Sunday, September 11, 2016

Flavors of Fall: Apple-Maple Jam

We have an apple tree in our front yard and it's starting to feel like fall here. So, while browsing Pintrest yesterday, I can across a recipe for Caramel Apple Jam and knew immediately that I had to make it. But, I didn't have enough brown sugar. So, I moped around for a bit, then went back to Pintrest to find another apple jam recipe that I had the ingredients to make. While researching sugar substitutions, I found a great recipe for apple-maple jam that would do the trick.

Not only did it not require brown sugar, but I could use the bottle of pure maple syrup I had in the fridge. I don't put that stuff on pancakes, it's too expensive, but I had an entire bottle in there. It turned out to be just enough. And, the recipe didn't call for pectin. I made a no-pectin plum jam last year and it came out amazing, so I was eager to give it a shot again. Since apples make their own pectin, and I have a whole tree filled with them in my front yard, it seemed ideal.

I made a modified version of the recipe from Hestia's Kitchen blog and, although she says the recipe makes 8 half-pints, mine only made 6 1/2 half-pints. I'm not sure why, but not matter what recipe I use I've never managed to make as many jars as the recipe says is possible.


Apple-Maple Jam

12 cup.  Apples (peeled and diced)
6 cup     White Sugar
1 tbsp.   Butter
1 tsp.     Cinnamon
3/4 tsp.  Allspice
1/4 tsp.  Ground Cloves
2 tbsp.   Lemon Juice
1 cup     Pure Maple Syrup (the real stuff, not maple-flavored syrup)

Peel the apples and chop them into small pieces. It doesn't much seem to matter what kind of apples you use. I used apples from our tree and I have no idea what kind they are (they're a little tart, maybe Jonathans?). It still came out great.

In a large sauce pan/dutch oven combine apples with all of the rest of the ingredients. It's important that you use a pot that's plenty big enough so the jam can cook evenly.

Cook over medium heat until it begins to boil. When it's boiling, turn the temp up a bit and cook it until it begins to gel, stirring constantly so it doesn't scorch.



When it begins to gel and looks like it's thickening up (took mine about an hour), put some on a glass plate and put it in the freezer for a couple of minutes. When you take it out, tip the plate up. If it's ready, it won't run off the plate (like the pic on the right).

When it's done, take the pot off of the heat and let it cool on a cooling rack (the kind you use for cookies) for about five minutes. This allows it to cool just enough that the fruit won't all float to the top.

In the mean time, wash your jars with hot soapy water and dry, and soak the flat part of the jar lid in very hot water so they'll adhere to the jars. You'll also want to prepare the water bath canner by filling it with hot water and putting it on the stove on high heat to get the water boiling.

At the end of five minutes, fill the jars leaving 1/4 inch of empty space at the top. It's really helpful to have a ladle and jar funnel so you don't make a mess. When I started canning last year, I bought a set of canning tools and I've loved having them. Especially the jar tongs, which allow you to lift the jars out of the boiling water when they're done processing.

Wipe the tops of the jars with a clean, damp towel and place the flat part of the lid onto the jar. Once this is done for all of the jars, add the rings. Only hand tighten the rings, make sure they're secure but not too tight.

When the water in the canner is boiling, add the jars to the rack inside the canner and gently lower them into the boiling water. The jars need to be standing up, so if they fall over, use the jar tongs to stand them upright. It also helps to add some vinegar to the water bath inside the canner to prevent any minerals in the water from sticking to the jars. The vinegar ensures your jars come out nice and shiny.

Process the jars in the boiling water bath for 15 minutes, then gently lift them out using the jar tongs and place them onto a clean towel on the counter to cool.

The cooling process is my favorite part, other than eating the jam, of course, because I love the little popping sounds the jars make when they're sealing. It's got to be the most rewarding part of the whole canning process. It's a tiny little sound that means success!

Once they're cooled, check that the jars sealed by pressing down on the middle of the lid. If it's firm with no give, the jars sealed. If it makes a popping sound and springs up, it's not sealed. If one of the jars hasn't sealed, just put into the fridge. But, this shouldn't be a problem, The jars should seal just fine as long as you're using new flats.

I'm so happy with the final product and, as a bonus, while it was cooking my house smelled so fantastic!!


Friday, July 8, 2016

#ZzzQuil VoxBox

I got another box of goodies in the mail last week... or maybe I should say another goody in a box. Just one this time. Influenster sent me a ZzzQuil VoxBox. Inside was one dose of ZzzQuil (gelcaps) and a coupon for $2 off a ZzzQuil product. My husband loves this stuff, so I was eager to try it out. 

The verdict: I slept like a baby. 

