Category Archives: Informative

Peppermint Almond Body Scrub

 

Do you feel the need for a nice spa treatment? Have you been feeling the summer heat? Dry, itchy skin? Do you not want to spend tons of money that would be better spent on beachware, a weekend getaway, or a few more mojitos before August? Me too!

The beauty is, you can easily make your own spa-worthy scrub at home, and have a spa day for pennies. You probably already have sugar in the cupboard, all you have to do is get some yummy smelling oils. There are many at-home spa treatments you can do on your own to save big time. Make it a girls night and invite friends over to do each other’s hair & makeup, mani/pedis, or just soak it in and enjoy a me-time evening.

IMG_7206

This was made as a gift at Christmas, but peppermint is a refreshing smell and feel that would be great anytime. You can also use any oil you like here, such as lemon, lavender, or citrus. I’ve even made coffee body scrub! Smells fabulous, and perks you right up.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 2-4 drops oils (I used peppermint in the pink & almond in the white layers)
  • Food coloring, if desired
  • Glass jar, if it is a gift
  • I added a crushed peppermint stick layer, for decoration but it also smells nice & when crushed is also exfoliating

IMG_7195

Step 1: Separate your sugar into two bowls if you are layering colors. You can also just make it white with no coloring too.

IMG_7196

Step 2: Mix a few drops of food coloring into the sugar, until it reaches your desired intensity.

IMG_7200

Step 3: Mix in 2 drops of essential oils. Add a drop at a time until it is as strong as you want it to be.

IMG_7203

Step 4: If layering, add a thin layer of one color. Tamp down, then add another layer of the other color. Continue layering until you used up all your sugar.

IMG_7205

 

 

Country Style BBQ Ribs

 

What meat-eater doesn’t love ribs? I mean really, isn’t it just so satisfying to take a hunk of meat and bone and gnaw on it? Dripping BBQ sauce all over your hands and face and maybe other table mates, it is such a throwback to our caveman roots.

Summertime and grilling ribs go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, ribs and my bank account staying full are not quite as cozy. A full rack of baby backs can run over $30, even at the grocery store. And if you order it already cooked in a restaurant with two people, the meal total can creep up towards triple digits.

While in the meat section of the grocery store, I came across a marked-down package marked “country style ribs”. Remembering these beauties from childhood, I decided to cook these up the way I remember them. My mom always cooked them this way, and they are fall-off-the-bone amazing. This lead me to question why there is such a disconnect between the different rib types.

IMG_9290

Thanks to AmazingRibs.com, I know more about pigs than I ever wanted to, and I even wrote an article about the different cuts of a pig before. The text following is from their website:

“Pigs have 14 rib bones. They are attached to the spine and are usually divided into four popular cuts: Baby back ribs, spareribs, St. Louis cut ribs, and rib tips. Starting at the top are the baby backs, closest to the backbone, nestled beneath the loin muscle. They are curved, round bones, close together, and most of the meat is on top of the bones, cut from the underside of loin muscle.

As you move further from the spine, the bones get larger, flatter, straighter, and wider apart with more meat between them. There is more fat marbling in the meat as you go further from the spine and closer to the belly. The front ribs are connected to the breast bone with a number of small bones and cartilage known as the rib tips. There are a number of other cuts, and they are all described below.”

pork cuts

As it turns out, Country-style ribs are not really ribs at all! They are actually pork chops, more meaty and less fatty than real ribs. They are cut from the front end of the baby backs near the shoulder. They respond well to brining before low and slow cooking. This is good news, because that is similar to how I cooked them.

Now, if you are thinking to yourself, “but I want ribs tonight, like now, I don’t want to have to wait to brine them!

Have no fear! We skip the long 24-hour-brine and instead boil them in water with some vinegar added. This imitates the long brine in a much shorter time window. Finishing on the grill gives them the nice crispy outside char, and waiting to add sauce until the last minute ensures that the sauce is caramelized but not burnt.

Best of all, this is only 3 ingredients! (If you use store-bought sauce. I still think making your own is better, but that requires another 9-10 ingredients (which you probably have already)).

