Saturday, October 22, 2011

Crockpot Apple Butter

Approximately 3 lb. apples ( I actually just filled the crockpot, which might've been closer to 10lbs or more) peeled, cored, and sliced. You can also just quarter them if you'd like. My Pampered Chef peeler/corer/slicer does it all for me :)

3 cups sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cloves
Dash of salt

  1. Peel, core, and slice apples (sweet or tart, doesn't matter!). Break them in pieces with your hands and place the apples in a slow cooker. 
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar and other seasonings. Pour the mixture over the apples in the slow cooker and mix around a bit as you can.
  3. Heat on low for about 12 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.
  4. Uncover and continue cooking on low 1 hour. Stir with a whisk, if desired, to increase smoothness.
  5. If apple butter has too much liquid, cook on high until thickened (uncovered). Stir often as butter thickens to prevent scorching.
Store in refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. Freeze for longer storage.

Variation: For a less sweet apple butter, substitute 1 cup honey for the sugar.

To can the apple butter as I am doing, pack into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

The apples, peeled and cored. The Pampered Chef peeler/corer is totally worth the money. But I happily scored mine for $2.99 at Goodwill :)
You'll want to break the apples up more than the above picture. I snap them in half with my hands as I toss them in the crockpot.

LOTS of simmering. It gets darker and darker and sweeter and wow it's good! You want it a spreadable consistency.
Pretty jars ready to go in the canner.....
Alright, done!

PS. This is a totally flexible recipe. Add in your favorite spices, substitute sugars as you wish, etc. I'll also add that sometimes it takes longer than 12 hours because I pack the crockpot so full and sometimes I'm just too busy to deal with the apple butter when it's done so I put it on warm and let it chill for hours until I'm ready for it. Ie: I made a big batch last night and it cooked all night long and then sat on warm most of today and I just hot water bath canned it (at 9pm). Sort of perfect, really!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Barbie Cake How To

What you'll need: oven safe bowl, 4 8" cake pans, 3 cake mixes, lots of icing, icing tips and bags, food coloring, spatula and a Barbie :)

I decided to make Eliana a Barbie Cake and have been planning and trying to figure out the best way to do it.
I watched a few YouTube videos on it and read some random stuff blogged about it. There was one piece of info I couldn't seem to find anywhere and that is "how long are Barbie's legs?" Assume here that you don't have a Barbie in your possession yet, as I did not. So here's the answer and it's worth $$$......7 1/4 inches!

After reading and researching I decided to bake 2 8" round cakes (takes one box) and one box of mix in an oven safe bowl (for the shape of the skirt). After baking them I realized they wouldn't be quite tall enough so I made another 2 8" rounds. As far as the oven safe bowl, I found it at TJ Maxx a couple years ago for $7, but Pampered Chef also sells them. It allows you to have a skirt shaped cake without having to trim and cut up a cake. I made the cakes Wednesday night so they could chill in the fridge for a couple days.
Friday night once I got the girls down to sleep I got to work decorating. I had a recipe for a buttercream icing so I whipped that up. But, the recipe didn't work and it was just a hard ball of icing in my Kitchenaid. I tried adding more milk but then the taste wasn't right either. It ended up just feeling gritty but being too runny :( Fail! I had the cakes out of the fridge on the counter ready to be dirty-iced so I had to think quick and just grabbed two Pillsbury cream cheese frostings from the pantry (thank you couponing!).
Dirty Icing a Cake: To dirty ice a cake is to ice a cake in such a way that you don’t get crumbs all over your completed cake. You just coat it with icing and BAM, good to go. You won’t have little pieces of cake in your icing. The dirty icing layer goes UNDER the pretty layer :)

Ok, let's rewind real quick...after baking and cooling my cakes I Saran wrapped them and put them in the fridge. When it was time to decorate I took off the saran and cut the top off each 8" round so they would be nice and flat. Keep the scraps covered in the fridge and you can make cake balls with them later. I then layered the 8"rounds starting with a Funfetti bottom layer, then lemon, then funfetti, then lemon and then the top funfetti layer that was bowl shaped. I put wax paper strips under the cake to keep the pedestal clean (the strips get pulled out later). I wrapped Barbies legs tightly in Saran wrap and put her in the cake. I just gently shoved her in, but you may need to cut a small hole for her. Then I dirty iced in between each cake layer and around the whole cake. 

I didn't need to trim much, but just kind of evened up the whole thing. Make sure you use a serrated knife for any cake trimming.

Yup, see I tried to use the failed buttercream, but it was just too runny. The white is the cream cheese frosting that saved the day.

