Basic Apple Cider Recipe

mulledcider

Happy Halloween everyone! I’ve had a blast celebrating it this year. First I attended a friend’s spooky Halloween party where I was dressed up as Inside Out’s Joy. I had never had so much fun creating a look.

Then last night I went to a 80s High School Reunion Murder Mystery Party. Is it bad that my outfit came mostly from my closet? I didn’t need to buy anything! I went for the big 80s hair and neon pink makeup. I felt a little sad when I washed it all off later that night. Long live the beautifully terrible 80s.

For the past few years on Halloween I’ve made mulled apple cider. And every year, I search the Internet for a recipe. I have no idea why I don’t write it down. It’s always the same. I stand looking into the Crockpot wondering what I put in there with the apple juice. I usually have cinnamon and oranges standing by, waiting patiently to be plunked into the juice.

This year, I decided to spice it up a bit more (pun intended.) I decided to search, once again, through the Internet for a mulled cider recipe including other spices, and here’s what I’ve learned: they’re all different. There are HUNDREDS are ways to make mulled apple cider. And I think it’s wonderful, even if it means I can’t find just the right basic recipe.

So I’m adding my own recipe to the mix of other wonderful cider recipes people are probably searching. I’m calling my “basic” because I decided to buy the spices listed on the back of a complete mulling spice package (I already had half of the spices at home.) If you’re one of the many searching for a basic recipe that mixes fresh and ground spices, well, I’m your girl!

Enjoy.

Basic Mulled Cider Recipe

1 64 fl oz apple juice or cider

2 cinnamon sticks

3 orange slices

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

pinch of black pepper

4 tbsp brown sugar

1/4 tsp allspice

1 star anise

pinch ground cardamom

  1. Pour apple juice or cider into Crockpot and add spices. Stir and cover with lid. Serve when hot.
  2. Keep leftover juice or cider in it’s original container. Will keep in the fridge overnight and probably for at least a day after.

Energy Ball Recipes

EnergyBall Recipes (1)

I’ve wanted a food processor for years, but every time I decided to go get one, something told me no.  I would put the food processor back on the shelf and walk away. I have done this at least four or five times a year.

And yet, I’d see recipes for energy balls, nut butters, hummus, etc., and try them in my low-powered blender. The outcome was OK, but not great.

But about a week ago, I was blessed with a food processor from my boyfriend’s sister. I couldn’t believe it! I finally had one!

Yesterday, a chocolate craving hit me around 2 p.m. and I decided that after going to the store, I’d use my food processor to make the energy balls I’d been dying to make for years now and have them turn out correctly. (Most energy ball bases, I’ve noticed, are made with dates. Dates in a low-powered blender? Not good. Here’s a trick I heard but haven’t actually tried if you want to make them in a low-powered blender: soak the dates to soften them. I’ve read anywhere from 15-30 minutes will do.)

After seeing so many energy ball recipes, you can build your own easily. It goes a little like this:

Base. Something sticky. Ideas:

  • Dates
  • Agave Nectar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Nut Butter
  • Honey

Fillings. Any combination of the following (but the possibilities are endless!)

  • Nuts (Almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios)
  • Seeds (Pumpkin, sunflower)
  • Nut butters (Almond, Peanut Butter)
  • Oats
  • Dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, currants, cherries)
  • Chocolate (Cocoa powder, chocolate chips)
  • Canned Pumpkin
  • Coconut

Flavorings and Spices. This is where it gets really fun. Try

  • Crushed Peppermint Candies or Peppermint Extract (holidays)
  • Pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, and cinnamon
  • Vanilla extract
  • Coconut extract

Phew! Those are a ton of combinations, but again, the possibilities are endless. Play around with the ingredients. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

I made two versions yesterday:  A chocolate date ball adapted from one of my favorite recipes from Chocolate Covered Katie’s cookbook, and a No Bake Cookie inspired one.

And boy, did the energy balls turn out EXACTLY how I wanted them too! They were creaming, not too sweet, and stuck together perfectly.

Version 1: Chocolate Coconut Energy Balls

This recipe was adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe for “Anytime Fudge Balls” from the Chocolate Covered Katie Cookbook. (Please go buy it! It’s amazing and a wonderful healthy dessert cookbook. I look through it at least once a day.)

