Hot Caramel Apple Cider

Hot Apple Cider

Fall, fall, fall! Have I mentioned how much I love fall? This morning we woke up to crisp fall air, leaves changing color and a lovely, eery fog that just made me want to snuggle up in my big squishy chair, with my sweater throw, a good book and a hot cup of apple cider!

This is the perfect time of year to find local apple ciders everywhere you go. You can’t go wrong with a fresh apple cider and the better the cider, the better the finish product of this drink. Hot Caramel Cinnamon Apple Cider is very similar to Starbuck’s Caramel Apple Spice, but I think it takes it to a whole other level. These are obviously sometimes drinks because they’re sinful, but once you’ve had a taste you’ll want sometimes to come around much faster the next time around!

Hot Apple Cider

What You’ll Need to Make the Hot Caramel Cinnamon Apple Cider:
1/2 gallon of apple cider
Cinnamon syrup (see recipe below)
Caramel syrup
Whipped Cream
Caramel sauce
Cinnamon sugar

First you want to make your cinnamon syrup (or if you want you can buy cinnamon syrup instead, but I really like the flavor of the one I make myself. You can store the syrup in the fridge for up to six weeks.

Hot Apple Cider: Cinnamon Syrup

What You’ll Need to Make the Cinnamon Syrup:
2 cups of water
2 cups of organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons of Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamon

In a large pot whisk together water, sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat until the sugar melts. Set aside.

Now let’s start the base of the drinks!

Add apple cider to a large stockpot over medium heat and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and then add mulling spices.

Now let’s talk a minute about mulling spices. You can usually find them easily this time of year and my favorite are the ones that come packaged like tea bags:

Hot Apple Cider: Mulling Bags

You’ll love this type of bag type deal because it means you don’t have to strain out the spices later! Best. Invention. Ever. Or well maybe not ever, but best thing I’ve come across in a while…you get the picture!


I use 3 mulling spice bags per half gallon of cider. I like to wrap the strings from the bag around the handle so they stay in one place and the paper end doesn’t get in the cider itself or on the hot stove eye:

Steep while simmering for 20-30 minutes.

Now it’s time to put the drinks together!

I like to have everything in one place to make the drinks:

Hot Apple Cider: Ingredients

It means you aren’t rushing around grabbing this and that, when everything is simply right there at your fingertips.

Fill each cup 3/4ths of the way full. Add a generous splash of cinnamon and caramel syrups. I like to use a large mouth funnel for adding the cider and syrups…it keeps things from splashing around. Give it a quick stir to mix the cider and syrups

Next you want to to top the cider with a big dollop of whipped cream. You can make your own whipped cream. (I recommend this. I usually use 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of heavy cream.) Or you can use the stuff in the can if you just must.

Drizzle the top of the whipped cream with melted caramel sauce and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. (I make my own using 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to 1 cup of sugar.) Serve immediately:

Hot Apple Cider

A perfect bight of autumn right in your cup!

Notes: If you wanted to make an ‘Adults Only’ cider you could add in some rum, mead or whiskey to give it a little kick.

Strawberry Punch

Strawberry Punch

At our house birthday’s are a big thing. Jamison could take or leave a birthday and ignore the day all together and it wouldn’t phase him, but Alexis and I take our birthday’s seriously and we celebrate the entire day.

Alexis turned nine on June 24th. Nine. How is that even possible? How could she possibly be nine already? It seems like just yesterday she was born! Due to my class schedule we had to wait to have her friend birthday party on the 30th and I wanted a new punch to try.

A while back I saw something like this on Pinterest, but I couldn’t find the exact recipe so I just went out on a limb as I often do. I got several compliments on how good this punch was, and as an added bonus Alexis thought it was cool because it was somewhat pink.

This is a good birthday punch or party punch. It’s festive and has a nice sweet/tart ratio. If you want something that is sure to be a hit, look no further, you’ve found it right here!

