Cozy and Hearty Apple Cider Chicken

 

cider chicken plated

It’s fall and that means it’s time for cozy, warm, hearty meals. It’s also a great time to use up all of those delicious apples you harvested from your local orchard. I love to use apples in my cooking as they add a delicious flavor and sweetness to meals. They are also really amazing in salads because of their unexpected crisp, they go best with salads that have a lighter, sweeter dressing. Pure, fresh pressed apple cider is another wonderful ingredient to use in cooking and it’s what makes this chicken dish out of this world. Since the apple cider is a very forward flavor in this meal I recommend getting the best cider you can, name brand packaged cider will work however, fresh farm cider is really the absolute best.

This recipe comes from Sunny Anderson at Food Network®, for the original recipe click here . Please be aware, I did notice in the comments that people complained of the dish being “sour” and upon further reading, I realized that many people made the HUGE mistake of using apple cider VINEGAR in the dish instead of pure apple cider. These two ingredients are vastly different and cannot be interchanged whatsoever so please ensure you are using pure apple cider in this recipe. If you don’t have cider on hand, you can substitute apple juice however, you might find the end result a little less rich and a touch more sweet. 

One suggestion, because you are cooking so many pieces of chicken at once you’ll want to get as much in the pan at one time (without overcrowding) so you don’t have to cook multiple batches. I suggest using a large electric skillet because it can easily accommodate a large batch of chicken ensuring that your meal cooks quickly and all at one time. Lastly, I served this with homemade mashed potatoes and glazed carrots. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider

Instructions

Heat oil and 1 tbs butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper then add to pan and sear until golden, about 4 minutes each side. Remove chicken from pan, and set aside.

Add remaining butter and onion, apple, garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Sauté until apple begins to get color and onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add flour and stir 2 to 3 minutes. Nestle chicken back into pan, add cider, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes.

apple cider chicken

Deals and Steals in the Kitchen and Beyond

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Who out there doesn’t love a bargain? I find that there is nothing more satisfying than getting a really good deal because not only do you end up with that certain something that you have been eyeing but you also walk away with cash to spare in your wallet. Over the years I have become a pretty savvy shopper, there are very few things that I will ever pay full price for simply because there are so many ways to avoid doing so. It goes without saying that some of my favorite deals are generally centered around the kitchen and cooking but I certainly will do my best to find a deal no matter what I am buying from shoes to sheets.

I am often asked how I get such great deals so below I have compiled some of my best tips and tricks for scoring a great deal whether you’re looking for a new appliance, a pair of shoes or even a brand new car! The key is to be willing to put in just a little time and effort before you shop AND to be able to walk away if a deal isn’t good enough. As the consumer, you’re the one in the power position. Companies both big and small want your business and most will do whatever it takes to get the sale. Being a smart shopper can save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars over time. So let’s get saving!

Spend Money, Make Money

If you’re going to be shopping and spending why not make some cash back in the process? I love getting paid to shop whether it’s in the form of rebates, cash back or rewards and it’s so easy to do.

  • Reward Credit Cards – If you use credit cards frequently, get a card that rewards you for shopping. Cards like Discover® and VISA® will give you straight cash back for purchases made with their card. You can cash that out or apply it towards any balance you carry. In my opinion, the best cards to have are the ones for specific stores that you frequent because most of them not only offer amazing coupons and discounts but reward certificates as well. They are literally paying YOU to shop at their store! My favorites store cards are Williams-Sonoma Visa®, The Children’s Place, Macy’s, Kohl’s and the best of the best, Amazon. Because I use Amazon for so much of what I buy, I end up making a good amount back every month that I turn around and apply towards my future purchases. The key with using these credit cards is to ensure that you continually pay off your balance as you use them to avoid any finance charges. You certainly don’t want to negate part of any savings you may have gotten by carrying a balance. I use these cards to get the coupons, deals and cash back but I pay them off as soon as they post online so that I don’t pay any interest at all on my purchase. Get the deal, avoid the debt!
  • Rebate Sites – When shopping online take advantage of the many rebate sites that are available such as Ebates/Rakuten, Ibotta, Swagbucks and Upromise. They are all FREE, easy to use and offer cash back in addition to any coupons or discount codes they provide. I have earned hundreds and hundreds of dollars through Ebates just by doing my normal online shopping, you really cannot beat that deal!

