Friday, October 28, 2011

Dinner in a Pumpkin

Where did October go? Halloween is in three days and I'm still working on September birthdays...sorry Chris! (I'm not such a good mother-in-law.) Not to mention Elizabeth turned 25 on the 7th and tomorrow Brittany turns 19. Levi turns 14 next week. I don't feel old enough to have children who are in their 30s, but I've noticed lately that my skin on my arms (sorry...tmi) is getting that loose, crepe-like appearance. That could be the weight loss though. As of today...I am finally down 35 pounds. (no thanks to my Wednesday night writing class!) Just 15 more to go (pounds, not writing classes...I need a life time of those!) and I'll reach my goal weight!

Oh...and Wednesday's class wasn't as over-the-top as last week. I did take a writing sample to be critiqued. And I took fresh chocolate chip cookies. Caleb told me to rewrite about a third of the essay, but also added that he liked more of it than he didn't like. Woohoo! I can see where his critique is spot on. He pointed out how many words I use to say so little. I've always had that problem, but he showed me why! At least two people cried this time, but one was tears of happiness because she earned Caleb's praises. Then there was a discussion about how women feel this huge pressure to be the perfect mom, housekeeper, cook, and look model gorgeous all at the same time. Caleb wasn't getting it. I declared that the day I realized that I wasn't going to burn in Hades because I buy frozen bread dough was one of the most liberating days of my life. We all had a good laugh and went back to our writing.  My favorite Caleb quote from Wednesday:

"It's a good thing you didn't write the Bible. We'd all be Muslims." ( had to be there...but it really was funny!)

With Halloween just around the corner, here is a super fun way to use your don't carve them! Paint them with nontoxic paints instead  and then eat them. (After you bake them of course!) It's really yummy! and super easy!!! The kids will get a kick out of it...and will at least give it a try. You can even "dress it up" for a grown up party. So far everyone in my family has enjoyed this meal.

Aren't these cute!!! Just right for generous single servings.
Dinner in a Pumpkin

1 medium pumpkin or 4 small sugar pumpkins
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbls. vegetable oil
2 pounds ground beef
2 Tbls soy sauce
2 Tbls brown sugar
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced (or use a 4 oz can)
1 15 oz can cream of mushroom soup (or cream of chicken or cream of celery)
2 cups cooked rice (brown is best, but white is great...whatever your family will eat!)
1 8oz can sliced water chestnuts ( or 1/2 - 1 cup chopped celery...again, whatever your family prefers)

1. Cut the tops out of the pumpkin(s) and clean out pulp and seeds. (save the seeds for roasting!)
2. Preheat oven to 350 deg.
3. Saute onions and garlic in the oil.
4. Add the hamburger and brown. Drain.
5. Add soy sauce, mushrooms, brown sugar and soup.
This really looks better in person...not a great picture...sorry!

6. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring every now and then.
7. Add cooked rice and water chestnuts.
8. Spoon mixture into the pumpkin(s) and put tops in place. Set on a baking sheet and place in oven.
9. Bake about 1 hour -- until the pumpkin flesh is tender
10. Remove from the oven, and place on a plate. Remove the lid and scoop out pumpkin with the rice and meat for a yummy casserole dish!

I double the recipe...and got leftover filling.

I like the versatility of this recipe. You can season it anyway you like and trade out the celery or mushrooms, etc. Play with it and have fun! I think this is a great way to enjoy the harvest season get our families to try new things. Traditions are a great way to bring our families closer together.


What traditions do you share with your family in the Fall?
Warm hugs~

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Country Apple Dumplings

Wow. I am not very good at keeping up with this blogging business! But I do have an excuse...the fall weather has been absolutely gorgeous. And, knowing that it could change at a moments notice, I have been picking more apples, gathering walnuts and almonds, fighting off cowardly gophers and discovering this:

Anybody care to guess what it is? Something or someone had a party on the trampoline. They feasted on these...yep, walnuts. And the tracks were left by those ring tailed varmint raccoons that come around knowing that our yard is the equivalent of raccoon heaven. If only they wouldn't invite all their friends and have all those raccoon babies...

So yesterday, the weather turned cold and I got back busy in the kitchen. Actually, we've enjoyed some fun seasonal recipes, but I just haven't had time to tell you about them! I got a produce basket Saturday that provided us with all the fixings for a hearty veggie soup. Sunday we had dinner in a pumpkin. I bought these perfect little sugar pumpkins...just right for one per person. But I can't find where I put the recipe, so I'll save that one for another day. Besides, it's always more fun to have dessert first, don't you think? Someone pointed out to me once that "stressed" backwards spells "desserts." That's all the excuse I need! (hee hee!)

I've been wanting to try this apple dessert for a couple of weeks, but it just never seemed the right time. My sister-in-law's husband just took a job in North Dakota and was leaving this past Monday, so we invited them over for dessert the night before.

Do any of you remember that old cartoon where the dog is given a treat and he hugs himself and hums and jumps into the air and then gently drifts back to the ground? yeah, well, that's how I felt after eating this dessert -- even without the whipped cream on top because said brother-in-law came over and borrowed the cream while I was at choir practice! Ha! ha!

