Monday, September 30, 2013


It’s apple time, and this year Indiana and Michigan have had a bumper crop!

We were visiting family this past week, and on Thursday I picked up a few apples to take home.

Most of these will turn into applesauce. My family loves homemade applesauce so much, they’ll go without rather than eat store-bought.

When we lived in Indiana, I would make 70 quarts a year, and they all disappeared by the next summer.

Now, before you think I’ve worked my fingers to the bone peeling and coring apples, let me introduce you to my friend….

We'll call him Victor.... He's a Victorio Strainer, and he's a magician. He made an appearance here at the cafe about a year ago, (here), but it's time for an encore appearance.

Look at that picture again - you put your apples, tomatoes, or whatever in the top, turn the crank, and before you know it, out pops sauce! And the peels and cores go out the other chute :)

This guy is my workhorse. I learned about him from a friend who learned about him from the Amish.

What? You thought the Amish lived in the dark ages? Let me tell you a secret: Just because you live without electricity and automobiles doesn't mean you don't have the finest tools available!

Okay, so here’s the recipe:

Jan’s Homemade Applesauce


1/2 bushel apples
1/4 -1/2 cup lemon juice
Sugar to taste (optional - I only add it if the apples aren't sweet enough)

Before we go any further, let’s look at those apples. The kind of apple you use makes a huge difference in the taste and texture of your sauce. I like to use a combination of Golden Delicious, Jonathan and Macintosh.

The Golden Delicious apples give the sauce body – that nice, smooth, saucy texture – but the flavor is a bit mild for me.

The Jonathans have a nice texture, and the big thing they add is a rosy color. Beautiful!


The Macintosh apples give the sauce its flavor – slightly tangy, super apple-y. But if you use only Macintosh, the texture tends to be a bit watery.

But if you’re able to get all three of these varieties and put them together, you have my signature apple sauce!

Okay, here’s the process:

Wash the apples – at least three times. This gets off all the dust, bug footprints, etc. that your apples have picked up while they were hanging around on the trees.

Cut the apples in quarters and discard the stems. This is a great time to check for less than desirable parts, like worms that tried to sneak in for a free ride to your kitchen (and then out to the compost pile).

Put the apple quarters in a big pot (like a stock pot or your canner) with enough water to cover them and the ¼ cup lemon juice.

Cook the apples until they’re done.

How do you know they’re done? While cooking, the apples start to swell. When they begin to burst – you can tell by the cracks along the side – it’s time to make them into sauce.

These have cooked a little too long....

While the apples are cooking, I get Victor ready…

I forgot to mention that if you don’t have a Victorio strainer, you can use one of these. It’s the same principle, but you need to peel and core the apples first.

Victor doesn’t say much, but he munches those apples down!

Once you have your applesauce made, then it’s time for canning. You can applesauce with the water-bath method (apples are acidic enough to make it safe). I won’t go into the method, but you can read about it here.

My 2009 batch of applesauce (in the Kansas kitchen).

Or you can freeze your applesauce. All you need to do is put your applesauce in a freezer container or bag and stick them in the freezer.

I like to can mine so I can pull one out of the pantry at the last minute – no thawing needed J

So now you know what I'm going to be doing this week...we brought 5 bushels of apples home from Indiana. 

By the way, the van smelled fabulous on the trip home!

Speaking of trips, it's time for a slide show:

E&S Sales in Shipshewana was selling gourds, flowers and pumpkins out in front
of the store. Aren't those mums beautiful?

Do you remember my post on Haystack Suppers
last month? Here. There's one coming up!

And Friday night, on the way home, we stayed right near the Indiana Dunes National Seashore on Lake Michigan. Now this is a Lake :)
A tug with a barge leaving the Port of Indiana.

Itty-bitty waves. The Lake was very calm that evening.

Dunes. The best sand in the world.

This is a small lake behind the dunes - a favorite for migrating waterfowl.

Along with several of these Great White Egrets, we also saw several Sandhill Cranes.
No pictures of them, of course :(

And Thatcher missed us, of course. I think he thought we were gone forever! But after greeting us, getting into everything he could find, and eating a good lunch, he dropped. Poor guy!

You're still here, right?


And Wynter? She jumped into the van while we were unloading and wouldn't get out. She doesn't want us leaving without her again!

Happy applesauce making!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Of Pinterest and Pumpkin

I love pumpkin.  You can tell by my Pumpkin: Hue, Chew and More Pinterest Board:

I love the color (notice Yankee Belle's background). Well, I must love the form too because I even love white pumpkins. I love decorating with pumpkins inside and out .

I even love little punkins like this one and his daddy before him. It's a tradition in our house to take pictures in the pumpkin patch:

My grandson back in the day

My son back in the day
Sniff, they are both so grown up now.  Well, if you count five grown up.  I know I am not old enough to have one my son's age. Ack!

