Caramelly Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Happy Fall!

Hello everyone!

To begin, I am aware that I have literally disappeared for months. I have tried twice to write a piece that curates my time away; however, I was never happy with the outcome. These posts are currently sitting in my organized file incomplete. Instead of discussing an intensely personal journey, I think I will only say this: the last few months have been the closing of a chapter for me in the best kind of way. I am very excited about my new chapter and moving forward as 2017 has been a challenging year for me. If I am feeling inspired, I will write a post documenting some of the lessons and ends I have tied. As of right now, I am still processing everything and am ready to move forward. Furthermore, I have absolutely NO INTENTION to ever leave the blog for that long again! To my lovely readers, I apologize; however, I do not regret my time away.

Autumn 2017 has been a warm one in Ontario! It has been warmer than our summer. While I love autumn and all the knits, colours and cozies, I am always a little sad to see our local farmer’s market up the street have the final celebration for the year. Last Tuesday, my partner and I decided to purchase a bushel of apples for $15. I would be lying if I said that I did not turn to him in disbelief and ask “umm, there are only two of us … can we handle these many apples without going bananas!?” … see what I did there!? LOL OKAY, I WILL STOP! He, of course, said, “Well, you know how to make everything edible. Therefore, I will delegate that task to you”. I guess it is true!? Let me tell you, these apples are sweet, tasty, juicy and just amazing with their odd shapes and little markings. But what the heck am I supposed to do with a million apples!?

The first thing that came to mind for me is delicious, sweet and smooth apple butter! However, I wanted to make this apple butter without much work nor the use of my oven/ stove because I also wanted to make apple chips. I had read in my travels on the interweb that you can make apple butter using the slow cooker. I was game!

This apple butter is not super sweet. It highlights the flavour of the apples rather than sugar. The long cooking time means that the apple flavour intensifies and creates a beautiful caramel texture that is significantly different from applesauce/ puree.

I feel that if put into cute little mason jars with tags, this recipe would make a lovely (and inexpensive) table favour for your Thanksgiving celebration with an appearance of hard work and time. Not to worry, I will not let them know you dumped a bunch of deliciousness into a crockpot and called it a weekend!

Wishing my Canadian readers a very happy and bountiful Thanksgiving weekend!

Print Recipe
Caramelly Slow Cooker Apple Butter
Delicious as an autumn fruit dip or spread on toast as well as a natural sweetener in baked goods! I have also used it in a balsamic vinaigrette recipe that called for apple puree!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 24 hours
Servings
Cups
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 24 hours
Servings
Cups
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. I do not peel the apples; however, if you want a lighter apple butter, peel them.
  2. Core and chop the apples into small bite-sized pieces. Generally, I cut the apple in half then cut each half into 12 pieces (4 x 3).
  3. Place apple pieces into the slow cooker with the sugar, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and apple cider vinegar.
  4. Place the lid on the slow cooker and turn it on “high” for 10-12 hours. I like to do this before bed because you do not need to do anything during this 10-12 hours.
  5. After 10-12 hours, the apples should have broken down and appear to be a lovely brown colour (it may look a bit lighter if you peeled your apples). Give the apples a stir using a wooden spoon then switch your slow cooker to low.
  6. Leave the apples to cook with the lid on low for about 3 hours.
  7. After 3 hours, transfer the contents of the slow cooker to a blender using a rubber spatula and blend. Due to the hot temperature of the apples, I open the pouring spout of my blender. Be careful as sometimes blending hot content can cause cracks in your blender! I had a glass blender break while blending hot soup when I was younger!
  8. Place the pureed apple back into the slow cooker and cook on low with the lid off for about 7-9 hours. Most of the liquid should be removed, and you should be left with a tasty and sweet apple butter that is smooth and different from applesauce.
  9. Let apple butter cool than store it in a glass container in the fridge. I am sure you can freeze the apple butter as well if you wanted to or if you have a canning kit, store it in a mason jar.
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Learning to Run & Menu Plan – July 31st to August 6th 2017

Well here we are again! Another week has passed and I must note, the word of my week has been: stamina. 

I have two things on the go: (a) my thesis is going through its finalization process (I’m so f***ing tired. I apologize but seriously, this warrants swearing); and (b) I have begun the process of learning to run.

