Salted Maple Apple Butter

Photography by Megan Punches

Did November fly by for anyone else?  No? Just me then.  I literally did not post anything in the month of November and for that I am sorry!  I was super busy with starting a new job, getting together with family and friends, and overcoming an amazingly long cold.  But this apple butter totally makes it all better!

This salted maple apple butter is THE perfect thing to have on hand during the Holiday season.  It’s a set it and forget it type of recipe that can also be used for quick and easy desserts.  I love using my crockpot for prep items and this is a huge time saver for this recipe that takes a long, long, long time to finish.  And who wants to stand over the stove for 10 hours stirring?

Salted Maple Apple Butter

1 1/4 cup maple syrup

3/4  Tbsp salt

6 pounds apples, peeled and cored

1 1/2  Tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Combine all ingredients in a large crockpot.  I used a combination of golden delicious apples and honeycrisp apples.  Cook on high for 3 hours, then cool on low for 5 hours.  The mixture will darken in color quite a bit.  Blend well using a blender or an immersion blender, and taste.  You want the consistency to be thick, even when hot.  If needed, continue cooking in the crockpot on low, or transfer to a pot on the stove if necessary.  Makes about 5 cups of apple butter.

Enjoy!

Autumn Caramel Apples

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Photography by Allyson Regan

What better way to indulge your sweet tooth than with a sweet treat that also involves some fruit.  I absolutely love caramel apples, especially when they are coated in pecans and chocolate.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Also, these are a great homemade treat for Halloween! This is the easiest caramel apple recipe ever!  All you will need is 2 bags of those Brach’s caramels, the ones that come individually wrapped, and a bit of heavy cream.  Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer and melt the caramels and cream in a glass bowl.  It might take a while, but trust me, it’s so worth it!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Now the caramel will set a bit quickly, so you’ll want to roll it in nuts soon after dipping.  Let it set completely before drizzling on chocolate though, otherwise you’ll have a mess on your hands.  I used the same melting chocolate that I used for these cake pops.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

You can leave them plain too, customize them to whatever you and your family likes!  You can even make some “mummified” versions like the one below!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

How scary does that look???  Either way, make sure to eat them semi-soon after making them.  Also, use pretty sturdy sticks so that you don’t have to worry about them breaking or falling off.  If you need another, more adult, way to celebrate Halloween today, check out this spooky cocktail!  Enjoy!

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Halloween Cake Pops

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Photography by Allyson Regan

You guys!  Look how cute these cake pops are!  They are the perfect Halloween snack because they are bite size, so you can eat more and not feel guilty, and they are super easy!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Okay, that’s enough exclamation points for today.  I’m sure you can find a recipe for cake pops somewhere online, but it’s so simple that you almost don’t need one.  For the cake pops themselves, you’ll need one 9X13 pan of cake.  I used a yellow cake recipe but you can use any box mix that you like.  Once it’s cooled, crumble it into a mixing bowl and add about 1 1/2 cups of your favorite frosting!  Sorry, more exclamation points.  You want the consistency to be pliable, just remember that you are going to freeze these before you decorate so they will firm up.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Once they are frozen, they are ready to decorate which is the best part.  Melt candy melts in the microwave but be sure to follow the directions, especially for the white chocolate ones as they can easily burn.  I used the Ghirardelli candy melts and they are so easy and actually taste good!  Once the candy is melted, you want to work pretty fast.  Dip the cake pops to coat and let the excess candy fall.  Directly after dipping, you want to add sprinkles so that they stick.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

For these adorable mummies, coat all of the pops and attach these cute little candy eyes.  Let set, and then put the remaining white chocolate in a piping bag.  Cut a small tip off the bag, and drizzle onto the cake pops, taking cake to avoid the eyes.  Let set and then watch them disappear like magic.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

These cute sticks can be found here and they are listed as caramel apple sticks.  I personally wouldn’t use them because they aren’t very sturdy and they are quite short.  These cake pops are so cute and they are the perfect make-ahead treat for your tricksters!

