Shhhh!!! Secret Recipe Alert!

Okay, perhaps, not all that secret but here is my way to up the grade on homemade apple pie or apple crisp.

When I first started baking, my mother’s ‘secret’ suggestion was to add lemon juice to the apple dessert prep. Fresh lemon juice does up the apple/cinnamon taste and people often wondered how my mother’s apple desserts were just a wee bit better.

I was an abstract artist in college and this inclination has seeped down into my baking and sewing over the years. In other words, I never leave well enough alone if I get inspired to add something more. So, this is how my latest apple dessert preparations has evolved.

1. Wash, peel, and slice the amount of green apples you will need for your planned dessert. When they are on hand, I will often throw in a couple of sweeter apples, too. They break down a bit more in baking and sort of form an applesauce texture to the more firm green variety.

2. First, I zest the lemons and limes and set it aside. Then toss the prepared apples with the juice and let them sit a minute while I gather the spices and sugar.

3. I usually use up to 3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Use a good quality one as the ones on the grocery shelves can be a bit bitter. My go-to for the best cinnamon is The Spice House which is on-line. To the cinnamon, I add half a teaspoon of ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg and a smidge of salt.

4. Depending on your recipe, mix the spices into one to two cups of granulated sugar. Add the zest of the lemons and limes.

5. Combine the sugar/spice/zest mixture with the apples. If you really want to deepen the final result, a quarter cup of brandy works very well.

6. Add a quarter cup of cornstarch, mixing in well. This is what will hold the apples together a bit after baking.

7. This is my final secret. Put the prepared apples into a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate at least one day before using them in your recipe. My batch for this Thanksgiving got a two-day soak.

8. When you get to making your pie crust, substitute a quarter cup or so of the water called with vodka. It makes for a more tender crust.

Time is wasting so one guess what I’m about to put into the oven!

Thanksgiving Is When?

Somehow, I seem to have misplaced a few days of allotted time and it was suddenly revealed to that Thanksgiving is NEXT week! How could that be as it would mean Christmas can’t be too far behind. First Sunday in Advent is closing in which means that the holiday season is showing up long before I can get my ‘comfort and joy’ into holiday gear!

I have spent the last two days working on my schedule for preparing the Thanksgiving feast. Yes, I have a day-by-day schedule and so help the person who moves it from its place on the counter for easy referencing! Then, the second page sets out the order of the menu along with what days they need to be prepped or completed. My husband deals with the turkey but, given my organizational gene, he gets hourly reminders on that. The third page is my grocery list according to store. You can’t stock up too soon but one does not want to fight the last-minute panic at Walmart and Costco where people grab the pumpkin pies from the harried clerks the minute they appear from the bakery.

Along with the food aspect, I have the house cleaning schedule with a request that each person highlight the job they have accomplished . . . and so help them, if it doesn’t reflect a job well done as they will lose their highlighter marker and go back to step one.

With these happy reflections in mind, I actually don’t mind Monday and Tuesday of THANKSGIVING WEEK, my last two days of sanity! We don’t have a large house but it is amazing how family members can escape me without leaving said house.

Monday is bread baking day and cranberry relish day. With very little prep, these items bake/cook on their own leaving me to hunt down missing relatives who seem to be afraid of me for some reason.

All this, as you might have guessed, is a prelude to sharing my cranberry relish recipe!

Cranberry Relish

4 cups of fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of freshly-squeezed orange juice
Finely grated zest of said orange BEFORE you squeeze it
2 peeled and diced green apples
dash of cinnamon
dash of salt

Rinse the cranberries and add to a large pot with all the ingredients and bring to a boil (stirring constantly) and then reduce to a mild simmer with stirring ever so often. Keep cooking until all the berries burst, the apples soften, and the mixture thickens. If you don’t feel it is thick enough, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch into a quarter cup of water, add to the pot, stir and continue simmering until it reaches a thicker state.

Now, you have a choice! Do you want sauce with the evidence of the fruit basically intact or do you want smooth? When it cools down a bit, you can blend the mixture in a blender until it reaches the texture you like.

A timesaver hint is when you are ready to refrigerate the cranberries, you can put them in the serving dish you planned for them, cover with saran and put in the refrigerator. On the day (and don’t forget them!), you just have to pull it out, remove the saran, add a serving spoon, and place on the table. Want a more rustic approach, get some medium canning jars for the sauce and you can then provide easy access to it for your guests with several jars on the table. You can put a ribbon around the jars to show everyone how classy you are at the holidays. AND, when the party is over, combine the leftover sauce into one or two jars, put the lid on and back into the refrigerator for leftovers time.

Thanksgiving 2016

As the years go by so do changes become more noticeable. Over the years, we have had a person unable to come here and there but there was always next year to look forward to for everyone to once again gather around the table and share food and conversation. Children, however, seem to have grown by leaps and bounds and making their own ways in life. This year, we were missing my older daughter who now lives too far away to come home for a mere dinner. My older son hasn’t made it home for a Thanksgiving in almost nine years. Now, the ‘baby’ of the family had to work on Thanksgiving Day although we did take him a care package of all the fixings the next day.

Our favorite family has shared the holiday with us for probably going on almost ten years now. Their mother and their youngest were not there and missed a lot. The mother was working and the ‘baby’ of her family is now in the convent. BUT, we were joined by a future member of their family, their daughter’s fiance.

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Once the food was set before us, we coped with out them and ate well and happily!

Every year finds me trying one or two new recipes, usually in the dessert department. This year, it was a banana cream pie with layers of said fruit, caramel, and homemade graham crackers with generous portions of fresh, whipped cream. The other one was a cheesecake baked with a layer of pumpkin.

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The day was good, the food was good yet it finished with a bit of nostalgia with all the changes in our lives and the quick passing of time. God is good!

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

“Give thanks frequently to God for all the benefits He ahs conferred on you, that you may be worthy to receive more.” St. Louis IX, King of France

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“One act of thanksgiving, when things to wrong with us, is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations.” Blessed John of Avila

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“Yea, though I sin each day times seven,
And dare not lift the fearfullest eye to heaven,
Thanks must I give
Because that seven times are not eight or nine,
And that my darkness is all mine,
And that I live
Within this oak-shade one more minute even,
Hearing the winds their Maker magnify.” Coventry Patmore