Saturday, December 22, 2012

perfect homemade apple butter.

I've been working on this apple butter recipe for quite some time.  There are many different opinions out there on the "right" way to make the tasty stuff, so I figured I better try a few and find out for myself.

Here are the 3 different methods I tested.

{1} Traditionalists say that in order to make the perfect buttery rich apple butter you must cook the apples with the peels and cores.  Supposedly the extra pectin in the peel and core creates a thicker butter.  This variation was pretty labor intensive.  After cooking the quartered apples for hours I ran the chunky sauce through a food mill in small batches to get the right consistency and remove the peels and cores.

{2} Since my first try was quite the process I tried a much easier route this time around. I left the peels on the apples but removed the cores.  After slow cooking the apples for hours on the stove I used an immersion blender to puree it (peels and all).

{3} Some say that apple butter is just overcooked apple sauce.  So this time I removed skins and peels and cooked it like applesauce (and then cooked it some more).

Here's the great news...the best apple butter was try {2}!  And believe it or not, that was the easiest variation.  I guess there must be some truth to the pectin in the skins because it seemed to make a big difference (though the cores certainly aren't worth the effort).  Try {1} was good but way too much effort and you can't tell it from {2} at all.  Try {3} was also too much effort (peeling is a drag) and it just wasn't as good.

So, I better put all that research to good use and give you the recipe that I came up with.  It's really tasty and very healthy.  It takes a long time to cook, but it's so simple.  It's the perfect recipe to make on a weekend when you're home all day.  It makes the house smell amazing.

I made a lot!  Enough to give as Christmas gifts to all the neighbors and still have plenty of jars left for the pantry.  I used about 16lbs of apples and finished with twenty 8oz. (1/2 pint) jars.  I'm cutting the recipe down to only 4lbs of apples, but you can certainly make lots at once once by doubling (or quadrupling).  4 lbs. of apples will give you about five 8 oz. jars of apple butter.

Here's what you need:
  • 4lbs. apples (I used gala, granny smith and a few pink ladies - that's what we had in the fridge and what was on sale)
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (more if you like it sweeter)
  • 1+1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • a pinch of cardamom (you can omit if you don't have it)
Here's what you do:
  • Cut apples into large slices and remove cores
  • Boil apples and cider in a large pot on medium to low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 hours, until apples are very tender and skins are slipping off.
  • Use an immersion blender (or a regular blender/food processor) to puree the apples and skins. 
  • Return to a simmer (low heat) and stir occasionally until desired consistency is reached (3-4 hours)
When finished the apple butter will be a deep golden brown and a thick buttery consistency (that's where it gets it's name).  It will thicken slightly as it cools.
Refrigerate the apple butter and enjoy OR can it/store it/gift it (like I did).

The cute tags are a free printable from the cottage industrialist!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas.

The house is all decorated and most of the shopping is finished, which means we finally have a couple of days to enjoy the loveliness of the holidays before it's on to 2013.

The house feels warm and cozy with lots of candlelight and rustic accents (think pine cones, burlap, ilex berries and fir boughs).  The recent rain in LA is certainly helping with the "weather outside is frightful, but the fire inside's delightful" feeling.

 The couch is cozy and festive with handmade Christmas pillows.  See my iron on pillow tutorial for details. I bought the cute holiday images on etsy for $1 (search christmas printables).  I'll do a grain sack pillow tutorial in the near future!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

gift tags...

It's time to start that holiday wrapping!  If only I had all of my shopping done...

Here are a few of my favorite (free!) gift tag printables.  All you need is a printer and a pair of scissors (maybe a little ribbon or some twine too)!


Happy wrapping!

And a big THANKS to all the talented bloggers out there that create these fun printables for all to enjoy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

brown paper packages tied up with...

a little something different!

This year I'm really loving paper bows.  They turn out perfect every time (and they're cheap and easy to make).  And if you don't have matching ribbon - all you need is a printer and the options are endless!

There are a bunch of wonderful patterns and templates on Ellinee (one of my favorite blogs).  You can also print out a blank template, print on cardstock and trace onto ANY paper or wrapping paper!
In just a few easy steps you'll have the cutest little package.

