Sounds good, right? And it is. This was yet another gift from our recent Hoegarden weekend. I had bookmarked a recipe for Apple Pie Moonshine months ago with the hope of trying it some day. When we picked our ‘Lowdown Hoedown’ theme for this year’s shenanigans, it seemed like perfect timing so I fired off an e-mail to my Big Sis with the short & simple message “We should totally make this for Hoegarden!”
One of the many things I love about having four sisters is that we never have to twist arms to get someone to participate in things like this. Big Sis was all in. She agreed to source some vintage jars from Mom’s barn and take on the role of Head Moonshiner. I would act as Chief Brainstormer, equal financial partner and creative director (which put me in charge of packaging & tags).
Somewhere our relatives are nodding and saying “See, Hank… I told you they were hillbillies.”
This recipe made a lot of hooch – 7 quarts in all. Big Sis packaged it into Mason jars and I whipped up some cute tags in honor of our theme. Every good hillbilly knows the only appropriate wrapping for a jar of hooch is a brown paper bag, so we went there because our Momma taught us not to half-ass anything. Here’s how the finished jars turned out.
This is not your typical moonshine that doubles as paint stripper. First of all, it’s not nearly as strong as traditional moonshine. Because of the cider and fruit juice, this version is slightly sweet, incredibly smooth and resembles spiked apple cider much more than paint solvent. And it is good. Really, really good.
Big Sis’s “Make Ya’ Holler” Apple Pie Moonshine
1 gallon of spiced apple cider
1 gallon of apple juice
8-10 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 large bottle (750ml) of good vodka*
7 quart-size Mason jars with new lids
In a large stock pot, combine all ingredients EXCEPT for the vodka. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a boil. Shut off the heat and allow the mixture to cool completely. Once cooled to room temperature, stir in the vodka and ladle it into sterilized canning jars. Drop one of those used cinnamon sticks into each jar, wipe the rim of the jar with a clean damp cloth and top with a sterile canning lid & ring.
Caution: Big Sis says this stuff will knock your head off if you try it right away, and no one wants that. Instead, seal it up and let it sit for 3-4 weeks to mellow. You’ll be glad you did. When we cracked that first quart at Hoegarden, you could sip it straight from the jar it was so smooth. I think Big Sis could have a brilliant future as a moonshiner if she wanted.
Apple Pie Moonshine can be served hot or cold, as a mixer or straight up. Since it was chilly for Hoegarden and Sister #4 built a glorious fire in the fire pit, we chose to add a quart of it to a half-gallon of apple cider and serve it hot like a toddy. And it rocked that toddy. If it had been sweltering, I could picture this stirred into a pitcher of freshly brewed iced tea with fresh sliced apples. Yum.
Disclosure: Full credit for this recipe goes to Mallory Jane of Hayseed Homemakin’ blog. Mallory Jane makes hers with *everclear* (pure grain alcohol at 190 proof), which can be really expensive and hard to find. We substituted a good quality vodka, which worked really well and significantly lowered the alcohol content (to 80 proof). To see the Hayseed Homemakin’ version, click rat-cheer. Thank you, Mallory Jane, for sharing your recipe and putting the hooch in our hoedown.
Hi – me again; back with more dark chocolate. Forgive me, but I’m on a bender. Last week it was flourless peanut butter, Biscoff & dark chocolate cookies. This week it’s dark chocolate, coconut & almond granola, which is at least healthier. Stop laughing! It’s good for you, right? Okay, you be the judge.
NanaBread’s Almond Joy Granola:
4 cups old-fashioned oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
2 cups raw whole almonds
3 cups unsweetened coconut, the large flakes
4 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Start by lining two large baking sheets with parchment or Silpat mats. Spread the oats, almonds and coconut on baking sheets in a thin, even layer and toast at 350F for 10-15 minutes, or until the coconut is golden brown and the oats & nuts are fragrant. Remove from the oven and scrape the oats, almonds & coconut into a large mixing bowl; toss to combine.
In a saucepan, combine the agave nectar, honey, canola oil and butter. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder & salt, whisking until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Pour the hot liquid mixture over the oat mixture and toss until everything is coated. (This smells SO GOOD the entire time you’re making it.)
Spoon the mixture back onto the lined baking sheets and pop them back into the oven (still at 350F) for 15 minutes. Stir or flip the mixture around and bake an additional 15 minutes, for a total baking time of around 30 minutes. It’s done when the edges are toasty and the mixture is only slightly sticky but very fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
1. Nut allergies? Go Mounds and omit the almonds & almond extract.
2. Not a chocolate fan? Omit the cocoa and add dried fruit like cranberries or blueberries. Dried apricots & candied ginger would also be a great combination.