 

Black Widow Cocktail

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Photography by Allyson Regan

It’s almost the weekend, and its almost the weekend before Halloween so you know what that means.  I’ll be sipping this concoction from the comfort of my home and avoiding all of the ‘adults’ out and about partying this weekend.  But if you’re hosting a shin-dig or looking to celebrate with some boo-ze try this cocktail!  It’s super simple and so good and doesn’t have to be enjoyed just around Halloween.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

 

Black Widow Cocktail

3 pints of blackberries

1/2 cup water

1//4 cup sugar

Vodka

Ice

Extra blackberries for garnish

Begin by placing the blackberries and water in a blender.  Blend well and strain.  Add the blackberry juice and sugar and bring to a simmer.  Cook until the sugar dissolves.  For each drink, combine 6 ounces of blackberry syrup, 2 ounces of vodka, and ice in a glass.  Stir well.  Garnish with fresh berries.

 

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Photography by Allyson Regan

You could get even spookier by adding a cube of dry ice to the glass before serving!  So sinister!  Note that if you are using dry ice to take the proper precautions.   As always, have a safe and spooky Halloween!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheers!

 

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

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I can’t even remember the first time I made this dish.  In fact, I think I’ve only eaten it in a restaurant once.  Sometimes trying a dish from an unfamiliar cuisine can be intimidating, but this dish is so simple!  Plus, it’s so much fun to try a new dish, even if you’ve never eaten the dish before.

I’ve seriously made this recipe more times than I can count in the last month, gradually tweaking it until I love it!  It’s so good! My husband isn’t the biggest fan, so I’ve been making this whole recipe at the beginning of the week and then eating throughout the week for an easy lunch.  The flavors get even better towards the end of the week.  If you do this, make sure to keep the rice separate so that it doesn’t get mushy.  Also, it gives me an excuse to have naan in the house which is so good lightly toasted and with a bit of butter!  I’m drooling over here.

The key to success with this dish is to marinate the chicken the day before.  The yogurt helps to tenderize this chicken and all the spices have time to get cozy.  This dish itself is really cozy too, and it’s the perfect thing for a chilly day like today.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

1.5 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 cup whole milk greek yogurt

1 Tbsp granulated garlic

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp garam masala

2 tsp coriander

2 tsp cumin

1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cardamom

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 small yellow onion, julienned

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes

1-28 oz can diced tomatoes

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk

cilantro

Begin by cutting the chicken into 1 inch cubes.  In a small bowl, combine all of the spices.  Place half of the spices into a large bowl along with the yogurt and the chicken pieces.  Toss to coat and marinate for at least 6 hours or up to 24.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a medium saucepan.  Add the onions and cook until soft and slightly caramelized.  Add the chicken with all of the marinade.  Once the chicken and yogurt start to cook, add in the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, milk, cream, and pepper flakes.  Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Keep an eye on it, and if you see it getting too thick, you can add some stock to thin it a bit.  The sauce should be pinkish-orange and about the consistency of a thin tomato sauce.  My recipe is a little less red than other recipes, but I love the flavor of the increased turmeric spices that I’m okay with the slightly different color.

I love serving this dish with basmati rice, a bit of chopped cilantro or green onions, and some warm naan bread.  You can find naan in most groceries deli sections.  They even make mini ones now!  They are seriously so cute, I’m dying.

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I recently made this for our bookclub, more about that coming soon!  Since my sister is a vegetarian, we just substituted the chicken with cauliflower.  The preparation is a bit different since you don’t need to marinate the cauliflower.  Begin the cooking process the same way as the recipe above, but just leave out the yogurt and add all the spices to the sauce.  Essentially you will just be making the sauce and simmering the cauliflower in it to cook it through.  You can make it a fully veggie dish too, just use cauliflower rice instead of basmati.

Yum!

