Ginger Bourbon Cider

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I’ve never been a big drinker, especially post-baby, but I do enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine every so often. This cocktail has been my jam this season! I made it for the first time when we had some friends over for an impromptu game night and it was a hit. It combines some of my favorite autumnal flavors–apple and ginger–in an easy-drinking libation.

The ingredients are pretty familiar, for the most part. The only semi-exotic thing being the Calvados–which is simply French apple brandy. It’s warm and caramel-y with lots of apple flavor without being a neon-green-sour-apple situation. It’s one of my favorite fall liquors to cook with (use it to deglaze a pan of pork chops!), but also makes a great addition to this fall-time cocktail. Besides the Calvados, we have warming bourbon, fresh apple cider, fizzy-spicy ginger beer, a little bitters, and a pinch of cinnamon. The combination makes for a cocktail that’s reminiscent of hot apple cider, but packs a refreshingly fizzy, tipsy punch.

[recipe]

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Ginger Bourbon Cider

Makes 1 stiff drink.

Calvados can be found at any well-stocked liquor store. It’s a bit of an investment for your bar, but makes a great addition for fall cocktailing–it’d be great in a hot toddy! and like I mentioned, it’s awesome for deglazing for an excellent pan sauce. There are a few different brands, so choose the one that best fits your bar-budget. That said, this cocktail doesn’t suffer much without it, just add more bourbon!

1 ounce bourbon

1 ounce Calvados

2-3 ounces apple cider

a few shakes of orange, or classic, bitters

ginger beer

pinch of ground cinnamon

Fill a cocktail glass with ice (I like crushed, but cubes work just fine). Combine the bourbon, Calvados, apple cider, and bitters. Top the drink with ginger beer–more or less depending on how strong of a drink you’d like–stir and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon.

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Honeycrisp, Sage, & Bacon Shells and Cheese

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Northern Hemispherians! It’s fall, or more properly, autumn!

I always look forward to the change of seasons, but Autumn is my favorite. It’s the cool change in the air that demands I bring back my cardigans from the depths of my closet, warm beverages, nights that require a fire, oven-baked everything, pumpkins and crazy looking gourds at the market, and apples.

I’ve been preparing for the change of the season by buying Casper tiny-plaid shirts that make him look like a lumberjack-in-training, hats that make him look like a baby-bear, and lots of honeycrisp apples for me to eat. I LOVE honeycrisps. I really fell in love with them when we were living in Michigan–they were abundant there and I am pretty sure that I ate at least my weight in them late last fall after I found out I was pregnant. So, basically, Casper is at least 1/3 honeycrisp apple–the other 2/3 being a mix of strawberries and pizza.Anyway, let’s talk about the perfect fall-flavored mac and cheese. This dish combines my favorite sweet-tart-crisp apple with my favorite fall herb–sage–plus bacon, cheddar, goat cheese, and parm for good measure. Triple-cheese-threat!

And it’s so good, guys! It has all the cheesy goodness you’d expect from classic macaroni and cheese, complete with a crisp topping, plus tart apples, sweet onions, salty bacon, and earthy sage. UGH. It’s so good. Sean was a little skeptical, I think, but I assured him that cheese and apples are friends so it totes makes sense. It’s one of those dishes that made me want to high-five myself when it was done, because it’s good…like, really.

[recipe]

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Honeycrisp, Sage, & Bacon Shells and Cheese

You can use any firm, tart-sweet apple you like for this recipe.

Serves 6-8

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 tablespoon bacon grease reserved from cooking

2 honeycrisp apples, diced and peeled

1 medium onion, sliced

1 tablespoon fresh, chopped sage

1 lb. small to medium shell pasta

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon flour

3 cups milk

6 ounces shredded white cheddar cheese

4 ounces soft goat cheese

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, divided

1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon melted, unsalted butter

Garnish:

Sage leaves

Canola oil

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon grease over medium-high and cook the apples and onions with a pinch of salt until softened. Remove from the heat and toss with the chopped sage and most of the bacon (reserve a few tablespoons for the top of the pasta).

Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water and cook about 2 minutes less than the package instructs. Drain in a colander and set aside.

In the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the butter over medium heat and stir in the flour to create a roux. Cook the roux about 1 minute before gradually stirring in the milk. Bring the milk mixture to a simmer and cook until it thickens a bit. Gradually add in the cheddar, goat cheese, and 1/4 cup of the parmesan, stirring to melt and combine. Stir in the nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste and remove from the heat. Add the cooked pasta and bacon, apple, onion mixture to the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Scrape the pasta into a 9×13 baking dish, or two smaller dishes (I used a 10-inch round dish and 4x4inch square dish). In bowl, toss the panko with the melted butter and remaining 2 tablespoons of parmesan, sprinkle over the top of the pasta evenly. Top the pasta with the reserved bacon and bake in the center of the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are browned and the edges of the pasta are bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to rest at least 5 minutes before serving.

To garnish with fried sage, heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat and fry sage leaves until crisp. Drain on paper towels before adding to the baked pasta.[/recipe]

 

Hazelnut Streusel Apple Muffins

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I’m learning a lot. Big things and little things.

Big things like what it means to be the mother of an amazing, wailing, little nugget of baby-boy cuteness, while also being a wife and partner.

Little things like how to get in that daily shower, work with this new dang camera, and fit in making a batch of these muffins complete with a photo (or two) and blog post.

So, while I balance my babe on one arm and type with the other, let me tell you about these muffins. They are the first thing I’ve baked since before Casper was born and they are pretty damn good. The recipe is an adaptation of Joy’s Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins with tart apples in place of the berries, a bit of hazelnut in the streusel, and plenty of cinnamon for some autumnal warmth. Even though this summer has been really good to me–baby! house! beautiful blue sky days!–I’m always ready for fall with it’s crisp air, fallen leaves, and cozy indoor days. These muffins are perfect for the transitioning season–not too long of a bake time, so you don’t heat up your kitchen too much, but just enough warmth and carb-y goodness to make things cozy. WIN.

[recipe]

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Hazelnut Streusel Apple Muffins

Makes about 18 muffins.

If you don’t have, or want to use, flax and wheat germ reduce the milk to 1/3 cup.

Streusel:

3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Muffin Batter:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup milk

1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

2 tablespoons wheat germ

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups diced granny smith apples (from about 2 peeled and cored apples)

Preheat the oven to 350º F and line two muffin tins with 16 paper liners (I do 12 in one tin, and 6 in the center of the other).

In a bowl pinch the butter into the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and chopped hazelnuts to combine. Set aside.

In a skillet or saucepan melt the butter and heat over medium until the butter becomes foamy, the butter separates, and the solids become brown and smell fragrant like toffee. Remove from the heat and pour into a dish to cool. Set aside.

In a measuring cup whisk the milk, egg + yolk, and vanilla until well combined.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, flax, wheat germ, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon.  In a separate bowl toss the chopped apples with the remaining cinnamon.

 

Pour the milk and egg mixture into the mixing bowl of the flour mixture and fold until just combined. Fold in the apples. Divide the muffin batter between the lined muffin cups, filling about 3/4 full, and top each muffin with streusel. Bake the muffins in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before serving. [/recipe]