Easy Crockpot Cranberry Sauce

Hey friends, I'm holed up studying for exams again. (Tis the season…ugh) My sweet friend Erin once more graciously agreed to guest post for me. I'm excited to share her easy take on homemade cranberry sauce. It's one of my favorite Thanksgiving foods. I especially enjoy leftovers for breakfast with some plain greek yogurt and a little honey. Cranberries are in season now, so you can enjoy them beyond the Thanksgiving table. If you're wondering for other ways to use this delicious cranberry sauce, try out some of these: cranberry cornmeal wafflescranberry gingerbread gelatocranberry sauce parfaits, and vegan cranberry crumble bars.  Enjoy!

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. The food, the family and the laughs all make the day what it is. 

My parents host Thanksgiving dinner every year. My brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins attend. This year, for the first time, I brought my boyfriend, Harry, to my family Thanksgiving. He is from New Jersey and with only 2 days off from work, the trip from NC was not feasible.

I was thrilled that he could join us, but I was also concerned that he would miss his own Mother’s house on this special holiday. I had to make sure we had his favorite dishes on the table so that he would feel as “at home” as possible. I asked him his favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal…homemade cranberry sauce.

OF COURSE cranberry sauce is the one thing that is not made from scratch at our Thanksgiving. In fact, I do not think anyone in my family had even tasted cranberry sauce that did not come straight out of a can.

I sprang into action researching recipes and figuring out how I would pull off making a recipe for the first time on Thanksgiving. I came across a few recipes, and nothing looked difficult. I COULD DO THIS! I decided upon a crockpot recipe, and modified it enough to make it 1) simple 2) delicious 3) not too messy (cranberries stain!)

Harry loved the sauce. Now we will have a new Thanksgiving dish on our table…goodbye canned cranberry sauce!

Easy Crockpot Cranberry sauce

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon orange or lemon zest
The juice of 1 large orange or lemon
40-50 ounces cranberries

Wash cranberries. Add everything to crockpot. Cook on high one hour. Stir vigorously smashing cranberries as you stir. Cook for one more hour on high. 

Remove lid and let cranberries continue cooking on low for 45 minutes.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. May be served at room temperature.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup!

Happy Thanksgiving week, friends! I hope you're not tired of Thanksgiving food yet, because I've got 15 Thanksgiving day recipes for you, ranging from breakfast, sides to the main event, and best of all, dessert.


Start the day off right!

pumpkin baked oatmeal with crunchy almond topping--This healthy and filling breakfast will power you through a morning of cleaning and cooking. Or, sitting on the couch and watching football.

pumpkin biscuit cinnamon rolls--No yeast required!  Biscuit meets pumpkin meets icing. Yum.

whole grain apple cinnamon scones--The apple and cinnamon scones are perfect for this season. The caramel sauce is indulgent and a little time-consuming but totally worth it.

healthy pumpkin bread--One of my favorite go-to recipes. You can never go wrong with pumpkin bread.


The real stars of the meal, in my opinion 

healthy veggie crock-pot mac & cheese--Unsurprisingly, this is one of the most popular recipes on this site. Loaded with cauliflower and butternut squash, this cheese sauce is healthy but still delicious with lots of quality white cheddar.

moroccan spiced roasted cauliflower & sweet potato--This savory unique dish is a perfect way to mix up the traditional sweet potatoes.

rosemary roasted potatoes & pears--Elegant, delicious, and so easy. Fresh Rosemary is a must.

mixed potato & kale au gratin--You knew that sneaky kale would make its way into this menu somehow, didn't you? You won't mind when it's layered with béchamel sauce and lots of Gruyere cheese.

lazy girl's spinach & kale strata--Sneaky kale again. With options for super easy or more sophisticated versions, this strata could be a fun switch from traditional stuffing.

multi-grain olive braid bread--This lovely loaf requires time and care, but the result is completely stunning (and tasty).


Saving the best for last…

vegan, gluten-free, naturally sweetened pumpkin almond bars--Tastes so good you'd never know they're healthy.

gluten-free pumpkin pie--My lovely friend Erin guest posted this fabulous gluten-free take on the traditional pumpkin pie.

strawberry pretzel cheesecake pie--I know strawberries aren't in season now, but frozen berries would work just fine in this cheesecake, which would bring fun color and taste to the dessert table!

acorn squash cupcakes with maple buttercream--I've gotten some rave reviews on these perfectly spiced  cupcakes and luscious maple buttercream. It's just a flavor combo you've got to try.

sweet potato blondies with marshmallow topping--Taking a riff on the classic marshmallow/sweet potato combo, these blondies are chewy and so very satisfying.

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I'd love to hear about your traditional recipe favorites or what new recipes you're trying this year!