You'll need a couple of basics:
double stick tape (I recommend a little tape runner for all your wrapping)
paper of your choosing and the template or a pattern from Ellinee

{Step 1} Cut out your pieces.

{Step 2} Create your bow by taping the ends to the middle.  Three pieces of tape on the white side (one in the middle and two on each end) and you're all set.

{Step 3} wrap that tiny little rectangle around the middle of the bow
 {Step 4} attach the long "ribbon" pieces to your package
{Step 5} attach the flat "bow tie" and the bow to your package
{Final Step} top things off with a gift tag of your choosing.  I printed one on cardstock and attached it with a tiny clothespin.  I used one of my favorite fonts that you can download free here!

Now go surprise someone with your perfect gift!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

sweets and celebration...

The past weekend was all about celebrating.  I spent sunday afternoon with a group of girlfriends at my sister(in law)'s cute, cute, cute little beach house.  She put together a perfect, cozy holiday gathering.  We spent the afternoon making homemade gift tags, eating homemade treats and just enjoying good company.

She put together so many fun details, but the best part had to be the take-home goodies!  Head on over to paper{whites}blog to check all of the adorable details.

My contribution to the cookie exchange was a family favorite; Chocolate Mint Sticks.  These are really a layered brownie, but we've always sliced them into thin sticks since they're so rich.

My mom has been making this recipe for as long as I can remember and now my sister and I can't go a year without them. They are so deliciously rich and minty.  Everyone raves about them.

Here is the recipe that I shared with the group.  I found this adorable recipe card by paper stories over at the sweetest occasion.  They have a bunch of great printable recipe cards. I simply added my text in picasa and it was ready to be shared with my girlfriends!

Here are the little treat boxes that I gave to each of the girls.

Don't let the holidays go by without making these.  Yum!

Oh, and if you're pressed for time you can use a brownie mix for the bottom layer (I won't tell).

Monday, December 3, 2012

mjuk pepparkaka: swedish spice cake with brown sugar & rum glaze

This past weekend marked the annual holiday scandinavian brunch at the long beach marina.  It's definitely a unique holiday tradition and it sure is a good time.   We thoroughly enjoyed playing on the saiboat (keeping Carson out of the water) and feasting on scandinavion fare.

We were asked to contribute a scandinavian dish (and since I don't have any of those in my recipe box) I tried a traditional swedish treat called mjuk pepparkaka.  Pepperkaka is a spice cookie or cake (similar to gingerbread?), which is eaten during the holiday season.    There are lots of recipes out there and I couldn't quite decide which one to follow.  I'm never good at following a single recipe!  So, I threw together my own variation


it is DELICIOUS!  I'm so glad I stumbled upon this swedish treat!  It just might be the best smelling cake ever.  The house smells SO good!

I think this recipe is a keeper.  Oh, and I added a (not so traditional) brown sugar & rum glaze, which I think is a must.  But, any type of glaze would probably do the trick.

Mjuk Pepparkaka

  • 2 cups flour (I used 1 cup white & 1 whole wheat)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1+1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (it's pretty strong - I like it - but if you're not a really spicy one, reduce to 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I just made my own with vinegar and skim milk)
  • 6 oz. greek yogurt (1 container - or you could go with sour cream)
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) melted butter 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, both sugars, baking powder, salt and all spices. In another bowl, mix together eggs, milk and vanilla. Add wet mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add the melted butter gradually, stirring to combine. The batter should be nice and smooth.
  3. Transfer the batter into a buttered and floured bundt/cake/loaf pan.  I made 6 mini bundts.  They were ready to come out of the oven at 23 minutes, but obviously a larger cake would need quite a bit longer.  The other recipes I found seem to say it needs 35 to 40 minutes.  I would watch it closely and take it out as soon as a toothpick comes out clean.
  4. Let cool before removing from cake pan and preparing glaze
 Brown Sugar & Rum Glaze (not part of the traditional recipe)
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark/spiced rum
Heat all ingredients over medium heat until bubbly.    Let it bubble for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly (don't let it burn!).
Spoon the glaze over the cake (I used a spoon and silicon brush).  Add a dusting of powdered sugar if you'd like.

ENJOY and God Jul (a swedish merry christmas)!