I have come to realize that writing a thesis is literally like building a baby. It takes months out of your life. You cannot properly be a friend, a family member or a girlfriend because you are so tired building this thing as you devote every. waking. hour. to it. (Trust me, if you want to know who your real friends are, go to graduate school). You laugh and get excited during the milestone triumphs (you know, the “EUREKA!” moments). You cry when you cannot take the process of building the parts to your argument anymore. Heaven forbid you think you have a final product only to be let down because it is not ready yet as it is returned to you with cold-hard edits by your lovely partner.  I am mentally exhausted and realistically, I am fed up. I want it submitted so I no longer need to be that awful friend who ditches every occasion or the crappy aunt whose spider-nephew hangs-up FaceTime on you because he’s pissed off you won’t come over and play (even though you really want to). I am nearing completion at this point and more importantly I am on my role. I realized yesterday that there are only a couple weeks left until I am leaving for my trip to Dublin to attend a conference and that hit me hard. I really need to finish this all up and get some additional work done as well as prepare for my presentation abroad. There is no rest for the weary, I’m afraid.

On another note, I promised myself I would learn to run and this week, I started! My stats obviously were not great. Maciej poked fun at my average of 7:04 min/km (he is half of that!!); however, I saw a quote about running that stuck with me given the challenges I have been facing:

It does not get easier, you just get stronger.

Realistically, this is true for many facets of life in addition to it encouraging me to keep up the physical fitness (something I have not been great about during university if you have read my about page).

With my thesis, at first it completely sucked; however, now that I know what I am doing, I have my role. I got stronger.

With aspects of love in my life, the first time I fell in love, it completely sucked – a whirlwind of poor decision making, really; however, now that I know how to remain true to myself with another person, I am happily in love. I got stronger.

When I started a new job and was thrusted with responsibility that no post-secondary institution can prepare you for, I panicked. I wanted to leave. However, now that I pushed myself to learn from others was humbled to reach out to those who have more experience than I do, I made a very good name for myself and carry a strong reputation. I got stronger.

When I had to bravely stand up for someone who could not stand up for themselves earlier this year and face the wrath that triggered my anxiety beyond anything I had ever experienced to the point I did not want to work again, I pushed through it and I am still ready to stand up for those who need a voice. I got stronger.

Something I have come to learn is that real success is not sheer luck. It is being malleable to your surroundings and willing to be uncomfortable while you push forward for the best version of yourself. And with that, I have this weeks meal plan to keep me fueled as I run as well as keep my mind healthy and nourished as I keep climbing these mountains.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Admittedly, breakfast this week is (albeit delicious) but very monotone. My reason for this is, I find that the iron and protein in the green monster smoothies are keeping me energized and focused while I write. I mean, like, I am totally strong and not snacking out of boredom when I have one in the morning. They are seriously magic. Additionally, I need a quick breakfast because my brain works best in the morning at extensive mental work and I am better at physical work in the evening. As a result, I aim to quickly eat a healthy and nutritious breakfast but get straight to work so I can get the most out of my day. Hence, cereal and smoothies it is!

Additionally, my dinners are very summery. Usually by August, I have no patience for full-on meals and tend to opt for BBQ type meals, fruits and salad. I have not tried the Smoky Vegan Carrot Dogs; however, I have heard about people in the vegan community making these carrot dog things and I figured after smelling the barbeque smell in my neighbourhood that it would be a fun recipe to try. I will definitely let you know how it goes!

While it is not listed in my meal plan, I have been keeping up with my water intake and the results are amazing. I have no idea how I let myself get so dehydrated because the more water I drink, the better I feel. I find I am not snacking as often, my thought processes are clearer, I feel stronger and way healthier both physically and mentally. Honestly, I really suggest everyone to try and increase their water intake because it is difficult to put in words, you just feel amazing when you do. It makes a huge difference. I will be starting up a new challenge this week, so stay tuned for that!

If you missed it last week, the blue items shown in the meal plan are linked to other blog posts (as well as a few non-blue items) which I will list below:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

**Lightened-Up Crispy Baked Fries from: The Oh She Glows Cookbook – Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out by Angela Liddon p. 203

Snacks:

And there you have it! Very simple, mostly quick and light meals to accommodate my hectic work schedule as well as the warm weather.

Wishing everyone a productive week in hopes that you too, will become stronger no matter what challenges you face!

The Milestone Race

What is life!? LOL

How is the work week going, readers? We are just over the “hump” so to speak. I have been productive at both working to complete my master’s thesis and doing some data management for one of my (many) jobs.

A topic that has resonated with me lately is the idea of, what I am coining, the milestone race. Humans are competitive by nature and in a variety of different ways. Many women (of course not all women) in their 20s are in the “family” race. You guys totally know what I am talking about: get some post-secondary education, find a partner, get married, buy your forever home, have 1.8 kids … the works. In fact, some people go to the extent completing the race within 10 years! All the by the age of 30! Now, let us consider this for a minute.

