Category Archives: Desserts

So, Uh… What Do You Do With Crab Apples?

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

My husband and my daughters left for a little while the other day and came back with a bucket of crab apples.

Me: “Uh… what do I do with em, honey?”
Him: “I dunno. I figured you’d have some cool idea.” ūüôā

Internets to my rescue! Time for my favorite thing… research!

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

These smell delicious. I knew I wanted a recipe that would evoke how I feel right now. I want Fall. I’m really tired of the heat. Summer, I’m done with you. It’s time for Fall. Apple butters always make me feel like the air is crisp, the leaves are crunching beneath my feet, and the most delicious smell of spiced everything fills my house. So, I decided that crab apple butter was going to be my first venture into canning! My first! I gotta say, it was a MAJOR success.

I am hooked.

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

After doing some foodie research, I started by following the advice on this video to take the extra time to put some love into my butter. I cut off the blossom ends, took off the stems, and cut them in half to better access the natural pectin in the seeds. I put them in a bit of citrus water to keep them from browning as I cut them. It didn’t take too long, especially the second time around when my hubby helped. I strained off the water, weighed them to assess how much sugar I would need, and added them to a big pot with 1/2 a cup of water per pound of crab apples. I cooked them until they were soft. I decided to use my hand blender to make everything like applesauce, help things along. Then I put it through my strainer, but if you had one of those applesauce grater-things, that would probably be good too.

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Before straining out the seeds

I added the sugar, 1 cup for every 3 pounds of crab apples, then the spices. In all the recipes I researched, they didn’t seem to have enough spices. So I doubled or even tripled what I had seen called for. It was a good choice too. In the recipe I’ll give you at the end, I’m going to give you the very least of the spices, but more is better, take it from me. Also, I didn’t have ground cloves so I put in whole cloves, which I later had to fish out (annoying!). But the second time around I left out the cloves entirely, and I liked it better without cloves. What you use is up to you.

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Adding sugar and spice after straining

This goes on the stove to simmer uncovered for two hours. I know, it seems like a long time. But it gives the crab apple butter a chance to thicken, lose some water, meld flavors, and whatever else it does. So we went outside to take pictures of the sunflowers, and the bumblebees who had decided that the sunflowers are delicious. Little beauties!

Sunflowers :: Pen Pals and Cookin' GalsAfter the two hours were up, things were looking pretty much like I thought apple butter should look like. I then canned the crab apple butter in half-pint jars. I found the recommendation for boiling apple butters according to safe home canning procedures. I don’t want to be responsible for killing anyone.

Little Helper :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Lucky me! I had this cute little helper who came in to help model rings as bracelets as I was working.

This is a beautiful, versatile, and delicious recipe that will help you herald Fall each year. I know it will become a yearly tradition for our family. My house smelled delicious. The whole family got involved. It was a wonderful way to start my canning journey.

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

I’m going to give you relatively small amounts of ingredients for this recipe because I always find it easier to multiply a recipe than to divide it. Here’s the recipe….

Spiced Crab Apple Butter (for canning)


3 pounds of crab apples, free from holes or bad bruises, stems and blossoms removed

1 1/2 cups water for boiling (more for canning later)

1 cup white sugar *

at least 1/2 tblsp ground cinnamon

at least 1/2 tsp ground allspice

at least 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

(optional) 1/2 tsp ground cloves

*I don’t know of a sugar substitute to use in place of white sugar when canning. I have found that you can use a light honey, just cut down the amount of water you use. For those who are diabetic and want a sugar substitute, I’m sorry! I haven’t seen anything that compares to what sugar does in jams, jellies, and fruit butters. Using Splenda is apparently not recommended if you want to store jams and jellies, since odd things can happen, separation and taste changes, etc. Everything I see says to just leave out the sugar. This recipe needs sugar since the crab apples are so very tart. If you know of an alternative, please let us know all about it in the comments!)¬†

Cooking Method:

1.) Cut off blossom end, cut in half, the pick off stems of ripe, reddish crab apples. Leave seeds and cores. Seeds are where much of the the natural pectin is. Weigh the crab apples, add water, then boil until soft stirring now and then.

