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?

100 posts!

We’re celebrating 100 Posts today, y’all! Time to party, so put on your hat, grab a flag, and let’s dance around!

I am so grateful to share my recipes and experiences with you all here on Kitchen Konfidential; you’ve made it incredible so far, and I can’t wait to see where the next 100 Posts take us :)

I’ll leave you with a bit of exciting news I received at the end of last week…take a look…

socialscenecoverThat’s my name on the cover! AHH!

A local publication, the NRV Social Scene Magazine, has written a feature article detailing my blog and what I love to share with you all :) It was a great way to kick off the weekend, that’s for sure!

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Be sure to check out the link, and let me know what you think! Happy Tuesday, my friends!

pumpkin chili

Chili is one of the quintessential dishes of the autumn season. It’s versatile, comforting, and can be transformed into thousands of different variations. Some people take it on top of rice, others with spaghetti….left plain, or piled high with cheddar cheese and sour cream and Fritos and onion, it’s a safe bet that few and far between people take theirs exactly the same way.

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The recipe that we’re making here today is probably one of our favorites here in the KK house. I still remember seeing this pop up on my feed, via Skinnytasteat least 2 years ago. My initial reaction was – pumpkin in chili?! So I bookmarked it for later, not sure if it would make it into the crockpot.

…I am so thankful that it did, and the hubs is too! This chili is seriously one of the best flavor combinations that I’ve yet to find in chili. It combines my favorite traditional chili spices {cumin, chili powder, & LOTS of oregano}. The onions and garlic give it that extra punch we all love.

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The great northern beans, when mixed with the green chili and creamy pumpkin, results in the most luxurious mouth feel; it’s truly one that I have not yet been able to replicate in any other recipe. And if you’re concerned that the pumpkin flavor may be too pronounced, fear not! It lends the perfect taste of fall; it lets the other flavors and ingredients shine and takes the back seat. It gives a gorgeous color, however!

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When it comes to the style of meat used, I take a note out of Gina’s book and go with the ground turkey. However, I use a less lean version…we’re going with a 93% lean. But feel free to take liberty, and sub in your favorite! You could go even leaner with the turkey; ground chicken is great {I can attest to this!}, or even mix it up with a spiced sausage and beef mixture {chorizo, anyone? WOW!}.

Just make sure you serve a side of tortilla chips with this dish – you’ll be happy you did!

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Pumpkin Chili {recipe adapted, slightly, from Skinnytaste}

Rich and creamy due to the pumpkin puree added during the cooking process, this chili is sure to warm you through. With just the perfect amount of smoky spice {thanks, cumin and chili powder!}, this is the perfect fall dish.

Ingredients:

cooking spray

1 lb. ground turkey {I like to use 93% lean, but you can substitute as necessary!}

1 medium onion, finely diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1-1/2 tsp. chili powder

3 bay leaves

1 tsp. cumin

1-1/2 tsp. oregano

1 {15 ounce} can white northern beans, drained and rinsed

1 {15} ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 {15 ounce} can pumpkin puree

4.5 ounce can chopped green chili

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

salt and pepper, to taste

optional toppings: baked tortilla chips, low-fat sour cream, low-fat plain Greek yogurt, chopped cilantro, chopped chives

To Prepare:

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and lightly spray with cooking spray. Add meat and cook, breaking it up until white, about 5-7 minutes.

Reduce the heat slightly and add in the diced onions and garlic, stirring to distribute through the meat. Add in the spices and cook until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes.

Add in the meat/onion/spice mixture into the bottom of the crockpot. Add in both of the beans, the chopped green chilis, and the pumpkin puree. Stir to combine, then add in the stock and the bay leaves. Give one final stir and cover.

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Cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours.

Once complete, remove the bay leaves and ladle into bowls. Serve with desired toppings – enjoy!

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Let’s Discuss: how do you like to dress your chili? 

thirsty thursday: how to make mulling spices

In a bit of a twist on my post for this week’s “thirsty thursday,” I wanted to share the base for one of my favorite cold-weather drinks. It may not be as popular as making spiked hot chocolate, or an Irish coffee, but I think it deserves its time to shine. Does anyone have a guess?…anyone?

We’re talking mulled wine!

A “mulled” drink is a drink which has been prepared with certain spices, and is heated in a pot for a period of time. The spices are strained off, and the drink is enjoyed piping hot. Oftentimes, you may see mulling spices dotted with dried fruits such as raisins, apples, or citrus rinds. They add another dimension of flavor; not to mention, they give off the most wonderful perfume when the drink is steeping!

