{37} Lately…

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Lately I’ve been…

reading  Prayers for the Advent wreath and my new Advent calendar which was gifted to me last year.

writing  I honestly wish I could say Christmas cards, but alas I am behind this year…it might be one of those “Happy New Year” card years…hopefully I can get my act together!

listening  To the podcast, “Happier” by Gretchen Rubin. I loved her book “The Happiness Project” and someone recently suggested I check out her podcast. I am HOOKED!

thinking About Christmas lists and gifts. And that it’s also about time I start shopping. Eeep! What are your favorite places to shop for the holidays?

smelling  Christmas cookie candles and the beautiful smell of pine from my Christmas tree. ‘Tis the season!

watching  Recently watched the movie Pans Labyrinth. Weird. Just weird.

wishing  You all a Happy Holiday season!!!

hoping  For clear roads, clear skies, and safe travels on our road trip tomorrow.

wearing  This stunning new dress from ASOS. Looking forward to wearing it for the first time at a wedding this weekend. May also be the perfect Christmas Eve dress. Since this one is out of stock, here is another beauty.

loving  That the Holly station is back on Sirius/XM Radio. It’s gonna be a jolly ol’ car ride tomorrow! (My Jewish husband hates me right now…)

wanting  More days in December! I have so many fun holiday traditions I want to partake in from parties to light shows, train shows, a visit to Santa, and more. It doesn’t seem like there is enough time to enjoy it all!

needing  To start packing yet again. I don’t mind the traveling and the driving so much as I mind all the packing!

feeling  Snuggly. Christmas jammies anyone?

craving  Cookies! Here are some healthier holiday cookie options for you this year.

clicking  On one of my favorite websites to shop for sweet gifts and deals.

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HAPPY THURSDAY!

What have you been up to lately?

XO,

Gina

Homemade Apple Butter

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After our recent trip to Fishkill Farms, I knew that this was going to be the perfect opportunity to finally make homemade apple butter this season. With fresh organic apples from the farm and a recipe from Skinnytaste, I decided to spend a Sunday afternoon making this delicious spread that reminds me of my childhood days. I was nervous with how it was going to turn out, but I have to say, it was pretty spot on!

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Ingredients:
 
  • 6 large apples, peeled, cored, finely chopped (honeycrisp, gala, ambrosia) – *I used a couple extra apples and the apple type was whatever we found at the farm
  • 1/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, not packed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg – *For all the spices, I had an Apple Pie spice that I used instead which had these ingredients

Directions:

Place the apples in a slow cooker. Top with sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and mix well. Cover and cook high 5 hours, or low 10 hours, stirring once halfway, until the apples are tender and dark brown.

Uncover and puree with an immersion blender. *(I do not own an immersion blender, so I actually had to spoon it out and blend it in my regular blender…not really recommended, as it’s hot and this is a difficult procedure! However, it got the job done.) Cook on high uncovered 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

Spoon into jars or containers, cover and refrigerate.

Makes 2 cups.

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Nico has been enjoying peanut butter and apple butter sandwiches for lunch as I did as a child, and he absolutely loves it! I have enjoyed some on toast as well. If you have other great ideas for how to enjoy apple butter, please share!

Hope you all had a fantastic Halloween last night. My boys dressed up as Curious George (Nico) and the Man in the Yellow Hat (hubby). Luca was a skeleton (with a pumpkin hat), and I was a panda (naturally). We enjoyed our neighborhood Halloween Parade, which was fabulous, and then took off for some Trick or Treating. Nico had his first candy this year, and had no idea what to do with a lollipop. It was a pretty funny experience to say the least. We let him have a few pieces…and then my husband and I had a few too many pieces…and now I need to GET IT ALL OUT OF MY HOUSE!

21 Day Fix Round 2 starts tomorrow as well as my Thankful for Fitness Challenge Group, and it’s healthy eating and living from here on out so that I am going into the holidays feeling happy, healthy, and strong.

Who’s with me?

Happy Sunday!

XO,

Gina

Garden Fresh Homemade Tomato Sauce

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It’s that time of the year!  The time when our tomatoes are coming up in the garden, and more importantly…time for fresh pasta sauce!  I typically make my own homemade sauce (carrying on the family tradition) all year long using cans of tomatoes, but there is something about those fresh tomatoes that really make the world go ’round.  I have tried both all fresh and all canned versions of this recipe, but my preference is actually a 50/50 method of half fresh, half canned.  For some reason, that packs the best punch of flavor in my book, and it’s just the perfect combo for an amazing sauce.

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The recipe is quite simple.  Most of it is all about taste and preference.  I hardly measure anything, and I kind of pinch and throw in as I go.

What you need:

4-6 cloves of garlic chopped (or whole, but I chop mine)

chopped yellow onion (or white or spanish) – I use about 1/4 of a medium size onion

extra virgin olive oil

fresh tomatoes from the garden (I used about 12)

canned tomatoes (my favorite brand is the Sclafani crushed, I used 1 can for this batch, because that was about how many fresh tomatoes I had, and I wanted it to be a 50/50 mix)

fresh basil from the garden to taste (I used about 10 leaves)

salt

pepper

dried italian herbs (if you have more fresh, the better!)

sugar (my secret ingredient)

How to Make it Happen:

First prep the fresh tomatoes by dicing them up to remove all the seeds (the more seeds you have the more bitter the sauce is, so I remove them all from the fresh tomatoes).  Then, you can either put them in a food processor to blend or keep them as is (again your preference of texture!) and put them aside.

Saute the garlic and onions in the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat for a couple minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the fresh tomatoes and the can of tomatoes to the pot and stir, stir, stir.  Lower heat so it’s not popping bubbles of sauce all over the kitchen.

Next, stir in the basil, salt, pepper, extra Italian herbs, and sugar to taste.

Let it sit, stirring frequently, and tasting frequently.  You may find you want to add a few herbs, a little more sugar, etc. as it cooks.  You can really cook it as long as you want.  The flavors will change a bit as time wears on, and you may want to add more to it.  I am all about the quickness, so unless I have a very large pot of sauce, I don’t really cook mine for more than 20-30 minutes.  I am usually just cooking for two, so it can cook pretty quickly.

Boil up your favorite type of pasta while you are waiting for the sauce.  Once the pasta is ready, drain it, and coat it with a few large scoops of sauce so that it doesn’t dry out and stick together.  Serve it up in bowls, and add as much extra sauce as you like!  I top mine with grated Locatelli Romano cheese as well, and voila!  Dinner is served.

Buon Apetito!

XO,

Gina

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