What does moving on look like? (pause) I really don’t know! The other night, I was thinking that I can’t go back and change things – much as I would like to – and I don’t know how to move forward. But… I guess I am, one step at a time. Sometimes the every-day routine helps, and sometimes it seems exceedingly pointless and infuriating. These things – getting myself out of bed, finding something that fits and is presentable to wear, getting healthy meals on the table, cleaning the house, keeping up with everything, homeschooling the kiddos – were already challenging. With the weight of sadness on my shoulders, sometimes I wonder how I’m still breathing, existing.
It helps when there are some outings and activities to look forward to. One of my favorite Autumn activities is apple-picking (yup, it’s officially Fall). The smell of the apple orchard, selecting the best apples, tasting the different varieties, imagining what to make with the bounty, smiling as the kids ask for “just one more.”
I just made Phil an apple pie for our anniversary and didn’t feel like making another – the crust is so bothersome. I decided to make some crock pot applesauce, try my hand at some apple jam (with less sugar), and make syrup from the leftover apple scraps.
The applesauce is always good, and so easy – no peeling necessary, just cutting out the cores. I put everything in the crock pot on low overnight, then blend it in the morning. I usually add a bit of lemon juice and cinnamon, but rarely add sweetener (if I do, it’s maple syrup, honey, or some other less-processed sweetener). It’s great on its own, but I also like to add it to pancakes and other baked goods. I just used some for this carrot cake banana bread since I also had some ripe bananas that needed to get used up (I’ve done a bunch of baking recently, so this banana bread will go in the freezer – yay for planning ahead!).
I didn’t have the cardamom for the apple jam, so I ended up using star anise and an early grey green teabag for flavoring – it’s pretty good! I think the kids will love it on English muffins or toast for breakfast. The syrup turned out a bit too runny for my taste, never did thicken up, but it still has good flavor. I’ve been saving apple scraps and will try another apple scrap recipe in the future – perhaps Spiced Apple Jelly or Apple Honey Jelly.
My friend Nichole organized the apple-picking trip to Knight Farm with her co-op group, and we were happy to tag along. This is the same place where we got over six bushels of apples last year! Their prices have gone up, though, so we probably won’t be buying bulk apples for cider this year.
Just down the road from Knight Farm is another orchard that a friend told us about, the only organic apple orchard in the state. Elwood Orchard had Phil itching to come home and plant more apple trees of our own! Their selection of apples is mouth-watering, but since we had just picked a big bag of apples, we opted to pick peaches instead. We were really excited to try their garlic, too, but they were sold out of most of the varieties. When a recipe calls for a clove of garlic, we’re like, eh… just throw in a whole bulb. *grin* The kids really wanted to buy the hugest pumpkins they could find.
So peaches… right away I made a dump cake. Have you heard of those? Basically, you dump all of the ingredients in a pan and bake. I haven’t made one of these in a while because it typically calls for a cake mix and a can of pie filling, things I rarely buy. But I just so happened to pick up a box on sale, and was looking for a quick peach dessert – so I tried fresh peach dump cake. It was really good! But sweet. I think it’s a keeper for when I want a fast, no-fuss dessert (and have fresh fruit on hand), but decided it would be best with more fruit, less topping. I got a couple more boxes of cake mix on sale, and will divide up each package into two mason jars with old-fashioned oats and chopped nuts for topping. The chocolate cherry dump cake looks sooo good, but I refuse to buy the canned pie filling.
There were still a bunch of peaches left over, and I decided to pick one of the peach jam recipes I had pinned recently. I love the idea of adding sweet and spicy elements, and ended up making Spicy Peach Jam (with, you guessed it, less sugar). I realized too late that I had the wrong kind of pectin, and I was kicking myself – arrrgh! So, I have a Spicy Peach Sauce. The kiddos and I dipped our grilled cheese sandwiches in it – yum. And it will probably taste good on grilled chicken. I do have a host of other canning recipes I want to try, both online and from cookbooks I have (Canning for a New Generation and Blue Ribbon Canning, both from my brother and sister-in-law… are they giving me a hint?).
On Saturday we went to a friend’s wedding reception, someone Phil has known since high school. It was bittersweet, since we were invited when I was pregnant and I figured we would tell her the news then, what would I wear?, and of course everything has changed. It was a beautiful day, much of the time spent outdoors at Stepping Stone Ranch, and the kids had a blast. There were all sorts of outside and table games for people to play, good food to eat, and the favors… burlap bags to fill with APPLES!
Can you ever have too many apples? And by apples I mean food, family, fun, good times, chocolate, peaches, Autumn-y things… and apples.