2.) Strain out seeds. Add the crab applesauce back to the pot. Add the sugar and spices. Taste. Add more sugar/spices if desired. Your crab apple butter should taste sweetly tart like cranberry sauce. Cook on medium-low for two hours, stirring now and then.

3A.) Spoon crab apple butter into clean, sanitized jars leaving a bit of head space.  Seal with a new, clean lid. Add rings, lightly tightened. Leave these on the counter for 24 hours then store in the refrigerator to eat within the next couple of months.


3B.) Process jars according to safe home canning procedures. Here is the info for apple butters:

Table 1. Recommended process time for Apple Butter in a boiling-water canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 – 1,000 ft 1,001 – 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Half-pints or Pints 5 min 10 15
Quarts 10 15 20

This page has a wonderfully comprehensive rundown on canning apple butters if you think you need a little more information than I have given you.

Disclaimer:¬†If canned incorrectly,¬†Clostridium botulinum¬†is a real and dangerous risk. Pen Pals and Cookin’ Gals is not responsible for how this recipe is used, use of poor canning practices, or canning errors.




Baked Apple Butter Pie


Author: Cassie Stevens

Let me tell you this was amazing! Hand made sweet pie crust, with fresh homemade apple butter is the best way to end any meal.

Baked Apple Butter Recipe

about 10 peeled and cored Granny Smith apples

3 cups granulated white sugar

2 cups packed brown sugar

6 Tbsp Butter

2 tsp Cinnamon

2 tsp Cloves

2 tsp Nutmeg

4 Tbsp Cornstarch

1/4 cup lemon juice

Step One:

I start in the morning peeling and coring Granny Smith apples (about 10). Then I slice them and put them in my large crock-pot. Next, I added 3 cups of granulated white sugar, 2 cups packed light brown sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons real (not cassia) fresh ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 2 teaspoons cloves, and let it simmer on low for about 4 hours.¬† The apples start to break down a little, and become chunky. Yours may take shorter or longer time to get to that consistency depending on your crock-pots heat and size. So, once they start to fall apart I turn my crock-pot to high and¬† I added 4 tablespoons of cornstarch in a mixing bowl with a little water, and mixed it into the apples to thicken it up some.¬† Let it come to a boil for a few minutes and shut it off and add 1/4 cup lemon juice (trust me it tastes great).¬† Mix, Stir, Mix, and Stir…and they should look something like this. It is a chunky apple butter consistency.

It’s A Very Nice!!


Step Two:

So once the apple butter is ready, I started on my pie crust (recipe below).  I heard somewhere that a secret to really great pie crust is a little white vinegar, so I wanted to try it out. I must say I really like how it came out. It was a really amazing crust and baked up nice without any vinegar smell or taste at all. It was flaky and sweet, and just really great. I was very pleased with how it came out.


Pie Crust Recipe:

2 1/3 cups all–purpose flour

2/3 cup shortening

4 Tbsp butter (softened)

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp white vinegar

2-4 Tbsp ice-cold water

Place the flour sugar salt in a large mixing bowl, then cut in the shortening and the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Next I added 1 Tbsp cold white vinegar and mixed it in well, then place the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up a bit.  After it has firmed up I crumble it again with my pastry blender and add more ice-cold water (1 teaspoon at a time) until the dough has become workable and I can press it into a ball nicely (I think I used about 3 teaspoons).  Cut it in half place one half on a piece of saran wrap and the other back in the bowl and back in the freezer to harden again.  Roll out the dough on the saran wrap until it has reached the size of the bottom of your pie pan. Then I placed the dough on a cookie sheet and placed it in the freezer while I worked out the other half of the dough, doing the same thing to it. Pull out the first dough that has had a chance to firm up  flip it into the bottom of your pie plate.  Work into edges with fingers, and cut off the excess around the edges and top.  Place it back in the freezer to firm up again for a few minutes, then add a layer of apple butter in the bottom of your cold pie crust plate.  Flip the second round crust on top and cut out a center hole (I chose a star shape) then trim excess around the edges.  Ball up the trimmings and roll it out to a rectangle, and place in the freezer for a few minutes. Once firmed up cut out stars and place on a small cutting board.  Crimp your edges around your pie to seal the top and bottom crusts together and egg wash the top. I used one egg and two Tbsp melted butter.  Then I put my stars on top and egg washed them, and sprinkled the whole top of pie with granulated white sugar. Bake at 350 degrees F until golden brown. If edges seem to be browning faster than the rest wrap edges in aluminum foil and continue to bake.