Ingredients:

  • 5-7 pounds country style ribs
  • 1-2 cups BBQ sauce (I recommend sweet & tangy homemade)
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

IMG_9275

Step 1: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the vinegar. Throw in the ribs, and boil about 15 minutes.

IMG_9276

Step 2: Drain the ribs, and fire up the grill. Once it’s nice and hot, line with aluminum foil (to prevent sticking, you can also spray the grill with oil before lighting and go right on the grate) and place the ribs on top. Close and cook 5-7 minutes, then flip and cook another 5-7 minutes.

IMG_9279

Step 3: Once nicely browned, coat thoroughly in sauce. Cover & cook again for just a few more minutes to caramelize the sugars.

IMG_9277

Let rest for a few minutes before serving. Then try to hold yourself back from eating a dozen at a time! Goes great with BBQ Bacon Baked Beans, mashed cauliflower potatoes, and Italian cucumber & tomato salad.

IMG_9299

Next time you have a picnic, party, or craving for something finger-lickin good, make up a few dozen of these and everyone is sure to be pleased.

 

Review: Sushi Palace

 

Seeing as this blog is the “Budget Epicurean” and part of that name entails being curious about new foods, I felt that it was time for a new food place review. If you will recall from my Austin, Texas review series, I rate places based on taste, atmosphere, and overall value. All honest opinions are those of the Budget Epicurean, and no goods, services, or payments were offered for this review.

  • Taste: 1 (wet toast) – 10 (your taste buds have died and gone to heaven)
  • Atmosphere: 1 (gas station bathroom) – 10 (best you’ve ever experienced)
  • Value: 1 (not worth it) – 10 (super duper deal)

There are several places I’ve been in the past few months and simply haven’t written up yet. This one is a definite stand-out, and somewhere I hope to go again soon. Perhaps this article will get me convinced to make reservations! And maybe I’ll see you there.

It’s no secret that I love me some good sushi. All-you-can-eat sushi buffets are one of my favorite places in the world. Sushi snobs may turn up their noses, doubters may worry about the fishy smell or taste, and environmentalists may debate the Earth-friendliness of over-fishing. But there is nothing better than stuffing yourself to discomfort with tray upon tray of rolls and nigiri.

Upon moving away from Denver CO and my precious Sushi Katsu, at which I’ve probably spent several hundreds of dollars over four years (best damn all you can eat deal in the area, fo sho), I needed to find a similar addiction in my newly adopted New England. It is not uncommon for my fiance and I to begin with at minimum 50 individual pieces. This is a tough order, as it also needs to be both delicious, and affordable.

Asking around yielded a place with locations in both North Haven & Hamden called Sushi Palace.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 8.12.00 PM

Luckily for me, a friend was visiting from out of town who has a similar addiction to salty fish and rice, so we set off on our eat-till-it-hurts adventure.

We “began” our meal with three people, thus about 60 pieces between us. Several sashimi were ordered, along with a few rolls, the Rainbow roll, Dragon roll, Philadelphia roll & California roll among them.

IMG_9186

The individual sashimi slices were uniformly perfectly thick and even, with each fish’ unique flavor and texture shining through. My favorites in order: salmon, tuna, white tuna, yellowtail, red snapper. I’m normally not a huge fan of raw fish alone, I prefer some rice along with it, but this was all in all a great experience.

The only exceptions would be the  egg custard (tamago) and red clam (hokkigai). The egg custard was sort of tofu-textured with a hint of eggy and sweet, and the clam was a tough chewy texture, neither of which I totally enjoyed. However, you may have different taste and texture preferences, and find cold shoe leather enjoyable.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 8.18.46 PM

Their menu is quite exhaustive, and the prices are reasonable. I wish to goodness I worked closer to either location, so I could waste one day a week’s pay on buying sushi for lunch daily.

IMG_9187

This is the dinner rush on a typical Thursday. Luckily we got to the place just around 5:30 and snagged one of 5-6 empty tables. Approximately 6pm, cue huge crowd and an out-the-door line. You have been warned.

