Homemade Applesauce

We live an exciting life here in the Creighton household. What do we do on a Friday night when neither one of us has to work nor do we have any other commitments?? We make applesauce! Jars and jars of it! You can really get to know your spouse by sitting side by side and peeling 50 apples together. Friday night dates used to include drinks and the bar; now they include tea and cooking together. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In my quest to eating better and living a healthier lifestyle I have been trying to limit the amount of processed food I consume. A lot of the literature on infertility suggests that a lot of the additives in processed foods can contribute to infertility and might even be linked to developing endometriosis. Since most causes of infertility are completely out of my control it makes me really happy to be able to do something to decrease the amount of processed foods I am exposed to. It makes us Type A people happy when we can control things. And you know what else? It is extremely easy and cost-effective to make homemade versions of most foods.  As if those reasons are not enough to compel you- the homemade version of applesauce on particular tastes SO, SO much better than the jars you buy at the grocery store. Homemade applesauce is thick and chunky and so much more flavorful that their processed counertparts. So JD & I decided to make a night of it and make as much applesauce as our biggest stockpot could handle- we kept a few jars in our fridge to eat right away, put some in the freezer for later, and decorated up enough bottle to give away to JD’s coworkers ( it was them who gave us all the free apples.So we turned their apples into applesauce as thank you!) By making a big batch all at once we’ll have a supply of applesauce to last us all winter long! And best of all, we had a blast cooking it together and fancying up the mason jars to give as little gifts.

Homemade Applesauce (in bulk!)

  • 50 apples (peeled and cut into chunks)
  • 1-2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar or coconut sugar (optional…I prefer mine unsweetened.)

Seriously, that it is. I almost feel like it is not even worth typing out the recipe it’s so easy. And it makes me so happy to see a recipe that includes only 3 common ingredients. Just pour everything into a large stock pot and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until it looks like applesauce. I mash up any big chunks but like to leave some smaller chunks in it.

 

To decorate the mason jars a little since we were giving them away as gifts we purchased fat quarters of fabric (only $1.50 each!) in a few different prints, cut them into small squares and put that in between the lids. We also added a burlap bow but I forgot to take a picture after we finished the final step. It was easy to do, and gave the jars a rustic decor look that I loved.

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Gingerbread Muffins

Today is one of those days where I am reminded of everything I have to be thankful for. Somewhere during the last 4 year struggle to get pregnant I seem to have fave forgotten to appreciate what I have instead of long for what I don’t. I used to be a very happy, very positive person and somehow with every negative pregnancy test and every failed fertility treatment I lost that. But over the past 2 days two beautiful beings (one human, one canine) passed away and their passing reminded me how short life really is and how important it is to let the people you care about know how important they are.

A 90 year old friend of the family passed away yesterday and even though she had lived a good, long life and had been sick for awhile her death still got me thinking as to how short life really is. Then this morning my sister had to make the terrible decision to put her beloved dog to sleep. She also was old, had cancer and we all knew the time was coming but I was shocked and devastated to hear the news. They were both absolutely beautiful beings who brought nothing but love and kindness with them wherever they went. So I have decided to learn from this experience and find my old, positive self again. I will not let infertility define me anymore.

So here is a start at some of the things I am thankful for (and the whole list is a big one- I am a very lucky girl!)

  1. My hubby. He is loving, understanding and can make me laugh even when it’s the last thing in the world I feel like doing.
  2. My doggies. Their lives are so short and they give me such unconditional love. Seeing them is the highlight of my day every day.
  3. My job. I love being a pharmacist and feel excited to go to work every morning. And I get paid well to do it- with the economy the way that it is today this is something to be extra thankful for.
  4. My old home. It might need A LOT of work, it might seem like a money pit at times, but it is OUR money pit and we love our old home. It has such character and really feels like “home”. And the hubby and I actually like working on it together- another bonus.
  5. Gingerbread muffins. I know this post has been quite serious so far so I have to end it up something extra special. And these muffins are IT. The recipe is another Pinterest find from “Back to the Cutting Board” and I tweaked it just a little to make if gluten and dairy free. It is the perfect Fall treat. Proof? I baked a dozen on the weekend and they are already gone.

Gluten & Dairy Free Gingerbread Muffins

  • 2&1/2 cups gluten free all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1&1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup molasses (I used 1/4 cup molasses & 1/4 cup coconut nectar)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 and spritz a muffin pan with olive oil (or I highly recommend using cupcake liners if making this GF as the batter is very sticky.) Mix all the dry ingredients together with a whisk then add all the wet ingredients and mix well. Pour into muffin tins about 3/4 full and bake for 20-22 minutes. If not using liners, let the muffins cool before trying to take them out of the muffin tin or else they will crumble. Also- Emily from Back to the Cutting Board advised that the muffins taste best the next day- after the flavors have sat & mingled for awhile. At first I did not believe her-how could muffins not be best piping hot straight from the oven? But it’s true. They taste great straight from the oven but they taste AMAZING the next day. Enjoy!

 

Infertility &Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

I mentioned in an earlier blog that my hubby & I have been trying to get pregnant for almost 4 years now. We have been going to a fertility clinic for over 2 years and have exhausted every option except for IVF- which is between $10,000 and $12,000. Needless to say- we do not have that much extra money just lying around (especially when we are in the middle of renovations!) so our current plan is to save up for about a year and aim to give IVF a shot next Fall.