Whole Grain Apple Scones with Caramel Sauce

One of the most fun (and surprising) benefits of blogging has been being part of a virtual community of people that really love food.

I still remember the first time someone I didn't actually know commented on my blog, and the first time one of my favorite bloggers commented.   I was elated!

Now that I've been blogging for a while, I've gotten to witness the ways bloggers support and encourage each other, and it's AWESOME. One ways bloggers do this is by throwing a virtual baby-shower for expecting blogger friends. The first time I saw one of these I was confused. Does the person actually get the treats? Well, no. But they do get lots of support, and exposure, and delicious recipes tailored just for them. 

I was so excited to be asked to make a recipe for a virtual baby shower for Chelsea of This Grand Adventure.  

I've been following Chelsea for about a year now and totally admiring her gender neutral nursery inspiration and cute bumpdates. 

In her last bumpdate, Chelsea shared that she currently can't get enough breakfast food, so I thought these apple cinnamon scones would be perfect. 

I LOVE the fresh apple in these scones. At first I wondered if I should pre-cook the apple before adding it to the dough, but I'm so glad I didn't. The apple chunks reduce as you bake the scones, leaving these craggy air pockets that are soooo good…. 

especially when filled with a little homemade caramel sauce.

ok, fine, a LOT of homemade caramel sauce.

Caramel sauce was once my nemesis. My efforts always involved multiple attempts and lots of burnt sugar in the trash. I was convinced I would never master it.

But then last week I listed to the spilled milk podcast episode about caramel. I decided I would make one last attempt. 

On the podcast, Matthew and Molly share a recipe for dry caramel, which was something I had never tried before. Apparently most pastry chefs make dry caramel, but for some reason most at-home cooks are instructed to make wet caramel. Wet caramel is sugar and water, but dry caramel is just sugar. The wet caramel requires brushing the sides of the pan with water, and a little stirring until the caramel is just the right color. For dry caramel, you just dump the sugar in a pan over medium heat and don't stir it until about half of the sugar is melted.  This takes a little bit of time. (maybe 10 minutes?) Then you stir stir stir until it's dark amber in color and gradually add in the heavy cream. 

I can't make any promises about your efforts with this dry caramel either. It's still an art (or a science, depending on how you look at it) but it is SO worth it. We've loved drizzling this caramel sauce over scones and vanilla ice cream, or just eating it by spoon straight from the jar!

Chelsea, I hope someone makes these scones and this caramel sauce for you, and I wish the best for you and baby D!

Check out the other fun recipes and projects for Chelsea's virtual baby shower: 

Art of Natural living-Baby Shower Washcloth Bunny Favors
The Speckled Palate-Indoor Smores
The Frosted Vegan-Maple Apple Cider Caramels
Karis' Kitchen-Thumbprint Cookies

Whole Grain Apple Scones:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
dash of allspice
8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup chopped fresh apple (about half a medium apple)
1/4 cup milk or cream (optional--for brushing the tops of the scones before baking)


Whisk together flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Add cold butter to the bowl.  Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut butter into flour mixture until butter is incorporated and in the shape of small peas.

In a small bowl, add eggs, vanilla, and applesauce. Beat with a fork to combine, then add to flour mixture. Add chopped apple. Stir until just combined and no flour remains in the bottom of the bowl.

Prepare a cookie sheet by lining with parchment paper or spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Grab about half of the dough and use your fingers to flatten out into a 5 inch circle. Once it's on the pan, use your hand to smooth the edges. There will be pieces of apple sticking out! Just push those in. The dough should be about 3/4 inch thick.

Repeat with the other half of the dough. Cut each disc in half down the middle. Then cut each half into thirds. (6 triangular slices total) Pull the slices away from each other, leaving about 1/2 inch in between.

Using a pastry brush, brush the top of each scone with milk or cream. (You could also sprinkle the scones with extra cinnamon or coarse sugar at this stage.  I decided not to since I was making caramel sauce.)

Highly recommended--Place the whole cookie sheet and scones in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. This chills the butter and ensures flakey, yummy scones.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425. Bake scones for 18-22 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Scone recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Homemade Caramel Sauce: 

1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream

pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 tablespoon (or a sliver) of butter

Place a small saucepan* over medium high heat. Add sugar.

Meanwhile, add the cream to another small saucepan and place over medium heat. Once cream begins to bubble, cover and remove from heat.

Now be patient and watch your sugar carefully. After about 5 minutes, it will start to melt around the edges. Keep watching. Depending on your pan/stove, the sugar may continue melting around the edges, or it may melt from underneath.  When it seems like about half the sugar has melted, begin stirring vigorously. (use a wooden spoon or a whisk)

(This is a tricky stage.  If you take the caramel off the heat too quickly, it won't have the luscious caramel flavor, but it you over cook it, it will taste burnt.) Continue stirring and watch as the sugar begins to change color.  You can use a spoon to remove a bit of the caramel and put it on a white plate to test the color. It will start out a pale yellow color and gradually get darker and darker. You're looking for a deep amber color. Once it has reached this color, it's time for the cream!

