Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What I Googled

With each passing year, I wonder more and more...what did we do before Google? My pre-Google life is fading from memory. Here's a sample of today's Googlings:

how to machine wash a plastic shower curtain
pheasant breast recipes
how to remove candle wax from fabric
Colorado snow storm
Aripo's Oak Park

The Christmas Card Reveal!

Tree Of Hope American Lung Association Holiday 5x7 folded card
Create modern holiday cards at Shutterfly
View the entire collection of cards.

It took me a couple weeks, but I finally carved out some time to sit down and design our 2010 Christmas card, compliments of Shutterfly. By the time our friends and family receive them, Christmas (and possibly even New Year's) will have come and gone, but you can't put an expiration date on good tidings of great cheer, right?

Many thanks to Shutterfly for making this year's photo card possible. I can't wait to get them in the mail, send them out with lots of love, and then see them on the refrigerators of family & friends! :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Reality

What happens when you marry this man? 

Adorning the buck becomes an accepted (anticipated, even!) part of decorating the house for Christmas.

eat. pray. love.

eat: a hot bowl of oatmeal (prepared using my homemade instant oatmeal mix), fortified with a tablespoon of flax seed meal and a handful of plump raisins.

pray: for colleagues and the situation in Ivory Coast.

love: making trifles. our last small group meeting for the year (tomorrow night) is a potluck. i'm on dessert duty, and couldn't be happier. can't wait to assemble my gingerbread-vanilla-pear beauty!

UPDATE: Here's a pic of the trifle before it's precarious trip to small group (one hand on the wheel, one hand on the trifle) and the subsequent devouring by my appreciative friends.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

First Flakes of the Season

In honor of the first flakes of the season, seen here in Chicagoland yesterday, here's a sweet little reminder of good times from my childhood...Mom coming into my room on snowy mornings and singing, "Here comes Suzy Snowflake, look at her tumbling down..."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Catchy Christmas Tune

Happy day after Thanksgiving dear readers! Are you relaxing after some hectic Black Friday shopping? Or are you hiding out at home to avoid the rush? Perhaps you are plotting how to best put all those leftovers to use (my favorite = turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce paninis!).

In my opinion, the day after Thanksgiving is when Christmas music becomes a valid listening option. One of the songs in my rotation this year comes from the Ed Quartet, featuring my friend Eunice on vocals and her husband Jon on drums (plus two other people I don't know, but I'm sure they're lovely). Enjoy a listen to their catchy tune, For It's Christmas. If you really like it, it's available to purchase on iTunes.

What could be more lovely, than the joy you bring to me? 
...All I want is to be with you, for it's Christmastime

Monday, November 22, 2010

Faces on the Fridge

In recent years photo cards have become the popular way to send holiday greetings. I, for one, couldn't be happier about this development. Why? Because of the sheer delightfulness of sifting through the mail, setting aside bills and sorting out junk mail, only to find a sturdy envelope containing a card with the smiling faces and warm wishes of people you love. Whereas I am unlikely to keep a regular Christmas card on display beyond the holiday season, I love keeping photo cards from friends and family posted on the fridge all year long. Seeing them there day in and day out reminds me how thankful I am to have them in my life, and prompts me to pray for them. Right now my fridge is a photo album of  missionary prayer cards, Christmas cards (from last year), and birth announcements...it's been a baby-full year!

This will be the first year Travis and I send out Christmas cards as a "family" (it still feels strange to refer to the two of us as a family, though that is what we are!). Last year during the holidays I was still working on getting our thank you cards sent out for the wedding (and was sufficiently overwhelmed by the task), so many of those contained our holiday greeting as well, and Christmas cards per se went unsent. But this year I am primed and ready to send our smiling faces to the mailboxes of friends and family. Hopefully, we'll even end up on a few fridges. :)

I will be aided in this task by Shutterfly, which offers HUNDREDS of photo card designs. The hardest part will be choosing just one! Second hardest part will be choosing which photo(s) to use. Will we use photos taken in the course of our year? Will we do a special photo shoot to capture the winning shot? This is yet to be determined (and discussed with the hubby). In the meantime, I am having lots of fun looking through all the options. Here are a few of my favorites at the moment:
With the right photo, this one could be perfect. Plus, you get to include another photo inside!
If we decide to use a collection of photos from throughout the year, this card would be a great way to capture a collage.
I like this one because it's class and non-holiday on the front, and so lends itself to year-round fridge display.
I like the flourish on this one, and the fact that it says the year.