My grandson has already started begging for pumpkin pie. He takes after Grandma Juju. Any recipe I can get my hands on, I'll try. Oh, but then there are those allergies again. I've learned ways to modify all things pumpkin, dress them up and make them just as luscious as the pins on my Pinterest boards.

I miss a good pie crust but haven't been a fan of fake ones. So I make a nut crust for my "baked pumpkin." It's simple as...well, PIE.

Nut crust:

Put 1/2 cup pecans and pulse til ground. Add one cup almond meal or enough almonds ground in a food processor to make a cup. Pulse again. Add two tablespoons cold butter and pulse til mixed thoroughly. Place in pie plate or glass dish and place a piece of waxed paper over it, spreading over the bottom of the plate.

If you are fixing a refrigerated pie, you can bake the crust at 350 for 10-15 minutes until toasted. Do NOT over brown.  Cool before adding other ingredients.  

If you are going to bake your pie ingredients, just pour the filling over the top of the crust and bake as directed.

Healthier Pumpkin filling:
I used a recipe for the filling off the Libby's can for guidance, but I make it healthier. I use the egg whites instead of whole eggs, a half cup skim milk rather than a whole can of evaporated milk, and most importantly, I've reduced the amount of sugar. I have gotten it down to half a cup but it takes time to get used to eating pie that almost tastes like a vegetable rather than solid sugar. Adding vanilla can also help.

4 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1 can pumpkin
1 T pumpkin pie spice or more to taste
1 dash salt

Beat eggs.  Add sugar and spices and beat again til well mixed. Add pumpkin and milk and beat until blended.

Pour into crust and back for 15 minutes at 425 and then lower to 350 for 40 minutes. You don't want the crust to burn.

To make it really pumpkiny, top with pepitas (pumpkin seeds)


So are you a pumpkin fan? A Pinterest fan, especially with ? Feel free to look my boards up on Pinterest and share your feelings about pumpkin! A great fall vegetable or greatest?     

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hooked on Eggplant!

Missy, here. And I'm hooked on eggplant. Ever since I tried making the recipe Sandra LeeSmith shared on here (click here), I've been playing with eggplant and trying it cooked in different ways.

This spring/summer, my son planted his first garden at his rental home. When he came home for a visit, he brought me his first eggplant! I felt honored he shared. :) (Okay, so he probably had no idea what to do with it!) LOL

I just happened to have another eggplant (thankfully, because his wasn't very large).

We needed a quick dinner, so I chopped my eggplant and sliced his. Then I sautéed it in a pan in olive oil and garlic.

Eggplant can really absorb the oil! So you sometimes have to add a bit. But I buy a wonderful, fruity olive oil that adds great flavor.

Once it was tender, I served over spaghetti noodles and topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

A yummy and quick vegetarian dinner!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Fall Theme Continues!!!!

I love fall. I live in Apple Country, it's really called that, "Apple Country, USA" because we're along the shores of Lake Ontario and the huge body of water due north keeps our falls mild, long and warming daytime temps vs. chilled overnights... perfect for grapes and apples! So the Finger Lakes region of NYS grows grapes...

But here in the lake plains overlooking Lake Ontario, we're Apple country! And that means fall is just washed in GOOD FOOD!!!!

But I wasn't going to talk apples today... I was going to talk about Chicken Paprika, an old Blodgett/Herne family favorite, but I already did!!!  Go HERE to see this amazing, easy and deliciously inexpensive recipe!!!!

So today we'll talk crepes.

I made crepes for Beth because she was very pregnant... Now we have a baby and his name is Finn and he's adorable...

This is Grandma Blodgett and Finn... Grandma made the cool rooster towels folks won for the release of "Falling for the Lawman".... She's amazing. ANnd the kid's cute, too!

Crepes are a family celebratory thing. We love crepes... They're delicious! But no one can afford crepe-calories all the time, so we save them for special things like crabby pregnant women. (She won't see this, she never comes here, she only listens to Ree Drummond when it comes to cooking...)

Whatever, Beth!!!!  :)

Anyway, if you can make pancakes, you can make crepes. Although I always burn a few. It's tradition.

Here's the Betty Crocker recipe and it's the best and easiest one I've ever tried:

1 1/2
cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
tablespoon granulated sugar
teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon salt
cups milk
tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
teaspoon vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the rest and stir well. It calls for an egg beater but I just use my whisk because I can use the exercise.  ;)

 I use a 9" stainless steel frying pan to make crepes... It's a good size for flipping and I like my crepes flipped.  Melt about 1 tablespoon of butter in the frying pan over medium heat. Don't worry if it gets browned... but BLACK is not good, black butter is nasty, remove from heat and Try, Try Again....(I sneaked that shameless plug in there for Virginia's benefit, LOL!)  Okay, now you take about 1/3 cup of the batter and pour it into the pan, then lift and rotate the pan so the batter pretty much covers the bottom... Put the pan down, things cook better with heat, come on, we knew that, didn't we?