I followed the recipe on line as it was written (well, except I doubled it)...since I had not made it before. I think I will tweak it next time and try to lower the fat content. (I don't even want to know how many hours of Pilates I need to do to make up for this one.) I wasn't sure how it would turn out. David (bil) pronounced them restaurant quality. (his ultimate compliment, btw!) Anyway, here is the version I found online for :

 (super easy)
Country Apple Dumplings

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla (well, maybe I did add a little extra...I usually do!)
1 cup butter (sigh...yep. that would be 2 full sticks)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 12 oz can ginger ale (or Sprite or 7-up or Mountain Dew...)
2 large Granny Smith apples - peeled and cored and cut into 8 wedges
2 tubes of Pillsbury crescent roll dough

Preheat your oven to 350 deg. F. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray.
Open the crescent roll dough and separated the triangles of dough. Roll each apple wedge in a triangle of dough by beginning at the skinny end. Pinch and seal the edges of the dough together around the apple wedge.Place the dumplings in the baking pan.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in both sugars and the cinnamon. Stir and cook until the mixture is smooth and starts to thicken. Removed from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Be careful! It will spit at you! Pour the sauce evenly over the dumplings. Pour half of the soda over everything. Place in oven and bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until golden brown. (Drink the other half of the soda while you wait for the dumplings to bake.)

Serve warm with whipped cream or with a scoop
of ice cream. We ate ours alone...and loved them. be warned! They go down fast!

Warm (and slightly sticky) hugs~

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How Chocolate Chip Cookies are Going to Help Me Learn to Write

I didn't get to post anything yesterday because I went somewhere last night. I don't know if it was purgatory or heaven. I'm still shaking in my woolly socks. I am either scared out of my writer's mind, or I just became the newest Caleb Warnock groupie. It could be that my blood sugar is too low. I just realized I haven't eaten anything since I walked through the doors of the Historic American Fork City Hall into the jaws of -- what? I don't know what to call it. I think my muse is still curled up in a fetal position in some secret passageway of that old building.

Sorry. I don't mean to sound like such a drama queen, but I've never seen a teacher make students cry like that before. At the same time, I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants. Too cliche. But it's true! Next time, I am definitely visiting the ladies room before class AND during the break.

Do you remember the movie "The Paper Chase?"  John Houseman portrays a much feared law professor by the name of Charles Kingsfield. (If you haven't seen this movie or the series on TV from a few decades should watch it. The characters are fascinating...or you could read the Jay Osborn, Jr.) Okay -- put Professor Kingsfield's mannerisms into a big, burly, blond English professor/farmer. Put that guy in jeans and Tevas (and navy blue, gold-toe socks). Now put him in a room with 8 female writers ranging in age from their mid-twenties to somewhere in their 70s. One woman is pregnant with her fifth child. I should have known there was a significance to the food offerings some of the women brought to the class. (Now I can't help imagining natives throwing food into a volcano to appease their fire gods.) 

Professor Caleb began the class by announcing that he needed to raise $1000 by Thanksgiving for the American Fork Fine Arts Council Press. His plan: to get 50 people to commit to asking 20 friends for $1 each. Then he started writing all our names down and asking for suggestions for other names. After about 20 minutes of "bullying", one of the other first time attendees said,

"I'll write you a check for $100 right now, if you'll just start the class."

He nodded. She wrote the check. Class started.

I don't think it's possible to describe what happened after that. You kind of have to be there. After making a couple of students write their sentences on the white board, and everyone getting a bit frustrated, Caleb felt the need for a visual to make his point. He climbed up and laid his body across the tables and acted out a woman giving birth. Yeah, like I said, you kind of had to be there. Later in class, one lady started talking about reading a negative review of the movie "Abduction." She said, "But, I liked that movie." Her friend said, Yeah, but you like Caleb, too." ahahaha! Writers can be so snarky! I love it.

In all fairness, I want to share this great comment from Loraine Scott (a member of Wasatch Writers and the gal who told me about this class). "The class always has the 'take no prisoners' kinda attitude. You are expected to bring work and share... he says his comments are filled with "buckets of love" but they can be pretty difficult to take even filled with love. But... he says he would rather be honest and help you then to deceive you into thinking "your crap is good". We already think we've written the great American novel and then Caleb looks at it and we see it for what it is. Only the great survive C's classes. Many of his students have gone on to publish and that's really what its all about for him. He wants to see people succeed and now that he has had his first book published, I'm sure he's gotten even worse. If you feed him chocolate, he behaves himself."

Caleb did cut me some slack when he asked me if I brought anything with me and I said no, that I thought I would listen and learn the first time around. He didn't let me get away with not participating, however. And guess what! I got a snorty laugh...and a round of applause for my first sentence! One class member said that he is always nice the first time, and beguiles you to come again, and then gets really mean. Then I got another laugh and applause for the second sentence. Whew. After class, Caleb asked if I was going to bring anything next week. I hesitated, and he said, "Without being fearful." I said I would bring something, but that I would be full of fear and trepidation. He accepted that. 

And you can bet your first book that I will be going back. I feel like I could write a best seller just by being a fly on the wall and writing about all the writers in the class and how their life stories play out during the class. Besides, I have something to say, and I think I found the help I need to learn how to say it.