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons

Gone are the days of spending hours cutting and sorting coupons. In this day and age of electronics, finding and using coupons are easier than ever. Once you have your apps downloaded saving money becomes as easy as 1-2-3!

  • Stack Coupons – Coupons are your best friend when shopping as they can earn you both discounts and even FREE product. Stacked coupons are even better. Many stores such as Michael’s, Bath and Body WorksThe Children’s Place, and Kohl’s will let you stack coupons to get even more savings. As an example, at Bath and Body Works you not only get a percentage off of your sale but you can also take advantage of their free product coupons at the same time.
  • Combine Coupons – Combine your coupons with sales, rewards certificates or rebate money that you might have to lower your out of pocket cost even further as you shop. As an example, I recently shopped at Williams- Sonoma and thanks to a 25% off coupon + free shipping, a $25 rewards certificate I earned from using their store credit card and a $25 gift card that I earned by using my AMEX credit card I was able to purchase a new Cuisinart® bread maker for only $37!!!!! Had I just taken advantage of their sale without the coupon, rewards and gift card my out of pocket cost would have been $109 PLUS shipping cost. That is savings of over $70!
  • Coupon Apps – Download rebate, coupon and store apps to increase your savings and to easily keep track of discounts and deals. Plus, you never have to worry about forgetting your coupons at home. Check out money savings apps like Saving Star, Snip Snap, Shop Kick and Card Star.
  • Store Savings Cards – This is perhaps the easiest way to save money and it costs you literally nothing. If a store offers a discount card, sign up! When you shop there you will get the best price and the best coupons every time. I know those little savings cards can be a pain to store and carry so my tip, and one that I use myself, is to get yourself a small hole puncher and key ring. Simply punch a hole in the corner of each card, add them to the key ring and toss in your bag. When you need to use them, they will all be in one convenient place!
  • Online Discount and Promo Codes – Before clicking “buy” online, always run a quick Google® search to see if there are any applicable promo codes for your purchase. Some of the most reliable sites for promo codes are Retail Me Not, Coupon Cabin, and Brad’s Deals.

Everything is Negotiable

If you don’t ask, you don’t get! Do not be afraid to speak up to negotiate a better deal on something you really want. The worst thing that will happen is someone will tell you no but the best thing that can happen is that you save yourself some moola!

  • Do Your Homework – For big ticket items, like a car, do the research before you go shopping. Know what a fair price is for what you’re looking to buy and use that information to negotiate the best price you can. To make the negotiations go more smoothly, bring printouts of your research with you so you can show them in black and white what a fair deal looks like.
  • Damage Discounts – When shopping at discount stores such as Home Goods or Marshall’s often times you will come across a great item but it might have a slight imperfection. When you get to the register, point out the issue and ask for a discount to compensate for the imperfection. At the very least, most stores will offer 10% off without a fight. If you feel that the item’s condition warrants a bigger discount, speak up.
  • Buying in Bulk – If you’re buying multiples of the same item or even if you’re just making a huge purchase, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount or a better deal. Often times stores will throw in a little something extra with your purchase or even give a discount when buying in multiples.

Sales and Clearance

The easiest way to get a great deal is to shop sales and clearance tables.  It takes very little effort and can save you a ton of money! Sometimes you can double down on these deals at stores that allow you to use coupons in conjunction with their sale and clearance items. Michael’s is a store that will occasionally allow coupons to be used with their sale and clearance items, keep an eye out for those!