Gradually begin streaming in the cream. Stir stir stir! Once all the cream is incorporated and most of lumps are gone, turn off the heat. There may be little bits of hard sugar at the bottom--that's ok! Pour the caramel through a fine strainer if you have one. If desired, add pinch of salt, a dash of vanilla, and a sliver of butter.

Use immediately (would be ideal for ice cream!) or let cool and then refrigerate in a glass jar or container. For the scones, we preferred letting the caramel cool or refrigerating it overnight. It will be lovely and thick and drizzly the next day!

*The original recipe said not to use a non-stick pan, but that is all I have, and mine worked out ok!

Caramel Sauce adapted from Matthew Amster-Burton

Lazy Girl's Spinach & Kale Strata


I'm sorry for the messy, poorly lit photo above.  This is a pretty realistic portrayal of my brain right now, which is to say scattered.

This is one of those recipe's born from desperation. I'm calling it "Lazy Girl's Spinach & Kale Strata" because it is so dang easy to make even my lazy self can do it.

During exam time, I get kind of frantic and nuts and start sweating when I think about wasting too much time on anything that is NOT studying--> i.e. driving or cooking or laundry.  (But then I get distracted on the internet and waste 45 minutes reading blogs, sooooo, sound reasoning for sure.)

Any-who, I created this easy strata during exam--time last spring. I came home and was STARVING. Adam was gone, and I was grumpy, and I wanted to eat something right now, but we didn't have any leftovers in the fridge or freezer. We did have a hunk of hard baguette, eggs, milk, assorted bits of cheese, half a bag of slightly wilted spinach and kale, and an onion. 

I was not about to spend time sautéing anything (more dishes to clean? No thanks.) so I gave everything a rough chop, mixed it all together in one bowl, and threw it in the oven. 

Thirty minutes later, that hard baguette had morphed into soft, cheesy, eggy bread studded with kale, spinach and onions.  It was a comforting dinner that also happened to be made of all good, whole foods that would leave me full and not languishing into hungry shame spirals. (I'm looking at you, diet soda and pizza goldfish)  

I'm sharing this recipe with you now for two reasons:

(1) You might need a quick, desperate meal like this in the upcoming busyness of the next two months. 

(2) This could be used as a stuffing-like dish to serve for your friends and family for Thanksgiving. 

Growing up, we never had strong allegiances to any particular stuffing recipe, and one year my mom made a strata. It seemed like an elegant alternative to the bagged stuffing we'd had years prior, and I've loved stratas ever since.  (Nothing against traditional stuffing though! Since Adam and I got married, I've been making his mom's stuffing recipe, which includes jiffy corn muffin mix and is my very favorite.)

This strata recipe is about as versatile as they come.  Use any kind of cheese or vegetables that you like. If you've got more time, you can sauté the onions until lightly caramelized and add in the spinach and kale at the end until wilted. You could add mushrooms, or tomatoes, or fresh thyme and garlic. Let me know what you try!

Lazy Girl's Spinach & Kale Strata 

6-7 eggs*
1/2 cup milk
about 1/2 a baguette, cut into cubes or torn into small pieces
1/2 an onion, diced
handful of kale, chopped
handful of spinach, chopped
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 425. Prepare a 9 inch pie pane or 9 by 9 square pan by spraying liberally with non-stick cooking spray.

Whisk together eggs and milk in a large bowl. Add bread, onion, kale, spinach, cheese, and salt & pepper to taste. Stir to combine. *If mixture looks a little dry, add another splash of milk or another beaten egg.

Pour into prepared pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 425 for fifteen minutes. Remove foil, then cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until edges are brown and center is firm.

No-bake Pumpkin Almond Bars (gluten-free, vegan & refined sugar free)

Well, since Halloween is over, stores have now taken to putting up Christmas displays.

This is a little mind-boggling to me, since I'm just now ready to think about Thanksgiving. In my view, this is still prime pumpkin time, so I'm sharing just one more pumpkin recipe.

These no-bake pumpkin almond bars are sweetened with dates and pure maple sugar. Initially I thought the crust was my favorite part--salty, nutty almond butter & sweet, chewy dates--but as soon as I tasted the filing it won me over. Totalllllly. It's creamy sweet, perfectly spiced pumpkin pie filling on steroids.

I'm already contemplating making it again just so I can eat it out of the bowl with a spoon.  Maybe pumpkin parfaits?

In addition to being naturally sweetened, these pumpkin bars are gluten free and vegan (if you use coconut oil).