I'll take some fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies with me...just in case.
Here's the recipe we like best...(sorry, no pictures today...too many other things on my plate!)
In a large mixing bowl, cream together:
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
2 cups butter

4 eggs

Mix well and stir in:
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt

Add 6 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour. Mix in carefully. Don't overmix. Stir in 2 cups (or more) of chocolate chips.

Drop by spoonfuls (I use a scoop!) onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 deg. for about 10 minutes..or until light golden brown. Don't overbake...unless you prefer a crunchy cookie. I like mine crisp on the outside, but still gooey inside. Is there anything more comforting than a really good, fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookie? Maybe...but not many!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Seeds and Gopher Hills

I thought I would take a break from all things apple today. I got the kids off to school and hubby off to work and ran out the door for a yoga class. I have a love/hate relationship with yoga. If you've ever tried it, you understand. I love that since I began attending a regular yoga class, I haven't needed to see a chiropractor! I don't love the sore shoulders muscles so much. But that's actually improving.

After yoga and personal scripture study, I tackled my latest copy project. I made a lot of progress! Kati called just as I was taking a break, so I stepped outside to feel the sunshine on my face. I walked around the yard as we chatted, (all four of her children tested positive for! but feeling much better already...yeah!) marveling at the convenience of cordless phones. Remember the days when we had to stand in one place to talk on the phone -unless you had one of those really long, stretchy cords? Remember twisting them around your finger, or stretching it as far away as you could so everyone at the table couldn't hear your conversation? LOL...You may be too young for that one. Wow.

Anyway...I wandered up the hill in the yard, enjoying the vibrant colors of fall while I talked to Kati and discovered this:

Holy Gopher Invasion , Batman! Where did that come from? (I put my foot in the picture as a sizer...yep...that mound is almost 6 feet across!) It wasn't there the other day! Hubby dear is not going to be pleased. This is war!

After saying goodbye to Kati, I decided to ignore the gopher challenge and tackle cleaning the refrigerator on the porch so that I could have another place to stash apples. My three-year-old granddaughter Rebekah called to talk. She prattered on and on about going to the splash pad at the park and "showed" me that she had new ice cream in the freezer, but that it is only for after dinner and how she really didn't want to wait until after dinner. Then she told me about her new baby and her Rapunzel doll and then said, "I love you Grandma. Bye!" and handed the phone to her mom (Elizabeth).

While cleaning out the fridge, and discovering I had another batch of applesauce waiting to be canned, I gave up trying to ignore apples and set up the canner. May as well, right? btw...have you ever tried spicing up your applesauce with cinnamon red hots? I didn't do it this batch...but it is super yummy!!! I use red hots in my pears, too. Makes everything a pretty pink!

I felt a little guilty about not opening my textbook while the bottles processed, but I opened up FaceBook anyway. I'm glad I did. I found this comment from our daughter, Brittany - a freshman and Northern Arizona University.

"This morning while studying in 3 Nephi, the answer to a math problem i had been getting frustrated about just popped into my head! I love the clarity the gospel can bring me :)"

Clarity indeed. My mother's heart filled with joy as I recognized the wonderful gifts I have been handed today. The worries and concerns that plagued me earlier in the day (like gopher mounds and looming projects) don't seem so important any more -- because they are all temporary things. Family is forever -- and that is how I make it through the day.

It's almost bed time. Levi is practicing his cello and I am munching on the pumpkin seeds that Micaela and I roasted yesterday. What? Did you think I would forget a recipe? No way! Sorry it's not about apples...but the whole "seeds and planting and harvest" thing put me in the mood for these:

Savory Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

4 - 5 cups of fresh pumpkin seeds, washed
4 Tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, (or a little more if you like, right Micaela?...inside joke!)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 275 deg. Stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl and pour into baking pans in a thin layer. Bake for about an hour, (we actually needed almost 90 minutes, but I used one pan so the layer was really thick.) stirring every 10 - 15 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container or bag. WARNING: These are addicting...just sayin'.

toasty hugs~

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apple (Shhh...Don't tell my husband I hid zucchini in it) Cinnamon Bread

One of my adorable daughters-in-law sent me a sweet message today:

"I’m so glad you are posting on your blog again! I can’t wait to try out the apple cider recipe. Yum!

As I was reading through your last couple of posts, a thought occurred to me concerning the focus of your blog. I have a suggestion for you, which of course, you are free take or leave. I’ll read and be happy either way!

I’ve noticed sometimes you apologize for getting “off topic” in your posts--when you’re talking about family, or spiritual things, or anything not directly apple related. Those are the things that I LOVE to hear you talk about, though! I know you have a testimony of families, and building people up, and the strength that the gospel provides. While the Table Talk book is the only project that I know you’ve been working on, I’m not sure that focusing on apples alone is building a platform that truly represents your unique view of life, especially concerning the gospel and our families.

What if, instead of focusing just on apples, you expand your blog’s focus to the topics of “growing” and “harvesting?” That way, you can certainly draw inspiration from Nature’s bounty, but you won’t have to feel so guilty about talking about the other things we grow and harvest. You’ve planted a lot of seeds in your life (especially in mine!) that I think people need to hear/read about. Your words about the gospel and Heavenly Father are so reverent and full of awe--I can’t help it if I want to read more about that!

She's wise as well as adorable! I will run out of apples...eventually. I will never run out of family. And I will never run out of wonder and awe for the abundance with which God has blessed us. Besides, Micaela is already expressing how her enthusiasm is waning for anything "apple."

