Autumnal Mulled Cider

Over the past 3 to 4 years I have lived in southern California and now Hawaii, but I am a born and raised Massachusetts girl at heart. I didn’t realize how much I would truly miss the autumn weather, the changing leaves, and all my boots, scarves, and cozy sweaters.

My social media has been filled with pictures of my friends & family enjoying all those fall delights. I know, I know, I get to live in paradise, and the tables will turn when they are shoveling snow and I’m on the beach, but it’s still hard sometimes. (Honestly, I even miss winter too.)

The one way I can get those autumn vibes flowing through me is with seasonal food and drinks. Well, that and my artificial fall leaf wreath and Halloween yard decor from Target. So today I’m sharing my quickest, easiest fix for when I’m missing New England and the crisp October breeze: mulled cider… in the slow cooker!

  • 2 quarts organic apple cider
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup (the real stuff, if you can splurge)
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp whole cloves
  • 1 Tbsp whole allspice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • rum or whisky (optional)
  1. Put the cider into a slow cooker & stir in the maple syrup. Add the sliced orange.
  2. Using cheese cloth or a coffee filter (my go-to), create a bundle of the cloves, allspice & cinnamon sticks. You can break the sticks in half to make them fit better. Tie the bundle tightly with twine for easy removal. If using a coffee filter, I like to use a toothpick to poke some holes so that the flavor infuses quicker. Place the spice bundle in the cider.
  3. “Cook” on low for at least an hour before serving. Leave it all day on low heat or the warm setting. Serve punchbowl style & add a shot rum or whisky to your glass at your discretion (& my suggestion).


A look at my coffee filter spice bundle for reference

The slow cooker is key for me because it makes it easy to serve and it also doesn’t heat up the house like keeping it on the stovetop all day would. (Very important when October still means 85 degrees and humid.)

I make this constantly in the fall. It’s lovely for long Sundays watching football or waiting for trick-or-treaters. It’s been a staple at my Thanksgivings and Christmases for the past few years. Nothing tastes more like New England in autumn to me than mulled cider.

It’s a wonderful option for family and holiday gatherings because it gives people the option of what kind of liquor to add, if any. Kids can still partake and any non-drinkers at your party will feel like they get to enjoy something special besides sparkling water or soda. If you get one of the big gallon jugs of cider or more, you can keep replenishing the pot if it’s a big group of people.

What’s the first thing you run to make when fall rolls around?

All About Apples

I’m taking a stand. Pumpkin spice will not take over my seasonal baking. Apple cinnamon deserves to be back on top.

Apple cinnamon has become the Jan Brady of fall flavors, sitting around going “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” while everyone freaks out over pumpkin spice. Yes, it’s not the most exciting or trendy thing anymore, so we take it for granted, but I think it deserves more credit.

The nostalgia factor is huge here. I have always requested apple pie for Thanksgiving dessert. Also, I think there was a year of high school that I ate those frozen toaster strudels everyday. Always the apple ones. I actually had to stop eating them for a while because I burnt out on them, but obviously, I got over that.


“I can’t quit you.”

Look, there’s nothing wrong with pumpkin. I like it, but since everything out there on the market these days is pushing pumpkin spice, I thought I’d give you three quick recipes for reuniting with your first fall love.

Before we start… I used honeycrisp and granny smith apples for each recipe. I like using two kinds of apple for a couple different flavors. Of course you can swap these out for whatever your favorites are, but I really recommend using a tart apple and something sweet to balance it out. If you don’t know what to pick, here’s a helpful guide from Whole Foods.

Now for the recipes!

Apple Chips

  • 1 honeycrisp apple
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Preferably with a mandolin, slice both apples very thinly. Remove all seeds.
  2. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a bowl, and drop each apple slice in one at a time and flip to coat. Place the apple slices on a parchment lined backing sheet.
  3. Bake for an hour or two, flipping the apples every 30 minutes.


Use a paper bowl for the cinnamon sugar… between that and the parchment, clean up is easy!

If you prefer a chewier bite, cook them for only an hour. You can leave them in until they are as crisp as you want them to be, but just check when you are flipping that the sugar isn’t burning. Cooking times can vary depending on how thick/thin they are, so this is one recipe you just have to keep an eye on.

These are a great healthy snack! Despite the sugar, you still totally taste the apple flavor. You could drizzle them with some caramel sauce and serve them up as a sweet snack for a fall party, put them in a leafy salad for some texture or replace greasy potato chips as a sandwich side.

Sparkling Apple Cider Sangria

  • 1 honey crisp apple, cored & chopped
  • 1 granny smith apple, cored & chopped
  • 1 bartlett pear, cored & chopped
  • 2 Tbsps lemon juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 cup rum
  • 2 1/2 cups apple cider
  • 1 750ml bottle of champagne or prosecco
  1. Place the chopped apples and pear into a pitcher. Add the lemon juice and stir or shake to coat the fruit. (This prevents browning.)
  2. Let the apples absorb the lemon juice for a minute, then add the cinnamon sticks, rum and apple cider to the pitcher. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  3. Give the contents of the pitcher a stir then pour in the champagne. Serve immediately, with fruit.