To be clear, the above chart is meant to be humorous, not offensive. What I am doing is poking fun at the prescribed decade that is your 20s … (I heard your 30s are better? If not, keep it to yourself, I need some hope LOL) and with that being said, I question this notion. I question rushing through so many of life’s joys in the quick span of your first decade as an adult! We are socialized as young girls to believe that this is happily ever after. We have seen it in the millions of minutes spent watching our Disney princesses find their prince, our rom-com protagonists finding love in the most apropos way and do not get me started on 50 Shades of Grey!

While there is nothing wrong with hitting these milestones, and flourishing happily – I congratulate you if this is what you needed – consider the flower children who make different choices. What about those of us who do not follow this pattern. The problem I have come to notice is that while there is nothing wrong with “settling down”, this prescription is not a prescription for happiness and it does not define your worth as a person.

Furthermore, while you are busy running the marathon of your third decade to hit the finish line quickly, you miss all the fun and joy that comes from the blunders, processes and lessons you are forced to learn as you navigate your transition into adulthood. Take for example the ample arguments on paint colour and design I watched my parents so passionately argue about growing up. I swear, being on the brink of bloody divorce over the colour of wooden spoon (I am exaggerating, my parents love each other going on over 30 years now LOL) – has brought many hilarious memories when we look around their house and the warmth that colour brought into their home. In addition, those whose families were built out of order and in different circumstances has brought forth my most favourite little spider-nephew as I watch my sister so confidently flourish in her career and raise her son with no remorse nor care to rush into a marriage because “that is what you do”. She is confident and is in the process of raising a beautifully smart, confident and silly little guy.

And with that, I come back to me – the overworked and exhausted overachiever who looks forward to one day marrying my partner, but keeps up the hustle! I have not achieved “marriage” (1000 XP right?? LOL) and there is some time until I will. I am nowhere near being able to afford a house. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment in Toronto and love every quirk that comes with it. The fact I decorated my home, my kitchen sucks, and my bedroom is my sanctuary of calmness – but I do not own it – I still love these moments. Looking on social media, one can see that I have a handsome partner who is going to have a fabulously successful career one day. In addition, I have worked so hard and my career thus far has been pretty successful, I am independent. This, however, is deceiving because while I have had some amazing successes, people are not seeing the not-so-glamourous stress I put on myself to cultivate my passion. Have any of you spent 16 hours consecutively editing and eating your quick leftovers at your desk all on 3-4 hours of sleep? If you have, I send you all my empathy – you are amazing!

Furthermore, when analyzing my life using the above “milestone race” (which I get often in an attempt to diminish my successes), of course I do not come up to par! We all make the story of our lives. It is not up to other people to assess our stories in accordance to one prescription. As so famously stated by Aerosmith: Life’s a journey, not a destination. And with that, I leave you my readers with a vote of confidence and wisdom. Consider your life and every single thing that has not worked out the way you think it should. What has happened instead? What have you learnt from it? Are you happy? If you are not, what can you do to try? Is it by removing yourself from the milestone race? Wishing you joy as you make your history.

Feel free to comment below or connect on social media. Every one of you is going to have the story of a lifetime, I promise.

Cheers and enjoy the rest of your week!

Menu Plan – July 24th to July 30th 2017

It’s Sunday night, friends!

Weekends are a funny thing to me. On the one hand, I want to sit back and relax, however on the other hand, if I do this, I end up paying for it during the week. Especially Sundays! I did not realize this routine of preparing for the week ahead until I hit my mid-twenties. It feels like overnight that I went from being able to live out of a single outfit and a toothbrush in my backpack at a friend’s house to being completely irritated – protective even – of my Sundays. I think most notably my Sunday routine shift got to me earlier this year when I had to attend a shower on a Sunday and did not prepare in advance. While I was happy to celebrate with friends, I was completely irritated that evening trying to prepare my grocery lists, menus, work distribution and lunches for the week – and failed to do so! I spent the week feeling completed off my roll.

Gone are the days …

Who am I kidding? The young days were fun and I enjoyed the ability to run around without a plan in mind but I am also enjoying this, albeit hectic, but naturally “settling down” transition. And on that note, I present you, my readers, with my very first installment of the Sunday Night Weekly Menu Plan for this week.

