Miz Kit’s Apple Butter Recipe
~10 pounds unprocessed/~4lbs prepared (peeled, cored, sliced) apples
1.5 cups apple juice/sweet cider
1 tsp salt

Peel, core and slice the apples. Put prepared apples and apple juice into a large pot, cover, and boil until the apples are soft (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Puree the mix in a blender/food processor/whatever until smooth. Turn into a deep, flat enamel-lined pan & put into a pre-heated oven at 325°F (150°C, 130°C fan assisted) and roast, stirring very occasionally, for 1-2 hours or until the puree has reduced by half.

Remove from oven. Stir in FLAVORING OF YOUR CHOICE (see below). Return to oven for 1.5 to 2 hours, stirring slightly more frequently. Jar as you normally would. Makes around 48oz/6 8oz jars.

TO FLAVOR:
Honey Apple Butter: 2 cups/500ml honey

Maple Apple Butter: 2 cups/500ml maple syrup, 1/2 c brown sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Warm Spices Apple Butter:
3-4 cups sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp anise seeds (if you like that sort of thing)
1/2 tsp grated/ground/powdered cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Caramel Apple Butter: 2 cups/500ml caramel

To acquire caramel if you don’t have any on hand:
Miz Kit’s Caramel Recipe:
1 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp. butter
1⁄2 cup heavy whipping cream (room temp)
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large saucepan over high heat, combine granulated sugar and 1⁄2 cup water. Cook without stirring, 7–9 minutes, or until a candy thermometer reads 385°. When it starts to caramelize, swirl the pan gently for even color. Make sure it turns a nice goldy caramel color before you whisk in the cream (be careful it steams SO MUCH OMG), then butter. Lower heat to medium and whisk until thick, about 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and whisk in brown sugar. Add vanilla and mix until combined. Pour hot caramel directly into the apple butter.

COOK’S NOTES:
this is a very forgiving recipe, and can be doubled, quartered, and more but I don’t have a big enough pan to, like, quadruple it, but if you have 5 pounds of processed apples, eh, just follow this & taste to see if you think it needs more sugar or anything. It’s a *very* forgiving recipe. :)

Depending on how sweet your apples are, and how sweet you want your apple butter to be, ANY of these can have sugar added to them. If adding sugar to the honey butter, I would specifically recommend white, not brown, sugar, because the honey flavor can be delicate and brown sugar would overwhelm it.

GLADIATOR TIGER, the last of my Gladiator Shifters paranormal romance series, is out now! It’s available at Amazon for Kindle and in print! (affiliate link)

I’m pretty chuffed about finishing this series. I’m happy with how it turned out, and also I haven’t finished a series in approximately One Million Years, so it’s emotionally cathartic. :D

Their love can stand the test of time…

When archaeologist Elissa Grant is asked to curate a new exhibition on ancient Rome, she can’t say no—but the last thing she expects is to meet a man who looks like the model for the 2,000 year old statue that’s part of the exhibition…like, exactly like the model. But somehow, Elissa feels more than safe with Joash. His presence seems to awaken something inside her…and more than anything else, that something says home.

Tiger shifter Joash Namur is a legend among his kind. Believed to be ancient, known to be powerful, he lives quietly, finding joy in his friends’ happiness—until fate strikes again, offering a new chance for heartbreak…or happy endings. He will do whatever he can, however he must, to protect Elissa, even if it means finally letting the truth of his long story be known.

Joash has tried for eons to capture fleeting love. Now, with the laws that have ruled the gladiator shifters for centuries finally breaking down, and with his fated mate once more at his side, Joash must face the single challenger who has visited so much pain upon him…and all their kind.

Can Elissa and Joash finally break the cycle of love and loss? Find out in the final exciting installment of the Gladiator Shifters, GLADIATOR TIGER!

fudge for octocon

Okay, what follows are my recipes for vegan chocolate fudge, which requires homemade marshmallow fluff made with aquafaba, which is the fancy name for chickpea water.

