Easy Crockpot Apple Butter Recipe

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Have you ever walked into the kitchen while someone is cooking apple butter or applesauce?  It is heavenly!  When my sister brought me a big box of apples from the family farm, I knew right away that I wanted to make a simple apple butter in my crockpot.  Apples are naturally sweet, so all you will need for this recipe is a lot of apples, cinnamon and some water.  Seriously, it is that simple.

Slow cooker apple butter recipe, a taste of fall

Pealing and cutting apples is made easy of you own an apple pealer.  They are really affordable, this one that I use, the VICTORIO Apple Pealer, was under $20 and well worth it!  It peals, cores and spiral slices the apples in one quick twist of the handle.

Apple Butter

Once your apples are all prepared, toss them into a crockpot.

Slow cooker apple butter recipe

Next add a 1/4 cup of water and sprinkle with a generous covering of cinnamon.  Turn the crockpot on low and cook for 2 hours.

Making apple butter

Grab your hand blender, (I use my Cuisinart Immersion Hand Blender) and puree the apples.  What you have now is delicious applesauce.

Apple butter crockpot recipe

Cover and continue cooking for another 6 hours or until reduced to about half the volume in the crockpot.

Fall apple butter recipe in the crockpot

You can enjoy immediately or can to enjoy later.  I opted to can our since it made enough slowly eat over toast throughout the year.  An easy way to love the taste of fall!

Fall apple butter recipe


Salted Caramel Pear Tart

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When your family owns a farm with tons of pear trees, you are always looking for new ways to use those pears during the fall.  While this season we lost about 75% of the pears due to a late freeze, in past years I would get multiple boxes of pears every time I saw my family in September and am always looking for good recipes.

Fall pears.  Perfect for pear tarts!

Last season, I decided to try out a dessert recipe.  After looking around Pinterest, I found this fun recipe for salted caramel pear tarts from Vikalinka.  And man, did they turn out yummy and look extremely gourmet and professional!

Delicious Salted Caramel Pear Tart Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet Puff Pastry
  • 1 Egg
  • 3 Pears
  • 6 Teaspoons Brown Sugar
  • 6 Teaspoons Heavy Whipping Cream
  • Coarse Sea Salt
  • Flour

Salted caramel pear tart recipe

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F to bake these salted caramel pear tarts.  Using defrosted puff pastry, begin rolling out one sheet to be approximately 1/4″ in thickness on a sheet of wax paper or another non-stick surface.  Use flour to keep from sticking to the rolling pin.

Homemade salted caramel pear tarts

Cut the puff pastry into 6 even squares.  The recipe I followed called for 8 squares, but based on the larger size of my pears I only made 6.  Next cut an “L”  shape into 2 opposite corners about 1/2″ from the edge, but don’t cut all the way to keep it attached. Grab each of the loose cut corners of the pastry, crossing them over each other and lay flat on the opposite side.  Hopefully the picture below helps explain better.  The process is really easy, just hard to explain in writing.

How to make salted caramel pear tarts

Repeat with the remaining pastry squares and brush with egg an place in the refrigerator to chill until baking time.

Making salted caramel pear tarts

Prepare the pears next.  Peal each pear, cut in half and remove center of seeds.  Slice each half as seen below.

Making pear tarts

Place a sliced pear half into the middle of each pull pastry square.  Sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and heavy whipping cream.  Finish off with a pinch of course sea salt on each salted caramel pear tart.

Yummy Pear Tart Recipe

Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden and pears and delightfully softened. The magic of the oven turns the sugar and cream into a decadent carmel…AMAZING!

Homemade pear tart recipe

Enjoy your salted caramel pear tarts and you don’e even have to admit how simple they really were to make.

Delicious Pear Tart Recipe

Eat them quickly, as they start to get soggy over time and are best fresh out of the oven.  Made in fun pear recipes lately?  I am still in a fall mood and love dreaming of a brisk fall afternoon with the house filled with the sweet smell of salted caramel tarts in the oven.

