Sunday, October 21, 2012

Homemade Hard Apple Cider (part 1)

So last weekend, my boyfriend, some friends and I went to Leavenworth for Oktoberfest! On our way back from Eastern WA, we noticed a ton of fruit stands and got the idea to make hard apple cider!

At this point... We didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. I'm warning you; this is a long, tedious process. I would HIGHLY recommend just using a juicer or apple press to extract the juice from the fruit.

However, if you wanted to really get hands on and literally, hand squeeze your own apple cider, here's how we did it!:)

To make one gallon of cider, you need:
-glass, gallon-size jug (we used a jug of Carlo Rossi that we drank poured out and sanitized prior to use)
-18-20 pounds of apples (we used golden delicious and jonagold)
-apple slicer
-large stock pot
-whole cinnamon sticks
-whole cloves
-cheese cloth or a sanitized, thin undershirt
-potato masher

First things first, we dumped out most of the Carlo Rossi, rinsed the jug and put it in the dishwasher by itself to get sanitized. wasn't very good. I mean, $10 for a gallon of wine, go figure!

In the meanwhile, we started to chop up all the apples. We rinsed them, chopped them with the apple chopper then sliced them into smaller pieces. We filled the pot with a few inches of water and let that come to a boil BEFORE we tossed all the chopped up apples in.

(For the size of pot we had on hand, we opted to cook the apples in two batches so the image above only shows HALF of what we made).

After letting the apples soften up (about a half hour of cooking on medium), we tried a few different ways of preparing the apples for extracting the juice.

1. A grinding apple sauce maker.

My bf just-so-happened to have several different kitchen gadgets that make apple sauce. This one looked like a small strainer except it had a blade connected to a handle on top, which was turned 'round and 'round to separate the apple sauce from the pulp and skins. This worked pretty well, but produced a thicker, chunkier apple sauce.

2. Another grinding apple sauce maker.

This one varied in that it was a conical funnel shaped strainer, which we filled with cooked apples and then "ground down" using a large wooden dowel. This yielded a thinner apple sauce.

3. Just MASHING them.

I don't have a picture of this but when we cooked our second batch of apples, we used a potato smasher (like to make mashed potatoes with) and smashed them into a very thin apple sauce. I actually liked this method best for what we were doing.

We then used cheese cloth and a sanitized under shirt to manually SQUEEZE the juice out of the apple sauce. We would scoop about a cup or two into the middle of a folded piece of cheese cloth or shirt and  would wrap the apple sauce and carefully squeeze, trying to avoid putting too much pressure: this caused more pulp to get through than we wanted.

This took a while... BUT we wound up with quite a bit of juice!

We heated the apple cider to 160 degrees F to pasteurize it then carefully poured it into the Carlo Rossi jug. (You could also add the cinnamon and cloves at this point too, we did, then strained them out).

You COULD stop here. You have perfect good, home made apple cider to enjoy!

TA-DA! One gallon of home made cider:)

However, we pressed on and wanted to ferment our creation! I left this part up to my bf since he is more experienced in homebrewing/ home fermenting.

***My understanding of this process is that the yeast eat the sugar in the juice and then produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. The bubbler on top has water in it so the CO2 can get out but no germies can get in! As long as we keep the cider warm enough, the yeast will keep eating the sugar and producing alcohol until the alcohol level gets too high and kills them.***

We, first, had to wait until the juice had cooled to between 100 and 120 degrees (any hotter and it would kill the yeast). Once it had, he added 1/5 of the packet of champagne yeast to the jug. He promptly sealed the jug with the special fermenting cork with a water bubbler on top.

This is what our final product looked like. We also did another batch using store bought cider. 

We set up an area in his house with a heater by them to keep them at 100 degrees. We hope they will be decently fermented in about two weeks, but might wait as long as a month if the yeast still seem to be producing CO2 bubbles. 

Here's to hoping this cider turns out wonderfully! Let me know if you've ever embarked on a project that ended up being as difficult and time consuming as this! (This took Friday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday morning!!!).


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Vegetable soup YUMMMMM

With the weather starting to feel "Fall-ish" FINALLY, I decided to make a nice, hearty vegetable soup. I have been absolutely OBSESSED with the Panera bread garden vegetable soup so that's what I was shooting for with this recipe! I planned on making enough for my mom and dad to have some and also to pack in my lunch atleast once this week.

Here's what you will need:
Vegetable broth (2 cartons=62 oz) *I prefer the low sodium, organic ones but that's just me!*
Canned diced tomatoes (1 can=14 oz)
Small pasta, I used mini farfelles (bow ties)
Assorted veggies:
-Carrots (a few whole or a bag of baby carrots, sliced into smaller pieces, 1/4-1/8 inch thick)
-Zucchini (skin on or off is your choice!)
-Onion (diced finely)
-Green beans
Fresh thyme
Course ground pepper/salt (to taste)
Olive oil

First, chop all the vegetables.