Do not ask me why chickpea water froths up into a great meringue. This is beyond my knowledge. It works, though.

If you’re looking for something that’s just dairy-free but you’re not allergic to eggs, you can use regular marshmallow cream and save yourself a step, but this recipe goes Full Vegan.

Catie’s Vegan Marshmallow Cream
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c water
3/4 c corn syrup (lighter in color the better)
1/4 c aquafaba (chickpea liquid)
1 tsp vanilla

Mix sugar, water, and 1/2 c corn syrup in a stainless steel pan. Cook to 245 degrees F (firm ball) and cool for 15 minutes. While it’s cooling, place aquafaba and the remaining 1/2 c of corn syrup in a metal bowl and mix to a standing froth. Pour, and by pour I mean ‘dribble in a thin stream’ in the sugar syrup VERY, VERY SLOWLY, while running the mixer constantly, and mix until the creme is light and fluffy and of marshmallow-creme-like consistency. This takes AT LEAST several minutes, even with a stand mixer. Add the vanilla in near the end.

Jar or can (or put in the fridge in the bowl, which is what I did).

Do not cover until cold.

Catie’s Vegan Chocolate Fudge
3 c sugar
2/3 c coconut cream, well-mixed
3/4 c 100% plant-based margarine
1/2 tsp salt
12oz DARK dairy-free dark chocolate
2 c aquafaba marshmallow creme
1 tsp vanilla

Mix sugar, coconut cream and margarine in a sturdy stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly, and allow to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add chocolate, stir like a son of a bitch until the chocolate is entirely melted. Add vanilla and stir in. Add marshmallow creme and repeat the stirring like a son of a bitch until the creme is thoroughly mixed in.

Pour into a 9×13″ margarined pan and allow to cool. Cut before it’s entirely cool, but not when it’s too warm.

The full-length, many-notes-and-comments-incorporated how-to for the process is posted with my basic fudge recipe. :)

***

For those of you who’ve had my fudge, this vegan version is AT LEAST 85% as good as the fully loaded stuff. I’ve fed this to people without telling them & they didn’t know it wasn’t the regular stuff.

fudge for octocon
fudge for octocon

fudge for octocon

FUDGE:
3 c sugar
2/3 c evaporated milk
3/4 c butter or margarine
1/2 tsp salt
12oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 c marshmallow creme (or 1 small jar marshmallow creme)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c walnuts if desired

NOTES: for persons in Ireland or UK who wish to make this, the sugar must must be caster sugar; granulated makes grainy fudge. Boo, hiss. Also, semi-sweet chocolate is called plain chocolate with about a 54-60% chocolate content here, so you’d be using 12oz/2 cups of chopped plain chocolate instead. I frequently end up using 6oz darker chocolate & 6oz milk because it’s gotten harder to find plain chocolate. DO NOT use milk chocolate only, because the fudge will end up not even tasting like chocolate. It’s nasty.

If you’re in Dublin you can buy marshmallow creme (also called fluff) at the Candy Lab in Temple Bar, sometimes at Fallon & Byrne, and, quite randomly, at the Fresh grocery store on Camden Street. If you are not in Dublin/can’t find marshmallow creme, a recipe for it is at the bottom of this increasingly long post.

It is particularly important in Ireland (& possibly the UK, IDK) to use margarine instead of butter because the fat content in butter here is much higher than in the States and it wants very badly to burn when you’re making fudge. Margarine takes longer to burn, does not affect the taste, and is a much safer bet, especially for a novice fudge-maker.

Sugar cannot melt properly in non-stick pans, so it really has to be a stainless steel saucepan.

Years of experience assure me that the best and easiest way to make fudge is to have every single item you’re going to need pre-prepared: butter the pan ahead of time, have the bag of chips open (or the chocolate chopped) and sitting ready to be poured in, have the vanilla measured out, have the creme measured out/the jar opened & the inner seal taken off. Everything has to happen quite quickly at the end, before the sugar mixture loses its heat, so you really have to have everything prepared.