3. Grab a straw, because the chocolate almond milk left behind is delicious.
Note: This recipe was adapted from a recipe found on Pinterest which was adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook; her version calls for cinnamon & granulated sugar and uses less coconut & nuts. But those are my favorite parts of granola, so I upped the volume of almonds & coconut, substituted agave nectar for the granulated sugar, added almond extract, and doubled the butter. I gotta be me.
You guys… I thought the 50th birthday shenanigans ended on Thursday when my blogging besties threw me a virtual birthday party, but no. They upped the ante with what has been known on Twitter as #TMPWatch2013. When it first popped up in my Twitter feed, I admit – I ignored it. I have goofy friends and there’s always some kind of ‘watch of the week’ going on. But when they started mentioning crafts, injuries, cat-tastrophes and swearing, it got my attention. Eventually, I wailed “I WANT IN!” Bet that got a laugh.
Kat stepped up and explained that it was a craft project. A “stitch & bitch” of sorts. She even produced a photo of an apron she was working on. There was embroidery of cilantro. (Yes, cilantro.) But she was a deceiver because that apron was distraction bait. They were scheming behind my back. My suspicions were confirmed when six boxes arrived, all with the same taunt written across the outside – “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL ALL PACKAGES ARRIVE”.
Three days I waited. There was a lot of tweeting back & forth. I kept saying “I can’t stand it!” and they kept saying “Don’t you dare touch them until they’re all there!” When the final box arrived last night, it was on like Donkey Kong. I did my best to live tweet as each box was opened, but I couldn’t help but wish they were all perched in my living room drinking margaritas with me.
Side Note: Now I know why my Felt Mouse Tutorial got so many hits last month.
Here’s a photo line-up of The Mouse Project. I still can’t stopped laughing.
So many wonderful things in Kirsten’s box. The mice are hilarious. Old MouseDonald comes with a pig that oinks (and the eyes light up). The Ranger Mouse was a joint project with her oldest son. He sent a book to go along with it. There’s Laverne & Squirrely, a travel mouse, a pie baker, Jeanne Cash (dressed in black & an inside joke with TCP), and an adorable garden gnome mouse complete with shears. Bonus swag: Danish chocolate & girly bling. Hey, Kirsten… I think this birthday brought both Freaked Out and peeing my pants a little.
Allison’s mice are a perfect blend of sweet, touching and hilarious. Examples:
Duchess Emouska – who look a little like Cruella DeVille; she rocks zebra print
Mousy Gras – raise your hand if you know how she got all those beads
Dr. Pellet – the mousetroenterologist reminding us to help prevent colon cancer
Havarti Marti – she’s here for the party; we’re gonna get along fine
Allison always keeps me in stitches. Even her card made me laugh out loud.
I don’t know who to feel sorrier for – Carrie or her Vlad the Impaler mouse. She had the week from hell and yet still made time to make these mice. There’s a lady mouse in pearls, a gentleman mouse in a bowtie, Little Willie who sings Texas classics on his guitar, and the mouse that was obviously the last straw. Yes – those are real sewing needles protruding from his body, and yes – she shipped it that way. I’d love to know what her post office thought. Not just for the voodoo-like use of needles, but for the toddler meltdown that went with shipping it. Despite it all, her mice are testimony to her perseverance. Thank you for hanging in there, Carrie. I am completely charmed.
Sweet Megan. She writes the blog Country Cleaver. In her blog archives, you’ll find the story about how she chose the name for her blog. It involved a photo shoot in which she did her best June Cleaver impersonation. She channeled her Country Cleaver persona into this sweet little mouse, complete with a stylish apron and pearls. I’m guessing she loves Nutella and salmon, although not at the same time. I’m also pretty sure she’s addicted to Downton Abbey and all things Royal. Her dream man can wield an ax and wear flannel like a boss. She’s lovely and has her act together, just like Megan.
Meet Leilani. She is the Spirit of Aloha, and she traveled the furthest to be here. She is sporting the latest in swimwear from the great state of Hawaii and bears the traditional greeting of a lei. This cutie is the creation of Monica, the Grommom, who shares her life homeschooling four adorable surfer dudes (groms) without seeming to rub our noses in the fact that she lives in paradise. Her tropical flair brings sunshine into our lives and her iPhone shots of sunsets and beaches inspire us. Monica is a doll, and so is her sweet mouse.
