Nourishing Our Young Ones

The window in my dining room is smeared with handprints that my grandson left this morning. He was looking at the Blue Spruce tree my husband and I planted in our garden the month he was born. We named the tree in his honor. I noted his handprints were much higher that the ones he left the first time he crawled to the window as a baby and pulled himself up to peek outside – or even when he pressed his face against the window six months ago. Both he and the tree have grown at a surprising rate.

The tip-top of his tree was eye level to me when it first found a home in our garden. Now it is about twice as tall as I am. And that’s not because I’m shrinking, well, maybe a little. The real reason this tree is growing is because it gets the optimal blend of sun, water, and fertile soil. I thought about that a few weeks ago while I was spreading fertilizer around the base of the tree.

All living things need to be nourished, trees and children alike. But unlike trees, children need nourishment beyond what will help them grow physically. As beings created in the image of God, we each have a soul that needs spiritual nourishment to reach fullness of life in Christ. All who have placed their faith in Christ are children of God. And we all need the Word of God, the only food that offers more than the best balanced diet can hope to provide: everlasting life. As grandparents, it is our assigned duty to nourish our children’s children in this way.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

God’s Good Apple

“From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward.” Proverbs 12:14

It’s peak apple season again, a time of year that speaks volumes to my inner child. Why? Probably because apples remind me of my childhood family. We had a beautiful apple tree behind our house that produced a fragrant and beautiful display of blossoms in the spring that transformed into bushels of tart green apples by September – perfect for baking.

On Saturday afternoons during September, Dad, Mom, my brother, and I would take on the task of turning those little darlings into one of my favorite desserts: apple slices. It was a team effort, each of us actively participating to complete the task. My parents used the time to encourage me and my brother, to teach us new skills, and to demonstrate a spirit of love by their words and action. Our mutual reward was a tasty treat that we eagerly shared.

I first wrote about this little family ritual a while back in a memoir titled, “Cicero Cooks,” hoping my nieces and nephews would take up the tradition with their families. This year, I plan to make apple slices again. It is no surprise that my husband is already embracing the autumn season. We are planning to pass this tradition to our grandson.

“Family Affair” Apple Slices

Pie Crust (I make two separate crusts, each using the following amounts. To make both top and bottom crusts at one time, double the recipe.)

2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
7 – 8 tablespoons of ice water

Apple Filling

16 cups thinly sliced, peeled and pared tart apples
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Dash of salt

6 tablespoons butter

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Measure the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut shortening into mixture until it has a crumbly texture. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time until all flour is moist and forms a soft ball. Hint: use a food processor to make the crust easy as pie (pun intended). Just pulse the flour, salt, and shortening together until crumbly. Then add the water slowly until the dough pulls away from the sides. Do not overwork the dough.

Flour a flat work surface and roll the dough in a rectangle large enough to fit a jelly roll baking sheet. That’s the kind that has 1-inch sides all around. Carefully place the dough in the bottom of the pan and up the sides. If the dough tears apart while you’re doing this, just pinch together any holes that form. Nobody will see this anyway.

Mix all filling ingredients, except butter, together in a large bowl until all apples are coated. Spread apple filling over bottom crust and dot with chunks of butter over the entire surface. Roll out the top crust and cover entire surface. Cut slits or small holes in the crust to make a nice design.  If the top crust gets holes that you didn’t intend, get creative and make an avant-garde design. Trust me, nobody will care. Pinch the top and bottom edges together to seal and pop it in the oven for 40 – 50 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when the filling begins to bubble and the crust turns a pretty, light shade of brown.

In a small bowl, mix 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and a dash of salt and just enough milk to make it runny (about 3 tablespoons). Drizzle the icing over the entire surface of the apple slices; this will fix any unfortunate design details in the crust. Slice it and serve. This non-diet dish tastes best when shared with friends and family.