Archive for November, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

And We Gave Thanks

Yep, that’s really Oklahoma in the Fall!!


Thanksgiving is over – it was wonderful for us – and time to move on to the next big meal at Christmas! I think that this time of year is measured as time between meals or maybe, as pounds gained? Whatever, the food just seems to taste better during the 37 or so days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

While it appears that everywhere from Colorado to Idaho to California experienced a freezing, snowy Thanksgiving, those of us in sunny Oklahoma felt some nippy temps but still had trees with painted leaves as a background, through the window, to our massive dinner spread.

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We enjoyed a houseful of guests, four of whom sported guitars, and so a lovely day was spent eating and then listening to the soulful strains of Hank William’s “So Lonesome I Could Cry”, the harmony of gospel songs and the catchy beat of the eldest son’s original creations. Having two professional musicians in the family, along with a whole slew of amateurs makes for a toe tapping, knee slapping concert whenever we all get together.

Our dinner consisted of the usual turkey, oiled up and totally covered with smoked paprika, baked in a separate roaster for a much more tender, juicy bird. Cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans, corn on the cob, 7 layer salad and my pasta salad (recipe follows) accompanied the bird of the hour. Just for the heck of it, I decided to see what everybody had to say about the sauerkraut and so I sliced up smoked sausage and baked that on a bed of the kraut. If I may brag, everyone went nuts over it and several ended up carrying home a jar! Yay. I suppose I’ll have to find cabbage at 10 lbs for $1 again and get busy.

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I have to admit to a huge, red-faced mistake, however, before I give you my recipe for a pasta salad. My favorite pie in the whole world is pecan pie. I am a terrible American because I can’t stand pumpkin pie. However, because I love my family I do make a pumpkin pie each year and I generously let them have every single bite! For the pie cook, one of the kitchen utensils that we carry at the Oklahoma Pastry Cloth™ store is the First Slice Out Pie Spatula and it is the handiest little thing. It is placed into the pie plate and then the pie shell is placed on top of it. Once the pie is filled and covered, it is baked and the first slice out is easily achieved by cutting around the spatula and just lifting it up.

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Sounds brilliant, right? Well, it is – that is unless a runny, sticky, custard pie filling and large, glass pie plate are involved. It works like a charm for apple or cherry or such in a standard pie tin, but a pecan pie is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Well, not that pecans and fish have anything in common. Bad metaphor. Never mind. Anyway, it seems that when the sticky, gooey mess that is pecan pie filling is poured into the shell, if there is ANY kind of crack in the crust, some of it WILL seep under the pie shell at the edge where the spatula and crust meet. The baked result is a pie spatula that is adhered to the pie pan with the strength of Super Glue. I sheepishly pried under the spatula with a knife to no avail to get that first slice out and everyone gathered around to watch me battle with my genius utensil, each giving their own suggestions based on obviously more engineering know-how than I possessed. Finally, my dear son-in-law who is so smart, took the knife from my feverish fingers and gently rocked the spatula back and forth until, with a great sucking sound, it lifted off of the surface of the pie pan, bringing strings of oozing mess with it. He popped the mess into his mouth and announced that it tasted like taffy candy. Lovely. My pie was a dug-out disaster, but it tasted like taffy! It may have been the ugliest pie at the buffet, but it DID taste good. So word of warning: The pie spatuala works best in a standard pie pan and make sure that your crust is thick and perfect if you are going to use a custard filling!

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Our Thanksgiving Day was just that – a day of thanks. However, for us here at the Oklahoma Pastry Cloth™ homestead, every single day is a day of thanks for all that God has provided and for the strength and wisdom He offers. There is good in every situtation, no matter how bad it may look to us. Growth can always be had if one will focus on what God is teaching rather than what the circumstances seem on the surface. We pray that, for you all, this time is one of love, joy and personal growth.

Pasta Salad

1 1/2 cups uncooked pasta
2 tsp olive oil
3 stalks celery
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1 small head broccoli cut up
1/2 med. onion chopped
1/2 cup black olives, chopped or sliced
1/4 cup green olives, chopped or sliced
1/2 c. mayonnaise (light or fat free is fine)
2 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp vinegar
1/4 cup any type Italian salad dressing
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp oregano

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Cook pasta according to directions. I add two tsp olive oil and plenty of salt to the water.

