Shop Rationally

My mom was a little girl during WWII. A little girl who needed a pair of shoes and could only get them if granted a special shoe stamp.

Somehow she managed to save her ration book through countless moves over sixty-eight years.

“If you don’t need it, DON’T BUY IT.” Not quite the message we receive today, is it?

Easy as Pie

Never made applesauce? Try it. It’s so simple, even my friend Karen can do it.*

Cut up some apples. Peel them if you think someone might find bits of peel yucky. How many apples? Doesn’t matter. In my experience, 8 apples makes enough applesauce to fill the bigger jar you would buy at the grocery store. (Not the HUGE jar, but the bigger than small jar. About a quart.)

Throw apple pieces in a pot big enough to hold them and have enough space left on top that you won’t need to freak out if some bubbling up occurs.

Add some sugar. Really doesn’t matter how much. You’re going to taste it in a while to see if you like it, so you can go light here. Or you can skip it altogether. Unsweetened applesauce is good.

If you’re concerned about burning/have a lightweight pan/don’t really want to pay a heck of a lot of attention, add a splash of water. I never bother.

Turn heat on medium. In a few minutes, liquid will start to come out of the apples. The sugar will start to melt. Give them an encouraging stir.

After a few more minutes, give another stir and make some observations: Is anything sticking to the bottom of the pot? If so, turn down the heat a bit. Is the sugar melting? Are the apples changing at all? Good, it’s working!

Let it do its thing for 5 minutes or so. Come back for a stir and a peek. Is it boiling a bit? Not sticking? Apples starting to look a bit translucent? Yay!

Let it do its thing for another 5 minutes or so. Stir. Are the apples translucent and pretty squishy? You’re almost done.

Grab a spoon, scoop out some apple, let it cool a bit, then taste. Does it need sugar? Cinnamon? Add whatever you’d like and let it cook for a minute or two.

You’re done cooking now, and it’s decision time: chunky or smooth?

For chunky applesauce, you can eat it as is or smash it a bit with a fork or potato masher.

For smooth applesauce, like what you’d buy in a store, give it a whirl in a blender or with an immersion blender.

(If you’ve never put hot food in a blender before, know this: BE CAREFUL. If your blender does not have a vent on its lid, steam will build up in the container and cause a high pressure situation. You can get around this by filling the container only halfway and pausing every few seconds to open the lid to allow steam to escape. Or you can avoid it altogether by letting your apples cool completely before blending. I am not that patient and enjoy hot applesauce, which is how I know that high pressure plus hot food can equal painful consequences.)

*That’s what Karen says. I know Karen can do anything.

Wood Warms You Twice

We’ve managed to get all of our seasoned wood into the woodshed, ready for this winter’s fires. Jon did an enormous amount of stacking alone last weekend, filling the shed to the brim.

Preparations have already begun for next winter’s fires as well. The Elm tree we lost to old age will be providing us with heat for years to come. Much of it is ready to be split and stacked, with only the statue (the main trunk) remaining to be chainsawed into manageable pieces. We’ve many (many) hours of work ahead of us, as it was a truly enormous tree. We’ll work through the chilly days of fall, and if we manage to get it all done before winter sets in I intend to be very impressed with us.

Our house is large and over 100 years old and generally a heating nightmare. As oil costs have skyrocketed over the past few years, we’ve had to make some changes, the biggest being an adjustment to much lower indoor temperatures than we were used to. A few things have made this bearable: Lots of 100% wool sweaters, warm blankets, hot drinks, heated rice/barley bags, and our fireplace. As it gets colder, we spend more and more of our time close to the fire. Like everything in this old house, our fireplace is not a model of efficiency.  The flue is stuck in the open position. There’s a chink in the bricks through which you can see daylight. And, of course, a wood stove would be ever more efficient than an open fireplace. The repairs are on the list (and the wood stove on the wishlist) but the list is long and must be taken in manageable bites. Inefficient or not, there’s no denying the particular comfort of a roaring fire on a cold January day.

Let the Chips Fall Where they May

When you crave something dense and chocolaty, zucchini probably doesn’t come to mind.

Add a few choice ingredients, though, and you’ve got a bread worthy of being called a cake.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Preheat oven to 350.

2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups zucchini, shredded

1 cup chocolate chips

Mix flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Mix eggs, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla.

Combine the dry ingredients with the wet mixture.

Add zucchini and chocolate chips.

Bake 40-45 minutes in a buttered 9″x5″ bread pan.