Delicious Salted Caramel Pear Tart Recipe - simple and fantasic


Mealtime Monday: Gluten Free Beef Stew over Mashed Potatoes

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I know it is mid July and close to 100 degrees most days right now, but I can’t help start planning for fall.  While I love the heat and love summer, there is something special about the feeling of fall.  All the bounty of the garden flowing in, the warm home cooked meals, and planning for the holidays.  I have already started researching my Halloween decor of this upcoming October….it is never too early to start diy-ing decorations right?  So, in the spirt of dreaming of fall, here is my recipe for gluten free beef stew.

Fall cooking beef stew over mashed potatoes.  Gluten Free.

Ingredients:

Stew:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless chuck roast, cut into cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons gluten free flour
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cups carrots, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef broth
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 Tablespoons worcestershire

Mashed Potatoes:
6 russet potatoes
4 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Gluten Free Beef Stew recipe

Starting with prep, chop up your carrots and onions.  Set aside.

Beef Stew

Mix together your gluten free flour, salt and pepper.  Toss in cubed meat.  You can save money at the grocery store by picking out a roast and asking the butcher to cube it for you instead of buying cubed meat.

Beef Stew recipe for fall

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large dutch oven pot.  Add your flour coated beef cubes.

Fall recipe beef stew

Sauté beef for about 2-3 minutes, browning on all sides.  Make sure to move frequently to not burn.

Fall cooking beef stew

Remove meat from pan and set aside.  It will not be cooked through, just browned on the outside.

Cooking beef stew

Add onions, carrots and garlic to the pan.  Sauté for 5 minutes, scraping up the bits of meat into the vegetables.

Cooking beef stew over mashed potatoes

Add the browned meat, wine, broth, thyme, bay leaves and worcestershire to the pan. Simmer on low for   about 2 hours to soften the vegetables and thicken the broth.  While you are waiting, you can make your mashed potatoes.

Beef Stew recipe.  Serve over mashed potatoes

Serve over the mashed potatoes and enjoy.  I can’t wait for fall to actually be here to start enjoying delicious meals like this!

Fall cooking beef stew over mashed potatoes.  Gluten Free.


Homemade Pickles

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I want to preface this post with a confession.  I have never canned before.  My mom is a canner and has been my entire life.  When you live out on acreage with a large garden you have to learn how to preserve or you will waste much of the harvest bounty.  I have been meaning to learn for years, and finally tried my hand when I received two huge boxes of pickling cucumbers from my parents.  I still have some things to learn and recipes to tweak, but overall I am pretty proud with my outcome.

Canning homemade pickles. Dill Pickles, Jalapeno pickles and more!

Let me back up a minute and talk about the produce I used.  These cucumbers are no ordinary pickling cucumbers.  They are monsters.  The first one is the typical size pickle you see in the store.  The one on the right is the typical size cucumber in my parent’s garden…

homegrown cucumbers for making pickles

And not only are they ginormous, they are plentiful.  After filling one side of my sink to wash them up, I only scraped the surface of the two boxes I had.

Pickles

Since these cucumbers were so large and plentiful, I opted to cut them up two different ways, in rounds…

Pickles at home

And in spears.

How to can pickles

After they were cut up, I had read that I should coat in salt and soak in cold water for up to 24 hours and that helps keep the pickles more crisp.

Making and canning pickles

I gave that a try using bowls and plates to weigh them down to keep submerged in water.  Next time I will try without this step to see it if really helps.  I found the pickles to be a bit saltier than I would like and I am not sure if it is because of the salt bath or the brine I made.

Homemade crisp pickles recipe

While waiting for the pickles to soak, I chopped up some jalapeños and soaked them overnight in an ice bath too.  I really wanted to make some spicy pickles in this batch, and they have turned out to be my favorite.

