No Sugar Added Crock Pot Apple Sauce

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Hey guys!

This post is one of those that is inspired by something I do so cheaply and enjoy so regularly that when I realized I had never written about it on here, I was 100% facepalming myself. Crockpot apple sauce is one of those things that my mom taught me and I appreciated at a minimal level until I ate plain dry oats one day (#desperation, save me) and then promptly bought a bag of apples the next weekend at the farmer’s market with my sister because that is just too gross to repeat twice in a lifetime.

Those that know me know that I have a really hard time with sugar. I love it, but it makes me terribly sick, and regularly because I have no self control. Making my own apple sauce is actually the perfect thing for me because apples are naturally sweet – especially cooked- and I add loads of cinnamon and no sugar.  I thought I would post this now since I have been seeing loads of apples on for a good price at the stores lately! I’m guessing that they want to clear out the less-than-optimal stock left over from the fall, which is actually perfect for this. When it’s the fall, I recommend you make nice with a fruit producer and request a bag of less-than-perfect’s (although you’ll have to fight the pie makers for them!).

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We went on a suppppper nice weekend, can’t you tell?

No Sugar Added Crock Pot Apple Sauce

About $0.24 per serving for 1/2 cup (this really depends on how much you cook it down and how juicy the apples are, but it’s what it worked out to for me using a farmer’s market bag)

6lb bag of gala apples: $5.94 (this will yield about 16 cups diced apples)

pantry staples: cinnamon, a bit of water

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Ok seriously this is mad easy. You’re going to want peel, core and dice up all of your apples and deposit them in your crock pot with about 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon… but this is totally subjective. How much cinnamon do you like? Do that! Add it in later when you can taste the sauce, you do you! I like a medium level of cinnamon, for reference. I added  in about a cup of water at my mum’s advice, this helps the sauce not stick to the bottom as it first gets cooking and releasing the natural apple juices. It either evaporates or melds into the sauce so don’t worry about it.

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Put your crock pot on high and come back every hour to stir your apples. Otherwise this is hands off until you mash those apple chunks! I kept a fork next to the crock pot and test smashed an apple chunk when I stirred the sauce and when it was soft and smooshed easily, I knew it was done.

I use this to make overnight oats amazing, quick cook plain oats with boiled water amazing, apple cinnamon muffins amazing…. it’s all delicious when you add 1/4 to 1/2 of a cup of this to it!

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Black & Decker 7-qt. Digital Programmable Slow Cooker • Black & Decker •
Crock-Pot Cook & Carry Michigan State Spartans 6-Quart Slow Cooker Set • Crock Pot •
Bella 13973 5 Qt. Programmable Polished Stainless Steel Slow Cooker • B.ella •
Farberware Edgekeeper 8-in. Chef’s Knife • Farberware •
Ergo Chef Prodigy Series 3-piece Chef’s Knife Set •
Michael Symon by Ergo Chef 6″ Chef’s Knife •
OXO® Good Grips® Prep Cutting Board • OXO •
Sabatier Library 2-pc. Bamboo Chopping Board Set • Sabatier •
Winco Red Hook Cutting Board •

What are your favorite ways to enjoy apple sauce? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to try some new recipes!.

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French Onion Soup

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French onion soup is one of those cheesy, carb-y, savory indulgences that you dream about diving face first into a bowl of after being outside on a cool day. It’s also the kind of dish that you can whip up out of some onions from the pantry, boxed beef stock, stale bread and some cheese and herbs. Those Frenchmen… so smart and surprisingly thrifty!

This is one of those dishes that could easily appear to be intimidating. But in reality, all you’re doing is carmelizing onions with thyme, then simmering with beef broth and some other savory items, and then melting cheese on top of a small bread round before serving. I have a few suggestions for how to do this, depending on if you have oven safe bowls or if you’re freezing the soup.

Traditionally, you would place a round piece of old/dry baguette in an oven/heatsafe bowl, top it with Comte, Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese and either blowtorch the cheese (yikes! let’s leave that to the pros) or place in the oven to melt. If you have oven safe bowls, then 100% this route is delicious. I don’t personally have an oven safe bowl set (but I’ve linked some below in case you’re in the market!), so I do mine one of two cheater ways:

  1. Dry out a hunk of baguette in the oven until it’s basically rock hard and petrified. I do this by accident quite often trying to make bread to put dip on:(. Place your soup in a microwave safe bowl, top with your hunk of bread and then cheese. Microwave it to melt the cheese and soften the bread, then eat.
  2. Cut regular white sandwich bread into sticks, then place on a baking sheet and top with your cheese of choice and bake until the cheese is melted. You can serve these across the top of the bowl (not submersed) and they’re really nice “dippers”.

