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?

What Are You Drinking?

It has been a busy start to summer around here and my blog has suffered a bit. We had my mother-in-law visit, then we took a trip to Seattle and Chicago, and I promptly got sick with bronchitis when we got home. After that, we had a friend staying with us on the weekends while in town for work, spent some time downtown in Honolulu and had a beach party for the Fourth of July. Sprinkle in more ongoing house remodel projects, and you have the perfect storm for blog neglect.


Some of those home projects are pretty relevant to today’s post…

I do have a lot of ideas and inspiration jotted down in my trusty notebook, but I haven’t had the time to perfect any new recipes just yet. While I get back into my cooking routine, I thought it would be fun to talk about what I’ve been drinking instead!

I love ordering cocktails in restaurants, but it’s only been over the past few months that I’ve made it a point to try making them more at home. Our go-to was usually just wine or beer. As I started putting together our little bar area in our new kitchen, I discovered there’s something really appealing to me about the process of measuring, muddling and making a cocktail myself.

So without further ado, these are my three favorite drinks of the moment.

Old Fashioned


This will warm you up on a breezy summer evening… a perfect night cap

  • 2 tsp demerara or simple syrup (*see below for more on this ingredient)
  • 3 dashes of bitters
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • orange peel
  1. Add the syrup, bitters & bourbon to a glass. Stir gently, then add an ice cube and a sliver of orange peel.

My husband was the best man in the wedding we attended in Chicago and as a gift, the groom gave him a kit of all the things needed to make his favorite version of an old fashioned. While bourbon is definitely more up my husband’s alley than mine, I have to say, it’s growing on me.

I played around with the amounts a bit and this is the what we settled on as tasting the best to us. For such a traditional drink, there are a lot of different ways it’s made. Some people use sugar cubes instead of syrup, there’s different kinds of bitters to choose from, so experiment a bit.

For drinks like this, invest in an ice tray that makes large ice cubes. It won’t melt and dilute the drink as fast a bunch of little cubes. It also looks classier (I’m a classy broad, when I want to be), and presentation is just as important with cocktails as it is with cooking.

*Spoiler, the next two recipes include simple syrup as well. All it is is one part water and one part sugar. You bring it to a boil in a small pot, stir until the sugar dissolves, then turn the heat off and let it cool completely. You can infuse the syrup with herbs and other flavors as well, and it can be stored in the fridge for about a month. You can also go ahead and buy versions of it in the store, like the fancy demerara syrup that came in the old fashioned kit we were gifted.

Blackberry Mojito


This is what you want when you’re relaxing poolside on a sunny afternoon

  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • 2 tsp simple syrup
  • 4-5 blackberries
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 4 oz club soda
  • extra limes, blackberries & mint sprigs for garnish
  1. In a glass or a cocktail shaker, muddle together the mint leaves, simple syrup, blackberries & rum.
  2. Strain the mixture into a glass with ice and top with the club soda. Garnish with a lime slice, berries & mint to your liking.

Mojitos are such a classic, refreshing summer drink. This is also a good cocktail to make a large batch of in a pitcher for a cookout or summer party. If you prefer, you don’t necessarily have to strain the muddled mint and blackberries, but I like having a simple presentation.

I’ve seen a lot of menus with different fruity variations of this cocktail, but blackberries are my favorite. Not only is the color gorgeous, but I love the tart flavor along with the mint and lime. It brings back the nostalgia of having blackberry bushes on the side of the house I grew up in. I used to pick them, now I drink them.

Rosemary Champagne Cocktail


Substitute these for mimosas to step up your brunch game

  • 1 oz rosemary simple syrup
  • 1 oz elderflower liquor
  • 6 oz champagne
  • rosemary sprig
  1. Pour the syrup & elderflower liquor into a wine glass or champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with rosemary.

Easy enough, right? This might be my signature drink. I love champagne, I love elderflower liquor, and I love fresh herbs from my garden. Infused simple syrups are a great way to utilize herbs, whether you grow them yourself, or have some from the store that you need to use up.

It’s also a versatile cocktail. I’ve made it with vodka and tonic water when I didn’t have bubbly around and sometimes I trade out rosemary for basil simple syrup. And between you and me, don’t break the bank on expensive champagne. Get the stuff under $10, because the delicately sweet elderflower and the fragrant rosemary are going to be the stars.

***

My goodness, it’s Friday already? I need one (or all three) of these drinks. What about you? Let me know what your favorite cocktails are for the summer, or feel free to give me some recommendations as I continue to populate my liquor collection.

I’ll be back soon with a new recipe… one you can eat, I promise!

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!

Detox Water, My Favorite Healthy Fad

I am no good at diets. Gyms freak me out. Juice cleanses, in my opinion, are insane. I am by no means a health guru, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want try to do something good for my body. Occasionally.

My wedding celebration is in about two months, and luckily it’s not weight I’m worried about. I know I post some indulgent recipes, but it’s all about balance. If I have some big cheesy pasta dinner, breakfast and lunch was usually something along the lines of a smoothie or a salad. Again, I am not a health expert, I’m not recommending my routine to anyone. You have to find what works for you and your lifestyle.

I had my first dress fitting a couple weeks ago and it fits as perfectly as it did last August when I bought it. Phew. What’s really getting to me is stress. The occasional headache, a couple restless nights, and, fine, I’ll admit I want to make sure I don’t gain any weight between now and then. Like I said, diets and exercise regimes never stick with me. So I decided to start with something simple: water.

We’ve all heard we are supposed to drink 8 glasses a day, or use some formula with your weight divided by 2, multiplied by your birth year, subtracting your pets age, blah. Point is I knew I wasn’t drinking enough, so what could get me to do it?

That’s when I came across detox water. Some people call it fruit water, that’s really what it is. It’s water infused with the flavor and benefits of fresh fruits, veggies and even herbs. There are lots of fancy bottles and pitchers you can buy but I got myself some mason jars (who doesn’t love mason jars?) and started experimenting.
I love playing around with different flavor combinations. Every fruit has a different benefit. Blueberries are good for your heart, oranges for your skin, strawberries fight aging, lemons and other citrus pretty much do everything, from boosting energy to improving circulation and the immune system.

I also love to use things like ginger, which is incredible. It manages inflammation, reduces pain (headaches, cramps, arthritis) and is great for stomach issues. Ginger, cinnamon and apple infused water is one of my favorites. Mint is another great addition, not only for flavor but because it has a long list of benefits as well, like relief from fatigue, congestion and indigestion. Cucumbers are awesome for extra hydration, antioxidants and skin care. I could go on and on, but just do some research on the fruits you love or have in your fridge right now.

Making the drinks is simple, just clean and chop your ingredients, add them to water and let them rest for about 1-2 hours in the fridge before drinking. There are plenty of recipes to find online, but I like to experiment, taste and adjust. You can keep refilling the waters for up to a week or until the fruits start to wilt and lose flavor. I like to make a few different jars at a time. Variety keeps me interested, so I keep drinking all day.

I am not saying detox waters on their own are going to help you drop weight and solve all your problems. It doesn’t hurt though! They really are delicious, and obviously much better than grabbing a soda or sugary fruit juice. I’ve found a routine and a balance that works for me, and I’m excited to see if there are long term effects. I already feel like I have more energy and an easier time getting out of bed in the morning. This might be one healthy fad I can keep up with.