  • Holiday Sales – Look for great deals throughout the year such as President’s Week, end of summer and Black Friday. Stores usually offer steep discounts at these times of year so it pays to shop their sales. While Black Friday offers some of the best pricing of the year for holiday shoppers there is no need to brave the crowds, there are just as many amazing deals right online so you can cozy up, grab your cup of coffee and shop from the comfort of home. Another wise time to shop online is Cyber Monday because just like Black Friday, there are tons of deal to be had and they all get delivered right to your front door!
  • Future Discount Sales – At certain times throughout the year many stores will offer “store cash” to incentivize you to return at a later date to shop again. These are generally great deals if you know you will have a future need for something. Just be aware that when it’s time to redeem the “store cash” the prices within the store will not be as great since most stores do not run store cash redemption and sales at the same time. That being said, since what you’re buying is essentially “free“, the fact that it’s not on sale matters a little less.
  • End of Season Clearance Tables – Many, many times I’ve had my eye on something but really couldn’t justify paying full price or even the sale price for it so I wait until end of season sales. You can get products for up to 90% off in some cases! I especially love the clearance sections at Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table because you can occasionally get lucky and score amazing deals on very expensive, brand name items such as Staub® and Le Creuset®. Always take a look at the clearance sections in stores and as I mentioned above, if something is slightly imperfect or missing pieces don’t be afraid to ask for a deeper discount. With clearance items, stores are looking to unload all of that stock quickly and if giving you a few extra bucks off helps to move product, many will work with you on pricing.

My last bit of advice is to frequent discount stores to find great deals, particularly on brand name items. I have found Staub® enameled cast iron pots for as little as $45 in stores like Home Goods or Tuesday Morning. The boxes looked beat up or it was “last year’s color” however, the pots themselves were in perfect condition. You can also find excellent deals there on seasonal serving pieces, cookware, bakeware and cooking tools. I generally don’t care for buying food at places like these but the exception for me is extracts. Pure vanilla extract and pure vanilla paste has become so expensive in recent years that I always keep an eye out for it in discount stores when I am shopping. Just recently I was at Home Goods and came across bottles of NielsenMassey pure vanilla extract for only around $11/bottle. It currently retails in WilliamsSonoma for $30/bottle. That is an incredible savings for the same exact product, why pay more if you don’t have to?

Finding a great deal isn’t that hard when you take advantage of the right resources and know how to shop. I am all about saving money because the less you spend for what you want, the better you will feel better about your purchase. Nobody likes to waste money so why give it away if you don’t have to? What are some of your money saving tips? Feel free to share below!

 

 

 

Spiced Pumpkin Coffee Cake

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My daughter Emerson happens to be the world’s WORST eater. She is super picky about every single thing that goes into mouth from fruit to meat to pasta. For whatever reason she takes issues with the way most every food tastes and feels in her mouth EXCEPT pumpkin. For some inexplicable reason this child actually loves baked pumpkin goods. So for her birthday, I decided to make her a delicious Spiced Pumpkin Coffee Cake. I am not a huge pumpkin person myself however, this cake was incredible. It was moist, flavorful and the perfect treat for a crisp, cozy fall day.

This recipe comes from none other than Ms. Paula Deen who happened to put out this amazing Fall baking magazine a few years back in 2014. It was a lovely publication filled with recipes featuring pears, apples, pumpkin and squash. If you happen to have this issue in your collection of recipes and cookbooks, it can be found on page 83. I followed the recipe as written except for one minor change which was to replace the 1/4 cup of sour cream with a 1/4 of low-fat vanilla yogurt. I also threw in an extra splash of pure vanilla extract because you can never go wrong with a little extra vanilla. Happy fall, y’all! Enjoy!

Ingredients

Topping

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream OR 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt

Instructions

Topping – In a small saucepan cook the butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes or until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour until smooth. Turn mixture out onto a plate and allow to cool completely.

Cake – Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line an 8″ square pan with parchment or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and sour cream/yogurt until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until just smooth.

