Homemade Apple Butter

Well, I’ve been retired 5 1/2 months and for the first time in my blog’s 10 year duration, I missed posting for 2 months. “They” say you are busier than ever in this season of life, and I’m beginning to believe that! But I am making plans to slow down a bit and I’m not sad about that at all. I think it takes a while to figure out how to “be retired.”

So this morning I got in the kitchen, and that is one of my favorite places to be. I made homemade apple butter using the crockpot. It turned out so well, so I wanted to share exactly what I did here on my blog. First the recipe, then the pictures! I enjoyed some already on an English muffin!

CROCK POT APPLE BUTTER (This made 5 pints and a little jar for my fridge!)
*5 1/2 lbs. of apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
(1 pound of apples is approximately 4 small, or 3 medium, or 2 large apples. I used about 25 small-medium apples of mixed varieties: Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, and Gala).
*4 cups of sugar
*1 Tablespoon of cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
*1/4 teaspoon of salt

  1. Peel, core and slice the apples. I used an apple corer and then I pulsed the cored pieces in my food processor just enough so they appeared chopped.
  2. Spray your crockpot with some Pam and then place the chopped apples in the crockpot.
  3. Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a bowl and pour over the apples, stirring well.
  4. Put the lid on the crock pot and cook on high for one hour.
  5. After an hour, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 hours. I put the apples in the crockpot before I went to bed and even got up once to stir them. The apple butter will turn a dark brown, thicken and smell wonderful!
  6. This morning (after 10 hours), I took a small emulsion blender and mixed the apple butter right in the crockpot to smooth it all out. The texture was perfect!
  7. Then I put the apple butter in hot clean pint-sized mason jars (with a canning seal/lid on top) and processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to can them. See the pictures below or research canning if you aren’t familiar with the process. Canning the apple butter just allows you to keep it longer; otherwise, you’d have to eat it up or give it all away within a couple of weeks (or you may freeze it in freezer containers). I prefer to can the apple butter because I just love doing so!

Happy Thanksgiving week to all of you from the Morton Family Farm!

Gran Jan

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Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bread

Tomorrow is September 1st and as my friend Kim Safina in California says, we begin the wonderful, amazing “ber” months: SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER, and DecemBER! They include wonderful fall (my favorite season), my sweet granddaughter Emery’s birthday, my youngest son Jonathan’s birthday, my birthday, and the beautiful Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, also my favorites. 

I made cream cheese pumpkin bread today (my pictures below) and wanted to share this delicious recipe. I have tried many recipes for pumpkin bread, but my search is now over! This one is a keeper. It had me at CREAM CHEESE! It makes 2 loaves. My husband and I had a piece with coffee this morning. I took 2 pieces next door to my parents and I took the second loaf to my friend Lanie this afternoon. 

I found this recipe while looking at one of my favorite Instagram accounts “Eunamae’s,” named after the grandmother of the IG account owner. Her name is really Amy Hannon, she is a pastor’s wife from Arkansas and the founder of Love, Welcome, Serve. She has a fabulous cookbook by the same name. I love her heart for faith-filled hospitality. It reminds me of the heart of my church’s Tasting Grace Mentoring-in-the-Kitchen ministry! Go follow her on Instagram. I really believe she and I would be fast friends. 

CREAM CHEESE PUMPKIN BREAD

For the pumpkin bread:
3 cups all purpose flour

1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup oil
1 15oz can cooked pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2/3 cup water

For the cream cheese swirl
8 oz cream cheese, softened well at room temperature

¼ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk

  1. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients together, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar. Stir it all together well. 
  2. Add the wet ingredients and mix well.
  3. Divide into two prepared loaf pans.
    (Amy suggests using a glass loaf pan, so I did and loved the results.)
  4. Mix together the cream cheese swirl ingredients until smooth.
  5. Equally spoon dollops of cream cheese mixture over the pumpkin batter. Then use a long toothpick or skewer to drag and swirl the cream cheese around the top of the batter. Just swirl it around, do not stir it into the batter.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool 10 minutes in the pans then invert and cool completely.  Here is my “cream cheese swirling” picture prior to baking.

Fall – I can’t wait for you to get here in 3 weeks but until then, I will be making this wonderful bread to share and serve!

