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Apple Butter

Is there anything better than a large schmear of apple butter on a slice of fresh bread in the morning!? Every fall my family drives to a (relatively) nearby farm and goes apple picking. We come home with great memories…and buckets and buckets of apples!! At least a dozen of these apples are always put aside to become apple butter. We are barely even home from the apple orchard and my kids are already asking me if I’ve made the apple butter yet 😉 There’s very little work involved other than prepping the apples, and if you’re the canning type, you can even water-bath can the fruits of your labor.  (See what I did there? Haha)

Apple ButterIngredients:
1 dozen medium sized Apples, peeled, cored, and cubed.
1/2 cup Water
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Allspice
1 Large Dollop of Honey – roughly 1-2 TBSP

Directions:
1. Prep your apples.
2. In a large bowl, toss together the apples, water, brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice. Mix them together well to combine.
3. Dump it all in your crockpot and cook on low overnight.
4. In the morning, stir the mixture in the crock. Put the lid back on but prop it open a little with a spoon and turn it on high. Let it cook on high for a few more hours – I like to go for another three hours or so to get the thickness and color I prefer, but it’s really up to what you like.
5. When you’ve tasted the apples and you’re happy with the thickness and flavor, turn off the crock and let the mixture cool a bit. Pour it into the blender (or use an immersion blender if you have one) and add a dollop of honey. Puree until smooth.
6. Pour it all into a mason jar or other air tight container and store in the fridge.
7. Enjoy!!

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Breakfast, Crock Pot, Easy, Homemade, Kids, Sweets

 

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Homemade Salted Caramel Coffee Creamer

I’ve been in the mood to experiment with my homemade coffee creamers lately. Don’t get me wrong, I love my old stand-by French Vanilla Creamer that I make, but with the changing seasons I’ve been in the mood for a richer, creamier taste. After a lot of trial and error and experimentation, I came up with this Salted Caramel flavored creamer and ooooh – on a cool autumn morning, with a steaming cup of coffee – this just absolutely hits the spot!

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As an added bonus, this recipe is extremely similar to my basic French Vanilla Creamer recipe. So you can easily switch back and forth depending on your mood. Also, because nobody in their right mind is going to go through the hassle of pulling out a double boiler, melting down pieces of caramel, adding some cream to keep it loose, and then combining it with their coffee creamer – I found that just adding a few spoonfuls of the store-bought caramel ice cream topping does the trick just fine!

Ingredients:
1/2 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk (save the other half in the fridge for your next batch of creamer!)
4 TBSP Caramel Ice Cream Topping
3/4 tsp Salt
12 oz Milk (1 1/2 cup)

Directions:
1. Combine all of the above ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Mix together really well, you don’t want the condensed milk to be a dense sludge on the bottom. Get your whisk out and give yourself a quick workout!
3. Pour it into any sort of container you like and store it in the fridge. It will stay fresh as long as the milk you added hasn’t met its expiration date yet.

 

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Homemade Lemonade

I don’t know how it was for all of you when you were growing up, but for me, lemonade was a yellow kool-aid packet. Sometimes it might be a powder that came out of a jar of Countrytime, or maybe just maybe it was a frozen can of condensed slush out of the freezer section of the grocery store. Basically it was an ultra sugary, slightly sour drink that didn’t have much actual flavor.

We decided to try making our own lemonade and after buying a half dozen lemons at the market we realized we didn’t really know what we were doing – so I turned to the experts over at What’s Cooking America for some advice. We tried their Perfect Lemonade Recipe and they were right! It really WAS perfect!

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The trick is to make a simple syrup. Now, when I was looking at different recipes, I’ll admit that this sounded like a silly extra step to take and I wanted something more convenient. But I realized, how lazy am I to not even want to boil water for 5 minutes!? I tried it. It was worth it. Trust me on this.

Ingredients:
roughly 6 medium sized lemons, juiced
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Water
Plenty of Ice Cubes
Cold Water

Directions:
1. The first step is to make a simple syrup. In a deep sauce pan, pour in your cup of sugar and cup of water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat to a low simmer and stir pretty consistently for five minutes. Let the syrup cool to room temperature and then store in the fridge in an air tight container (like a mason jar or tupperware). For this recipe, you want it to cool down for your lemonade, for future needs though, you can store it for up to 6mos at a time in the fridge. So if you want to make lemonade regularly this summer, make a large batch ahead of time and just take what you need when you need it.
2. Now that your simple syrup’s made, (and you’ve squeezed your lemons, right?), all you have to do is get a large pitcher, approx 2 quarts works great, pour in your simple syrup and your freshly squeezed lemon juice, plop a bunch of ice cubes in there (we went with an even dozen large ice cubes), and then fill the container up with cold water. Give it a really good stir and then toss it in the fridge for an hour so all the flavors can mix together.
3. Then, simply, drink it! You will never go back to that nasty powder stuff again! Enjoy!

