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Yep ... it's that time of year. In the next few days my house is going to smell the best it will smell all year. The odor of cooking apples, cinnamon and cloves ... in addition to the smell of fall leaves each time the door opens, should really be bottled and sold!

This is a tremendous time of year to get your kids involved in something besides academics. Here's where science and math and practical life skills all merge together in your kitchen.

Find a local orchard where you can pick apples ... do a bit of research ahead of time so you can chat like an old pro about the different types of apples and their many uses. Here are some hints to get you started:

  • Cortlands - this "workhorse" apple is phenomenal for cooking just about anything ... pies, sauce, apple butter, crisps, etc... They are often a large apple which gives you more bang for your peeling!
  • Honeycrisp - This apple has exceptionally crisp, juicy, sweet-as-honey flesh with just a hint of tartness, making it a tasty treat any time of the day. You can also use this apple for baking. This has become a family favorite for an eating apple.
  • Idared - This rosy, brightly colored apple is a cross between two New York apples, Jonathan and Wagener. I love to add these to my sauce because of their bright pink color.
  • McIntosh - The tender white flesh is crisp when freshly harvested, but soon adopts a softer consistency, making it perfect for cooking into pies or sauce. Macs are sweet and juicy with a pleasant tanginess. I mix Macs, Cortlands and Idareds for an awesome applesauce and apple butter.
  • Granny Smith - Lime-green speckled skin that resists bruising and very firm, crisp flesh characterize this popular apple. Its sharp, tart flavor holds up well in recipes with spicy notes, and the flesh is firm enough to retain its shape when cooked. If you like to make baked apples, this variety is perfect!

Then go spend a chilly afternoon in your local orchard picking apples and enjoying the sights and smells of autumn. If you aren't lucky enough to live in the northeast (a little local pride there), then make a field trip out of visiting your local store and choosing apples. Head back to your kitchen to create some applesauce, apple butter, apple crisp, apple crumble, or any number of delicious apple creations.

Even better ... create some applesauce ornaments to hang around your home. This keeps that wonderful apple and cinnamon scent around that much longer. These are easy to make ... combine 3 cups of applesauce with 3 cups of cinnamon. Mix well until you have a thick mixture. Carefully roll the mixture out on a very lightly cinnamon-dusted surface to about 1/4" thick. Find your favorite cookie cutter and cut away! Use a drinking straw to create a small hole at the top of each ornament. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 2 1/2 hours at 150 degrees. Remove from oven and cool on rack. Once cooled, thread a slender ribbon through the hole and hang! These make great Christmas gifts as well.

Have fun!!

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