What You’ll Need:
2 cans of frozen pineapple juice concentrate
1 cup of powdered pink lemonade mix
1 half gallon container of strawberry ice cream
3 bottles of ginger ale

Strawberry Punch

In a large punch bowl mix together frozen pineapple juice, pink lemonade powder, 1/2 of the container of strawberry ice cream and one bottle of ginger ale. Stir until well mixed and the ice cream and pineapple juice have melted.

Stir the punch occasionally while serving. Add more ginger ale as needed. Add the other half of the strawberry ice cream after you’ve used 1/2 to 3/4ths of the second bottle of ginger ale. Stir until ice cream melts and you can continue to add ginger ale as needed.

And the most important thing about a birthday party?

Anything that makes her giggle with glee like she is above is a very good thing.

Notes: There are so many possibilities for this punch. To make it an adult type punch, add a bit of rum or vodka. You could also add in a couple of cups of strawberry puree if you wanted a bit more of a strawberry punch.

Party Punch

Party Punch

It appears it’s becoming drink central around here with the last two beverage entries!

Alexis turned 8 a few weeks ago. I don’t know how it’s possible that she’s already 8! It seems like it was only yesterday that I held that little glow worm all wrapped up in the hospital. Other days? Well others it feels like decades, but luckily those days are few and far between! ;oP

This year Alexis wanted a Harry Potter party. I thought about being all Super Mom and making her a Hogwarts cake, which is what she kind of wanted, but decided in the end to order a cake and save my sanity. Maybe I’ll make her cake next year…..


Usually for her birthday I make some variation of Banana Punch, but I wanted something different. I asked on Twitter and FaceBook if anyone had a good fruit punch recipe that didn’t require gingerale or Sprite. If you’ve read for a while, you know my opinion on HFCS so I won’t go there again, but I was determined to get around that little problem.

I got several interesting recipes sent to me, but I knew that they weren’t Lex’s cup of tea. So I went out on my own as I often do and took clearer type juices that were 100% juice and an organic lemonade that was made with sugar. I used the Pomegranate for “color” and I ended up with a really fabulous punch that everyone seemed to enjoy. I’ll definitely be making this again!

What You’ll Need:
2 cups of organic cane sugar
4 cups of water
64 ounces of white grape juice
2 – 46 ounce bottle of pineapple juice
64 ounces of lemonade
32 ounces of pomegranate juice
Juice of 6 lemons
Juice of 4 limes
Club soda

First you want to make a simple syrup. Dissolve sugar in water over a medium heat until the sugar is melted. Remove from heat and let cool.

Next you’re going to need a big, big and did I mention BIG, bowl! Or you can divide it between two large bowls. That’s what I did, putting half of all the ingredients in one bowl and the other half in another bowl.

Mix together simple syrup, juices, lemonade and lemon and lime juice in a big bowl or half and half in to separate bowls as mentioned above. Stir to mix. Place in freezer safe containers that are the size that will fit into a punch bowl and freeze until solid.

Right before serving take one of the frozen containers and empty it out in to your punch bowl. Cover with club soda and stir to mix. The frozen juice combo will start melting and you end up with a really fabulous punch!

Add more frozen mix and club soda as needed.

Party Punch

Notes: You could use different types of juices if you wanted, but as I said above you want juices that are relatively pale, with the pomegranate for “color”. Red grape juice could be used instead of the pomegranate for a darker punch. Next time I want to try a pineapple/coconut combo instead of plain pineapple juice. For an adult kick add some rum or vodka.

Another Party Punch

Party Punch

As I’ve mentioned before Banana Punch was a big thing when I was growing up for parties, showers, etc. I wanted to make some for Lex’s birthday party (Which ended up being canceled, but that’s another story!) but I wanted to make it a bit simpler overall and have less volume, yet a more concentrated punch base that would take up less room in the fridge/freezer and this really fit the bill!

Overall I ended up liking this more than the original Banana punch! I love when that happens! Just remember to mix this up at least 24 hours before you need it since you have to freeze part of the mixture.

Let’s get started!