Beka of Kvetchin’ Kitchen is many things – smart, funny, strong – but I had no idea she was a crafter. She is responsible for most uses of the hashtag #AllTheSwears on Twitter while #TMP2013 was being chatted about. Girlfriend has hidden talents, and felt mice is one of them. Who knew? Beka made five mice, but one got ripped to shreds by her cats. Such a shame. We could have created a killer Walking Dead diorama for him. But let’s celebrate the survivors – a mustached gentleman with an engagement ring at the ready, a sweetie holding a pink rose who I suspect is about to say “Yes!”, a Mouscasso portrait (very creative) and The Birthday Queen, complete with royal crown & scepter.
I think it takes a fellow Texan to understand why a tie-dyed “Keep Austin Weird” mouse named Leslie would make me furiously happy, and Katie from The Hill Country Cook is just that Texan. Her mice are so reflective of her personality – fun & fabulous. There is a polka dot “Surprise!” mouse, a little sweetie hugging a birthday candle, and a trademarked Peace, Love & Baking mouse. Those symbols on the bottom of the blue mouse are a peace sign, a heart and a whisk. Peace, Love & Baking is how Katie ends each blog post, so it’s only fitting that one of her mice bears her emblem. Also stashed in Katie’s box – a mylar birthday banner & a party horn. Party on, Katie!
I think it’s safe to say that Madeline surprised us all. We had no idea she was a closet crafter. Check out her mice. There is a sweet gray mouse in an apron with buttons, a daring hot pink lady bringing the bling, a sweetheart of a purple mouse embellished with red heart buttons (five hearts representing the fact that we both come from families with five girls), and the most adorable little aviator mouse complete with flight wings and a tiny toy airplane. Wow. Just wow.
Of course Kat, our resident fashionista, would go full-on glamorpuss. She created not one but SIX fearless females she calls the “Cougar Cocktail Conga Mice”. Here it is in Kat’s own words: “They’re all named Tammy. Naturally, they’ll paint your nails, tease your hair and cover you in rhinestones. It’s just how they operate.” Only Kat would send All The Tammys. It’s like ZsaZsa Gabor had a box of mice babies, and they are priceless! All is forgiven for the great Cilantro Apron Deception, Kat. All is forgiven. PS – they came with hooch!
Next up was Mads’ two mouse besties – Mildred & Sophie. They’re the Thelma & Louise of mice. Mildred just turned 50, and just like me she likes to stir up mischief and enjoys a good Bloody Mary. Her BFF Sophie is more inclined to pink fruity cocktails and riding in convertibles. Together, they are unstoppable and despite a few incidents involving glue they still look marvelous. Must be all that sunshine and beautiful weather on the California coast. Real Mousewives?
Anne of From My Sweet Heart blog is known for her beautiful desserts. Each of her sweet creations is a masterpiece and each will have you licking your computer screen. It should be no surprise then that she would channel that same artistic ability into felt mice, but we were still surprised. Just look at her beautiful works of art – there is a sweet berry-laden Flour Power mouse, a pie maker wielding a spatula, a cookie baker complete with cookie jar and slotted spatula, a rolling pin baker who loves her job, a sweet pink donut mouse (a girl after my own heart), a hot pink party mouse, and a sweet cotton candy confection that is as sweet as her treat. From My Sweet Heart in mouse form. Bravo, Anne. Bravo!
So much love. So much fun. So much anticipation followed by so much squeeing. And so many back stories – both for the mice and for all the secrecy, the glue gun & sewing needle injuries, and the swearing. Apparently there was a LOT of swearing. Beka’s two cats even brought violence and drama to the mix. RIP Unknown Soldier. You will not be forgotten.
To all the ladies who helped make my 50th birthday one for the record books, thank you a MILLION times over. Words can’t express not only how much I feel loved, but how much I love each of them in return. Some day we’ll all get together, and when we do it will look like one of those rugby tussles where all the sweaty men tackle each other and roll around on the ground. Except that we’ll be laughing instead of sweating. Everyone knows women don’t sweat – they mist.
PS – Special thanks to Kirsten, whom I suspect was the ringleader in all of this, but who is too modest to take the credit. Blame. No, credit. It was ALL amazing. I never saw any of this coming, so either she is a Super Sneak, or I am a mullet. Please refrain from voting out loud. Thank you.
PPS – I have no idea how I’m going to display all these mice, but rest assured that they will not be hidden away and forgotten. If I have to ask The Complete Package build a wall of shelves in my sewing room, so be it. (Right, honey? Right pookie bear? Right snoogie oogums? Right sugar booger? Honey? Hello?)
