillas. On the very last day, the crisper was empty except for a lonely lemon, and I used that, along with pantry staples quinoa and chickpeas, and some mint from the kitchen windowsill to make a nutritious quinoa chickpea salad with a lemon-tahini dressing, based on Lisa's recipe.

I love making loaf cakes (as evident by the many different kinds I have posted on this blog). They are flexible in terms of ingredients- I mean, how often can you scoop a "heaped cup" of something into a baking recipe and get away with it?

Apple Carrot Loaf

Nov09_2

(adapted from this Harvest Cake recipe)

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Spray a loaf pan and set it aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix together
1 heaped cup whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp. apple pie spice (or mixture of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg)
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

3. Add these to the flour mixture
2 medium apples, peeled and coarsely shredded
2 medium organic carrots, coarsely shredded
Handful of walnuts, chopped

4. In another bowl, mix together
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup buttermilk (dahi will work too, also see note)
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

5. Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture and stir gently until just combined.

6. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan, top with some granulated sugar for crunch (optional) and bake for 45 minutes or so, until an inserted toothpick comes clean.

Note: In practice, I use buttermilk powder instead of buttermilk since I can never use up a whole quart of buttermilk. I add buttermilk powder to the dry mix and equivalent water to the wet ingredients.

The autumnal aroma of baking apples and pie spices filled up the kitchen as this loaf baked. A couple of slices of this cake is the perfect mid-morning snack. For many more apple cake ideas, click here.

Have a wonderful week ahead!

19 comments:

  1. Nupur this loaf looks just too perfect and I just wish I could grab a bite, my only querry is we do not get whole wheat pastry flour here can I replace that with whole wheat flour?

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  2. Lovely loaf Nupur, I have a few carrots that I am wondering what to do with right this minute.

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  3. Nupur, thank you so much for helping to spread the word about Drop In & Decorate. I'm so grateful to food blogging friends for their support!

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  4. Such a lovely loaf Nupur. Looks so good and tempted to try sometime. :)

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  5. Maybe I should get my friend and her 5 1/2 year old daughter for this event.

    Cake looks great!

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  6. Thanks for letting us know about the cookie Drop In & Decorate idea! It is brilliant - and the pictures are sooo funny! I love organising cooking events with my friends, and especially cookie decorating sessions with my friend's children: it is really funny even if the amount of sugar covering a four years old can ingurgitate is quite worring. The idea of linking this nice times with charity is really good - looking forward to having a proper kitchen again in order to be able to do it (I just moved in...).

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  7. It IS a really sweet idea. I have a bunch of kids wanting to decorate cookies with me. Perhaps, I'll do this with them. How does one go about finding where to give these cookies? I love cake loaves too, haven't tried an apple carrot version yet.

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  8. My love for carrots are well known in my family and friend circle,they used to call me Rabbit...and this rabbit is tempted to make this loaf asap. delicious!

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  9. Pari- You could try whole wheat flour (atta), or plain flour (maida) or a mixture of the two, experimenting to see what gives you the taste and texture you like the most.

    indosungod- This loaf is a great way to use up carrots, and I also made this tasty carrot soup last week.

    Lydia- I'm thrilled to spread the word about such a worthy and enjoyable cause!

    Sonia- Thanks!

    Raaga- Yes, this would be a fun activity for kids.

    Rekha Shoban- Thanks

    Caffettiera- I'm glad you think it is a great idea!

    Bharti- That's a great question: This link has many ideas on how to locate a suitable agency.

    sayantani- I like carrots too, like you :)

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  10. That's a lovely loaf, I must try this in half, and don't know about if i could pastry flour, but the information on substituting is good thank you, I bought long back carrot cakes here in UK, I love carrots thought we would like it, but none of liked it, so I have never tried a carrot cake, will try this one and see!!

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  11. Your recipe looks great. But we dont eat eggs. So do you recommend any replacement ingredient for eggs in this recipe?

    Thanks
    Spandana

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  12. Nupur: I've been involved with Drop In from the beginning and can definitely say it's fun and is a wonderful way to build community.

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  13. I just had a Drop In party for my birthday – we did over 250 cookies for a local food pantry.

    This will be my 4th year doing a Drop In at work. Staff and clients in a brain injury rehab. program love it. Last year we had extra cookies after our planned donation, so I took them to Curves and sold them, then donated the money to a local food pantry.

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  14. I'm so glad you wrote about this. Drop in and Decorate is such a wonderful idea!

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  15. jayasri- Not all baking recipes can be easily halved, so I can't guarantee that halving the recipe will work!

    Spandana- This page has many ideas for egg substitutes:
    http://www.egglesscooking.com/egg-replacements/

    Ted Chaloner- I completely believe you! If I can get some people together, I hope to host one myself.

    Lucia- How wonderful! This is such a wonderful idea to bring people together and build up team spirit at work. I love what you did with your cookies.

    Veggie Belly- I'm glad you like the idea!!

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  16. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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  17. I tried this one and it tasted awesome!My 5 year old loved it.I have a question-the slices were a little greasy,is this the way it will be? I followed the measures ditto.

    I have been following your blog for the last 6 months and I have tried quite a few receipies posted here.I simply like your style of writing.

    Regards,
    P

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    1. I did not notice that the slices were greasy when I make this. Greasy quick breads usually result when there is too much fat in the batter. Did you accidentally use the wrong size measuring cup for oil? If not, next time, you could try reducing the oil by a few tablespoons and subbing with applesauce to see if that is less greasy.

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