What You’ll Need:
2 – 12 ounces cans of frozen orange juice (Note: A variety without high fructose corn syrup.)
2 – 12 ounce cans of frozen pineapple juice (Note: Ditto on the note above.)
2 – 12 ounce cans of a frozen pineapple, orange, banana blend (Note: Did I mention no HFCS?)
1 – 64 ounce bottle of apple juice (Note: Look for a variety that is just juice.)
4 cups of organic cane sugar
The juice of 4 lemons
Ginger ale (Note: It is possible to find varieties of ginger ale with no HFCS too.)

First you need two very large bowls. I like to use gallon glass bowls.

In each bowl add 1 can of frozen orange juice, pineapple juice and a pineapple, orange, banana blend. Next add 1/2 of the bottle of apple juice, along with sugar and the juice of 2 lemons to each bowl. Stir to mix.

When both bowls are mixed add the mixture from 1 bowl to a pitcher and place in the fridge. Divide the mixture from the other bowl into two equally sized containers and freeze until solid. (At least 24 hours.)

When ready to make the punch pour 1/2 of the mixture from the pitcher, with one container of the frozen mixture into a punch bowl. Cover with ginger ale and stir to mix. Serve immediately. Repeat as needed.

You can keep adding ginger ale to the original pour into the bowl until it becomes unfruity and then add the second round of liquid/frozen mixture.

Notes: You can use a mixture of other juice if you like, but I really like this mixture best. Crushed frozen strawberries would be good. And I have it on very good authority that the addition of a little rum to this sort of mixture makes a very nice adult treat! ;oP

Quick and Easy Hot Chocolate

Quick and Easy Hot Chocolate

Snow makes me think of hot chocolate. You got out and play in the snow, then come in, get warm and enjoy a big cup of steaming hot chocolate! The thought takes me back to my childhood. It was just the way we did things.

There are many ways to make hot chocolate, and yes there is always instant, but really it’s so much better when you make it yourself! With a few simple ingredients, you have a really fabulous hot chocolate in no time that really hits the spot on those cold winter days!

What You’ll Need:
4 cups of milk (Note: I used skim, but you can use whatever variety you like, you could even use half and half or heavy cream if you just wanted to go all out.)
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 cup of unsweetened cocoa, sifted

In a medium sized pan add milk, sugar and sifted cocoa and whip to mix. (Note: This is one of the few times you’ll see me sift anything, but you really want your cocoa powder to be fine and not in lumps!)

Quick and Easy Hot Chocolate: Ready to Simmer

Bring mixture to a simmer and then pour into cups.

Quick and Easy Hot Chocolate: Ready to Top

Top with marshmallows or whipped cream and you’ve got the perfect cup of hot chocolate!

See how easy that was?

Notes: You can store leftovers in the fridge for several days and reheat when wanted. To make an adult version add a shot of whiskey or Irish Cream.

Caramel Apple Cider

Caramel Apple Cider

I have a confession to make, and if you’ve been around Dianne’s Dishes a while you may have heard me make this confession before, I’m not a fan of coffee. I love the smell of coffee beans and when it’s ground, but the moment water hits it, it vastly loses its appeal to me. In fact when I was pregnant I couldn’t stand the smell of brewing coffee the entire nine months, it made me nauseous. I don’t like the taste of coffee and even if it is in infinitesimal amounts, like when it “enhances” the flavor of chocolate (don’t even get me started on that!) I can taste the flavor, and it’s a flavor that I just don’t care for. I’m an avid tea drinker, mostly iced green tea, but even hot tea works for me as well. On top of not liking the flavor of coffee, it doesn’t affect me one way or the other, so what’s the point?

So why am I telling you that?

Sometimes, especially this time of year, you just want a hot drink, and sometimes tea is not what I’m looking for. Sure there is always hot chocolate, but sometimes that isn’t quite what I’m looking for either. So what other options are there?

