My hometown is known for doing up the holiday season BIG TIME. Why, just plugging in a tree gets international attention, not to mention 2 hours of primetime coverage and Michael Bublé. And with the season comes visitors, tourists, out-of-towners, and folks just in for the day pouring in over bridges and through tunnels to invade my fair city with holiday spirits in tow. And cameras, and shopping bags, and GIANT handbags. Walking down the streets becomes a full contact sport. Ho, Ho, FRIGGIN HO!! I used to love the holiday season in NYC. Hell, I used to be one of the flock pressing to see THE tree, windows, and every building, street light and trash can bedecked in jolly holly frippery. But the shine on your jingle bell isn’t as bright when you are one of the un-working class. It’s all too easy to get jaded, snarky and downright scroogalicious with all the dreidel spinning and ho-ho-hoing going on. Celebrating how you used to, how you want to, is just not in the cards.
This is my third season around the mistletoe sans employment. And admittedly, I can get pretty blue about it if I let myself go there. Which isn’t normal for me. If you knew me, you’d know that I am part elf. I can’t help it; it’s in my genes. My Oma was from the Black Forest and, thanks to the Grimm brothers, we all know that’s where the Heinzelmännchen come from (elves to you civilians out there.) But when you are part elf AND unemployed, things can look pretty, well, grim. I suppose I could console myself that I don’t have to go to the annual office holiday party and see my bosses how one should never see them – schnockered and schmoozy. Sure I could pretend that I’m so crunchy granola that I’m glad I have no money because it makes boycotting the commercialization of the season much easier. You’d never buy it. After all, my blog is Cooking in my Heels, NOT Cooking in my Birkenstocks. So that leaves me with a big lump of coal in my lap. Or not. You see, the other day I was reminded once again that this time of year is still pretty magical, even if you have close to nothing. It can surprise you and turn the snarkiest of folk (me included) into believers. Just watch a little girl staring up at the Rockettes with infectious excitement and eyes as big as saucers. Or walk past a corner Christmas tree lot and inhale deeply. Or chuckle at a hot dog cart decked to the teeth in colorful twinkle lights. And watch the goose bumps rise, (even at 49), when they throw the switch to light that great big tree. It’s out there, even if you don’t believe in the liturgical scripts of the season. Forgive me the schmaltz, but this time of the year more than any other, it’s about warmth, joy, love, and most of all, hope. So that’s what I’m buying for you all this year. Especially the hope.
After all that schmaltz, how about a little something sweet? And since it’s from me, there’s a little tart too (to honor the little known 8th dwarf, Snarky.) The other day I wanted just that. Problem was I only had 2 pears, an apple, and some leftover cranberries. But sprinkle in some butter, sugar, a little bit of oatmeal, and a Fall Fruit Crisp was born (cue the choir of angels.) This version has a lot less sugar and butter than other crisp recipes, but I promise you won’t miss it. Add a little vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top and it’s comfort and joy on a plate. 😉
Fall Fruit Crisp
You can make this in 1-cup ramekins for individual crisps (they freeze well once baked), or one 8” square glass baking dish.
For the Fruit Filling
- 1 ½ cups peeled granny smith apple (about one large apple), cut into 1” chunks
- 2 ½ cups peeled ripe Bartlett pears (about 2 medium/large pears), cut into 1” chunks
- 1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
- 1 tsp grated orange zest
- 2 TBSP brown sugar
- 2 TBSP regular sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 TBSP flour
- 2 TBSP cognac or brandy
- ½ tsp almond extract
- 1 TBSP butter
For the crumb topping
- 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
- 1/3 cups flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- scant ¼ tsp cardamom (you can leave out if you don’t have on hand)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 TBSP slivered almonds
- 4 TBSP butter
Preheat oven to 350°F
To prepare the fruit filling: Mix together everything except the butter together in a bowl. Distributed evenly between the 4 ramekins, or into one 8” glass baking dish. Dot with little pieces of butter and set aside while you make the crumb topping.
To prepare the topping: Mix all of the ingredients together, either with a fork, pastry blender, or your fingers, until it comes together in a mix of small, medium and large crumbs. Top the fruit evenly with the crumb mixture. Put the ramekins or baking dish on a cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the crumb topping is browned a little and crispy. Serve warm, topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or just as it is. And sing all 12 days of Christmas or the Dreidel song at the TOP of your lungs if the spirit moves you. Calories: approximately 430 per serving.