Earlier this year I used Shutterfly to design a photo book with pics from our trip to Spain in June. The process was easy (and fun!) and the finished product is beautiful. Want to take a look? Check it out here.  

Like what you see? Are you a blogger too? 
Bloggers get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly: http://bit.ly/sfly2010 

Comfort Food: Cinnamon Cranberry Applesauce

One of my favorite comfort foods this season has been homemade applesauce, cooked up in my crockpot. It's easy. It's healthy. It fills my home with lovely autumnal aromas while cooking. And it's inexpensive, but feels fancy and tastes rich; in fact, we usually have it for dessert. It's also open to endless variations of spices and mix-ins. Here's the recipe for my favorite version:

Slow-Cooker Cinnamon Cranberry Applesauce

5-6 apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1 Tb lemon juice
1/4 C water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (or a bit more, if you really like cinnamon, like I do)
1 Tb brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Use a 4-quart slow cooker. (Recipe could be easily doubled for a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker, or halved for a 1.5 or 2 quart slow cooker). Put the apples in the crock. Add the lemon juice, water, vanilla, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Give it all a stir.
Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. The apples are done cooking when tender enough to mash up with a fork. Do that, and then stir in the dried cranberries. Let cook for another half hour or so to allow the cranberries to plump up nicely. Serve warm (which I find most comforting) or cold, whichever you prefer. Serves 4-6.

Notes: The cranberries give this applesauce an extra texture element, and also a sweet-tart zing, which I really like. Depending on what kind of apples you use and your own tastes, you may want to adjust the amount of sugar used.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lisa: A Missionary's Life

It's not too often that I blog about things related to my job (I'm an administrative assistant with an international missionary sending agency), but on this occasion work intersects with friends and an incredible story, and I just have to share it.

As my husband puts it (and it's true!), I value context in communication, so here's the context: I came to know Tom & Lisa Seward several years before they became missionaries, and long before I came to work for the missionary agency through which they serve. They were volunteer youth group staff at my church when I was in junior high. It takes special people to work with and really LOVE junior highers; the Sewards are those kind of people. I remember them then, Tom especially, as the most unselfconscious people I'd ever known. When you're a quiet, reserved, awkward kid like I was back then, that makes an impression on you. I was drawn to them, and maybe a little fascinated by them. (If you're a regular reader, (a) you rock, thank you; and (b) you may remember the Sewards from the post about my attempt to make a Million Dollar Cake back in September.)

Well, I grew up and went through the high school, and then off to college. Meanwhile, the Sewards went to serve as missionaries in Africa. I kept tabs on them, I guess you could say, through my parents, who were part of their support team during those years (and still are). Fast forward to 2004, when I came to work for my current employer, and back into regular contact with the Sewards, now as an adult. A few years ago I joined their support team as well, and through their ministry also began to sponsor two young African girls so that they can attend school in Mali and receive an education. (If that opportunity resonates with you at all, please tell me so in a comment. There are other kids waiting to be sponsored, and I'd love to connect you with the Sewards and/or give you some information about getting involved in sending a Malian kid to school.)

Back to the reason I'm excited to blog about the Sewards today: Lisa is featured in the cover story of the November/December issue of Hearing Loss Today, which was just released. I know you're wondering, what's hearing loss got to do with it? Well, in 2008, Lisa came down with malaria while serving in Mali; long story short, she got really sick, and some of the antibiotics she was given to help her get better actually caused her to go totally deaf. Just like that. Deaf. What's happened between then and now is her incredible, inspiring story, which you can read here (it's a big PDF file, so be patient if it takes a while to load).

Want to learn more about the Sewards? Check out their family blog and also Lisa's personal blog, where she talks about life with cochlear implants.

Monday, November 08, 2010

A Year of Deer, Episode 21: Slow Cooker Shepherd's Pie

Well, friends, we are coming to the end of both the year and the deer. Not including the pound of ground meet I used for today's recipe, I have one more pound of ground venison and about two pounds of chops left in my freezer from the doe Travis shot in Michigan last Thanksgiving. When it is gone, I think I will feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction...which I will hug tight to my chest as I brace myself for a possible Second Year of Deer. The Lord has generously provided a place for Travis to go bow hunting for deer in Illinois this year (about which my handsome hunter is positively giddy) and so there very well may be a whole new deer coming soon to a freezer near me.

