Monthly Archives: December 2012

handmade holiday: homemade apple butter

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Good morning! Today I am happy to share with you a fun recipe–homemade apple butter! This recipe is super easy, and I know that if you’re as addicted to apple butter as I am, you’ll fall for it right away. The best part? It’s made in a slow-cooker, so you could prep this on Christmas Eve and have fresh apple butter for Christmas Day breakfast!

My apple butter escapade started out with a bright future. Becca and I spent a weekend afternoon developing a recipe from scratch, fully expecting it to be a bust. Instead, the apple butter was DELIGHTFUL. It was rich. It was creamy. It was flavorful. I proudly schmeared some onto toast every time someone came over and made them taste test it. It was getting rave reviews.

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Then came the day to actually make my quadruple-magillion batch, to can and give as gifts for the Holiday. Here’s where my plans went wayward. You see, our test recipe used four apples and made about 24 ounces. My quadruple-magillion batch consisted of enough apples to fill thirty-six 8 ounce canning jars–that’s a lotta apples! So here I am chop chop chopping away, and I come to find that the number of apples I have chopped and seasoned (about half) won’t fit in my Crock Pot. Surprise! (Sometimes I can be a real dingbat…).

So what happens next? You guessed it. I strayed from the plan. I decide to take my apples, throw them in a stock pot and boil ’em down. I truly believe this method would have worked just fine had I actually paid attention to the apples. Instead, I went about working on my finals homework for school. After all, the original plan was to throw apples into a Crock Pot and let them have it for about 10 hours while I dutifully studied. Well, we all know the beauty of the slow-cooker is the ability to walk away from it for a whole day. Boiling fruit on the stove-top does not afford that same luxury.

I endeed scorching that apple mush an inch deep at the bottom of the pot.

Shamed, I reverted back to the original plan, only to discover another oversight: HOW WAS I GOING TO COOK 5, TEN-HOUR BATCHES IN ONE WEEKEND WITH ONE CROCK POT? The answer? I wasn’t!

So, Wes and I called around and rounded up an extra Crock Pot. I reduced the cook time (with much trepidation, mind you!) from 10 to 7 hours and hoped for the best.

It turned out just fine, especially since we also cut out the added sweetener (to accommodate sugar-free diets).  But, I still think my very original recipe was the best:

HOMEMADE APPLE BUTTER

INGREDIENTS

2 Granny Smith apples

2 Fuji apples

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

a drizzle of honey

SUPPLIES

slow-cooker

immersion blender

strainer

canning supplies (if you’re planning on making a large batch and preserving***)

INSTRUCTIONS

Slice apples into sixteenths. Don’t get rid of the core/seeds–the pectin in the core will help thicken the apple butter! Toss apple slices into your slow-cooker, sprinkling with the clove, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Drizzle honey all over the top, cover with lid, and turn on low. Let those babies cook for a solid 10 hours. The apples will become dark brown, and will reduce a lot. Liquid will release and will boil. All of these things are good things. At the end of 10 hours, pour into a bowl and carefully immersion blend. Strain into a cute serving dish and smear on toast, pancakes, and waffles, or even use as a fruit dip!

***If you want to can your apple butter, the web is full of great tutorials on canning. Also, you can ask your awesome mama for tips, like me. Here’s my canning process:

1. Wash jars, lids, and rings in hot, soapy water, and rinse.

2. Boil jars, lids, and rings for about 10 minutes.

3. Remove jars from water with this handy tool. Be sure to set jars onto clean towels, right side up. Avoid touching the lip of the jar to anything. Leave lids and rings in hot water until ready to seal jars.

4. I used this fancy-dancy food press to strain my apple butter into a clean bowl. Or you could use this two-in-one strainer/funnel to funnel strained apple butter right into the jar!

5. Otherwise, use a regular funnel to transfer the strained apple butter into jars. I must stress the usage of the funnel. It’s important to keep the lip of the jar sterile, so dripping apple butter all over it and constantly wiping it off is not the best practice!

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6. Leave room in the top of the jar for the contents to expand when boiling during the sealing process. For me, this meant I filled until just below the threads on the jar.

7. Use tongs to fish out your lids and rings. First the lid…place it evenly onto your jar, and follow with a ring.

8. Use a pot like this to give your cans a water-bath. The rack holds your cans off of the burner. I heated the water first, added the cans, and then turned it up to boiling. I processed my cans for 10 minutes. This processing time can vary depending on what you’re canning (jams/jellies, veggies, etc.) and also by your elevation. A Google search can always offer more information!

9. Remove your cans from the water with your can grabber, and allow to cool over night. This is my FAVORITE PART! If you’ve processed the cans correctly, you’ll start to hear little “pops” as the vacuum action seals the lids to the jar. Our cans popped all through the night, and every time, either myself or Wes would wake up and say “Oooh! Another one!” I was very nervous my jars wouldn’t seal!

10. Some people promote storing the jars without rings, because trapped water can cause the lid to rust or harbor bacteria (bad). I just chose to remove the rings after the jar had sealed, wipe off any water, and package with my squares of material and gift tags. Super cute, right?

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I hope you find this apple butter tasty! And, Happy Holidays. We’ll be signing off until after the holidays for the most part, so have fun and stay warm!

xoxo,

Catherine

Handmade Holiday: Christmas Stockings

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Our second project in our Handmade Holiday series is a set of coordinating stockings! The two of us thought long and hard about what we wanted our Handmade series to be comprised of, the most obvious answer being items we needed for decorations and for gifts.

Well, we were utterly bereft of any stockings for this Christmas.  My sister had some felt stockings floating around that she had made a few winters’ ago that we excavated and used to make a pattern for the new stockings…and ran into so many bumps and hiccups thereafter that I am truly surprised I got all four stockings made in time for Christmas morning!