9 pitted dates

½ cup slivered almonds

1 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp dark chocolate chips

Unsweetened flaked coconut

¼ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp agave nectar*

Pinch of salt

  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until crumbly but stick together when you ball it in your hands by making a fist.
  2. Roll into balls, try not to eat them all, refrigerate.

Version 2: Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, Coconut, Oat Energy Balls

9 pitted dates

Heaping ¼ cup crunchy peanut butter

½ cup old fashioned oats

2 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips

¼ cup unsweetened flaked coconut

¼ tsp agave nectar

  1. Pulse in food processor until crumbly but sticks together when you ball the mixture in your hands by making a fist.
  2. Roll into balls, try not to eat them all, and refrigerate.

Throwback Thursday: Popovers

Back in December, my boyfriend and I decided to make one of our favorite soups: broccoli cheddar. We love this Food Network recipe for a “healthified” version.

We wanted bread to go with it, but we didn’t want anything too heavy. We also were bored with buying bread from the store. My boyfriend suggested we tried popovers.

It has changed our lives. We made them several times, and each time, we giggled with delight (or at least, I did.)

It’s the little things.

Popovers, if you haven’t had them, look like a dinner roll, but on the inside are basically hollow. They’re a similar batter to a crepe, but are baked in a muffin tin in the oven. And, you guessed it, they “pop over” when they bake. The result is a light and airy muffin that’s basically hollow on the inside, making it the perfect vessel to put soup in. We love Alton Brown’s recipe, but have also made Mark Bittman’s recipe for popovers too. Both are delicious, but we prefer Alton’s because we weren’t huge fans of the sugar in Bittman’s.

Or, as we discovered, plain yogurt and apricot jam.

Popovers are versatile, easy to make, and delicious. They’re just enough of a change from a dinner roll to make a dinner come to life. They’re great savory and also as a vessel for something sweeter.

Have you tried popovers?

Small Kitchen Cooking: Learning how to cook

Learning how to cook isn’t difficult, but from the overwhelming amounts of cookbooks, online recipe sites like FoodGawker and AllRecipes, blogs, and good ol’ fashioned cookbooks, it can seem like an overwhelming task to take on. But it isn’t. Or it shouldn’t be. It’s actually very simple: just cook.

After college and while I was unemployed, in between searching sites for job listings, I stumbled across Oh She Glows. It came from the Glamour Vitamin G blog, and it was for apple cupcakes. This involved no cooking, obviously, but it was so different in a such a simple way that I became curious. And so I kept searching. I discovered blog after blog, asked for a cookbook for Christmas, and started trying out different recipes on my two roommates and my sister. (Lesson No.1 I learned: do NOT use fresh spinach in a quiche.)

Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that cooking isn’t challenging at its core. There are complicated or tiresome recipes such as beouf bourginion (see the movie Julie and Julia and you’ll know what I’m talking about) or souffle (still haven’t tried to attempt that one) but at its core, cooking is simple. And don’t worry about being creative right at first: start simple. Here are some of my tips to get you into your kitchen.

1. Read the recipe before deciding to make it. Too many times I’ve started a recipe and halfway through realized it took an hour of cooking, when I only had a half hour. Or one of the ingredients I could have sworn I had was gone. Cooking is easier when you look over the recipe and go through your kitchen. Take everything out that you’re going to need and place it on your counter. As you use the ingredients, put them back.

2. Sometimes simple is better. Just last week, I had a craving for pasta sauce. I went over to my pantry and thought about what I’d needed. I had tomatoes, oregano, fresh basil, garlic, and olive oil. Toss it all together and it was the best pasta sauce I think I’ve had ( with the exception of my middle sister’s amazing meat pasta sauce.) Do you love pasta and avocado? Then this avocado pasta from Oh She Glows is an incredibly easy dish to make. Pizza Margherita is easy too and gorgeous. (If you’re worried about making the dough, you can buy fresh premade dough.)

