Crockpot (or not) Pumpkin Bread

Saturday morning we woke up to snow falling. I love snow, and so do my kids, but snow seems to make them a little bit frantic, and crazy. Sadly, even after four kids, I am still not a morning person, but there’s something about snow falling while sipping my piping hot cup of coffee that can make even the most chaotic morning  just a little bit magical. Still, there was something missing, and my coffee seemed…lonely. So I decided to use my last can of pumpkin and make some pumpkin bread, the perfect accompaniment to any snowy morning, and another pot of coffee. The kids went out to play in the snow, which wasn’t even sticking, and I waited for our bread to finish baking, soaking up every stolen minute of peace and quiet. Right about the time the troops clomped in feeling frozen the bread was ready to eat. This pumpkin bread is easy and delicious, and sure to get all the kids around the table ooh-ing and aah-ing. It’s so good, that they won’t even want to talk between bites of deliciousness and sips of milk. For a treat I threw in some chocolate chips, around 1/4 cup, and even threw a few on top for a ‘garnish’ because I find chocolate so aesthetically pleasing. I was going for magical in the midst of chaos, remember? Morning, noon, night, what day couldn’t use a little magic in it! Make some ‘magic’ of your own today.

Crockpot (or not) Pumpkin Bread

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot (or not) Pumpkin Bread

  •  1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar*
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 15 oz can of pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • chocolate chips (optional)

*To make your own easy brown sugar, add 1 tbsp molasses to 1 cup of sugar and mix together thoroughly. Just like store-bought brown sugar, extras can be stored in a ziplock bag and put in the pantry, cabinet, etc. for future recipes.

Directions

  1. In a stand mixer, blend oil and sugars together.
  2. Stir in the beaten eggs and canned pumpkin.
  3. Gradually add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing until evenly incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan.

Crockpot Cooking

  1. Add 2 cups of water to your crockpot, and then sit the loaf pan inside the crockpot.
  2. Cover the top of the crockpot with 8-10 paper towels. This is important as it traps the moisture and condensation so the bread doesn’t become ‘mushy’.
  3. Place the lid on the crockpot, keeping the paper towels securely in place.
  4. Bake on high 2 1/2-3 hours.

Oven-Baked

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bake pumpkin bread 50-60 minutes in the oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

There are some things that just can’t be eaten without marinara. They just aren’t satisfying without the addition of its slightly sweet, robust flavor. Mozzarella sticks, toasted ravioli  and pizza quesadillas immediately come to mind. Toss it with some cooked pasta and you have an easy entree. However, not all marinara is made the same and those that are truly delicious and flavorful are often rather pricey, even on sale or in bulk. At one point, to save some extra money in my grocery budget, I tried not buying it, but tomato sauce and pasta sauce were poor substitutions. So I set about finding a recipe that I could make at home for minimal cost. Now, let me introduce you to my homemade marinara that will tantalize your taste buds while leaving your wallet pleasantly plump! The entire recipe, which made 3 batches for our family of 6, cost about $3-4 to make and used things I always keep stocked in my pantry. Oh, and last but not least: it cooks in your crock pot while you sleep. You just set it and forget it. Easy, right?

Homemade Marinara Sauce

  • 2 cans of crushed tomatoes, 28 oz ea
  • 1 can tomato paste, 6 0z
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar*
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper, to taste

*I make my own brown sugar. To make your own brown sugar simply combine 1 cup  granulated sugar with 1 1/2 tbsp molasses and stir until evenly mixed. I give mine a quick spin in my food processor.

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to your crockpot and stir well.
  2. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or overnight. If your crockpot is not airtight or notoriously dries things out, you may want to add more water as a precaution.
  3. Remove the lid, stir well. Remove the bay leaves, and enjoy! Also, do not be alarmed when your sauce is done if it’s bright red color has become darker and browner. You want this. It lets your know that it’s cooked and that the sugars in the sauce have caramelized.

Making your own marinara sauce is that easy! You can enjoy immediately over your favorite pasta, as a dipping sauce, or store for later use. I canned two jars, and froze the rest. To unfreeze, put it in the refrigerator the night before you intend to use it. Then, when it’s defrosted, just heat and eat.