IMG_9188

Round two of our main course consisted of “sushi”, of which the majority was salmon because that was our unanimous favorite. First big difference I noticed between Colorado and Connecticut: “sushi” in CO meant a roll, here it means “piece of raw fish with room temperature rice”. The CT definition of “sushi” is “nigiri” where I am used to.

No matter, we were ready to mow down a few more rolls and pieces. Of the three of us, we each had about enough room for about 10 more pieces. I can’t recall the name of one of the tempura-fried warm roll, but the hot mayo on top is super delicious! Several of their rolls have this as an option. If you are unsure, you could ask to taste it before ordering a roll drenched in the stuff.

We also got just a taste of the eel, or unagi. Eel is a delicious, flaky fish with a meaty, salty flavor, and is served with this amazing eel sauce that is slightly sweet and warm. This stuff is the bomb dot com yo! Give it a try, you might like it.

IMG_9189

And finally to round out the meal, we each finished off with a small bowl of ice cream. The flavors? Green tea and red bean. Oh yes. Too weird to not try. And it turned out that the bean ice cream has actual chunks of red beans in it, and the green tea is sweeter than I imagined it would be. I did not hate either taste experience, and might actually order a pint of the green tea on purpose.

In summary, an experience and spread well worth $30 for dinner. They have a huge regular menu, and a completely separate menu for the all you can eat option which is equally expansive. With options such as udon noodles, fried rice, beef teriyaki, and edamame, everyone is sure to find something they like. Overall rating:

  • Taste: 7
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Value: 7.5

http://www.sushipalace.us/menu/menu.htm

Mango Cherry Hurricanes

 

As a souvenir from my first visit to N’awlins, I had to bring home some hurricane mix. A little bit ironic now… anyways, this double-rum juice-heavy cocktail is a crowd pleaser and a sure party starter. It is the recognized ‘signature’ drink of the Big Easy. However, there are those that protest today’s Bourbon Street foot-long pitchers of syrupy sweet mixtures.

But as always, to heck with expectations. I had some hurricane mix waiting to be enjoyed, some spiced rum, a can of mango and a sunny day calling my name.

Try your own version at home with whatever type of juice you enjoy. Pineapple, mango, guava, lemon, orange, cherry, or passion fruit (the true original) are all delightful choices. You can even mix and match multiple. As long as there’s rum! Preferably 1:1 light and dark, but dark is all I had, so I just doubled up 😉

Ingredients:

  • 1 can mango + juice
  • 1 package hurricane mix
  •  1 cup spiced rum
  • Optional: cherries or other fruit for garnish

IMG_9650

Step 1: Mix the hurricane mix & water in a large container. Depending on how many you are making, adjust recipe. This is for four drinks’ worth.

IMG_9652

Step 2: In a blender, blend the mango in its own juice until smooth.

IMG_9653

Step 3: In a large glass, add crushed ice 2/3 way full. Pour in 1/2 cup mix, 2-3 shots of rum (depending how strong you want it), and top with mango.

To make a large pitcher full, you won’t get the pretty layers, but simply mix 1 cup rum, 2 cups mix, and 1 cup mango. Adjust up to whatever volume you want. Then pour at will.

Garlic Roasted Goat Shoulder

 

For those of you who have never had goat products, I highly encourage you to try them! Everything from goat milk, to goat cheese, to goat meat, is delicious and pretty darn good for you. Goat cheese lasagna is absolutely fabulous, sharper and earthier than any ricotta ever will be, and it makes a great spread for toast or bruschetta. Pairs nicely with roasted sweet potato, beets, and on fresh green salads.

Goats milk is naturally homogenized, which means it doesn’t separate into the “cream” and skim milk, as natural cow’s milk does. The cow milk you buy in the store is one homogenous mixture because of the homogenization process; essentially putting such high pressure on the milk to shoot it through tiny tubes that fat globules break up into itty-bitty uniform pieces that no longer clump together and float to the surface.