Happy Almost Fall Y’all!

Gran Jan

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TEN YEAR BLOGIVERSARY GIVEAWAY!

Happy Ten-Year Blogging Anniversary to me! TEN YEARS! A decade of blogging! I’ve never kept up with stats for my blog, and I don’t even know how many people actually read these posts. But this I do know…it has been my great joy to share my JOY here the last 10 years. Ten years ago when I began this blog, my purpose was to journal my journey in becoming a grandmother. I absolutely love going back and reading and counting God’s blessings to our family.

My first post was July 24, 2008 entitled The Waiting Room and can be found below. I was waiting for my first grandchild to be born. He is now waiting on his 10th birthday next month. Gran Jan’s JOY for sure! I am now Gran Jan to FIVE amazing grandchildren!

Waiting Room

I am going to give away a $25.00 gift card to celebrate! Please leave a comment by Wednesday August 1st telling me something amazing that has happened in your own life the last 10 years. I will randomly draw a winner and we will both celebrate!

Happy 10 Year Blogiversary to me!

Gran Jan

Update – Cheryl won the blogiversary giveaway! Thank you all for your support and kindness! 

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Thirty Years of Worship Ministry

I well remember that long hot drive from Athens, Georgia, back in June of 1988. Our young family was moving to middle Georgia so that my husband could begin his ministry as the new Music Minister at Second Baptist Church. I was driving our big old green 1978 Ford LTD, and the air conditioner had quit working. My youngest son Jonathan was so hot his curly hair was wringing wet. My husband was driving a truck loaded down with boxes I’d been packing for days. Our oldest son Jeremy, 6 years old, was riding in the rental truck with the kind men who had come up from our new church to help us move. Jeremy was quite a conversationalist (and still is a talker) and this momma was actually wondering what in the world he may be telling those guys in that U-Haul! (Jeremy is a Pastor so God was preparing Jeremy even then to use his gift of words to preach God’s Word!) We had no idea the great goodness of God that was ahead for the Morton family. He has blessed us beyond what our young hearts could have even imagined. Gary started leading worship on church staff at the age of 16, so he has led worship for 45 years, 30 of them in one amazing church!

Sunday, June 3, 2018 was a day of celebration for Gary as our church family celebrated his 30 years as worship pastor. God has blessed us by allowing us to serve this wonderful church all these years. What grace! Both our sons came to faith in Christ here, were baptized here, and both of their weddings were also at Second Baptist. There is a sweet peace about being in one church and community for 30 years. They are truly our Second Family!

Our sons had a special part in the service as Jeremy preached, and Jonathan shared about his dad’s ministry and then prayed. Gary and I sang with the choir.

Our pastor and his wife, Jim & Stephanie Perdue presented us with gifts and they were so sweet to include our five grandkids in the presentation! It was a very emotional day, but a day with hearts full of praise for God’s tender mercies and faithfulness in our lives. Gary and I hosted lunch following the service for our family who came to celebrate with us, and some special friends who have supported us all these years. It was a sweet time!

I love these two pictures of our amazing choir and orchestra, approximately 25 years apart! The first picture below is from the early days, what us old timers at Second Baptist fondly call “The Red Church.” Red pews, red carpet, red choir sashes, red curtain over the baptistry. RED, that’s it. You know how long someone has been at SBC when they say red church!

This picture is from Christmas 2017 and our choir/orchestra’s beautiful night of worship. (We moved into our “new church” October 3, 2004). There are some folks that were in the choir above and are still in the one below! Me included! I have loved singing in my husband’s choir for 41 years…

This picture is also from the early days at Second Baptist, and the event was a children’s choir awards program. Jonathan was about 5 in this picture. 

After serving 30 years as worship pastor, Gary is now transitioning over to Senior Adult Pastor. He will continue as Executive Pastor, a role he has had for over 25 years. We are grateful “beyond beyond” for the privilege to stay at our beloved church and in this new ministry. (Ephesians 3:20-21).

I’m thankful to have been by his side all these years, and plan to be by his side in his new ministry. I’ve been retired exactly one month and I am loving my new season. Lots of new, lots of change, but thankful for the blessed truth that Jesus Christ is the SAME, yesterday, today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8).

