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DIY Organic Brown Sugar

DIY Organic Brown Sugar

Organic is $$$$!!  A few years ago when I started to shift more to organic ingredients I couldn’t find myself coughing up the money for some of them- the price difference was too big for me to swallow.  So I started learning that some things that I considered raw ingredients like brown sugar really were not raw ingredients!!  Seriously it is just sugar and molasses!  Here is how you can make your own organic brown sugar for a third of the price of what you would pay at the store.


Kitchen gear you will need:

  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Large spoon for mixing
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer on the counter I recommend it

Here we go:

  1. Put the sugar and molasses in the bowl (double or triple the recipe if you want).
  2. Mix until blended.  This is about 2 minutes in the Kitchenaid on the lowest speed or a few more minutes if doing by hand.
  3. Store your organic brown sugar in an airtight container so it does not clump or dry out.  I use a Snapware container.
  4. Feel thrifty and super accomplished that you just made brown sugar!!diy brown sugar


DIY Pumpkin Puree…Good Bye Libby’s!

DIY Pumpkin Puree…Good Bye Libby’s!

IMG_2211Ever want to truly make a pumpkin pie out of scratch but have been scared off by the thought of making your own pumpkin puree?  It is easy and so much more appealing than digging pumpkin out of a can….here’s how make DIY pumpkin puree.

You will need a few things:

  • Cookie sheet
  • Sharp big knife (suitable of cutting a sugar pumpkin in half)
  • Food processor or blender
  • Melon baller, grape fruit spoon or just a regular spoon
  • Small bowl for seeds
  • Measuring cup
  • One sugar pumpkin for every 2cups/lbs of puree you want

I started out with about 18lbs of pumpkins (6) and ended up with almost 14 cups of puree.  I harvested my pumpkins almost two months ago, cured them (will post how to later) and stored them in the garage in a fruit box.

Step 1: Turn on oven to 400 degrees.

Step 2: Wash the pumpkins and determine how you want to cut them in half.  Horizontal will mean you need more cookie sheets, vertical works as well you just have to remove the dried vine.  The vine should snap off pretty easy with a little pressure.  I cut mine a mix of ways because I had to fit all of them on 3 cookie sheets.

IMG_2217Step 3: Cut the pumpkins in half and gut them.  Gutting is easiest with a melon baller or grapefruit spoon.  A regular spoon will work but you will need a little more time.  Make sure all the seeds are scooped out, set aside for later to clean and roast.

IMG_2219Step 4: Place the pumpkins face down on the cookie sheet(s).  Put in oven, check after 30 min and then every 10 min after until done.  You want to bake them until you can easily pierce them with a fork and their skin is a little wrinkled. The key is the wrinkle if you want to have a really easy time removing the skin….it will basically fall off which will save you loads of time (vs scooping it out).


Step 5: Take the pumpkins out of the oven, flip them over- careful they are hot!  Allow the pumpkins to cool enough that you can separate them from the skin.  I like to let them cool til they are the temperature of food you would eat.  That way you can immediately start processing them.  You don’t want to put scalding hot pumpkin into a food processor.


Step 6: Puree the pumpkin in a food processor or blender until smooth…when you think it is smooth continue for 2 more minutes just to be safe.  No one wants lumpy pumpkin pie!

Step 7: Measure out pumpkin into batch size you need.  Pies call out for a 15oz can of Libby- use 16 oz of your puree instead.  Cookies use 8oz (1 cup).  Pumpkin bread calls out a 15oz can again so use 16oz again.

Step 8: Freeze what batches you won’t use right away.  I have a deep freeze (chest freezer) that I can get away with storing my extra pumpkin puree and shredded zucchini year round. (If you freeze in ziploc bags always thaw out the bag in a bowl in case it leaks!)

Step 9: Bake bake bake.  Here are my top three Pumpkin recipes at the moment:

What is your favorite Pumpkin recipe?


Today is national pretzel day….make your own!

Yes there is a day for everything! I love soft pretzels so I thought I would re-share my pretzel recipe post from earlier this year today…..

Click here to learn how to make pretzels like Aunt Annie 🙂

Pumpkin muffins (or bread) w/ cinnamon cream cheese frosting!

Pumpkin muffins (or bread) w/ cinnamon cream cheese frosting!

I really think it is a shame that some people only eat pumpkin pie, bread, muffins at Thanksgiving!  It should be enjoyed year round and I make sure to do that 🙂  Here is my favorite pumpkin muffin recipe which can also be used to make two loaves of bread if your prefer.  If you want to know how to make your own pumpkin puree visit my post here.



  • 1 can (15 oz) puree pumpkin or one bag of your own puree
  • water- 2/3 cup if using canned puree, if using your own it will probably be more watery so use 1/2 cup
  • 2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2.5 cups sugar (organic)
  • 3.5 cups flour (organic wheat)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs (cage free veg fed)
  • 1 cup oil (organic olive oil)

Icing (for thick frosting use amount below, I like thin layer so half it)

  • 1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
  • 1/2 cup of butter, softened
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Kitchen gear you need:

  • Muffin pans or two bread pans
  • Sifter
  • Medium to Large mixing bowl
  • mixing spoon
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons

Time: 15 min prep, 30 minutes for muffins or 60-70 minutes for bread

Temperature: 350 degrees

1. Mix up pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, vanilla and sugar in a bowl.


My defrosted bag of pumpkin puree (2 cups, 16 oz)


Ingredients mixed together…. yes that is a rice cooker spoon I love using it for mixing up recipes!