I think it’s important to note that Swiss cheese and mozzarella are both more affordable options than the traditional artisinal cheeses used for this soup. Mozzarella will also be more palatable to those who aren’t as adventurous with cheese or for kids, but still gives that delicious ooey-gooey cheesiness that you want. Swiss is a great option if you do love a stronger cheese taste but don’t have the extra $$$ to get fancier with the cheese.

French Onion Soup

Serves 4 for $5.80 or $1.45 per person

5 yellow onions- $0.75

3 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1.5 tablespoons of dried thyme- $0.33 to $0 (dried thyme is a pantry staple)

2-3 cartons of beef stock- $2.50

1 cup of grated cheese- $2 (priced out for Swiss Cheese)

4 baguette rounds (~1/4 of a baguette)- $0.22

Pantry staples: salt, pepper, 2 bay leaves, butter, Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard.

Optional: 1/2 cup of red wine (recommend Cabernet Sauvignon) to deglaze pot. Add $1.67 to the recipe, this makes it a bit fancier but is a nice to have, not a need to have. It’s a good way to pair a wine to an otherwise inexpensive meal if you’re having guests, though.

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Start off by chopping up your onions. Now traditionally you’d cut your onions into delicate half moons. But if you’re me, you’re just going to chop them up into a medium-large dice because they are easier to eat that way! Put them in a pot with a pat of butter and start softening and then caramelizing them. The trick to this is to put in a decent amount of butter and don’t bug the onions too much- if you’re constantly stirring, they won’t caramelize. So grate your cheese or something (drink wine!?) to keep your hands off of that pot. I like to use this time to carefully strip the thyme leaves off of the sprigs and put them in the pot (and drink wine). It should take between 30 and 40 minutes to caramelize the onions.

Once the onions are caramelized, deglaze the pot with either your wine or some beef stock. Then add in about a half of a tablespoon of Dijon, a dash of Worcestershire, and two bay leaves and pour in the remainder of your stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and taste test your soup. You’ll likely want to bring in a good amount of black pepper and a dash of salt- if your soup tastes flat, consider adding a small amount of either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Once it tastes perfect, put it in your bowl of choice and add your cheesy crouton topper, however you’re doing it.

Shop the Post:

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OXO Box Grater • OXO •
Food NetworkTM 3.5-qt. Hard-Anodized Pour & Strain Soup Pot •
Michael Symon by Ergo Chef 6″ Chef’s Knife •
Juliska Berry & Thread Handled Soup Bowl • Juliska •
Sur La Table Pearl Stoneware Onion Soup Bowl • Sur La Table •
Le Creuset French Onion Soup Bowl, Flame • Le Creuset •

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What’s your favorite way to make french onion soup? Do you use oven safe bowls or another trick? Let me know in the comments!

Valentines Gift Guide

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Glamglow Thirstymud(TM) Hydrating Treatment •  Essie Nail Color, Mademoiselle • Essie •  Anthropologie Limited Edition Golden Monogram Mug • Anthropologie •  Suite One Studio Mimira Mug •  Levtex ‘Frosted’ Faux Shearling Throw Blanket • Levtex •  MAC Extra Dimension Skinfinish – Beaming Blush • M·A·C •  MAC Mineralize Rich Lipstick – Be A Lady • M·A·C •

Who doesn’t love Valentines Day?

… Ok, lots of people. But, I love celebrating Valentines Day with the people closest to me in life- girlfriends, family and yes, my partner when I have one. This gift guide is all about what I would love to give to a girlfriend, my sister or my mom- or even receive myself!

My #1 favorite gift to give a friend is a bottle of wine. I suppose I’m lucky in that most of my friends like wine like me, but I like to give someone that excuse to kick back and relax for a night or two with a glass of wine and take care of themselves. Along those lines, I like to gift something that a girlfriend can pamper herself with- a face mask, a cute mug to have her coffee in, a pretty nail polish or a new lipstick… all are awesome ideas for showing some love to the ladies in your life that are a bit different from flowers and chocolate (not that there’s anything wrong with flowers and chocolate!). In my mind, a cozy throw and a bottle of wine or a fun tea and a cute mug is the ultimate in Valentines Day gift giving.

Are you gifting anything to your girlfriends this Valentines Day? Let me know, I’d love to hear what you like to give as well!

Valentines Dinner Under $30

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Hey guys!

I wanted to design a three-course Valentines Day menu for under $30 including wine, something fun and sweet but attainable on a lower price range than going out. I’m the type of person where quality time reigns supreme, so if you’re like me and think a romantic night at home is as good as it gets (or your partner feels that way!), check out this easy and affordable menu.

You’ll start with sharing a meat and cheese board and opening a bottle of wine. Next, serve up pan fried butterflied jumbo shrimp with a souped-up mushroom aglio e olio (cut the mushrooms if you’re a mushroom hater ha, but absolutely follow the other steps). Dessert is inspired by the adorable french toast churro bites that Vera from Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts posted back in January, just as a dessert rather than breakfast! I also am adding a Bailey’s chocolate dipping sauce I think you’ll love (definitely not breakfast!).

