Wednesday, July 26, 2017

To Dump or Not To Dump.

Infomercials, they seem to be taking over, not just entire cable channels, but advertising altogether.  One I admit falling for was Cathy Mitchell’s Dump Dinners Cookbook which came with an awesome 9 x 13 baking pan plus Dump Cakes Baking Book.  What a bargain for $19.95 plus shipping and handling!  While I have not dumped any dinners as yet, I have tried a couple of cake recipes which led me to a question.

Why the term “dump cake”?  Actually this term covers baking methods as far back as the 1600s, colonization of the United States and creativity due to a lack of ingredients.  Names like Cobbler, Grunt, Pandowdy, Sunken and Brown Betty became synonymous with locations throughout the eastern states.  Two basic methods developed, the first being “one bowl”; all ingredients mixed into a batter within one bowl, poured into a baking pan, baked and served.  The second was layering and topping with uncooked biscuit dough (origin of WW1’s dough boys), rolled oats, bread crumbs, crushed crackers or graham crackers.

American cooks (1800s to present time) tend to use fruit as a major component, whereas the British colonists brought over their recipes of savory recipes using beef, lamb and mutton.  Personally, while discussing this next baking project with friends, it seemed that almost everyone had recipe dating back to mom, or grandma.  To judge both methods, I prepared two  “cakes”, the first being one bowl using spiced apples (thank you to the late Marie Watkins) , the second with cherry pie filling from a can. 

Apple Pie Dump Cake
Page 8, Cathy Mitchell’s Dump Cakes Baking Book

1 can (21 oz.) apple pie filling (or another fruit pie filling)
1 package (15 oz.) white cake mix (or yellow)
3 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)

1 – Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray 9 x 13 inch baking pan (or 2-9 inch round pans) with nonstick cooking (baking) spray.

2 – Place apple pie filling in large bowl; cut apple slices into chunks with paring knife or scissors.  Add cake mix, eggs and oil; beat 1 to 2 minutes or until well blended.  Spread batter in prepared pan; sprinkle with pecans.

3 – Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (mine took 60 minutes altogether).  Cool in pan at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Apple Walnut

Cherry Walnut

Note: the items in parentheses are my own personal changes

This recipe produced cakes; real cakes that rose and became yummy snacking cakes which my taste testers enjoyed.  Truthfully, I didn’t see much difference with this recipe than following the instructions on the box and adding pie filling.

The layered method produced results which were, well, iffy to the taste testers, since some did not even give comments, positive or negative.  Sometimes it is best to remain neutral.  Anyway, with cake #1, I used peach pie filling; it was definitely a cobbler with the cake mix plus melted butter creating a crumbly topping.  Cake #2 was tart pie cherries and chocolate cake mix; this turned out to be a gooey mess with not all the cake mix and melted butter mixing together.  It was best to be served as an accompaniment with ice cream, or layered in a bowl with whipped cream, but not as is.

For the recipes, I sort of mixed and match from ones I read, and ones that were offered to me.

Peach Dump Cake

1 can (21 oz.) peach pie filling
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 box (15 oz.) white or yellow cake mix
¾ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350F; spray 9 x 13 inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray.

Spread pie filling over bottom of pan; mix together cinnamon and sugar, sprinkle over pie filling.  Spread cake mix over pie filling, pour butter over cake mix as evenly as possible.

Bake 45-50 minutes (again, mine took 60), or until pie filling is bubbling up along sides of pan.  Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Step 1 - Fruit Layer

Step 2 - Cinnamon, Sugar Layer

Step 3 - Cake Mix Layer
Step 4 - Melted Butter Over Cake Mix
Peach Dump Cake Fully Baked


Cherry Chocolate Dump Cake

2 cans (15 oz.) tart cherries; drain water, but keep ½ cup; or 1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 box (15 oz.) Devil’s Food cake mix
¾ cup melted butter
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F; spray 9 x 13 inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray.

Spread cherries plus ½ cup water (or pie filling) over bottom of pan; sprinkle sugar over top.  Spread cake mix over fruit, pour butter over cake mix as evenly as possible.  Spread walnuts over top.

Bake 45-50 minutes (again, mine took 60), or until liquid is bubbling up along sides of pan.  Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Step 1 - Fruit Layer

Step 2 - Sugar Over Fruit

Step 3 - Devil's Food Cake Mix Layer

Step 4 - Melted Butter Over Cake Mix

Step 5 - Crunchy Chopped Walnuts

Cherry Chocolate Dump Cake Fully Baked

When it comes to these recipes, I say try them as is, or play with them to see what you can create yourself.  One thing for sure, you’ll definitely decide if you rather dump bake, or dump the cake.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Pueblo Food Experience

Down at Edge of the Cedars State Park and Museum (Blanding, Utah), there is an annual lecture series which includes keynote speakers and authors of the Four Corners Region.  On June 30, 2017, I was pleased to be in attendance for the “The Pueblo Food Experience” with one of the authors, Assistant Professor Porter Swenzill.  I had already received this excellent cookbook as a gift, so the chance to hear an author relate the story behind its making was a thrill.  Before the lecture, I introduced myself to Professor Swenzill, politely asked if I could photograph him for an article I wanted to write, and would he please autograph my book.  He seemed to be very surprised, but agreed to it all; ok, I admit, I was having a fan-girl moment of my own.

Once the lecture begin, Professor Swenzill was in his element; the enthusiasm he felt for this subject, and his experiences with it, came out full force.  As a lecturer, he captured the full attention of his audience, drew them into his life and wowed with the results.  His story began with a doctor visit, tests results having his doctor exclaim, “You’ll be dead in a few years.”  This stunned Swenzill, how could this be?  Speaking with family members, all well educated in their own fields of study, and with vast curiosity, it was decided to go back in time and find out, “What did our Puebloan society eat to keep so healthy, and where did our modern descendants go so wrong?”

World War 2 saw a vast number of Puebloans be indoctrinated into the military, shipped off to foreign lands, introduced to Spam and other processed foods.  A taste for these foods developed, along with the idea of becoming cowboys and go into ranching; the hunter/gathering ways of their ancestors began to be lost.  Swenzill began a volunteer study which included going back to the “old ways”, growing/finding/eating only the foods that were available during that time, and recording the results.  

After three months, he went back to the doctor with his test results indicating, “there is nothing wrong with you, what did you do!?!”  Swenzill explained to his doctor the experiment conducted to which the doctor stated, “That’s not FDA approved!” and also that the prior test results must have been done in error.  

In conclusion, Swenzill encouraged the audience to find out, “Where did your families originate from?”, “What foods did they eat prior to the development of processed foods?”, “Realize, there is no real standard diet, as all groups have different backgrounds which we modern people will learn much from.”  Following the pre-modern diet of one cultural group does not necessarily mean it is correct for you, so do the research and find out for yourself.

The cookbook itself is well worth purchasing with beautifully captured photographs of the recreated recipes, the people involved in the study, gathering and harvesting.  The stories within give a clear background and explanation of the Puebloan peoples of the Southwest.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading from cover to cover, and while I will honestly say, “there is no way I’m eating buffalo tongue!” I will not say no to blue corn pancakes. 

Mary Cokenour