Fun fact: baby goats are called kids. So when a goat has a baby, it’s just kidding!

Lame jokes aside, goats are delicious, and also good for the environment. They naturally think some of our worst plant enemies, like poison ivy & thistles, are delicious treats. They can even be used as a carbon-neutral landscaping option! (No seriously, you can rent goats to trim your lawn and get rid of unwanted greenery). As a final bonus, goat manure is odorless, can be directly applied to soil without composting, does not contain seeds, and is richer in nitrogen than that of cows or horses.

Ok, so goats are good at eating bad vegetation. How do they compare to cows and other meat producers? A similarly sized serving of goat meat has a third fewer calories than beef, a quarter fewer calories than chicken and much less fat, and up to two-thirds less than a similar sized portion of pork or lamb (source). They are browsers, not grazers, and a field can handle nearly ten times more goats than cows.

If the “gamey” taste and smell of what you think goat meat is turns you off, you may have had a bad experience. Some cultures prize older, tougher bucks, which are known to have that ‘barnyard’ smell about them. Give a local supplier a chance to show you what a younger cut is like, and you may completely change your mind.

So these little guys are totally adorable, extremely useful, and then completely delicious while also quite healthy for you. What are you waiting for?? Check out a local farmers market, or halal butcher, and find some goat near you.

I found Blue Slope Farm at the farmer’s market in CT. The proprietor, Matt, was there and he was very kind and helpful. He runs a working farm with cows, goats, and a maple syrup distillery. Their products are all local, they hand-raise their herd of over 200 cows each year to produce tender grass-fed veal and are branching out into goat meat. If you’re in New England check them out, they are top notch.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cuts goat shoulder chops
  • 5-10 garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp spice mix of choice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine

IMG_9463

Step 1: Drizzle the olive oil in the pan, and sprinkle spices onto chops. Place in the pan and sprinkle spices on the other side too.

IMG_9464

Step 2: Pour in the red wine, and cover. Cook low and slow for 10-15 minutes, until browned.

IMG_9465

Step 3: Using a sharp knife, cut holes in the meat. Press garlic cloves into the holes. Flip chops, cut holes into the other side, and fill with garlic. Cover and cook another 10-15 minutes on low.

IMG_9466

Step 4: Remove cover, turn heat to medium-high. Let wine evaporate, and sear the meat. Once lightly charred, flip and sear the other side. Be careful not to burn badly.

IMG_9468

Serve your delicious, sustainable, healthy chops with some fresh seasonal veggies and enjoy!

Homemade Kombucha Part 2

 

I had to wait a week for my second batch, you only had to wait 2 days! No fair. =)

If you didn’t get a chance, go check out my post on Homemade Kombucha Part 1 for the intro on what kombucha is, and how to start making your own at home.

After your first batch has fermented for as long as you wish, you are ready to transfer your SCOBY to your next batch. It is the same process as previously, only now you have your baby SCOBY ready to go to ferment this fresh sweet tea.

IMG_9195

Ingredients:

IMG_9196

Step 1: Boil the water, mix in the sugar, and add the tea bags. Let steep and cool to room temperature. You cannot add a SCOBY to hot or even warm tea, or it may kill the bacteria & yeast.

IMG_9197

Step 2: Once cool, add the cup of starter kombucha liquid and pour the sweet tea into your clean, sterile containers. Take the SCOBY out of your first jars, it is ok to use your hands, as long as you’ve washed them first! This is what a baby SCOBY may look like if you used a green tea/spirulina starter kombucha…

IMG_9199

You can see how thin this first culture is, and that is ok. It will thicken with each batch of kombucha brewed. And, once it becomes very thick, it is actually recommended that you remove the bottom layer(s) and give to a friend to start a new batch or throw it out. Kombucha cultures can outlive their usefulness.

IMG_9201

Step 3: Carefully place the SCOBY on top of your fresh sweet tea. It may float along the top, or it may sink to the bottom, it may even float around sideways. Those are all fine, a new culture will form along the top if your first SCOBY does not float.

