Crock Pot Pumpkin Pie Applesauce

Pumpkins are not just for fall, make squash of all varieties part of your diet all year round!

Pumpkins are not just for fall, make squash of all varieties part of your diet all year round!

Okay fans, it’s April and I’m pretty sure we are all just a bit intimidated by summer swimsuit season being just around the corner. But just in case you’re still holding onto those ideals of a perfect bikini body– or at least an ounce of confidence when you are poolside sipping on an adult beverage and reading a trashy magazine– I’m offering up this recipe.

I’ve had requests for more crockpot desserts and this one is a healthy, low-calorie version of a cross between pumpkin pie and apple pie. It will delight your sweet tooth just like two slices of pie, but to your diet– it’s two servings of fruit instead.

I suggest serving this dish warm with a hearty scoop of salted caramel ice cream or with honey vanilla greek yogurt.

Crock Pot Pumpkin Pie Applesauce

serves 8-12

8 apples, peeled, cored and cubed

1/2 c. Orange juice

1 t. Cinnamon

1/2 t. Nutmeg

1/2 t. Allspice

1/4 c. Maple syrup

15 oz. can pumpkin purée

Add all ingredients to crock pot, stir and cook on high for 3-4 hours.

Crock Pot Cream of Celery and Leek Soup

Crock Pot Celery and Leek Soup

Crock Pot Celery and Leek Soup

Most weeks, I have a game plan for all of our meals and a grocery list to organize my trip. I know which nights will be crockpot meals, which nights will be leftovers, and I even anticipate which nights I’ll probably be too tired to cook!

But I started this week a day too late. I didn’t have my grocery list set and I wasn’t quite sure what was for dinner, so I opened the fridge and played a little Food Network-style game show called, “what the hell can I cook with these three ingredients?”

This is part of the amazement of crockpot cooking. With the right balance of seasonings and time, dinner can be a full meal without a lot of struggle.

Tonight’s cream of celery and leek soup turned out beautifully. Some of my Facebook followers have been asking for easy soups that are low calorie, too. This dish is very low carb and adding the last step really thickens it up to make it hearty. I even used 1% milk and it still tastes rich and creamy.

As long as you keep basic ingredients in your pantry and an open mind for culinary adventure, you can make delicious dishes without needing unusual ingredients. I’ll still be going to the grocery store tomorrow, though!


Crock Pot Cream of Celery and Leek Soup

3 Bunches of celery hearts, sliced (about 8-10 cups)

1 lb frozen sliced leeks (or fresh if you can find them)

32 oz Chicken or vegetable broth

14 oz Can sweet corn, cream style

3 Cloves garlic, whole

1 t. Dried dill

1/4 t. Nutmeg

2 Bay leaves

1 t. Salt

1 t. Black pepper

2 T. Corn starch

2 Cups cold milk

Add everything except the last two ingredients to your crock pot. Cook on high for 3–4 hours or until all vegetables are soft. Remove bay leaves. Use immulsion blender and purée soup. Dissolve the cornstarch in the cold milk and then add to crock pot. Continue cooking one more hour on high so soup can thicken.


Crock Pot Sweet Potato Soup

I’ve always been a fan of our grill… really, for two reasons. 1. In the summertime, it’s a great way to eat healthy and not heat up the kitchen and 2. when we grill, my husband is usually the one cooking!  Since it’s been such a mild winter, we’ve been taking advantage of the unseasonably warm evenings and grilling our food. But since local produce isn’t as plentiful in January, I’ve been getting creative.

So I’ve been grilling sweet potatoes. Sure, they get their glory at Thanksgiving when they are smothered and covered by marshmallows or syrup or sugar. Sometimes they even make a repeat performance at Christmas or Easter or Passover, but my new absolute favorite way to eat a sweet potato is by grilling it to perfection.

It’s so easy, let me tell you the few easy steps… Wash your sweet potatoes. Poke fork holes all over. Wrap sweet potato in aluminum foil. Grill on med-high heat for one hour, turning the sweet potato halfway through. That’s it! When the sweet vibrant goodness is done, it will be easy to squeeze the flesh with tongs. Please be cautious though, sometimes the sweet juices will run out of the foil (and I don’t want you to get burned).

So a couple nights ago, I grilled five sweet potatoes. I figured we would eat the leftovers so I made a couple extra. And these extra potatoes became the inspiration for tonight’s new recipe! With a few ingredients I already had on hand, I was able to literally “whip together” this amazing meal. This crock pot sweet potato soup is thick and hearty and even though soup might not be fresh and exciting for a winter meal, adding in the flavor from the grill really makes a difference. 