Now let the crepe cook on one side, making sure it doesn't burn (I find that heat +pan+butter varies how long so I just watch... and then I get tired of watching (I'm ridiculous because the whole thing takes about a minute and a half... really, I annoy myself) and then when the bottom is cooked and the top looks "dry" I flip the crepe... I like both sides cooked, I don't like mushy crepes, so I'm weird... That's not a big surprise, right???  :)  But the walking away thinking I can wipe a nose or wash a pot means I burn a couple of crepes every single time. This is not Betty Crocker's fault, nor in any way, shape or form can she be held responsible. It's me...


Okay, the crepe is ready! Slide it onto a plate, top with filling in the middle, then fold the sides up, in and over the topping and flip the whole thing... seam-side down on the plate. And that's how they serve them at places like Perkins and Le Peep and fancy French crepe places.

I've never been to a fancy French crepe place but I bet they're... fancy.

My Goddaughter Megan as we color trees like the ones the first European settlers found when they came to this far-off land so they could go to whatever church they wanted...

Top with more fruit topping and whipped cream.  And more whipped cream if you want, because if you're breaking diet code with crepes???? The whipped cream is the least of your worries!!!

Notice that Elijah's tree is "spring green' and Meg's is summer green.... Details, details.  :)

Mom's rooster towels with crocheted edging and Falling for the Lawman... a perfect couple!

Mary Ruth's tree is definitely fall-toned! And McKenna was home with an ear infection so she was the teaching assistant for the day.
Hey. You know what they say? A change is as good as a rest!  :)  McKenna did a great job teaching these little ones, she'll be a great Mom and a wonderful example!!!

So I may have forgotten to take pics of the frying process.... but you can see the crepe although it's got strawberry filling instead of apple, but we don't argue with VERY PREGNANT PEOPLE here. We smile and nod...

And cook!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall Eats! Warm and Filling Baked Apples, Superman style!

Hello, everybody! the Fresh Pioneer is back and I have some seriously delicious food here. And it's good for you! OK, there is sugar. And butter. And more sugar. But there is some might healthy stuff in here...
  I love baked apples. But I also love to pretend that I'm eating something healthy so... let's add some things to the baked apples.
  For one: PECANS! (Let's not argue about pronunciation. It's a blog. You can read it the way you want!)
"According to the National Pecan Shellers Association, pecans are high in healthy unsaturated fat and just a handful a day can lower “bad” cholesterol. They also contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B, and E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Just one ounce of pecans provides 10 percent of the Daily Recommended intake of fiber. Pecans are also rich in age defying antioxidants. In fact, research from the USDA shows that pecans are the most antioxidant-rich tree nut and rank among the top 15 foods with the highest levels of antioxidants."
That's from a Shape article on Pecans here. I don't read Shape magazine. It makes me a bit depressed. But I do like to read about food!

 We buy ours from the local Coquille Indian Tribe. Organic and sustainable farming is a win-win! they harvest 100,000 pounds a year.
Healthwise, anthocyanins present in the berries fight inflammation, and are also linked to lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer. This doesn't even address the antioxidant properties!
   So, let's get started! I'm going to use my NINJA COOKER! (I can't say that without a cheesey announcer voice. It's such a funny name.)
Hollow out the apples leaving about 1/4 inch at the bottom. Now, here's the bad part. Stick some butter in there. Seriously. It's yummier that way.
 I didn't chop the pecans but you can if you like a less chunky mix inside the apples. I also didn't mix the ingredients in a bowl because we have some people who did not 'prefer' their apples with raisins.
1cup old fashioned oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans
1 cup raisins
1 cup whole cranberries, raw
Settle the apples in the bottom of the pan (or the crockpot). Stuff each with a mix of desired ingredients. These apples won't hold much, so the leftovers go in the bottom of the crockpot with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup apple juice.  I saw a recipe that called for 1.2 cup brandy and I REALLY wanted to try it... but giving alcohol to toddlers might be a bad idea. So, no brandy in this one.
 I dribbled a little maple flavoring into the middle of the mix. With the way the crockpot heated the bottom, everything smelled great!

 After 15 minutes, I opened it up. (Now, this is the NINJA COOKER. If you have a crockpot, it will take longer. Hours probably. MMMMM, the cranberries are all cooked, raisins are puffed up, pecans are soft, and the oatmeal is perfectly done.
 One apple, with leftovers on the side. The only thing I might change would be to add more oatmeal. My daughter drizzled hers with honey from the farmer's market and that was DELICIOUS!
I know this picture is fuzzy. It's because the spoon was moving so quickly TOWARD MY MOUTH.

After one of these babies, you'll be as strong as Superman. Or maybe live as long. Or maybe just have nice skin. I'm not totally sure. We can hope for all three!

As I was working, Edna quoted something I thought was just lovely. (If she doesn't get a chance to cook, she amuses herself by throwing out appropriate literary lines.) It describes me perfectly. If I had Dr. Who's tardis, I would just hop from Autumn to Autumn, with a little stop at Spring for a change.
Until next time, my lovelies!