On to today's episode. My goal was this: make dinner using a pound of ground venison and other ingredients I already had in the house. The answer came (as many do) from my favorite cookbook of late, Stephanie O'Dea's Make it Fast, Cook it Slow. I substituted venison for the beef in her recipe for Shepherd's Pie. The spices, frozen veggies, shredded cheese, and potatoes were all things I had on hand. This recipe takes more prep than many slow-cooker recipes because everything goes in already cooked. Thus, the meat had to be browned, and the potatoes had to be cooked and mashed. Not that big of a deal, though. The reward has been tasty aromas all afternoon, and dinner that's ready to go whenever my husband gets home, which varies on Mondays.

Update: here are pics of the shepherd's pie at the end of the cooking time, and then plated. Travis was a big fan of this meal and asked for seconds. He also took the leftovers for lunch today.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wee Bit Wednesday

Another Wednesday, another round of questions to reveal a wee bit o' me.

{one} do you still use a checkbook? 
yes, but i rarely write checks. i mostly use the check ledger to keep track of money in, money out.

{two} what size shoe do you wear?
size 10. when you're six feet tall, it's pretty much a given to have big feet. 

{three} scary movies or happy endings? 
oh definitely happy endings. i don't do scary movies. 

{four} do you prefer spontaneity or stability?
while my husband has taught me to be more spontaneous than i used to be, i still lean toward the stability of planning things out ahead of time.

{five} what is the most embarrassing CD that you own? 
hmm...perhaps Partridge Family Greatest Hits

{six} do you watch reality TV? 
yes, i'm a devoted fan of Survivor, the Amazing Race, and the Biggest Loser. 

{seven} what is your favorite home-made meal? 
that's a tough one. probably the meal that i come back to the most often is creamy chicken apple chili. 

{eight} do you have any allergies? 
none known. given my parents' afflictions, that is a miracle of genetics.

{nine} if you could open your own restaurant/store, what would it be? 
i daydream about owning a comfy coffee shop / book store in an old house. 

{ten} would you ever go skydiving (or have you been)? 
i went for a friend's bachelorette party in 2005. it was incredible.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Spaghetti Squash

If you've been following my blog this fall, yes, I've been a bit obsessed with squash. Once I got past the intimidation factor, you see, there was no turning back - they're just too good! And there are so many different ways to prepare them!

Last night I cooked my first spaghetti squash. Oh my! Spaghetti squash, where have you been all my life? I let this recipe be my guide (halved for one squash and just the two of us), and dinner was served. Husband was equally in awe of this magical foodstuff. Our post-dinner conversation in the kitchen went something like this:

DH: How'd you get it to do that?
ME: I just split it in half (without hurting myself...whee!), drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled on some salt and pepper, and then roasted it on a baking sheet at 450, cut side down, for about 40 minutes. Then I took it out, let it cool, scraped the flesh out with a fork, and VOILA! Spaghetti from a squash.
DH: [shaking head in wonderment] Who thought of such a thing?
ME: Um, God.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Miscellany Monday

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

1. RetailMeNot.com  Do you shop online? Do you like to save money? Do you know about this website? If not, you should bookmark it right now. Before you make your next online purchase, check this site to see if there's a coupon code you can use for a discount or free shipping. I did a little early Christmas shopping this morning and saved 50% with a coupon code from RetailMeNot.com. I'd tell you where and on what, but some of my readers will be receiving what I purchased, and I'd hate to ruin the surprise. :)

2. Squash Season Continues  I'm still cooking my way through my collection of autumn squash. Tonight I'm trying a recipe for Sugar & Spice Acorn Squash that comes courtesy of Emeril & Food Network.

3. Urban Belly  After church on Sunday Travis & I went out to lunch with three couples from our small group at Harvest Chicago North. We enjoyed conversation and laughter over Urban Belly's delicious noodle bowls, rice, and dumplings (which we'd been wanting to try since seeing the restaurant on Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate). Travis and I shared an order of Asian Squash & Bacon dumplings and the Soba Noodle Bowl with Bay Scallops, Oyster Mushrooms, and Thai Basil Broth. If you live in Chicago, check out Urban Belly. Your belly--and your tastebuds--will thank you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Autumn Day in the Garden

Beautiful day. Picturesque setting. Pleasant companions. What more could a girl ask for? Today I had the privilege of taking a "field trip" to the Chicago Botanic Garden. Here are a few pics from the excursion:

I don't know if it's the unusually warm autumn we've had so far, or my own ignorance (most likely the latter!), but I've never seen or known so many flowers to be in bloom during a Midwest autumn. What an artistic, creative, generous God we have!