I may be one of the few people who frequents Starbucks who doesn’t drink coffee. My standard order is a venti unsweet green iced tea. Plain, simple and delicious. Yes I grew up in the South, but no I do not care for sweet tea, and believe me growing up in Tennessee you would be amazed how many people take it personally that you don’t want your tea sweetened. “Do you want artificial sweetener then?” they would ask and then be shocked when I said “No!” I like my tea straight up. I actually enjoy the flavors of the teas I drink. My standard order is what I order 9 out of 10 times. Occasionally I’ll get the unsweet Passion tea, or I’ll get a hot tea, but even in winter my normal order is still the iced green variety. But when I’m not in the mood for tea my two favorites of their hot drinks are their hot chocolates, and more often their Caramel Apple Spice.

If you’ve never tried an Caramel Apple Spice it’s basically warm apple juice, with caramel syrup and whipped cream. It reminds me somewhat of hot apple cider, so I decided a year or so ago to play around with some apple cider and see what I could come up with. By pairing a few simple ingredients you end up with a fabulous fall treat that is fun to share. What’s not to like about that?

What You’ll Need:
1 cup of water
1 cup of natural brown sugar
1/2 gallon of apple cider (Note: It’s really easy this time of year to find a fabulous, locally made apple cider.)
Mulling spices (Note: You can put the spices together yourself, or you can purchase them already put together. I normally us cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves, etc. But this go around I got a package from Whiskey Island.)
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar

In a small pot melt sugar in water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool. This will make a thin caramel sauce.

In a large pot place apple cider and mulling spices. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer covered for 30 minutes or so.

Just before you’re ready to serve, whip the heavy cream with the organic cane sugar, until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

When you’re ready to serve strain the cider. (Trust me, or you’ll be picking out bits of mulling spice as you drink…Not that I’d know that personally or anything! ;oP) Place cider in a mug, drizzle in some of the caramel into the cup. Next top the apple cider mixture with a dollop of whipped cream, and then another generous drizzle of caramel syrup.

Serve immediately.

Notes: No notes for this one!

Make Your Own: Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

Do It Yourself Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

I have to say I’m just not feeling winter this year. I mean I’m usually the winter is awesome girl, but this year not so much! If it would snow and actually stick around for a day or two, I might change my mind, but so far we’ve just had bitterly cold weather and a lot of ice. We’re supposed to have some convincing snow over the next day or so, but who knows.It’s snowing now and seems to be sticking around but for the most par it has just been super duper well, cold! And I’m just not feeling it! I’d love some spring like or fall like weather if it’s not going to snow, but you can keep summer and you can keep this bitter cold!

I really can’t stay – Baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to go away – Baby it’s cold outside

Oh sorry…I got distracted there for a minute! Am I the only one that breaks out into song? Digressing again…Let’s talk some hot chocolate shall we?

The other day on Twitter FaceBook I posed the question wondering if I was the only one who frequented Starbucks who did not order coffee. Most of the time when I go I order an unsweet green iced tea. If I don’t go with the iced tea, I sometimes go with hot tea if I’m cold. Occasionally however I just want something hot that isn’t in the tea family, especially when it’s so bitterly cold outside as it has been as of late. When I’m feeling the non-tea hot drink call I normally get a Caramel Apple Spice (which I’ve created at home too, but haven’t blogged about…I’ll have to do that sometime in the future!) because I had tried Starbucks’ normal hot chocolate and wasn’t all that impressed or now that there is a choice I’ll sometimes get a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, which I do like.

When Starbucks came out with their Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate this year I was immediately intrigued, even though as I mentioned above I wasn’t a fan of their regular hot chocolate and I tried one the next time Miss G and I took a spin through one of their locations. I loved it! The Barista that made it for me compared it to a melted Snickers bar in a cup and that pretty much summed it up! And I have ordered a few more over the next few months as the winter has worn on. Only once was it not that great, but for the most part I was highly impressed and my mind started working on how to make something similar at home. This is what resulted and trust me…It’s good!