PREPARATION:

Mix sugar, milk and butter in a sturdy stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly, and allow to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add chocolate, stir like a son of a bitch until the chocolate is entirely melted. Add marshmallow creme and repeat the stirring like a son of a bitch until the creme is thoroughly mixed in. Add vanilla, and if you like walnuts, add them; repeat the stirring until it’s all smooth and lovely.

Pour into a 9×13″ buttered pan and allow to cool. Cut before it’s entirely cool, but not when it’s too warm.

Peanut butter fudge can be made by substituting a cup of peanut butter instead of 2 cups of chocolate.

Generally speaking it takes some practice to get the fudge consistency just right. I’m very good at it (I said modestly). If you cook it too long it gets hard and crumbly; too short a time and it’s squishy. I usually start the timer when the sugar mix hits a rolling boil, cook for five minutes, then give it another 20 seconds to make sure it was *really* a rolling boil when I began. :) And you really do need to stir constantly, and scrape the pan sides, because the whole mix will burn very easily and quickly if you don’t. :)

MARSHMALLOW CREME:
(Frankly, I don’t recommend this unless you’ve got a stand mixer.)

1/2 c sugar
1/4 c water
3/4 c corn syrup (lighter in color the better)
1/4 c egg whites (like…2 egg whites)
1 tsp vanilla

Mix sugar, water, and 1/2 c corn syrup in a stainless steel pan. Cook to 245 degrees F (firm ball) and cool for 15 minutes. While it’s cooling, place egg whites and the remaining 1/2 c of corn syrup in a metal bowl and mix to a standing froth. Pour, and by pour I mean ‘dribble in a thin stream’ in the sugar syrup VERY, VERY SLOWLY, while running the mixer constantly, and mix until the creme is light and fluffy and of marshmallow-creme-like consistency. This takes AT LEAST several minutes, even with a stand mixer. Add the vanilla in near the end.

Jar or can (or put in the fridge in the bowl, which is what I did).

Do not cover until cold.

HOORAY my next Zoe Chant story, A CHRISTMAS LIKE NO OTTER, has just gone live! Return to the small town of Virtue for an otterly adorable story of holiday cheer and a guaranteed happily ever otter! ( laughing-husky.gif )

Special thanks to Rachel G, Sharon C, Ellen M, & Bruce R, who came through with copyedit/proofreads on this thing like O V E R N I G H T because there was a sudden crunch to get it out!

For those who are unaware, Zoe Chant is a multi-author pen name, and I write ONLY the Virtue Shifters as Zoe, so, uh, the other Zoe books aren’t mine. But THIS one is and it’s VERY FUNNY :D :D :D

Love otter be easier….
Otter shifter and piano player Abe is usually pretty suave, but that was before the otterly amazing new choir director turned out to be his fated mate! His otter is so excited that Abe himself can’t get a word in edgewise. How can he impress his mate if he can’t even talk to her?

Blaire thought her new job as a choir director in Virtue would be a breeze, but the old piano player took one look at her and quit, and the new one can’t even meet her eyes! Which is just too bad, because he’s probably the most handsome man Blaire has ever seen. Why, if Abe could only make eye contact, Blaire might even be prepared to consider him a potential significant otter!

But rehearsals for the choir concert mean at least they’re together, and it’s not long before they realize they have a whole lotter more than music in common. From ice skating to hot springs, the winter holiday activities in town bring them closer and closer…right up to one last surprise that reveals itself at the Christmas concert!

A Christmas Like No Otter is a fun, fast-paced romantic comedy that’s the next best thing to taking a winter holiday! You’ll all but feel the crisp air and smell the scent of Christmas trees in this light, sweet shifter romance with a guaranteed happily ever otter.

Available now on Amazon Kindle! <3 (affiliate link!)