Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Candy Apple Trifle

Although we haven't been experiencing "fall-like" temperatures (90 degrees when I made this), I still found myself in the mood for some sort of apple dessert last Saturday. I was looking for an alternative to apple pie. I decided on a trifle although I have never made an apple trifle.

I will try to give you the recipe as accurately as I can, but if you have been following any of my recipes you will know that I make them up as I go along. I also want to encourage you to trust your instincts and have fun experimenting with these recipes.

  • 6 Green Apples
  • Brown sugar
  • Bourbon (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • Apple cake or Apple cider doughnuts
  • 2 pints of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Candy Apple
Base layer:
I really wanted to use fresh apple cider doughnuts, but due to time constraints, I was unable to go to the nearest orchard. Instead, I used an apple cake which turned out to be a delicious substitution. You can either make this from scratch, box or pick one up at the market.
Cut up whatever you decided on for the layer and divide in half. Layer the bottom of the trifle dish with one half of the cake.

Focal Layer:
This is where the apples come in. I really didn't know what I wanted to do to the apples. I just kept thinking about what goes into an apple pie. Do whatever you want. Just keep in mind the moisture from the apples when cooking. Do not add too much additional moisture.
How I cooked the apples...
In a large skillet I sauteed about 6 green apples, sliced and peeled. I chose green because of their tartness. The cake and whipped cream layer were going to be sweet enough.

First add about 2 tablespoons  of butter to a large skillet and about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (I really just added whatever amount I felt like. Remember...I wing it). I also added bourbon because I already had the bottle out :-), but you don't have to. Cook down and add the apples stirring frequently until they look like they would if they were inside of an apple pie.
Cool slightly before you add to the trifle.

Mortar Layer:
I went with homemade whipped cream this time. Usually I cheat and use cool whip. I honestly do not think I will ever go back to store bought. The consistency and flavor is so much better when you whip it yourself and it is so simple to do.

Easy Homemade Whipped Cream:

  • 2 pints of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (vary depending on how sweet you want it to be)
Whip the mixture with an electric hand mixer until raised peaks form in it and hold their shape. It should take about four minutes (or much longer if using a manual hand mixer or whisk).Add the whipped cream layer and then repeat all 3 layers finishing with a top layer of whipped cream.

As a garnish I sliced a caramel candy apple and placed it around the top. You could make them yourself, but if your sole purpose is for this trifle then just pick one up at the orchard when you get your apples. 

I am really looking forward to making this trifle again on a crisp fall day after a trip to the local orchard where I can pick the apples, grab some freshly dipped caramel apples and try out the fresh apple cider doughnuts as the base layer. If you make it there before I do, leave a comment below and let me know how it tasted! 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Chester County Restaurant Festival

This past Sunday marked the end of my very first festival season. I finished with the biggest one of them all -The 31st Annual Chester County Restaurant Festival. For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I have been looking forward to and kind of dreading this one all summer. I knew this was going to be huge. Around 20,000 people are estimated to attend every year. In the years past I have walked the few blocks from my apartment to check out the scene and every year I become agitated and uncomfortable submerging myself into the crowd. I usually don't make it there too long, and I never walk away with more than a sugary lemonade before the crowd makes me want to start throwing elbows.

The idea of having my very own stand was exciting because I knew of the exposure it was going to offer me as well as terrifying because I knew how exposed I was going to feel. Some may think it is just about the money and that I should be ecstatic thinking about the cabbage I was going to bring home. Of course that is a perk and I am very appreciative for every dollar spent under my tent but for me, that's not all it is about. For a generally private person that somewhat hides behind her craft, I was putting it all out there. If I didn't care about each piece I made, it would be easier. If I didn't think about what brought that piece out of me while you were looking at it and trying it on, it would be easier for me. I openly tell people which pieces are the hardest for me to sell while they are purchasing them. I think it is important for people to see that I am not just pumping out necklaces and earrings here. I do it because I love it. Everyone has a stress reliever. I am just lucky enough to be able to profit from one of mine.

All in all the day was just what I needed it to be.

An unbelievable crowd of people stopped by my booth throughout the day, and were very receptive to my designs. I recieved a lot of postitive feedback and was asked many questions about my technique and how I learned to work with polymer clay. I loved being able to talk about the craft. I have such a deep relationship with it now and I felt at home when I was able to speak about it.  At one point a customer found a piece he liked, but wondered if I might be able to put it on a chain instead of a leather necklace. Of course I was happy to oblige. I pulled out my supplies and went to work on it for a few minutes. I was surprised to find that a few minutes focusing on just that necklace provided me with some time to pull myself back in and center a little. This was a welcomed distraction as it was around the midday mark and I was beginning to feel the weight of the crowd. This confirmed to me at that point that this was truly something I loved to do - I am putting my time and energy into the right thing.

