apple-bbq pulled pork

This is not your average pulled pork. I am by no means putting down such a wonderful dish; in fact, there’s almost nothing I enjoy more than a tart, vinegar-based pulled pork sandwich, especially during the summer {does anyone remember this dish from earlier in the year?}. But sometimes your taste buds crave something new and exciting. And usually, it takes only a few slight modifications to transform a classic dish into something totally new and exciting. Enter this new pulled pork recipe.

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We’re transforming pulled pork with apples, BBQ sauce, applesauce, and Mexican spices. It may sound like an interesting combination of ingredients but let me assure you – this is a dish so full of flavor and texture, your mouth will not know what hit it upon the first bite! The apples impart sweet notes into the meat; the BBQ sauce adds notes of smoke and richness, and the applesauce helps yield a sauce that was made for drizzling over a heaping bowl.

Aside from making one killer sandwich {I dressed mine with a bit of arugula}, I could easily see this getting folded into Macaroni and Cheese {with spicy cheese and jalepenos}, atop a pizza, or stirred into Alfredo sauce. The possibilities are endless. And it is, without a doubt, a crowd pleaser.

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Apple-BBQ Pulled Pork {recipe adapted from The Slender Kitchen}

A fun twist on the classic pulled pork dish. This meal is bursting with flavors and textures – the apples and BBQ sauce meld flavors seamlessly to create the perfect sandwich. 

Ingredients:

pork loin, about 3-4 lbs., trimmed of any excess fat

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 sliced apples {I used one red and one green}

2 sliced onions

2 minced garlic cloves

salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup BBQ sauce

1/2 cup water

To Prepare:

Add half of the onions and apples to the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle half of the minced garlic on top. Season with salt and pepper.

Rest the pork loin atop the base layer. Top with remaining apples, onions and garlic.

In a small bowl, mix the BBQ sauce, cumin, chili powder, applesauce, and water together. Pour on top of the pork loin and other ingredients.

Cook on low for up to 8 hours. Once ready to serve, shred the meat with two forks. Make sure to incorporate the apples and onions; they will add a delicious note of flavor!

Serve with toasted buns and a side of your favorite BBQ sauce. Enjoy!

thirsty thursday: cider-ginger mules

Spiked cider has just gotten better.

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There’s something magical about this time of the year – the air is crisp, the sky is clear, and all the wonderful autumn flavors just seem to work their way into all sorts of concoctions. I am not complaining, because the day that I stumbled upon this creative cocktail I knew that I was in for a treat. And y’all, we’re talking PERFECTION. This drink, holy wow. I cannot get enough.

I have always had a soft spot for ginger beer. Perhaps it’s because one of my favorite local spots makes theirs in-house, resulting in the best ‘Dark & Stormy’ I’ve had to date, but I just adore the flavor. When made properly, it’s perfectly spicy and sweet.

But now, there is this drink. THIS DRINK! Not only does it utilize my favorite ginger beer, but we’re also incorporating hard cider. Again, another one of my favorites! And when you top it with the freshly sliced, in-season apples, it is seriously like drinking up autumn. It brings up that warm, fuzzy feeling…and no, it’s not from the vodka. wink wink.

One sip and you’ll be in autumnal bliss. I promise.

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Cider-Ginger Mules {recipe adapted from Averie Cooks}

Ingredients:

6 ounces ginger beer

3 ounces hard cider

3 ounces vodka

optional garnishes: apple wedges, cinnamon sticks

To Prepare:

Fill a cider mug with ice to chill it down, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Discard all but one or two of the ice cubes.

Layer ingredients over the remaining ice cubes and stir ingredients to combine. Float an apple garnish on the top, as well as on the rim of the glass. A cinnamon stick can be added to use as a stirrer. Enjoy!

cinnamon-spiced apple chips

Not long ago, I was gifted from some friends a rather large bag of apples from a local orchard. They are in the process of planning their wedding, and are holding the reception at said location. They were in town visiting and working on wedding preparation and, in exchange for us hosting them, they returned from the reception site with armfuls of apple-y goodness for us. Needless to say, I was giddy with excitement.

But what is one to do with such a large amount of fresh apples? Honestly, my first thought was to make a pie or tart of sorts, but with the holidays right around the corner, I knew that my apple pie would be on constant rotation {I’ll be sharing it with you soon, I promise!}. So I pondered over it for a few days, hoping that inspiration would strike. And sure enough, it did!