2 medium sweet potatoes, already cooked in grill or oven, cooled and then skinned

3 c. chicken broth

1/2 c. caramelized onions

1/4 t. nutmeg

1/4 t. chili powder

1/4 t. celery seed

1/4 t. curry powder

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 c. heavy cream

Put all ingredients (except heavy cream) in crock pot, stir and then cook on low for 3-4 hours. Use a hand blender and puree mixture until smooth, then stir in heavy cream. Serve hot with a tiny sprinkle of nutmeg or curry on top.

Crock Pot Escalloped Apples

This recipe is the direct result of two completely different factors=

1. we’ve been getting great fall apples and need to use some up, especially the ones with bruises  

2. it’s almost the holiday season and I’m trying to find lower calories, but equally delicious dishes to serve up as dessert

This recipe is best served warm with a scoop of either vanilla ice cream or just a dollop of whipped cream. It tastes like the inside of a warm apple pie, but barely has more calories that a cup of applesauce. It’s soothing and comforting to the whole body and there is no reason to save this dish for dessert— try it for breakfast with your oatmeal, as a side to lunch or dinner or as a snack at any point of the day!

Unlike applesauce, this dish should be made with large chunks of apples. As they cook down, the apples might fall apart a little bit, but that will help the juices flow. Do not overcook this recipe or you will wind up with apple butter.

8 medium apples, peeled and cored and cut into large chunks

2 T. salted butter

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 t. cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

1/2 t. black pepper

1 T. vanilla extract

1/4 c. cold water

1 t. corn starch

Put apples in the crock pot first, then sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and drizzle with vanilla. Put butter on top of mixture, it will melt as it heats. Cook on low for 4 hours or until apples are softened, but still firm. Dissolve corn starch in water and then pour over apple mixture and stir. Turn crock pot off and let sauce thicken until it gets syrupy and easily coats the apple chunks.  Serve warm. 

(Makes 8 servings)

Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff

Ok fans, this is the recipe you chose for today! Beef stroganoff is a great one-pot meal. You’ve got meat, dairy and carb (when served on noodles or rice) and if you count mushrooms as a veggie, then don’t bother serving this with side dish. There is something great about the creaminess of this recipe that really makes the flavors melt together.

While skillet beef stroganoff really focuses on browning everything in a pan, the crock pot version really fuses the flavors together in a better way. The skillet version tastes to me like butter and burning, so I like that in the crock pot everything turns out soft and sweet. 

While you might like trying everything light or fat-free, I’d rather see recipes that use moderation, but keep to the true versions. If you want to save calories, eat less stroganoff and serve it with a salad or steamed vegetable. And drink it with a Diet Coke, of course. Enjoy!

1 lb. beef tenderloin, cut into thin strips

1 medium sweet onion, sliced thin

8 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 c. beef bouillon

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 t. black pepper

1/8 t. ground nutmeg

1 T. parsley flakes

1 T. flour

1 c. sour cream

1 lb cooked pasta (egg noodles, farfalle or fettuccine) or 4 c. cooked white rice

Place beef, onion, garlic, mushrooms in the crock pot. Pour in bouillon and then sprinkle with seasonings. Cook on low for 4 hours. In a separate bowl, mix together flour and sour cream and add to crock pot, then cook for another 1 hour on low.  Serve on a bed of hot noodles or rice.

VARIATIONS: If you don’t have beef tenderloin, try one pound of browned ground beef or chicken. If you don’t like mushrooms, then use green beans, corn or just go without.

Crock Pot Apple Brown Betty

 Your crock pot isn’t just for cooking main dishes, I’m on a kick cooking desserts too! If you are a fan of baked apples or even just apple sauce, you’ll love this take on what I call “apple brown betty”. If you look up the meaning, it’s still unclear who this “betty” is and why her apples were so brown. Most sources date the dish back to colonial times and confirm that the dessert is truly as American as… well, apple pie. 

The flavor and composition of my apple brown betty is similar to a cobbler, so if you’d like to try this with peaches, berries or any combination of fresh fruit, give it a try and please post a comment and let us all know how it turns out. Enjoy!

6-8 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1 T. vanilla

1 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. nutmeg

For the crumbles–

2 cups of granola

1/2 c. sugar

1 t. cinnamon

2 t. melted butter

Put apples in crock pot first and then rest of filling ingredients. Toss together so that the apples get coated. Then, in a separate bowl, mix together crumbles ingredients and then pour on top of apples, but do not mix. Cook on low for 3 hours. Serve a scoop of dessert with a scoop of ice cream– the warm sweetness and the cold creaminess are a delightful combination.

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese= kid favorite, adult favorite, crowdy pleaser. Unless you are lactose intolerant, I’m guessing mac and cheese is a staple in your diet and probably gives you warm fuzzies of memories as a kid. Whether you liked the stove top blue box, orange carton that went in the oven or something homemade with buttery crumbles on top, cheese and noodles are a great combination.