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While the pasta is cooking chop all vegetables and set aside.

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Drain cooked pasta and run under cold water until cooled. Leave in colander to continue draining

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Place all veggies into a refrigerator bowl with cover. Add pasta and toss. In a separate bowl, mix together mayo, sugar, vinegar and Italian dressing. Here I am using Ken’s brand Northern Italian with Basil and Romano.

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Sprinkle parmesan cheese and oregano onto the veggies and pasta and toss.

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Pour in mayonnaise mixture and stir so that all elements are coated. Cover bowl and store in frig to marinate for several hours or overnight.

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It is always a hit around here! Lots of veggies and a little pasta.

Happy Cooking!


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Making Sauerkraut

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Der Kraut is Sauer!


Well, I think that I will venture into the world of German Cuisine and explain the exciting experiment that was performed in the Oklahoma Pastry Cloth™ laboratory.
We made Sauerkraut!! That may not sound exciting to most people, but to me it was a journey into my ancestral past. My grandmother made Sauerkraut in crocks and I have two of those crocks. I’ve been told that they had the additional use of being her knife sharpener. She would turn the crocks over and sharpen her knives on the bottom like on a stone, but I digress.

I never got to watch my grandmother make her Sauerkraut, but I have heard the stories and so, as much as I love the stuff, I decided to see if maybe making it is in my genes! This experiment was prompted by a sale on cabbage at the Firelake Grocery owned by the Absentee Shawnee tribe nearby. 10 lbs for $1! Now THAT’S a sale. I knew that I had to have that cabbage. So what if I had no idea what to do with it? I had to buy it because it is such a steal and it’s wrong to pass up a steal. As I loaded my buggy, I remembered my grandmother’s crocks and my adventure was set.

According to Wikipedia, Sauerkraut probably originated in the north of China among the Mongols. That would make sense because one of my favorite Korean dishes is Kimshe which is simply Korean Sauerkraut. Anyway, Sauerkraut was brought to Europe by migrating tribes. Eastern Europeans, eat a LOT of sauerkraut. In Europe, the Jews adopted sauerkraut as part of their cuisine and are thought to have introduced it in the northern countries of Western Europe and then to the United States. Sauerkraut is a staple of the winter diet in Germany and the Netherlands. While sauerkraut is usually prepared with pork, the Jewish people customarily use goose or duck meat.

Now came the part in the research that kinda got me. When we had our sheep farm, we raised Sudan Grass and cut it and chopped it and put it into a silo to ferment for the sheep and cows to eat. According to Wikipedia, it’s the same process that is used for Sauerkraut. We’re eating silage!! No wonder those sheep and cows burp so much.

Anyway, when making Silage – I mean – Sauerkraut, you have to be very careful to monitor the temperature of the area where it is fermenting. The USDA says to use more salt than is traditional, but that makes it way too salty. So, in order to avoid food poisoning if using traditional amounts of salt, you must keep the temperature at the correct level. Depending on who you talk to, this should be anywhere between 40 and 70 degrees.


Homemade Sauerkraut For One Gallon Crock

5 lbs cabbage

3 1/2 tbsps sea salt or canning salt

1/2 tbsp. carroway seeds (optional)


Wash heads of cabbage well and slice thinly with a knife, or if you make no apologies for enjoying the fact that you live in the 21st century, use your food processer with the thin slicing blade.


Place in a colandar and rinse to make sure it is very clean.


Carefully measure the cabbage to make sure that you have exactly 5 lbs. This is important because the ratio of salt to cabbage has to be very accurate.



Put approximately 1/3 of the cabbage in a very large bowl and sprinkle approximately 1/3 of the salt. Stir. Add a second layer with another third of cabbage and add more salt. Stir. Add final amount of cabbage and salt and stir well to coat all cabbage with some salt. You can use your hands to mix.


Place about an inch of cabbage in the bottom of a crock and pack down with a potato masher.


Continue adding cabbage in layers a little at a time, packing down with potato masher each time. As the cabbage is packed tighter and tighter and pressed down, liquid will start forming.


When 5 lbs of cabbage has been packed into the crock, place a piece of cotton cloth on top of the cabbage and pat into the fluid to absorb it while resting on top of the vegetables. The liquid does not rise to the top unless pressure is put on the cabbage.


