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.

Perfect Pumpkin Muffins

Perfect Pumpkin Muffins: The Inside

I love pumpkin.

There’s no secret about this little fact, I’ve shared it here before, but there is just something about pumpkin that calls to me year round.

I’m always happy when I start seeing the first pumpkins around locally. I start buying one every week or so, roasting them, baking the seeds and storing the roasted pumpkin in the freezer for use later. Sometimes I even buy a can of pumpkin when I run out, and these muffins are actually made from canned pumpkin, but you could easily use freshly roasted pumpkin as well. I’ll tell you how to make that below.

Pumpkin just screams Autumn to me. I love to just pumpkin myself out, though in reality I’ve never actually gotten tired of pumpkin, but I love to try! These pumpkin muffins are just fabulous for a chilly Fall morning with a nice warm cup of tea or apple cider. They’re moist and pumpkiny and you can’t go wrong with that!

What You’ll Need To Roast a Pumpkin:
1 pumpkin, any size
Walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
A large roasting pan

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds and pumpkin innards. Reserve the seeds for roasting if you like.

Cut the pumpkin in to chunks about the size of an apple and place in a large roasting dish, pan or baking sheet. No need to remove the skin, once it’s roasted you can scrape the pumpkin right off. Drizzle walnut or extra virgin olive oil over the pumpkin and toss to coat.

Bake pumpkin in preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour and half, until pumpkin sticks done.

Let cool to room temperature and then scrape the pumpkin flesh out in to a large bowl. Freeze pumpkin in 1 to 2 cup increments for use later or use immediately.

Perfect Pumpkin Muffins: Women and Chocolate

What You’ll Need for the Perfect Pumpkin Muffins:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour OR white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
1/2 cup of natural brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup of maple syrup
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1/3 cup of safflower oil
1 – 15 ounce can of mashed pumpkin

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl stir together flour, sea salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cane sugar and brown sugar until well mixed.

Next add eggs, maple syrup, buttermilk, safflower oil and pumpkin and stir until a thick batter forms.

Using a ladle scoop the batter into muffin pans that have been lined with cupcake liners. Fill each cup about 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for 18 minutes or until muffins stick done with a toothpick.

Makes about 24 muffins.

And how about a little chocolate on the side?

Perfect Pumpkin Muffins

Oh that gives me an idea about Nutella and pumpkin….

Notes: These muffins get better with time. They’re really good when baked, better the next day and fabulous on day three. They’re a lot like soup in that way. You could also add in a cup of chopped nuts and/or raisins for a different twist. Or how about a cup of pumpkin seeds? Go with it…mix and match foods are fun!

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread

Today we’re going to take a walk down the path of life backward, all the way back to Thanksgiving! Why the journey back in time? Because I haven’t really blogged new recipes since this was made and this one was just too good not to share! In fact the recipes over the next few days will all be Thanksgiving throw backs, but trust me…You’ll want to try them! Who says it has to be Thanksgiving to have a little dessert?

I’m a huge pumpkin fan. I have been for as long as I can remember. I look forward to the time of year when it’s “acceptable” to pull out the pumpkin, though these days you can buy it in the can year round (and in fact this bread was actually made with the canned variety), or you could even make up some pumpkin and freeze it when pumpkin is in season to pull out for later use. Heck you could even make the actual bread and freeze it for later use! What’s not to like about that?

The special touch to this bread is walnut oil and maple syrup. Both of the elements give the bread and very lovely undertone. This bread is perfect warm or even at room temperature. I love it for breakfast or a snack. I also think it would be neat to take it and make a French toast casserole, but I haven’t put that idea to the test yet. For now let’s get on with things and a get a little pumpkin bread baking!

What You’ll Need:
1 – 29 ounce can of pumpkin (Note: NOT pumpkin pie mix!)
4 eggs
1 cup of natural brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of roasted walnut oil
1/4 cup of maple syrup
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

Pumpkin Bread: Ready to Bake

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl cream together pumpkin, eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Next stir in nutmeg, cinnamon, sea salt and baking powder until completely incorporated. Add oil and maple syrup and stir to mix. Last add flour and stir until just incorporated.

Pour batter evenly between two loaf pans that have been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake in a preheated oven for one hour or until bread sticks done.

Remove from oven and let cool in pans for 15-20 minutes and then turn out onto a cotton towel and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Notes: If you are making this for someone with nut allergies obviously the walnut oil is a no no. You could substitute safflower or light olive oil instead. If you aren’t dealing with nut allergies you could add in a cup of chopped walnuts too.

Baked Apples

Baked Apples

I’m in an appley mood this week, so let’s do another apple recipe shall we?

Traditionally when you think of baked apples, you think of a whole apple, that has been cored and filled with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and/or nutmeg and possibly some raisins. But I wanted to try something a little different and it worked! These apples turned out to be amazing, all with no butter or sugar…What’s not to like about that?

This could easily be a side dish, or how about using it to top waffles or pancakes? You could even use the apples to make a muffin! The possibilities are endless!

