Crockpot Apple Butter

Slowcooker Apple Butter

Simple.

4 ingredients.

Crockpot.

Have I convinced you yet?

Homemade apple butter always seemed complicated until my mom discovered this crockpot method.

 

Crockpot Apple Butter

Peel and chop enough apples to fill your crockpot.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Add vanilla extract and brown sugar (or maple syrup for no-sugar peeps) and let it cook some more. The result is a thick apple spread with intense flavor.

Now, I have no excuse not to have copious amounts of this versatile condiment in my refrigerator. Now, please excuse me while I dip my finger in the jar…

Crock Pot Apple Butter

Crockpot Apple Butter
Author: Emily C. Gardner
Four simple ingredients transform into an intensely flavorful condiment you’ll want to have all year around. Use maple syrup or honey for a spread with no refined sugar.
Ingredients
  • 10-15 apples (Amount depends on the size of your crockpot. Use a variety. I like a mix of Golden Delicious, Fuji, and Braeburn.)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or 1/2 cup brown sugar
Instructions
  1. Peel and core apples.
  2. Chop each apple into 8 pieces.
  3. Fill your crockpot to the brim with apple pieces. My 6-quart crockpot holds 12ish medium apples.
  4. Turn crockpot on low and cook for 8 hours. I let mine cook overnight.
  5. When you wake up, give the apples (now brown) a stir. Add vanilla, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Mix to combine.
  6. Let the apple mixture cook, uncovered, in the crockpot until it has reduced to your desired thickness. Mine usually takes a couple more hours.
  7. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or can it for later consumption.
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Gingerbread Granola

Granola gets amped up for the holidays with traditional gingerbread touches. Molasses gives the oats and toasty pecans a beautiful color and rich flavor. The addicting blend of spices mirrors the taste of a warm, thick slice of gingerbread.

 Hunger has virtually nothing to do with my uncontrolled consumption of this granola. I can’t keep my hand out of the jar or stop myself from pouring a bowl with almond milk for an “anytime” snack.

I keep imagining it on top of Pumpkin Greek Yogurt, mixed into waffle or pancake batter, or topped with a dollop of lemon curd.

This recipe is a simple way to infuse the flavors of a holiday staple into a pantry staple.  I may never go back to regular granola…

Adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown.  I love the dry, crispy texture of this granola and it still manages to clump together. So tasty on top of Pumpkin Greek Yogurt.

Gingerbread Granola
Author: Emily C. Gardner
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins
Total time: 1 hour 25 mins
This recipe is a simple way to infuse the flavors of a holiday staple into a pantry staple. I may never go back to regular granola. Adapted from Alton Brown.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together molasses, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures. Work the liquid mixture into the oat mixture until everything is moistened.
  4. Pour onto sheet pan. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color. Remove from oven and let the granola come to room temperature in the pan.
  5. Add mix-ins* if desired and store in an airtight container.
  6. *Suggested mix-ins: golden raisins, yogurt chips, Craisins, white chocolate chips

Pumpkin Greek Yogurt

In addition to November 1st, when Starbucks rolls out the red cups, one of my favorite events on the food calendar is when Trader Joe’s goes pumpkin.

Pumpkin products crop up in every section of the store.  Pumpkin Spice Cake. Pumpkin Spiced Coffee.  Pumpkin Cream Cheese.  Pumpkin Spiced Chai.  Pumpkin Ice Cream. Pumpkin Bread Mix.  Pumpkin Butter.  Pumpkin Soup.  Pumpkin Spiced Granola.  They even sell Pumpkin Tree Bunches.

Trader Joe’s in October and November is truly pumpkin heaven.

Plus, TJ’s keeps adding to their pumpkin arsenal.  On my mom’s recommendation, I picked up a container of Pumpkin Greek Yogurt.  Oh boy, is it good!  The texture is thick and creamy like you would expect out of a high quality greek yogurt and the pumpkin flavor is strong, with a perfect balance of autumnal spices.

Since the nearest Trader Joe’s is 32 miles away, I wanted to replicate it at home.  And I thought I could do it for less calories.  Turned out to be an easy project. Simply mix your favorite greek yogurt with pumpkin puree, spices and sweetener of choice.

The recipe reflects my choice to make individual servings, but the ingredients are easily multiplied to create a bigger batch.