Also, any size SCOBY can ferment any size container, the culture will grow to fit the size of the jar. Larger batches may take longer when transferring a smaller SCOBY to the larger container.

Step 4: Once the SCOBY is removed from the tea, you can now enjoy your kombucha! You can drink it as is, or refrigerate it for a week or so. If you’d like it more carbonated, simply close the jar, and leave in a cool dark place undisturbed for another 2-3 days. The probiotics inside will continue fermenting, and carbonate your drink.

And that’s all there is to it! Once you get used to the process, you can switch out your SCOBY and have fresh jars of kombucha ready to drink in about 10 minutes once a week. Once you have a thriving, healthy culture, you can continue propagating to as many batches as you please, or give some to a friend to try.

Since I’m still somewhat new to this homebrew kombucha, I haven’t had a chance to experiment much. But you know with me, there is some serious experimentation in my future! I’m going to let my culture get nice and strong, then branch out to green and maybe white tea. It is not a good idea to use any tea with oils in it, like earl grey or bergamot. Also if you do try different mixes, make sure to throw in a black tea batch in between so the SCOBY gets all the nutrients it needs to keep producing.

Then there are so many infusion possibilities! Once the kombucha tea base is made, I want to try adding lemon, lavender, strawberries, and rosemary. Maybe some raspberries or blackberries or mint. This project will keep me dreaming all summer long I’m sure!

What do you think? Is kombucha making something you’d like to try or have tried? Feel free to tell us your experiences in the comments!

Homemade Kombucha Part 1

 

For those who have not yet heard of this drink, kombucha (pronounced kom-boo-ch-ahhh) is a fermented sweet black tea made using a SCOBY – symbiotic culture of yeast & bacteria. This beverage has been around for a very long time, and is said to have originated in China. Because the drink is made by microorganisms, it contains the buzzworthy “probiotics”.

Probiotics basically means live bacteria or yeasts that are good for your health. Probiotics are great for your digestive health, immune system, liver, kidneys, and overall health. The beneficial bacteria and yeast in kombucha live together in a cellulose raft on top of the kombucha, and work together to cause a special type of fermentation. This uses up the sugar and caffeine in the beginning tea mixture, so the resulting drink is tart, carbonated, and relatively caffeine-free. There is a trace amount of alcohol; not enough to cause a noticeable effect, but in case you avoid alcohol that is important to note.

To make kombucha at home, you only need containers (preferably glass, wide-mouth mason jars), water, tea, sugar, and a starter SCOBY or culture. You can buy a starter SCOBY online, get one from a friend who makes kombucha, or do as I did and buy a bottle of raw, unpasteurized kombucha from the store. I show you how to do this all step by step in my awesome Homemade Kombucha video! (Also at the bottom of this post)

This recipe makes 2 quarts of kombucha each 7-10 days.

IMG_8998

Ingredients:

IMG_8999

Step 1: Get 7 cups of water boiling, and add your tea. Mix in the sugar so it dissolves. Let that sit and cool to room temperature. To speed up cooling, you can place the container with the tea into a larger container filled with ice or ice water.

IMG_9190

Step 2: Once cooled, add the cup of starter tea. If using store-bought, make sure it is an organic brand, and that it is raw and unpasteurized. If it has been pasteurized, there may not be any more live bacteria or yeast in there to start your new SCOBY. If using a mother from a friend or online, or a culture, stir that into the tea.

IMG_9191

Step 3: Fill your jars up to an inch or so from the rims. Place a clean paper towel or cloth over the opening, and rubber band, tie, or otherwise hold it in place. Now leave your jars in a cool, dark place where they won’t be disturbed for at least 7 days, and as long as you like.

IMG_9192

The first time you brew kombucha, your SCOBY may take longer than a week to get growing. Colder temperatures also make them grow more slowly. Don’t worry, let it ferment up to a month. If after 4 weeks nothing has happened, you may not have had enough active probiotics to make a culture. Just start over with fresh tea and fresh starter culture.