You’ll note that I allot a small amount for the bottle of wine. We’re lucky in Canada that we can get a nice bottle for ten to fifteen dollars. You can definitely up your overall budget if you want to (or lower it if you don’t enjoy a glass of wine), but I’ve included some suggestions at the bottom of this post in the ten to fifteen dollar range.

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Meat and Cheese Board

Serves two for $8

Salami D’Amore (or similar), 8 slices- $1.04

Cheese smalls (check baskets in the deli)- $7

For your meat and cheese board, I recommend shopping for everything else first and then using the remainder of your budget to pick out a few favorite items to enjoy. These are little bites that are being consumed in small amounts, so don’t be afraid to ask for 8 slices of salami or a small hunk of cheese.

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Shrimp and Mushroom Spaghetti

$6.15 for two, or $3.08 per person

Six jumbo shrimp (defrosted)- $3.70

~225grams of mushrooms, sliced- $1.77

1/2 an onion- $0.40

Spaghetti- $0.28

Pantry staples- pepper, chili flakes, garlic, parmesan, lemon pepper

Step number one is to put a pot on to boil to cook your spaghetti in. For your sauce, start by really finely chopping garlic and onions- if you’re in a hurry or not confident in your dicing skills, feel free to pull out a fine grater or microplane and use that. Pop them in a skillet with a healthy amount of olive oil, chili flakes and a dash of pepper. Turn the heat on low-medium as we’re going to small dice our mushrooms (just set them aside after) and butterfly your shrimp, and we don’t want to have to touch a pan with seafood-y hands.

If you’re like me and using frozen shrimp, either pull them out a few hours in advance or put the frozen shrimp into a bowl in the sink and continuously run cool water into the bowl to defrost them. If you have purchased zipperbacks, just remove the shell and legs (discard them). Next, using a sharp paring knife and a cutting board, run the tip of your knife up the outside curve of your shrimp where it has already been cleaned- you essentially want it to be a deeper groove. When you cook the shrimp, it will flare open more which makes it look dramatic and gives more surface area to any seasoning you put on. I liberally seasoned mine with lemon pepper and left them on a plate until my pasta was ready.

Hopefully your onions and garlic are softened enough to add in your mushrooms and get them cooking down as well. When your pasta is placed in the pot you have ~8 minutes, so I’d turn on the burner under your pan for the shrimp and get it hot- I had mine on medium. Once your pasta has been cooking for about 5 minutes, put your shrimp in the pan with some oil. Also, take a ladleful of your pasta water and put it in your sauce pan- turn it up to high heat and reduce it out. When your shrimp are pink and white and opaque, put them on a fresh plate until you’re ready to plate dinner.

When your pasta is cooked, spoon or tong it into your sauce pan and mix it around with a liberal dusting of parmesan (the cheese helps your mushrooms, onions and garlic stick to the pasta). Take a serving and place it on a plate along with half the shrimp for each of you! Dinner is ready.

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“Churro” French Toast Bites (Original Recipe) and Bailey’s Chocolate Dipping Sauce

$3.39 for Two, or $1.70 per person

3 slices plain white bread- $0.18

1 egg- $0.23

2-4 ounces of milk- $0.06-0.12 (depending on if you use Bailey’s for your dipping sauce)

1/4 cup of chocolate chips- $1.00

Pantry Staples- white sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, butter

Optional: Baileys Irish Cream (2 ounces to melt your chocolate in, add on $1.92)

The premise of making your french toast bites is exactly the same as any other french toast, it’s the preparation of your bread that is different. If you’re a smartypants you’ll have or will purchase a small heart cookie cutter. If you’re not (like me), you’ll be using a paring knife. If you’re using a paring knife, let me help you with the secret on this- press, don’t saw. Start with the bottom V of the heart, then do the little v of the top and carefully press the curves at the top with your knife to connect the two and make a heart. Voila, a heart shaped hunk of bread. Cut out about three per slice of bread and set them aside for a few hours to let them dry out.

When it’s time to make your dessert, start by putting a small sauce pan on the stove with low heat and a small amount of butter. While the butter is melting, put in a plate a healthy dusting of cinnamon and sugar mixed together and set aside. Next, in a shallow bowl, you’ll need to whisk together an egg, approximately 2 ounces of milk and a splash of vanilla.

Once your butter is melted, add about 2 ounces of Bailey’s Irish Cream and your 1/4 cup of chocolate chips. Keep this on low and stir it with a spatula periodically as it melts and combines.