Although I was drained both mentally and physically by the end of the day, it was still a fantastic afternoon. When I came home and told my best friend about the day, she commented that this was my super bowl and I had won. I of course became emotional when she said this to me. 1- Because she was completely right and I felt very proud and satisfied with what I had accomplished; and 2- I was very touched that she understood what this day meant to me enough to put it in this perspective for me.  Other people don't seem to understand what the big deal is. If you haven't picked up on this by now...I am pretty certain I have a touch of social anxiety and although I do not allow it to stifle or cage me in, it is still something I find difficult to deal with. Sometimes you can't avoid uncomfortable and overwhelming situations. But this time I was thrusting myself right into the middle of 20,000 people, in my home town of new and old/familiar faces, offering something I put my heart into for everyone to judge and critique. Yeah, not a normal day for me.

I am aware that challenging myself like this is always a good thing. But in the midst of it, it is very difficult to take the initial leap. In the end, however, the rush from my reluctance turning into something that makes you feel amazing is an irreplaceable feeling. Still, not something I will do everyday.

With all of that being said, I can't wait until next year. No really, I can't wait. I can definitely feel the momentum building right now and I am very excited about what is yet to come.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

The ad I created for the booklet.
Last week I was asked to create and donate a piece of jewelry to be used as a door prize in the Pheasant Valley Farm's Annual Women's Pheasant Hunt. I was also asked to make an ad for a booklet that will be handed out to the ladies on the day of the hunt. My business cards will also be placed in grab bags that will be handed out to all 20 women involved in the hunt.
Initially I was creating the ad generally in the same layout as my business card. Only with a bit more information and a picture. When I went to drop in the photo, I forgot to downsize it and this is pretty much where it landed. I liked it immediately and decided that it went well with the outdoor themed event. So I made a few adjustments to the text and layout and there you have it. I was pleasantly surprised with this happy little accident.
  • Pheasant Valley Farm is committed to maintaining Pennsylvania’s outdoor heritage, wildlife conservation, and hunting traditions. They believe in order to maintain this valued way of life, today’s women must be allowed the opportunity to gain hunting experience and learn about Pennsylvania’s rich hunting heritage. In conjunction with the PA Game Commission and other conservation oriented groups Pheasant Valley Farm is to offering twenty women the opportunity to participate in a non-profit women’s hunt on Friday, September 24, 2010 at their preserve in Robesonia, PA
    For more information visit: http://pheasantvalleyfarm.com/

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I love when a solo Saturday unexpectedly turns out to be fantastic.

The summer months tend to get away from you easily. There are always more occasions to celebrate, people to see and things to do. Last night was initially going to go the same way. I was debating whether or not I wanted to go out when I saw these 3 chunks of clay scraps sitting on my table. I wondered what color they would produce if I mixed them together. Next thing I knew I was in my comfy clothes with my ipod in, and I was creating. The more I made, the more energized I became. Last night turned out to be an inspired, motivating and satisfying night. I was singing off the top of my lungs and dancing while clay was baking. I guess my secret single behavior is no longer a secret...I ROCK OUT when I am alone. The ipod helps to drown out the world...and my own terrible singing.

I forget how much I love and NEED nights like this. I know this sounds cheesy...they feed my soul. I put everyone and everything out of my head and focus on the task at hand. For me, it is a cleansing experience. Sometimes I get so bogged down with orders and requests that I forget just how much I really love designing and making jewelry as it comes to me in the moment. Working without a plan, vision or task already planted in my head is when my favorite pieces are made.

Note to self...
At first the idea of spending a Saturday night at home was something I was trying to avoid. Why? Why do people become uncomfortable with the idea of spending time alone? If you do not enjoy spending time with yourself how can you expect anyone else to? Usually I look forward to the opportunity to do whatever I want without the input of others, but being so busy all summer caused me to forget how much I love these nights. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely people I would've wanted to spend my time with, but last night I was reminded that I am a girl who also enjoys spending the night solo from time to time, locking myself into the zone and being creative.

Unfortunately nights like this cannot happen all the time, and frankly they shouldn't for a number of reasons. But I do need to make time and appreciate these nights whenever the opportunity arises.