And another joy…looking down the back row of the choir and seeing my sweet man singing in the choir he has led for 30 years! God is good and I am so thankful!

Gran Jan

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Retirement is Here!

I had no idea 30 years ago when I started working for our local school system that I’d stay for a whole “career.” I just wanted to have the same schedule as my boys and one year led to another and now…today…I retired. I am overwhelmed with all the kindness, gifts, flowers, love, hugs, and just sweet attention I’ve received the last month. My heart is full and overflowing. I love this quote – obedience is a long walk in the same direction. Thirty years is a long walk! God’s new mercies every morning and His sweet grace to just keep getting up every morning to go to work made it possible. And now, today, the last day of work came.

Psalm 37:23 A person’s steps are made secure by the Lord when they delight in his way.

Jesus surely did make my steps secure and I have thanked Him over and over! My first celebration was a surprise breakfast given by our Board Members on May 1st. They really surprised me. I had no idea. I walked in thinking it was for my boss, Superintendent Dr. Mark Scott, and it was for me. I was tickled to pieces and loved being surprised. Next was our amazing “System Celebration,” on May 8th where over 100 retirees from our school system were honored with a dinner and the company of their families, guests, and co-workers. My husband, parents, and sister Jo came. My sister retired last year. She was an elementary school principal.

My favorite celebration of all was on May 17th. I was able to see so many former coworkers and bosses. Some of my favorite people in the world spoke and there was much laughter at my expense. Mr. Anthony Lunceford was the emcee. He made it extra special. It was all well done and delighted me to no end!I was given a quilt made with tee-shirts from all 38 of the schools in our system. I love it so much, and thank my sweet former boss, Cindy Flesher, Deputy Superintendent, for making it happen. I love that all my family was there. My husband, our sons and daughters-in-love, and five precious grandchildren. My heart was full and overflowing for sure.

I had the joy of working for Mr. James Kinchen for 20 of my 30 years with our school system. I was able to help him open two brand new schools – Houston County High in 1991, and Bonaire Middle in 1996. Then he and I moved to our district office in 1999 and that is where I finished my career. He is on the right below. He is a fine man of integrity, a former high school math teacher. He is family to our family, and we love him. Mr. Dyson, a former high school principal and district employee was also a great co-worker.

These two ladies were very special bosses of mine. Linda Horne on the left and CIndy Flesher on the right. I learned so much from them and loved working for and with them!

Finally, this picture is of four of the School Superintendents I’ve worked for who served our top-notch school system! Left to right, Dr. Robin Hines; Mr. Danny Carpenter, Dr. Mark Scott (current Superintendent); and Mr. David Carpenter.It’s been a great 30 years and a great 31 days of May with fun celebrations and walks down Memory Lane. I’m worn out, emotional, but with a deep sense of peace that I was able to finish and finish well. All glory to God!

And now…I hope to take a stroll among the daylilies in my garden first thing in the morning with a good cup of coffee. It will be the beginning of what I pray to be another long walk in the same direction. More family time, ministry opportunities, and time to just be.

It’s All Grace,
Gran Jan

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Gran Jan’s Chicken Pie Recipe

I was home last week as my office (our local school system) was shut down for Spring Break. It was a marvelous week.  I am fully convinced (as if there were any doubt) that I am going to be a fan of retirement. I worked harder than ever in my gardens, but it was great. I spent one day visiting two different women in very different seasons of life. One is a brand new mother with a 1 month old son, the other is a beautiful wife and grandmother who recently had surgery. I loved visiting with them and also shared a pound cake with them. The Retirement Countdown is officially at 40 DAYS! FORTY! FOUR-OH! FOR-TY! The slower pace will be so welcomed. Was I busy? Absolutely! But I picked my own pace – therein is the JOY!

Today I am sharing this wonderful chicken pie recipe again. I’ve made it twice recently and it is a keeper. It makes such a nice meal and the crust on top rises up in perfection. This recipe is one that I had published in a Gooseberry Patch cookbook several years ago, entitled Slow Cookers, Casseroles & Skillets I also made it for another friend who recently had some surgery and she and her husband both said it was pure comfort food. I like that.