Get a frying pan going on medium heat with a bit of butter. Once it’s hot, dunk your hearts into the egg and milk mixture and place them in the pan. Flip your hearts when they’re brown, just like any other french toast, and when they’re cooked through deposit them onto your cinnamon sugar plate and toss them a couple of times before putting them on a serving platter.

Your last step is to carefully pour your chocolate dipping sauce into a small bowl and place it into the middle of your serving platter. Curl up on the couch and enjoy dessert together!

So there you have it! The food cost is $17.58, so any of the wine suggestions below will keep you right around $30.

Wine Suggestions:

241919_sawmill-creek-sauvignon-blancSawmill Creek Sauvignon Blanc- 10.99 751107 Santa Carolina Cab Sauvignon $10.49

743921_adobe-rose1Emiliana Adobe Rose Syrah- $12.99        122689_henkell-trocken-750mlHenkell Trocken Sekt- $14.49

 

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JCP Home Collection JCPenney HomeTM Porcelain Whiteware Set of 4 Round Salad Plates • JCPenney •
Waterford Lismore Diamond Small Ring Bowl • Waterford •
Mikasa Cheers Party Stemless Wine Glasses, Set of 4 – A Macy’s Exclusive • Mikasa •
Wood Cheese & Charcuterie Board • Bey-Berk •
Thirstystone Marble Rectangular Cheese Board • Thirstystone •
Thirstystone Marble Cheese Board with Wood Accent • Thirstystone •
Anthropologie Agate Cheese Board • Anthropologie •
Villeroy & Boch Dinnerware, Urban Nature Oval Serving Platter, 16 1/2″ x 10″ • Villeroy & Boch •
RED VANILLA Red Vanilla Serving Platter •

 

What are your plans for Valentines? I’d love to hear!

Black Bean Enchiladas

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Hey guys!

I have to start this post apologizing for the shoddy quality of these pictures- I try to only post things if the pictures are at least decent, and these were taken when my phone was on its last legs. That being said, I REALLY wanted to share this post because it is such an easy way to stretch a buck and make amazing comfort food at the same time. Great idea+bad pictures= kindof ok to post, right?

These enchiladas are far from traditional, but they are yummy and perfect to tuck into after freezing outside for the day. Even better, there’s only 1/4 cup of taco beef (yes, seriously) in this recipe, with the rest of the filling being black beans and rice! That keeps this recipe nice and affordable. This is also my new favorite way to use up slightly dry wraps, because you can’t tell when they’re smothered in enchilada sauce and cheese! You could easily make this vegetarian by removing the beef and adding in extra beans, or vegan by swapping in a non-dairy cheese alternative. Whatever you need!

Black Bean Enchiladas

Serves eight for $8.20 , or $1.03 per serving

1/4 cup of taco beef- $0.87

1/2 cup rice- $0.50

Once can rinsed and drained black beans- $0.88

Eight tortilla wraps- $1.79

One tin enchilada sauce- $2

One tin tomato sauce- $1.48

~1/4 cup Tex Mex Cheese shreds- $0.68

Pantry staples- chili powder, cayenne pepper and/or chipotle pepper, dried oregano

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This recipe starts with mixing your rice, taco beef and black beans in a bowl with some chili powder and chipotle or cayenne pepper. If you have a favorite tex mex seasoning, feel free to add that too!

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Next, fill and roll your tortillas with that mixture and place them seam side down into your baking dish. I wish I had a fancy trick for you on how to roll these but… I don’t. I was pretty satisfied with just having them hold together. Any tips?

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Once you have your filled tortillas arranged in your casserole dish, in a big bowl open a can of enchilada sauce and a can of plain tomato sauce. I added chili powder, chipotle powder and oregano to the sauce and mixed it well, then spread it over all of my tortillas carefully.

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At this point, you can actually tuck these babies into the freezer! They’re a great freezer meal, you just pull them out a night or two in advance to defrost and then sprinkle with cheese before popping them in the oven! Either way, whether you’re baking it right away or defrosting it later, it took me about 30 minutes at 375 degrees. My cheese was teetering on the edge of overcooked, though, so I might suggest that you cook it 20 minutes and then pull it out to sprinkle it with cheese before popping it back in for another ten to 20 minutes to finish heating through.

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Villeroy & Boch Serveware For Me Collection Porcelain Shallow Round Serving Bowl • Villeroy & Boch •
Martha Stewart Collection Harvest Multi Bowls with Lids, Set of 4 •
Vintage Charm inspired by Pyrex Spotted Too 6-Pc. Mixing Bowl Set • Pyrex •
Pyrex® 4 qt. Rectangular Baking Dish • Pyrex •
Staub 4.75-Quart Rectangular Baking Dish • Staub •
kate spade new york all in good taste Deco Dot 9″ x 13″ Rectangular Baking Dish • Kate Spade •

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Do you have a favorite comfort food recipe that doesn’t break the bank? I’d love to hear about it!