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What You’ll Need Per Person:
1 apple, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon of honey
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Toss together apple, honey and olive oil until apples are coated. Place in a baking dish. Top with cinnamon and nutmeg and bake for 25-30 minutes until apples are soft. Serve immediately.

Baked Apples

Notes: How easy is that? This version is much healthier than your standard baked apple, but trust me…You’ll never miss the butter or the sugar!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Within my circle of friends and family I’m somewhat known for my cheesecakes. I’ve got a ton of different scrumptious variations and people ask for them often! Key Lime, Chocolate, Peppermint, Caramel Irish Cream, Turtle, Peanut Butter, Regular, among many others and one of my favorites is my Pumpkin Cheesecake! Most every Thanksgiving I whip one of these gems up and I look forward to it all year! It’s a different twist on the standard pumpkin pie, but it will draw raves! Try is and see.

What You’ll Need for the Crust:
2 1/2 cups of gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup of sugar 1 stick of butter, melted

Add ginger snap cookies and process them in the food processor until smooth. (Note: If you don’t have a food processor then place them in a plastic bag and have fun smashing them! ;o)

Process in sugar and melted butter until a crumbly mixture forms.

Press the crumb mixture into a 9-inch spring form pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil to the very edges of the pan, without covering the opening. Set aside.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Gingersnap Crust

What You’ll Need for the Filling:
3 – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 – 15 ounce can of mashed pumpkin
1 cup of ricotta cheese (Note: You can use the whole milk, part skim or fat free version.)
1 cup of natural brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 F. (Note: This is very important when baking a cheesecake! The oven must be preheated! Do NOT skip this step!!)

Put a pot or kettle on to boil with enough water to cover 1/2-3/4 of the cheesecake pan with water.

Cream together cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, ricotta and eggs until well blended.

Mix in pumpkin pie spice and flour until just blended.

Pour into prepared crust.

Pumpkin Cheesecake "Help"

Place cheesecake pan into a baking dish. Pour hot water into the dish or pan being careful not to get any water on or in the cake itself. The water depth should be at least 1/2 the way up the side of the spring form pan, but no more than 3/4ths of the way up the side.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ready to Bake

Bake for 1 hour.

Turn oven off and open oven door to the broil position and let the cake sit unmoved for 1 more hour.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Resting

After the cheesecake sits for 1 hour carefully remove from the oven and take out of its water bath. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Notes: The water bath helps the cheesecake top to not split as much. If you’re making this on a cold day (like today for example), you might have trouble getting the cream cheese to cream completely smooth. Don’t worry about this as it will not affect the taste of the cheesecake. You can also use graham cracker crumbs instead of gingersnaps, though I think the gingersnaps give it that extra omph. If you want you can decorate the top of the cheesecake with seasonal shaped cookies (such as leaves, acorns, pumpkins, etc.) and I recommend serving it with a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

OK, I’ll be completely honest here and tell you I detest cranberries. I don’t like them dried, I don’t like the fresh, I don’t like them frozen, I don’t like them baked into things, I just plain out do not like them, though I’ve tried them many ways! My sister however adores them and since I in turn adore her, I tolerate them on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and whip up a batch of homemade cranberry sauce because my inner chef can’t stand the thought of the glop out of the can! 😉

Originally I saw something similar to this a few years ago on FoodTV, but I don’t recall which of their chefs was making it, though I do remember their variation had tarragon in it and I remember thinking “Tarragon and cranberries? Seriously?!!?!” So I took their basic idea and very soon I had deviated from it rather quickly. Surprisingly this isn’t half bad and even I, Ms. Cranberries Suck Monumentally, will even eat a bite or two, though it is by no means my favorite Thanksgiving treat and I’ll go for sweet potatoes or something pumpkin related over this 9.9 times out of 10, but if I have to eat a cranberry this is how I’d eat one!

My sister says it’s even good frozen right out of the freezer, but I, and you in turn, will have to take her word for that, though she’s an honest girl so I’m sure she knows exactly of which she speaks! 😉

Anyway now that I’m through picking on my sister…so all you cranberry lovers out there this one is for you. Cranberry Sauce is one of those quintessential dishes that automatically makes you think of Thanksgiving! This version is quick, easy and delicious…If you like cranberries that is, which I mentioned I don’t! 😉

What You’ll Need:
3 pints (or roughly 6 cups) of fresh cranberries
The zest of two oranges
The juice of two oranges (Note: This is normally roughly 3/4 to 1 cup of orange juice. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The recipe is very versatile.)
1 cup of organic cane sugar

Cranberry Sauce Cooking

Dump ingredients into a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes until cranberries pop (and yes sometimes you can even hear them do just that!) and begin to break down. The mixture will also turn very jelly like.

Chill and serve OR you can freeze the mixture for up to 6 weeks. Take from the freezer and thaw before serving OR if you’re like my sister you can just eat it frozen! (She knows that by the way, because I send the leftovers home with her and she freezes them! 😉 )

Notes: If you end up with oranges that don’t have much juice in them, just make up for it by using any orange juice out of the fridge. Any type of orange will work. Just get whatever is convenient for you.

