Monthly Archives

October 2011

Slow Cooker Homemade Apple Butter

October 20, 2011

A few weeks ago I mentioned that the amazing team over at Hamilton Beach came to visit my workplace to do a product preview of their blenders, slow cookers, coffee makers and a few other appliances. Of course, they came bearing treats for us to snack on, too. And the highlight of those snacks? A homemade apple butter made in the slow cooker.

Since I’m still a slow-cooking novice, I was amazed at how easy it was to make apple butter (something that seems awfully labor-intensive in my mind) with very little hands-on time. There was also a rumor going around that making homemade apple butter makes your house smell amazing. So last weekend, our first free weekend in quite a while, I plunged deep into apple butter making and football watching. Not a bad combination at all.

The thing I love about this recipe is that it doesn’t depend on more highly processed sugars, like corn syrup or granulated sugar, and instead uses agave syrup and a little bit of 100% apple juice. The results were outstanding; plenty of fresh apple taste with a little bit of texture that made it taste pleasantly homemade. However, if it’s a smooth texture you’re looking for, I would imagine you could put the cooled apple butter in the food processor and blend it completely smooth.

I’m planning on making more of this in the weeks to come and putting it in jars to give to friends and family over the holidays. I already passed along a jar to my mom and my cousin, Emily, to enjoy and plan on passing along another few jars when I head up to Minneapolis for the weekend. It’s nice to be able to give a gift during the holidays that is healthier, and more unique, than baked goods. But now that I think of it, pairing apple butter with homemade sugar cookies would be an excellent adaptation.

Slow Cooker Homemade Apple Butter

*5 lbs. apples (I used Gala), peeled, cored and cut into quarters
*1 cup agave syrup or maple syrup (I used agave)
*1/2 cup apple juice
*2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

*Place all the above ingredients into a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker set on low covered with the lid. Cook for 4 to 5 hours. Stir occasionally during the last two hours of cooking to break up the apples (they should fall apart fairly easily and form a fairly smooth butter-like consistency).
*Continue to cook for 30 additional minutes without the lid, stirring frequently, to achieve the consistency you desire.
*Transfer butter into canning jars. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Happy Cooking!



The Cat’s Out of the Bag!

October 19, 2011

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted a mysterious blog post about ‘exciting things going on that I can’t share quite yet’? Gosh, if you’re anything like me you hate when people say that. Am I right? Well, now that commercials are airing and a video clip is up online, I’ve been cleared by the team at The Rachael Ray Show to share with you what I’m currently working on…

To watch the video link, click HERE

As many of you already know, I competed on season 3 of Rachael’s “Hey, Can You Cook?!” reality cooking series while in college back in 2008. To my surprise, they called back in August asking me if I would be interested in being on this season’s “Hey, Can You Cook?! All-Stars”. I was both nervous and excited about the proposition of competing on national television again. But of course, I couldn’t turn down the amazing opportunity.

So here are the details: the first episode will air on Friday, October 28th. Rachael’s show is syndicated so it airs at different times across the US. To find out when it’s on in your area, click HERE. I’m not able to share much more than that, so you’ll have to tune in or DVR the episodes to find out how far I make it and see all the crazy stuff they make us do.

Thanks again for your flexibility with my semi-hectic posting schedule. Life and blogging will return to normal as soon as possible, but for now, I’m enjoying the ride.



Welcome to the Family, Baylen and Ali!

October 18, 2011

Over the last week and a half I’ve been holding off telling you about some exciting news that happened in our family. You see, I wanted to make sure my sister-in-law, Amber, and her hubby, Jake, had plenty of time to share their news to friends and family before I shared it myself.

Finally, after months and months of waiting, Joey and I are excited to take on the new titles of ‘Aunt Madison’ and ‘Uncle Joey’ to handsome little Baylen Jacob! We are planning on meeting him this weekend. Needless to say, we are more than ready to start the spoiling, gift-giving, and cuddling with him as soon as possible. I know I might be biased, but I think that he’s the cutest baby I’ve ever seen.

But the exciting news doesn’t stop there! The same weekend Baylen was born, Joey’s brother, Jason, proposed to his girlfriend, Ali.  We couldn’t be more trilled to have Ali join the family. She and Jason are such a great pair together and genuine, adorable, sweet girls like her are hard to come by. Nice job, Jason!

Semi-Homemade Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Cups

October 17, 2011

Good news! I baked you cinnamon rolls, pumpkin ones in fact. I couldn’t imagine a better way to start your weekend, or any day of the week for that matter, than with a warm ramekin oozing with dough and pumpkin and spices.