The combination of spices typically varies from user to user, so today  I wanted to share my favorite method of preparation! And be sure to take notes, because you may be seeing this pop back up again in the near future {hint, hint}.

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Mulling Spices {recipe adapted from 30 Pounds of Apples}

The perfect combination of sweet and savory spices makes this bar staple a must-have in your home during the winter months! Super easy to prepare and can be stored for a long period of time {tightly covered}, it makes the perfect pick-me-up when you’re having a dull day. 

Ingredients:

6 ounces whole cinnamon sticks

10 whole nutmegs

2/3 cup dried orange peel

2/3 cup dried lemon peel

3/4 cup whole cloves

1/2 cup allspice berries

1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

optional add-ins: 1/2 cup dried raisins, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 cup dried cherries, half a vanilla bean

To Prepare:

Crush cinnamon sticks and nutmeg by placing in a zippered freezer bag and beating with a heavy-bottomed skillet. Chop ginger into small pieces. Combine with the rest of the spices and store in a covered container {a screw-top Mason jar works perfectly here}.

Note: this recipe will yield about 32 servings. To use for making mulled wine, combine 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large pot on medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add in one {750 mL} bottle of red wine and about 2 tbsp. of the mulling mixture. Reduce heat to low, and heat until the wine is hot. Strain out any of the spice mixture and serve!

lately: our 2nd anniversary!

The hubs and I celebrated our 2nd year anniversary not too long ago! {we got married on October 6th, 2012} 

He planned a wonderful weekend full of camping, hiking and wine tasting – here’s a glimpse into our adventures; I hope you enjoy!

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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? 

smokey sweet potato & chicken soup

Soup season is fiiiiiiiiiinally here! I couldn’t be more thrilled, although I’m sure y’all caught on to that already.

So, let’s talk. I’m the first to admit that even in the hottest, most humid parts of summer, I will crave soup. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. There’s just something that speaks to my soul about a bowl brimming with seasoned broth, emanating the most wonderful aromas. It’s divine.

So now that autumn has hit our quiet little town with full force {the leaves on the tree in our front yard have all fallen down, completely!} it’s time to embrace the heartier, more substantial side of the soup spectrum. Root vegetables, beans and squash find their way into my concoctions way more frequently than they do in the summer months – but that’s what this season is all about, no?

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This soup should be the way everyone welcomes autumn. Pulling out your largest stock pots and preparing to simmer a hearty mixture of vibrant sweet potatoes and a mixture of beans, this will stick to your ribs and leave you feeling full and satisfied, but not weighed down. You’re going to get a great mix of vitamins and nutrients from the vegetables we’re using here, plus a protein boost from the shredded chicken. It comes together quickly, and in just one pot {!}, making it a perfect weeknight meal.

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Smokey Sweet Potato & Chicken Soup {recipe adapted from The Gouda Life}

Easily adaptable to whatever root vegetables and beans you have on hand, this soup makes the perfect weeknight dinner. It’s filling but won’t leave you feeling stuffed. Made even more wonderful when topped with some roasted seeds {pumpkin or sunflower would be great here} and drizzled with a bit of creme fraiche, this is truly a one-pot wonder. I’d recommend making a double batch, if you’re feeling up to it – this freezes beautifully and defrosts easily. 

Ingredients:

olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large sweet potato, diced small {skins on or off}

3-4 cups cooked chicken, pulled or cut into slices

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp. paprika {sweet or smoked}

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. oregano

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock

salt and pepper, to taste

optional: 1 cup of your favorite greens {arugula, spinach, kale, or mustard greens would be ideal in here}

To Prepare:

Drizzle a large pot with a few glugs of olive oil, and turn the heat on to medium.

Add in the diced onion and sweat for 5 minutes, making sure to season with salt and pepper.

Add in the garlic, sweet potato, chicken, beans, and spices and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer {I covered the pot to trap in all the delicious steam, preventing evaporation of liquid. It may reach a boil if you do this, so don’t stray too far from the pot!}.

Let cook for about 15 minutes, or until the sweet potato has softened. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. If opting to stir in the greens, do it now and let them merry with the soup for about 1 minute.

Ladle the soup into bowls, and be sure to serve with toasted bread!

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Let’s Discuss: what are some of your favorite seasonal soups to make? Do you reserve soup for the cooler months only, or enjoy it year round?