The wind came up last night. The moaning and howling kept me awake long past midnight. This afternoon, however, I discovered the wind brought me a gift. I stepped outside to glean the last couple of zucchini and whatever tomatoes and peppers I could rescue. To my surprise, the ground was covered with walnuts. I apologized to the wind!

Of course, I knew we had walnuts. The tree blesses us with glorious shade all summer long. Last year we had a late, heavy freeze and the tree didn't produce more than a handful of nuts. The year before we had quite a few, but it was far too labor intensive to remove the husks off of the shells. Today, I found most of the nuts on the ground clean and dry, already separated from their slimy husks. In about 15 minutes I gathered almost 10 pounds of walnuts (that's in the shell, of course)! I'm pretty sure some of this bounty will make its way into an apple recipe!

I can see this blog changing with the seasons, just like me. Most of my children are grown and on their own. My husband and I have been reaping a bounteous harvest for awhile now as we watch them become responsible adults who know who they are and with firm testimonies of Jesus Christ. (I'll save the joys of being a grandparent for another post.) The son and daughter still left at home are not quite ready to leave our nurturing and protection. I'm glad. I'm not ready to be an empty nester just yet.

I read over this and think, gosh, but I'm old! haha! I don't feel old! I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  I do know that first and foremost, I am and always will be, a mother. That is inherent in that I am a daughter of God.There are just so many fascinating things to do and learn! It's hard to choose! I do know that the subject I choose to write about is not as important as knowing that somehow, somewhere, the words I write make a difference. If those words gladden just one heart, then they will have fulfilled their purpose.

Okay, at least I chose a recipe to share -- I declare that any recipe that uses apples AND zucchini is useful! My kids are always warning guests about how I hide vegetables in everything anyway. Here is a sweet bread recipe I have been playing around with for a couple of months.

Zucchini Apple Cinnamon Bread (boring name, I know! But I promise this bread will make you feel loved!)

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts, optional (I left this out.) need to know that I doubled this recipe, and made 4 loaves, so don't get confused when you look at the pictures! This recipe as written will make two nice sized loaves. So, prepare two loaf pans by greasing them and coating them with flour. (or use a cooking spray...I was out.) Grate your zucchini and apple and set aside. (If you want, you can peel them first, but why go to all the extra work?) Preheat the oven to 325 deg.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until creamy and light yellow. Add the oil and the applesauce and mix well. Sift the dry ingredients together in another bowl and add to the egg mixture. Mix well. Squeeze the extra moisture from the grated zucchini and apple and fold the pulp into the batter. Stir in the vanilla and nuts. Divide the batter between the loaf pans. Bake at 325 deg for about one hour.

I dare you to leave this bread alone until it cools off. On second thought -- Don't wait. Hot out of the oven, this bread rocks! (If you're really brave, add a little butter or caramel sauce...if your heart can stand it, that is!)

Happy harvest!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Apples

Sunday is a day of rest from the things of the world for our family. I've been cooking all week, so today I have a quick recipe and ideas for using apples for quick, easy snacks. Cut up apple slices and serve them with peanut butter and chopped nuts and raisins and/or craisins. Let your kids play with their food and see what kind of pictures they can create on a paper plate using those items. Here's a quick fruit dip to add to the messy deliciousness:

1 pint marshmallow creme
1 Tlbs. juice concentrate (orange, lemon, lime, or whatever sounds good) or a little more if you like!
8 oz cream cheese, softened.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Beat in the marshmallow creme. Add the juice concentrate and stir until well blended. Chill and serve with all kinds of fruit...apples, bananas, strawberries, you name it.

I would post a picture, but I am out of marshmallow creme...sigh.

I gave a great deal of thought to what I wanted to blog about today. Sunday has always been a day of great significance to me -- a day of rest from weekly labors, yes, but it's more than that. It is a day to remember my Savior and give thanks to Him for everything He has done and continues to do for me. 

Are you wondering how I could possibly tie this in with apples? While I was cutting an apple up yesterday, I started wondering just how many seeds are in an apple, and how many apples grow on a tree, and how many trees can grow from all those seeds from all those apples on all those other trees...I thought about the parable of the sower in the New Testament and I wondered about the spiritual seeds I may or may not have planted throughout my life. Then I started pondering on the miracle of creation and how everything around me testifies that there is a God in Heaven. I thought about how much Heavenly Father loves us. The apple has a shape similar to a heart...and even the center of the apple has a bit of a heart shape.

I found a talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard, in an address given in conference in April 1988 where he shared the following:

"Astronauts viewing the earth from space have stated how incredibly beautiful it is and how alive it appears. United States Senator Jake Garn wrote of his experience in space: “It is impossible for me to describe the beauty of the earth. It is a breathtaking, awe-inspiring, spiritual experience to view the earth from space while traveling at twenty-five times the speed of sound. I could also look into the blackness of the vacuum of space and see billions of stars and galaxies millions of light-years away. The universe is so vast as to be impossible to comprehend. But I did comprehend the hand of God in all things. I felt his presence throughout my seven days in space. I know that God created this earth and the universe. I know that we are his children wherever we live on the earth, without regard to our nationality or the color of our skin. Most important, I know that God lives and is the Creator of us all” (letter to M. Russell Ballard, 3 March 1988).

