White Chocolate Raspberry Fondue & Chocolate Turtle Fondue

There is something so romantic about fondue. I’m really not sure what it is. Perhaps because it’s warm and bubbly. Perhaps because it just feels more intimate. Perhaps because of fondue restaurants that offer that inviting and cozy atmosphere that’s perfect for date night. 

I was trying to think of something special to enjoy with my husband for Valentine’s Day. And then I thought, “Aha! Fondue!” It totally sets the mood, am I right? So I got my ingredients ready for making 2 rich and chocolaty fondues with Ghirardelli chocolate. But then I stopped cold. 

I made a White Chocolate Raspberry Fondue. Smooth with a swirl of raspberry sauce. I also made a Chocolate Turtle Fondue. Rich and creamy with Carmel swirl and topped with candies pecans.

I mean, chocolate fondue is the ultimate in romantic desserts. But they both needed something else. Something that would make it even more indulgent. Perhaps a little bit of a buzz. And then I remembered a drink I’d seen on mixthatdrink.com that would do just the trick. 

TheToasted Almond Cocktail ( https://mixthatdrink.com/toasted-almond-cocktail/ ) is the ideal complement to the Chocolate Turtle fondue. It’s sweet and sensual without being too much in the sweet department. It’s a bit refreshing too, almost like enjoying a glass of milk with dessert, only this milk is all grown up. That’s my kind of milk!

You only need Amaretto, Kahlua, and cream.

The second drink I made is a Sparkling Cognac. It’s the perfect compliment with the White Chocolate Raspberry. It was crisp and like the other drink it wasn’t overly sweet.

So pick one of the fondues and a drink or both and get the love-fest started. Stock up and get ready to serenade your someone special with these recipes that will surely fill them with love!

White Chocolate Raspberry Fondue

Ingredients

White Chocolate Sauce
16 oz white chocolate
1 cup heavy cream 

Directions

Using a serrated knife coarsely chop the chocolate. 
Bring cream to a boil over medium heat. 
Pour the warm cream over the chocolate and add salt.  Whisk until smooth to break up any pieces of chocolate. 

Raspberry Sauce
7 oz raspberries
1/2 of sugar
1/4 cup of water

Directions

Puree the raspberries in a blender and pass through a very fine strainer. 
Warm the raspberry puree in a saucepan.
In a separate sauce pan, mix the sugar and water.  Bring the sugar and water mixture to a boil. 
Mix the sugar mixture into the raspberry puree. 
Return to a boil, then strain the mixture. 

Pour the white chocolate into a fondue pot.  Place raspberry sauce in a piping bag or a zip top bag.  Cut the tip off the bag and drizzle the raspberry sauce over the white chocolate. 

Sparkling Cognac

2 cups Sparkling White Wine
1/4 cup cognac
1/2 cup simple syrup (equal parts of sugar and water) 

Pour in all the ingredients in a small pitcher, and stir.
Pour the drink into two wine glass.


Chocolate Turtle Fondue

Chocolate Sauce 

Ingredients
8 ounces semisweet
8 oz milk chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt 

Caramel Drizzle
8 ounces ghiradelli caramel
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt 

Candied Pecans
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp butter cut in cubes 

Directions

Using a serrated knife coarsely chop the chocolate. 
Bring cream to a boil over medium heat. 
Pour the warm cream over the chocolate and add salt.  Whisk until smooth to break up any pieces of chocolate. 

Follow the same directions for the caramel drizzle 

Pour the chocolate into a fondue pot.  Place caramel in a piping bag or a zip top bag.  Cut the tip off the bag and drizzle the caramel over the chocolate, and top with candied pecans. 

Toasted Almond Cocktail

Ingredients

2 ounces amaretto
1 ounces Kahlua
2 ounces cream

Directions

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
Pour in all the ingredients, and shake well.
Strain the mixture into two glass.  

Hot Pear Cider

The holidays just aren’t the holidays without family visiting. My sister came home to visit us for Christmas which made the holiday feel more complete.  While she was home, I mentioned that I wanted to make a hot drink that was somewhat different but I really wasn’t sure what.