Step Three:

Top it with some homemade whipped cream. BOOM!

Homemade Whipped Cream Topping:

2 cups Heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

1Tbspoon vanilla

Whip with an electric mixer on high speed until it forms stiff peaks.  Done!

* note if you over beat it you could make butter

SAM_1793Step Four:

EAT  & ENJOY!!!!!

Cinnamon Rolls

SAM_1745¬†Mmmmm…that’s right warm, ooey, gooey, sweet, right out of the oven, delicious, homemade cinnamon rolls. Dessert, breakfast or just anytime is right for Cinnamon Rolls, especially when they are homemade.¬† Made from real, fresh, ground cinnamon.¬† I heard somewhere, that 98% of ground cinnamon sold in grocery stores, is not cinnamon but in fact, Cassia (cinnamon’s cheaper Chinese cousin).

SAM_1746So here is how to make the magic:

Cinnamon Rolls Recipe:

4 – 4 1/2 cups Bread flour

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup milk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 Tablespoon fresh ground cinnamon

1/3 cup butter

Optional: 1/2 cup chopped nuts, 1/2 cup raisins

1 recipe for cream cheese icing or vanilla icing

Step one

In a a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups bread flour and the packet of yeast; set aside.  in a small saucepan heat and stir milk, granulated sugar, 1/3 cup butter, and the salt just until warm (120 Р130 degrees F) and butter almost melts; add to flour mixture along with two eggs. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl.  Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. using a wooden spoon, stir in another 1 Р1 1/2 cups four.

Step Two

Turn dough out on to a floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour the make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface of dough.  cover; let rise in a warm place until double in size (1 to 1 1/2 hours).

Step Three

Punch down dough. turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Lightly grease your baking pans; set aside. For filling: stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, flour; using a pastry blender, cut in 1/3 cup cold butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. If desired stir in raisins and chopped nuts.

Note: You could change your filling and make many different varieties of rolls like instant espresso for mocha rolls, or chocolate chips for chocolate rolls, and even toffee chips and caramel.

Step Four

Roll each dough half into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle. Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving 1 inch unfilled along one of the long sides. Roll up each rectangle, starting from the filled long side. Pinch dough to seal seams. Slice each roll into equal pieces.  Arrange in pans cover and let rise until doubled (about 30 minutes).

SAM_1744 SAM_1742

Step Five

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool about 5 minutes; remove from pan.  Spread with cream cheese icing or drizzle with vanilla icing. Serve warm.

Cream Cheese Icing

In a small mixing bowl beat one 3 ounce package softened cream cheese with 2 tablespoons softened butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Gradually beat in 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach spreading consistency.

Vanilla Icing

In a small mixing bowl stir together 2 cups powdered sugar 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in milk, or cream 1 teaspoon at a time until mixture reaches drizzling consistency.

Now go make these….you know you want some!!!

Shabby Chic Princess Party Treats

This Saturday we celebrated my oldest daughter’s 4th birthday. I had way too many ideas, thanks to Pinterest. I asked Monkey what she wanted as a theme for her party and, of course, my girly-girl said, “Princesses!” As I am not a fan of all the marketing concerning Disney princesses (I like them. I like the movies. I just don’t like all the STUFF.) I decided to make it a Shabby Chic Princess Party. Say that ten times fast. We had pink and white polka dot straws, a fabric tied banner with pink fabric with white dots, roses with a light blue background, pink tulle, and pink balloons. I found shabby chic napkins and cups, and pink plates online. The birthday girl wore a green Tinkerbell dress that her GiGi (what we call her Grandma) ¬†and Pop Pop found at the Disney Store. It was the perfect amount of Disney, and not overloaded.

