So Long Summer Cider

It’s fall – no question about that. The chill in the air has arrived. My mums are out in front of the house. I bought a large amount of pumpkins and gourds to display. It’s fall.

One of the things I put on my fall bucket list is to perfect an autumnal drink. Something that had apples, and fall spices, and just felt like a cooler weather drink from the first sip. Dan beat me to the punch on this one and created what we’ve named So Long Summer Cider.

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In honor of going apple picking this weekend, we got some apple cider from Trader Joe’s, and Dan came up with this drink from ingredients we already had in the house:

6 oz. apple cider

2 oz. honey whiskey

2 dashes Peychaud’s orange bitters

about 2 tablespoons honey mixed with a bit of water (to thin it) and cinnamon sugar (for rimming glass)

one mini cinnamon stick (for garnish)

Start by pouring the honey onto a flat dish and doing the same thing in another dish with the cinnamon sugar. Dip the glass in the syrup, then quickly dip the glass in the sugar.

To make the drink, combine the cider, whiskey, and a splash of bitters. Add an ice cube (preferably a cool square one) and the cinnamon stick to the glass, and enjoy!

We didn’t have any oranges in the house, but you could up your drink game by throwing in a curled orange peel the next time you have guests over that you want to impress.

Given how tasty this was, and how non-alcoholic it tasted, it’s sure to become our go-to drink this fall season.

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Our Chicken Pot Pie

Recently, we found ourselves home on a Saturday night with no plans. How did that happen? We decided to use the time to do something we used to love doing, but haven’t had time to do in ages – cook a (somewhat time intensive) dinner together. I was too lazy to go to the store, so we saw what we had in the house and went from there. It was a little on the chilly side, so we focused on fall foods and decided to make chicken pot pie.

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I looked at a bunch of different recipes, but ultimately, we sort of winged it and made up our own.

Ingredients:

2 carrots

1 small red pepper

1 celery stalk

1 can peas (drained)

1 can corn (drained)

1 1/2 cans low sodium chicken broth

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into inch-sized pieces)

celery salt

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup chopped white onion

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup milk

1 package pie crust (both crusts in the package)

1 egg (beaten and made into an egg wash with a bit of water.)

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place one of the pie crusts in a pie pan and brush it with egg wash. Once the oven is up to temperature, bake the pie crust for only 5 minutes. Remove the pan and let it cool on the counter.

Chop the carrots, celery stalk, and red pepper. Put those veggies in a pan with high sides. Add the chicken stock, chicken, peas, corn, and some celery salt to the pan. You want to make sure the ingredients are mostly covered in the chicken stock. Allow the pan to come to a boil, then let it simmer for 15 minutes.

While the veggies and chicken are cooking, start making the onion and flour mixture. Melt the butter in another pan and add the onion. Cook until the onion is translucent. Then, add the flour, milk, and salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should thicken up a bit.

Once both parts of the pie and cooked, add the flour-onion mixture to the veggie-chicken mixture and stir. Once combined, spoon about half of it into the pie pan. Smooth the surface as best you can. Then, add the other pie crust to the top. Try to crimp the two pie crusts together, so nothing boils out of the pie. use a sharp knife and poke some venting holes on the top of the pie. Finally, brush on more of the egg wash.

Let the pie bake for about 30-35 minutes. When fully cooked, let the pie sit for a bit, maybe 10 minutes or so, before cutting.

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This pie was so tasty. One quick comment – be a little heavy handed with the spices. Ours could have used more celery salt, or even some poultry seasoning. The pie was a little on the bland side, so next time, I’ll be sure to give it some kick.

 

 

Quick and Easy Ham and Swiss Sliders

I hosted a few close friends for our annual luau a couple weeks ago. Oddly, no photos were taken, so I don’t have any to share with you guys.

Instead, I’m going to share the mini sandwiches I prepared for the party.

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They were a hit!

I started with this recipe, but changed it quite significantly. I thought there was just too much butter.

Ingredients:

15 Hawaiian rolls (I bought a 24 pack and had extra)

1/2 pound deli ham (I used Krakus)

1/2 pound deli Swiss cheese

Sauce:

2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

3 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons chopped onion (this is a spice, not fresh onion)

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon poppy seeds (can be omitted)

Directions:

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. While the oven heats, start working on the sandwiches. Cut the Hawaiian rolls in half, creating a top and bottom. Leave the bottoms without their tops.

Make the sauce by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl. I gave approximate measurements above, as I wasn’t too careful with the measuring tools. The sauce shouldn’t be too thin or runny.

Spread a bit of sauce on each roll bottom. Top with one folded piece of ham and half a piece of cheese (folded in half). Add a bit more sauce on the top of the bun, and place it on top of the sandwich.

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick cooking spray and place the sliders into the pan. All should fit without stacking. Spray the tops of the buns just a bit, and cover the pan with foil. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the tin foil, and bake for about 5 minutes more.

They came out delicious – much more so than I thought a simple ham and cheese sandwich would be. I think that sauce is definitely the key. I had some leftover, and put them in the fridge. Dan heated one up when he got home and said they were great even re-heated.

Let me know how yours turn out!

 

Baked Chicken Parmesan with Zoodles

My oh my. My birthday came and went last weekend, which meant eating my favorite (fatty) foods. In excess. It was great.