3. Don’t be afraid to look it up or call a friend. I can’t ever remember how to boil eggs. Do I put the eggs in with the water before I start to boil it? Every time, I look it up. Something so simple you think I’d remember right? (And I can remember how to make crepes from scratch without looking up the recipe.) Don’t be afraid to look up recipes, techniques, or call a friend. There are great Youtube channels out there such as this one from Tara Stiles and this other one from Fresh Princess. You’ll notice that their recipes are simple and easy to make. (Not to mention that Tara has a cookbook coming out in November that I cannot wait to get my hands on.)

4. Start slow. If you’re just starting out getting comfortable with your kitchen, try cooking at least one meal a week homemade. Find a simple recipe (if it has over 10 ingredients, I’d skip it. Go for the easy recipes, like this 4 ingredient pasta sauce inspired by Mark Bittman’s tomato pasta sauce recipe in his How to Cook Everything cookbook.)

I’ll leave you with those for now.

Recipe: Strawberry Blueberry Trifle

I woke up on Independence Day wanting to make a dessert. I always try to prepare for making holiday-themed things, but I always seem to want to make them last minute. So, I went to search for a quick and easy dessert to make.

I came across the trifle, and will you believe me if I say I’ve never had one? It looked easy and delicious, so there we go. Anyway, after a trip to the store, I came home and went to work. I had bought boxed pudding yes, but I wasn’t about to buy whipped cream. (Believe me, if you’ve never had homemade whipped cream, you’re missing out. It’s super easy: 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, splash of vanilla. Whisk by hand or with a mixer until whipped-cream like. Sorry for the lack of technical terms. It looks glossy, and will make soft peaks when you lift out the whisk from the bowl. A soft peak looks similar to the top of an ice cream cone, how it tips over slightly.)

My version of the trifle varies from the ones I found because I used vanilla wafers instead of poundcake or angel food cake. I figured since it was going to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, the wafers would soften to a cake-like consistency (which it did).

My guinea pigs for this recipe were my boyfriend and my baby sister. Though really, who wouldn’t want to be a guinea pig for a dessert recipe?

They loved it! Surprised? 😉

My baby sister loved it so much she requested I make it again. I didn’t have any boxed pudding, so I decided to make it on my own. Big mistake. It never set! Thinking back, it was probably my fault.

But again, my boyfriend and my baby sister both loved it.

On to the recipe!

Easy Strawberry Blueberry Trifle

1/2 box vanilla wafers
1 box instant pudding mix
1 recipe homemade whipped cream ( or store bought; see second paragraph above for recipe)
12 strawberries
1 cup blueberries

1. Make whipped cream, and place in fridge to sit for at least 2 hours.
2. Follow directions for instant pudding. Set in fridge.
3. After two hours, take out whipped cream and pudding.
4. To layer: take out a medium-sized serving bowl (or large glass trifle serving bowl). Place about 6 wafers (or however much you want) on the bottom, then layer with pudding, whipped cream, and fruit. Add more wafers, and continue layering until you reach the top of the bowl. Cover in plastic wrap and set aside.
5. Then sit down and try not to eat all of it. 🙂

There you go sis:)

And soon, I really want to try homemade tiramisu. Who’s with me? 🙂

Ashley

A Cookie Recipe I Thought I’d Lost

Hello everyone and happy Friday to you all!

Today I had a craving for a cookie I’d made about two years ago. I’d been reading one of my favorite blogs, Vitamin G, and came across this post about a vegan banana chocolate-chip cookie recipe. You can find the original recipe here.

I thought I’d saved the recipe in my email. (I didn’t.) I thought had bookmarked it, but I lost my bookmarks awhile back.

I found the blog post I’d found the link to the recipe on. But then, when I clicked on the link to the original recipe I found myself staring at the screen: the link didn’t work. IT WAS GONE.

After frantically searching for another link to the recipe, and eventually finding a link that did work, I realized: I had the recipe, all along, in my “Family Recipe” binder. I compared the recipe card to the recipe online. It was the same, and I was set to go!

I love these cookies.

Straight out of the oven, they’re perfect. They might need a minute or two to set once out of the oven, but you don’t have to wait if you don’t want too.

Straight out of the fridge they’re perfect.

The batter even tastes delicious (and better yet, there’s no raw egg. It’s the cookie dough no one will yell at you for eating raw.)

