Homemade Slow Cooker Apple Cider

Those of you who have been faithful followers of my blog (and how I love each and every one of you!!) can probably already guess that my favorite season is autumn. I love everything about it from pumpkins, bonfires, and the beautiful changing of leaves to the slightly cooler temps, crisp air, and all the festivities that take place during this wonderous time of the year. And we certainly can’t forget that this fall I have something special to look forward to and that’s the arrival of my third little lady or that it will be mine and my husband’s fourth year of marriage and my (soon-to-be) middle daughter’s third birthday. So many good things happen in my favorite season. Who couldn’t love it?

It’s not quite autumn, yet, but as soon as we enter the month of August, my fall-senses kick in and I automatically welcome the idea of bringing back comfort foods that make your insides all warm and fuzzy. Since the month began, I’ve already made big, steaming pots of white chicken chili, Chicken Noodle soup, beef stew, and (my husband’s personal fave) Broccoli Cheese Soup (I know, I know. Recipes will follow when I get my measurements¬†down ūüėČ ) . I don’t even care that we’ve been in a heat wave for the past week. Pssh. 95 degrees? Who cares? You can always make time for some good ol’fashioned comfort food.

Want to know one thing that can’t be beaten in the cooler months to come? The sweet, spicy aroma of Fresh Homemade Apple Cider permeating throughout your home. There’s nothing better than being able to leave your house for a few hours with the cider simmering in the crock pot and returning to a house that smells like it skipped summer and went straight to fall. In less than half a day you can enjoy a fresh, warm glass of homemade cider that beats store bought, any day. What I love best about making my own is it calls for very minimal effort, it’s pretty much a Fix it & Forget it drink, and if made right, it doubles as a homemade apple sauce.

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Here’s how I make it. Enjoy!

Homemade Apple Cider

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5-6 Red delicious Apples (or your favorite sweet, red apple)
  • 5-6 ¬†Granny Smith apples
  • 1-2 Oranges (I used two because the oranges I had were somewhat small)
  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar
  • 4¬†sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 tbs. whole cloves
  • 6 whole allspice
  • 1 tsp. Cardamom
  • 1 tsp. Nutmeg (optional)
  • 10-12 cups of water (enough to cover an inch above apples when pushed down with spoon)


DIRECTIONS:

  1. (See notes below on how to double recipe as apple sauce before beginning) Leaving skins and stems on, quarter apples and oranges; put in the slow cooker.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker as well. Give apples a quick stir. Turn cooker on low and let simmer for about 3-4 hours.
  3. After cooking time has passed, mash apples as much as possible using a potato masher. Cook for another 1-3 hours until the desired flavor is reached.
  4. Strain apples and liquid in a fine mesh strainer and cheesecloth to remove any fine apple pieces.
  5.  Serve immediately if you like your cider warm or allow to chill for a few hours if you like it cool.
  6. Pour cider into an airtight container and store in the fridge for 1 week or in the freezer for later use.
  7. Enjoy this sweet, flavor punch to mouth! ūüėČ

Notes

  • If you want to double this recipe as cider and applesauce, be sure to remove stems, cores, and seeds as well as peeling the apples. I would also suggest putting your whole spices and cinnamon sticks in a cheesecloth in the form of a sachet so that when you mash the apples, these can be easily removed without having to dig through. Before mashing apples, remove orange slices then mash away. Strain cider and put mashed apples in another container. At this point the cider and applesauce are ready, however, if you want to add the spice sachet back to the cider to simmer for more flavor, you can. Just be sure to remove it before serving.

You can guarantee I’ll be making this all season long and plan to serve it at my baby shower and my daughter’s Fall Festival themed birthday where I am sure it will be a hit. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did making it. Please don’t be intimidated to try this super simple recipe. It’s one I’m sure you will be glad you tried.

What’s your favorite thing about Autumn? Let me know in the comments.

Don‚Äôt forget to give my blog a quick follow for new recipes and¬†updates in my crazy life. ¬†‚̧

 

 

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Creamy Peach Cobbler Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a staple in my house. My kids go crazy over those little individual packets of their favorite flavored instant oats. Almost every morning, before my husband and I even have the chance to open our eyes, starts with the request for “Oats!”.

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It’s rare that I ever have the energy to get up early and put together a warm breakfast that takes a bit more effort than just ripping off the top of the little, brown, paper packet, dumping the oats in a bowl and finally stirring in the piping, hot water. Hey! I said it’s rare, not impossible. It does happen… sometimes. ūüėČ ¬†Like the other day when I didn’t have anything to fix and the girls had finished up their supply of cereal, eggs, and instant oatmeal.

