Homemade apple butter

Bill has been talking about apple butter for a month now. I’ve never made it, but on the way home from Nebraska City the other day I made him stop at an orchard outside a little state park. I’ve been going to that orchard for years to get a caramel apple. This year, I grabbed fresh apples instead and decided to make homemade apple butter.

I have never made it before, but I like the stuff so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I found several recipes and after seeing what went into it I made up my own. I think the amount of sugar is alright, but I think next time I’ll cut it down to ¾ cup both white and brown.

Apple Butter
5-6 lbs apples (I used multiple kinds.)
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
3 t cinnamon
¼ t cloves
¼ t salt

1. Peel and chop apples.
2. Mix with sugars and spices.
3. Dump mixture into crock pot and cook on low for 12-13 hours.
4. Use a blender to make mixture smooth.
5. Place into ½ pint containers and freeze.

This made 6 ½ pint containers.


Homemade laundry detergent

Bill has freakishly sensitive skin. Recently the dye and scent free soap we use has begun breaking him out. So after moderately careful consideration I we made the switch to homemade. This is so much cheaper than the expensive stuff I used to buy. And so much better for us.

I have three goals for the end of the year:
★Cut out most of our chemicals
★Cut almost all of our paper products
★Make an angel food cake from scratch

Homemade laundry soap
72 oz box borax
3.9 lb box washing soda
4 lb box baking soda
2 bars fels naptha

1. I used an old food processor to grind up my soap, but you can alaways grate by hand.
2. Dump all ingredients into a pail or bucket and mix together.
3. Use 1T for normal loads and 2T for dirtier loads.


Budget

Bill and I both work at Walmart. People often ask how we can live on what we earn and seem to have more than enough. The answer is simple, we live well within our means. Instead of cable, we have Netflix which saves us $40 a month. We have two cars, both eight years old, but mine is paid off and his will be at the end of October. The money that would usually go for his car payment will be going into a savings account in January. I coupon only for household chemicals and beauty supplies, which saves quite a bit if you do it right.  I make weekly menus, lists, and cook from my pantry or freezers most of the time. We pay bills when they’re due and almost never have overdrafts. We have zero credit cards. We both learned the hard way before marriage.

That’s not to say if we want it we don’t buy it. We won’t if we don’t have the money. Because of our fiscally conservative ways we were able to splurge on the Galaxy tablet Bill wanted. If we were stupid with our money we would never be able to afford it. That pay period was tighter than normal and we couldn’t go out to eat or buy anything at the last minute if I needed it for a recipe; but we had our bills paid, the groceries bought, and gas money for our cars. We make sure the essentials are covered and then we have fun. Our fun is usually dinner out and a new $5 movie, so even there we’re cheap. It’s a decision we made before we got married that we were not going to waste money on the things we consider unnecessary.

Because I cook a lot from my pantry and freezers there are ingredients I always have on hand to make our favorite dinner. I foundn the original recipe on Food, but I’ve changed it a bit and made it my own.

Black bean, corn, and chicken with salsa and cream cheese
2 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 frozen boneless, skinless thighs
2 cups of salsa
Paprika
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Cumin
8 oz cream cheese

Place chicken on the bottom of the crock pot.

Mix salsa through cumin and place in a bowl.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

Thirty minutes before eating place cream cheese on top of mixture and replace lid.

Stir cream cheese into chicken, which shreds it, and serve with soft tortillas or chips.

Top with sour cream or shredded cheddar if desired.


A converted soup lover.

Bill hates most soups. He’ll eat stews and chilis without argument. I suggest brocolli cheese and he freaks out. Until he tries it and realizes that it’s just broccoli with cheese sauce and told me to make it again. I have a convert. I may test the waters at another time with French onion soup. Yum!

I made this recipe myself after browsing several websites and realizing that, like many things, people were trying to over complicate food. To me food should be simple, nourishing, and just toss and go. Not that I don’t make things that are complicated, but for the most part I like to dump things together and walk away. Which is why I never make cookies, but bars. I don’t want to babysit my food.

I’m not a big fan of Velveeta, but for some things it really does just seem to need it. Homemade mac and cheese is another one. I have tried mac and cheese using real cheese, but it’s not quite right. It’s not something I buy often and it tends to hang out in the fridge for awhile until I use it again.

My only problem with this is that it’s not an all day dish. This is something that I get ready before work and Bill puts in the crock pot when he gets home for a late night dinner when I get home. Really late night.

Broccoli cheese soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 lb Velveeta, diced (gosh that sounds like a lot)
1 ½ cups of milk
¼ cup onion, minced
16 oz frozen broccoli
Fresh pepper to taste

Dump all ingredients in the crock pot and cook for three hours.


Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Bill’s mom’s significant other had a birthday last Tuesday. I meant to post then, but other things came up. My husband volunteered my baking services and since it was in the middle of a paycheck, I couldn’t just go out and buy ingredients. I had everything I needed so I decided to make pineapple upside down cake. I love “old-fashioned” desserts. They’re so fun and tasty. A hearkening back to a simpler era. You can’t believe how hard it was to find a simple, normal cake recipe. They all wanted to add a weird spice or alcohol and that’s not what I wanted. I don’t want cardamom mixing with my pineapple; and I don’t drink so I don’t want to cook with it.

People ended up liking my cake much more than the birthday cake. Whoops! Sorry.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
From Smitten Kitchen
Topping:
1 can pineapple
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

Batter:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make topping: Line bottome of a 9″ pan with 2″ sides (I used a springform pan) with parchment paper. I find it helps with removal. Melt butter in skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, four minutes. Remove from heat and pour into pan. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in concentric circles, overlapping pieces slightly.

Make batter: Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in pineapple juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended. (Batter may appear slightly curdled.)

Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Let cake stand in skillet five minutes. Invert a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate (keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together). Replace any pineapple stuck to bottom of skillet. Cool on plate on a rack.

Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.


Vegetable barley beef stew

As I wait out the week for my next doctor’s appointment to see how this will progress, I still have to function. Sort of. I’m trying not to sink too far into depression as I wait for this to end. It took fourteen months to get pregnant and after one month it is no more. This is not my choice. This is my body’s choice. I have PCOS and we had no idea if we could even get pregnant without drugs. We can and that’s good to know.

To get myself out of the depression I’d fallen into, I decided to make dinner. I don’t care if it’s summer, beef stew still sounded really good. And I had everything on hand.

Vegetable barley beef stew
1.5 pounds beef stew meat
1 can each corn, green beans, and stewed tomatoes
12 oz bag frozen peas and corn
1 onion, chopped
1 carton beef broth

1. Preheat oven to 250F.
2. Place all ingredients in Dutch oven.
3. Bake for 3-4 hours.

I normally serve this with oatmeal muffins, but Italian bread works in a pinch.


Pregnancy and food blogs

When I got pregnant for the first time, and before losing it a week later, I started reading my favorite food blogs and realized, they’re too complicated. Too upscale. Too big town. I’m from a tiny town in Iowa and quite honestly they’re not a right fit for my family. I realize that they’re much better cooks and bakers than I am, but they seemed out of reach for a small town girl with simple tastes. At our house we eat spaghetti and sometimes baked ziti. We have burgers with hamburger on sale and usually processed cheese slices. We eat barbecue chicken made in the crockpot. In fact, my crockpot is my most used kitchen appliance. My bread maker not so much. We like hot dogs and homemade mac and cheese. In fact most of my food is homemade. Homemade not organic.

Welcome to my kitchen. My therapy. My happy place.


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