Law & Order: After School Special

Apple Snack Cake

after school snack 101: my major

I was summoned for jury duty last week. I no sooner arrived at the courthouse when a few tumbles of my name in a little metal drum and a few generic questions resulted in my being seated on a jury.

If I could just have that kind of luck with lottery tickets.

At the beginning I’m sure my fellow jurors and I shared the same thought: “Golly, this is just like “Law & Order.” Actually, that’s not true. It’s much easier to be seated as a member of a real jury than it is to be cast on “Law & Order.” But it doesn’t take long for it to dawn on you: that man in the robe is a real judge, those are real police, and they are carrying real guns. However, those are minor realities when it dawns on you that the impact your verdict could have on the direction of a young person’s life could be profound. This weighed heavily on us.

I won’t bore you with the details of the case except that it was for a minor felony. Unlike “12 Angry Men“, our deliberations were a model of civility and compromise, and our verdict was one that I’m sure brought us all peace of mind. We were a fairly diverse group, albeit with some similarities that were the reasons the prosecutor and defense attorney chose us. A jury in the midst of deliberations is a great study in group dynamics.

The latter is no idle thought. I have recently been conversing with a friend who, at mid-life, has returned to school for a Masters degree in Social Work. Her specialty at the moment? Group dynamics.

I always consider the fact that I do not have to return to school in the fall one of the great rewards of adulthood. But that’s me. I certainly understand the desire and / or need of returning to school, but it always makes me think of when I was a kid and had to dive into a cold lake: I’d pinch my nose and close my eyes and gird myself for the inevitable shock of the chill.

Adults who return to school, and who, like my friend continue to work full time, have their hands full. Time was, students heading off to college would be given dictionaries or typewriters as gifts. Obviously computers have made those obsolete. Actually, wouldn’t a better gift for adults returning to school be a nice roasted chicken with sides? That’s one or two less meals they’ll have to worry about. Kids have a slightly easier time of it, although you do hear a lot about how kids are oversubscribed with after-school activities these days.

When I was a kid, I would return home from school (a twelve mile walk through three foot deep snow in ninety degree weather) with my mind focused on my afternoon snack. This is where I realize how much times have changed since I was a kid. What I considered a snack back then would now seem downright skimpy: a few graham crackers, or maybe a few Ritz Crackers with peanut butter (“everything sits good on a Ritz…”). Every now and then a bowl of cereal would find its way onto the snack menu. Let me clarify: my snack was not all of the above. It was one of the above. And the cereal was likely Rice Crispies or Corn Flakes; my Mother was suspicious of Cap’n Crunch. Was she concerned about my sugar intake? Hardly. Her concern was more that I would not “…ruin my appetite for dinner.”

I’m not going to tell you that we were much more active than kids are now: the TV and I had a rather intimate relationship. But I can tell you that our eating habits were different. Were our expectations lower?

Inspired by this, I decided to make some minor magic: a little cake that kids and adults could snack on that wouldn’t break the caloric bank. Not (by any stretch of the imagination) diet food, but an appealing, tempting snack that was actually fairly healthy. The type of thing we used to call “wholesome” before that became uncool. A Marie Osmond cake in a Paris Hilton world.

It’s fall. What better starting point than apples?

Apple Cake is a fairly standard dessert in New England, certainly also in diners everywhere. I realized that as popular as Apple Pie is, many people find making the crust daunting. Apple Cake solves that problem. The downside is that unless quite a bit of sugar has been added, baking sliced apples in cake batter always tends to blunt the sweetness of even the tangiest of apples. I solved this by stealing a page from the Apple Pancake playbook: I cooked the apples separately, and then added them to the already cooled cake. In the cake, canola oil takes the place of butter, and low fat Greek yogurt adds a little lightweight richness. Actually, the cake is so good that it will pair with anything, and would be a great light alternative to biscuits for a twist on Strawberry Shortcake. I topped the cake with a bit of yogurt I’d sweetened with confectioners’ sugar—totally unnecessary, but a nice little bonus.

Since the cake is assembled in just a few simple steps, parents and kids will have a fun time making this cake together.

That’s my kind of homework.


Click here for the recipe for After School Apple Snack Cake.


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