Monday, November 21, 2011

Much To Do About Apples

I know I just did a post about apple pie, but, if you know me, apples have been somewhat of a theme for the past month and a half.

For those of you who don't happen to know me that well, let me tell ya - apples have been a somewhat of a theme for the past month and a half! I actually had a HUGE box of apples, plus a regular size box of apples go through my house since we helped picked them off the tree and my dad's house. But to branch outside of my usual apple pie recipe, I found some AMAZING recipes to give some variety to the fun!!

I have made cupcakes, muffins, cobbler - but then I decided to branch out even more from there! My "homemaker" self was yearning to try something else, something more like Little House on the Prairie (I've never read the books, but I suspect that those prairie women did this too.)

I got into canning. Why? I cannot truly say, except for the prairie women inside me told me I could and I should.

(Side note: You know how women talk at times about being able to go through natural childbirth since women have been able to centuries without drugs? That's how I feel at times with cooking, baking, and canning. BUT, just because we can, doesn't mean we HAVE to! 
For example: In my opinion, making homemade pumpkin from your own pumpkin puree is just not worth it. It's a long wait to get the puree, and the pie ended up tasting too "gourdy" to me.
Another example: Child birth seems painful and exhausting. If drugs make the experience a little less so, I'm all for it!
End side note.)


Since I have made SO MANY different recipes, I'll just post a couple now, and then maybe some more later, and, if I decide I still like blogging about baking, I'll just post different ones next fall.

Apple Butter in the Crock Pot:
(from Stephanie O'Dea's blog "A Year of Slow Cooking")

Enough apples to fill your crock pot (15-20 apples)
1 Tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Peel and core apples and put in crock pot. I've done both with quartering apples and doing it with an actual apple peeler. Both are fine. 

Add the vanilla, and let it slow cook for 8 hours on low.  I usually would stay up late and turn it on as close as I could to midnight, so I would wake up at 8 am with it ready to mix the next ingredients.
(Really, if you let it sit longer than 8 hours, I don't think it matters.)

After 8 hours, I usually mush up the cooking apples a bit and then add the rest of the ingredients, and then stir again. I actually used my pastry cutter to mush them real good like.

Let it cook on low for another 6 hours or so, occasionally checking, stirring, and mushing it. It shouldn't be too chunky, otherwise I would think it to be applesauce rather than apple butter. It may need to go longer than 6 hours, and that's fine. It should look fairly velvety and smooth. If you want it SUPER smooth, you can put it in the blender. I haven't done that because 

a) I don't have a blender
b) I like it a LITTLE chunky
c) honestly, I'm lazy at that point, and just want to eat it!
(Hey, after smelling this deliciousness for 14+ hours, you'll be just as eager to stuff your face with it!)

Before you do anything else at this point, put some bread in the toaster, put a nice layer of butter on the toast, top it with your AMAZING creation, and DEVOUR it!! AH! Just thinking of that taste of warm toast, warm butter, and warm apple butter is making my inside snuggle each other!!

Serious YUM factor!!
(Oh boy, getting cheesy...)

You can can this too, but PLEASE don't ask me how to can! I am really not that great at it, and I suck at explaining. I literally looked up Youtube videos on how to do it.

Applesauce in the Crock Pot:
(This recipe is from my stepmom's mom, Joyce - who, in my opinion, knows how to make the best apple ANYTHING!)


1/2 cup water
Enough apples to fill your Crock Pot (15-20)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar (Joyce has a shaker of cinnamon and sugar and uses that to sprinkle on top. I just sprinkled separately.)

Put water in bottom of crock pot, fill with apples, pour lemon juice over apples, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, then cook on high for 3-5 hours (just depends). Not terribly sweet, and yet not incredibly tart either. Seriously, it's golden and beautiful - will bring a smile to your face!

I canned this too. Joyce actually told me you can put this in gallon sized bags and freeze them. Lay them flat in the freezer so your space isn't all taken up by applesauce. To use them when you want, take out a defrost, and they should be good to go (to my knowledge, but if I'm wrong on this, someone should correct me).

Apple Tea:
 (From the Finding Joy in My Kitchen blog)

I got REALLY tired of tossing all the apple peels away. So I Google for recipes and found this! I honestly wing this recipe. I got the ingredients from the blog, but I "wing" as follows:

Apple peels
Lemon Juice
(She used cinnamon sticks, and if I had any I would have tried that. But ground cinnamon is just fine.)

Add enough water to you apple peels to... maidunno... what will be sufficient. (Seriously, I filled my stock pot with apple peels, so I just added water to where it wouldn't completely boil over.)

Add some cinnamon and squirt lemon juice on top.

Bring to boil for 10 - 15 minutes, or if you're doing as much as I was, it may take 20 - 30 minutes. Just let it go until it gets to a pretty pinkish color.

Remove apple peels. Add honey. 
I would always forget the honey at the end. Not to mention I canned this too, so adding it later I think would be just fine. 