2. Put dry items into a sifter (sugar, flour, baking soda) and sift over the bowl you mixed up in Step 1.


Sifter filled with dry ingredients

3. Mix together

photo(45)Dry and wet ingredients mixed together, my little dipper is great for scooping mix into the muffin papers.  (It is from a mini crock-pot I have for dips)

4. Pour into greased bread pans or into muffin paper liners in your muffin pans


5. Bake for 30 minutes if you are doing muffins or 60-70 if you are doing bread at 350 degrees.


6. While baking make your icing!  In a medium bowl combine all frosting ingredients.  The best way to mix them together is with an immersion blender.


Click here for more on immersion blenders

Move the blender up and down, in and out of the mix.  Take a spatula and clean off the outside of the blender and repeat until everything is well blended.  Ice cupcakes.  (recommend if you are not refrigerating the cupcakes to ice them as you eat them)


Stuffed shells restaurant style!

Stuffed shells restaurant style!

I love to order stuffed shells at a restaurant but paying $15 for 4 stuffed shells I can make seems a shame so I have started making them myself. Here is an easy recipe

Prep time: 20 min

Bake time: 50min -1hr at 350 degrees

Total time: 1 hr 20 min

Ingredients you will need:

  • 1 lb of ground meat of your choice
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • Parsley 1/2 cup chopped
  • 15-16oz of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (I used extra sharp)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (doesn’t have to be fresh)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 egg
  • Half a box of jumbo shells (12oz box)
  • Jar of marinara sauce OR see below on how to make your own from one can of diced tomatoes (15 oz), can tomato paste (6 oz) and one can of tomato sauce (15 oz) plus oregano and parsley

Kitchen gear you need:

  • 9×13 Pyrex or cake pan
  • big mixing bowl
  • pot for boiling shells
  • pan to brown meat

Step 1: Throw the meat and the onion in the pan to brown on medium heat. At the same time start heating up the water for the shells. No need to cook the onions before adding the meat- they will fully be cooked by the time the meat is done.

Step 2: While meat is cooking and water is heating start mixing the stuffing for the shells. Combine the egg, ricotta, Parmesan, cheddar, oregano and parsley.


Step 3: Check your meat that is browning and add the shells to the boiling water.

Step 4: Add meat and onions to the stuffing mix.


Step 5: Drain the shells and place them in the 9X13 pan with opening up and grab a teaspoon sized eating spoon to start filling them. The shells are easiest to fill if you place in your hand open side up and spoon in filling.


Step 6: Now you have all your shells filled and you will want to cover them completely with marinara sauce. You can use a jar of sauce from the store or make your own. Making your own is simple and quick plus cheaper than buying a jar (at least for those that want organic sauce). Here is my recipe for sauce: 1 can of diced organic tomatoes, 1 can organic tomato paste, 1 can organic tomato sauce, 1 tbsp parsley, 1 tsp oregano, garlic if you like. Mix together in a bowl and there you go! I get my canned organic ingredients from Costco for a great deal- Basically you can make a jar of marinara sauce plus some for about $1.70. Left over sauce can be stored in a mason jar for a week or two.

Step 7: Cover pan with tin foil and place in oven for 40-50 min.

Step 8: Take out, put some shredded cheddar on top and leave uncovered in oven for another 10 minutes.

Step 9: Remove, admire your work and eat!


Apple chips

Apple chips

I love apple chips!! Dried apples are soo tasty but they are super expensive at the store. It really is easy to make them at home if you have a dehydrator! Here are the easy steps to follow.

1. Pick your apples. I used organic pink ladies that I get for $23 for a 20lb box from Azure Standard (www.azurestandard.com). Or find a local produce stand..they usually cut you a good deal when you buy a 20lb box.  Wash them.

2. Core the apples. A simple apple corer works like the one below and runs about $6. If you want to core and remove the skin I recommend a fancy corer/peeler which will run more like $30. photo(32)

3. Slice the apple using a mandolin slicer. Watch your fingers! They are very sharp. I recommend cutting at the 1/4 or 3/8″ setting. The 1/8 setting is very thin.


4. As you are slicing, dip the slices in a lemon/water mixture and start placing in the dehydrator. This prevents them from turning brown. 1 part lemon to every 3 parts water. Make sure they don’t overlap.


photo(33)I use a Nesco dehydrator with 10 trays. It came with 6 and then I purchased 4 more- so it is exactly the right height to fit under my cupboards on the counter 🙂 It has multiple drying settings so you can set to the right heat for what you are drying. It typically takes 4-6 hrs for apples.

How do I store my dried apples so they stay fresh?  I use my Foodsaver vacuum sealer…but not with bags.  The apples will poke holes in bags from experience.  I use mason jars and use the Foodsaver mason jar sealer.