 

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Homemade Chicken Nuggets

I’m a mother of two young toddlers, and I babysit regularly for other little toddlers. Needless to say, we are always looking for kid-friendly foods that are a little healthier than the typical boxes, bags, and cans of foods that you can purchase at the supermarket.

Chicken nuggets seem to be an across-the-board hit with kids of all ages. Even the kids that don’t typically like much meat will dig into a nugget. The problem is, how many articles have you read lately about how disgusting the meat is that goes into those frozen store-bought nuggets! It seems like every other week there’s another interview with a chicken factory employee telling us about pink slime, or about how they have to dump the nugget mixture in a vat of bleach to kill off the bacteria. Most recently there was an article from an employee of Purdue Chicken discussing the ins and outs of his factory. (See article HERE) He goes on to give a pretty positive view of the factory, the conditions, and even the quality of the food they process – with the exception of one single food product. He says to avoid the chicken nuggets! They are basically just made out of “skin, a few bones, fat, and whatever meat is attached to the skin.”  Gross!!!

65 cooked nuggets!!

So here’s my recipe. You can make your own chicken nuggets at home. You can do it easily. And you can guarantee that you’re not eating a nugget full of skin and bones! I took a ton of pictures and will break it down step-by-step. The recipe I give will be for one pound of ground chicken, but the pictures are actually from a very large batch that I made. I made 6.5lbs of ground chicken into nuggets, then separated it into several bags and tossed them into the freezer to be taken out and used as needed, just like you would do if you bought one of those freezer bags of nuggets from the store.

Nugget Ingredients:
1 lb Ground Chicken
1 Egg, beaten
1/2 cup Bread Crumbs (We used unseasoned)
1/2 tsp. Pepper
1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp. Onion Powder
1 cup (approx) Vegetable Oil

Breading Ingredients:
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Bread Crumbs
1 Egg, beaten

Directions:

In a large bowl, pour in the bread crumbs, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Mix them together well.

Seasonings

Add in your beaten egg and then your ground chicken and mix to combine. Get right in there with your hands and really mix it together well, you don’t want any clumps of bread crumbs in the middle of your nugget or they will fall apart when you cook them.

Mix all together

Your next step is to start scooping out small portions of your nugget mix and forming them into the actual nuggets. We actually placed a sheet of plastic wrap over our table and formed up the nuggets and left them right on the the plastic wrap while we finished off the rest of the batch – this method really worked out well! Try to keep your nuggets pretty small so they cook up well.

65 Nuggets!

You then need to dredge each nugget in flour. I like to pour a good amount of flour onto a plate and bring that plate right up next to where I’ve laid out my nuggets and dredge them in the flour right there and put them right back where onto the table to wait for the next step.

Dredge each nugget in flour

Ok, now that the nuggets have been floured, they need to take a quick dip in an egg bath and then get coated up in bread crumbs. Again, I like to beat my egg and bring it right up to my laid out nuggets and get a plate full of bread crumbs and keep it right there too. Simply pick up each nugget one at a time, dip in the egg wash, roll in the bread crumbs, and then you can put it back on the table or set them onto some plates to get ready to head over to the stove to be cooked.

Into the egg wash and bread crumbs

At this point, we’re done making up the actual nugget itself and can move on to getting them cooked. In a large frying pan or a large skillet with a good sized lip on the sides, pour in some vegetable oil. You want the oil to be about half as deep as the nuggets you made, typically about one finger width’s depth. Allow the oil a few minutes to heat up and then place some nuggets in to get them cooking. You can cook in batches, you don’t need to crowd the pan to get it all done at once.

Fry in oil for 4 minutes each side

Pan fry your nuggets for about 4 minutes on medium to medium-high heat.

Cooked on one side, 4 minutes on the other side

Flip them over and let them cook for about 4 minutes on the other side and then remove them from the pan. I like to place them on a paper towel lined plate for a minute to help catch any extra oil.

Bagged and ready to freeze

That’s it! Your nuggets are ready to eat! Dig in and call the kids into the kitchen!
….OR…
You can make up a large batch of nuggets all at one time like I did in these pictures. We made 6.5lbs of ground chicken and actually got a nice even 65 nuggets out of it (No, we didn’t portion them out that way on purpose, it just happened to work out nicely like that!) After cooking all 65 nuggets and letting them cool down fully on cooling racks, I put them into a few freezer bags and tossed them into the freezer. Now when my kids want nuggets for lunch, all I have to do is reach into my freezer, pull a handfull out, and reheat them. They have homemade all-meat nuggets on the table within minutes and I don’t have to stress about making a mess in the kitchen to get them fed – – and I also don’t have to worry that I fed my kids a poor quality nugget from the supermarket either!

 

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