Homemade Apple Pie with Rich, Crumb Topping

There’s nothing like a day at spent apple picking at the apple orchard…

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And there’s nothing like homemade apple pie with rich, crumb topping either!

This is my hands-down favorite homemade apple pie recipe and I hope it will become yours, too! I got the recipe way back in the day when I was newly married, living in an apartment, with something called time on my hands. So I took cooking classes (I had thoughts that maybe I’d like to be a real live chef – I worked part-time for a caterer and everything). But I decided a hot, sweaty kitchen is not where I’d like to spend my days (and nights and weekends), so cooking became my hobby, not my career. And while I’m not a award-winning chef or anything, I can make a mean apple pie!

This homemade apple pie with rich, crumb topping is best with a homemade crust, but is completely delicious with store bought. Back in the day I would have shunned store bought crust. These days, as a busy, working, home schooling mama of three boys – store bought is about the only way my kiddos get a fresh pie!

I also used a variety of apples.

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Any apples will do, but the more tart varieties make a tastier pie. Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gala or MacIntosh are all good options.

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So without further adieu, here is my favorite recipe for Homemade Apple with Rich, Crumb Topping!

Homemade Apple Pie with Rich, Crumb Topping

1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)
4-5 tart apples peeled and sliced or chopped (however you prefer)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp corn starch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs orange zest
1/3 cup orange juice

Crumb Topping
1 cup cold butter cut into cubes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar

Aluminum Foil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the chopped apples in a sauce pan with cinnamon, sugar, salt, and orange zest. Dissolve corn starch in orange juice and add to apples. Cover and simmer approx. 10 minutes until apples start to soften*. Meanwhile, combine butter, brown sugar and flour. Using a pastry cutter, food processor or two knives, roughly chop butter into small pieces until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. It does not need to be perfect because this will all melt together into the crumb topping.

Add the softened apples to the pie crust and then sprinkle the crumb topping on top. Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes, until topping is golden brown and pie is bubbling. If the edges of your crust are starting to get too dark, wrap aluminum foil around the edges to slow the cooking.

Serve warm with a big ol’ scoop of vanilla ice cream!

*Note: You can skip cooking the apples. Your apples will be a little firmer, but otherwise it will taste just fine. Just combine the apples with cinnamon, sugar, salt, corn starch and orange zest, and omit the orange juice. Put the apple mixture straight into the pie crust and proceed with making the topping.

Also, at Christmas time, I add a cup of fresh cranberries (you cook them along with the apples in the orange juice just until they start to burst). It makes a beautiful presentation with the pops of red color, and the tartness of the cranberries cuts a lot of the sweetness from the crumb topping.

Homemade Apple Pie with Rich, Crumb Topping

I hope you enjoy this recipe and make a fresh apple pie for you and yours. Here are a few of the kitchen tools I used to create this pie.

Citrus Zester

Pastry Cutter

Pie Plate

Pie Server

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Blessings!

Susan

Best Ways to Save Money on a Road Trip

 

Looking for the best ways to save money on a road trip? You’ve come to the right place. We’re sharing the ways we’ve saved money while traversing the country. From the Saguaro Desert to Glacier National Park, we’ve packed in a lot of sites and haven’t broken the bank.

So here are some of our road trip tips to not only make road tripping affordable, but fun, too!

*This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Road Trip

Plan ahead

But aren’t road trips supposed to be spontaneous? Yes… but you don’t want to be disappointed when you get to, say, the Grand Canyon and it’s closed for renovation. Ha ha. Of course they don’t close the Grand Canyon, but during the peak season you might not get a camping spot if that’s your plan and you’ll having a hard time finding a hotel room. And then you’ll be paying out the wazoo because your choices will be limited. Planning ahead lets you find discounts and deals, as well as get a realistic idea of how much everything is going to cost.

Plan your route

I KNOW, this is all boring adulting sounding stuff, but it’s essential. This will help you calculate your budget for gas and food, and allow you search out nice picnic spots and inexpensive restaurants in advance. A note on gas prices – I would err on the high side since they fluctuate. I would also pad your food budget with a little extra money for the occasional spontaneous stop for ice cream

Will you stay in hotels or camp or both?

My family likes to mix it up when we road trip. We stay on hotels along the highway, but when visiting National Parks we camp because it’s cheap (around $30 a night) and saves time since you’re already in the park. Camping also allows for unique views and experiences:  watching shooting stars from our campsite at Mesa Verde National Park, walking by gentle mule deer on our way to the shower at the Grand Canyon, and waking up to coyote puppies howling from a cliff at Palo Duro Canyon.  Again, plan early to be able to pick and choose where you want to say (campsites close to the bathrooms are essential for us with three young kiddos).

Use hotel points

My husband travels some for his job and tries to stay in hotels that have rewards programs (Marriott has one of the best programs right now). We use the points to cut down on hotel costs and sometimes save money on food if the hotel includes breakfast.