Do It Yourself Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate: Hot Chocolate

What You’ll Need for the Hot Chocolate:
4 cups of milk or dairy (Note: I used skim milk, but you could use any type of milk that you liked or even half and half or heavy cream if you just wanted to go all out!)
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 cup of cocoa (Note: This is the stuff like you bake with.)

In a medium sized pot whisk together milk, sugar and cocoa until completely incorporated. This may take a minute or two. Heat over medium heat until steaming, but not boiling, stirring occasionally.

Proceed to the step to bring it all together below.

Do It Yourself Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate: Totally Cheating "Caramel"

What You’ll Need for the Totally Cheating “Caramel”:
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (Note: You can use regular or fat free.)
1 cup of natural brown sugar

(Note: This makes a very quick, very dulche de leche type caramel. But trust me you’re the only really who will know!)

In a small pot over medium heat, melt brown sugar in sweetened condensed milk until smooth, stirring frequently. You can do this while the hot chocolate is heating…It’s that fast!

What You’ll Need to Put Together the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate:
Hot Chocolate (See above)
Totally Cheating “Caramel” (See above)
Marshmallows (Note: I chose to use marshmallows instead of whipped cream as Starbucks does, but you can use whipped cream instead if you prefer. The marshmallows were really fabulous though!)
Sea salt

In a cup add about 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of hot chocolate. Top with 2-4 large marshmallows or a handful of mini-marshmallows. Drizzle some warm caramel over the top and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Serve immediately.

How easy is that?

Notes: If you aren’t a fan of caramel you could drizzle it with hot fudge or melted chocolate instead for a double chocolate punch.

Blueberry Pomegranate Fizz

Blueberry Pomegranate Fizz

As I’ve mentioned before I love Izze sparkling juice, but between gas prices and rising food costs there isn’t a lot of room in the budget for such luxuries anymore. That doesn’t mean however that you can’t make your own version for a fraction of the price! What’s not to like about that?

A fruit fizz is a wonderful alternative to soda that is healthier too! So why not go all out and combine the juice of two super foods to make it that much better? The fruit gives the drink a natural sweetness, while the sparkling water gives it a fizzy burst. It’s just perfect for a healthy treat on a hot summer day!

What You’ll Need:
3 parts blueberry pomegranate juice
1 part sparkling water

In a large glass pour juice and seltzer over ice and stir to mix. Serve immediately.

Notes: There is no need to add sugar or anything to this mix as the juice is sweetened naturally, though some people do add extra sugar. You could make this a bit of an “adult” treat by adding in some rum or vodka. You could also do this with any other kind of juice that you like.

Strawberry Lemonade Punch

Strawberry Lemonade Punch

Normally for a birthday party or something of that nature I make Banana Punch. Banana punch was the go to recipe when I was growing up for parties, showers, etc. But this year for Alexis’ birthday party I had a bunch of lemons and strawberries on hand, and in the spirit of not buying more stuff I decided to make something different and the results were stellar! You could even make this an adult punch by adding a little rum if you liked…The possibilities are endless! ;o)

What You’ll Need:
6 cups of frozen strawberries
The juice of 12-14 lemons
4 cups of organic cane sugar
Seltzer water

Strawberry Lemonade Punch: Ready For The Freezer

Place frozen berries in batches of about a cup into a blender and blend until completely chopped. A few larger pieces here and there are not a big deal. Pour into a very large bowl. (Note: It would be MUCH easier in a food processor than a blender, but sadly I still haven’t replaced my processor that died horribly. If you have a food processor then by all means use it instead! It will make the process MUCH easier and if you’re using a food processor you don’t even have to freeze the strawberries!)

Stir in lemon juice and sugar and let sit until sugar dissolves. Place into small airtight containers and freeze until solid.

Strawberry Lemonade Punch: Ready For The Freezer

Thirty minutes before you want to serve pull out one or two of the frozen containers and let thaw a bit. Place the still slightly frozen mixture into a punch bowl and cover with seltzer water and then serve.

Notes: You could do this with blueberries or peaches or pineapple or any other type of fruit that you like!