Category Archives: Sauces

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.




Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' GalsI’ve become addicted to making things homemade now. It’s truly an addiction. As I’m planning dinner I see an ingredient and think, hmm… I wonder if I can¬†make¬†that? And here’s the thing, I usually can. How have we come to an age where we think there’s no way we can make our own dressings, sauces, and marinades?¬†

Occupy Easy Food! Lol, just kidding. Kinda. I want real food. I’m crying for real food. Give me things that I can pronounce. Give me comfort food that I can feed my children, without worrying that they will end up with terrible side effects of the very food that has attempted to nourish them all their lives. Let me nourish my family!

So tonight I decided to copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce. Yeah!

But before we get to that, let me tell you something…

Anniversary Flowers :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

It’s my anniversary. ūüôā Hubs and I have been married for 5 years now. Those are my flowers! Swoon… We had big plans to stay in the theme hotel that we spent our wedding night in. But that is all the way in Idaho, and although my mom lives there and could watch the kids, we’d have to get there… 8 hours’ drive. With two small kids and the traveling we did last week, we nixed that idea. ¬†And because we don’t have a fancy restaurant very nearby (and because littlest girl has bad separation anxiety – no sitter), I made us a fancy dinner. We always joke when we go out for dinner that I could have made it better at home.

This is one of those cases.

When we were in Billings, we went to Texas Roadhouse. I ordered a rack of ribs, my favorite! ¬†They were burnt; and I like a little char on my meat. No, they were near inedible. We said this to the waitress, and she did try to fix it by bringing me a new rack (a little better). Then the manager graciously comped us a half rack. I gotta say though, my ribs are way better. And now… they are AMAZING with homemade BBQ sauce. No HFCS. No preservatives. Take that KC Masterpiece and Roadhouse! ūüėõ

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Start by sauteing onions and garlic.

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Add the rest of the ingredients, taste, then give it a good zhjuzz (how the heck do I spell that?) with your hand blender. If you don’t have a hand blender, please, invest in one. I use mine on a daily basis. This is my favorite. I’m waiting for my cheap Walmart one to die so I can justify getting myself an awesome new one. Stainless steel suckah! I’ll take the green one, thanks.

Simmer for a little while so the flavors can marry. Ah, marry. You see what I did there?

Add it to all your favorite BBQ applications. For us, it was a delicious rack of ribs, cooked with my uncle’s finger-lickin’ recipe.

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Littlest girl enjoyed her anniversary dinner. Thanks for getting married mom and dad! She got to chew all the bits of meat off our bones. She happily scraped each one clean. Not hard since the meat falls right off the bone. We handed her a few half-eaten ones to make sure she got to have some of the good stuff too.

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

I paired these with a side of garlic green beans (simmered for a few hours on the stove with a few cloves of smashed garlic), and basil roasted red-skin potatoes. Mmm! Want the recipe?

Masterpiece BBQ Sauce (from scratch)

1 Tbl oil (olive)

2 cloves garlic diced

¬Ĺ onion diced

3 Tbl white or apple cider vinegar

1 Tbl worcestershire

1 Cup ketchup

1/3 Cup salsa (one recipe I saw called for¬†4 Tbl minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I think that this would make a more spicy, warmer sauce. As I didn’t have this on hand, I used salsa, but I don’t think it added much to the recipe as it was mild. Next time I will plan ahead and try the chipotle!)

1/3 Cup brown sugar

1/3 Cup molasses

1/3 Cup honey*

1/8 tsp paprika

Heat the oil, then saute the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Blend to a smooth consistency (be careful with hot liquids in the blender!).

*This is a sweet BBQ sauce (like KC Masterpiece). You can make it less sweet by leaving out the honey, increasing the amount of vinegar (1 T at a time), add heat by adding chili peppers or red pepper flakes. Make it your own. It’s a pretty forgiving sauce, so play with it!

For the ribs: Cut a rack into even pieces, about 2 bones per piece. Boil in water until the meat is almost falling off the bone (about 3-4 hours on the stove top). I cook mine in my crock pot on high, my 6 hour setting. Remove the pieces, being careful not to let them fall apart, to a sheet pan. Here they will dry out a bit (about 5 minutes) so that the sauce will stick. Brush the sauce on all over. Heat the grill. Add the ribs and cook on both sides just to add some grill marks and grill flavor, about 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on your grill temp. Remove, and add more sauce if you like. Enjoy!

I didn’t figure up the cost of the sauce, but I can bet it’s cheaper than store-bought. It makes a ton. I’m freezing the rest of mine. I’ll tell you how it comes out. But the ribs? Those cost $0.50 per rib. That’s $2.00 per serving, as we like to have about 4 ribs per person. Try to get that at a¬†restaurant! Mama win!

Please let me know what you think. This is a well-loved dinner here. I’m sure your family will love it too!

