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!

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homemade wonton soup

I have long strove to find and make a wonton soup worthy of sharing. And today, y’all, I’ve finally done it!

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Wonton soup and I go way back. As in, I can still remember the first time that I had it – the hubs and I had spent the weekend camping with friends, and after coming home cold, wet and famished, there was simply no time to cook dinner {gasp!}.We had to eat, and we had to eat NOW. I let him pick, and after settling on Chinese delivery, the doorbell rang not five minutes later with the traditional box full of goodness. When he passed me a tupperware of soup, I looked at it curiously. We didn’t do Chinese much when I was a child, but it was a cuisine that I enjoyed. So I ladled myself a bowl and dug it. And, y’all, I demolished the.entire.bowl. I couldn’t help myself; it was so good!

I look back on this memory fondly, but now that I’ve got more experience with cooking {and recipe developing} I realize that this was probably not all as comforting as it could have been. As much as we all love it, a lot of delivery food is oftentimes high in sodium and other ingredients we may not want to enjoy. I’m in no means knocking it, because we still looooove a good Chinese takeout, but this recipe for wonton soup is going to knock your socks off. It’s unbelievably delicious, for real.

I kept the ingredients super simple, and used what I had on hand. Traditionally, wontons are filled with a mixture of pork and shrimp, but I personally like to use ground chicken instead. It’s super lean, so there’s less of a risk of fat/grease leaking out when you boil them. Paired with the minced shrimp, they make the perfect canvas for the spices we will be adding in. Low-sodium chicken stock lets us control the amount of salt we add in, making it easy for anyone to customize according to their taste. Ad the add-ins once the wontons are complete totally take this dish to the next level.

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Yes, preparing wontons at home is a bit of a process, but I promise you, it’s totally worth it. I like to make double or triple for what I need when making this soup, because they freeze beautifully. Simply prepare them as followed, them placed them on a sheet tray in the freezer for about 30 minutes. After that, transfer them to a baggie and they will last until you next need them! That way, whenever you have a hankering for wonton soup, you’ll be one step ahead of the game. Enjoy!

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Homemade Wonton Soup {recipe adapted from The Little Kitchen}

Deliciously warm and comforting, with the perfect amount of spice, this wonton soup is absolute perfection. 

Ingredients: Wonton Filling

1 lb. ground chicken

1 lb. shrimp {peeled, deveined and washed, finely diced}

1 cup of your favorite greens, finely shredded

3 green onions, finely diced

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

wonton wrappers

salt and pepper, to taste

Ingredients: Broth/Soup Base 

8 to 10 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 large onion, peeled and sliced in half

1 lime, washed and sliced in half

1 large clove of garlic, peeled

1 head baby broccoli, washed and cut into florets

sliced green onions

optional add-ins/toppings: soy sauce, sriracha, soft-boiled egg, sesame oil, kale, arugula

To Prepare:

Add wonton filling ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl and mix together, being sure to incorporate well. Everything should be smooth and well combined.

Add water to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil.

In another {larger} pot, add chicken broth, onion, lime and garlic. Turn onto low heat.

To make the wontons: Add 1/2 Tbsp. filling into the middle of a wonton wrapper, and fold it so that forms a triangle. Flatten out to ensure that there are no air bubbles when boiling. Using your fingers and thumb, pinch the wrapper shut. I find it helpful to lay out an entire baking sheet, brush all edges with a big of egg white, and make an assembly line of sorts…scoop all filling out, then go back and triangle, then go back and pinch shut.

Boil wontons 6 to 8 at a time for about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to platter.

While cooking the wontons, increase the heat of the broth to high and allow to boil for about 5 minutes. 1 to 2 minutes before you are ready to serve, add in the baby broccoli florets and green onions.

To serve: place desired amount of wontons into a large soup bowl, and ladle broth over. Garnish with additional toppings.

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cranberry-studded pumpkin honey biscuits

If we were having breakfast together this morning, this is what I would make for you. Warm biscuits, studded with cranberries, fresh out of the oven. Hints of maple syrup and cinnamon are wafting throughout the kitchen, making it seem ever so inviting.

