Catching Up a Tad

The past week has been NUTS!  It’s been so busy, I didn’t even have much time to write (although I probably could’ve used it)!  So, I have a lot of catching up to do!!  Here goes:

It’s harvesting time for apples and grapes up in the Northeast, so I took full advantage!  This is my favorite season!  I have been making homemade apple butter for 5 years now, and mom and I made muscadine jelly back in the day in Texas.  So I continued the tradition with apple butter and grape jam this year, too! These recipes are sugar free, but you could use sugar, of course.  The grape jam is probably the most high-maintenance jam I make, but the apple butter is a crock-pot overnight recipe that you can literally make in your sleep!  😉

Grape Jam
6 pounds grapes
1 c. juice (no sugar added, I used apple)
2-3 packages of no-sugar added pectin

Wash grapes & pluck them from their stems.  Pop them into a large pot with juice & cook over medium heat until liquidy, about 30-45 minutes.  Strain out seeds and skins through a colander, so that you’re left with only the liquid.  Return liquid to pot and heat until rolling boil and add pectin.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes or until thick; remove from heat.  Process in hot jars if you wish to can it, or you can freeze it, or you can just put it in the fridge for immediate use. (made 7 pint jars)

Apple Butter
1/4 bushel apples
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. cinnamon (optional)

Peel, core, and coarsely chop the apples.  Toss them in a crock-pot with water, lemon juice, and cinnamon, if desired.  Cook them over low heat overnight, and process the next morning in hot jars, freeze, or store in fridge for immediate use. (made 6-7 pint size jars).

Here are some of the pics from our first anniversary!

See how handsome Mr. Handsome is!  I just love him, lol!  And we pulled out our wedding silver and champagne flutes; those made for those extra touches!  You could even see the table I decorated to look like our sweetheart table at our wedding!  🙂

The weather this week has been rainy and cold, and I wanted to eat a cinnamon roll so bad!!!  I have found an awesome recipe for whole wheat cinnamon rolls- they are absolutely divine.  I promise, no matter how trying your week may have been, these will make it all better.  They melt in your mouth!  And yes, they are whole wheat, no processed sugars, and still fabulous.  I recommend making the entire recipe and freezing whatever you can’t eat!  The dough recipe came from this site, but I made a few changes to the filling and frosting! (Y’all know how I do.)  In my opinion, this would be so easy for a special holiday morning by making them the night before and pop them in the fridge (see “Overnight” instructions).

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls
2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 c. warm milk or buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c. honey
1 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. Sweetener or choice (Splenda, Stevia, etc, or Demerara Sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses
1/3 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. raisins, currants, or cranberries
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. honey

1/4 c. cream cheese, neufchatel, fat free
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla

In a large bowl, combine flours, salt, and yeast, set aside.  In 2 c. measuring cup, combine milk, butter, and honey, and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes on high.  Make sure the milk is not scalding or it will burn the yeast!  Add the egg into the liquids and whip.  Add the liquid to the flour mixture & mix; allow to sit for 5 minutes, covered.

Pull the dough out onto a floured surface & knead gently 4-5 turns.  Cover and let rise 30-40 minutes (until doubled in size).  Meanwhile, make filling by combining butter, sweetener, molasses, pecans, and raisins (not cinnamon or honey yet).

Take floured rolling pin and roll dough out into a large rectangle.  Top with filling (it will look sparse).  Sprinkle cinnamon over filling, and then drizzle honey (almost like baklava).  Roll dough into a long cylindrical roll and slice into 1″ slices.  Arrange rolls onto a greased pan and re-cover.

For overnight: Cover with plastic wrap and pop them in the fridge.  An hour before you’re ready to bake, let them rise in room temperature until doubled in size.  Then follow baking instructions.

For Immediate Use: Allow to rise again, 40 minutes, until doubled in size again.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top.  Meanwhile, make frosting by combining all 3 ingredients in a small bowl.

Once done baking, drizzle frosting over the top and enjoy while warm!

Those were so good with a little fruit salad on the side.  And they were super fresh!

The last recipe was also indulgent yet virtuous.  Brownies made “healthy!!”  They have 2 surprises: a can of pumpkin and a sweet, dark beer (we used Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout).  Surprisingly delicious, but I thought they came out more like a Souffle, so I’ve changed the name of this recipe

Dark Chocolate Souffle with Beer
1 stick of butter, melted
2 c. cocoa
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. honey
1/2 c. evaporated cane juice
1 can pumpkin (2 c./ 16 oz.)
3 eggs
4 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. stout beer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In mixer, add butter and cocoa & mix.  Add flour gradually, mixing in between additions.  Add baking powder and salt; mix.  Add honey and cane juice; mix.  Spoon pumpkin slowly into batter, stirring between additions.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between eggs, then vanilla.  Slowly add the beer while mixing batter.  It will be very thin.  Pour into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan and bake for 1 hour.
When a knife is inserted into souffle, there will be crumbs adherent to knife, but there should be no raw batter.  Can top with a chocolate ganache or without.  Serve immediately.

Last but not least, we have come to the end of our growing season (sadly).  I actually grew something! A lot of somethings!!  The peppers grew the best in my little container garden, and I have so many extras, I am drying them in the oven to make a chile wreath (upcoming post).  Here are some pictures of the last picks of the garden!

I haven’t decided what or if I will have a container garden again next year.  If I do, I will definitely be doing the peppers again. It was fabulous to have so many peppers at my fingertips all summer long!  But the tomatoes were excellent, too.  There really is nothing like a home grown tomato.  It’s the best!

I’m a little sad to see my summer hobbies go (gardening, canning, freezing, pickling).  It’s time to hunker down for winter again soon- and I do feel a little bit better about it this year, at least at this very moment.  I’m looking forward to learning to ski and snowboard, and picking up some wintertime hobbies like painting, reading, crafting, etc.  And I am really looking forward to soups, stews, oven roasted what-nots, baked goods- all those dishes that heat up the house too much for the summertime.  It’s so interesting, I think, that by the time winter’s over, I am ready to fire up the grill and have lots of summertime food, not wanting to look at another stew for a long time.  But here, in the climax of fall, I am ready for stew again, and ready to put the grill away for a little while.  Everything has its season, I guess, and I am going to try to appreciate every season for what it is! 🙂

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