To preface, I use a tool called Pepperplate. It is fantastic because you can save all your favourite recipes, generate meal plans and grocery lists on your computer. With the app, it syncs to your phone and iPad. This means you can pull up your grocery list while you are at the grocery store, pull up a recipe from your meal plan in the kitchen on your iPad and many more. Even if you identify as an old-fashioned pen ‘n paper kind of person, there is an easy print option. I am not sponsored by Pepperplate in any way, I just really love the simplicity and design layout. I have been using it consistently for almost 2 years at this point and it has made my life so much easier! It is my hope that by sharing this tool with you, I can help streamline and curate your love for food, recipes and SUNDAY NIGHT SANITY… sorry – got excited. LOL.

Alas, the meal plan de jour:

Click image to enlarge.

A few things you are going to notice right away: 1) I like consistency; 2) leftovers are my homie – I know some people veer away from eating leftovers and such but realistically, I am insanely busy working as a grad student and professional so when I cook, I batch cook. Additionally, I do not believe in throwing food out. Sure, it happens sometimes but I have been to impoverished areas such as Kibera, Kenya (see photo at the end of this post) and my partner has spent years doing work in various countries in East Africa including a recent publication on food assistance. At the end of the day: not being cognizant about where food in my home is going conflicts with my values which is likely why I am so strategic in using tools like Pepperplate. It lowers food cost and waste – something we can all agree on.

Listed above in my menu plan, you will notice some items are blue and some are black. The blue ones are recipes with links to blogs which I will include below:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Snacks

In developing my menus, I consider what I have in my fridge and freezer first and accommodate my meals to those ingredients. For example, the creamy polenta with mushrooms, chickpeas and olives recipe – I have had cornmeal in my pantry for some time and it is driving me crazy because outside of cornbread, I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT TO DO WITH IT!! Although, I have a few ideas for recipe development come the colder weather.

Also note that I have included my water intake in my meal plan as a hope to push me to increase this (if you haven’t seen my 14 day hydration challenge, click here). This weekend with hosting has not been great (why can’t sangria count as water!?); however, Monday starts a fresh week and I am hoping I can get back at it in an effort to report to you guys how it has gone – the successes and the challenges.

Anyway, on the note of protecting my Sundays, I am going to quickly put together my work schedule for tomorrow and get some shut eye! Wishing everyone a productive and delicious week!

Celebrations and Food

Celebrations are in order!

Yesterday we had a few people over for Maciej’s birthday. It was lovely. We had four guests over and a lovely spread. To see what I served, click here. I must say, I think this was the first time as the main hostess for our get together where I was irked because I prepped a lovely sangria and had to wait to drink it! I lasted a good 45 minutes before I said FORGET IT! LOL

Forgive my ugly apartment kitchen. It is not fancy but it helps me make beautiful meals and despite its looks, we still entertain the best company! However, one day I do dream of when I get to have a beautiful warm kitchen where I do not need to stop and wait for someone to get out of the fridge before I can move on!!

While all the dishes were delicious, can we please stop and marvel at this double dark chocolate macaroon tart – seriously, it is a work of art.

I WOULD be lying if I did not admit to having a slice this morning for breakfast with my coffee, okay? It was divine. Chocolatey, decadent and not for the faint of heart as well as surprisingly easy to put together; however, you do need to make sure you prepare it in advance as it is a no bake recipe that requires freezing.

Despite all this decadence, something that has been a major accomplishment is I do not feel guilty about this celebration with food. While I recognize that in the minimalist philosophy, food is strictly for nourishment, food is also a very social ritual. Celebrating birthdays and holidays with food brings people together. Where there was a time I would feel inherently guilty for indulging, I find now that I enjoy feeding people and fostering conversations and joy through food – as well as secretly pushing how delicious gluten-free and plant-based meals can be. I did let everyone know at the end that there were no animal products – something I am usually hesitant about and everyone was in awe. They could not believe that the cheesy nacho dip I served did not have a lick of dairy in it, LET ALONE be carrots! I think since I have transitioned in my adulthood into eating predominantly healthy food, I do not feel guilty on the odd days that I indulge – not to mention that with all the prep work, the only lunch I had was taste testing the upcoming courses! I spent a total of 7 hours in the kitchen… SEVEN!!!!! Regardless, it was a fabulous night.

Overall, the evening was lovely and fostered how much I love to host people.

How about you, readers? Do you ever feel guilty indulging during a party or get together? How did you work with those feelings? Hosted any summer parties lately? Share your experiences below or connect with Red Lipstick Lifestyle on social media!

Cheers to a beautiful summer and wonderful people!

Feelings of Overwhelm

What am I going to do?

I don’t know about anyone else but 2017 has not been my year. I feel like the challenges that have been thrown at me are reminiscent of being the last player left on your team during dodgeball and there are no balls left on your side.

