Friday, July 25, 2008

The Moment We've Been Waiting For

Dirk flies out to San Diego today to take the bar exam. I think it is safe to say that we both feel like throwing up! There is just so much happening this week. He'll leave today, study for a few days there, and take the exam Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. While he is doing that, I will be supervising our move and keeping track of the kids. Then, he'll fly back on Friday morning and we'll drive down to Houston. I know he'll do great, and I'll somehow manage the move and getting our home ready for the tenants moving in. Still, everyone in this house is on edge. Except the children. It's a constant party for them with brownies for breakfast and playdates and pool dates and birthday parties every day. Thanks to all my friends here who have been an incredible support with taking my children so I can work here at home!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hittin' the Sauce

In preparation for our cross country move, I recently gave most of my canning jars away to friends from church here in Ann Arbor. Since then, several people have asked me how I do my applesauce. I find this slightly hysterical, since I am not Super Canner or anything, I just wanted to find a way to use all those yummy Michigan apples. My method came about when someone told me how to make applesauce as follows: "Well, you just cook 'em down!"

I've got my way of doing it, which is not how a "real" canning expert does it. Most people use a Victorio (sp?) strainer. They cut the apples roughly, cook them for a few minutes, and run them through the strainer, which removes all peels and seeds. Then, they add enough sugar to make it taste right and spices if desired. It's very easy and quick. My way requires no special equipment (just a stew pot or crock pot or both) but it takes all weekend! I sometimes do it during conference. But, I've done it both ways and mine makes tastier applesauce in my opinion. I buy a box of "mixed seconds" which means that they pick up the apples that fall on the ground and they mix all different kinds. I like this because the flavors are tart, sweet, tangy, etc. The apples are really good, too, even though they aren't always perfect. I like Wiard's orchard and Plymouth orchard for apples, but I don't think I've ever had a Michigan apple I didn't like. Then I quarter, peel and seed the apples with a pairing knife, though I keep meaning to spring for a corer-peeler-slicer that will do this job for me. That's the labor intensive part. Then, I put them all in a pot or crock pot and heat them on medium low uncovered for maybe four or five hours with just a couple of inches of water. This is why I think the flavor is so intense with this method. The apples cook down the flavor concentrates. I have sometimes added cinnamon, but I have never added sugar when I cook them this way, because they become so sweet as they cook. Then I put them in jars and "process" them, which you probably know means boiling them in a water bath for 20 minutes to seal them.

That's it! Like I said, I've done it both ways and the results are amazing, whichever way you choose. You'll never buy applesauce again!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wouldn't you know it?

Many of you know that we are preparing to move from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to San Diego, California. As part of these preparations, we have to rent out our house here, since the housing market here is such a disaster. We listed the house and got a great response. We have had showings every day and I am so grateful. However, I find it a bit challenging keeping the house perfectly clean all the time just in case someone stops by to see it. Well, it happened this evening: someone was wanting to come by and I had only 15 minutes to prepare to amaze and impress them with my immaculate house. No problem. There were some dishes in the sink, the dishwasher was full of clean dishes because I had just run it (four hours before, maybe seven) so I threw them on a cookie sheet and tossed them in the oven with the granola I had made earlier but not yet put into containers. Of course it happened that tonight, several hours after "cleaning" the kitchen and promptly forgetting the stuff in the oven, I preheated the oven to finish baking a batch of cookies I had started for our little preschool group (many things are only half done around here). You guessed it: sippy cups melted and exploding, baby spoons bent and plastic storage containers oozing. To top it off, my sister Deb called while I was cleaning up the mess, so I was able to tell her that my destruction of kitchen appliances extended way beyond melting the bread bag to her toasters and starting her dish towels on fire all through college. I hope it made her feel better. Deb, you really should start a registry at Williams Sonoma for me to replace all the kitchen stuff I've ruined for you over the years.
You can't see me, but I'm inside scraping the plastic off the oven.