Last night, I knew I needed to make a healthy meal to get myself back on the track to eating well. I had some zucchini I needed to use and I had made some pasta sauce last week, so I decided to make baked chicken parmesan and serve it over zucchini “noodles.”

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I know, zucchini “noodles” are not real pasta noodles. They don’t taste the same, like at all. You have to go into this knowing that and having the mindset that you’re having a side of veggies, not a side of pasta, with your meal.

I used Skinnytaste’s recipe for baked chicken parmesan. It was really good. The chicken was juicy, and the flavors were great.

For the zoodles, I looked at a few different recipes, and most served the zucchini raw. I didn’t think that would taste right, plus, the zucchini would have been cold since they had just come from the fridge. I decided to cook them just a little bit, so they would be warm, but not too long that they would become mushy. I heated up a wok, added a teeny bit of olive oil, then added the spiralized zucchini, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. I cooked them for only a few minutes, being sure to stir them and get some of their moisture out. At the same time, I heated some pasta sauce in another pan. When the zoodles were ready, I poured the heated pasta sauce into the wok and mixed the sauce and zucchini together.

To serve, I put the zoodles in a pasta bowl and put the chicken on top. The chicken pieces we had we so big, I ended up cutting one in half and it was more than enough for me. We had enough for dinner with some zoodles, the half chicken piece, and a whole other chicken piece leftover. I’ll be enjoying my leftovers for lunch today.

 

 

Curry Eggplant Dinner

I’m always looking for new, tasty recipes that can be made fairly quickly for week nights. I’m typically the first one home, and take on the cook role so we can eat at a reasonable time. In the past few years, I’ve culled together some solid recipes to choose from each night. I’ve used those tried and true recipes so much that dinner has gotten quite boring.

In a move to revive dinners, Dan and I tried menu planning for the week. It’s kind of like an episode of Chopped every night, in that I won’t stop at the store for an ingredient or two. I’m of the “use what you have” mentality, which helps us keep our food budget in line and avoid throwing away food that’s spoiled. We had two large eggplants in our fridge. So, we searched eggplant recipes, trying to keep our mind toward healthy recipes.

Dan found a recipe for Curry Eggplant.

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It came out to be quite tasty, but the cooking time took much longer than the recipe suggested.

The recipe called for the eggplant/tomato/onion mixture to simmer for 12-15 minutes. After 15 minutes, there was still a lot of water in the pan. I ended up letting the pan simmer for almost 30 minutes. That was unexpected. Full disclosure: we didn’t have the full amount of tomatoes that the recipe called for, but I can’t imagine that caused the simmering issue. We also didn’t have any basamati rice in the house, so I used brown instead.I thought it worked well as a substitute.

I would try this recipe again. It was easy to prepare, and I’ll be ready for a little bit longer of cooking time.

Homemade Frosty Paws

Last year, a co-worker gave me some Frosty Paws. Apparently, she had bought a box, given her dog one, and she didn’t care for them. Phoebe, on the other hand, loved them.

I planned to buy some at the store next time I was there, and I noticed the box of four treats was almost $5! I knew I could make them for less than that. And I did.

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I found myself with some bananas that were becoming overly ripe. I decided to use one to try out these homemade dog treats.

Ingredients:

1 banana, chopped

16 oz plain yogurt (no flavors)

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp peanut butter

The directions are simple. Just add all the ingredients to a blender and blend. Once everything is all mixed together, pour even amounts into silicone cupcake liners. You could also use those bathroom Dixie cups if you have them. Personally, I like the silicone molds because they’re reusable and the treat pops right out.

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Phoebe approves.

 

Honey Rhubarb Tart

Wow. Over 3 weeks since my last post? How can that be? I guess I’ve just been out and about enjoying the gorgeous summer weather we’ve finally gotten in Chicagoland.

Part of all that summer fun involved celebrating my dear friend Lauren’s birthday last weekend. She invited a group of our friends over to her home for a lovely brunch. I offered to bring a dessert, and settled on a rhubarb tart. It came out fancy.

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I used this recipe. Believe it or not, I had a hard time finding a good tart recipe. Rhubarb tarts must not be a thing in America – all the recipes were from England and France, hence the strange ingredient measurements. I did some googling, and I ended up having to approximate some of the measurements, which I hate doing in baking. Ingredients are supposed to be precise when you bake, so I was pretty nervous about how this tart would come out. It seems to have worked, so I thought I’d share the conversions I did:

Pastry/crust ingredients:

1 cup flour

6 1/3 tablespoons of cold butter

1 ounce of water

pinch of salt

 

Filling ingredients (I added to the original recipe):

4 stalks of rhubarb

3 tablespoons honey mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (to soak rhubarb in)

3 tablespoons honey mixed with 1 teaspoon white sugar (to brush on top of tart)

1 tablespoon fine sugar (I used baking sugar) to sprinkle on top of the whole tart before baking

 

Yeah, I added a lot of extra sweetener than the original tart recipe recommended. I was concerned that my rhubarb was not quite ripe, and would be bitter. The tart turned out great, and I think the extra sugar was definitely needed. The tart had a subtle sweetness paired with the slightly bitter rhubarb. My only complaint was that the extra honey left the crust a bit soggy. I probably wouldn’t add so much honey if I had perfectly ripe rhubarb. Still, the tart was pretty tasty so I’m putting this one in the win column.