I don't generally take sleep meds. Melatonin gummies once made me feel incredibly bad. So, I try to steer clear of this sort of stuff. But, I decided to go ahead and take the ZzzQuil and was pleasantly surprised. It worked really beautifully and I didn't feel horrible in the morning. I just felt like I had slept really well. 

I'm definitely going to buy it. I think I need this stuff in my life. Especially since ye ol' insomnia has been creeping up on me again. 


Disclaimer: I received ZzzQuil for free from Influenster for testing purposes. However, the opinions herein are entirely my own. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Goddess VoxBox

I've qualified for a VoxBox from Influenster. I'm so thrilled!! I've been feeling pretty yuck lately, so this has been a lovely surprise this week. It's filled with all sorts of awesome goodies, all of which I'll use, which is nice. No box full of useless junk here. This box is pretty dang fab!


The box came with a full-size bottle of Dickinson's Witch Hazel Hydrating Toner, a box of Always pads, three packets of Downy fresh protect to make my clothes smell good, a lovely bottle of Sinful Colors nail polish, three packets of Cutex nail polish remover pads, and information about eBates.

Dickinson's Witch Hazel Hydrating Toner: I love it! I have really sensitive skin and it makes my face feel awesome without making me break out. Anything I can use without a problem has my vote. It also smells really lovely.

Always Radiant with FlexFoam: I already use this product, so getting a little box was great with me. They smell nice, the scent light and clean. The wrappers are really cute, too.

Downy Fresh Protect: This stuff smells amazing! I will not only use all of the packets they sent me, but I'll definitely buy more. It made my clothes smell great. I've always used the ones made by Gain before, but I'll get this one next time for sure.

Sinful Colors Porcelain Matte Nail Polish - Cheshire China (lavender) The color is fabulous. Really, really nice. It's a color I would buy myself. I'm not sure how I feel about the matte finish, I'll have to use it more. I do like that it actually stays put without chipping off after two hours. That's a win for me. I'll be putting it on my toes next!

Cutex Advanced Revival Nail Polish Remover Pads: Yes, yes, and yes. I love it. It's so much cleaner than wrangling a bottle of nail polish remover and cotton balls. I'm buying this... lots and lots of this.

Pantene Expert Intense Hydration Shampoo & Conditioner: The product is exactly what you would expect from Pantene. It made my hair super, crazy soft. Not just the first day, either. It wasn't a one hit wonder like some shampoos, which tend to make my hair feel great the first day but gross after a few days. I'm getting this shampoo next time I shop!

I love getting these boxes. I haven't gotten many of them, but I hope to get more in the future. They're really fun and a great way to try (and share) some really neat products. Thank you, Influenster!!!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Missing Texas...

I was almost 21 the first time I moved away from home. A native Californian, I picked up and relocated to Texas to be with a man I met on the internet. It was a radial thing to do in 1999, when there was no such thing as eHarmony or Match. We met randomly and I took my chances. Divorcing and blinded by youthful recklessness, I went.

It was just a few short days after Memorial Day in 2015 when I moved away from home again. We left Texas on May 28, 2015. It was another adventure, one I was happy to be having, however difficult it was. I wasn't quite as overcome by the adventure as I was when I was 21, but I was ready for a change all the same.

Now that it's been a year since we left Texas, I realize that I took Texas for granted. I miss my friends there, but I also just miss Texas. I miss the food and the cities, the people... everything but the weather, really. I want to go see Amanda and Karen, have dinner with Tommy, drop by to visit Melanie. I want to go to the drive-in and museums in Fort Worth. I want to shop at Central Market and have some really excellent Tex-Mex. I want the little towns with their town squares and Granbury at Christmastime. I want to go to Waco and walk on the suspension bridge at night. I want to visit Lover's Leap at Cameron Park where Matt proposed to me all those years ago.

I want Texas back.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Homesick

I'm feeling a little melancholy... do people still say that?

I realized tonight, quite suddenly, that I quite miss Texas. I spent 16 years of my life there. I met Matt and got married there, I graduated from college there (twice), and I met many of my very closest friends there. I'm just a little bit homesick... or a lot, a lot actually. Which is kind of ridiculous, since I don't know that we'll ever go back there. Some of the best years of my life were spent there, so ridiculous or not, I feel it.

That's not to say that I don't love Utah. I do. It is gorgeous here. There're seasons and mountains, and the people are super nice. I've met some really wonderful people here. I'm sure, when we're onto the next place, I'll miss Logan, too. Perhaps not as much, given that we've not been here long, but enough. Given the choice, after all, I'd just stay here.

But, it's not an option any more than is going back to Texas. And, in fact, going back to Texas may be more of an option. It's really too bad. Eventually, we'll be in neither place and I'll have one more place to love and miss. Or, maybe I'll be lucky and not love it. Maybe it'll be a place I won't have to miss. Maybe.

We have a long road ahead of us.