You want the whole skirt covered.

Already starting to look dress like, right?

Alright, how the heck did I get it so smooth!? I learned a cool little trick from Betty Crocker on Youtube. Take a piece of paper and standing behind the cake, slide an edge of the paper up the front of the cake cake, from bottom to top. It will catch any uneven icing and make it look super pretty.VERY easy to do. Notebook paper is a bit too thin, but printer paper or construction paper would work great.

After it was dirty iced I put the cake back in the fridge to let it harden up while I made more icing.
And see the crockpot full of apples? We actually filled two and had applesauce simmering all night :)

Now you might think I was "born in a bakery" and the reality is, my mom was, not me! I am privileged to come from a line of bakers (Sluys Bakery) and chefs, but there are a few things I never really learned how to do; canning, making pies/pie crusts, and cake decorating. I am learning those now as an adult and it's a tad intimidating. My mom covered all the other bases which is pretty darn good. 
Craig had the good idea to practice icing on a bowl :) I tried out different tips and figured out what I wanted to do. 

Epic fail on the bows. Lol!

Messy and horrible first tries at things but much better here than on the actual cake!

After feeling relatively confident with my icing skills I got to work making a different buttercream frosting recipe. I decided to trust the cake professionals and used a recipe from Wilton Cakes. Find that recipe here. I have to say I was not thrilled about making a recipe with shortening, but it was tried and true with tons of reviews and it whipped up creamy, smooth, and gorgeous! It is VERY sweet though so I'm glad I had a cream cheese dirty iced layer to temper it. 
I added red food coloring drops until the pink was right and then got to work icing the cake.

So pretty! After this I did the 'paper smoothing' trick but forgot to take a picture :)

Alright, time to ice! I wanted to make her a princess Barbie, so I decided to give her a Disney fairytale ballgown skirt. I used a Wilton 32 star for the bottom ruffle and a Wilton 16 star for the outline on the sides of the ballgown. The dots were a small circle tip, can't remember the #. If you make a mistake and need to get the icing off you can carefully scrape it off with a toothpick. Toothpicks are also handy if little bits of shortening or butter clog your icing tip.

Alright, filling in the orange stars (#16) on the ballgown.

The silver balls are called silver dragees and they are edible. I would check Michaels or Joanns for them. I used a small round tip to ice her necklace on and then just placed a dragee.

This is a ballerina Barbie, $6 at Walmart. She comes with a plastic dress bodice. I got her thinking the bodice would be super hard, but after all the time spent on the skirt I actually think the bodice would be super easy! Next time I'll just get a naked Barbie :)

Yeah, slightly crooked....oh well!

Yay, done! Worked on it til 1am :)

We put the candles in the front.

Pretty and tasted good, too! It's super tall so you can actually serve it in two sections. Each slice is 2 pieces, the top half and bottom half.

Eliana Turns 3!

My sweet Eliana turned 3 last Wednesday. The years are flying by and it makes her getting older so bittersweet. She is such a tender, gentle spirit with a great sense of humor and I love every day with her!
Minutes old. She was such a beautiful newborn!

3 days old, heading home. Every piece of clothing we brought was too big. She was so thin!

First smile caught on camera.

Little skinny minny. Poor girl needed more time in mama :(

The morning of her 3rd birthday!

Heading out to get birthday Fro-Yo.

My sweet princess <3

Eliana is so kind and thoughtful. When she's eating something she'll say, "who made this for me?" I'll say, "mommy made that for you." She replies, "oh, you did? Thanks for making this for me mama!"

She loves to pray for dinner. Last night she prayed, "Dear Jesus, thank you for a wonderful day. Thank you for my happy birthday and for my friends."

Evangeline has yet another ear infection and has been in a lot of pain this week. There's been several times that I've heard Elly praying for her little sister, "Dear Jesus, help Evie feel better and help her get all better." What a great heart she has!

When Elly bumps into me she's quick to say, "I'm so sorry mama. I didn't mean to bump into you!" And then she'll ask about 5 times if I'm ok :)

We still sing Jesus Loves Me every night before bed and then we pray with her. She often asks me to tell her The Story of Elly. It goes like this, "Mommy and daddy wanted a baby sooooo bad! We prayed and prayed and cried and cried. Then God said, I will give you baby Elly and He put you into mommy's tummy. Mommy and daddy said, YAY!!! When Elly was all done getting ready she came out of mommy's tummy and mommy got to hold Elly and nurse her. We are SO happy that God gave you to us." She just beams the whole time during this story. Without a doubt, Eliana is so wanted and special in this family.