I really think this recipe is up for tweaking to your taste. More honey, less honey, more cinnamon, less cinnamon, etc. But it is a delightful, warm drink to have! I haven't tried the canned stuff, so I guess that's still up for debate if it still tastes good later.

So, if you happen to still have a lot of apples that you need to use up, these are some great recipes to try!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It All Started with an Apple Pie

Most teenage girls start their baking escapades with cookies, but I think many bakers first moving onto "bigger recipes" recipe is apple pie. I remember making it for the first time...

 This was my first baking frenzy in Durango, CO. Two of my three creations were a hit, one of them being the apple pie. 

And it stuck! From then one, I was known amongst my friends as the apple pie maker. I would try other things here and there, but the apple pie came easily and highly requested.

"Remember, remember the 5th of November" pie - I had just watched "V for Vendetta" and was a little excited for the actual 11/5.

Thanksgiving Pies

I had made hand turkeys in a class (a college class, mind you), and it inspired me to put it on the pies.

I even made mini pies! I was so stoked!!

In my Sociology classes in college, began feeling like I had to have at least an average job in order to be a real woman - since we have equal rights, I should do it! But the truth was that I liked (and still like) being a girly woman who enjoys cooking and cleaning. I'm pretty sure I wrote at least 2 college papers on apple pie, and I made it a handful of times for class (hooray for potlucks)! Each time I would try to reiterate the need and goodness of the "household wife" in our world today. Thank you, apple pie!!

I soon came to the realization that baking was not only fun, but relaxing as well. Almost like therapy...

My first holiday not with family was a very emotional week, and ended up "baking my feelings". I'm pretty sure the above picture was just a portion of what I made for a Thanksgiving meal with friends.

After a year or two of baking only apple pie, I expanded
But the baking of pies developed into baking other delicious goodies, like thumbprint cookies, cobblers, and homemade cake.  
Rhubarb pie I made for girl's bible study.

Do you guys know how easy homemade cake it? I thought for the longest time that sense they have box mixes for cake that it meant cake was difficult. Not the case! I also thought that sense frosting is sold in the stores that it was difficult to make as well. Also not the case!

One of the first homemade cakes I ever made for Ashlie's 1st spiritual birthday

All the lies I believed for so long... to think I thought I had to be special, magnificent, and extraordinary in order to make anything amazing for the taste buds! I thought I had to be a cooking/baking "rock star" in order to be worth listening to, when, in reality, if I like it and took the time to learn it, it was possible. 
I thought this whole lattice thing on top of pie was suppose to be hard... and maybe it is. But if you really want the lattice, then a make-shift, non-pro one will do!

I'm starting to realize more and more that this whole baking journey is a lot like my journey with God showing me more of who I really am. I thought that I had to preform well, be good enough, prove my existence in order to prove I was a Christ-follower. But the reality is that I don't have to prove myself to God. He knows exactly who I am and what I was created for - which is to give glory to Him in everything I do! AND I have the Holy Spirit living in me to give me the ability to do what God has called me to do. 

I'm a big fan of aprons! I'm so messy when I cook and bake that my clothes wouldn't last long with out them. I also am a fan of cleaning my hands, and my aprons help double as a towel.
So when Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me", that's the truth and a promise! You can do all things through Christ, and you can be who Christ has made you can called you to be. In those truths there is so much freedom, and so much fun in store!

 So this blog isn't anything out of the ordinary, or suppose to be to show off my skills, and it probably won't be anything revolutionary or new cooking/baking recipe. It's just to share with you what I'm baking, share what God teaches me through it all, and to show you that, if you want to bake something, it's really possible to do it! (Golly, that sounded so cheesy, but I do mean it.) AND if you have any recipes to try, I would love this to also be a place of exchange - cause I LOVE new recipes!!

NOW (without further rambling on my part) my apple pie recipe! (This started off of recipes I found on, and has morphed into my own thing since I kept forgetting which exact recipe I used the first time.)
I put the pumpkin next to the pie to make it look more festive/ Fall-ish, but this really is an apple pie. Look! I made a leaf out of pie crust!!

 Basic Crust Recipe (which I use for every pie pretty much):
2 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
Mix together. Roll out and place in pie plate. Makes enough for 1 pie.
(I sometimes make the crust and then put it in the fridge while I'm making the filling, and take it out and roll it right before I put the filling in.)

6 to 9 Apples (cut them however you'd like)
2/3 cups sugar
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp butter, softened
Mix together (use your hands, makes you feel good) and put in pie crust.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
 1 cup flour
 Mush together and crumble on top of pie filling. (I don't usually cut the extra pie crust off if it comes out of the pie pan. I crumble the topping on top, then fold the extra on top if I have any.)
Bake pie at 375ยบ until the crust is a golden brown color and the filling is bubbling. It would be a wise decision to bake it with a cookie sheet underneath it. Sometimes it "runneth over" and burns to the bottom of your oven - doesn't smell too good later. Once it's done, allow a little time for the pie to rest from it's baking journey so you it cuts a bit more nice like, and you don't scald your mouth.