A friend recently loaned me their food dehydrator to do some food preparations, and I knew that this would be the perfect vehicle. I ah-dore dried fruit, especially in the cooler months. The possibilities with dried fruits are endless! – stirred into oatmeal, baked into cookies, or tossed with greens for an easy and simple salad, it really doesn’t get much better. So I did a little research about the method and preparation, as this was a first time for me, and boy oh boy…is the end result amazing!

c/o improvisedlife.com

Here are the steps that I followed, with notes for both dehydrating and classic oven baking. Use whichever is easiest for you; it’s impossible to go wrong with these!

I had the thought to mix in a little bit of savory spices {chili powder, rosemary, etc.} on a few of the different layers, and it was a surefire success! 

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Cinnamon-Spiced Apple Chips {recipe adapted from Tasty Yummies}

An ideal way to use up an overload of apples – can we say apple-picking, anyone?? – apple chips are a great way to ensure your produce lasts long enough for you to enjoy! 

Ingredients:

4-5 {minimum} ripe apples, whatever variety you like best*

1-2 tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 tbsp. granulated sugar, optional

*I find that firmer-fleshed apples work really well 

To Prepare:

Slice off the top {stem side} of the apple, and the slice the apples into thin rounds, maintaining a thickness of 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick. If you have a mandolin, this is a great way to utilize it! It will ensure even chips.

Remove the seeds and the entire core. The peel can be left on {this is what I like!} or removed, depending on your preference.

Toss the apples with the cinnamon and optional sugar, and arrange in a single layer in your dehydrator. Once arranged, set the temperature at 135 degrees. Allow the apples to go for 6-8 hours, or until they are dried out and as crispy as you prefer.

Don’t have a dehydrator? Use the oven! – simply preheat the oven to 200 degrees, and lay the apple slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hr., flip them over, and allow them to bake until desired level of crispness is reached and they are no longer moist. You may need to flip several times during this last section of time.

To preserve the quality of your apple chips, store in an airtight container.

Slice off the top, stem side, of the apple and then slice the apple into thin rounds, somewhere between 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick. A mandoline slicer works best so they are all the same thickness. Remove the seeds or the whole core. Peel can be left on or taken off.

Toss the sliced apples with cinnamon and sugar (optional) and arrange in a single layer in your dehydrator or onto a parchment paper-lined baking pan.

Dehydrator: Turn the dehydrator to 135ºF. Allow the apples to dehydrate for 6 to 8 hours or until they are dried and as crisp as you want them to be.

Oven: Preheat the oven to 200ºF. Bake the apples slices for 1 hour, then flip them and allow to bake for another 1 to 2 hours until the chips are no longer moist. Flipping occasionally.

Store your apple chips in an airtight container to maintain crispness.

thirsty thursday: the fallen apple

Gone are my cravings for cocktails on the lighter side. While I still love a good mojito if the sunshine is out {because how can you go wrong with that drink?}, autumn cocktails need to be warm, comforting, and full-bodied.

We’ve had a bottle of apple wine {a favorite of mine from a local winery} waiting to be crafted into something fun and new. I adore this wine on its own, but have been itching to transform it into something different! So I spent the better part of an afternoon thinking and dreaming researching how we could best do that.

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And then I saw the drink I’m sharing with you all today. I’ve taken a bit of a liberty and tweaked it from its original form, but the end result is nothing short of spectacular. The maple bourbon we’re using hits the perfect note of warmth and sweet; the mulled simple syrup adds a bit of spice and flair thanks to the honey, and the apple wine itself creates the perfect canvas for these flavors to meld as one.

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The Fallen Apple {recipe adapted from What Sarah Knows}

With my newly found and developed love of good bourbon, this cocktail was a no-brainer to make on a chilly Friday evening. Perfectly balanced with the warm notes from the simple syrup, the sweet bourbon, and the crisp apple slices, this cocktail will make you feel comfortable and cozy. 

For the Mulled Simple Syrup:

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey {use local if you can}

1 tsp. mulling spices

To make the syrup, bring all ingredients to a  boil on the stove top, making sure to stir constantly. The sugar may burn if you don’t! Once all ingredients are dissolved, remove  from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator, tightly covered, when not in use. 

Ingredients:

2 ounces Crown Royal Maple Bourbon, or whatever you like

2 ounces apple wine {apple cider would be a great substitute}

1 Tbsp. mulled simple syrup

thinly sliced apple, for garnish

To Prepare:

As directed above, prepare the mulled simple syrup and set aside to cool.