~Veronica Hilliard

Homemade Chocolate Syrup


Author: Cassie Stevens

Rich and creamy chocolate syrup! If you are like me, you used to buy a lot of chocolate syrup, and that can get expensive. This recipe for chocolate syrup is great for chocolate milk, topping on ice cream, or just about anything else. My daughter love chocolate milk in the morning (I do too). ¬† I think the homemade version tastes so much better than the store bought. I used to buy it for around 3 bucks a bottle, now I would rather buy a container of cocoa powder it makes so much more for the same price. One cup of cocoa powder make about 4 cups chocolate syrup. There is about two and a half cups in a container of cocoa powder, so you get about 10 cups of chocolate syrup for the same price as if you bought a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. I like that math! Plus, you know what’s in it cause you made it, and it tastes so much better. So I hope you give it a try!¬† Here is what I did:

1 cup cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups water

1 tsp vanilla extract  or one bean pod split

That’s it! That’s all the ingredients in it! Simple! I put the cocoa powder and the sugar and the salt in a pan, then mixed it with a whisk. I then added two cups water and set my stove to med heat. You don’t want it to boil cause you will burn the chocolate and have to start all over again. If it comes to a boil quickly remove from heat and turn it down a little, you want it to simmer and slowly release steam.¬† Cook the water out of it until it thickens up to a syrup consistency. This may take a little while, patients is key. Keep an eye on it and keep stirring it every so often to release the steam. Once it thickens, I added a vanilla bean and let it cool. You can use extract if that’s what you have. I just came across some really cheap beans at a local health food store. once cool place in your container and Viola! Homemade chocolate syrup! You will love it!


Lemon Pepper Sage Talapia with a Lemon Butter Cream Sauce


Author: Cassie Stevens

What a delicious way to eat fish.  Creamy, lemony, light and healthy. This was an awesome dish and I recommend you try this the next time you have fish. I would imagine you could substitute just about any fish you like. We happened to have talapia today. Lemon and fish just work so well together. I love it! Love, love, love it! I wanted something a bit creamy tonight with it so I came up with this lemon butter cream sauce. It was so delicious and easy! I paired it all up with a mix of butter beans, green beans and spinach. OMG YUM!

I used frozen talapia placed out on a sheet pan. I seasoned them with olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and one whole leaf each of sage fresh from my garden. I am a gardener as well. I have to have my fresh herbs. They save me so much money.  Plus, my daughter picks and eats straight off the plants. She loves basil! I have to keep her away from them sometimes or she will strip my plants. Anyways, place the seasoned fish into the oven at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or so. While I was waiting on the fish to cook, I mixed 1 stick of butter with a little bit of salt and pepper to taste, about two tablespoons of dried parsley.  Then added about 1/8 cup of lemon juice and mixed until blended well.  Add in one tablespoon of flour mixed in before it got to hot, then added one cup of cream. I let the cream sauce heat up to a simmer for a few minutes.  While keeping an eye on the cream sauce, I drained the spinach, butter beans, green beans, and put it all in a pot. I added two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of ham soup base (its ham bouillon). Bring the beans to a boil. By that time, your fish should be done. Serve it all up and enjoy the awesomeness of the sauceyness. Ha ha! so good. Give it a try and tell me what you think.

Friday’s Flavor: Teriyaki Chicken


Author: Cassie Stevens

So good!

I always use chop sticks when I eat Asian food. Not a lot of people I know can use them well. I remember when I didn’t¬† know how to hold them properly. Now, I’m a chop stick master, and it is because I made a rule for myself, if I was going to eat Asian food I had to use chop sticks. So, after a little while I got the hang of it, and have just been getting better ever since.¬† Rice was the trickiest to pickup and I have often seen Asians shovel it in their mouths from the side of the bowl.¬† Now, I can pick up a single grain of rice.

When I met my husband he couldn’t hold a chop stick for nothing. So, I told him to follow the rule I have with myself and, he would eventually get it.¬† He tries, bless his heart.¬† It’s so funny to watch someone who doesn’t know how to use chop sticks. I just love it!¬† We have been together for five years (married four), and he still would rather use a fork, but he is a lot better at it now.¬† I’m glad he tries. He is a good role model for our children.¬† I can’t wait to teach my them now! Oh what fun!

So anyways, back to the teriyaki. I like to try to make what I can from scratch, mostly because I can’t hide the Jew inside.¬† Made from scratch is cheaper and makes a lot more for the money, but also because, you know what you are consuming! So in ode to that I give you this recipe:

Hope you Enjoy!

Homemade teriyaki sauce and marinade:

2/3 cup Rice Wine

1 cup Soy Sauce

4 1/2 tsp Rice Vinegar

1 tsp Sesame Oil

1/3 cup White Sugar

7 Cloves Garlic (minced)

1 dash red pepper flakes

Black pepper to taste

Friday’s Flavor: Chicken & broccoli with homemade garlic alfredo sauce


Author: Cassie Stevens

I’m a big fan of a great creamy Alfredo sauce, or just about anything with pasta. I had never made my own Alfredo sauce before now. I will tell you I will never buy another store bought jar again.¬† I loved it, and so did my husband.¬† My husband is a “picky” eater and he is lactose intolerant. He is not a big fan of Alfredo sauce but he still eats it.¬† This recipe for homemade Alfredo sauce is super easy and simple.

1/4 cup butter

1 cup heavy cream

4-5 cloves garlic, crushed

1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Melt the butter in a sauce pan, add the garlic, once the garlic is fragrant add the cream and the cheese parsley and I also added black pepper. Mix with a whisk to incorporate the cheese. Once the cheese is melted add the chicken then the broccoli and serve over Bowtie pasta with Garlic toast. Viola! Homemade Alfredo sauce.