Making spicy jalapeno pickles

The next day it was time to get canning.  I drained all the cucumbers, peeled a few heads of garlic and gathered my spices and herbs.  I made jalapeno pickles, dill pickles, pickling spice pickles and garlic pickles.

Homemade pickles recipe

With all the supplies ready, I made by pickling brine.  I used the basic recipe from A Sweet Pea Chef

  • ½ cup pickling salt
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cups white vinegar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar

Pickling brine

As I packed each jar I switched between the types of pickles.  In the jalapeno pickles I added pepper flakes, peppercorns and garlic.  In the dill pickles I used fresh dill sprigs, garlic, mustard seed and peppercorns.  I ended up not being a fan of the pickling spice.  It tastes like cinnamon and Christmas, so for pickles it just seems wrong in my opinion.

How to can pickles - great pickle recipe

As for the actual canning process, I had to run to Target and buy a large pot, deep enough to can in, a Ball Utensil Set, and some jars.  I did not have a canning rack, so I used lid rims and wire to diy one.  I followed the process on A Sweet Pea Chef of processing for 10 minutes in boiling water.  All the jars but one sealed, so I was pretty happy with the results.


Spaghetti Squash with Feta

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I love fall and eating spaghetti squash.  Since Alex is not a fan, I tend to roast up a spaghetti squash and use it for workday lunches.  One of my favorite ways to eat it is with feta, basil and roasted tomatoes.  It is full of flavor and a great change of pace to the usual salads and sandwiches at lunch time.

Spaghetti squash salad with feta, basil, tomatoes, onion and garlic.  So good!!!

Ingredients:

1/3 cup diced onion
2-3 garlic clove, minced
Cooking spray
1/2 medium spaghetti squash
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
5 basil leaves
3-4 tablespoons feta
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Spaghetti squash salad with feta, basil, tomatoes, onion and garlic recipe

To start out, roast your squash and use a fork to pull it into long strands.  You can learn how I roast mine by clicking here.

How to make spaghetti squash in the oven

In a skillet over medium-high heat, spray a layer of olive oil cooking spray and sauté onions and garlic until softened and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.

Delicious spaghetti squash recipes

Meanwhile, chop up your baby tomatoes.

Delicious spaghetti squash recipe

Add tomatoes to the skillet and continue cooking for about 3 minutes.

Roasted spaghetti squash recipe

Removed tomato mixture from the pan and mix with feta, basil, squash, salt and pepper.

Yummy spaghetti squash salad with feta, basil, tomatoes, onion and garlic.  So good!!!

Stir together and enjoy!  The sautéed tomato, onion and garlic mixture gives a ton of flavor and makes for an excellent change to the typical weekday lunch.

I love spaghetti squash!!


How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Oven

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Ever wonder how to best cook a spaghetti squash?  There are a lot of methods out there, and while some are easier than others, I prefer one of the more difficult methods of cutting it in half (the hard part) and then roasting face down.  This method makes it more flavorful with a light coating of oil in the oven.

How to make spaghetti squash in the oven

Start of by washing your spaghetti squash to make sure there is not garden dirt still clingy to it.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Summer spaghetti squash recipes

Next, grab a cutting board and an large, sharp knife.  Get ready to use all the strength you have.  Start by hacking off the top stem area.

How to cook spaghetti squash in the oven

You can cut off the bottom too so that you have a nice flat base.  Using your knife and muscle power, cut this big gourd down the middle.  This took a lot of power, cursing and a few breaks before it finally gave way.

Making spaghetti squash in the oven

Next, scoop out the seeds and innards.

Spaghetti squash recipes

Brush the inside of each half with a coating of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

How to roast spaghetti squash in the oven

Place face down on a baking sheet lined with tin foil.  Roast for about 45 minutes, or until soft and steamy.

Cooking spaghetti squash in the oven

You will know it is done when you can easily puncture with a fork.