"Again, the words of the hymn came to mind:
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow’r thruout the universe displayed;
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!"

"The psalmist wrote, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
“For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour" (Ps. 8:3–5).

The Lord gave an answer to the psalmist’s question; it is recorded in the book of Moses: “For mine own purpose have I made these things. …
“And by the word of my power, have I created them. …
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:31–32, 39). "   (please forgive my misuse of quotation marks...)

At the dinner table this evening, I asked everyone to share with me something that testifies to them that there is a supreme creator. Levi said that he feels that testimony when he studies about cells and how everything is so complicated and organized. Natasha expressed similar thoughts and shared how the beauty of the world and the grandeur of the universe testifies to her.

I looked again at the apples I was slicing and sliced on apple in a different direction. Instead of a heart shape, there is a 5-pointed star. Reminds me of the star of Bethlehem. I think of the potential of those seeds to grow into an infinite number of apples, and I am reminded of the Savior's infinite sacrifice and His infinite love for us. I am humbled to feel that love and to know that He knows little, insignificant me...and He knows and loves each and every one of you, my brothers and my sisters in the Lord. You are never alone. God bless you my friends.
hugs and blessings~

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Apples and Caramel and Cream. Oh My!

How does an apple a day keep the doctor away? When you take careful aim! (bada-bump)
Sorry, I looked everywhere for a cute joke with apples in it and that was the best I could do! If you have a good (clean) one, share! I did learn that it takes the energy from 50 leaves on an apple tree to produce one apple and that apples come in more flavors than just sweet or sour! Apples can even taste like pears, cinnamon, cloves, coconut, strawberries, grapes and even pineapple. I don't know how I feel about that. When I eat an apple, I kind of want it to taste like an apple. My brain gets confused enough as it is.

I worked writing copy all day yesterday and didn't get my apple post written. Today I got to attend a writing conference all about publishing eBooks. Wow! Now my head is stuffed with all kinds of information that will take time to sort through. I am definitely going to keep blogging. One, because I enjoy the challenge and two, because social media is crucial to a successful writing career. That doesn't have anything to do with apples, I suppose, but that's what's on my mind right (write) now!

My recipe for today is for Caramel Cream Cider. I served this to my writers group with the apple cake the other day. Several people requested the recipe so I thought it would be a good one. Besides, it's actually my own experiment! My mother-in-law gave us a Champion juicer years back and I thought I'd try putting some of these apple through it. Yummy! When the weather turned cold I really dreaded my regular morning smoothie. I wondered how the apple juice would taste heated up. Ahhhh! Then I remembered the caramel sauce in the fridge. While looking for  the caramel sauce, I spotted a carton of cream. ( Bwahahaha!) A dash of cinnamon kicked it up just a notch and voila! I call it Caramel Cream Cider...because I couldn't think of anything else. Okay, I realize it's not nearly as healthy as my green spinach smoothie (which has apples in it btw...) but it sure makes my taste buds do the happy dance. Definitely a comfort beverage and almost as good as hot chocolate...almost...cause nothing replaces chocolate, ever.

Caramel Cream Cider

fresh apple cider (or you can use bottled...but it's not quite the same)
a splash of heavy cream
1 tablespoon caramel sauce
cinnamon to taste

Heat the cider until it begins to steam. pour into a mug. Add the caramel sauce and stir. Add the splash of cream and sprinkle with cinnamon to taste.

I suggest you get in your jammies and grab a blanket and a book or your favorite movie before you sit down with this. Better yet, make enough for two and grab your sweetheart and cozy up with your Caramel Cream Cider and watch a romantic movie together. Just the two of you.

Any requests for a special type of apple recipe out there? I know one of my daughters sent me her muffin recipe she uses and a couple of friends sent another cake recipe...mmmmm...and I really plan on doing a caramel apple cinnamon roll recipe. I just need to think on that one a bit. I like the idea of experimenting a little instead of just copying recipes out there, so if you have your own and you would like me to highlight it, I would be happy to give it a try! to visit my grandma and a few aunts and uncles and cousins. Yep, My grandma is amazing. I sure hope I inherited her longevity genes. I still have lots of apples to deal with.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake!

I love it when I can solve two problems with one solution! I wanted to post a new apple recipe today, but I also knew that I had a ton of more pressing things on my to-do list. I host a writer's group in our home every second Thursday. I wanted an extra nice dessert because we had a special guest coming -- author Carla Kelly. Carla is "the author of more than 30 novels and novellas for Donald I. Fine Co., Signet, and Harlequin. Carla is the recipient of two Rita Awards (think Oscars for romance writing) from Romance Writers of America and two Spur Awards (think Oscars for western fiction) from Western Writers of America." (bio from her novel Marian's Christmas Wish). Carla gave us delightful presentation on the craft of writing. Her sweet husband accompanied her. I think we should have them come back and give him a turn to teach us a few things too! He is a playwright and fascinating to talk to. A huge hug and thank you to the Kelly's!