In a shaker add ice, bourbon, apple wine, and mulled simple syrup. Shake and pour into a glass. Top with sliced apple.

Cheers!

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Let’s Discuss: are you a fan of mulled wine? What do you like/not like about it?

apple cake with bourbon-vanilla buttercream

As a child, we had a tradition in my family. On your birthday, you got to pick whatever dish you wanted for dinner. No if’s, and’s or but’s, my mom was always up for the challenge. Most years, my sisters and I would pick our tried and true favorites – dishes that were easy to create but nonetheless special, because mom made them just for you on your birthday. Is it just me, or does food taste just a tad bit better when it’s like that?

The same went for desserts. Again, tried and true favorites were picked. Yellow cake with chocolate buttercream frosting was on regular rotation for my sisters, and sometimes evolved into a certain chocolate ganache cake that was so rich, only a mere sliver could be enjoyed. Cheesecakes would often sneak in, and ever so often a pie would appear.

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with today’s recipe.

Well, y’all, the tradition of special birthday meals has not been ignored every since I flew the coop and got hitched a couple years back. As long as the hubs and I have been together, I’ve enjoyed preparing dishes and desserts for him every year on his birthday. The only stipulation? It has to be something uncommon, and something we wouldn’t necessarily make at home. The same applies for dessert. We’ve had the cake version of my Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, trifles, and various twists on the classic chocolate cake. So this year, I challenged HIM. We had to select a dessert that had never passed our lips, but that would be delicious and sumptuous.

With fall just around the corner, the mental light bulb was quick to turn on. Almost simultaneously, after discussions of how amazing our wedding cake was, we thought “APPLES!”. It couldn’t be more perfect – the hubs love apple-based treats, and when I suggested a buttercream centered on his favorite libation {bourbon}, he was instantly sold.

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And I’m telling y’all, this is to.die.for. Like, seriously. It is perfectly moist and decadent, but not at all overly sweet or heavy. We use applesauce, not oil {!}, in the cake, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.It adds the perfect amount of sweetness to the cake, and creates the most beautiful crumb when you slice through it. One bite of this, topped with fluffy buttercream, and you’ll want this for your birthday.

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Apple Cake with Bourbon-Vanilla Buttercream {cake adapted from A Beautiful Bite, & frosting recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma}

Just because it’s not quite yet fall, doesn’t mean the desire for apples in baked goods isn’t here! This cake is full of apple flavor, and the bourbon buttercream takes it over the top. Supremely moist and full of flavor, this is sure to satisfy. 

Ingredients – Cake:

4 cups firm fleshed baking apples, cored and diced {I used a mixture of Fuji/Granny Smith/Red Delicious}

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup turbinado sugar {granulated will work fine; I think the turbinado offers a richer and more complex taste}

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp. vanilla extract {homemade, if you have it!}

Ingredients – Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream:

6 cups confectioners’ sugar

16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3 tbsp. milk, plus more if needed

2 tsp. vanilla extract {again, if you have homemade, go for it!}

1 to 1-1/2 shots of bourbon {optional, but encouraged!}

pinch salt

To Prepare – Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (2) 9″ baking pans and set aside. As these cakes tend to bake a bit taller than usual, I would recommend greasing all the way up the sides of the pans, and the lips as well!

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In a large mixing bowl, combine flour/cinnamon/salt/baking soda. Mix well and set aside.

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Using a stand mixer or hand mixer set on medium speed, combine both sugars/eggs/applesauce/vanilla. Mix until incorporated.

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Slowly add in the flour mixture; mixing only until incorporated.

Stir in the apples by hand. Pour cake batter into the (2) pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Remove from oven and let cool, in pans, for at least 20 minutes. Flip out of pans and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Once cooled, cover with Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream.

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To Prepare – Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream:

Have all of the ingredients at room temperature for best result.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, milk, bourbon and vanilla and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixture and scrape down the sides. Increase the speed to medium and beat another 3 minutes. Stop and scrape the sides down again. Turn the mixture onto medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, another 3-5 minutes.

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Cake will stay, covered, on the countertop for up to 3 days. If it lasts that long, transfer to refrigerator.

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Let’s Discuss: do you and your family have any special birthday traditions? What is your favorite birthday treat, whether savory OR sweet?