Invest in a good tent

We get asked if we take an RV or use a tent. Well, an RV is something we might invest in one day, but for our road trips tent camping is the most cost-efficient for now.  To make it as easy and enjoyable as possible, we have invested in an “easy up” tent from Coleman like this one that literally pops up in two minutes, saving us time and hassle when we are camping in several different spots. The only downside is that it’s bulky. We have to strap it to the roof of our minivan, so if you have a small car that might be an issue. Then again, if you have a small car, you probably have a small family and don’t need a huge tent! 😉

S'more

Plan your food

We keep a small cooler filled with lunch items and snacks and a large one (this one like ours has wheels making it easy to drag to your camp site) with dinner items that I have mostly pre-cooked, packed in freezer bags and frozen. Good stuff like fajitas, bbq, spaghetti and chili. Then we use our Coleman stove to heat it up when we arrive at our destination (sometimes we’re pulling in there late, so it’s nice to just be able to heat and serve with out having to gather firewood, light a fire or mix up a bunch of ingredients. Plus, it’s healthier and cheaper than fast food.

Have kids use their allowance for souvenirs

It’s hard for them at times to be disciplined leading up to the trip, but so worth it when they have money of their own they’ve saved for souvenirs. And then you don’t constantly have to say no to every little trinket or stuffed animal they want to buy.

Use washable cups and plates, especially on long road trips

Also, we have a small drink cooler and fill it with water or powdered lemonade mix. Saves on space (no individual cans or bottles) and cost.

Buy a National Park Pass if you plan to see several parks

The park pass pays for itself if you’re seeing several parks, plus in our area there are several places the pass will get you in for free (National Battlefields and Memorials, for example). The National Parks also have many fun free things to do like ranger-led hikes and talks and especially for kids, the Junior Ranger program. Kids fill out a little educational workbook while you tour the park and when they’re done they are “sworn in” as Junior Rangers and get a free park pin – it’s a souvenir and fun all wrapped into one!

So those are some of the best ways to save money on a road trip. You can make wonderful memories and see amazing sites on a budget. How does Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone and Glacier National Park sound? Like the stuff of dreams? If you plan ahead and are wiling to give up a little luxury you can do it too!

Wishing you blessings and happy trails!

Susan

From Scratch Light Sour Cream Enchiladas

Love sour cream? Chicken? Cheese? How does creamy, delicious, all from scratch enchiladas that won’t break your fat and calorie budget sound?

I’ve been a Weight Watchers Lifetime member for many, many years now, but while I can eat kale salads, chicken breast and sweet potatoes all day, my three boys and husband cannot. So I’m on a mission to collect some tasty, lower calorie staple recipes that will satisfy my needs with their ravenous, fat-loving appetites.

And I went looking for a creamy “white” enchilada recipe, but only found recipes with canned cream of chicken soup. And I just have a hard time feeding that stuff to my kids.

So I made my own sauce which isn’t nearly as much trouble as you’d think. Here is what you do:

Combine in a saucepan:
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup skim milk (or non-dairy milk)

Bring to a low boil. In the meantime, whisk together 3/4 cup flour with 1 cup of milk and seasonings of choice (salt, pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp. onion powder etc.). Turn the heat down to medium-low and slowly whisk in flour mixture. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until thickened. Set aside.

So that’s the cream of chicken soup. Easy peasy? Yep.

Here’s the enchilada part:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:

8 oz light cream cheese
5 cups shredded chicken breast (I used rotisserie chicken)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
16 oz light sour cream
8 oz light cheddar cheese
10 whole wheat tortillas

Use a mixer to combine cream cheese and seasonings. Fold in chicken. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Divide chicken mixture evenly between the 10 tortillas, roll up and place in dish. Whisk the light sour cream into the cream of chicken soup. Pour over the wrapped tortillas. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling. I served with broccoli, but you could do any veggie or a tex-mex salad with lettuce, black beans, tomato and avocado and my favorite light dressing, Bolthouse Avocado Dressing.

 

Fixer Upper Style Home Remodeling Plan

My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan
Come along with me on my dream Fixer Upper style remodeling plan for a beautiful house in desperate need of a refresh!

When working as a realtor I spent a lot of time in other people’s houses and my mind did a lot of mental redecorating and remodeling. One house in particular had been sitting on the market a while which is bad news for houses. The ones that sit are like the wallflowers at the dance, skimmed over and easily forgotten.

This house was like that. It was like your plain Jane friend that you swear would be a total knockout with a little hair and makeup.

Well, houses take a little more work and money than that, but I would love to do real “Fixer Upper” on this one. I can’t (it finally sold), but I did have a little fun finding ideas “a la Joanna Gaines” that I think would look great and I’m sharing them in this post! Ready to have a little fun?