Place a saucer on top of the cloth. Fill a quart jar with water and attach the lid. Place the jar into the center of the saucer. This acts as a weight that keeps the sliced cabbage under the fluid.


Place into a pan and cover with a clean, white cloth. Place in a cool, dry place, where you can monitor the temperature, for 4 to 6 weeks.

This crock was placed in a good ol’ Oklahoma storm shelter with a thermometer on the chair to keep a check on the temps which average between 50 – 70 degrees in the Fall. Every other day, check the crocks for any scum (mold that is harmless) and remove with a plastic spoon by just skimming the surface and scraping the sides of the crock. There should not be much of this mold, but just little dots here and there that can be removed easlily. Check frequently. I check about every other day. During the fermenting process, if evaporation occurs and the fluid level drops, add a cup of water that has been boiled mixed with 1 tsp salt. After the third week, taste the kraut to see how strong it is. Some people begin scooping out a little to eat at this point, but be sure to pack the kraut back down and under the fluid. It is a good idea, for cleanliness, to change the cloth that is directly on the cabbage and wash the plate every few days. I keep a second set of cloths clean and just alternate.



When the kraut has reached the level of tartness that you like, remove the jar and plate and carefully pull up the cloth covering the Sauerkraut. Stir the kraut from bottom up to mix.


You can serve it fresh and it is yummy! To preserve your kraut divide it into freezer bags and freeze it or you can also can it. The following are canning instructions:


Sterilize canning jars and line up to fill with Sauerkraut, using a slotted spoon to 1/2 inch head space. Pack kraut into jars a little at a time. Add juice over the kraut to fill the gaps.


Keep lids in nearly boiling water. Wipe the top edges of the jars to remove any juices and place lid on jar. Here I am using a canning wand with a magnet to hold the lids.

Submerge jars in water in waterbath canner and bring water to a boil. At point of boiling, set timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, lift rack and remove jars to a dry towel to cool. Lids will ping or pop as they seal.



To make your rings last longer and to make your jars nice and clean, when jars are cooled, remove rings and wash in warm, soapy water. Allow to dry totally and return rings to jars or you can store jars without the rings.


We love pork roast and Sauerkraut. I take any roast, boneless or bone-in and season with salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary and wrap in foil and place it in a baking pan, baking at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes per pound. Length of time varies, but I like the pork to be very, very tender. I remove the roast from the pan and leave about a cup of drippings. I put about an inch layer of Sauerkraut and then slice the pork over the top, and cover with foil. I put that back into the oven for a final 30 minutes and serve with hominy and green beans! Big Smile!!!

And Grandmother’s crocks are still goin’ strong!

Happy Cooking!


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Canned Apple Pie Filling

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

As American As

Apple Pie

(yep, there’s a recipe

in there somewhere)

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OK, time for pie stories. My favorite one has been told by my mom and dad for years. Seems that when they were first married, my mother, wanting to please her new husband, decided to bake his favorite pie – cherry. She went to the store to buy fresh cherries and worked her fingers to the bone creating a pie that looked like a picture. She placed a slice at my father’s place and he eagerly dug in to sample her achievement. He nearly broke a tooth as he bit down on several pits. It was then that my mother learned that cherries had seeds that had to be removed!!!

My worst pie story happened years ago when some friends decided to “set me up” with a friend of theirs. My girlfriend and her husband had me over for dinner to meet this guest and insisted that I help make the meal by making dessert – specifically an apple pie. I had no doubt that they were trying to force that way to a man’s heart thingy. I asked her what kind of apples I was using and she said, “I dunno. They’re from the tree out back.” I peeled and sliced the apples and put them into my homemade crust and stuck it in the oven for an hour at 400º. I figured that would be plenty of time.

Shortly before the arrival of this guest whom I was supposed to be impressing, we pulled out the pie and discovered that the apples were barely cooked! Oh no. Either her oven was wrong or those apples were really firm! I was NOT serving that pie and so I ran to the store and got the makings for Bananas Foster! After dinner and after the Bananas Foster, the guest mentioned that he’d been told that he was having apple pie made by yours truly and that he thought he’d smelled one when he’d walked into the house. I was slowly sinking under the table.

