Tuesday, September 29

Favorite Recipe for Fall: Fresh Apple Cake

It's now officially Fall, and I'm so glad!  I'm happy be joining a group of lovely bloggers for the "Fall in Love with Your Home" tour.

After a long, hot Southern summer, Autumn puts me in the mood to bake. And boy, do I have a wonderful recipe to share with you today.


I've long been a fan of Fall baked goods that feature pumpkin, like my favorite pumpkin bread.  This year I wanted to broaden my repertoire, so I searched for the very best apple cake I could find. Hands down, the winner is my friend Sheana's Apple Cake with Maple Glaze.

The recipe is not difficult or complicated.  This is simple, basic baking--with glorious results.  Give it a try--you won't be disappointed!

To start, preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  Yes, you read that right--this cake bakes low and slow. Grease and flour a tube pan.

Next, peel and chop several apples, any variety you like.  I used Fuji, and I chopped them in my food processor to save time and to avoid big chunks, which I dislike in baked goods, but you chop your apples however you like them.  I used three and half apples to end up with three cups of chopped apple.

Then mix together 1 cup oil (I use canola), 2 cups sugar, 2 eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Combine in mixer until well blended (1-2 minutes).

Blend 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon into batter.

Add 3 cups chopped apples and 3 cups flour.  Mix until well blended.  Batter will be very thick, almost like a dough.

Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for 60 minutes, then check for doneness.  Now, this part is important and requires a bit of attention and patience.  You want the cake to be done but not overbaked.  Add 3-5 minutes of cooking time and continue to check for doneness each time.   My oven required about one hour and 10 minutes of baking time, but all ovens are different.  Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Do not, do not, do not overbake.

Remove from oven and cool in pan on a cooling rack. Cool in pan for 10-15 minutes.  Use a knife to loosen the edges of the cake before turning out onto a plate.  When completely cool, drizzle with maple glaze.

To make glaze, sift 1 to 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar into a microwave-safe dish.  Add maple syrup plus one teaspoon maple extract to make a paste.  Heat for 30 seconds or so in microwave to make a thin, pourable glaze.  Drizzle or pour immediately on cake to desired thickness.  Glaze will harden as it cools.

As you can see, I like more than just a drizzle of glaze.  The maple flavor complements the apple beautifully.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

Try it!  It's easy and absolutely delicious!

**I'm joining Kim at Savvy Southern Style for Wow Us Wednesday.**

Fall in Love With Your Home Tour  

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Wednesday, September 23

Create a welcoming garage entrance

One of the things I most like to do in my home is to create a feeling of welcome.  I especially enjoy making the front porch say "Welcome!" to everyone who visits here.

Unfortunately, those of us who live here seldom use the front door.  We enter through the garage door, which greeted us with dingy paint and not much else.  So I decided to do something about that.

Of course, I knew that whatever I did needed to be extremely practical.  This is not the spot for decor that can get in the way when we're bringing in bags of groceries!

I started by putting a fresh coat of white paint on the door and giving the steps a good scrubbing.  I also bought a plain coir mat for the foot of the steps.

Then I used my word processing software to create lettering for the front door.  I simply printed off the words I wanted it in the fonts I liked, flipped the pieces of paper over, scribbled on the back of the lettering with a lead pencil, and then taped the papers to the door and traced the outline of the words onto the door.  (Click here to read all about that process.)  Here's how the lettering appeared on the door:

If I had a craft cutter, I would have cut vinyl letters for the door.  Or I could have ordered custom vinyl lettering.  But I like this process because it allows me to choose any fonts I like and to print them in any size I like--the options are endless!--and it's free!

I'm afraid that I'm not very good with a small paintbrush, so I colored in the letters with a black Sharpie marker.

Then to give the steps a little pizazz, I found a tan craft paint that was about the color of the coir mat I'd purchased.  I painted a "runner" on the steps with the tan paint (the dark brown on the sides is the original color of the steps).  I used three of the tiny bottles of craft paint, which was my only expenditure for this project other than the coir mat.  When the tan was completely dry, I used painter's tape to mark off 1 1/2 stripes on each side of the tan runner and painted those with black craft paint. This process was painstaking but easy.  Here's a close-up:

Since I had simply painted the steps with craft paint, I figured it wouldn't be very durable.  So when the paint was completely dry, I sprayed the steps with clear urethane.  

It's not perfect, as you can plainly see, but it doesn't have to be perfect to be great, does it?  Here are the steps with the coir mat in place:

The mat is great for wiping our feet, and I love the way our humble steps look with their painted runner!  

Now when we get out of our cars to come inside the house, here's our entrance:

Not bad for less than $20 and a few hours' work, I think.  Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home!

Do you do anything to make your garage door a welcoming entrance?  I'd love to hear!

I'm joining these parties:
Inspire Me Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style
Your Turn to Shine at Bless 'Er House
Frugal Friday at The Shabby Nest

Wednesday, September 9

Empty nest, full heart

Tuesday, September 1

On procrastinating

I'm guessing I'm not the only one who was horrified this morning to look at the calendar and realize that it's September 1.  Where has the time gone??

Weren't we just saying "Happy New Year!"?  Or, at the very least, "Happy Memorial Day"?

As it happens, my eye fell this morning on a message I really needed to see:

"Procrastination is a thief which robs you of money by stealing your time." 

Those words were spoken by Dr. Nido R. Qubein, President of the university where my youngest son just started college.  They're a bit startling to me--but they're quite true, aren't they?

And as I was reflecting on Dr. Quebein's words, it occurred to me that procrastination steals more than time and money.  Most important for me right now, I realize that procrastination is stealing my peace of mind.

Oh, procrastinating gives me a sense of control, that's for sure.  "I don't feel like doing that right now," I'll tell myself.  "I need to rest."  Or "I'd rather do this instead."  But it's a false sense of control.

Those tasks I put off don't go away, not even in my thoughts.  Instead, they loom large--often much larger in imagination than they ever were in reality.

The steps that need to be taken can look awfully daunting from the bottom--but the climb grows shorter each time I simply put one foot in front of the other.

I don't do very well with New Year's resolutions, but this year I'm hoping to make an Autumn resolution. My goal is to stop putting things off.  I'm hoping to stop allowing the thief of procrastination rob me of my time and my peace of mind.

Are you prone to procrastination?  Or have you found a way to overcome it?  Please share!