Here are a few changes I made:

-I used 2/3 cup of brown sugar, like the Vitamin G blogger had mentioned.
-I only had one large banana, so I added about a 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce.
-I used oats instead of oat flour, but used the same amount (2 1/4 cups).
-The batter was a bit too sticky, so I added about a 1/4 cup flour to thicken things up.
-I put the batter in the fridge in between batches. It helped keep the cookies from browning on the edges too quickly.

Other changes I’d make for next time:

– I had larger dark chocolate chips, so I’d scale back on the amount of chocolate.
– Though the cookies tasted fabulous even with the addition of applesauce, I’d rather have the second banana the recipe calls for.
– I’d like to add crunchy peanut butter.

I hope you’re having a great night!

~Ashley

Beautiful You: A Challenge for Today

Good morning everyone!

Despite however your week may be going, I want to challenge us all today to do one thing: find and share one reason to smile! It might be having a cup of coffee with a loved one before work, a phone call, a bouquet of flowers, or picking up a new book.

I would love to hear what you find today that makes a smile appear on your face. By finding one thing to make you smile, or feel uplifted, I hope it helps you find even more reasons too.

To start things off, I found this gorgeous recipe for baklava from The Pretty Blog this morning while scrolling through my Facebook feed. I couldn’t help but remember a dinner date with my boyfriend where we tried out this new Greek place and ended the night in a park sharing baklava.

I look forward to hearing all the things you’ll be sharing! Have a great Wednesday!

 

~Ashley

 

Recipe for the Season: Linzer Cookies

I have always wanted to make Linzer cookies. I see recipes for them each year, and every year I tell myself, “I’m going to make these.” And I never have.

Today I found the perfect cut-out with several attachments for the middle (heart, diamond, flower) and I cannot wait to bake a batch. I’m planning on using orange marmalade or I might buy raspberry jam.

Have you ever made these cookies? If so, what flavors have you tried? I’m thinking a chocolate one might be delicious, or even a pumpkin one?

Anyway, I hope you are enjoying your week so far, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving for those in the U.S. I cannot wait to make my pecan pie! I’ll share another family recipe here this week, and I’m sure you will love it.

Thanks for reading!

Ashley

Small Kitchen Cooking: Scones

I made a batch of cranberry scones, using this recipe from the cookbook, Sundays at Moosewood, for brunch this morning.

The pictures didn’t do the scones any justice, so I didn’t want to share them. So, you will have to rely on my saying that these scones are by far my favorite.

The scones recipe is incredibly versatile as well. I have made pumpkin spice scones, raisin scones, and golden raisin scones. (If you make golden raisin scones, stay by the oven. The time I made them, they burned. Burned golden raisins are not good. At all.)

On my list of scones to try are chocolate chip scones and lemon scones.

Here are my additions:
– Substitute the fruit measurement for dried cranberries. The dried cranberries make the scones burst with a sweet tartness and also make the scones less dry. I prefer them this way.

– Make sure to sprinkle sugar on top for an added bit of sweetness. I used raw sugar.

– Make sure to put a glob of butter and orange marmalade on top. Perfect for a Sunday morning. (Or, any morning.)

Yum. 🙂

What is your favorite breakfast pastry?

Have a great Sunday night!

4 Ingredient No-Bake Cookies

My favorite summertime cookie is one that doesn’t involve the oven being on. These no-bake cookies are easy to make and only have four ingredients. I hope you enjoy them. 🙂

4 Ingredient No-Bake Cookies
Makes: ~6 cookies
Prep: 5 minutes, and about 20 minutes to 1 hour to harden

1 cup oats
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon peanut butter (crunchy or creamy)
2 tablespoons shredded coconut (I would recommend unsweetened, but I only had sweetened in my fridge)

1. In a small pot over low-medium heat, melt chocolate chips. Stir with a spoon until melted. (This took about 3-5 minutes for me.)
2. Add the oats, peanut butter, and coconut into the pot of melted chocolate. Stir to combine.
3. Spoon out onto wax paper on a cookie sheet in spoonfuls. You can make the cookies as big or as small as you want. I usually make them about 1 1/2 tablespoons in size.
4. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes to 1 hour, until hardened.
5. Enjoy!