My mom made a hot apple cider, and I wasn’t necessarily in the mood for that. There’s nothing wrong with apple cider, especially hers. But I was in one of those odd moods. You know the kind. I didn’t want hot chocolate either. It was just a hot drink funk, and I was feeling thoroughly confused.

Anyway, she mentioned that when she was home in Arkansas, she went to a restaurant and had pear cider. “Now THAT’S different,” I thought to myself and I knew I needed to give it a try. 

After thinking about what I needed, I ran out for some pear nectar and oranges. I already had mulling spices in my cabinet, so I was mostly ready for this new adventure with cider.  I poured the pear nectar into a large pot, stuck cloves into an orange and dropped it in, and then I added some nutmeg, allspice berries and cinnamon.  And result of this cider experiment? It was so incredibly warming and comforting. If you’re weary of apple cider but like it, give this a try for something new to warm you up this winter!

Hot Pear Cider

Makes 2 Quarts  

Ingredients
2 quarts of pear nectar
1 medium orange
12 cloves
1 whole nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick

Directions

  1. Place pear nectar in a large pot.
  2. Place cloves in the orange and drop that in the pot with the nectar.
  3. Add the spices; nutmeg, allspice berries, and cinnamon stick. Stir in the brown sugar.
  4. Heat the apple cider over medium heat, until it begins to simmer, then reduce the heat and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes. Simmer longer for a stronger flavor. Once the cider is spiced to your liking remove from the heat. Remove the spices from the pot with a slotted spoon.
  5. Serve hot.
 Stick the cloves in the orange like this
Stick the cloves in the orange like this

Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza

For me, a crispy crust with a sweet tomato sauce, lots of cheese, Italian sausage, and pepperoni is the pinnacle of pizza perfection. Every Friday night, I order a large sausage and pepperoni pizza from my local pizzeria. And while that’s most certainly my favorite pizza, in honor of National Pizza Day, I wanted to make something a little different yet no less delicious than my go-to pizza.

So, I thought outside the box (the pizza box that is…ha!) and crafted this Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza.

If you love bacon cheeseburgers, you’ll love this recipe. Instead of the traditional tomato sauce you find on pizzas, this one has a cheese sauce along with crumbled ground beef, caramelized onions, crumbled bacon and a drizzle of A1 sauce. Oh yes. I went there.

Not a beef fan? Not a problem. You can use ground chicken or ground turkey instead!

It’s easy to make the pizza dough for this recipe too. It’s not too time-consuming though it must be made the same day. Mixing and kneading the dough is fairly quick. It’s the rising time that you need to factor in which is a good 2 hours. When the dough is done rising, you stretch it out onto your pizza stone or a cookie sheet if you don’t have the stone.

The comes the fun part! Saucing and topping the pizza is probably the best part about making your own pizza. No wait. It’s EATING the pizza, but making it is still pretty fun. This dough is great for any pizza you make but just remember, any toppings that need to be cooked should be done while you’re waiting for your dough to rise so bacon and ground beef (or chicken or turkey) need to be cooked up before adding them to your pizza.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get this pizza party started!

Pizza Dough

Recipe used and adapted from
https://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/1043-pizza-dough?incode=MCSCD00L0&ref=new_search_experience_1

Ingredients

1   1/4 cups water divided plus  1/2  cup warm
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cups bread flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
semolina flour for dusting pizza peel

Directions

This dough can be used to make thick or thin crust pizza.  Your oven should be set to 500 degrees for 30 minutes before you put the pizza in the oven. Follow the manufactures directions for your pizza stone if you have one.  I use a pizza stone, and I have a stone pan.  The stone pan can’t go in a 500 degree oven, so make sure you follow the directions for your pan. 

1. Measure 1/4 cup of warm water about (100 – 105 degrees) along with 2 tsp sugar into 2-cup measuring cup. Sprinkle the yeast in; let stand until yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup of warm water plus  1 1/4 cups water and olive oil.

2. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade or a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, pulse bread flour, all purpose flour and salt in a work bowl to combine. Add liquid ingredients (holding back a tablespoon or so) to flour and pulse together. If dough does not readily form into ball, stop machine, add remaining liquid, and continue to pulse until ball forms. Process until dough is smooth. 

3. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead by hand with a few strokes to form smooth, round ball. Use chef’s knife or dough scraper to halve, quarter, or cut dough into eighths, depending on number and size of pizzas desired.  Put dough into oiled bowls, and cover with damp cloth. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. 

4. Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape the dough.  Transfer to pizza peel (if you have one) that has been lightly coated with semolina, brush dough very lightly with olive oil before topping and cooking. If you don’t have a pizza peel you can just place your dough on your pan or pizza stone.

THIN CRUST
14-inch pizzas (recipe makes 2) – Bake 7 to 8 minutes
12-inch pizzas (recipe makes 4) – Bake 5 minutes
8-inch pizzas (recipe makes 8) – Bake 3 minutes. 

MEDIUM-THICK CRUST
12-inch pizzas (recipe makes 2) – Bake 9 to 10 minutes
8-inch pizzas (recipe makes 4) – Bake 5 minutes
6-inch pizzas (recipe makes 8) – Bake 4 minutes.

Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Ingredients
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
seasoned salt to taste  
ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp granulated onion
10 oz mild sharp Cheddar cheese, medium diced
(I used a combination of white cheddar and yellow cheddar)  

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Whisk constantly for about 1 minute.
  2. Gradually whisk in beer. Cook, whisking constantly about 3-5 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
  3. Whisk in cheese, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and granulated onion. Continue to whisk until smooth.

Cheese Burger Pizza
(I made 2 pizza’s with this recipe)
2 lbs of cooked ground beef
6 slices of chopped bacon
1 large vidalia onion diced and caramalized
Shredded Mozzarella and White Cheddar Cheese
(I like to grate my own cheese from a block of mozzarella and cheddar cheese)
A1 Sauce

Assemble Pizza
Once your dough is on your pizza stone, add cheese sauce.
Top your cheese sauce with the ground beef, bacon, caramelized onion, and your shredded cheese.  Drizzle with A1 sauce. 

Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes

While scrolling through Instagram the other day, I came across a great picture of some Banana Walnut Pancakes from Clinton St. Baking Company. The pancakes I saw in the picture looked absolutely delicious, and I’m not even a fan of bananas! Ever since I came across that picture, I felt I needed to revisit my own pancake recipe. I knew my recipe was good, but I wanted to make it GREAT!

Those Banana Walnut Pancakes looked so light and fluffy and that’s what I was after.  Light and fluffy was the texture I wanted my pancakes to have. After a bit of research, I discovered that the way I could achieve light and fluffy was egg whites. I already knew that folding egg whites into cake batter could make a cake lighter and fluffier, so all I had to do was apply that technique to my pancakes.

The pancakes I made after recreating my recipe were AMAZING! They were moist, they were sweet, and most importantly that had that light and fluffy texture I was looking for. I also made home-made cinnamon infused maple butter to pour over the pancakes. The maple butter,  really took this classic breakfast dish to the next level.

Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes

Makes about 12 pancakes 

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs separated
1/2 cup milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp butter melted
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

  1. Measure and sift the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt cinnamon and nutmeg.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla until well combined. Whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture. The batter should look a bit lumpy.Do not over mix the batter. Over mixing will result in chewier less fluffy pancake.
  3. Whip the egg whites in another bowl until they reach medium peaks. They can be whipped by hand or in a electric mixer. Try not to over mix the egg whites.
  4. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula. Do half of the egg whites at a time. The batter should stay lumpy and have large parts of egg whites that aren’t fully mixed.
  5. Heat an electric griddle or a large flat frying pan to 350 degrees. Grease the hot griddle with butter. Warm until the butter foams but doesn’t brown. Drop about 1/4 cup of pancake batter onto the griddle. (I like to use an ice cream scoop. I use a 2oz scoop. For each pancake I use a scoop and a half. Please find the link under the post for where you can get a 2oz ice cream scoop) Cook the pancakes until bubbles begin to form on the top of the pancake. Place about 6 to 8 blueberries on the pancakes. When the bubbles on the pancakes begin to burst, and the edges look set the pancakes are ready to be flipped.
  6. Remove the pancakes with a spatula when they are golden brown on both sides. Repeat step 5 with the remaining pancake batter. Pancakes are best served with Cinnamon Maple Butter.