Strawberry Vodka Lemonade

You guys.  I know it’s fall, but sometimes we just need a little taste of summertime.  Especially as we gear up for what appears to be an early and long winter.  All though today is quite warm and sunny!  This recipe uses the base lemonade recipe that can be found here, but with an alcoholic upgrade.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

You can easily just make the strawberry lemonade if there are little ones around, and add the vodka strawberries separately.   I outlined exactly how to keep the booze separate in the recipe below!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Strawberry Vodka Lemonade

6 lemons, about 1 cup of juice

1 1/4 cup simple syrup

5 1/2 cups of water

2 quarts of fresh strawberries

2 cups vodka

Add the simple syrup and 1 quart of the strawberries to a blender and blend until smooth.  Strain to remove the seeds and add to a large pitcher with the lemon juice and the water.  In a jar, add the vodka and the rest of the strawberries, sliced.  Let chill for at least an hour.  To serve, add ice to the pitcher and add the strawberry vodka to each glass to serve.  Don’t forget to garnish with a couple boozy berries!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Yum!

Fall Cheese Board

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheese boards are one of my favorite things to break out when I’m entertaining.  Especially if your guests are arriving around dinner time and you still have some finishing touches to put on the meal.  Plus, they are super easy to put together and chances are that you already have most of this stuff in your kitchen!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The tricky thing is trying to figure out just how much ‘stuff’ you need for your board.  This depends on how many people, how long they will be snacking, and if you have plates for them to load up or if they are just picking off the board itself.  For the cheese board I created for this post, it would easily serve 4 people for an hour or so.  But it could also easily serve my sister and I, on a girls night, when we are splitting a bottle of wine and not planning on eating a real meal.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

As a general rule, I like to stick to the rule of threes; three cheeses, three meats, three cracker-type things, and three extras.  You don’t have to to this by any means, but I think it helps to provide a good mix of options while not crowding the board.  For the cheeses, stick to crowd favorites and maybe have one wild card that people might have never had before.  For this board, I used sharp cheddar, fresh mozzarella marinated in pesto, and pecorino.  If you do choose a soft cheese, like goat cheese, you might want to add a preserve or jam to your board to complement it.  Semi-soft cheese do well when they are marinated, and hard cheeses I normally leave alone.  If you’re trying to locate good cheese in the GR area, try Martha’s Vineyard, they have a great selection of artisanal cheese (and meats! and wines!) and you can get just the amount that you need.  As far as for selecting the meats, I like to do one spicy (like a sharp pepperoni or spicy salami), one classic (I’m a sucker for prosciutto and I don’t think I’ve ever made a cheese board without it!), and one crowd favorite (for me this is usually a mild salami).  The crackers are where you can stay pretty basic or get really creative!  I found these breadsticks just at Meijer, and I think they add a nice height to the board that you normally don’t see.  I also used pita crackers, and regular ritz crackers.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The extras are the fun part!  I love using dried fruits and nuts, but I also put fresh champagne grapes on here.  I normally don’t see these at the market, but I’m glad I picked them up!  They taste sweeter than regular grapes, and they are so tiny and adorable!  You can add all sorts of extras to you cheese board, like fresh berries, preserves, figs, olives, fresh fruit, dips, spread, and so much more! If you’re looking for a great cheese board and more inspiration, head over here to check out an amazing one!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

All that’s left now is to enjoy!  Also, if you’re looking for an easy way to stock up on wine before your get-together, check out Bright Cellars!  They’re doing a great deal right now where if you follow this link, you’ll get a $50 credit on your first order!

Autumn Sangria

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The temperatures have finally dropped and it finally feels like fall! I love fall! Until the first snow lands, of course.  Not that I need an excuse to make a pitcher of sangria, but this Autumn Sangria is the perfect thing to sip on during these colorful and brisk fall months.  Also, isn’t the word autumn fabulous? And you can describe autumn things by using an even better word, autumnal!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This recipe came about, not from necessity, but from an idea to make our favorite sangria taste seasonal.  My sister, Ally, and I love to visit Rockwell Republic in downtown Grand Rapids not only for their fantastic sushi and happy hour deals, but also for their mixed sangria.  I’m not sure exactly what their recipe is, but this tastes similar, with a fall twist.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Autumn Sangria