Next, pour a few tablespoons of olive oil onto the bottom of a large pot, on medium-low temperature. I let the vegetables cook in there, stirring every so often, for about 15 minutes. I added some seasonings at this point (salt, pepper, garlic powder).

After the veggies have softened up a bit, pour the vegetable broth into the pot. I used two entire cartons, which was the perfect amount of broth for a hearty soup like this.
Just added broth!

I added one cup of the bow tie pasta, toss in some thyme, put the lid on the pot, and let it cook on medium for about half an hour.

Soup after half an hour of cooking... YUM!

I tasted it at that point and opted to more seasoning (oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper). It was delicious! I would recommend it served with a dallop of pesto or some parmesan cheese (though that would make it not vegan).

Bon appetite!
And comment if you have any questions! I'd be happy to answer anything!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Oreo ICECREAM cake recipe

After scouring the internet, particularly Pinterest, for a recipe/how-to guide on making an icecream cake, I just used my brain and made my own!

Looking at it piece by piece, it was pretty simple.

I happened to own this pan set:

Any round cake pan would work though! So I started off baking two chocolate cakes (using my wonderful slow bake chocolate cake recipe, which I will post another time). 

While they baked, I got the ice cream cake layer ready. The icecream was a little too hard still so I tossed in the microwave to soften it up. After cutting a circle to line the bottom of the pan, I sprayed the pan with baking Pam spray. Next, I started scooping the entire quart of cookies and cream ice cream (you could use any flavor obviously) into the pan and, using a spatula, smoothed it down into another cake layer. I covered this in plastic wrap and placed it in the freezer for about 30 minutes (by the time the cakes were done and cooled, I took the ice-cream layer out). 

To set the layers up, I placed one cake on a cake board, then (using a knife to loosen the edges) I removed the ice-cream from its pan and placed that atop the previous layer. I topped it with the second cake and then decorated it!

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions about how I made this delicious treat!

Some of my recent projects...

As with most people, my productivity comes in spurts. Some weeks, I can hardly pack myself a lunch; others, I will spend a day cooking and baking.

In the last couple months, I've done several baking projects inspired by things seen on Pinterest or things I find at JoAnn's.

These are in no particular order...

-My take on spice cake with cinnamon buttercream on top:

That's not the greatest pic but the recipe was pretty simple (found on

I added less butter (1/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup) and more apple sauce (2 cups instead of 1 1/2) to try making them a little more healthy. This resulted in a little denser cake but incredibly moist.

I didn't have to take any home so I'm guessing they were a hit!

- Pumpkin spice cookies with glaze
I made these to raise money for a breast cancer walk I participated in (I raised over $200 selling baked goods and through other donations!). The recipe for these was also found on pinterest:
I used canned pumpkin and added pumpkin pie spice. Also, I ALWAYS bake my cookies on parchment paper. No matter how great the cookie sheet is, I tend to get the best, most consistent results on parchment paper.
These are the other cookies I sold:)
See, now you can understand how I raked in the cash!

-Cheeseburger cupcakes

These seem a lot more complicated than they actually were. Just took some patience and focus!

In order to yield one dozen "cheeseburgers," I baked one dozen vanilla cupcakes (baked WITHOUT liners to give it the golden edges) and half a dozen (6) chocolate cupcakes!

After letting them cool, I began cutting the cupcakes in half as I needed them. I placed the bottom half of the vanilla cupcake in a liner, in the plastic cupcake container, and then started building my burgers. I just used yellow and red colored buttercream frosting piped on in a messy looking way and green coconut (coconut in a plastic baggy+generous amount of green food dye=lettuce!). Then I set the tops on and had cheeseburgers! (I've seen people put actual seasame seeds or small candies to look like them but I didn't feel that was necessary).

Well, hope this helps someone out!


A little about me...

-I went to the University of Washingon (go Huskies!).

-I want to teach elementary school.

-I didn't like baking or cooking until about half way through college.

-I've started working on expanding my "go-to" recipe selection. Currently, I have about a dozen tried and true recipes but definitely need more variety in what I make.

-I LOVE the holidays, as most bakers and crafters do, for all the additional opportunities to create!

-I am addicted to Pinterest so much of what I post will be my attempts (hopefully successful) to replicate the perfect food I am taunting with day in and day out.

-I love to craft, particularly jewelry making and scrapbooking. I'm dying for a Cricut.

-I have a child named Ziggy... He happens to be a dog.