Anyway, I also spent a number of hours working on my latest copy job. I'm writing a free report for a guy about the e-coupon industry. Actually quite interesting. I wonder what the economy would be like if we all just stopped using coupons and the businesses lowered their prices for real, instead of inflating everything and then marking it down to make it look like they are giving us a deal. Is there really, truly a "regular" price for anything? Just a rhetorical question...but back to today:

Okay...long story cut short. The hearing in which I was supposed to testify this morning was continued for a later date.  Yeah! More time for apples!...and laundry...and copywriting. I found a promising recipe on the Martha Stewart website. Actually, I found lots of promising recipes there, but since I could only pick one, I chose John Baricelli's Three Layer Apple Cake. Only I decided to make it two layers and I decided to try a Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting instead of the Butter Cream frosting used in the recipe posted online. I also noticed that the gallon jar full of dried apple slices was almost empty! I filled it back up. Because I could! Yeah! I'm glad the family is enjoying them. I'll post the details on drying the apples in a couple of days.

Sorry, I keep getting off track. Today was so full of random stuff. Oh! My mom called and asked if I thought we could stand having her come up and stay for 10 days! I am so excited! Our grandson Ephraim is going to have his baptism here instead of in Idaho so that more family can attend. Gigi wants to come for that and for my cousin Austin's wedding. I'm putting in an order for some amazing Indian Summer weather so that Mom can see some color while she is here.

Have you ever thought about how the Bible never says that Adam ate an apple. It describes the "fruit of the Tree of Knowledge", but it doesn't say apple anywhere in the account.  I've often wondered how apples got involved. According to, " It was Hugo Van Der Goes who first implicated the apple as the forbidden fruit in his 1470 A.D. painting, The Fall of Man. After that, it became popular to depict the apple as the forbidden fruit."

Hmmm...I have 45 minutes before it's tomorrow. I guess I better give you the recipe for that cake. Levi is still up doing homework so I am staying up with him. LOL...the dog keeps coming up to Levi and licking his arm to get his attention and then walking over to the stairs. Gentry sleeps in Levi's room. He's telling us it is time for bed. I love animals!

oh yeah...the cake.
John Barricelli's Three Layer Cake  (With Two Layers and a Different Frosting)

1 stick melted butter                                        
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled - 2 coarsely grated and 2 diced

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg. Butter 3 - 8 inch round cake pans. (I used 2 9-inch). Line with parchment paper. Butter, then flour paper and sides of pans.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar and eggs until well combined; fold in grated and diced apples. Add flour mixture; mix just until combined. Divide batter among pans - smooth batter out.

3. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes ( use the tooth pick test). Cool cakes in the pans for about 20 minutes, then invert the pans onto wire racks, peel off the paper, and let the cakes completely cool.
 You can also bake this cake batter in a 9 x 13 pan and bake about the same amount of time.

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup brown sugar
10 Tbls butter - divided into 4 tbls and 6 tbls.
1/3 cup heavy cream
8 oz package cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
dash of salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1. Melt the brown sugar and 4 tbls of the butter over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Whisk in the cream. Blend well and transfer to a bowl and let cool at room temperature. Stir this once in awhile to help the cooling process and to keep it from getting dried up on the surface.

2. Place the remaining 6 tbls. of butter and the cream cheese in a large bowl. beat together until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and beat some more. add the dash of salt, stir, and then very gradually, while the mixer is still going, add the brown sugar mixture. Then gradually add the powdered sugar a 1/2 cup at a time, beating well in between additions. Chill frosting slightly before frosting the cake.

Frost the cake! Yummy!  I double the frosting recipe and ended up with 2 quarts. To be perfectly honest, I think the cake is better with no frosting. It is very dense and moist and sweet. I think this frosting will be exquisite on some cinnamon rolls with grated apple in them. So watch for my Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls in the next few days. ...20 minutes til the witching hour...

I served this with hot cider (freshly squeezed from the Gala apples) with a shot of cream and caramel. I'll post the recipe later, too.  (I have ten minutes before I turn into an apple!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Got Apples? This soup will please your palate!

Today started out pretty well. A gorgeous full moon slipped to the west just as the sun lit up a cloudless blue sky to the east. We got the kids off to school after family prayer and scriptures and a warm breakfast of eggs and toast (made out of that delightful maple apple oatmeal bread). I played catch up on folding yesterday's laundry and had just finished tidying up the kitchen and drinking my spinach smoothie when the phone rang. 

"Kari, are you okay? Rachel just called and said she was worried because you haven't picked her up to take her to work yet."

Oh no!  I totally spaced that today is Wednesday -- my morning to take our sweet neighbor to her job in Lindon. I stammered an apology and told Rachel's mom I would leave immediately. Rachel graciously reassured me that I was not the only person to forget. That almost made me feel worse. But I got her to work and tonight I will write this obligation down on all of the Wednesdays in my planner instead of just a week at a time.

I use the dining table as my office space. I can see out the windows to the back and the front and watch the world while I work. I thought the police officer walking up to the front door wanted to talk to Natasha. I cringed when I heard him tell her he needed to talk to me. He handed me a subpoena to appear in court tomorrow to testify against the guy that assaulted Natasha back in July. Ugh. Thank goodness I saved a bowl of the yummy chowder that Sandy Vernon served at the luncheon yesterday because I needed some serious comfort food. A piece of Cadbury dark chocolate helped a lot too.

too many apples!
That scrumptious chowder got me to thinking about using apples in a soup. Did you know that the crab apple is the only variety of apple that is native to North America? I had no idea! Here's a picture of the crab apple tree in my back yard.
 As you can see, I haven't even started harvesting those apples yet.