Noodles are a challenge for the crock pot, however. I would recommend cooking the noodles in advance. I know it makes TWO pots to clean instead of just one, but it’s the best way. You can reuse the pot to make the sauce before pouring it into the crock pot. You may be saying, but then isn’t this a stove top recipe and not a crock pot recipe? But by adding these things together into the crock pot, you are actually working to increase the creaminess, less the seasoning melt together and ultimately have dinner ready when you get home.

I also would recommend shredding the block of cheese by hand instead of buying preshredded cheese. It makes it a little creamier, although I’m not quite sure why. But if you cook the noodles in advance and shred the cheese too, you are eliminating some of the prep time to make it easier to start this dish over breakfast and then enjoy it at dinner time.

Once this becomes one of your favorite dishes, there are lots of ways to add variety: add 1/2 c salsa or 4 strips of crumbled bacon or freshly snipped chives or some steamed vegetables like broccoli or peas. If you want more protein in the dish, add a packet of drained tuna fish or some fajita-style chicken strips. If you are serving this to adults and want to make it more grown up, try different shape noodles instead of the traditional shell or elbow macaroni. However you make it, I hope this becomes one of your favorite recipes too and helps to make new warm fuzzies for you, your friends and your family.

8 oz pasta, cooked and drained (try shells or elbow macaroni if you want to be traditional)

4 T. butter

4 T. flour

1/2 cup half and half creamer

1 c. milk

1 egg, beaten

8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

8 oz. mild cheddar cheese, shredded

1 t. white pepper

PINCH of nutmeg (just a weeeee bit)

4 oz. whipped cream cheese

Cook the package of noodles according to the box, this step can be done in advance and should not be done in the crock pot. On the stove, melt the butter in a pot, then slowly stir in the flour until it is all dissolved. Slowly add the creamer, milk, beaten egg and seasonings while still continuing to stir and then remove pot from heat. This mixture should thicken. Now for the crock potting instructions– first, spray pot with non-stick spray. Add noodles, creamy mixture from pot and then the shredded cheeses. Mix this all together. Then, cook on low for 4 hours. About an hour before you want to serve this, add the whipped cream cheese and stir it all together. This last step adds a special creaminess to your mac and cheese.

Crock Pot Bread Pudding

This crock pot bread pudding makes a great breakfast or dessert!

This crock pot bread pudding makes a great breakfast or dessert!

If you could smell my house right now, it is sweet and a little spicy with a creaminess swirling around with every breath. Somehow, it is like a combination of slow Sunday mornings and early weekday diner breakfasts. If you are preparing your house for the Jewish holiday of Passover– this is the ultimate way of using up the last of your chametz (leavened bread). You can use any combination of plain breads, but I’d recommend using white, wheat, french, italian… even leftover hamburger or hot dog buns if you’ve got them. Honestly, this might be for dessert, but if I had more bread to use, I would totally make it again for breakfast.

As this time of year seems to fill with baby and wedding showers in preparation for summer celebrations, I would also absolutely recommend making this to share at a brunch. Since it only takes three hours, you can start it when you wake up and be ready to entertain guests with ease.  For my male readers and/or sports fanatics– you might be spending too many nights staying up and watching March Madness basketball games; start the following day with this hearty dish to help wake you up and fill you up (and maybe even absorb that last bit of “adult beverage” festering in your belly).

So no matter what catagory you might fit into from this post, I think you all will fall in love with this sweet dish. Enjoy!

6 c. cubed bread

8 eggs, beaten

4 cups milk

1/4 c. sugar

1 t. cinnamon

pinch nutmeg

1 t. vanilla

2 T. maple syrup

1/2 c. raisins

Throw all the bread cubes into the crock pot first. Then, in a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Pour mixture onto the bread crumbs and make sure all pieces are coated. In another separate (small) bowl, mix together the raisins and maple syrup and then sprinkle the coated fruit on top of the swelling bread in the crock pot. Cook on high for 2.5 to 3 hours. You want to make sure the eggs are cooked through and there isn’t any liquid left.

Crock Pot Tapioca Pudding

Growing up, my dad really liked tapioca pudding and I could never understand why he enjoyed eating eyeballs. They looks gooey and slimey and smelled like playdough.  I also remember seeing vats of it at chinese buffet restaurants and was again reminded of things like eyeballs and fish eggs.

Then I discovered that with a little love, it could actually be a delicious treat. The addition of vanilla and cinnamon make this more of a dessert, but I wouldn’t be opposed to eating it for breakfast. As an additional note—tapioca pearls are also a great way to thicken up desserts, stews and sauces, but use the small pearls in those instances.

Try serving this dish with vanilla wafers or a few little chocolate cookies that might be “thin” and “minty”. If you eat it warm, you might also like it with some pound cake and fresh fruit.

4 cups milk

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. tapioca

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 t. vanilla

1/2 t. cinnamon

pinch nutmeg

Mix everything together in the crock pot and then cook on low for 4 hours or on high for about 2 hours. Can be served warm or cold.