Pumpkin Greek Yogurt

My absolute favorite greek yogurt is Chobani.  I used 0% Vanilla Chobani, but you can use plain, or whatever brand or fat content you like.  This yogurt is delicious by itself, as a vehicle for granola, and would be a delicious dip for gingersnaps or graham crackers. Try sprinkling it with Gingerbread Granola for the perfect Autumn breakfast or snack!

Pumpkin Greek Yogurt
Author: Emily C. Gardner
The amounts listed are for an individual serving. Increase proportions to make a large batch. 150 calories per individual serving.
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) 0% Chobani greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey or sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Smidgen (see pic above for visual) ground ginger
  • Smidgen ground nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients until well combined.

Huckleberry Zucchini Bread

Huckleberry Zucchini BreadDuring our first week in Idaho, Tim and I received a welcome card from a church family which included a coupon for “Purple Gold”.  A note on the back clued us in that Purple Gold was a code name for huckleberries.

Huckleberries are small berries with a beautiful, deep purple hue and just so happen to be the state fruit of Idaho.  They grow wild all around our new home. Animals and people alike enjoy them and the little berries are worth a pretty penny when sold at retail value, hence the nickname Purple Gold.

We received our Purple Gold last week.  On the list of ideas for ways to use them that was kindly included with our berries was adding a cup to zucchini bread. I adore zucchini bread, with its moist crumb and mild flavor, so I didn’t waste time putting a batch together.

The huckleberries were the perfect sweet-tart addition to the autumn flavors of cinnamon and brown sugar.  Green flecks from the zucchini and bursts of blue and purple from the berries make each slice a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors.

I adapted a zucchini bread recipe from the consistently delicious cookbook, Just A Matter of Thyme by Roxie Kelley, to make this rendition.

Huckleberry Zucchini Bread
Author: Emily C. Gardner
This bread is moist and makes great toast. It also freezes beautifully. If you don’t have access to huckleberries, substitute 1 cup of chopped, toasted nuts, or blueberries.
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini, unpeeled
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup huckleberries, tossed in flour to prevent sinking
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease two 9-inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs well. Add oil, sugar, and zucchini. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well.
  5. Fold in huckleberries.
  6. Pour into prepared loaf pans . Bake for 1 hour. Remove from pans to cool.
Notes
Yield: 2 loaves

Banana Cream Smoothie

Living right across the street from a state-of-the-art gym has increased my workout regularity, so, I’ve been on the lookout for good “recovery” foods.  Normally my recovery habits include chocolate and bread.  My much more workout savvy husband finally convinced me those weren’t the best foods to replenish the nutrients I loose running and such. Foiled.  He suggested an electrolyte drink like Accelerade (gag!) and/or starchy fruit.

Since I despise Accelerade, I compromised and settled on a meal replacement shake mix.  I’m cheap, thus, given the option between Slim Fast and generic, I went with generic.  Not a bad choice if I do say so myself.  The French Vanilla (Kroger) variety tastes exactly like cake batter!  I had been mixing it with almond milk, which was quite satisfying, but had a banana lying around and decided I might get “recovery” brownie points if I included a fruit in my shake.  Plus, I just purchased a food processor and wanted to give it a whirl…

I’m not normally a pureed banana fan.  In fact, it’s only been in the last few years that I would classify myself as a banana fan at all.  Something about a malleable, potentially mushy, substance was always off-putting to me.  (What’s with me and my weird food texture aversions? Refer to carrot confession…)  With the help of copious amounts of peanut butter, I began to build a tolerance, then a liking, for the ubiquitous yellow fruit.

My jogging scenery: sun setting behind the Spokane River along the Centennial Trail.

After my 4+ mile jog along the Centennial  Trail yesterday evening, I broke out the Cuisinart and downed the results.  Three ingredients and a minute of prep yielded a frothy, stick to the side of the cup concoction that I would be happy to recover with anytime.  It tastes like a banana cream pie in smoothie form.  All for 250 calories.  Score!

Banana Cream Smoothie

1 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk (I used Almond Breeze)

1 medium (6″-7″) banana

1 scoop vanilla shake mix (French Vanilla Kroger brand or Slim Fast)

Peel banana and place in blender or food processor.  Add almond milk and shake mix.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into glass (chilled would be lovely) and enjoy!

Yield: 1 smoothie, 250 calories

Adding a tablespoon of peanut butter to this smoothie would be utterly delicious.  Regular peanut butter would make the smoothie 345 calories, Better N’ Peanut Butter would make it 300.