But let me fill you in on a little secret. I hate cooking with yeast. I mean I wish I was a master of all things dough-based, but yeast and I have a bit of a tortured relationship. So I went all Sandra Lee on you and did a little semi-homemade job on a can of Pillsbury Grands Biscuits.

Although I typically discourage the buying and using of things like pre-made biscuits, these things get me every time. They have the flaky layers deal down, that’s for sure. So on those mornings when you just want a fruit smoothie and your hubby is sick of eating cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, these are the perfect solution. They’re super easy to put together and reheat really well.

Semi-Homemade Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Cups

*1 can refrigerated Pillsbury Grands Flaky Layers Biscuits (8 count)
*1 cup brown sugar
*1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon
*1/3 cup pumpkin butter (I used purchased but you could also use my Healthy Pumpkin Butter recipe)
*1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
*1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
*3 to 4 tablespoons milk
*1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

*Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease five oven-going small ramekins (mine are 4-inches in diameter) with nonstick cooking spray or five jumbo muffin cups. Set aside.
*Roll each biscuit into a five-inch long rope between your hands. Flatten each rope so it forms a rectangle (roughly 5 inches long by 2 or 3 inches wide).
*In a shallow dish, combine the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Dip both sides of each biscuit rectangle into the sugar mixture to coat.
*Spread a small spoonful of pumpkin butter into the center of each biscuit rectangle and spread, making sure to leave a border around the edges. Roll up the biscuits lengthwise and pinch the ends to seal. Cut each rectangle into two slices. Repeat with remaining rectangles.
*Place three cut pieces into each of the ramekins or muffin cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cinnamon rolls and browned and puffy.
*Cool slightly. Meanwhile, combine the powdered sugar, orange juice, milk and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Drizzle over the warm cinnamon rolls and serve immediately. Or, cover and reheat in the microwave when ready to eat.

Happy Baking!



So You Want to Be a Food Editor? (Part 1)

October 14, 2011

I get quite a few e-mails from readers of Espresso and Cream each week. Some of them are recipe questions, comments and the like, but far and away the most popular e-mail I get is about my career as a food editor. Seems to me that we could all become great friends in real life since many of you share my passion for cooking food and writing about it. Since I get so many e-mails about how to become an editor or break into the publishing industry, I thought I would dedicate a couple posts to the topic.

Although I’ve worked in food-focused publishing for close to three years now, I can in no way claim to know everything about the food world. However, I can share my personal experiences on the topic, how I got to where I am, what to study in college and what I look for when seeking out new freelance writers. Whew, that sounds like a mouthful, doesn’t it? Let’s get to it…

My journey in food started in a rather unorthodox way. Although I knew I wanted to write about food in some capacity, I had no idea how to get to that point or what to study. So I found myself as a junior in college majoring in journalism and public relations while minoring in Spanish. My school did offer a magazine journalism specialization, but I opted for the public relations route because I read a lot about there being more opportunities for employment in public relations.

During my junior year of college, a friend of mine saw a commercial aired by The Rachael Ray Show calling for video submissions from the best home cooks in America to be part of a cooking competition called “Hey, Can You Cook?!” So one Saturday afternoon in September we rented some video equipment from the university and filmed a video of me cooking a blueberry-veggie pasta dish. I had no expectations of ever hearing back from the show, so I was shocked when I was called by producers a few weeks later. You can watch more about my experience here, but I eventually went on to win the four-week competition.

The show’s airing came at a nice time, as I started looking for internships in the months following. I was blessed to land an internship with Meredith Corporation as a food edit intern with Better Homes and Gardens magazine. After spending the summer at BHG, I stayed on as a part-time intern throughout the school year, working on as many food-related university projects as possible, such as campus magazines, local food publications, etc. Those experiences helped to boost my portfolio with plenty of glossy food pages and build culinary credibility. I’ll never forget the first time I saw my name in Better Homes and Gardens. To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.

When I graduated, much like now, the economy was in a terrible place and full time jobs in publishing were scarce (something that is still true today). Since Meredith didn’t have any full time positions open, I opted to stay on as a part time/temporary employee, much like a freelancer but with more set hours, working both in publishing as well as doing some on-camera food work when it became available.

The end goal during this time was always to land a full-time position. But being able to gain valuable experience in the field I wanted to work in while I searched was invaluable. Eventually, I was notified about an open food editor job in another division at my company that had potential to be a good fit. I immediately began the application and interview process and was over the moon when I was told I got the job.

This post is already getting extremely long, so I’ve decided to break it up into two parts. Although I majored in journalism and public relations, there are some things I would have done differently looking back. I want to be able to address that, and answer any questions you have. So if you have questions, shoot them my way or leave a comment below this post and I’ll include them in part 2!