This is becoming a staple on weekends around here. This is the perfect cocktail for a autumn afternoon full of football or scary movies. The best part is eating all that fruit that soaks up the sangria!

P.S. The point of sangria is to fancy up cheap wines, so don’t blow your budget. Get some Andre or Cook’s, you know what I’m talking about. A bottle of wine or bubbly going into a sangria should be south of $10.

Apple Hand Pies

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 box (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry
  • 1 can of apple pie filling OR follow this easy recipe I followed to make my own!
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the egg yolk and water together to create an egg wash in a small bowl.
  2. Roll out both thawed puff pastry sheets and cut out four 6″ circles from each. (Eight total. You can use a bowl as a guide)
  3. Place a spoonful of the apple pie filling in the center of each circle, away from the edge. Using a pastry brush or your finger, coat the very edge of the circle with the egg wash. Fold the dough in half and use a fork to crimp the edges together, creating a half moon shape. Brush the whole top of the pie with egg wash and slice three small slits on top to vent.
  4. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the pies. Place them on a lined or greased baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

So I have done these a couple times with the canned apple pie filling, and it works out so well. Plus, it takes away half the work and you can have “homemade” pies in no time that make everyone think you spent hours on them.

This time I decided to make my own filling and to jar the rest for future baking, and it was super easy! If you went apple picking or just have a lot of them laying around, I’d say make your own. If you want to keep it simple, or maybe want to get the kids involved in helping make these, go with the canned.

Wrap these guys up individually in plastic wrap and they will last for a few days. They make a great sweet breakfast on the go!

There you have it. Three different recipes using apples. Bonus points to anyone who goes all out and makes all three of these in one day! Send me pics if you do.

Where do you stand in the apple vs pumpkin debate? I hope I made a good argument for my beloved apples today. Let me know what you think of these recipes, or what your favorite fall treats are!


Cheers!

Apple Pie Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

I’ve said it once, I will say it again. I am not an expert baker. Baking requires such exact measurements and methods that its basically a science. Cooking is more of an art to me, where you have more freedom to experiment and try new things, and still end up with a great dish. When I experiment with baking, I usually end up with a result that’s less than ideal. Or less than edible, on occasion.

But you guys, I did it! I came up with a cupcake and it doesn’t suck! I based it off my favorite vanilla cake recipe, kept adding things here and there, and it worked! I mean, it didn’t work right off the bat. This is probably my 3rd or 4th try at some variation of this cupcake. Finally, I’ve perfected it.

This is a mash up of two of my favorite desserts. It’s the apple pie cupcake! It’s topped with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting that will leave you licking the bowl. Let’s get to it!

Yields 12 cupcakes

  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt (can be Greek yogurt)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 can apple pie filling
  1. Place liners in a cupcake/muffin pan (for a dozen large cupcakes). Lightly spritz the bottom of the liners with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 tsp cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. In the mixer bowl, whisk 1 cup of sugar into the melted butter until smooth. Add egg, yogurt, milk, vanilla and brown sugar and stir on the lowest setting until well combined. Slowly add dry ingredients while the mixer is running, until batter is thick and smooth.
  3. In a small bowl, mix remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with remaining 2 tsp of cinnamon. Distribute the cinnamon sugar into the cupcake liners, creating an even layer in the bottom of each. Fill each liner with batter until they are 3/4’s of the way full. (It should be about 3 Tbsps each)
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.
  5. Using a small knife, carefully cut a hole in the top of a cupcake, about an inch in diameter. Remove the top, about 1/8 of an inch thick, and set aside. Using a small spoon, hollow out a hole in the center of the cupcake. Make sure you don’t scoop out so much that you break through the bottom.
  6. On a cutting board, spoon out some apple pie filling and chop the apple pieces into tiny chunks. Fill the cupcake with the apple and replace the top of the cupcake to seal it. Repeat for each cupcake.

Here’s a visual of filling the cupcakes.

The top two have been hollowed out. The top left has the apple filling inside, the top right is empty. The bottom two cupcakes have been filled and covered, ready to be frosted.

Speaking of which, here’s the frosting recipe.

  • 6 Tbsp softened butter
  • 4 oz softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese in the mixer on a low setting, until light and fluffy. Slowly add sugar while the mixer is running. Add vanilla and cinnamon, and continue mixing until well combined and smooth. (You may need to stop and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula a couple times.

My husband used to make fun of my frosting skills in the beginning. I bought some bags and the fancy tips to try and make them look pretty, and always ended up just taking a butter knife and smoothing them over. Not this time! I think I’m actually getting the hang of it.