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Normally, when this happens, I like to fix a quick Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Oatmeal. Talk about a flavor punch to the tastebuds! (This recipe will come later ūüėČ )

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¬†Having a few peaches in my fridge that needed to be used before they outgrow their use, I thought it would be fun to come up with my own version of the Peaches & Cream Flavored Instant Oatmeal. With the addition of brown sugar and spices, my version had more of a Peach Cobbler taste rather than Peaches and Cream. I added some chopped pecans and cream cheese to give this recipe it’s velvety texture and a little crunch in each bite.

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It was so super easy, more filling than the store-bought oats, and it really hit the spot in the tiny tummies of my littles. My husband loved this version so much that he actually had to get seconds (another rarity in this house)! Best part of this whole recipe? It’s a scrumptious breakfast that can be made in 15 minutes or less. No more of those impatient toddler demands!

Creamy Peach Cobbler Oatmeal

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or milk)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • 2 large peaches, chopped with skin on
  • 3-4 tbs. brown sugar
  • 3 tbs. Granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 6 oz cream cheese, cubed

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large saucepan, bring  water, milk, and salt to a boil.
  2. While water is coming to a boil, in a large mixing bowl, add in chopped peaches, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the sugars. Stir to cover peaches.
  3. When water comes to a boil, add in oats. Cook about 3-4 minutes or until the oatmeal starts to thicken. Add in peach mixture and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Stir in cream cheese just until melted and combined. Stir in pecans.
  5. Serve immediately! Dig in and enjoy ūüôā

NOTES:

  • My husband likes his on the thicker side but I like mine a little thinner. If this is your preference as well, you can do like me and add a splash of cold milk to yours!
  • When using the cream cheese in this recipe, I found that it adds a nice tanginess to the oats while also adding a little more of a creamy texture. The amount of creaminess is totally up to you. I had some chunks of cream cheese that hadn’t completely melted to mix in but it I actually liked getting a few bites of it. If you don’t like this you can certainly mix it a little more.
  • I went a step further than just serving our oats. I simply spooned the oats into individual ramekins and sprinkled them with more brown sugar and chopped pecans. I then placed them in a 350¬į oven and let them bake until the sugar had caramelized a little and the pecans toasted. This created a nice sugary crust on the top!

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I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as I enjoyed making it. I’m sure there are other versions of this recipe out there but I was really happy with the turnout of mine! It quickly became a recipe that my whole family adores!

If you need another fruity breakfast idea that also doubles as dessert, try my Blueberry Lemon Bread Pudding.

Don‚Äôt forget to give my blog a quick follow for new recipes and¬†updates in my crazy life. ¬†‚̧

 

Blueberry Lemon Bread Pudding

Hello, Foodies!

I have never had bread pudding until working in the commercial kitchen at my culinary school. I’ve always heard of bread pudding and it seemed to be something chefs on food network loved to make. And Oh how they made it look so dang delish! I knew it was something I wanted to taste but never had the opportunity and¬†my fear of making custards scared me out of trying to make it all together. Something about bread and pudding threw me off a little, too. So you could imagine why I was too intimidated to make it. I’d rather taste it first so I knew what I was working with.

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Little did I know that making a bread pudding is probably one of the easiest things in the world to put together, well so are custards for that matter!

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Still being summer, I wanted to incorporate some flavors of the season and utilize what I already had in my refrigerator from my last shopping trip. I narrowed it down to blueberries, lemons, and peaches- all fruits that pair magically together!¬†I’ve only ever had bread pudding in school and we typically made it with more of a brown sugary, rum, and caramelly¬†flavor. Chef Rob really knew how to make a good one. It was one of my favorite desserts that we served.

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Bread pudding is pretty much a play on french toast. You can add almost anything to it for flavor and deliciousness and it can be served for breakfast, brunch, and dessert. The first time I tried making it at home, I had planned on using a loaf of french bread I had originally bought for spaghetti but of course, my luck would have it that it would go bad the day I was to use it. My mind was in a frenzy at that point because I had already made up the custard and my girls had their little hearts set on it. All I had left was a partially squished loaf of wheat bread (thanks, girls). Yea-um-no! This did not work as I had planned. The wheat bread was too tough and savory for my liking and didn’t really go well with lemon. Oddly enough, my girls loved and devoured it. I was not so impressed.