Cinnamon Maple Butter

Ingredients
1 cup of real maple syrup
1 stick of butter cut into cubes
2 cinnamon sticks

Directions

  1. Heat the maple syrup in a small sauce pan over medium heat with two cinnamon sticks. Do not boil the syrup
  2. Whisk cold butter into the warm maple syrup until the sauce is smooth and the butter is fully incorporated.

Pretzel Bites with Beer and Cheddar Cheese Sauce

I’ve never been a big football fan, but if there’s great food around, I’m game. And this recipe I decided to make for the Super Bowl this year is a definite champion.

You know me. I put on my game face and played hard in the kitchen. I made this Bavarian-Style Soft Pretzels recipe from Finecooking.com with my Beer and Cheddar Cheese Sauce for dipping, and while these pretzels are absolutely amazing, they are also extremely time-consuming. They make for the perfect munchable for your Super Bowl party spread, however I advise you to start this the day before.

Just like the Super Bowl teams are preparing well before the big event, preparing these pretzels in advance is the best way to win. You’ll need to let the dough rise for a good 30 minutes first. Then you have to shape them. Then you have to freeze them until they’re hard. And then! You have to dip that pretzel dough into boiling water and let them rise again before baking.

See what I mean? Oh, but don’t let that put you off. It’s much easier than it sounds. Plus, I made a few small tweaks to make it even easier for you to make.

For starters, with most recipes involving dough, you need to activate the yeast. True that you can dump it in water and let nature take its course, I used hot water (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and add 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar to it. I stirred it up well and then added the yeast, letting it sit in a warm place for about 5 minutes. The yeast did its thing, doubling and size, frothy away and smelling yeasty as ever.

The second change I made was using 2 cups of self-rising flour and 2 1/2 cups of bread flour instead of 4 1/2 cups of bread flour.

Lastly, I changed the amount of the oil in the recipe, increasing it from 1 tablespoon to 3 tablespoons. Oh, and I made them into bite-sized pieces because that makes it more convenient for the squad to munch on during the game.

Clearly, these were all winning moves by Team Me. Because these came out beautifully! And the cheese sauce! Oh wow! The beer and cheese flavors were a winning combination. I used Guinness to give it a darker color and deeper flavor though you can use whatever beer you’d prefer. Chef’s note: feel free to drink one while you’re cooking. It makes game day snack prep even more fun.

While the pretzels by themselves are amazing, dipping it into the cheese sauce is a total touchdown. You’ll definitely score big this Super Bowl if you add this to your snack roster!

Beer & Cheddar Cheese Sauce 

Ingredients

1   12oz bottle of beer (I used Guinness) 
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Seasoned salt to taste  
Ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp granulated onion
10 oz mild sharp Cheddar cheese, medium diced
(I used a combination of white cheddar and yellow cheddar)  

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Whisk constantly for about 1 minute.
  2. Gradually whisk in beer. Cook, whisking constantly about 3-5 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
  3. Whisk in cheese, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and granulated onion. Continue to whisk until smooth.

Bavarian-Style Soft Pretzels Bites 

Recipe used and adapted from
http://www.finecooking.com/recipe/bavarian-style-soft-pretzels

Ingredients

1 package of active dry yeast
1  1/2 cups warm (100°F to 105°F)
2 cups of self rising flour
2   1/2 cups of bread flour
2 Tbs. packed light brown sugar
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2-1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbs. baking soda
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbs. pretzel or coarse salt

Directions

Make the dough
In a small bowl combine the yeast, brown sugar, and 1 1/2 cups of warm water.  Let stand until dissolved, about 5 minutes. (The mixture should smell yeasty. If it doesn’t, start over with a fresh batch of active dry yeast.) 

Meanwhile put flour, oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Once the yeast has activated add it to the flour.  Mix on low speed until the ingredients are hydrated and form a coarse ball of dough, 2 to 3 minutes. If all of the flour is not incorporated into the dough, add more water 1 tsp at a time. 

Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough becomes smooth, supple, and elastic, about 3 minutes. The dough should be soft but only slightly tacky; if it seems sticky or very tacky, sprinkle in more flour, as needed. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface and knead by hand for a few more seconds. Form the dough into a ball, transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until it’s about 1  1/2 times its original size, 1 to 1  1/2 hours.

Shape the pretzels
Line a large baking sheet with lightly oiled parchment or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

Spread a little oil on a work surface and transfer the dough to it.  Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces.

Using your palms and fingers, roll each piece of dough on the work surface into a rope that’s about 30 inches long and 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. If the dough resists or shrinks back, let it rest for a few minutes while you work on other pieces; short rests will let the gluten relax enough to allow for the full rollout.

Working with 1 dough rope at a time cut 2 inch pieces to make pretzel bites.  Place pretzel bites on a prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until hard, at least 2 hours and up to 3 weeks.

Dip the pretzels
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove from the heat, add the baking soda, and stir until completely dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to lukewarm, about 30 minutes.

Using a stainless-steel slotted spoon dip a few pretzel bites in the water and soak for 5 seconds.  Remove the pretzel from the liquid, allowing the excess to drip off, and return it to the baking sheet. Brush the tops and sides of the pretzels with some of the beaten egg.

Let the pretzels thaw and rise at room temperature until they are soft and puffy, 1  1/2 to 2 hours.

Bake the pretzels
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Brush pretzels once more with egg.

Lightly sprinkle the pretzels with the salt. Set the baking sheet of pretzels on another baking sheet (double-pan them) to prevent the bottoms of the pretzels from browning too quickly. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until rich, deep mahogany-brown for about 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer the pretzels to a rack and cool before serving.

Eggnog RumChata Hot Chocolate

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Are you sensing a theme with me lately? Yes, I’m cold. And hot drinks are my favorite way to warm up during winter. Another thing I love to do at this time of year when eggnog is still everywhere is to add it to my hot chocolate.

As I did that recently, I thought about making my famous hot chocolate but using eggnog as the base for it instead. What a genius stroke of brilliance that was. Dare I say it is absolutely next level? It really is.

If you love eggnog and you love hot chocolate, you need to get with this and quick, before the last of the eggnog is off the shelves until next year.

First, I started by making a chocolate syrup in a pot and adding milk, eggnog, and half and half to it. And then, to make it extra magical, just before I take the hot chocolate off of there and add something soul-soothing: RumChata and Chocolate Liqueur. Serve this to people you love and who you want to love you because they WILL love you when you hand them a hot cup of this, I promise.

My biggest tip about regarding this recipe is don’t leave the hot chocolate on the heat after adding the alcohol. The heat will cook off the alcohol content, and we can’t have that happening now can we? Nope! Cheers to a beautiful New Year!

Eggnog RumChata Hot Chocolate

Ingredients
6 Servings 

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
2 cups milk
3 cup eggnog
1/2 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Rum Chata
1/2 cup Chocolate Liquor 

Directions

1. Combine the cocoa, sugar  and boiling water in a saucepan. Whisk to combine
2. Bring this mixture to an low boil and continue to stir.
3. Simmer for about 2 minutes.
4. Whisk in milk, eggnog, half and half, vanilla, chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. 
5. Heat until very hot, but do not boil! Watch that it doesn’t scorch.
6. Add Rum Chata and Chocolate Liquor, 
7. Remove from heat and serve.  
 


Amaretto White Hot Chocolate

Brrr it’s cold outside! When it’s like this, most people like to make hot chocolate but for me, I love making white hot chocolate. When I make white hot chocolate, it always comes out so rich and velvety. It is perfect for cozying up with by the fire.

Normally though, I make it with Amaretto extract. But this time, with the intense winter weather, I decided it might just be more fun to use real Amaretto liqueur. It was right on the money. If you need a grown-up version of a kiddy classic, you’re in the right place.

This recipe is really flexible so you can adjust it to match your personal tastes. As for me, I love a strong hit of white chocolate so I used 12 ounces of Ghirardelli White Chocolate. If you’d like to mute the flavor of white chocolate just a bit, I suggest anywhere from 6 ounces of the stuff on up to 12 ounces.