Speaking of autumn's splendor...have you visited Kristin's Fall Festival yet over at Windy Poplars? Click on over and check it out - something new every day this week!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Year of Deer, Episode 20: Slow Cooker Harvest Stew

It's harvest time, and that means lots of yummy ingredients are in season. Ideally, we would have enjoyed the warmth and heartiness of this stew after coming in from a chilly autumn stroll, our cheeks flushed from the brisk wind. Instead, we ate this stew while sweating in our 84 degree apartment at the end of another unseasonably warm day here in Chicagoland, our faces red from the heat. Oh well. It didn't feel like fall yesterday, but I did get to wear one of my cute summer skirts to church, so I really shouldn't complain.

For this meal I branched off a recipe from my slow-cooker cookbook and then made the rest of it up. Two peeled & chopped sweet potatoes, two peeled & chopped red potatoes, one peeled & chopped acorn squash, one can of red kidney beans, about two pounds of cubed venison steak, 4 cups of beef broth, 4 cloves of minced garlic, some black pepper, thyme and rosemary went into my slow cooker. This came out:
Pictured with a popover, which is my new favorite thing to bake. They're easy, magical, and oh-so-good! I will have to blog about them some other time.

Guaranteed Smile

Monday mornings can be rough. Here's a video guaranteed to make you smile.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Autumn, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Pic taken at Devil's Lake in 2008
1. Pumpkin spice lattes
2. Scarves
3. Sweaters
4. The rustle of leaves
5. Maple trees in deep red and yellow
6. Apple picking (followed by apple cooking & eating!)
7. Hay rides
8. Corn mazes
9. Hot chocolate
10. Squash
11. Pumpkins & gourds
12. Spiced apple cider
13. Blue skies & brisk breezes
14. Caramel apples
15. Cinnamon & cloves
16. Candy corn
17. Acorns
18. Corn stalks
19. Sweet potatoes
20. My anniversary

And that's just the short list! Though it might not feel like autumn outside today (where'd these 80 degree days come from?!) I am reveling in autumn with all of my senses...the tastes, sounds, scents, views, and textures of the season never fail to delight and inspire.

Next week I'll be celebrating autumn online with my blogging friend Kristin at Windy Poplars. Visit her blog Monday through Friday for her Fall Festival featuring autumn-themed posts and giveaways!
Windy Poplars

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Squash Season

Last fall I had my first kitchen encounter with a squash. I came away from that side dish injured and wary. However, I'm determined not to be intimidated by squash and to have another go at it this season. Multiple varieties. Various preparations. All potentially yummy. And this time, hopefully no Band-Aids required.
Caputos had squash on sale for 29 cents/pound this week, so I stocked up! First attempt: butternut squash soup in my slow cooker. Starting...now.

UPDATE: The soup was DELICIOUS! Here's the Butternut Squash Soup recipe from Stephanie at A Year of Slow Cooking.

Additionally, I came away from this encounter unscathed. Hooray! Here's a Helpful Tip for prepping butternut squash: microwave the squash for 3-5 minutes on high. This softens the skin a bit so that it's easier to cut through. Then, carefully use your biggest, sturdiest knife!  

Wee Bit Wednesday

{one} grilled or fried?
grilled. fried food rarely appeals to me anymore. 

{two} if you could change one thing about where you live, without worrying about money, what would you change?
I'd hire a professional to clean all of the windows and blinds. better yet, I'd have new windows installed so that we could actually open them. then I'd hire a designer to add some window treatments.

{three} what is your favorite time of day?
cuddle time.

{four} what's your favorite cereal? 
Fiber One Honey Clusters. Usually, they're way too expensive, but last week, thanks to a huge sale and a great coupon, I scored a box for $1.50 at Dominick's. holla. then I came home and patted my frugal self on the back.

{five} do you open your mouth when you put mascara on?
yes. open. and contorted.

{six} if you could make any fictional character come to life, who would it be?
Thursday Next.

{seven} what are your favorite pizza toppings?
pineapple and Canadian bacon. or Gorgonzola and pear.

{eight} are you a heavy or light sleeper?
somewhere in between. lighter than I used to be, but once I'm *really* asleep I can usually sleep through the sirens, trains, buses, and other city sounds outside my window.