1 cup Crown Royal Apple

1 cup pomegranate juice

1 cup red wine (use dry or sweet depending on your taste)

1 cup crisp, dry white wine (this helps the apple flavor pop)

1 cinnamon stick

1 each honey-crisp apple, nectarine, plum, pear

1/2 cup apple juice

1 bottle prosecco or champagne

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Photography by Allyson Regan

In a large pitcher, combine the crown, juices, and wines.  Heat the cinnamon stick over heat until fragrant and add in.  Feel free to cut the fruit however you like to munch on it, but I sliced them super thin on a mandolin which helped the fruit to absorb the flavors faster.  Add the fruit and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Fill with several ice cubes and top with a bottle of bubbly!  Serve with your favorite friends around a cozy bonfire.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheers!

Chili Honey Glazed Shrimp

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Sometimes you just need a simple recipe to help spice up your weekday dinner meals.  This recipe is just that!  And it uses ingredients that you probably have in your pantry and freezer!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

I like to keep shrimp in my freezer for those days when I just don’t have time to run to the store or when I want to spend less time cooking and more time with my handsome husband.  For this post, I featured the shrimp in two forms, a tostada and tacos.  Both are super simple and are a great way to get some practice at cooking shrimp.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Chili Honey Glazed Shrimp

1 pound of shrimp, deveined

2 Tbsp butter, unsalted

1/2 cup honey

1 1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup soy sauce

salt and pepper

Begin with thawed shrimp.  Heat the butter over medium high heat.  Add the shrimp and saute until they turn pink.  Remove from the pan, keeping the heat on.  Add the soy sauce first to deglaze, then add in the remaining ingredients.  Cook this mixture down until it becomes thick and saucy.  Add in the shrimp and toss to coat.  Taste the sauce before serving, especially with the shrimp and adjust the seasoning or spice to your taste.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

For these tostadas, begin by toasting a flour tortilla in the oven until crisp.  I just used an asian sesame salad mix as my base.  Then I added shaved red cabbage and a sauce made from greek yogurt and sriracha.  I love this shrimp paired with the creaminess of fresh avocado, cilantro, and lime.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The tacos are pretty similar to the tostadas, except I didn’t use the salad kit, just red cabbage, sriracha sauce, avocado, cilantro, lime and shrimp!  This shrimp would also be great on pasta or in a rice bowl.  Let me know how you enjoyed it in the comments below!

 

Breakfast Cookies

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Photography by Allyson Regan

I don’t know who invented breakfast cookies, but I’m so glad they did.  I mean, you just can’t get much better than eating cookies for breakfast!  Especially when they are jam packed with delicious and healthy ingredients like these ones.  Just because they are called breakfast cookies, doesn’t mean that you can’t eat these anytime during the day.  They make a great healthy dessert when packed in a lunch, or a great snack for a road trip because they are quite filling.  Like most of my recipes, feel free to add or remove some of the add-in ingredients, like the nuts or chocolate chips.

Breakfast Cookies

1 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 Tbsp vanilla

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup rolled oats, old fashioned

1/2 Tbsp baking soda

1 Tbsp ground flax seed

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup dates, chopped

1/4 cup applesauce

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 Tbsp salt

1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

 

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add in the egg and applesauce and mix well.  Add in the remaining ingredients and mix to combine.  Scoop the dough into small balls, and chill before baking.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes, rotating the tray after 6 minutes.  I like these cookies a little darker because they get a little more toasty flavor, so I normally cook them for about 14 minutes total.  Cool on a cooling rack, and package in a tupperware container.  These cookies tend to get quite soft after a couple days so you can either bake them throughout the week, or throw a piece of bread into the container to soak up the excess moisture.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This recipe is sure to become a favorite in your house.  If you meal plan on Sundays, this recipe takes no time at all and can easily be added into your routine.  Like always, I’d love to hear from you!  Comment below if you try this or any other recipe on my blog.  Also, please share the love on social media using the buttons below!

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Photography by Allyson Regan