I’d pour you a cup of coffee {or tea!} and we would sit down at the table, lounging and talking. A plate of biscuits between use, that seems to keep refilling itself, keeps the conversation flowing and the mood light. A slight breeze is coming in through the kitchen window, but we’re not chilled because of these gems.

You might ask – where does the golden color come from? And I would tell you “pumpkin”! We’d laugh about how pumpkin is so overused during the fall, but who are we to complain? We’re enjoying and indulging in said biscuits, without a crumb to be left over.

Before you leave, and we begin our day in the real world, I would hand you the recipe, along with any leftovers. But if I’m being honest, I’m sure we polished them off, without a blink of an eye or a speck of regret. They’re that wonderful.

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Cranberry Honey Pumpkin Biscuits with a Caramelized Maple Glaze {recipe adapted from Food 52}

Warm, spiced, with cranberries studded throughout, these biscuits are the perfect start to any fall morning. A caramelized maple glaze, brushed on top just before the baking session is complete, is the best complement to the flavors within. Flaky and light, these won’t weigh you down – replacing the butter with our trusty Greek yogurt lets you indulge without feeling guilty. So go ahead! – smear on a little whipped honey butter and enjoy. 

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 Tbsp. baking powder

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

5-6 ounces of plain 0% Greek yogurt, very cold {or, use 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter if preferred}

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

6 tbsp. honey

3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/4 to 1/4 cup dried cranberries

For the Glaze:

2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

1/4 cup of vanilla sugar {I keep a jar, on hand, of a mixture of cinnamon and sugar that I’ve stuck a vanilla bean in – the longer it sits, the better it gets!}

To Prepare:

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Flour a large wooden cutting board and rolling pin, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and spices.

In a smaller mixing bowl combine the pumpkin, honey, and buttermilk. Whisk with a fork to combine.

Cut the Greek yogurt into the flour mixture using your fingers, two knives, or a pasty cutter until no pieces larger than a pea remain.

Stir all but the last 1/4 cup of the buttermilk mixture in with a fork just to combine. If the mixture seems dry, add in the additional 1/4 cup {I ended up using the entire wet mixture}. It should be sticky! Fold in the cranberries.

Turn the dough onto your cutting board. Sprinkle top of dough with flour, and pat into a rectangle, fold in half, rotate clockwise, pat back out, and fold again. Repeat this once more, and then gently pat the dough out until about 1″ thick.

Great a baking sheet, and using a floured 2-1/2″ biscuit cutter, cut out the biscuits, being care to not twist the cutter. Place the biscuits on the baking sheet, touching.

Gently reroll the scraps as needed until all the biscuits are cut, and then bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and turn on the broiler. Brush the tops of the biscuits with maple syrup, then sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Place the biscuits back in the oven, and don’t leave their sight! You want to pull them out just when the maple syrup starts to bubble, and the tops start to darken ever so slightly.

Place on a cooling rack to cool completely. Store, tightly covered, at room temperature. After a day or so, transfer to refrigerator {simply pop in the oven to reheat – perfection!}.

Let’s Discuss: do you have a favorite biscuit recipe? 

thirsty thursday: blackberry & ginger beer spritzer

Occasionally, my dear mom will send me various links to recipes. Depending on what kind of meals/foods we’ve been discussing, they could vary from a casserole, to a pizza, or a delicious adaptation on an old classic. However, she knows that the hubs has a passion for cocktail preparation and enjoyment, so a lot of times, I’ll see magazine photos of drink recipes come through via text message.

The cocktail that I’m sharing with y’all today, for this latest installment of my ‘thirsty thursday’ post, is indeed one of those. Sent earlier in the summer, this recipe was saved {but not forgotten!} for a recent trip my parents made to our home. We thought of it as a final nod to warm summer evenings, as we mixed up a pitcher of this and sat on the porch as the sun set, enjoying good conversation and family time.

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Blackberry & Ginger Spritzer {recipe adapted, slightly, from Bon Appetit Magazine}

Simple, clean, and refreshing – this is the perfect cocktail to help get your Friday evening happy hour started! The bite from the blackberries is enhanced by the fresh mint leaves, and the ginger beer is the perfect vehicle to bring all the flavors together. 