Earlier in the year, when another challenge would present itself, I would usually respond with anger, frustration and overwhelm before I finally exploded and tired out. I would like to say I have made sooooo much progress but really, today, I would like to acknowledge my baby steps. You see, typically as someone who is innately anxious while also enjoying achieving big dreams, I see the big picture and freak out. This goes for my large accumulation of student debt, the entire 6 chapters of my master’s thesis, and the steps leading to my ultimate professional goal. Even to some extent, I get overwhelmed and impatient with this blog… I JUST GOT IT RUNNING YESTERDAY! THIS IS MY SECOND POST!!

On Monday, I sat with a good friend of mine who has an accumulation of wisdom in her years ahead of my own. We were discussing some of my work and she told me: “Okay Stephanie, you are well on your way. However, now you need to take each chapter one at a time, finish it, refine it, make it perfect. Then once that is completely done – THEN move onto the next”. I share this little tidbit of wisdom with you my readers because – like most areas of my life, I tend to circle things. I move around without always committing to my one main task at hand. There is a whole philosophy of productivity that talks about this. For now, I would like to refer to this infographic created by Brandon Gaille. Gaille proposes 5 time management techniques for enhanced productivity.

My biggest vice is I switch between tasks and I procrastinate on social media. So, what if I did not? Would that bring the stress down? Would I actually get something done? I have decided to try all five of these techniques over the next week and write a review post on my feelings towards the various methods. It is my hope that I can figure out which method works for me so I can get the things I need off my to-do list.

On the list for tomorrow:

I have to complete my proposal for a conference in New York City; I need to complete a chapter of my thesis; and, I need to host people in celebration of Maciej’s birthday!!

On that note, I have put together a lovely menu spread for tomorrow! I am excited to get cooking! The recipes in this menu are all from one of my favourite bloggers of all time, Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows. Her recipes are always a hit – even amongst those dietary meat purists. On the menu I have:

Appetizers:

Main Course

Dessert:

Drinks:

I think it goes without saying, I have one HECK of a day in the kitchen and on the computer tomorrow – anyone want to give me a vote of confidence that I can pull this off? Nah, sadly, me neither. I think it would be wise if I take some time before bed and schedule out my day tomorrow in my iCloud calendar as well as make friends with the Pomodoro technique because tomorrow is going to be a busy one! I will let you know how the menu turns out!

Do you have any productivity tips and tricks? How about keeping stress and overwhelm at bay? Share them below! I would love to discuss them with you!

Wishing everyone a good night!

And of course, most importantly – to the man I hope to keep whispering nonsense to until you have tripled this age – Happy Birthday.

Photo credit: Boakview Photography

14 Day Simple Hydration Challenge

Hey there!

It is 1AM and insomnia has hit me hard!

I have no idea what it is but I have had a rough go of making sure I get enough sleep. I keep rolling around and getting out of bed. I recognize that I should get 8 hours every night but here is my issue – or rather, the internal debate:

If I sleep in pure blackout silence, my thoughts race and I cycle around ultimately leaving myself feeling frustrated because … what the heck … it is 3AM and I know I could have accomplished something in the time between when I tried sleeping and that point.

ALTERNATIVELY

I often listen to a TV show on Netflix (cue endless episodes of Friends and Grey’s Anatomy), but sometimes I get hooked on the episodes and stay awake. Additionally, I hear the blue light is really bad for making sure that you are rested.

I have a feeling that my life stresses are hitting me hard and that is a major component in me making sure I get enough sleep … maybe a future challenge? Thoughts?

Speaking of challenges, onto my first blog challenge! I am admittedly very excited. I decided to make this challenge an easy (well, not easy but one that I can accomplish even though this week is incredibly busy) and healthy one. And hey – maybe this one will help with this insomnia? *sigh* I have my hopes. But without further ado,

Simple hydration.

There are a whole series of metaphors about the healing power of water. Water hydrates, cleanses, and purifies. There is no doubt about the benefits of drinking water, however – despite my better judgement – I am not great at keeping myself hydrated. I have tried various strategies like the large water bottle labelled with times on it (was very popular on Pinterest for a while), but each of these things have failed me. So instead, I present to you my system of scheduled water intake … or rather, my daily “water breaks”.

I have recently gotten into the habit of using my iCloud calendar for scheduling and I have been very receptive of my notifications so I thought I may schedule the times I drink water and see if this works.

How about you readers? Are you good at keeping your water up? What strategies do you use? Keep me posted!

Good night everyone!