Roasting spaghetti squash in the oven

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes so you do not burn yourself.

How to cook spaghetti squash in the oven easily

Delicious summer spaghetti squash recipes

Using a fork, scrape the inside of the spaghetti squash.  The flesh naturally create long strands like spaghetti.

How to make spaghetti squash in the oven

I love the flavor so much I can eat is straight out of the squash, but there are a lot of great ideas on ways to flavor it, like spaghetti sauce, making a feta and basil dish, or even Alfredo.  Enjoy!


Holiday Decorating: Glittery Acorns

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Happy Holidays!!!  I am so excited to be decorating this year in our new house :) I knew I wanted to do a holiday decorating  project with some sparkle, and I got this idea while browsing Pinterest. The acorn idea is from stacywinters on Etsy who makes and sells these cute gold glittered acorns, and i figured with all the acorns falling in our yard and the ridiculous surplus of glitters I own, this could be a great free project to do this holiday season.

Glitter acorns

Cute right? A little rustic meets a little glam.  To start off this project you will need to have access to acorns.  In our new backyard there is an oak tree hanging over from the street that was full of beautiful large acorns.  As the weather turned colder, they began to fall into our yard.  As long as I collected daily, because the pups love to chew the acorns up as soon as they find them, I was able to get a nice large collection.

Fall decorating with acorns

Next I removed any acorn caps that had not naturally fallen off.  Taking my exact-o knife, I drilled a tiny hole into each cap.  You could use a power tool, but since the caps are so thin, I found it easy to just twist the tip of the knife through.

Making glitter acorns caps

Make sure the hole is drilled all the way though and large enough to fit string through later to hang them.

Fall decorating with gilttered acorns

Once the hole was drilled, I grabbed my trusty Mod Podge and a paint brush.  Next I covered the acorn cap with a nice coating of Mod Podge.  You could really use any glue product for this step, and I used what I had on hand that thought would work well.

Making glitter acorns

While the Mod Podge was still wet, I grabbed my silver glitter and sprinkled it all over the acorn lid, making sure it was thoroughly coated.

Holiday glitter acorns

Set aside to dry and continue the process with your remaining acorn lids.

Making glitter cap acorns

I just love how much they sparkle!  Give the acorn lids a few hours to make sure completely dry.  I allowed mine to sit over night before moving on the the next step.

How to make glitter acorns

Now you will need to scrounge up string and scissors.  I used red embroidery floss, but if you are going more rustic you use twine. I varied the way each was hung, making some only one per stand and other, like the string below, designed to hang two acorns from.

Fall decorating with glittery acorns

The process from here is pretty easy, using a large tapestry needle, I threaded the ribbon into the acorn lid.

Holiday glitter acorn tree decoration

Next I tied a knot to make it secure.

Holiday glitter acorn decorations

Then I took my hot glue gun and placed a dollop of glue int he acorn lid, making sure to cover the string knot for extra hold.

Christmas glitter acorns

I then placed the cap on the acorn, holding for a moment to secure.  Make sure to not add too much glue each time or it can ooze out of the cap and onto the acorn.  After a minute or so, they are ready to hang!

Making glitter acorns for the holidays

Fall decorating with giltter acorns

Glitter acorns for fall

These acorns are so pretty and great as a stand alone decoration using a vase with tree branches.  They can also be used as Christmas tree ornaments or as cute accessories tied to a Christmas present.  For now, our are adorning the entry table by the front door as a cute rustic “tree”.

Fall decorating with a giltter acorn tree

 

 


Decorating for Halloween

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

I am excited for our first Halloween in our new house and for decorating for Halloween!  I did not get to do all the decorations I had in mind, but the few I got done still look pretty good.

Halloween decorations

Spooky webs, spiders and purple lights!

our Halloween decor

The webs we got this year are great because they are made to glow under black lights.  I figured we could change our our porch lights with black light bulbs, but unfortunately they were too weak to glow much :( So we ended up just changing out one for the purple glow and left the main one over the door normal so that the porch is still lit enough.