Ingredients:

1/2 pint blackberries

8 sprigs mint, plus more for serving

1-1/2 cups vodka

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

3 {12 ounce} cans or bottles of ginger beer {I prefer Crabbie’s}

To Prepare:

Muddle blackberries and mint together in the bottom of a large pitcher for at least one minute.

Mix in the vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer.

Serve over ice garnished with more mint and additional blackberries floating on top.

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Let’s Discuss: what will you miss, flavor-wise, now that summer has come to a close?

thirsty thursday: peach-ginger sangria

Peaches are in season, so naturally, I’m in heaven.

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Maybe it’s because the perfectly ripe flesh reminds me of the colors of a summer sunset, but peaches have always served as a symbol of summer. What is more perfect than that first bite, bursting with flavor and dripping with sweet juice?

I’ll find any excuse to put peaches in just about anything I can think of during this time – whether it is sliced raw in salads, grilled and garnished with a dollop of mascarpone cheese, sliced into my bowl of cereal, whirled up in a smoothie…I think y’all probably get it by now. I’m a peach-a-holic.

So when I stumbled across this perfect summer cocktail a week or so back, I immediately sent it to my husband. He’s just as avid a peach lover as I am, so naturally, we decided to prepare it over the weekend. With a few slight modifications to the original recipe, we’ve created our new go-to summer sangria.

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The sweet peaches are perfectly balanced with the tangy addition of grated ginger, and the fresh lime juice helps counteract the bright Grand Marnier.

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In using a sparkling rose, along with club soda to finish, you are left with a slightly fizzy and perfectly refreshing cocktail. I highly recommend you try this out as soon as you can – you’ll be glad you did!

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Peach-Ginger Sangria {adapted from Love & Lemons}

{makes 1 pitcher}

Ingredients:

1 bottle of sparking semi-sweet rose wine

1 cup Grand Marnier

3 large peaches

grated ginger, about 1/2″

juice of one lime

one cup of club soda {provides a nice effervescence}

ice, for serving

*optional garnishes include mint, basil, peach wedges, slices of lemons and limes

To Prepare:

Muddle one of the peaches with a few splashes of the Grand Marnier in the bottom of a large pitcher.

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Slice the remaining peaches and set aside.

Add remaining ingredients, except for the club soda and peaches, into the pitcher. Stir to combine.

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Add in the sliced peaches and top with ice and club soda. Serve in glasses, along with optional garnishes.

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thirsty thursday: moscow mules

This is, by far, one of my absolute favorite cocktails.

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Let’s rewind for a moment. One day last summer, the hubs and I were spending a wonderful Saturday afternoon in our local downtown area, meandering from shop to shop and rooftop to rooftop. It was one of those days that bespoke time outdoors, and I am fairly certain we had gone for a hike earlier in the day as well.

When tired legs called for a break, we headed to one of our favorite bars and settled in to the cozy corner table on their back patio. Because it was earlier in the afternoon…you know, the time between lunch and dinner when no one is really around?…we had pretty much the entire space to ourselves. This made for a lovely, quiet spot to post up for a bit. When our waitress brought out cocktail menus, my eyes actually darted to the bottled beers list. This is rare form for me; while I love a craft beer on occasion, I typically lean towards lighter-style drinks (wine, clear spirits, that kind of thing). Feeling adventurous, though, I thought to mix up my usual routine.

My eyes moving about the page, darting back and forth and up and down, finally caught a word that grabbed my attention – ginger beer. I thought to myself that this was so interesting, and the fact that it was a beverage for adults, made it a winner all around. After placing our orders I eagerly began to await the arrival of my drink.

Not a moment or so later, our drinks were delivered. My ginger beer was served with a tall glass of ice and a side of lime wedges. Upon instruction, I poured the cold beer over the ice and squeezed the limes on top. Once sip later, and I was hooked. Give me ginger beer, or give me nothing at all!

