Archive | October, 2011

Canning bliss, Autumn Harvest: Apple Pie Filling

31 Oct

Mmm, Apple Pie. One of the best sweet comfort foods out there. But it does require some preparation and time to make a pie from scratch. So, why not can some of the Autumn apple harvest and make Apple Pie Filling? It’s worth the effort!

Now, the Ball canning recipe calls for the use of Clear Jel to thicken the filling, as cornstarch is not always stable enough to withstand the required canning time as well as may not let the heat penetrate the apple filling to properly heat it. The Tasty Kitchen recipe calls for plain old cornstarch. That being said, I use plain old cornstarch to thicken my filling, and have not had any problems on either recipe. Clear Jel is not readily available in my area so I substituted the cornstarch and had lovely results.

Whatever you use, do so at your discretion. I recommend following the directions and using the Clear Jel, even though I myself don’t follow the directions. Just make sure to keep the filling very hot and to have your water bath already at a boil when you add the jars to minimize any issue.

And lastly, enjoy the preserving process!  The links below will take you to 2 different recipes. I have tried both and think they are both awesome, however I add more cinnamon than called for as well as some nutmeg. Do NOT deviate from the amount of lemon juice called out!

Apple Pie Filling Recipe from Ball Canning

Apple Pie Filling from Tasty Kitchen

Got jewelry?

27 Oct

I admit that i’m one of those people that impulse buy jewelry. Especially if it’s on clearance.

Originally $35, marked down to $1.99 you say??? Well, I don’t know when i’ll ever wear it, but i’ll take it!

Sigh. But at clearance prices, it’s not like I’m breaking the bank. And then there are the jewelry parties. I’ve got a menagerie of bling from these as well (and just recently received some more since I had a party). And then there is the heirloom jewelry and fancy stuff passed down or purchased as a gift. And what did I do with all of this jewelry? I store it all nice and neat in my jewelry box, which is a decent sized piece of FURNITURE, not a little box on the dresser. It’s got two sides that pop open to display necklaces, a section for boxed jewelry to live, ring sections, earring sections…you name it. Yet somehow, despite all this lovely jewelry organization to properly keep my necklaces from being tangled and my earrings from losing a mate, I continued to wear only two items – my wedding rings and diamond studs. Let’s face it, in the morning rush to get ready for work, jewelry is always the last thing on my mind. If my wedding bands and diamond studs weren’t always on me, i’d probably forget to put them on in the morning too. So most of the time, all of my jewelry gets neglected and sits in it’s proper spot getting no love. I had had enough. I needed to start wearing all of my purchases, so I started looking around at all the different display type organization out there. I knew I wanted something I could hang on the wall to display earrings and necklaces, but I didn’t want it to be big and bulky since it was going to be hanging on a very small section of wall near the bathroom in my bedroom. I gave up on looking for traditional jewelry storage and opted to check out my local craft store. I found exactly what I was looking for!

This little cutie is the perfect size for the small area I wanted to hang it in, the chicken wire backing is just right to hang my earrings off of while the little knobs work great at displaying my various necklaces. Now I have everything easily accessible and visible so that I have no excuse to not wear my stuff. After having this up for a few months, my jewelry wearing has increased tenfold! And to be honest, the only drawback I can see is that sterling silver items can become tarnished since they are exposed but this isn’t a big deal to me since I can just gloss them up with a polishing cloth.

If you’re sick of not wearing your jewelry, here’s a great way to display it so it’s easy to see and get to. And it doesn’t look bad hanging quietly in a corner.

Fall adult beverage: Pumpkin Rum Punch

24 Oct

I served up this punch at a ladies party I had at my house recently – it was a unanimous hit! Not one person tried it and didn’t like it – none that admitted it anyway! Obviously, you have to be a fan of pumpkin to enjoy this punch. It is loaded with pumpkin flavor, kind of like pumpkin pie in a glass, but less sweet. Next time I make it i’m toying with adding about 1/2 cup whipped cream vodka along with the spiced rum to make it even more pumpkin pie like. Whatever you do, don’t sub ground cinnamon for the cinnamon sticks. It creates a gritty substance that is hard to strain out, and will also alter the color of the punch.

This would be a great companion to Thanksgiving, so I’m thinking about making a double batch – one for home, one to take! Enjoy!

Pumpkin Rum Punch

serves 12


  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 12 cups water
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 29-ounce can pure pumpkin (NOT Pumpkin pie mix)
  • zest of 1 lemon, cut using a vegetable peeler
  • 1 cup spice rum (I used Captain Morgan)


Combine 12 cups water, brown sugar, pumpkin, and cinnamon sticks in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil.  Add lemon peel and let simmer for 15 minutes. Let mixture cool, then refrigerate until the liquid is cold and the pumpkin pulp settles to the bottom, 2 to 3 hours, or overnight.