Pour the batter into prepared pan. Break up the topping mixture into chunks and sprinkle all over the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm or allow to cool completely.

**Tip – Mashed cooked sweet potato or puréed cooked butternut squash can be substituted for the pumpkin.**

“How-To” Cooking – All About Onions

onions

Onions are one of the most popular and widely used ingredients in cooking and with so many varieties available at the supermarket it can be confusing to know which kind to choose. Yellow onions are generally the most commonly used in cooking but knowing what else is available will certainly elevate many dishes. Take note that garlic is actually considered part of the onion family even though it has a very different and distinct flavor.

When buying onions choose ones that have a dry, papery skin and are nice and firm. Avoid onions that have any soft spots or powdery surface mold. Always store onions and shallots at room temperature away from light, a dark pantry is a good place to keep them. Delicate scallions however, should be stored in the refrigerator. Place them standing up in a tall glass filled with 1″ of water and cover them loosely with a plastic bag. Lastly, store onions away from potatoes as they release gases which can hasten sprout growth in potatoes causing them to spoil more quickly.

  • Yellow Onions – Strong flavored and maintain their potency when cooked. Also labeled as “Spanish Onions“. Most common onion used in cooking.
  • White Onions – Pungent and strong much like a yellow onion however, their flavor is less complex. Most commonly used in Mexican or Latin American dishes.
  • Red Onions – Crisp onion with a sweet, peppery flavor. Perfect for use in dishes where raw onion is needed. Most commonly used in salads.
  • Sweet Onions – Sweet, mild flavor. Texture can become stringy when cooked so these are best to use raw. These don’t keep as well as other onions so use them up quickly. Most common varieties are Vidalia, Maui, Bermuda and Walla Walla. 
  • Pearl Onions – Crunchy and small with a sweet, delicate flavor. Most commonly used in soups and for roasting. Peeling these tiny onions can be arduous so it’s recommended to buy them pre-peeled in the frozen aisle.
  • Cipolline – Sweet, Italian onion with a flat top and squat shape. Similar to a pearl onion. Ideal for creaming and roasting. Can be served whole.
  • Shallots – Complex, subtly sweet flavor. When cooked they become very soft and almost melt away. Most commonly used in sauces.
  • Ramps – Eaten raw it has a strong, almost garlic like flavor. When cooked it has a mildly, sweet flavor. The entire onion from top to bottom is edible and is often presented in dishes intact.
  • Scallions – Earthy flavor with a delicate crunch. Used in dishes that involve little to no cooking. Can be used interchangeably with ramps. Most commonly used in Asian cooking.

Chef Grayden’s S’muffins

smuffin

S’mores are so delicious. Muffins are really delicious too. How do you make those two things even better? You turn them into a S’muffin of course! It’s the perfect marriage of ingredients and flavor! You end up with the moist, yummy texture of a muffin but with the sweet, gooey, graham flavor of a S’mores.

When my sweet little sous chef wanted to bake on a gloomy, rainy day I was all in but first we had to figure out something easy and yummy to bake. He wanted muffins but also wanted S’mores so he asked if we could mix them all together and make, what he smartly named, a S’muffin. It sounded like a great plan to me so we hopped online to do a little research and we came across this great recipe from the Taste of Home® website. We substituted vanilla low-fat yogurt for the sour cream, added a little splash of pure vanilla extract to the mix and very loosely measured the marshmallow creme. A little extra fluff never hurt anyone! If you have it on hand, feel free to use vanilla sugar instead of the granulated sugar that is called for in the recipe. It adds a nice little extra kick of vanilla flavor. Lastly, we used the leftover graham cracker crumbs that we had to top the muffins off. It added a nice texture to the top of the S’muffins and made them look extra cute.