Fast forward to today. The drink we are focusing on, the ‘moscow mule’ pays homage to this amazing, refreshing beverage. The perfect drink for summer, but also the perfect drink for anytime. Less ice and a bit more ginger flavor makes it a great autumn drink – the sharp ginger flavor does a great job of warming you up from the inside out. If it’s summertime, serve in a chilled glass with lots of crushed ice. I have also been know to add a splash of coconut rum for an extra kick; I’ve found that it helps enhance the flavor of the cocktail itself. However you choose to enjoy it, be sure to sip it slowly and with your feet up…you’ll be transported to a tasty place of relaxation.

Cheers!

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Moscow Mule

{serves 1}

One part vodka

One part lime juice {please don’t sell yourself short on flavor; using fresh squeezed lime juice is a must here !}

Three parts ginger beer {Crabbie’s is my go-to brand of choice}

To make the drink:

Fill a glass with ice {the traditional glass of choice is a copper mug, but whatever you have will do!}. Pour the above listed ingredients into a glass and mix well. Pour into the ice-filled glass and serve with fresh lime wedges on the side.

ginger simple syrup

If you love a good, hand-crafted cocktail…I have two things to share with you.

1. You and my husband share that common love.

2. This post is vital, and I mean VITAL, for your home bar.

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Simple syrup is a classic barkeeper’s ingredient. Used in everything from mojitos to mixed drinks, its main purpose is to add an extra hit of sweetness to otherwise sharper-tasting drinks. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be used in alcoholic drinks – it can be used in frozen treats (think popsicles) and in jams, jellies, etc.

To provide a bit of background, there are actually several different types of simple syrups. The most common one is the ‘traditional’ simple syrup. This is made with equal parts sugar and water; all you do is stir granulated sugar into boiling water until it dissolves, cool completely, and store in the refrigerator. Depending on how sweet you like things, you can go with a 1:1 ratio like I use, or double up the sugar 2:1.

Flavored syrups (like what’s listed in the below recipe) are made by adding…you guessed it…a flavor into the syrup.  A lot of these you’ll find in coffee bars (think cinnamon, mocha, caramel, etc.).

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Lastly, there is what’s called gomme syrup. The difference between this and other syrups is the addition of gum arabic, which acts as an emulsifier. Gomme syrup is always made with a 2:1 ratio, to ensure the sweetest ending flavor possible. An example of where this might be used is in iced Japanese coffee.

Because simple syrups have the sugar completely dissolved into the liquid, they make for an ideal addition to drinks. There will be no gritty or texture added into the drink, ensuring a smooth sip each and every time.

And I’m sure you’re thinking – well, why couldn’t we just buy this in the store? Of course you can…but why buy it when you can make it in, and I’m not joking, less than 5 minutes!? Not only will you always, always have sugar and water on hand to make this, you can control the additional flavors and the amount of sugar that goes into it. All you will probably need to purchase is a squeeze bottle or two (or, feel free to wash out a ketchup bottle…or other squeeze-type bottle…REALLY well and use that!). I don’t know about y’all, but that sounds like winning to me!

Let’s look at the recipe, shall we? Below, I’ve outlined my recipe (and name of this post) for a Ginger Simple Syrup. But don’t let that contain you! If you want to start of with a basic syrup, feel free to omit the ginger completely. Feeling a little flavor-inspired? Go for it! Some of my favorite syrup add-ins include vanilla bean, basil, rosemary (yes, herbs make ahhmazing flavor infusions for cocktails!), strawberry, orange, mint…the possibilities are endless! Get creative and please let me know what you come up with.

Bottoms Up!

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2-1/2″ fresh ginger root, sliced thin

1 C. water

3/4 – 1 C. sugar (I like turbinado or Demerara sugar*)

Pour water into a small pot on the stovetop. Add in sliced ginger, and bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling, pour in sugar and lower the heat. Stir constantly, until the sugar is dissolved (watch closely, because you don’t want to burn the sugar!). Remove from heat and cool completely. Before pouring into a storage container, remove the sliced ginger. Simple syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month, sometimes longer. Removing any flavoring (mint, fruit, etc.) will help prolong the shelf life.

using a natural sugar will slightly alter the color of the end product; think a little richer in color and not perfectly clear, as if you use traditional granulated sugar. Personally, I prefer the turbinado or Demerara, because it adds a slightly richer flavor