Working in batches, ladle the liquid into a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl or pitcher. Discard the pulp and lemon zest. Return the cinnamon sticks to the punch, add the spiced rum and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve over ice and add a cinnamon stick if you so desire.

This can be made without the rum as well for a non-alcoholic version.

Guilty Pleasure ~ Caramel Apple CUPCAKES!

21 Oct

I am a huge caramel apple fan. HUGE. When we go to a carnival, festival, or fair, I always have to buy at least one to take home and one to eat at the actual event. They aren’t hard to make at home, but I generally avoid doing it because I don’t want to have to eat them all! So I indulge when I can.

Then I kept noticing on that there were all these recipes for caramel apple cupcakes and I got to thinking, hmmm….no one recipe struck my fancy and I wanted something that would be easy to whip up and be as healthy as could be since the basic premise of a caramel apple is caramel, and well, an apple. So I wanted a cupcake that infused as much apple flavor as possible. Voila – spice cake mix with applesauce and chopped apple! My sister in law always adds some sour cream into her cake batters for extra moisture so I thought I’d do the same. Love the result. There is alot of apple flavor in these, they’re the perfect portion of sweetness, and they’ll tide me over until I get my next caramel apple fix!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

1 (18.25-ounce) package spice cake mix
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup applesauce (I used homemade cinnamon)
1 large apple, peeled and chopped
1/4 milk
24 wooden craft sticks
Caramel sauce: 1 11oz bag Kraft Caramel bits
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix, eggs, sour cream, milk, and applesauce until incorporated (about 30 seconds). Scrape sides of bowl and then beat on med-high speed for 3 minutes. Stir in chopped apple.

2. Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin pans, filling two-thirds full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

For Caramel sauce: combine Kraft caramel bits as directed on packaging. I had to use a whisk to get the caramels and water to mix together properly, but the result was just what i was looking for. If you want a thicker caramel sauce, use less water.

Spread caramel mixture over cupcakes. Insert a wooden stick into center of each cupcake. Store covered in an airtight container. It’s best to serve the cupcakes the same day that you add the caramel topping. Otherwise the caramel sauce will soak into the cupcakes. They still taste great, but you lose the presentation effect!

Breakfast or dessert, you decide. I choose both for these pumpkin cinnamon rolls!

17 Oct

I know, I know. Another pumpkin recipe. But it’s one of my favorite flavors and just says “fall” to me. Yes, the pumpkin speaks to me, so there. And the most fabulous thing about these pumpkin cinnamon rolls, other than them tasting fantastic enough to make my husband make moaning noises while stuffing one of these into his pie hole, is that there is NO KNEADING! Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy! I made these this past saturday while I was cleaning the house. I mixed up the dough, let it rise for an hour. Slapped on the filling, rolled them up and let them sit for about 30 minutes before popping them into the oven for 25 minutes. The original recipe is one from The Kitchn, but I had to edit it as they glaze sounded too sugary, I didn’t feel there was enough cinnamon flavor in the filling, and they didn’t say anything about adding the yeast to warm water – the warm water helps activate the yeast. So below is my edited version, and I hope that you enjoy it as much as we do! If you want, you can skip the glaze because they’re good all by themselves….but I added to the glaze because i’m a rebel like that.

Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features electronica roots, trip hop roots, rap influences, beats made for dancing and surreal lyrics.

Before glaze

No-Knead Pumpkin Rolls with Brown Sugar Glaze
Makes 12 rolls, Adapted from The Kitchn

1/4 cup warm water, about 170 degrees
1 tablespoon yeast (1 package)
1 cup skim or 2% milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
5 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup skim or 2% milk
1 cup brown sugar
pinch salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit a few minutes until the yeast is dissolved.

Meanwhile, warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan on the stove top until the butter is melted. Combine this with the sugar in a large heat-proof mixing bowl and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Let the milk mixture cool until you can touch it – I speed up the process by putting the mixture in a cold bowl that has been placed in the fridge for about 10 minutes.Stir in the yeast and pumpkin. Add the salt and five cups of the flour all at once, stirring until all the flour has been absorbed – I used a dough whisk to speed up the process.  The dough will be sticky, but should come together in a shaggy ball. If it’s still more the consistency of cookie batter, work in an additional 1/2 cup of flour, 1/4 cup at a time.

Cover the dough and let it rise for 1-3 hours in a warm place. Your dough will double in bulk.

To shape the rolls, sprinkle your work surface with a little flour and drop the dough on top. Pat it down into a rough rectangle and using a floured rolling pin, roll it into a rectangular shape about a half an inch thick, longer than it is wide. Sprinkle more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.

Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in the brown sugar and the spices. Spread mixture over  dough, leaving an inch of bare dough at the top and about 1/2 in on the edges. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch it closed at the top.

Spray your baking dish(es) with nonstick cooking spray . Using a sharp knife, cut the cylinder into individual rolls 1 – 1 1/2 inches thick. Place them into your baking dishes so they have a little  room on all sides to rise. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let  rise until they have puffed up, about 30 minutes. They will rise more in the oven so don’t worry if they aren’t touching yet.

Ten minutes into your dough rising, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. When ready, bake rolls for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden and starting to get toasty at the edges.

Prepare the glaze – In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and butter. When the butter has melted, add the brown sugar and salt. Stir until the brown sugar has melted. Stir in the powdered sugar and whisk to remove any chunks of sugar. Glaze will be pourable but not overly runny.

gettin their glaze on

Let the baked rolls cool for about five minutes and then pour the glaze on top. Eat right away. Share if you feel like it. Any leftovers can be reheated in the microwave for about 30 seconds. These also freeze well, just double wrap in saran and then a layer of foil.

Bliss on a plate.

Mason Jar Obsession – Streusel Topped Pumpkin Pies

12 Oct

I must admit, I am smitten with this idea. Single servings of dessert at hand, totally ready to be made portable if needed or to send home with guests and a party favor. For those of you that are skeptical about the idea of cooking individual pies in mason jars, you can still follow this basic recipe using your pie plate. It will work with the same result, but I will warn you – it’ll be a lot less cute.

To follow this recipe and have it look like mine, you will need a total of 12 4oz jelly jars. There will be enough pumpkin filling for exactly 12 jars.

Here is a list of the total things required:

case of 12 4oz jelly jars

1 can Libby’s pumpkin pie mix, prepared (follow can directions)

1 batch oatmeal streusel topping (recipe at bottom of post)

optional: whipped cream


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Place your 12 mason jars on a small rimmed baking sheet. Fill mason jars with pumpkin filling up to the lower rim of the jar (the part underneath the threads for the screw bands – this will leave you 1/2in headspace to put your streusel and still be able to put a lid on the jar). Once you are done with this, sprinkle the tops of each jar with the oatmeal streusel topping – you will have a little bit left over, no worries.

Put pie laden cookie sheet in the oven and let them bake at 425 for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, lower temp to 350 degrees and let bake for 50 minutes. Once they are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool to room temp. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream and enjoy! Any leftover pies, put canning lid and screw band on and store.

Oatmeal Streusel topping

4tbsp room temp butter

1/2 cup quick oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1tsp cinnamon

combine all ingredients in a bowl using a fork or your hands until they resemble a streusel topping.

Sunday Suppers – Cheeseburger Potato Soup

10 Oct

As soon as the air gets that crispness to it that only comes with fall being on the horizon, I start my Sunday Soup(or stew/chili) Suppers (say that 1o times fast). I make a huge batch of soup, enough for the husband and I to eat for 3-4 days. This provides us with a hearty, filling meal for most of the week, and also saves me alot of time and prep work in the kitchen. The soup recipes you see here will yield alot, unless otherwise stated. If you’re not into eating the same thing for that long, you can portion this out and freeze it to have soup readily available to you for lunches or a quick dinner. This weekend was not a fall one as the weather was warm and sunny and just plain beautiful. I’m not complaining at all – but I still made this soup because once the soup sunday starts, it doesn’t go away until it’s actually spring!

This soup is wonderfully filling, like a meaty baked potato with all the trimmings. Adjust the herbs and spices to your liking, and always season to taste. While I like a little kick from the pepper, you may want to add less and adjust it up to your personal preference.

Cheeseburger Potato Soup

1lb ground turkey

1lb lean ground beef

2 large Vidalia onions, chopped

1 10oz bag shredded carrots

6 cloves garlic, chopped

4 tablespoons chopped chives

2 teaspoon fresh parsley (you can use dried)

8 Tablespoons butter, divided

2 32oz containers chicken broth

5lbs potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 cup flour

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

3 cups milk

salt and pepper to your taste

1/2 cup sour cream

In a large soup pot, brown beef and turkey; remove from pot and set aside. In the same pot, saute onion, carrots, celery, garlic, chives and parsley in 4 Tablespoons butter until vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes). Add broth, potatoes and meats; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Add flour; cook and stir for 3 minutes. Whisk in about 1 cup of broth from the soup, then add the flour/broth mix to the soup pot, whisking to incorporate: bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add cheese, milk, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream.

Serve with some extra shredded cheese on top and some homemade biscuits – I made the bisquick version on the box – adding in an egg, some chives, and goat cheese.