The issue for us is me- I have PCOS and severe endometriosis ( which has been thankfully asymptomatic until we started trying to conceive!) Last summer I had surgery to remove as many endometrial adhesions as possible and then received monthly injections to induce “menopause” for 5 months thereafter. Even after all that my CA-125 levels (how they measure active endometriosis) were still double what they should have been. Nevertheless, we gave 2 IUI cycles our best shot but it just wasn’t meant to be. Almost 1 year exactly after the surgery we had a follow-up appointment with our fertility doctor to discuss the next step (IVF) and he suggested running another CA-125 level just to see how much worse it had gotten over the past year and to see if I would have to have surgery or induce menopause again before trying IVF. Miraculously…my CA-125 levels came back COMPLETELY NORMAL! I had changed NOTHING! Except for my exercise & eating habits. Facing infertility for several years had taken a hard toll on me and I had become very depressed and had put on quite a bit of weight and quit exercising.  In the couple months leading up to my most recent bloodwork I had begun running  regularly with a friend ( doing the couch-to-5k plan) and had cleaned up my diet. This might be completely coincidental- I realize this. But being a very Type-A person the part of infertility I find the hardest is that there is absolutely nothing I can do to fix it. There is no magic cure for infertility and I have a very hard time with something being completely out of my hands. So when I read that cleaning up my diet, exercising regularly and dropping a few pounds might help I decided I would give it 110%.

 

However….I LOVE FOOD. I love everything about it- cooking it, baking it, shopping for it and mostly EATING it! And now that Fall has definitely arrived what I have been craving most of all in the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. So when I stumbled across a recipe on Pinterest  from the blog “Averie Cooks” that showed me how to make a healthier version at home at a fraction of the price ( = more money in the IVF fund!) I couldn’t wait to try it. And let me tell you- it did not disappoint. This homemade version is quick and easy to whip up, much better for you than the Starbucks version and tasted just as good.

Pumpkin Spice Latte At Home

  • 1 cup coffee ( I just made a cup in my Tassimo machine)
  • 1&1/2 -2 cups milk
  • 1-2 tsp pumpkin pie spice ( I found 1 tsp perfect…2 and the flavor was a little overpowering)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 heaping cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2tsp coconut nectar ( I prefer this sweetener but any will do!)

First make your cup of coffee. Next  mix all the other ingredients together in a medium sized bowl and warm it up (either on the stovetop or in the microwave for 2 minutes.) Next pour half the pumpkin mixture into one cup of coffee ( the other half you can share with a friend OR store in the fridge for tomorrow’s treat.) I added a little bit of extra coconut nectar to mine at the end but I’m warning you all I like my coffee sweet. Now go wrap yourself up in a fleece blanket with a good book (or good blog!) and Enjoy!

One warning: On her blog, Averie warns that because this recipe uses real pumpkin puree and not the artificial flavor syrup that Starbucks uses, the puree form a sediment at the bottom of the mug. This does occur but I think the knowledge that the drink contains all real ingredients far outweighs this small inconvenience.

The Heat is On!

Well, not literally….but the heat could be on if it were cold enough to warrant it. Why?? Because we finally got the pellet stove hooked up in the apartment! YAY! This is a big moment for la Casa Creighton as our biggest problem when we were renting out our apartment before was heat. More specifically, the cost to heat that apartment. I love, love, love my old home but I do not love trying to heat it. When we first moved in it only had oil heat and I have no idea how the previous owners were able to heat their home and still have enough money left to buy groceries…because let me tell you- we relied on oil heat for one winter only and that was it. Three years ago we installed a wood furnace on our side and it completely changed our lives (and bank account!). The main reason we had not been renting out the apartment was because we were concerned about their heating bill. The solution?? We bought a second hand pellet stove off Kijiji and had it installed in the apartment. Now we do not have the worry about the heating bill because the tenants can buy their own pellets and I could not be happier. Here is a look at the stove- isn’t she a beauty?

 

And here is another view just a little further back. Not only will it solve our heating dilemma but I also think it adds a little bit of charm to the living room. Although my opinion is biased, I think this little apartment is starting to look pretty cozy.

And the pellet stove is not the only change in the apartment this past week…we also have new carpet on the stairs & in the closets. We opted to carpet the stairs to save some money on installation as it would have been much costlier to do laminate there. I think the carpet we chose looks pretty good and the price to carpet the stairwell & all the closets came in under $800- a price we can live with!

It is so encouraging to see the place finally start to come together and know we’ll be able to rent it out again in the next few months. Left on the to do list:

– paint ( everything is primed but not painted

– remove the outdated wallpaper border in the entryway

– replace the outdated closet door in the entryway

– replace the kitchen sink

– replace the windows. ( They are all the original windows= not very energy efficient)

We would also like to replace the cushion flooring in the kitchen & entryway ( we are thinking tile) and paint the kitchen cabinets & update the hardware but  due to budget limits it looks like those are going to be phase 2 projects. I have not mentioned this yet but we are also struggling with infertility and are currently saving up to for an IVF cycle in roughly 1 year. That gives us 365 days to save $12,000! ( On top of trying to complete the house renos in the same time frame so that baby C has a perfect house to call home.)