Gray baking smuffins

The recipe as written only makes about 6-7 muffins so I recommend at least doubling the recipe. You can even triple or quadruple it and then freeze the extra muffins so you have delicious homemade muffins on hand whenever a craving hits. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 tsp granulated or vanilla sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or vanilla low-fat yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons 2% milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs*
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 6-7 tablespoons marshmallow creme

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400ºF. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg then add in the sour cream and milk and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda. Gently beat the dry mixture into the wet ingredients until just moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Line six muffin cups with cupcake liners. Fill the cups up about halfway with batter then spoon roughly 1 tbs of marshmallow creme into each muffin cup. Top with remaining batter. Sprinkle the tops with leftover graham cracker crumbs.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm.

*Tip – To make your own graham cracker crumbs simply place a few sheets of graham crackers into a food processor or blender and pulse until coarse and crumbly.*

 

 

Quick and Easy Fried Rice

Fried Rice2

Who doesn’t love fried rice? Even my kids are a fan (after they pick out the veggies, lol) so I was interested in finding a quick and easy recipe that I could whip up at home. While Chinese take-out is delicious, it can be very calorie dense and laden with salt and sugar. I really love the idea of being able to control the ingredients myself and make a somewhat “lighter” version that is just as yummy as what I can get from a take-out place.

Enter this awesome recipe from the blog, Gimme Some Oven which is true to its name, “The Best Fried Rice“. It was really easy to make and it came out great! I made mine as the recipe specified leaving out the oyster sauce as I didn’t have any in the house. The resulting dish was still very good even without this ingredient. The most important step in this recipe is to use cold rice. Grab whatever leftover rice you have in the fridge or make the rice in the morning and chill until you’re ready to cook it up for dinner.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can get creative if you so desire. Add in a variety of different veggies or toss in some chicken, pork or beef. It is so delicious no matter how you serve it. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups cooked and chilled rice (preferably short grain)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 tbs low-sodium soy sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp oyster sauce (optional)

Instructions

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until melted. Add the egg and cook until scrambled. Remove egg and transfer to a separate plate.

Add an additional 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and heat until melted. Add the carrots, onion, peas and garlic and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion and carrots are soft. Increase heat to high, add in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and stir until melted. Immediately add the rice, green onions, soy sauce and oyster sauce (if using) and stir until combined. Continue stirring for an additional 3 minutes to fry the rice. Then add in the eggs and stir to combine. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil until combined.

Serve immediately or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days.

Chef Emerson’s Brown Butter Blondie Bites

Blondie Bites Emme

If you love brownies you will love its vanilla forward cousin, the “blondie”. The texture and chewiness of a blondie resembles a traditional, fudgy brownie however, the cocoa is substituted for vanilla and brown sugar replaces the granulated sugar. Being a bonafide vanilla lover myself, I really enjoy the delicious flavor of a well executed blondie.

The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it’s super kid friendly so you can get your little chefs in the kitchen and let them have it! The recipe comes from a great, easy to follow cookbook for kids entitled, The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen which in my opinion, is one of the BEST cookbook publishers out there. Their recipes are always easy to follow, delicious and fail proof.

My daughter made these beauties all on her own and except for a few very minor substitutions, she followed the recipe as written.

Emme Blondie Baker

The nice thing about this recipe is that because the blondies are baked in individual muffin cups they both bake and cool much more quickly. To enhance the flavor and give the blondies a more complex, nutty flavor she decided to first brown the butter which turned out to be an excellent idea. It really added to the richness and overall flavor. She also substituted the white chocolate chips that were called for and instead used Heath® Bit o’ Brickle pieces. Needless to say, these were a big hit in our home. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed (light or dark) brown sugar
  • 8 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract or paste
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips or Heath® Bit o’ Brickle pieces

Instructions

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and cooled melted butter until nice and smooth. Add in the eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth.

Add to the wet ingredients the flour mixture and use a rubber spatula to stir gently until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips or toffee pieces.

Using a spoon or cookie scoop, divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups filling them up about halfway.

Bake for about 14-16 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven, place the blondie bites on a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 10-15 minutes before serving.