Granted, these are three of the best. There were a couple unfortunate looking ones, but those were eaten before photo time. You obviously don’t have to spend time getting fancy with the frosting, it’s fine to just use a knife and spread it on. I am just trying to teach myself, and practice makes perfect.

What I like about this cupcake is the cinnamon sugar crust on the bottom. Spraying the liner before filling helps it to crisp up without crumbling or sticking. It’s just this added little crunch element that you don’t always get in a cupcake. I like having that play of textures.

And speaking of textures, I love giving these to friends and seeing the apple filling surprise them when they bite into it. If you pack it in well, it’s not going to spill out or anything. I just love that at first glance, it’s simple looking. Then you unwrap it and take a taste, and you get these fun elements like the crust and the filling.

If you love cinnamon as much as I do, this is your dream frosting. It’s not too sweet, but it compliments the apple so well. There’s cinnamon and brown sugar in the actual cupcake, but not enough to to really make the entire thing taste the same. It just helps bring all the elements together.

This is a pretty easy cupcake to make, but the result is so much more interesting than just a plain vanilla or chocolate cupcake. Kids will like it, adults will like it, and hey, with all that apple and cinnamon, you might as well have one for breakfast the next day. Almost the same as coffee cake, right? (Not really, but I won’t judge. They are really great with a cup of coffee though.)

Well I can’t promise a ton of baking recipes in the near future, this was pretty much a fluke. I’ll also be hitting the road on Monday to drive from California to Massachusetts for my wedding with my friends. I have a couple posts ready to go for while I’m traveling, so I won’t be disappearing for very long!

Make sure to follow my Instagram, I’m sure I’ll have some updates from the road. Happy cooking, and baking!

 

My First Try At Homemade Bagels

Bagels were actually included in the handful of foods I would willingly consume as a small child. Back then, they had to be Lender’s cinnamon raisin, frozen then lightly toasted, with just a tiny bit of unsalted butter. I don’t know how that became my thing, but all my fellow picky eaters out there know how important brands and food rituals can be. You find something you like and you don’t change it. EVER.

I was probably in middle school the first time I ordered a bagel from Dunkin Donuts. (GASP!) It was still cinnamon raisin, and I refused the cream cheese, but inside I was thoroughly impressed by my new found “adventurous” streak. In high school, a couple of my friends worked at a smaller bagel shop. I tried a cinnamon sugar bagel, and eventually a plain bagel with cream cheese. I know, I know, I was getting out of control!

Eventually I came to realize bagels are a magical vehicle for all kinds of flavors. (I also realized I was crazy for not embracing cream cheese earlier than I did.) It probably helped that my sister and a few friends went to school at NYU and on my visits to see them, my eyes were opened to the wonderful world of New York bagels.

In the past year, I’ve been dabbling in baking. Mostly simple cupcakes and pizza dough, and most recently I’ve experimented with bread. It’s not my strongest suit, but it’s a lot of fun and I hope eventually I can get more comfortable. The other day I was in the store and saw malt syrup, and I remembered hearing on many a cooking show that it was the secret to bagel making. Other than the water in Brooklyn, of course. So I decided to give it a go.

Unlike my cooking, I can not bake things off the top of my head yet. Especially not something I’ve never made before. So I followed this recipe.

Follow this word for word. My bagels came out AMAZING. I have never had a more successful first try at baking anything. I made eight bagels. They were medium sized, like what you would find in the grocery store. If you wanted a big bakery sized bagel, I would make six. Based on what I had in my pantry I made two plain, two sesame, two onion and garlic, and two apple cinnamon.

Apple cinnamon was my nod to my younger days. I didn’t have raisins, so I improvised by making apple chips the day I made the bagel dough, which has to rest overnight. I coated apple slices in cinnamon and sugar, and baked them for 45 minutes in a 250 degree oven until they became mostly dehydrated. I didn’t want them completely crispy and dry so I let them cool slightly, put them in a plastic bag and they went into the fridge with the dough.

The day of baking, I finely diced the apples and applied them as a topping the same way the recipe explains using the sesame seeds or onion and garlic. When the bagels were done baking, I sprinkled on some cinnamon sugar and let those two bake for a couple minutes more. Avoid getting the sugar on the bottom though, or the bagels will stick to the pan. My husband I didn’t even slice these guys, we ate them like cinnamon buns the moment they were cool enough to shove in our mouths.

Bonus tip! Today I decided to have some fun with a plain bagel and try a couple different toppings. I toasted it and spread cream cheese on both halves. For my savory side, I sprinkled on some garlic flakes, chopped green onion and fresh chives. For my sweet side, it was cinnamon and a drizzle of organic honey. Best. Breakfast. Ever.

Nine year old me would only eat frozen bagels from the grocery store. Twenty nine year old me can’t imagine buying a bagel from the grocery store ever again. It’s homemade, or at least from a bakery, from now on.

And always with cream cheese.

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