Monday, December 13, 2010

Apples - 'Tis the Season

'Tis the season – for apples! There are so many kinds of apples available now that we can treat our taste buds to a variety of flavors and textures. I have some personal favorites: Gala is pleasingly sweet with an undertone of tartness; Fuji is crisp and juicy, a good crunching apple; Jonagold is a cross between golden delicious and Jonathan apples with a slightly tart edge and good cooking characteristics.

Which leads me to another favorite of mine – baking. This year I made baked apples. I cut the tops off and cored out the apples, scraping some of the fruit away to form a bowl. I cooked unsweetened whole cranberries in a little butter, added a bit of agave nectar for sweetness, some chopped dates, a dash of cinnamon, and the zest and juice of one orange When the cranberries became soft and thickened, I added nuts and filled the apples with the mixture. Then I placed them in a baking dish with a layer of water in the bottom, and baked them at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. They were warming and delicious, just right for a pre-winter dessert.

Homemade applesauce is easy to fix, too. Peel, core, and cube apples (I like to mix varieties and flavors). I do the same with a pear or two. Put the fruit in a saucepan, add apple juice, a tad nutmeg, and cinnamon to taste. Cook over medium heat until the fruit is soft. Then mash them together. A potato masher works fine. Leave some chunky pieces for interest.

Any apple recipes among your cooking favorites? Willing to share? Feel free to tell us about them.

For your info: there are lots and lots of apple varieties, enough for every letter of the alphabet according to this website Pretty terrific, for the apple lovers out there.

Happy apple-ing and a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Aloe for the Holidays

Here we are in the midst of the holiday season, a time to connect with friends and family, to reaffirm customs, and perhaps give gifts. I like to give things I value to the people I care about. One of the things I value is my prolific aloe plant.

Aloe is a friendly plant, easy to care for, and beneficial as well. It looks like a cactus but is really part of the lily family. It grows well indoors with little care (my kind of plant) and actually thrives on under-watering. It reproduces with small shoots that can be replanted. I keep an aloe in the kitchen because it soothes burns. It also is good to apply on scratches, sunburns, and skin irritations. I love this plant and love to give it.

So this year I am sharing the bounty and my good wishes.

I have been giving aloe plants, nestled in mugs with the invitation to come and join me for a cup of tea. I have done this for other occasions, too – a birthday, Mother’s Day, a hostess gift, or for no reason at all. It’s fun to find a mug I think that person will like and I know that aloe will be appreciated.

The best part of this kind of gifting is that I get to enjoy the company of my favorite people as they take me up on my invitation during the rest of the year.

Are you an aloe lover, too? Here is some aloe info: And do let me know if you have a particular plant that you really like. I am always happy to expand my windowsill garden.