*To brown butter – In a light colored pan*, melt the desired amount of butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After 4-5 minutes the butter will begin to foam and bubble, keep stirring and watching it closely at this point. As the foaming begins to subside watch the color of the butter, once it looks slightly golden brown remove it from the heat and pour it into a bowl to cool. You will know the butter is browned and ready by the aroma, it should smell nutty and fragrant at this point.*

Tuscan Panzanella Salad

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Let me start by saying that I absolutely LOOOOOOOVE Panzanella Salad. It’s light, crisp, refreshing and those garlic infused bread cubes are heavenly! It’s also a super easy salad to whip up and will make great use of all those wonderful tomatoes, cucumbers and basil in your summer garden.

Panazella is a Tuscan bread salad consisting of cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, a little basil and garlic infused toasted bread cubes. It is typically a very popular summer salad and goes great as a side to any BBQ you’re serving up. Some recipes will call for red wine vinegar however, I much prefer a really nice dark, thick balsamic as I feel it adds so much better flavor. My all time favorite balsamic vinegar is one called “25 Star Balsamic” that is available from The Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson, NY. You can readily purchase it in the store or online by clicking right here .

To save time, you can make the garlic infused bread cubes ahead of time and store in a sealed plastic bag until you’re ready to use them. Take note, the bread cubes will quickly begin to soak up all of the oil, vinegar and moisture from the vegetables so for maximum freshness and taste, toss the bread cubes with the salad only about 15 minutes before serving to avoid soggy, mushy bread. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 loaf of good rustic bread, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbs good quality balsamic vinegar, more as needed
  • 1 tbs minced shallot
  • pinch of sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 hothouse (English) cucumber, sliced in half lengthwise and cut into chunks
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

Instructions

For the bread cubes – Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot remove from the heat and add the garlic cloves. Set aside and allow the garlic to infuse into the oil. Once the oil is cooled, discard the garlic cloves.

Toss the bread cubes with 2 tbs of the garlic infused oil. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden and crispy, about 7-10 minutes. Occasionally turn the cubes while baking.

For the vinaigrette – Combine the remaining garlic infused oil with the vinegar, shallot, sugar, salt and pepper and mix well.

For the salad – In a large bowl, toss the toasted bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and basil with the vinaigrette. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Set aside for about 10-15 minutes before serving so that the flavors have time to blend. Sprinkle with additional basil and serve.

 

Warm and Cozy Cinnamon Baked Apples

baked cinnamon apples

The only thing better than biting into a crisp fresh apple is digging into warm, spiced baked apples which are not only delicious but relatively healthy. Baked apples make a great stand alone treat as well as a fantastic topping for ice cream, french toast, pancakes, waffles, toast or even chicken! They are also incredibly yummy stirred into vanilla yogurt, it makes for the perfect filling breakfast. I like to make a big batch of these apples and then keep them in the fridge so I have them on hand all week for my breakfast and snacks.

This recipe is great because nothing really needs to be exact. Feel free to add a little more cinnamon and spice or if you like your apples more “syrupy“, add a little more liquid or even a dash of maple syrup for flavor and stickiness. There really is no way to mess this recipe up so get comfortable playing around with the ingredients and flavor profile.

One quick trick to speed up the prep time is to use an Apple Corer and Slicer which makes the job so much easier. I feel that the apple slices are a little on the thick side so I like to halve them however, you can bake them “as is” just be sure to increase the cooking time. Serve the apples warm right out of the oven, at room temperature or even cold. They will keep for a few day if placed in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 2-3 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla sugar or granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 5 large baking apples peeled, cored and sliced to medium thickness (Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, etc)
  • 3-4 tbs water or apple cider

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a large baking dish with 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter. Set aside.

Mix together the brown sugar, vanilla (or granulated) sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss the apples slices in the mixture and coat evenly.

Place the apples into the baking dish and add the water or cider to the baking dish. Dot the apples with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until apples are tender but not mushy.