Cooked Apples

Cooked Apples

It’s not too late in the season to find amazing apples! Cooked apples is another way of having apple sauce, while still letting them retain some of their shape. You can also use these to make Apple Walnuts muffins, which I’m sure you’ll see here on Dianne’s Dishes another time. What’s better than a dish you can use to make two different things?

What You’ll Need:
4-6 apples, cored and chopped (Note: If you want, you can peel them too, but I usually don’t.)
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon

In a large pot cook apples with maple syrup and cinnamon until tender and the mixture is thick. This usually takes 1-2 hours depending on how big the apples are. Serve warm or cool.

Cooked Apples Notes: This is good alone, but it also great mixed into oatmeal with a few raisins and/or nuts. You can use natural brown sugar and/or honey instead of maple syrup. You could even use molasses, but to be perfectly honest I’m not a big fan and prefer other natural sweeteners over molasses any day. The only place I really utilize molasses in my kitchen is in gingerbread cookies and now I’m off on a tangent best discussed closer to Christmas! ;o)

Pumpkin Apple Butter

Pumpkin Apple Butter

This is a fall time favorite of mine! The apple sort of fades into the background and sweetens the pumpkins. The combination together is very scrumptious. Try it and see!

What You’ll Need:

2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree (Note: If you don’t have fresh pumpkin or would rather not bother with it you can use 1 – 15 ounce can of pumpkin instead.)
2 peeled and grated apple (Note: Any type of apple will do. I normally use Fujis or Galas.)
1 cup of unsweetened apple juice
1/2 cup of Natural Dark Brown Sugar (Note: Any type of natural brown sugar will do.)
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of ground cloves
1/2 tsp of nutmeg

In a large pot dump in all ingredients and stir. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 1 1/2 hours stirring from time to time. Apples will break down and mixture will thicken slightly.

You can either freeze this mixture if you like or you can store it in the fridge. Once in the fridge it will last 2-3 weeks. Serve on toast, biscuits, etc.

This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, etc. Also it’s very forgiving so a little more of something or a little less won’t matter.

Pumpkin Apple Butter

Notes: You could substitute maple syrup or honey for the brown sugar. Any natural sugar will work.

Baked Pears with Goat Cheese and Honey

Baked Pears with Goat Cheese and Honey

It’s pear season! You’ve got to love Fall! Goat cheese and honey, meld together with the pears to makes a scrumptious taste combination. This is a simple, quick, delicious dessert that you’ll love!

What You’ll Need Per Person:
1/2 a pear with the core scooped out
1-2 tablespoons of goat cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F.

First you want to scoop out the core of the pear:

Baked Pears with Goat Cheese and Honey

Next stuff the center with goat cheese:

Baked Pears with Goat Cheese and Honey

Bake for 10-15 minutes until pear is soft and goat cheese is slightly golden. Remove from oven and drizzle with honey. Serve immediately.

Notes: If you want to you could use blue cheese instead of goat cheese, but I’d omit the honey. Chopped pecans or walnuts would also be a good addition to sprinkle on top before baking.

Caramel Apple Brownies

Caramel Apple "Brownies"

It’s treat day again at Jamison’s office! I love trying something new and then sending it with Jamison so I’m not tempted to eat more of it than I should! 😉

Although there is no chocolate in this recipe it’s still very brownie like. With the abundance of apples this time of year it’s fun to come up with new things to do with them. Caramel Apple “Brownies” take the best of two worlds and bring them together. You’ve got your apple and you’ve got your caramel, but in a totally different combination than your basic caramel apple, which I might add are one of my favorite treats! Who says you can’t bring a little fusion to dessert? 😉

Caramel Apple "Brownies"

What You’ll Need for the Brownies:
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup of walnuts, chopped
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
2 large apples, cored and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream together butter through cinnamon until smooth. Stir in nuts until incorporated into the wet mixture. Slowly add flour and stir until just mixed. Add apples and stir to incorporate throughout the mixture.

Spread apple mixture into a 13 X 9 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown and “brownies” stick done.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Caramel Sauce

What You’ll Need for the Caramel Topping:
1 cup of organic cane sugar or natural brown sugar
1/2 cup of dairy (Note: You can use half and half, fat free half and half or heavy whipping cream.)

While the “brownies” are beginning to cool mix sugar and dairy in a medium sized pot and cook, not stirring, until it turns a golden amber color. If you want you can swirl the pan a few times instead of stirring. (Note: I like to bring the mixture to soft ball stage (235 F) on a candy thermometer, but you don’t have to check the temperature if you don’t want to. When it turns amber it’s ready to go.)

Remove from heat and let sit for about 2-3 minutes and then drizzle over the “brownies”.

Notes: You could add a little nutmeg into the “brownies” if you liked. Any kind of nut will work as well, or you can leave those out entirely. Also any type of apple you have on hand works well too.