IMG_9193

After a day or two, you may start to see flecks on the surface of the kombucha, or bubbles. This is a great sign! After a few more days, you will see a thin film start to develop on top of the liquid. This is the beginning of your symbiotic colony. This layer will thicken over time with successive batches of kombucha.

IMG_9194

If your first SCOBY seems wavy, has holes or air bubbles, or differences in color, that is ok. But if you smell anything rancid, like mold or cheese, or see red or green or white fuzz growing, your kombucha has been infected with something you don’t want to drink,  and you should throw that batch out and start over.

This first batch may end up being too vinegary to drink, but you may also like the acidity. You can discard the batch, keeping the SCOBY you worked so hard to grow, or drink round one. I’ll show you how to transfer your brand new SCOBY into future batches in my next post!

 

Part 2 of how to make homemade kombucha is out! Once you have your SCOBY, here’s how to propagate it for future batches of fresh delicious tea.

With video! https://youtu.be/o5peIHOvKrY

 

More sources:

 

 

Review: Asian Farmers Market

 

One of my big priorities when visiting or moving to a new place is finding the good grocery stores. I know, lots of people think I’m crazy but I LOVE grocery shopping! It’s so fun walking up and down the aisles looking at different foods and imagining what I could create with it.  I especially love any type of ethnic foods, foods I’ve not tried yet, strange spices and sauces, and fresh produce.

All this and more is what I found by accident one fine spring day in New Haven.

The original intent was to go to ALDI’s for a stock-up on basics. Those who know me know my love affair with ALDI runs deep. I wouldn’t have eaten nearly as well throughout college without their no-frills rock-bottom food prices. If you’ve never been or don’t have one in your area (like Colorado…) I am very sorry. You could always do what I did and move across the country to be near one.

Anyways, I arrived half an hour earlier than they opened. Silly me, thinking they have normal hours on a weekend. So rather than wait in the parking lot, I decided to explore further up the street since I had not driven east yet.

IMG_8996

To my surprise and intrigue a few blocks down was a large red sign proclaiming “Asian Farmers Market”. We all know I adore a good farmer’s market, so I just had to stop in and check it out.

I was immediately rewarded with a double shelf of fresh vegetables, roots, herbs, and fruits as I walked in the door. There were your typical bananas and oranges, but also dragonfruit and huge daikon radishes. Fresh bunches of Thai basil, lemongrass, and mint lined the shelves.

IMG_8995

Huge stacks of 15, 25, and 50 pound bags of Thai, jasmine, brown, and white rice lined the opposite wall. Baked goods of all types covered the table just inside the door, tempting you the minute you step inside.

As I wandered slowly, drooling over everything, a kind asian man approached and asked if I needed any help finding something. I explained that I just wanted to look around, and we ended up chatting about how I’d just moved from Colorado, and he said he has always wanted to move to Colorado. Funny how that happens. He gave me some advice on the area, and it turned out he was the owner of the store!

IMG_8994

The owner told me many of the items actually come from NYC China Town. Food goods are flown in from Asia, and once a week or so he drives down to pick up a big shipment. Isn’t it great that us smaller town folks can enjoy the big-city luxuries by living so close? I’m glad he will drive into the city so I don’t have to!

asian spices.sauces

As I wandered the aisles I found tons of great bargains. I snatched up a pack of fresh spring snow peas for $1.50, a hefty chunk of ginger root for stir fry and tea, as well as a bag of sprouts. I grabbed a pound of mung beans, so I can sprout my own at home over the next few months. Some rice noodles, chicken bouillon, fish sauce, and of course Sriracha made it into my cart.

I ended up nabbing the last bottle of Sriracha, just as another customer rounded the corner. I don’t know if they wanted the Sriracha or not, but I hugged my bottle and ran away. I very nearly grabbed a small green jar of the garlic sriracha too, but figured I can always come back. They even had a two gallon jug of Sriracha! I’m sure someone somewhere uses that quantity, but my taste buds cry at the very thought.