Front Door – Before

The current front door had beautiful windows all around it, but the door itself was covered by an etched glass storm door. The actual door was just a basic black. My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan_Front Door

After

In my dream fixer upper style remodeling plan I would remove the storm door and bring in a beautiful wood door like the one below. New black hardware would complete the clean classic look. (Welcome decal is by Custom Vinyl By Design on Etsy). Add two urns with flowers for a welcoming pop of color.

My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan_Front Door After

Dining Room – Before 

The dining room had “beautiful bones” as they say. The light fixture was really formal, though, as was the wallpaper.

My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan_Dining Room Before

After

It would just take a simple soft rug, a gorgeous French country dining table and a simplified, yet elegant light fixture from the playbook of our home girl Joanna Gaines to get this dining room up-to-date.

My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan_Dining After

The Kitchen – Before

This kitchen was big with tons of cabinets, a huge island and a window over the sink. But the stain on the cabinets was outdated as was the florescent light. Also, the island was an awkward, sort of octagonal shape. My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan_Kitchen Before

After

Pulling more inspiration from Joanna Gaines, you could enlarge the island either using butcher block or change all the granite to a pretty gray marble if you had the budget. It would be easy to replace the florescent light with glass pendant lights, as well as add subway tile and paint the cabinets a creamy white.

My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan_Kitchen After

 Before – Sunroom

The sunroom is a bonus space the owners added on. It’s bright and light and only needs a little refreshing.
My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan_Sunroom Before

After

I would remove the shelving around the top of the windows as well as the window treatments and paint a neutral taupe or gray. I think you could even reuse the furnishings, but just update the seat seat cushions. Taking down the arbor over the patio would also allow in more light.

My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan_Sunroom After

And if I had a pie in the sky budget I would replace the tile with beautiful brick in a herringbone pattern just like this.

My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan_Sunroom Floor

Before – Master Bedroom

The last thing I would tackle would be the master bedroom. It’s a clean slate, so you could really do anything with this space. The dark hardwood flooring makes a beautiful backdrop.

My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan_Master Before

After

The picture above doesn’t show it but there are two windows on the far left wall, so the bed could fit in between like the one below. I love the soft, luxe look of the headboardbedding and chairs. A cozy rug, an elegant chandelier and soft drapery would complete the look.

My Fixer Upper-Style Remodeling Plan_Master After

I hope you enjoyed this little mental makeover! It’s fun to play Joanna Gaines and dream a little. 🙂 If you like these looks, be sure to check out my Pinterest board, A La Fixer Upper, for more Gaines-esque ideas and inspiration.

Blessings!

Susan

Cut-Your-Own Christmas Tree Farm Review

Christmas Tree Farms
A fun tradition of ours is hunting down the perfect Christmas tree at a North Carolina tree farm. Since our budget is tighter than usual this year, we decided to forgo the trip and shop at Lowes. But there is nothing quite like being out in the crisp mountain air amid the rows and rows of Christmas trees and coming upon the perfect one (like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation).

Most farms we’ve visited offer basically the same services – you hunt down your tree on your own and either cut it down yourself or wait for a helper to come cut it for you. They then haul it away, wrap it and tie it to your car. There are many within a few hours’ drive of Atlanta (our home base). Some are bare bones where you just find your tree and go, but others offer food, visits with Santa and more. Here are a few of the farms that my family has tried and enjoyed.

Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm
www.boydmountainchristmastreefarm.com
Boyd Mountain Tree Farm offers a nice selection of trees and a fairly straight-forward operation. Though it was a long wait from cutting down our tree to being able to pick it up, our kiddos enjoyed the hot chocolate and visiting with Santa. Since it’s close to Waynesville, you can make a day of it by enjoying lunch in town before heading home.

Sandy Hollar Tree Farm
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Sandy Hollar is a laid back operation and a little more rustic. You take a wagon ride through the farm up to the orchard and while they have some helpers to assist you in cutting your tree, most people use one of the provided hacksaws to avoid having to wait. They offer hot chocolate and snacks along with a small gift shop.

Tom Sawyer Tree Farm
http://www.tomsawyerchristmastreefarm.com/
Tom Sawyer has been our go-to for several years because it offers one of the most picturesque settings, as well as many activities. While the prices have increased in recent years, the kids have enjoyed the “Elf Village” where they can dress up as elves and enjoy face painting, crafts, stories, roasting marshmallows and a scavenger hunt ending with a personal visit with Santa. There is also a gift shop, snacks, horse-drawn carriage rides and more.

There are, of course, many more tree farms out there to try – visit http://www.ncchristmastrees.com/ for a comprehensive list. Some friends we know like to stick with the same one year after year while others bounce from place to place. It’s an adventure no matter where you go, and where there are adventures, there are always memories to be made. Happy Christmas tree hunting!

Blessings!

Susan