Monday, July 21, 2014

homemade apple butter

Our weekend was rainy and cool. Not quite the summer weather we would anticipate in late July. But, something about rainy days {and days} proved to be quite a relaxing weekend.
Reed and I had just been talking about eating waffles with apple butter so at the danger of appearing ready for fall, we piled our cart with pounds and pounds of apples. Even though this time of year isn't really apple season, we find Pink Lady apples still to be quite delicious.  I cooked apple butter all day yesterday. With the dreary weather and the apple and cinnamon scent filling the whole house, it could of almost been mistaken for fall. Thank goodness it's not quite yet. :) This was the first time I made apple butter and it couldn't be easier. You throw everything into the slow cooker and let it cook the whole day. The boys so enjoyed it on fresh waffles this morning as they watched the rain still coming down in buckets.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter
{adapted from this recipe}

5 lbs of apples, peeled, cored & sliced
{I used mostly pink lady and few granny smith because Reed wanted some green apples}
1/2 cup light brown sugar 
{the original recipe calls for 2 cups sugar, but we prefer the sweetness to come from the apples, so tailor to suit your taste}
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt {I use kosher salt}
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Place apples in slow cooker. Add sugar, spices and salt. Stir together. Cook on low about 8-9 hours or until apples are very easily mashed. Add vanilla extract. If you prefer a bit of a smoother texture you can use an immersion blender {or regular blender}. That's all there is to it. Enjoy!

This recipe made probably enough for a couple weeks for us in the fridge, approx 26 oz.

Next time I will be definitely doubling the recipe to freeze or give as gifts.

Monday, July 14, 2014

simpler living | baking bread

This summer just seems to be flying by isn't it? Although doesn't every summer? We have less than a month until school starts. :(

This summer I am finding a necessary pull for much simpler living.  Less chasing, less "plugged-in", less buying, just less of all these time and energy zapping activities. We took a 12 day "vacation" in June to Illinois to visit family & friends and it gave me alot of car travel time to do some great reading and soul searching. I realized I was finding these external influences were depleting my precious time & energy.  I have re-focused my days on what's important and necessary and say no to or limit everything else. My days are filled with time spent with the boys, sometimes getting together with friends at the pool, library trips, tending the garden, homekeeping, reading, grocery shopping and trying new recipes. The days are full, but not overflowing. It is good. 

Something that I have long wanted to try is homemade bread sans a bread machine. My sweet friend Helen brought this herb bread when they came to dinner in November.  It is amazing. We polished it off the next day. She jotted down the recipe for me that night and assured me it was so easy & straightforward.  Well, it is. It's a shame I waited this long to make it. My first try was Thursday when we got home from swim class. I didn't have enough flour to make a whole batch so I had to finagle the proportions a bit, but miraculously it turned out. We enjoyed it with dinner. On Friday I got more flour to try another go-around, to get a better handle on the makings of this bread. I brushed the tops with olive oil and sprinkled it with fleur de sel before I baked it too.  Soooooo darn good. We were headed to a friends' for dinner so I wanted to treat them to this delicious bread as a thank you for having us. Our hosts response confirms this recipe is a keeper. You will love it!

Herb Bread
{makes 4 loaves}

6 cups warm water 

3 Tbsp. Yeast
2 Tbsp. Salt
3/4 bag of all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp of minced herbs {this recipe I used 2 Tbsp thyme & 1 Tbsp Rosemary}

In a very large bowl, pour in warm water and sprinkle yeast on top.

Add salt to side of bowl.
Add herbs and flour and mix all together. 
Dough should not be wet, but just slightly sticky. Add a bit more flour if nessesary.
Cover with towel and let rise about an hour.
Empty dough onto floured surface and cut into 4 equal parts. 
Knead each loaf several times to get all the air out.
Place each small rounded loaf on a greased cookie sheet {I put 2 loaves on a cookie sheet so they had room to rise}. 
Brush tops with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. 
Put loaves into cold oven, turn oven to 400 and bread will rise as the oven is preheating. When the oven reaches 400, it should take about 30-40 minutes until top is golden brown. 

Just try and resist cutting into the fresh baked bread before it cools!!! :)