Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country


Fall Fruit Crisp

It’s fall, and I can prove it…

  • It’s anniversary time:

Somewhere there is an actual photograph–non-digitized, I mean, like on photographic paperdeveloped at a store (???)–of the two of us on our first anniversary trip, at the top of Chimney Top Rock in Smoky Mountain National Park. I would like to be able to find it and put it here for a couple of reasons: 1) Because that was 11 years ago, and I don’t think we look SO terribly different. In any case, we’re both still smiling. 2) Because my husband professes to hate “selfies,” but I distinctly remembering holding that old camera up over and in front of our faces as the sun started sinking ominously behind the trees, and taking a picture of our goofy, smiling, newlywed-ish selves. So, you see my love, we were doing selfies long before selfies were cool. Which means we’re cutting edge. In flannel shirts and blue jeans.

UPDATE: Found it!


Awww…Weren’t we cute? 

  • It’s cross-country season. How am I old enough to have a child running cross country? This astonishes me.

He ran so fast–notice the blur!–that he ran right out of one of his shoes on the homestretch. (If you look closely, you’ll see his left foot is shod in only a sock!) That is so perfectly him. I just love it.

  • Things are getting spooky around here.

This is the Cyclops from Percy Jackson, book 2. This mask is a part of his October book report.  For Halloween, he and his brother are dressing as Power Rangers…a fact which is scary in its own way.

(Thanks, Nana and Papa, for teaching my children to “sing” this song. I find it disturbing to watch my beautiful babies go all wonkily-eyed and zombie-ish.)

  • Finally, the Johnny Apple Peeler has been sitting on my counter for like 6 weeks. And I do NOT like “things” on my counter. I like “things” put away. I like counters empty and vast and clean. But this guy has been seeing some serious action.pa082971

Which brings me to the recipe in question:

Fruit crisp. This is something I make ALL the time. I make it so often that I almost-but-not-quite know how to make it without a recipe. Problem is I  no longer really follow the recipe. AND, to be honest, I typically make this on a Friday or Saturday evening, when I’ve just drunk a couple of glasses of wine on an empty stomach, and, so, trying to remember the exact adjustments, omissions, and additions can get kinda dicey. I’m happy, right now, to put that whole system out of business once and for all.

This recipe works great with apples–TART apples, like Granny Smiths (which I’ve used in the pictures below) or Lodis (which cook down in the pan to a deliciously chunky applesauce)–or with cherries. Canned tart cherries work best because they’ve already had much of their juice cooked out of them; frozen tart cherries (which my freezer is full of) taste amazing BUT they release so, so much juice when you bake them that you should really probably cook them on the stovetop before putting them into the crisp. Even if you have drunk two glasses of wine on an empty stomach, don’t forget that step unless you secretly prefer cherry sog to cherry crisp.

(Quick aside: When we picked the aforementioned cherries in Michigan this summer, they were hanging heavy on the trees. I swear to you, you can just reach up and grab a handful of them and then grab another and another and another, without moving from your spot, and without even leaving a detectable hole in the canopy. At one point, our big boy called outo his daddy, “Come in here! I’m in a world of red!” And his daddy ducked under the branches of the tree, looked up, and said, “You aren’t kidding.” To which our son responded, totally deadpan, “Daddy, I do not kid about fruit.”)

Fruit Crisppa082985


5-6 medium apples, peeled and cored (about 5 cups) OR 5 cups of tart cherries

1/3 cup of white sugar, if using apples or 1/2 cup if using cherries

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup water (for apples only)


1/2 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats

1/2 cup white flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter, melted

  1. Peel and core your apples.

2. Toss them with the sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour, and cinnamon.


3. In a separate bowl, combine the crisp ingredients, using a fork to mash the butter into the rest.

4. Place the fruit in an 8X8 inch baking pan which has been greased with cooking spray or butter. Then top with the crumble.

5. Bake at 350 degrees until it’s bubbly and crisp–about 45 minutes to an hour.



Serve warm, topped with vanilla ice cream or not. (I like mine naked.)

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Speed Round Recipe #2: Old-fashioned buckwheat pancakes

Yes, I already have one buckwheat pancake recipe on here, but I don’t use that one anymore. My mom and dad introduced us to old-fashioned buckwheat flour, the kind that comes from grist mills instead of grocery stores.

Dad gave all of the “Lowe kids” a bag of his favorite buckwheat flour for Christmas last year, and the handwritten-by-Mom recipe that came with it has been handily (but untidily) stored in the center of my kitchen island for the last 10 months. It’s looking a little worse for wear, at this point.