Finally, my friend explained what had happened and the guest replied that they had told him I made a good pie and he wanted to try it anyway. I decided this person was purposely trying to annoy me and of course, I was looking for any way to escape. My friend took the pie out of the oven where she had placed it to stay warm at 200º. It had been in there for a couple of hours. She sliced it and put pieces on plates and served them. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The slices were just beautiful and the apples were perfect. I took a bite and savored the flavor. The guest said, “What’s wrong with this pie?? It is fantastic.” It had continued slowly cooking at 200º unknown to my friend and me! I was saved! And no, the guest didn’t steal my heart!!!

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In searching the internet for the origin of apple pie, I discovered that fruit pies have been around since the Middle Ages. However, back then sugar was rarely used and the crust was hard as a rock. It was not meant to be eaten, but was more like the utensil holding the food! I suppose sugar was a luxury back then? And to beat everything, they called the pie crust a ‘coffin’ which I suppose was an apt name since it ‘embodied’ the edible middle. Eventually, sugar became a staple part of fruit pies and the crust became the delicate pastry that it is today. According to the following is a story regarding “pie a la mode” that I thought you would enjoy.

“Professor Charles Watson Townsend, dined regularly at the Cambridge Hotel during the mid 1890′s. He often ordered ice cream with his apple pie. Mrs. Berry Hall, a diner seated next to him, asked what it was called. He said it didn’t have a name, and she promptly dubbed it Pie a la Mode. Townsend liked the name so much he asked for it each day by that name. When Townsend visited the famous Delmonico Restaurant in New York City, he asked for Pie a la Mode. When the waiter proclaimed he never heard of it, Townsend chastised him and the manager, and was quoted as saying; “Do you mean to tell me that so famous an eating place as Delmonico’s has never heard of Pie a la Mode, when the Hotel Cambridge, up in the village of Cambridge, NY serves it every day? Call the manager at once, I demand as good a serve here as I get in Cambridge.” The following day it became a regular at Delmonico and a resulting story in the New York Sun (a reporter was listening to the whole conversation) made it a country favorite with the publicity that ensued.”

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In the Oklahoma Pastry Cloth™ kitchen, apple pie is the favorite of all pies. Therefore, I have to plan on making quite a number through the year, especially during this season. It is also always a favorite of guests that can be whipped up at a moments notice if you have the pie filling already made as well as the pie crust mixed and ready to form a dough. And how do you do that? Just follow the instructions below and you’ll be one happy camper.

And if you need a testimonial, last Christmas for a dinner party that we attended, I brought an apple pie using this recipe and our pie crust mix recipe. Overheard was one of the young boys asking his father, “Have you tasted this??!! This is a KILLER pie.” I knew that I had finally arrived!

Canning Apple Pie Filling

6 lbs apples
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup corn starch
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tbsp. salt
10 cups water
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar per jar

First, be sure to sterilize your canning jars and leave them in hot water ready to use.

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Peel, core and slice apples. I put them in a large bowl of water with fruit fresh to keep them crisp and to keep them from turning brown.

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In a large pan, mix sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add salt and water and mix well. Bring to a boil and cook until thick and bubbly and no longer cloudy. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.

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Pack the sliced apples into hot canning jars (that have been warming, covered in water in a larger pot), leaving a 3/4 – 1″ inch head space. Add 1/2 tsp vinegar to each jar.

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Fill jars with hot syrup, again, leaving 3/4 – 1″ headspace, and gently remove air bubbles with a knife. Of course, as noted in the photo, keep a cell phone handy so you can call your best friend to brag that you are canning apple pie filling. Giggle

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Wipe rims of jars with a warm, wet cloth to remove any drips or oils. Put on lids that have been warmed in very hot water. Screw on rings but not too tightly. Process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes.

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Finished Jars. The jar on the right is from last year and is still fine. Notice, though, that the syrup has solidified. It goes back to syrup when it is cooked. Also, here I had some leftover syrup, so I canned it too to use with fresh apples.