Though food-processors are a pain to clean, it's the only piece of equipment that you'll need to make the recipe. (No mixing bowls or pots!) The hardest part will be waiting the requisite 6 hours that these need to solidify fully in the fridge. Even then, mine were still a little soft, but I stuck them in the freezer for about 10 minutes before cutting.

This next month and a half is going to be crazy for me. I'm not really sure how everything is going to get done, but I'm trying to trust that it will all be ok. It will be, right? I make Adam tell me so all the time.

Two things that helped me this week:
  1. this article about the disease of being busy
  2. this speech by Anna Quindlen about never confusing your life and your work

I love love love these, especially the speech.   There's no denying that I have a lot of work to do the next few weeks, but I don't want to miss the beauty and life still happening around me.

How do you stay grounded and avoid the work/busyness epidemic?

No-bake Pumpkin Almond Bars (gluten-free, vegan & refined sugar free)

For the crust:
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup pitted dates, chopped
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil or butter(optional*)

For the filling:
1 15oz can pumpkin puree
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter, slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 tablespoons almond meal


To make the crust: 
Line an 8 by 8 pan with parchment or wax paper.

Add the oats, almond butter, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt and dates to a food processor. Pulse until mixture is combined. If your food processor is like mine, it might have trouble incorporating the sticky dates into the mixture. To remedy this, add 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil or butterPour the crust mixture into a square 8 by 8 pan. Use your fingers or a spatula to press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan. Place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling: 
Carefully wash the blade and container for the food processor. Then add pumpkin puree, maple syrup, melted butter/coconut oil, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and almond meal. Pulse until completely smooth.

Remove crust from the freezer. Spoon pumpkin mixture overtop. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 6 hours.

If desired, top with shredded coconut, chocolate chips, or sprinkles!

Adapted from The Kitchn.


Best Ever Turkey Chili

Happy Sunday, friends. Today I'm sharing my mom's recipe for turkey chili. This is a no frills recipe, but I happen to think it's the best chili ever. It won the taste-test award in our church's chili contest several years ago, so it's the real deal.

I'm feeling limited on writing inspiration today, so I thought I'd do a sort of "taking stock" post following the lead of some of my favorite bloggers. (KatieJen & Bridget)

Making: plans for our Italy trip. We're spending Christmas there and I can't wait!!
Drinking: lots and lots of La Croix. I'm officially obsessed.
Reading: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
Wanting: all the new food blogger cookbooks--Seriously Delish, Homemade DecadenceTop with Cinnamon, & Date Night In.
Watching: Parks and Rec. I love Amy Poehler and really want to read her new book.
Listening: to the song "Married Life" from the movie Up. Sob.
Eating: chili leftovers and leftovers from this soup I made it for Adam earlier in the week. He wasn't feeling well and specifically requested it. I think it's one of our all time favorites.

Wishing: I had more hours in the day.
Enjoying: hot tea and candles in the evening. They make me feel cozy.
Loving: Saturday afternoon drives with Adam.
Hoping: I get to see more of old friends in the next couple months.
Needing: more of this fantastic arugula, pear and goat cheese salad with pomegranate vinaigrette that my friend Steph brought to dinner Friday.

Feeling: sooo excited about the new blog logo and thankful for my sister who helped me install it.
Wearing: this comfy and pretty sweatshirt.
Noticing: how beautiful the leaves are.
Bookmarking: this overnight pumpkin spice cinnamon roll loaf and this green-lentil soup with coconut milk and indian spices.

Would love it if you'd share what you're making/drinking/reading/wanting/watching/listening/eating/wishing/enjoying/
loving/hoping/needing/feeling/wearing/noticing/bookmarking this week!

Best Ever Turkey Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground turkey (I used 15% fat)
5 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
pinch of cayenne powder
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 28oz can tomato puree (sauce)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 12oz can beef broth
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
juice of one lime

suggested toppings: shredded cheese, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, cornbread, hot sauce

Add olive oil to a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes or so or until turning translucent. Add green pepper and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add minced garlic and ground turkey. Increase heat to medium high and cook until turkey is browned, stirring frequently.

Add chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook 1 minute.

Add in tomato puree, diced tomatoes, brown sugar, oregano, paprika, and beef broth.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 45 minutes or longer. Before serving, add kidney beans and black beans and heat through.  Turn off the heat and add the lime juice. Taste and add salt, chili powder, cumin, or cayenne as needed.


  • This chili could easily be made in the crockpot. Just cook the meat separately first and then add everything to the crockpot. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
  • This recipe is for turkey chili, but you could of course substitute ground beef. This recipe also doubles well. Sometimes when I double it, I use 1 pound of ground turkey and 1 pound of ground beef.