November 17, 2018

Rosh Hashanah Dessert: Caramelized Apples for Dummies

Sometimes I enter into the Jewish New Year without intention, and just use it as an excuse to eat a nice meal with family and friends. But this year, I can fully feel that a huge shift is happening.

This year, Rosh Hashanah falls on the exact moment that we are pushing “PRINT” on my cookbook. A book that I have dreamt about writing since I was just 20 years old and first went to Italy, before I had even learned to cook

Aside from recipes, Meal and a Spiel contains lots of stories and wisdom that I have learned along the way. I feel as though I am giving birth, on some level. It’s like I’ve been on a spiritual odyssey that is finally coming to fruition. So this Rosh Hashanah, I will celebrate!

And I want you to celebrate too. Please join me in recognizing all passages that you have taken in the last year, whether big or small. We have all grown in certain ways, important ways. Honor yourself. You deserve it.

Caramelized Apples for Dummies

And honor the journey of others with this dessert made of caramelized apples and honey. It’s easy enough for “dummies.” Not that you are a dummy, but I just got back from Burning Man and have been editing like a crazy person, so let’s just say I, too, can use a recipe that only requires a minimal percentage of brain power.

I send you all lots of love and sweetness, whether you are celebrating the holiday or not.


P.S. The process to actually make thousands of copies of this beautiful, nearly-500-page-book with a dark denim cover and a gold-gilded title and ship it back stateside, takes a couple months. But lest you worry, it will be back in time for winter holiday gift-giving!

Caramelized Apples for Dummies

Serves 4 to 8

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
​​​​​​​4 apples, halved and cored
​​​​​​​1 large or two small oranges
​​​​​​​1 Tablespoon raw honey
​​​​​​​2 cinnamon sticks
​​​​​​​2 bay leaves
​​​​​​​Ice cream or mascarpone cheese, optional


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place an oven-safe or cast iron enamel pan over medium heat, and let it get hot for five minutes.

Melt the butter in the pan and lay each half apple flesh-side down. Let this side brown liberally until a dark golden, 7 to 10 minutes.

Use a paring knife to cut 3 to 4 large pieces of rind from the orange, and squeeze the juice into a small mixing bowl. Gently whisk the honey in with the juice until it’s almost incorporated, and pour on top of the apples.

Add the cinnamon, bay leaves, and orange rinds to the pan, and transfer to the oven for 15 to 30 minutes (I have found that the time will vary greatly depending on the apples). You want them nice and soft to the touch.

Serve with any extra pan juices, and top with your favorite ice cream or a dollop of mascarpone cheese.

Easy GrainFree Vegan Cheesecake

Spiel written by Meal and a Spiel operational guru Rachel Davidson.

This vegan cheesecake surpassed all my expectations. Seriously. I am not a person who typically eats dairy-free or gluten-free, and when Elana told me she wanted to try making a vegan cheesecake, I was more than a little skeptical. Especially when she announced that she wanted to make the filling using garbanzo beans. To my dairy-addicted tastebuds, this seemed insane. Blended beans making up the creamy filling of a cheesecake? Yeah right.

She had been soaking the cashews in the fridge for several days, and decided to make the cheesecake more than anything just to use the nuts before they went bad. She had poked around on the internet for vegan cheesecake recipe that seemed inspired and had come across the Tasty Vegan Cheesecake from thetastyk.comI poked through Elana’s kitchen, gathering ingredients to create the creamy, indulgent texture and flavor of a truly epic cheesecake filling. Coconut milk, apple cider vinegar, lemons, cornstarch, vanilla, maple syrup….it’s amazing to be able to make pie and not have to go to the market!

As with most of her recipes, the stroke of brilliance that makes it so incredible was a whim of Elana’s. She had a small jar of pistachio butter in the back of her fridge, a gift originally intended for some unknowing beneficiary, that never quite made it to its destination. Where this vegan cheesecake recipe called for almond butter, or other recipes call for sticky, cream cheese alternatives, she thought, “Why not use this?” For no reason other than that she had it. We tasted the pistachio butter before dropping it into the Vitamix, and oh my god it was so good. It was at that point that I began to have faith in the recipe.

I blended up the ingredients for the filling — and I literally do mean blended, it’s so incredibly easy — while Elana was working on her book at the computer, lifting her attention to give me instructions at each step. Wish there was an app…cooking teacher dictates while you cook.

She got up from her writing to make the crust and topping. It’s a variation of the crusts she uses for raw and vegan desserts. Her pantry is filled with enviable jars of different kinds of nuts and seeds, and she improvised a crust with sweet pecans, bitter walnuts, healthy pumpkin seeds, and delicious dates. For the topping, she opened the fridge, saw some raspberries and just blended them up with a touch of honey and lemon. How did she think of that? Note to self….start thinking like that!

The resulting dessert is a perfectly creamy, insanely indulgent cheesecake with a crumbly crust and tart fruit topping.

Hope you love it as much as we did. And happy Fourth of July!

xo, Rachel

for Crust:


for Filling:

  • 2 cups cashews, soaked overnight in water
  • 1 (14oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp pistachio butter*
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • juice of 2 lemons
  •  cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch

*If you can’t find pistachio butter, any sort of nut butter will do. If using another nut butter, be sure to use 2/3 cup of maple syrup to adjust the sweetness.

for Berry Topping:


Preheat the oven to 320°F.

For the crust, place all ingredients in your high-speed blender or food processor and blend until you have a sticky, grainy texture. If too dry, add more coconut oil.

Line a 9 or 10 inch springform pan with parchment paper and press the crust into the bottom of the tin. You want about a 1/4 inch layer. Don’t make it too thick. If you have extra crust, you can line the sides of the tin with it.

For the filling, adding all ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth and fluffy.

Once smooth, pour the filling over the crust and place in the oven for 50 minutes. You can start checking it at 45 minutes. You want the cake to jiggle some, and be soft in the middle, but not liquidy.

Once it’s done, take it out, let cool down and put in the fridge for a couple hours or overnight.

Before you are ready to serve, put the raspberries, honey, and lemon juice in your blender or food processor and bring to a pulp.

Top the cake with puree and generous blueberries at your Fourth of July picnic!