A few more facts about apples (according to the University of Illinois Extension website):
   * Apple blossom is the state flower of  Michigan.
   * Apples are fat, sodium, and cholesterol free and a medium apple has about 80 calories.
   * Charred apples have been found in prehistoric dwellings in Switzerland.

Okay...back to the soup. Another friend served a Butternut Squash and Apple soup yesterday. I Googled a recipe and found this one from Emeril. I sampled the result just before writing this. You know how when you rub a dog's belly and you hit just the right spot and the dog starts kicking his leg back and forth as fast as he can? Oh. My. Deliciousness. I sliced some apples to go with the soup and got out a loaf of French Bread. Here's the recipe: I doubled this don't get confused by the pictures.
Squash from my sister-in-law's garden and apples from our trees.

Emeril's Butternut Squash and Apple Soup   

4 slices of bacon
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 large leek
1 large clove garlic ( I always add a little extra...but I love, love, love fresh garlic!)
1/2 bay leaf
salt, pepper to taste

1 1/4 lbs butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and cubed
Can't you just smell the bacon!
1 medium Granny Smith apple - peeled and chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup water
2 Tbls. sour cream, plus more for garnish                    
Apples, unpeeled and sliced for garnish

here's one of those peeler/corer/slicer thingamabobs!

Chop up and cook the bacon. Set it aside for garnish. Use 1 1/3 Tbls of the rendered grease to saute your onions, leeks, bay leaf, and garlic until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add your squash, apple, broth and water.

Ready to cook.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 - 25 minutes -- until the squash is tender. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup in a blender. Put in a clean saucepan. Whisk in the sour cream. Heat over a med.-low heat until hot, but DO NOT BOIL. Serve with a garnish of crumbled bacon, a dollop of sour cream and chopped or sliced apple.

Makes about 4 1/2 cups. (Recipe from

Be careful! It is hot!

Warm hugs!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Apple (or Two) A Day

According to Wikipedia, there are more than 7,500 varieties of apples throughout the world. That's a lot of apples! China is the number one producer of apples, with the United States coming in second -- just in case you get picked to be on Jeopardy and need to know that kind of thing.

Okay, so I have a confession. This is day two of my apple project and I already have to cheat a little. I forgot that today was a "A" day for the schools and that Levi had early morning seminary this morning, so I overslept a little. It was my yoga day, and the neighborhood lunch bunch, and I expected a client to call around 10 am. I needed something to take to the luncheon and I wanted to try a new apple recipe. I made a batch of maple-apple-oatmeal bread last week and I found a loaf hiding in the freezer. I thawed it out, took a picture, sliced it up and served it with apple butter. I know it's not a new recipe for me...but it most likely is for you, so I decided that since I haven't blogged about it before it's legal. I'll try for a new one tomorrow. Maybe. Hopefully.

Of course, the client never called. But he did send me an email that he would call later. What does that mean anyway? What do you mean when you say later? When my parents said "Later" they usually meant "not in this life time." Too bad he lives out of state. I could take him some of this maple-apple-oatmeal bread and tell him that I write copy that's even better than this yummy bread. It could work!

I got this recipe from Shar of Shar's Kitchen and Bosch store when she still had the store in Phoenix. What an amazing lady! The store had a full kitchen where she demonstrated how to cook all kinds of yummy healthy foods using Bosch appliances, Kun Rikon pressure cookers, and every kitchen gadget you can possibly think of. Let's just say that after attending Shar's classes for a couple of years, (oh, and 6 months of being a Pampered Chef consultant) I literally had to remodel the kitchen so that I could store all of my tools! Well, it helped that I started storing them in the garage with my husband's tools and even started using some of his tools in the kitchen. Did you know that an oil filter wrench makes the best jar opener ever? I swiped that one. It's still in my kitchen drawer. Wow...I really digressed from the apple thing, didn't I!'s Shar's recipe for Maple Apple Oatmeal Bread (oh, and if you use a KitchenAid...just cut the recipe in half.)

Place in the Bosch mixer with the dough hook:
4 cups warm water
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp. maple extract
2 beaten eggs
3 Tbsp Saf instant yeast
2 Tbsp. sea salt ( I never use table salt anymore...too many impurities and chemicals)
3 Tbsp. dough enhancer ( I actually leave this out.)
3 cups bread flour or 1 cup vital wheat gluten
2 cups rolled oats (oatmeal)
2 cups fresh ground whole wheat flour

Use the moment switch ( or mix briefly).

Mix thoroughly. Continue to add fresh ground whole wheat flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and add:
4 cups fresh, grated apples ( I used Granny Smith's)...or diced...or chopped, depending on how big you want the fruity bites to be.
1 Tbsp sweet spice blend or cinnamon or apple pie spice...

Knead on speed one (Bosch) to thoroughly mix in the apples and spices into the dough and keep kneading for about another 2 or 3 minutes. Form into loaves. This made 5 - 1 1/2 pound loaves. (I use a scale to weigh my dough so that I get my loaves all the same size. OCD?) Place the loaves into well-greased bread bread pans and let rise until the dough is about 2 inches above the edge of the pans. Bake at 350 deg. F or until the internal temperature of the bread is 210 deg. F.

