Friday, September 27, 2013

Self Preservation (And the most perfect Autumn day, ever!)

One of the loveliest things about Autumn is making apple butter. I love homemade apple butter - thick, spicy with cloves and cinnamon, perfect on toast or oatmeal or, you know, by the spoonful. :) (Funny story... Allen was REALLY grossed out last year whenever I'd eat apple butter by the spoonful - apparently he thought it really was "butter" of some sort; I had to show him the recipe before he'd concede that yes, apple "butter" is really just uber-thick applesauce, and thus, not gross to eat plain. ;))

This week Abigail got a day off of school for some reason - I don't know why and I don't care, lol - so we seized the opportunity to go to the farm together! We've done this trip together for the last three years, usually with her old preschool class, and even though we'll be going to pick out pumpkins with her kindergarten class next month, I wanted some one-on-one time with her. Well... with her and Maggie and Allen! :)

What do the two above paragraphs have to do with one another? Well, this farm has the best apple orchard! And their apples are very reasonably priced and taste amazing - seriously, if you've never had an orchard-fresh apple, you won't understand the difference in taste!

Abby had a ton of fun running around the farm for an hour or so, climbing on the wooden tractors and train, running on the hay bales, playing in the corn shed, checking out the bunnies, chickens, and goats, going down the slide, and just generally having a ball!

When she got tired, we went inside to pick out our half-bushel of apples, along with some apple, peach, and cranberry ciders, flavored honey, butternut squash, and one of the little marble turtles that Abigail and her mama love, that we found tucked away on a shelf in the shop store. Then we sat outside on the porch, in rocking chairs, eating an apple apiece and enjoying each other. :)

Then we went back to my house to turn the apples into butter!

I did all the peeling and chopping while Abby played with my siblings, then she helped me add the cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

I like my apple butter dark, so I left the crockpot on low and kept wiping down the sides with my trusty rubber spatula, and twenty-four hours of apple-scented bliss later - seriously, my whole place smelled like apple! - I had the yummiest spread ever. :)


A few days after I got sick, I had a morning where I woke up and felt a little better. It was short-lived... but I had time to go get groceries and more meds before I went back to bed (lol!). At Wal-Mart, I walked into a flash produce sale and found some amazing deals: grapes for fifty cents a pound, strawberries for $1 a carton, and avacados for ninety cents a piece. I bought a couple pounds of grapes, threw them in the freezer, and pretty much lived on them for the next couple of days - they were an amazing thing to eat when my throat was so, so sore! I also got a couple of avacados for cheap, thinking I'd be feeling well soon, but between being sick and then the antibiotics making my tummy unhappy, I ended up giving them to my family. :(

I also got three pounds of strawberries for $1 a pound. What was I thinking?! I didn't feel like eating them while I was sick, and by the time I started to feel a bit better, they had started to soften, and some were a little moldy and brown. :( I wanted to salvage then, so I made jam in the crockpot! I used this recipe, except that I used about half the amount of sugar, and right before I turned the crockpot off I whisked in several heaping tablespoons of cornstarch, and it thickened up nicely. It tastes amazing - way, way better that storebought! - and I look forward to eating it with peanut butter, on oatmeal, and... you know... on a spoon. :)

My family went out of town this past weekend on a camping trip, so I took advantage of the big house kitchen to stock my freezer with easy meals. I did this pretty faithfully the first couple of months I was living on my own - at least once a week I'd make a big batch of something and freeze the leftovers so I had an easy meal for later. I've been missing that lately, especially when I was feeling too rotten to cook. So, while they were gone I mixed up a batch each of Rachael Ray's Croque Monsieur casserole (with turkey and swiss instead of ham), Mu Shu casserole (with beef instead of pork), and her Shrimp and Pasta bake. Now my freezer is filled with food that only needs to be stuck in the oven (or microwave) and I'm all set!

I have yet to make anything pumpkin-y - usually I wait until the day after Halloween when the pumpkins are dirt-cheap - but I'm looking forward to trying to new pumpkin recipes, too. Any good recommendations?

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