All in all, it was a very successful accidental shopping trip, and I am looking forward to many more great curries and stir fry meals now. This will become a regular spot on my weekly/monthly grocery route. For anyone looking for some exotic cooking ingredients or ideas, I would highly recommend checking it out. Located at 913 Foxon Road in New Haven, CT 06513, the Asian Farmers Market is a family-owned, friendly spot.

 

 

Crock Pot Apple Sauce

 

Sure, fall is still a long time away, but now is the time to start stocking up on ideas for the bounty of apples coming our way soon! Last fall, a friend of mine had an apple tree that just went crazy. She gave me a huge bag of apples for free. I ate several as snacks, made some into apple crisp, had some on pancakes, some in oatmeal, and made some into muffins.

Now I have a half bag left… what do I do?

Once you’ve gotten all baked-out, may I recommend trying your hand at making your own applesauce? The jarred stuff at the super market is ok, if that is the only way to get fruits into your kids (or partners) diet, then I’m for it. But imagine knowing exactly what is in that stuff, no GMOs, preservatives, thickeners, emulsifiers, etc.

This is where your handy-dandy slow cooker saves the day yet again! Those things are worth their weight in gold, I swear. If you don’t have one, get on it. Try Goodwill, yard sales, or grandma’s basement if you can’t get one new.

Applesauce is super easy to make, all it takes is a little time cutting up the apples, then you set it and forget it and come home to the lovely smell of apples and cinnamon, and a batch of ready-to-go applesauce.

Apples are naturally sweet, and slow cooking makes them even sweeter. But you can add honey, sugar, brown sugar, and/or maple syrup to taste to make it your own. You can also use cinnamon sticks rather than ground, just remove them before eating.

Ingredients:

  • ~4 cups chopped apples
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp nutmeg
  • Optional: 2-3 tbsp sugar, maple syrup, or honey

IMG_6592

Step 1: Chop your apples, removing the seeds, stem, and core. Peel them or don’t, your call.

IMG_6593

Step 2: Add apples to the crock pot with the spices, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. That’s it!

Mash the apples up a little once they are done cooking, or puree in a blender for super smooth sauce. You can put into jars and keep in the refrigerator, or process in a pressure canner for longer term storage.

If you really have a lot of apples, or just want a larger batch, use a larger crock pot and triple the recipe or more.

 

Restaurant Review: Little Owl Coffee

 

In an unobtrusive section of Blake Street in downtown Denver, Colorado, lives a minimalist coffee-drinker paradise. This little gem is easy to walk right by, but once you’ve been inside you will crave its unique, laid-back yet hip vibe, and expertly crafted java jolts with an artistic flair.

IMG_6659

Little Owl Coffee, at 1555 Blake St. in the heart of LoDo (lower downtown), was established in spring of 2013. The interior is clean, natural, and decorated with mainly itty-bitty plants. Live branches, clusters of seasonal gourds, tiny air plants in teeny glass bulbs, and other plant life in bud vases adorn the standing bar and wood tables.

IMG_6655

The place is cozy, small but not too small to work on a laptop or enjoy a teacup of espresso with a friend. Their patio area is boxed in with small hedges, and each table top has its own petite glass jar and miniscule spoon for doling out natural brown sugar in case the espresso is too bitter for your tastes.

IMG_6660

You can watch the downtown foot and vehicle traffic rush by as you sit and sip your hand crafted beverage, including tasty teas, espresso, and a variety of espresso-milk combinations. They also boast fresh hand-made almond milk daily, and plenty of fresh, hand-made pastries and cakes.

IMG_6661

Oh, and of course the baristas are trained in the very adorable art of coffee-pictures. Makes me smile every time.

IMG_6664

If you find yourself in the area, I’d recommend stopping by. My personal favorite is the mocha latte, but there is plenty to choose from. With a variety of local and chain organic, healthy, and/or vegan snack options, hand-made almond milk and pastries, a friendly and talented staff, and a can’t-find-anywhere-else atmosphere, Little Owl is a must-see in downtown Denver.