I must tell you that this post isn’t a tutorial. I’ve got to do some major revision on the pattern and my overall sewing process to make it worthy for a how-to,  so instead I give you some tips if  you’re new to sewing of everything I learned, in the hopes that it saves you from experiencing the same extreme frustration.

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1. When you create a prototype in order to see if your pattern works, and the result is excellent, then sew the real deal as you sewed the prototype. Don’t do what we did when we decided that the fabric was too soft and the stockings needed more structure; this led to a trip to Joann’s and a huge waste of money as the interfacing purchased was the wrong weight and totally wrong in the general scheme of things, seeing as how we really didn’t need the interfacing. 

2. Take the time to create your pattern. The two of us became completely impatient after we drafted our pattern and began cutting material hither and thither, never stopping to really think about what we were doing until something inevitably went wrong; then we would try to fix that mistake but simply make everything worse! (I’m pretty sure one of us cried at that point.)

3. Be sure to use sharp, sharp scissors. Seriously. I have a really nice pair of scissors but the best pair in the world won’t cut correctly if they aren’t sharp which mine decidedly are not. Every time I  cut out a pattern piece it would come out with jagged edges and would never line up flush with its mate. More fabric than I care to remember was wasted because we persisted in using dull scissors. I had to bust out my sister’s stocking stuffer, a new pair of Fiskars, to see this project done.

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We were so happy and excited to begin this project and have cute stockings this Christmas that we lost our heads in the process, but this experience certainly taught us a thing or two about patience and thoughtful planning, something we never would have learned if we hadn’t made a big mess out of everything.

And in the end, we did get some pretty cute stockings out of it all.

Happy holidays!

Love, Bea

Handmade Holiday: DIY Winter Wreath

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Hello!

The two of us have had so much fun decorating for the holidays this year! Here’s a secret for you: not even a week into November we drug out our decorations and hung them up, just to see how well everything went together.

It’s a very good thing we did because we were able to see the whole picture and determine if we needed any extra thingamabobs or doodads to complete our wintery scene.

Which, as it turns out, we did. And thus, we have embarked on numerous holiday projects and bring you the first part of our Handmade Holiday 2012 series: a winter wreath!

We knew that a wreath would help tie everything together, but we didn’t want to go out and buy a wreath from a craft store. Those tend to be rather expensive (not to mention contrary to our general style)  and we’re both on a budget.

So, we decided we had to make one and whipped up this lovely Winter Holiday Wreath. And good news: we spent around $25 for supplies. That means more Holiday Budget to go around (and around and around and around . . . so many gifts to make/buy/bake)!

Here are the directions for a simple wreath that you can tailor to fit your style and general trimmings and trappings this season.

Supplies:

one Styrofoam form

two bags of fluffy feathers

hot glue gun/sticks

material in a neutral color (we already had this on hand, so it’s not included in our Projected Project Price!)

accent branches or other baubles

coordinating wide ribbon

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The first thing you’ll want to do is take your material and tear it into strips–set two strips aside  to use during later steps. Tearing cotton fabric is super easy–just make a snip where you want to start and rip away! It helps make things straight without being too tedious. Take your fabric strips and wrap them around the piece of Styrofoam, hot gluing as you go.

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After the Styrofoam is wrapped, start gluing the feathers around the circle. We started on the inside of the circle, moved to the outside, and then finished with the front, leaving the backside feather free. To make this step easier, be sure to glue each feather over the bottom half of the one before it.

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Next, take your accents and position them as you like. (Make a note of how you placed them because you”ll have to take them off for the next step!)

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Take one of the strips of material you saved earlier and wrap it around the middle of the wreath and glue. We wrapped it around three times and then cut off the excess. This provides a base onto which your accents will be glued.

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IMG_3052Place your accents onto the strip of material. Rearrange and trim off any extras if need be then attach them onto the wreath with glue. Take your second strip and wrap around the ‘ends’ of the accents to cover them, gluing in this step also. Next, take your ribbon and glue it directly over the strip.

Because of the delicacy of our wreath we thought it best to hang it inside our apartment using only two command strips, but if you want to show off your fabulous wreath to the outside world then a door hanger would work best!

Happy Holidays!

Love, Bea

birthday and thanksgiving memories

I am 24 and a few days old! I love having a birthday in November–it means I get to kick off Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s festivities that much sooner! Plus, there’s nothing quite like having a birthday right before turning the corner into a new year–it’s a super inspiring time for me. I may have made a multi-page goal list. And maybe I’ll share it with you!

I received some lovely, thoughtful gifts from all around–adorable socks, a Tiffany-blue sweater, the triangle necklace and Lip Venom from my wish list (!), plus some other fabulous trinkets. Oh–and Wes got me a fancy new blender! Now I can make my fruit smoothies without yelling “Blend, baby, blend!” And my niece Jordan made the most delicious Tar Heel Pie for Thanksgiving. I’m a spoiled girl!

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To make the month even better, I received some surprise correspondences in the mail–one from Corrie in Seattle, and one from Sarah in France! It was AMAZING to hear from my friends. It’s so nice to know we can be off on our own adventures and still love and care about one another! (*Makes a mental note to write back.)

But the best part was just being home with family at Thanksgiving. For the first time in my ENTIRE college career, I just left my homework at home. And yeah, it made for a stressful week upon return, but it made the two days with family much more peaceful without a stack of  to-do staring me down at every turn!

This birthday + Thanksgiving made me feel super blessed, and much less stressed. Loved it! Now, onward to Christmas!

xoxo cat