Halloween decorations for the front porch

Here is a distance shot from the sidewalk including the Trick or Treat sign I made this year (more on that here).

front porch halloween decorations

And one more close up of the sign:

DIY trick or treat sign

Now for my favorite part, the creepy large spider!  I love how the lights on the tree make the webs glow.  I have a huge fear of spiders, so I love the creepiness this guy brings to our yard!

Creepy spider halloween decoration

Unfortunately our pumpkins molded too fast so we already had to throw them away and used un-carved pumpkins to decorate our porch. But, you can see all three of our carved pumpkin designs or check out how to make the best pumpkin seeds in my other posts from last week.  Enjoy all the ghouls and goblins in your life and have a safe Halloween everyone!

Halloween carved pumpkins


Halloween Decorations from Halloween Express


Drunk Pumpkin Seeds

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I found this idea on Pinterest from Copy Cake Cook for drunken pumpkin seeds and had to give them a try!  I love pumpkin seeds and have tried a few different recipes over the years, but never one with Whiskey involved!  Since my hubby’s drink of choice lately has been Old Fashions, I knew we had plenty of Whiskey on hand to give this a try.

pumpkin seeds

To make these all you need is:

  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup whiskey
  • 2 Tablespoon bacon drippings
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • Salt

To start out I washed and dried my pumpkin seeds.  The easiest way to wash the seeds I have found is to flood the bowl they are in and swish them around.  Next use a slotted spoon to sift out the seeds from the pulp.

making roasted pumpkin seeds

I then place the seeds on a paper towel covered cutting board to soak up the excess water.  You can then pat dry to the best of your ability or simply let them sit out for a few hours in a thin layer to air dry.

Making pumpkin seeds

Now on to the drunken-ness!  In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the seeds, whiskey, bacon drippings and brown sugar.  (I was able to get some bacon drippings by planning on Jalapeno Popper Chicken for dinner so that I needed to make bacon.) Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the seeds turn a bit grey from soaking in the liquid. Be careful when breathing in over the pan, because the Whiskey vapors burn!

Whiskey Drunk pumpkin seeds

Drain out any excess cooking liquid and spread the seeds out on a foil lined baking sheet.

Sweet Whiskey Pumpkin Seeds

Sprinkle with salt to taste.  Bake at 275 for about 75-90 minutes crisp and brown.

Roasting delicious pumpkin seeds

They come out a bit sticky and candied from the brown sugar, but harden as they cool.  They have a great flavor and are not really boozing once cooked. Enjoy!

Drunken pumpkin seeds

Looking for a good recipe for classic pumpkin seeds?  Check out how I make easy classic pumpkin seeds here.


Classic Pumpkin Seeds

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There are many different pumpkin seed recipes out there and I have tried quite a few of them myself, from sweet, to savory and even drunken with Whiskey, but my all time favorite is still the simple and classic pumpkin seed.  Each year I look forward to fall and and excuse to carve pumpkins (check out our pumpkins this year), and cooking up their delicious seeds.

To make pumpkin seeds in the oven at home, start with washing and drying your seeds.

making roasted pumpkin seeds

For these classic pumpkin seeds all you need is:

  • 2-3 cups pumpkin seeds
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t Worcestershire sauce
  • Sea Salt

In a microwave safe mug, melt the butter.  Add salt and Worcestershire, stirring to combine.  Pour over the bowl of pumpkin seeds and stir to evenly coat.

Savory simple pumpkin seed recipe

Pour pumpkin seeds into a thin layer on a foil lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

Basic roasted pumpkin seeds

Bake at 275 for 75-90 minutes or until crisp and browned.  Once cooled, store in an airtight container.  There you have it, the best, classic pumpkin seed recipe.

Simple classic roasted pumpkin seeds