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Time for round two with a fresher french bread and a little more sugar and eggs added to the custard mix. I let it hang out longer in my fridge (yanno, so all the blueberries and lemons can get to know each other) and everything worked out perfect! I loved the tanginess of this dish and the way the warm blueberries burst in your mouth. That’s why I am uber excited to share this recipe with all of you. I hope that you don’t make the same mistake as I did and get discouraged from making it at home.

Blueberry Lemon Bread Pudding

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Loaf of french bread, cut into 1″ cubesIMG_0100 copy
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice from half of a lemon
  • 1 pint of blueberries

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add bread cubes and blueberries to a large bowl.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of cream, the milk, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the cream mixture to the bread cubes and stir to combine.
  3. Wrap with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator 1- 24 hours. (The longer it sits, the better).
  4. Preheat oven to 350¬į F.
  5. Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish or ramekins. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup of cream and sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Bake until the center is set- about 1 hour.
  7. Let cool for about 10 minutes and dust with powdered sugar.
  8. Dig in and Enjoy!

 

I hope you liked my recipe for bread pudding. It didn’t take much to win the hearts of the picky eaters I have running rabid in my home and it will be a recipe I make over and over!

Got a different variation of bread pudding that you like best? Share it with me. I would love to give it a try!

Don’t forget to give my blog a quick follow for new recipes and¬†updates in my crazy life. ¬†‚̧

 

Momma’s Hearty Pasta Salad

Any cookout I am invited to, I am quick to scour the buffet table of edible goodness until my eyes are fixed on the beautiful selection of salads- potato, macaroni, fruit and my favorite… Pasta salad! All just waiting to be devoured. And who better to put away a big plate of pasta salad than me? I think of it as my duty to help rid the world of dreaded leftovers that just hang out in the fridge after being forgotten. That’s acceptable, right?

If I’m asked to bring a dish or if I have a cookout of my own, you can guarantee that I am the one who brings the pasta salad. It’s always been a tradition of my mom and mine to make it for big events and it’s highly requested. Momma is a believer that a good pasta salad should be hearty and have just the right amount of dressing that is neither too wet or too dry.

Hearty Pasta Salad

After many years of making it, we found that a good pasta salad starts with a quality dressing and is best the next day as the flavors have time to really infuse into the noodles and veggies. If, after 24 hours, the salad is dry, we can simply add more dressing in as needed. Of course, you don’t have to wait a whole day to dig in but it’s like a good chicken noodle soup- always better the longer it sits.

I’m sure that there are plenty of versions similar to this, and maybe even identical, but this is how we make ours and it’s a favorite to anyone who has tried it. So, if you need something to bring to your next gathering, give this recipe a try!

Momma’s Hearty¬†Pasta Salad

INGREDIENTS:Hearty Pasta2

  • 1 lb. Rainbow (tri-colored) Rotini noodles
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 package of sliced pepperoni
  • 1 can of black olives, drained and sliced or halved
  • 1/2 block of pepper jack cheese, diced or small crumbles
  • 1/2 block of Colby Jack cheese, diced or small crumbles
  • 1- 16oz. bottle of Italian Dressing (our favorite is wishbone)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cook rotini noodles according to package. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking of the noodles. Add to large bowl with lid.
  2. Dice tomatoes (saving the juice that comes out), onions, cucumber and peppers. Toss everything in with bowl of noodles.
  3. Slice pepperoni’s into half circles, separate and add to the pasta salad mix.
  4. Add olives, pepper jack and colby jack cheeses.
  5. Toss in half the bottle of dressing and the 1/3 cup parmesan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours (or over night).
  6. Right before serving, add remainder of dressing (more or less as desired).

NOTES:

  • Don’t have tomatoes on hand? No problem. Just use a can of diced tomatoes and be sure to add the juice from the can as well.
  • Halved cherry tomatoes are also a great substitute for the whole tomatoes.
  • Every now and then I will switch out or add different ingredients¬†to my pasta. I have been known to use: Broccoli florets; carrots (thinly julienned); green olives; yellow onions; summer sausage (thinly sliced and halved)

I hope you like this recipe for Momma’s Hearty Pasta Salad. You really can’t go wrong with it. Your results all depend on what you like best so don’t be afraid to play around with different variations, dressings or noodles. This just just how we like to make ours and it’s never failed us.

Got a different variation of pasta salad that you like best? Share it with me. I would love to give it a try for my next cookout.

Don’t forget to give my blog a quick follow for new recipes and a updates in my crazy life. ¬†‚̧