But we’ve eaten lots of “buckwheats,” as Dad calls them, and gone through quite a bit of flour. In fact, we ran out of Woodson’s Mill and tried to order more, but they were out for the season (I guess that’s another difference between grist mills and grocery stores). So we ended up ordering some from a different grist mill. It’s pretty good, too, but, Santa, if you’re listening, I need another bag of Woodson’s in my stocking this year.

Buckwheat Pancakes, Grist-mill Style

This recipe makes enough for two hungry adults…or two adults and three kids who are too busy dashing around to eat much breakfast on a Saturday morning. About 12 pancakes. If your kids are hungrier, double it. (Quantities included at the bottom)

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg, beaten

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons buckwheat flour

2 tablespoons white flour

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt.

  1. Combine wet ingredients in a little bowl.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a bigger bowl.
  3. Add the wet to the dry and stir only until combined. Let stand 5 minutes to thicken.
  4. Cook in a medium-hot skillet coated with cooking spray and melted butter.

Doubled recipe: 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 1 egg + 1 yolk, 4 tablespoons melted butter, 1 cup buckwheat, 3 tablespoons white flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 3/4 teaspoons salt. 

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Speed Round Recipe #1: Sourdough sandwich bread


A few years ago, when the kids watched The Incredibles for the first time, our big boy (then, perhaps 6 years old) fell off the couch, convulsing with delighted laughter at that moment when Dash hits the water and finds he’s moving far too fast to sink, skimming across the water on his lightning feet.

Somehow, seems we’re doing our best Dash impersonation around here these days.

Literally. They are running and running and running. These kids inherited their father’s speed, which is fortunate for them.

I. do. not. run.

But I’m dashing in different ways, for reasons I don’t fully understand: All three kids go to school all day five days a week, and yet I seem busier than ever. Sure, I have a full-time job and a house to run (which means that I constantly pick up and stash away the flotsam and jetsam generated by three dashing children and a handy–but badly disorganized–husband), but what do I really have to show for myself at the end of each day?

A couple dozen graded English assignments. A few marginally well-maintained potted plants. Flooring that is mostly free of grit and stickiness. And a well-fed family.

Not a lot of long, meandering blog posts to accompany that well-fed family, though. (Try not to be too sad.) So here goes…A speed round with two recipes I use all the time, two recipes whose whereabouts and adjustments always require more cognitive dexterity than I really want to give them when I’m cooking at the end of a oddly dashing day. (Lately, I just google my own recipes when I’m cooking. Because I trust myself so much. What a world!)

Sourdough Sandwich Bread (adapted from thekitchn’s Beginner Sourdough Sandwich Loaf)


2 cups sourdough starter, moderately soupy

1 cup lukewarm water

1/4 cup vegetable oil (or melted butter)

2 tablespoons sugar

4-4 1/2 cups flour (less if using some whole wheat, which I often do)

1 tsp. yeast

1 tablespoon kosher salt

  1. Mix together the sourdough culture, water, and oil in stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  2. Add the 3 1/2 cups of flour, the sugar, yeast, and salt. Mix with the dough hook, adding more flour if necessary–it will need more flour if you’ve used some whole wheat or if your sourdough starter was thinner than mine–to form a fairly firm dough. It’s fine if it’s slightly sticky, but it should be a ball. Keep the mixer running for 5 minutes or so.
  3. Dump out the dough and coat the bowl with some butter or oil. (No need to wash it first.) Let the dough rise, loosely covered, on the countertop of your reasonably warm kitchen until doubled in bulk. This seems to take about 2 or 3 hours in my kitchen. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it again briefly to deflate it. Divide it in two balls and place the two balls into two buttered loaf pans. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  5. Allow it to rise in the pans, loosely covered, for another 60-90 minutes, until it nearly rises to meet the top of the pans.
  6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slash the tops of the loaves with a super-sharp knife and place them into the preheated oven along with a pan containing about 1/2 cup of water. (This will turn into steam and help your oven give you lovely moist bread.)
  7. After 10 minutes of baking, reduce the heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Bread is baked fully when the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees, so check it with a meat thermometer, if you have one sitting around.
  8. Serious bakers would tell you to allow the loaves to cool fully before you cut them, but, honestly, bread is so much better when it’s warm and steamy…why not cut it while it’s still able to melt your salted butter. You can cool it before you turn it into sandwiches for lunchboxes or toast for breakfast, but go ahead and eat some warm with melted butter for dinner.