By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
Help! We made it to the finish line of 2021– barely! We all had high hopes for Covid-19 finally leaving so we could return to our regular routines. We had glimpses of gatherings, weddings, going out to eat, shopping without masks, visiting long lost relatives, actually flying in airplanes hither and yon. We felt optimistic, almost normal.
I experienced some days when I didn’t even think about the pandemic. It was in the rearview mirror. My circle of friends, family, and neighbors had come through it unscathed unlike many folks who lost livelihoods and lives. Feeling pretty lucky.
And then WHAM! Now we are collectively watching Bill Murray in Groundhog Day or should I say actually living groundhog day. My favorite phrase, “It’s enough already!” is an understatement. Are children going to do remote learning again? Are the office buildings all over American going to be empty? Will we get our food delivered, our doctor visits on tele-health, eat strictly at home, cancel weddings, cruises, trips overseas and on and on and on? Sure looks like that’s how 2022 will proceed.
At this pivotal time in our calendar, passing from one year to the next, we often reflect on past events before looking forward to the future. This was a very difficult year for me and my family. Despite living my best life in my new home in California, despite enjoying our wonderful weather and beautiful surroundings, living in a compound with my sisters, being retired, and hosting a myriad of family and friends at our Hotel California, I had several challenges that would have put anyone over the edge. I clung on with all ten fingers.
2021 begin as a “typical” pandemic year. (Ha!) We stayed secluded, visited via Zoom, continued not to travel, wore masks, barely went out to eat. Come spring, things seemed to be easing up around the country. So my husband Bob and I decided to chance it and drove from California to Michigan to empty out our home of 35 years, spiff it up and sell the house.
Talk about stressful! For those of you who have experienced liquidating the family home, you know what I’m talking about. We rented a 30-yard dumpster and filled it to the brim! That was torturous work, especially going through years of papers, photos, garage stuff and so on.
If you have a basement, God help you. We were blessed with a complete wall of closets and shelves hiding junk behind doors. You don’t want to know! Fixing up the house with all of the tradespeople coming and going wasn’t fun either. How about the mold abatement people wearing HAZMAT suits? We did it all.
Loading the moving van, sending it west and unpacking it at the other end was a nightmare. First we had to drive back to California, all 2,500 miles of pavement. Putting away 300 boxes of “stuff” was not fun, especially because it was triple digits outside and our brand-new air conditioner wasn’t working. Unpacking boxes in that heat could kill anyone, and it almost did!
By late summer, my family faced some serious health issues. I can’t express how difficult getting through it has been. We’re on the other side for the most part. Despite these incredibly stressful challenges, I’ve been able to maintain my grounded nature and happy disposition. My parents must have done something right to teach me such resilience and strength.
I continue to look forward to the small joys in my life: family visits, small gatherings, swimming laps daily, cooking, writing, meeting new people in my new community. That said, I hope 2022 will be a year of upswings for our country and my little corner of the world.
So let’s lighten up with today’s recipe, Stuffed Baked Apples, shared by my sister Marcia. It’s a delightfully easy, healthy dessert to start off the New Year right. I added some Crème Anglaise for richness. What’s dessert without some guilt, right? To you and yours, Happy New Year, Insiders!
Baked Stuffed Apples with Crème Anglaise
Yield: 6 servings
3/4 c. toasted slivered almonds
2 oz. melted butter
3 Tbs. honey
6 Tbs. rolled oats
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
6 firm medium-size Honey Crisp apples, peeled and cored
Grind the almonds in a food processor until they are fine, but not turned to almond butter. Add honey and melted butter. Whirl together until combined. Put in a medium bowl. Blend in the oats, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well. Divide into six logs.
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray the bottom of a casserole with pan release. Barely slice off the bottom of each apple so that they sit level. Stuff each apple with filling. Brush the apples with melted butter. Put some cinnamon and sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll the apples in the sugar. Place in the prepared casserole. Cover with foil.
Bake the apples for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10 minutes more. To serve, pour a pool of Crème Anglaise on each plate. Set the warm apple in the center. Spoon some of the pan juices over the top of the apple.
Yield: 2 cups
1 1/2 c. whole milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Bring milk to a simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot milk into yolk mixture. Return to saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard sauce coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in vanilla. Cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours. You will have leftovers to use on ice cream, with pie, or a fresh fruit plate
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.