{nine} what is your favorite board game? 

{ten} what star/celebrity do most people say you look like? 
the redhead from That 70s Show. I don't see it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Now that I work out of a home office, days where I do not venture out of doors are more plentiful than I'd like to admit. It's far too easy to get comfortable...and lazy...indoors. Now that my favorite season has arrived, I want to be sure I get outside and enjoy it. Yesterday after work I gave myself an "assignment" as an incentive to get some fresh air: go for a walk with my camera, and capture shots that prominently feature each of the colors on the color wheel. Indigo and violet proved hard to find, but I found two blues for extra credit. Here are the things I noticed as I walked around my neighborhood on the lookout for color...

Monday, October 04, 2010

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Yesterday was my one year wedding anniversary. Last week as I looked through our wedding photos again all of the excitement, joy, wonder, and elation of that day came rushing back to me. Our wedding day was glorious, indeed, but it was just one day. That one day, however, launched a lifetime of us, the first year of which has been the best year of my life so far. 
Travis and I celebrated our first year of marriage in a number of different ways all weekend long. Since the traditional 1st anniversary gift is paper, I surprised him Friday evening with a blanket of origami hearts. We enjoyed a low-key, low-budget date night at home (we made pizza together and watched Letters to Juliet) to counter-balance our not-so-low-budget celebration to come on Sunday.

On Saturday we met up with Travis' sister and brother-in-law and our niece at the Apple Festival in Long Grove, followed by dinner at their place. Since my sister-in-law was instrumental in how Travis and I came to meet and fall in love, it seemed very fitting to spend part of our anniversary weekend with them. As we were driving away from Long Grove we were even blessed with the sight of a HUGE rainbow. We pulled over and I managed to get a shot, which captures just a portion of its size and beauty.
 This photo is 70% about my SIL and niece, and 30% about the people in the background who were dancing with their dachshunds.
When we arrived home Saturday night I found surprise number one waiting for me: a beautiful flower arrangement showcasing the colors of autumn that I love so much. Tucked in the arrangement was this sweet note from my thoughtful husband, which constituted his "paper" gift to me.
My love for you is like the colors of autumn:
Deep, Rich, Bright, and Warm.
I offer these flowers of the fall along with my heart.
- Hubby

Surprise number two (my hubby LOVES to surprise me) came Sunday afternoon in the form of where we went for dinner: Art Smith's Table 52 in Chicago, where we indulged in gourmet comfort food, including THE BEST macaroni and cheese EVER. So creamy and rich, however, that even between the two of us we only finished half the portion, and took the rest home. Though I had declared I couldn't possibly eat another bite of mac and cheese, when the dessert menu came, I pored over the options with great interest. Trav asked how could this be, when I had just announced myself stuffed? I explained that "dinner food" requires its own distinct space in the stomach, while dessert (especially chocolate) possesses the ability to simply fill in the cracks and crevices around the rest of the meal, and so there is virtually always room for dessert. He shook his head at me in wonder and bemusement, and then agreed to share a slice of the 12-layer chocolate cake. He's a good man.

Dinner was followed by the Broadway in Chicago production of The Lion King at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. I've wanted to see this show for years and years. It was both familiar (in story and music) and brand new (in amazing costumes and voices and gorgeous set design) and held my rapt attention from start to finish.
 The whole weekend was a wonderful celebration of our first year as husband and wife. And as one of "our songs" (Amazed by Lonestar) rightly says, It just keeps getting better.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Autumn in Maine

At the end of last week I spent a few days in Maine for work. The leaves there were a little ahead of the Chicago area in terms of changing, but still a couple weeks away from "peak" color. Nevertheless, it was beautiful to spend a few days in a place where the land undulates and the trees WAY outnumber the people. This shot was taken on a misty morning, looking down the road from the home where we held our meetings.

Friday, September 17, 2010

An Apple a Day: Friday

I won't be posting the recipe for today's apple dish until later because, well, I made it up, and I'm not sure how it's going to turn out. A few hours ago I threw a bunch of stuff (including 3 apples) into my crockpot. When it's done cooking in a few hours, it will be Slow-Cooker Chicken, Apple, & Sweet Potato Curry. Right now it's creating lovely aromas in my kitchen. How it will taste at dinner, however, is yet to be discovered. If it's a hit, you'll see the recipe posted here in the near future. If it's a miss...well, I suggest you go back to Tuesday and make apple butter, because that stuff is GOOD. I've been eating it every chance I get - on English muffins at breakfast, on my turkey sandwich at lunch, as a dip for crackers...