Wow… that’s a big number. Half-a-hundred. Half a century! Remember when you were just a kid and someone said they were 50 and you thought “Wow, she’s older than dirt!” – well, I’m officially there.
Today could have sucked the wind out of my sails or the jelly out of my donut but it didn’t. Some people may turn 50 and FREAK OUT, but not me. Age is just a number and while my knees often feel 50, in my mind I am still 36. If that’s me taking the denial train, then I’m all aboard. In fact, I kind of like my seat.
The Complete Package (my beloved husband) left this morning for a business conference and while his timing brought him a lot of guilt, I was prepared to spend the day alone shopping for new bras and treating myself to a lemon berry slush at Sonic. That might sound sad to some, but we haven’t really put a lot into celebrating birthdays around here since our daughter grew up and moved out on her own and I started seeing more gray hairs than brown in the mirror.
That is, until this morning when I received a text from my friend Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic while browsing the bra selection at Kohl’s. (That’s right, ladies… if you’re in the market for over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders, they’re on sale this weekend at Kohl’s. You’re welcome.)
Not to put too fine a point on it, but while I was shopping, Kirsten sent a text message that went something like this:
Her: Where are you?!? Why aren’t you on your computer like you’re supposed to be?!? How could you be so selfish?!? (Okay… that’s slightly embellished.)
So I responded with: “Yo! Why you all up in my biz-ness? I’m shopping for B-rahs!” (Not really, but I’m trying to illustrate a point so roll with it.)
So then she was all like: “Seriously. You need to get home and get online.”
And I was thinking: “Sweet! They must have picked a new pope!” (But I’m not catholic, and that was not it.)
As it turns out, my friends from Salad Week & Beer Week & Crepe Week & Sweets Week had pulled out all the stops and thrown me a virtual Happy 50th Birthday party. They were all watching their Twitter feeds for my reaction, and I was at Kohl’s picking out bras to take home and try on (because no one ever wants to try on bras in a public fitting room – am I right, ladies?)
Here’s what greeted me when I opened Kirsten’s blog:
As I read her recipe for Orange Creamsicle Pie, I began to grasp the scope of it all. There was the list of my blogging besties with all of the glorious things they created for my big day. Shit, y’all. Cue the waterworks and pass me the tissues. So. Much. Love. You know today had to be the day I failed to wear the waterproof mascara, right?
So I’ve been sitting at my computer for hours now, and I’m blown away by the thoughtfulness of others and the karma of timing and the gratitude that comes from having such amazing friends. Anyone who scoffs at bloggers for having imaginary internet friends will never get it. But I do, and I am forever grateful to these wonderful ladies whom I adore:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – the suspected ring-leader who cooked up a childhood memory with Orange Creamsicle Pie
Megan at Country Cleaver – who baked up a lovely batch of Nutella Cream Cheese Turn-Overs
Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World – who baked an old-fashioned classic Coca Cola Sheet Cake
Anne at From My Sweet Heart – who made this absolutely gorgeous (and pink!) Mexican Ice Cream
Mads at La Petite Pancake – who whipped up some TexMex love with her Cheesy Chorizo Dip
Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama – who had the worst week ever & still managed to whip up a Coconut Banana Brownie Pie
Kat at Tenaciously Yours – who made one of my favorite obsessions with her Guacamole
Madeline at Munching in the Mitten – who combined several of my favorites with her Fig, Fontina & Pecan Flatbread
Monica at The Grommom – who brought the Aloha all the way from Hawaii with Tropical Ice Cream
Katie at The Hill Country Cook – who baked a big ol’ pan of Texas heritage with her Dr Pepper Cake
Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain – who put the fun back in mini pies with Key Lime Pies in Animal Cracker Crusts
And Beka at Kvetchin’ Kitchen – who brought the funny & the hooch with her Aged Manhattan Cocktail because nothing says “Let’s celebrate the old broad” like aged whiskey (love it!)
There are not enough words in the English language to convey how much these ladies mean to me. They made turning 50 unexpectedly fun. If you have a minute, please take the time to check out their fabulous recipes. Even better, bookmark their blogs and spend some quality time on each and you’ll see why I find them all so delightful. Much love to everyone and thank you for the sweet birthday wishes. I would gladly blow out a candle for each of you, but there are already enough to warrant a fire code violation in
most all public venues.
Hugs to you all & thanks so much! – Jeanne (NanaBread)