Homemade Applesauce

I grew up eating homemade applesauce. My mom made chunky applesauce with the skin on, which was good, but my baachan (grandma) used to make skin-off non-chunky, super-sweet applesauce just for me. It always made me feel so special to have a grown-up cook something especially for me. Her applesauce came in a large Bell jar, and I can still remember the exact taste. It was the applesauce equivalent of WonderBread, perfectly suited to a kid's palate because it was sweet, smooth, and the flavors were simple. We now eat the unsweetened applesauce from Trader Joe's, but I had the urge to whip up some cold-weather goodness. Since the only thing at the market right now is apples and root veggies, applesauce seemed like a good dish to whip up. This version is fairly seat-of-my-pants-ish. The flavors are more complex than my grandmother's recipe, but lean more toward the comfort food end of the spectrum than my mom's. Remember, things taste better when they are made with local and/or organic ingredients!

3-4 lbs. apples (I used Granny Smith, Macoun, and Fuji)
slightly less than 1/4c turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)- the types of apples that you use will determine how much sugar you need, so be sure to taste your apples before you use them.
1c water
3 slices of lemon skin
2tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp cinnamon
1tsp cloves
1tsp nutmeg
Peel your apples, and cut them into 3/4" pieces. Place them in a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients, and simmer until the apples are soft and most of the water is gone (it took my sauce about 20 minutes, but it could take longer depending on the pan that you use and how big your slices are). You'll be able to tell when your sauce is ready because if you push down on the top of the sauce with the back of a spoon, only a teeny bit of thicker liquid will seep onto the spoon. The bubbling should also take on a quality not unlike fully-cooked cream of wheat, where the entire contents of the pot bubble rather than the bubbles just coming up through the contents.
Before cooking:
Fish out the lemon peels with a fork or a pair of hashi (chopsticks)- hashi are SO much better for this job, but if you don't have them around, you can use a fork.
Mush up the apple chunks with a fork, or run the sauce through the blender if you don't like chunky applesauce. Serve warm or cold, and store the remainder in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy!


Ginger Pear Bran Muffins

I just whipped up a batch of these bad boys, and now my kitchen smells like heaven. This recipe might just be the best thing that ever happened to me. I was inspired after making this ale bread, which despite my bumbling in the kitchen turned out pretty well. I used whole wheat flour and an oatmeal stout- next time, I will use more salt and less beer. I stupidly bought too big a bottle, and then had to guesstimate how much of it to use. But I digress. The Cooking By the Seat of My Pants writer who provided the ale bread recipe linked to Farmgirl Fare in that post, and I think that I have found another favorite blog. This girl up and moved from Northern California to a remote farm in Missouri, and now farms, cooks, and writes. She's even building an artisan bread factory on her farm- how freaking cool is that? Based on these muffins, as soon as her bakery is up and running, I will be her first mail order customer. I will drive out there myself weekly to get her goods if I have to.
I made the muffins with the Trader Joe's pear halves (in a glass bottle), and used a cheese grater to mush them up. The only other tweaks I made (because I can't leave well enough alone) are to use 1/3 c molasses instead of 1/3 c of the honey, and to use a little more vanilla than called for (that's how my mom taught me to make baked goods taste better). I wish that I had used fresh pears like the recipe suggested (I was too lazy to go to the market and then wait for the pears to ripen), but that didn't stop me at all from eating a whole muffin when I was only planning to eat half. I will be happy to make these again, fresh pears or not. Holy crap, are these muffins good. The cake-y part tastes like a muffin, and not like a quick bread, which is great, and the whole grains make the texture interesting. The added moisture of the pears is divine, and the little bits of ginger are unexpected and give a whole other layer of warm flavor to the muffin. If I had a star rating system, these would get a billion stars.

Things Are Better with a Parrot

As you may or may not remember from my Christmas post (it seems so long ago now), I am the proud new owner of a Gocco. One of the blogs out there that made me absolutely covet a Gocco is things are better with a parrot. She takes old images and Goccos them onto paper and fabric. Her work is classic, somewhat whimsical, and yet still manages to look modern and chic. I am working with a few friends on their wedding stuff right now, and will be sure to show them her work as inspiration for their own invitations. These peonies are perfect for nearly everything (I LOVE peonies!), and the poppies would be great for a California affair.

I would also not mind having some of her bird prints up on my wall...

Fairly Offensive Invitations

I just finished these invites for a friend who is throwing a Robbie Burns Supper. I guess it's a celebration of Robbie Burns, a Scottish poet, where you have a dinner on or near his birthday, and then read poetry, wear plaid, and drink scotch; the braver Robbie Burns Supper hosts serve haggis. This girl is not necessarily known for being politically correct (though she IS known for being incredibly hilarious), so we went for in invite that would get people's attention and would also clue them in to the spirit of the evening. The kids going to this are mostly in law school, so this host and I thought that an analogy would be funny (remember those from the SAT/LSAT/GRE/etc.?).
Here's the front (I don't know if you can see it, but the letters are plaid):
...and the inside:


Use me to...

Over break, we went to the graduation party for a neighbor who (finally) finished his undergrad. I thought I would make him a nice set of stationary that he could use after interviews, but also wanted to make him some cool stationary that he could use for more social purposes. I put together this set that consists of 5 designs. Each had a suggestion of ways that the enclosed cards could be used. Suggestions included:
"Use me for flattery"
"Use me for half-hearted apologies for last night's behavior"
"Use me to weasel your way onto the yacht"
"Use me for unabashed bribery"
"Use me to say thank you for the lovely gift basket."