I also like that it is simply a chicken pie with simple vegetables. You may keep it plain or add peas/carrots or even a can (drained) of mixed veggies. I like to have a big salad as a side dish, or sometimes another hearty vegetable like black-eyed peas or corn on the cob.

Pick up a rotisserie chicken from your local deli grocery store and you’re halfway through with the preparation!

Ingredients:

1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled from bone and cut into bite-sized pieces OR
4 cups cooked chicken, also cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can of drained peas/carrots or mixed vegetables
1 can cream of chicken soup (10 3/4 oz size can)
2 cups of chicken broth
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 1/2 cups of self-rising flour (White Lily preferred)
1 cup of buttermilk (maybe a splash more if it seems too thick)
1 stick of melted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 casserole or a large round casserole dish with non-stick spray.
  3. Spread cut up chicken over the bottom of your casserole dish. (Lightly salt/pepper the chicken.)
  4. Evenly spread the drained vegetables over the chicken. 
  5. Whisk together until smooth the cream of chicken soup, broth, and cornstarch and pour this over the chicken.
  6. Now whisk the flour, buttermilk and melted butter together and pour/spread evenly over the soup/broth mix.
  7. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Serve with a side of your favorite vegetable or a big green salad!

This recipe is simple comfort food.  Love your family, make a chicken pie tonight. Sit around the table and linger for a while in conversation. These are the best times.

~Gran Jan

        

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Countdown to Retirement

For a woman who could probably find her own picture in the dictionary by “get-it-done,” or as we say in the South “git-er-dun,” I am so excited about my upcoming retirement from my 30-year day job (May 31, 2018)! I’ve worked in our local school system for that many years, beginning as a school secretary and retiring now from the Queen Bee 🙂 job as administrative assistant to the Superintendent of Schools. My heart is full of wonderful memories as I’ve been blessed to work with some of the finest teachers and administrators anywhere! I began working when I was 15 years old as the popcorn-maker ticket-taker in a local cinema. Those were the days! This old gal is ready for the next season.

R-Relax

This one is going to take some time for me because I’ve been bound to a set schedule for many years. You know the drill – get to work by 8:00, take a lunch hour, leave work at 5:00 PM. I know I will relax, of course I will, and honestly, having more time in the mornings is going to be glorious.

E-Entertain
I love to cook and actually just told my husband this past weekend that I’m looking forward to having guests for supper and we will enjoy sharing our farm with them. That’s hard to do when Saturdays are your only day to get chores done and catch up from a work week. I want to enjoy hospitality without stress!

T -Travel
Truthfully I’m really a content homebody at heart, and most of my traveling will be to spend time with grandchildren! However – two fun events are already on the schedule for me. My sisters and I are planning a cruise to celebrate our mom’s 80th birthday, a memory-maker for sure. Oh, and there’s a trip the week after I retire with my BFF Lanie! We are going to a quilting conference in Missouri. Quilting is our JOY and we can’t wait.

I – Indulge
The dictionary says to indulge is to “give in to wishes and whims.” I’m not sure what indulging will look like for me, but I hope it includes coffee with my parents next door, long bike rides, occasional naps, and time in my sewing room and garden. I still can’t believe I won’t be clock-bound every morning. Thankful.

R- Read
Now this is happening for sure! I have a tower of books waiting for me as well as several special reading places outside by our pond, on my front porch, and in a comfy chair in my home study. I have loved reading since I first learned at the age of five and long for more page-turning and less computer screen-staring!

E – Enjoy
Since I’m planning to relax, entertain, travel, indulge and read – enjoyment is sure to be mine. I also have plans to partner with my husband as he begins a new ministry as Pastor to Senior Adults at our church. He has been a worship leader for 45 years so this transition is big, and one we anticipate with joy. We are thankful to continue serving our church family in this new ministry. I have a desire to establish a mentoring program between our senior ladies and the young women in our church and community. That will be something I know I will enjoy.

My retirement app on my phone says “2 months and 29 days” to retirement. WOW! Let the countdown begin!

Psalm 130:5 Amplified Bible (AMP)
I wait [patiently] for the Lord,
my soul [expectantly] waits,

And in His word do I hope.

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