I made most of the sweets myself, aside from the delicious cupcakes, star of the show. Those were made by the talented Lindsey from Cupcakes and Such. More about those later.

My favorite part of my dessert bar items were the chocolate dipped (and drizzled) pretzel rods… or Fairy Godmother Wands. ūüôā

This is how I made my chocolate to dip and drizzle over marshmallows, popcorn, and pretzels:

How to make chocolate-dipped Fairy Godmother Wands for Princes Party :: Shabby Chic Princess Party Treats ::  Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

I used almond bark as my base. And I used gel food coloring in pink and purple. Because almond bark, like other chocolates, seizes up when you add water-based colorants (gel is water based), I added about a teaspoon of coconut oil after adding my color to bring it back to a more workable consistency. This gave my chocolate a slight coconutty flavor that was very tasty! I kind of wanted it to harden up a little bit because the almond bark chocolate on it’s own (before adding color) was too thin for me to do what I wanted with it. Trial and error here…

You can also use Wilton’s Candy Melts, that come in all sorts of colors. But, you know me; I use what I have.

My process:

1. Melt almond bark in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between until it is all melted. Use a tall jar for dipping pretzel rods.

2. Add gel food coloring a little at a time. If it starts to seize up, add coconut oil as needed, 1 tsp at a time – it doesn’t take much, to return it to a smooth texture.

3. Use your colored chocolate to dip or drizzle. When I dipped things, I used my big bucket of organic popcorn kernels to prop them up while they dried. When I drizzled things, I did it on a piece of parchment paper for easy clean up.

Sprinkles add texture and fun to these treats, so go for it! Magical!

How to make chocolate-drizzled Fairy Godmother Wands for Princes Party :: Shabby Chic Princess Party Treats ::  Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Fairy Godmother Wands
How to make chocolate-dipped Princess Pillows for Princes Party :: Shabby Chic Princess Party Treats ::  Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Princess Pillows

Both kids and adults had a blast at Monkey’s party! The dessert bar was a big hit, and I had fun making it, with a little help from the birthday girl.

And those cupcakes? They were chocolate chip cup cake with pink butter-cream frosting, adorned with white and dark chocolate tiaras, sprinkled with edible silver glitter. Yeah, they were as awesome as they sound.

Princes Party :: Shabby Chic Princess Party Treats ::  Pen Pals and Cookin' GalsMy little princess is 4! I can’t believe it. It feels like yesterday that I was laboring through the night, knowing that she would be in my arms soon. See my post on my other blog to read more about why I am the woman I am, thanks to having this beautiful little girl in my life. I am so thankful for her.

So tell me, do you do big birthday parties or do you have a cozy family affair? Lots of homemade treats or order pizza. What’s your favorite way to party?


Oatmeal Cranberry Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

cookies2Author: Cassie Stevens

Oh wow! What a mouthful! I know it’s a lot for one cookie, but these power packed energy boosting cookies will win you over when you hear what goes into them and just how good they are for you!¬† These little cookies go great with coffee in the morning for a quick breakfast, or just an anytime snack with milk.

cookiesCranberries, Coconut, Honey, Oatmeal, and Chocolate chips.  All super foods for energy and health (in a cookie), with no added sugars. My one year old loves them. I think she really likes the chocolate chunks in them more than anything, but they are a big hit with my family. So, lets take a minute to review how healthy these great ingredients can be for you health and happiness.

Oatmeal can lower blood cholesterol, because of its soluble fiber content.¬† An oatmeal bath, made by adding a cup of finely ground oatmeal to one’s bathwater, is also commonly used to ease the discomfort associated with such things as chickenpox, poison ivy, eczema, sunburn and dry skin.

Cranberries are a source of polyphenol antioxidants, phytochemicals that are for benefits to the cardiovascular system and immune system, and as anti-cancer agents.  There are benefits from cranberry consumption against bacterial infections in the urinary system.