If you dab a little water on the loaf before you place it in the pan, you can roll it in a little oatmeal for a fun look. you can also roll the dough flat and sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar on it...just a little and then roll the dough into a loaf shape. I also slash the tops of the loaves with a baker's blade so they bake more evenly.

This bread is really yummy toasted and makes the best French Toast -- especially if you add a little vanilla to the eggs and milk you dip the bread in. Mmmm...vanilla. My dad gets it in Mexico for me, but my sister-in-law makes her own. Maybe that's another blog down the road.


Monday, October 10, 2011

An Apple A Day

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I wish chocolate could activate a button in my brain that would make me more computer savvy (sigh). I do have apples though. Lots and lots of apples. I've sauced them, dried them, juiced them, and pied them. (I suppose "pied" is not a real word, but since this is my blog...;o). Now what do I do? Back to that in a moment. Here's how this post came about.

My Internet service crashed today when some well meaning construction worker sliced through Comcast's fiber optics. All. The. Way. Through. That left me without any more excuses like work and school and laundry (because I like to watch Hulu while I fold clothes, in case you were wondering what laundry has to do with the Internet). Time to face the apples. I already processed about 100 pounds and threw away at least another 100 pounds of apples that fell off the trees and got smooshed. I picked Granny Smith's, Galas, Red Delicious (although just a few as I don't think those are quite ready), and Golden Delicious. I had to pick up the ground falls first. That's when I realized that the lawn needed mowing. Badly.

Levi took care of the lawn most of the summer. But since school started, he has been swamped with homework. Then soccer season started and with two kids playing and reffing...and with Doug reffing...yeah...our Saturday's have been shot. (How did we survive the year we had 7 kids playing soccer??? in Phoenix. In the summer.) So. I picked apples off the ground and then off the trees. I pulled out the lawn mower. (The almond tree really does lean like that. Guess which way the wind blows around here!)

Then I realized that the walnuts have been dropping. Had to pick those up too. About halfway through the mowing, Doug came home from work. When raindrops began to pitterpat on my head I prayed for time to finish mowing. I feel like God's pet because the rain stopped long enough for me to finish mowing and pick some more apples with Doug's help. It goes so much faster with two people. Now I didn't have to run up and down the ladder for every three apples I picked!

After dinner we loaded up a few of the boxes and took them to friends. The smiles on their faces made me feel like the sun had been shining all day. Now I have three boxes of apples left on the porch. And the trees are still loaded.

So here's the part about writing this post! I had a thought or two while I mowed the lawn. I've been trying to come up with a theme to blog about. (Cause it's only been how many months since I wrote?) Why not apples? What if I try a new apple recipe every day and blog about it? I could post anecdotes about apples or apple jokes. Jokes are good. I can't think of any right now though, so here is the first apple recipe I tried. Well, after I made cider and dried apple slices and pie filling and apple sauce and salsa...??? If you want me to post instructions on any of those, I would be more than happy to share.

I found this recipe on

Danish Pastry Apple Bars

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1 egg yolk
1 cup cornflakes ( I left this part out....oops!)
8 - 10 tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced (8 cups) (I used Granny Smith apples)
3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon ( I think I used 2 teaspoons)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 cup powdered sugar
3 - 4 teaspoons milk

1. In a large bowl combine flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a liquid measuring cup, beat egg yolk lightly. Add enough milk to make 2/3 cup liquid. Stir well to combine. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture with a fork until combined (dough will be slightly sticky). Divide mixture in half.

2. On a well-floured surface, roll half of the dough into a 17 x 12-inch rectangle. Fold dough crosswise into thirds. Transfer to a 15 x 10 x 1 baking pan (I used the Pampered Chef stoneware bar pan) and unfold dough, pressing to fit into the bottom and sides of the pan. Sprinkle with cornflakes. (or not) Top evenly with apples. (This is where one of those corer/peeler/slicer thingamabobs comes in really handy!) In a small bowl combine granulated sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture over apples. (I placed a layer of apples, sprinkled some of the sugar mixture over it and did another layer of apples, then sugar, etc.) Roll remaining dough to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle. Fold dough crosswise into thirds. Place atop apples and unfold dough. Crimp edges or use the tines of a fork to seal. cut slits in the top. Brush top with beaten egg white.

3. Bake in a 375 degree F oven to 50 minutes or until golden and apples are tender, covering with foil after the first 25 minutes of baking time to prevent over browning.

4. In a small bowl combine powdered sugar and 2 -3 teaspoons milk to make a drizzling consistency. Drizzle over warm bars. Let cool completely (say what? We couldn't wait that long!) on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 32 bars.

Even though I left out the cornflakes and I used leftover icing from the fridge...this dessert rocked. Can you say comfort food? I didn't think about taking a picture until after we started eating...I'll try to remember to take a picture of the finished products before we dig in next time!

Granny Smith apples from our tree...and my favorite plate! (Thanks Becky!)

If I run out of recipes to try, maybe I can post a craft or two. Or perhaps my readers would like to share their favorite apple creations. (Do I have any readers?)...hmmm...perhaps I can round some up on Facebook. Then that would mean I have to be committed to writing on this blog. Obviously I have plenty to say, or this post wouldn't be so rambling and long. Eventually, I'll write about my new adventures writing copy. But that's an entirely new box of apples!