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I use two quarts for one large pie, 1 1/2 quarts for a smaller pie pan. You can do either a regular crust or a crumb crust. For the crumb crust I put a regular crust on first and then mixed 1/2 cup of my pie crust mix with 1/2 cup sugar and a half tsp of cinnamon and then sprinkled it on top of the crust. Bake at 400º for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

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And here is one of my pies with a regular crust. This pie filling always cuts such a pretty piece when it is cooled!
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Home Canned Apple Butter

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

The Apple of His Eye

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In Deuteronomy 32:10, we are told that God protected Jacob as “the apple of His eye”. The Greek word for apple in this verse actually means “pupil” of the eye. The pupil of the eye is what actually sees and focuses on an object. God saw Jacob and made him His focus. Isn’t it neat to know that God sees us and focuses on us? Nothing in our lives is missed and we are encircled just as the pupil is encircled by the iris. Of course, when we are going through things that are so tough, if we could only remember that God sees it all and surrounds us, we might learn to be content no matter what our circumstances. God focuses on you and me like the pupil of His eye. We aren’t some insignificant part of the universe. We are loved!

But speaking of apples, today I’m going to deal with apple apples. We all know that,“An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away.” Or so every child has been told since Johnny Appleseed. Apples are high in fiber, vitamins and they just plain taste good. Now that it is Fall, apples are in abundance. Apple bobbing at Halloween or caramel apples and candied apples at fairs and bazaars are a yearly treat. There are so many varieties of apples that it is hard to keep up with what’s what. My favorite eating apple is the relatively new Gala Apple and among our apple trees, we have one Gala. My second favorite is the Yellow Delicious and we have several trees of that variety. Add in a Red Delicious and a Lodi and we have our own mini orchard.

It is so fun having apple trees and when planting, it is nice to consider both summer and Fall varieties of the fruit. Our Lodi, which is a California apple and very prolific, is a summer apple, ripening in June. The Lodi apple is a cooking apple and is pretty doggone tart. I use them for applesauce and apple butter. They are also good for drying for snacks. The Fall apples are more for eating and using in pies, cakes and other baking. They can also be dried. Nice, firm, crunchy apples are best for pies because they hold their shape while cooking. The Lodis cook down to mush and a pie of Lodis winds up being an applesauce pie!!

I think that I will use two posts over the next few weeks to offer you some ideas for using your apples. In this post, you will find my recipe and photo directions for making apple butter. I use our Lodi apples, but you can use any type you like as long as they are relatively tart apples. Apple butter has a lot of sugar in it and so you want nice tart apples to give it the tangy flavor characteristic of good apple butter. Lodis require little mashing or running through a colander. Apples that are more firm may require that step in order to make a nice, uniform applesauce base. Also, some cooks leave the skins on the apples for more flavor, but that requires a lot of colander work to separate the skins. I will just have to admit that I have a lazy bone but my apple butter gets rave reviews even without cooking any skins! And if you’ve never had apple butter on a hot, buttery biscuit, you just haven’t lived!


Apple Butter (may use other fruits for similar fruit butters)

12 lbs tart apples – you can pare (pun intended) this recipe down to 4 lbs and adjust the rest by making them 1/3 of these totals

6 cups of apple juice or apple cider


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Peel and core apples. I am using an apple peeler, corer and slicer here which you can find on the shopping page

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As you are peeling, place apples into a large bowl with water and citric acid according to package directions. I use Fruit Fresh

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Drain water from apples and place into a large stockpot. Add juice or cider, cover and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently. Use potato masher to make pulp as apples soften.

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When apples have been reduced to a nice pulp, remove from heat, allow to cool and measure exactly how much pulp has been produced. Don’t worry if there are some small lumps. They will cook out later. At this point you can place in canning jars and process as applesauce. If making applesauce, stir in a tsp of salt before placing in jars. Sugar may be added as well if desired.

For each cup of pulp stir in:
1/2 Cup Sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
pinch of allspice
pinch of salt
For example, 20 cups of pulp require 10 cups of sugar, 5 tbsp of cinnamon, 4 tsp clove, 2 tsp allspice and 2 tsp salt. Cover and cook until sugar dissolves.

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Uncover and bring to a boil, continually stirring to keep from sticking and until thick and smooth.

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Apple Butter is ready when it slides off of the spoon as one thick mass. Try the cold plate test.

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Place a plate in the freezer while cooking the apple butter. Take a small amount of cooked apple butter and drop it onto the frozen plate. The apple butter should hold its shape and no water should seep around it.

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Place apple butter in canning jars, wiping tops clean and placing lids that have been heated in water. Screw on rings not too tightly and place in waterbath canner. Process for 15 minutes. Enjoy on biscuits, toast or use in various apple cake recipes.

Happy Cooking! (and eating!!)

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