Coconut peel may contain novel anticancer compounds.  Inside a coconut is a cavity filled with coconut water, which is sterile until opened. It mixes easily with blood, and was used during World War II in emergency transfusions.  Also, young coconut juice has estrogen-like characteristics. There are countless other healing properties and wonderful uses from coconuts.

Honey has been used by humans to treat a variety of ailments, from gastric disturbances to ulcers, wounds and burns, through ingestion or topical application.  Honey has also been used for centuries as a treatment for sore throats and coughs.

cookies4Chocolate can help reduce the risk of certain cardiovascular problems and also reduce blood pressure in adults.  Chocolate boosts cognitive abilities.  Cocoa or dark chocolate positively affects the circulatory system.

Now, with all that said here is the recipe.

4 cups Oats

1 1/2 cups flour

3 eggs

1/4 cup cream or whole milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking soda

1 cup chocolate chunks

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 tsp salt

1/2  cup butter

1/2 cup honey

First mix all your dry ingredients then in a separate bowl mix all your wet ingredients then mix the two together. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Drop cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet pan 1 tablespoon at a time. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.


If you love Spring, raise your hand. I don’t think mine could go any higher! Living in Northern Montana means that we wait a long, long time for Spring. When it finally gets here, I want to shout for joy, “I love Spring!”

To celebrate Spring, warmer weather, greening, and blooming, we have been spending a lot of time outside, which means I don’t want to spend as much time indoors over the stove. That means that you guys are gonna have to bear with me! We’ve been grilling, camping, and eating quick meals as we rush in smelling of fresh air and dirt. I’ve been working lots on my garden. Hubs has been working the tiller, creating quite a commotion in our neighborhood. We live in what my friend calls, “The Little Fish Bowl on the¬†Prairie.” Very visible. And in a very small town, it’s hard for¬†people¬†not to stare. ¬†One day an older lady almost wrecked her car into the building across the street to look at my sexy hubs behind the tiller. I’m a lucky girl. ūüėČ

We’ve put in a couple of places in the yard for pumpkins and ¬†butternut squash. And we now have a fire pit for sitting around in the coming cool Spring/Summer nights. I’m so excited to gather friends around it and just… be.

Springing :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Our lilac bush is bursting with blossoms. Don’t you wish you could smell them? These are right next to my sliding glass door. I am really enjoying the smell of lilacs wafting through the house. Mmmmm…

Springing :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Today I got a little wild and made these brownies. ¬†Oh. My. Heck. You have to try these sometime. I’d invite you over, but, ahem… I’m keeping these for myself (if I can keep them away from Hubs and Kid!)

Springing :: Pen Pals and Cookin' GalsYou’re drooling.

Springing :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

That’s The Kid. She really enjoyed her brownie. Doesn’t it seem like kids grow faster in Spring/Summer?

Your turn…

What do you love about Spring/Summer?


Thrifty Thursday ~ Toasted Coconut Pudding Pie

tcppAuthor: Cassie Stevens

I always enjoy dessert, especially when it’s good and cheap. Those are two things you don’t get enough of these days.¬† I make this dessert when I’m pressed for time or just need a quick and easy dessert fix. One graham cracker pie crust, ( I found a sale buy one get one free for $1.79).¬† I also found a sale on Jello instant pudding at Food City buy ten get 5.00 off making the pudding .50 a box.¬† I used homemade whipped cream, a quart costs around three dollars, I used 2 cups.

There are 4 cups in a quart, making the whipped cream cost around $1.50.¬† So including the little bit of sugar I used to sweeten the whipped cream and the little bit of coconut I used to top it with.¬† I would say this dessert only cost around $3.50 for the whole pie. How’s that for cheap, easy, and so delicious.

tcpp2Looks good right? Oh yeah! It’s a little heaven in your mouth!

Mix it up, you could use an Oreo pie crust and Oreo pudding or chocolate pudding and chocolate whipped cream.  Also, you could add things into your pudding say you wanted chocolate chips inside your chocolate pudding or crushed up vanilla wafers, or sliced bananas in your vanilla pudding. You could be so creative with this quick and easy dessert.

What’s your go to dessert?