- BTW -
I'm participating in the inaugural edition of The Pick of the Patch over at Windy Poplars - a Friday collection of best posts from the week.

Windy Poplars

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Apple a Day: Thursday

Today's apple recipe comes from Aarti, winner of the most recent season of The Next Food Network Star. Travis and I really enjoyed watching this show over the summer. I was pulling for Aarti all the way and was delighted when she won in the end, giving her a shot at her own show on Food Network, called Aarti Party. Her "angle" is adding an Indian touch to both familiar and new dishes, thereby helping home cooks get comfortable and familiar with the spices, flavors, and cooking techniques used in Indian cuisine.

On Tuesday my best friend and I joined cooking forces for our second "Aarti Party dinner & pinochle night" and made two dishes from her show. The main dish was Mango BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches, which turned out super yummy. The second dish (and this is where the apple comes in) was an Apple-Lime-Peanut Slaw. The lime juice base of the dressing really gives it a kick, and the cumin brings in some Indian warmth. This is not your typical slaw, but it's very tangy and refreshing and we all liked it. When I make it again, I will probably go the easier route of buying a bag of pre-shredded cabbage. This was my first encounter with a head of cabbage, and I discovered that achieving small, even strips is no easy thing!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Apple a Day: Wednesday

It's my turn to bring refreshments to our Wednesday evening small group meeting, which was a wonderful reason to bake my apple spice bundt cake. After a couple of harrowing entries into the RC 2010 Challenge, I am relieved to return to my familiar friend, the bundt cake. So much less fuss and stress. And way fewer dishes and things to wash. Happy all around!

Apple Spice Bundt Cake

1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar (or Splenda for baking)
3 large eggs
3 to 4 tart apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional...I usually leave them out, but if you're nuts about nuts, by all means, throw them in!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick cooking/baking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, combine oil, applesauce, eggs, and sugar. Using a hand mixer, mix on high speed until bright yellow.
4. Gradually add dry ingredients to the wet mixture, mixing on medium speed until just incorporated.
5. Fold in vanilla and apples and, if desired, nuts.
6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes.
7. Remove pan from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes.
8. Invert cake onto wire rack and let cool completely.

If you're feeling indulgent, serve drizzled with warm caramel sauce.

Tomorrow's Apple a Day Recipe: Apple-Lime-Peanut Slaw

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Apple a Day: Tuesday

Today I'm cooking up a big batch of apple butter. Early this morning I peeled, cored, and cut into eighths a combination of Cortland, McIntosh, and Gala apples (15 in all) and set them to cook on low for 8 hours in my 6-quart crockpot, with a tablespoon of vanilla extract drizzled over the top. While I was peeling I had the idea to include a few of the long, curly peel pieces on top, thinking perhaps they'll lend some of their color and flavor to the apples cooking below. Not really sure, but it looks pretty!
When time's up on the first phase of cooking, I'll pick out the peels and mash up the apples. Then I'll stir in 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, then let the mixture cook on low for another 6 hours.(Below: the apple mixture after phase one)
This is a new recipe for me, so I am eager to see how it turns out. It should be done cooking just before bedtime tonight, so I will update this post tomorrow some photos, a report on the taste, and whether any recipe adjustments are in order.


After cooking for 6 hours in phase two, the apple mixture smelled AMAZING but was still rather thin, so I set it to cook on high for about 45 minutes with the lid off to cook off some of the liquid. That seemed to do the trick. Next, I was looking for a smoother consistency, so I used an immersion blender to even out the texture, then let it sit for another half hour or so on low to really come together and get thick. (In case you're wondering, bedtime got moved back quite a bit! Next time I think I'll do phase one overnight and begin phase two in the morning.)

The 15 apples I started out with cooked down to about 7 cups of apple butter. On my last trip to the grocery store I was happy to discover that Ball (the canning company) now makes plastic 8 oz. freezer jars (in a pack of 5) perfect for projects like this.
I had some of the apple butter on an English muffin for breakfast this morning and it was a perfect taste of autumn. I like my apple butter just a little on the tart side, so the amount of sugar I used was perfect. If you try this out, you'll want to adjust the sugars (up to 3/4 cup of each) based on your taste preferences and the natural sweetness of the apples you use.

Tomorrow's Apple a Day Recipe: Apple Spice Bundt Cake!