For this spiked version, I made it using half and half, but in the past I’ve used heavy cream. If you want it creamier, go for the heavy cream. See how versatile it is? Add in the Amaretto and not only will you have a white chocolate buzz going on but it adds just the right amount of sweetness and distinction that will warm you up on any chilly night.

Amaretto White Hot Chocolate

Ingredients
Serves 4

3 cups milk
1 cup half and half (you could also use heavy cream for a richer taste)
6-12 oz of good quality white chocolate (I used 12 oz of White Chocolate Ghirardelli Premium Baking Bar, I wanted a strong white chocolate taste, but for a milder taste feel free to use less chocolate)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup of Amaretto Liquor. 

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients except Amaretto Liquor in a medium saucepan.
  2. Whisk continuously over medium-low heat, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Do not boil.
  4. Add Amaretto, and remove from heat.
  5. Serve.

Apple Dumplings

Have you ever had an apple dumpling? In case you haven’t, it’s a more miniaturized version of an apple pie with sweet delicious apples bedazzled with cinnamon and sugar wrapped in pie crust, baked to perfection and topped with a seductively sweet sauce, usually caramel. It’s incredible. Once upon a time, the Cheesecake Factory had apple dumplings on their menu. Just about every Saturday evening, I would go there and order those apple dumplings.

When I close my eyes, I can still remember how they tasted! They were amazing! The apples were an impeccable texture and flavor, surrounded by a sweet and buttery crust. And the caramel sauce on top! OMG! That was the pièce de résistance!

Unfortunately for me though, one day when I went in for my usual apple dumpling order, the server informed me that the Cheesecake Factory had discontinued this item. It was gone. FOREVER! I felt like I’d been punched in the throat. I grieved for the loss of my apple dumplings. Then I decided to find a way to make them myself.

Of course, it was no easy feat. When I first made this recipe I simply wrapped the apples in the pie dough. That was a dumb move. The apples didn’t taste sweet at all. And they shrunk underneath the dough too. As a result, the pie shell turned into a hard, crumbly mess. Total fail.

So I tried again. On my next attempt, I poached the apples which I discovered is EXACTLY what makes them taste so phenomenal. They soak up the flavors of cinnamon and sugar and gives them a delightfully tender texture. Wrapped with rich butter in the pie dough, once I pulled these out of my oven I knew I had them just right. Just like the apple dumplings from my Cheesecake Factory dreams, these ones were every bit a taste of heaven!

It starts with good apples and ends with even better apples for a dessert that everyone will love. Sure, apple pie is wonderful but apple dumplings? These are truly the best way to eat your apples. Here’s what you need and how to make these divine apple dumplings!

Apple Dumplings 

Almond Pie Dough
The pie dough should be made an hour to a day before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. 

Ingredients
2 cups flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 sticks butter (cold cut into small cubes)
1/4 cup cold water 

Directions

  1. In a food processor pulse flour, almond flour, salt and sugar (or whisk these ingredients in a bowl).
  2. Add butter and pulse until it resembles a course meal (you can use a pastry blender to quickly cut the flour and butter mixture).
  3. Drizzle 1/4 cup of cold water over the mixture. Pulse or mix with a fork until the mixture begins to stay together.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate dough until firm.

The Next day began making the apple dumplings. 

Take the pie dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 20 minutes so it’s easier to work with. 

Meanwhile Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

While you poach the apples you can make the candied pecans. 

Candied Pecans

Ingredients
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp butter cut in cubes 

Place chopped pecans, brown sugar and butter, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. 
 

Poached Apples

Ingredients
6 firm base ball sized apples, peeled and cored (I used empire apples)
1 cup of sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 quarts of water
1 tbsp Juice lemon juice
1 whole nutmeg
3 allspice berries

Directions

  1. In a 1 gallon pot place the apples that have been peeled and cored along with sugar, cinnamon sticks, lemon juice, nutmeg, and allspice berries. Cover with about 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Remove the apples with a slotted spoon from the poaching water when they are soft enough to pierce with a fork. Reserve 1/3 cup of water for the brown sugar sauce for the apples.
  2. Place apples in the refrigerator for 20 minutes until they are cool enough to handle.

    Putting it all together.
    1. Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees.
    2. Spray cooking spray in a rectangular baking pan.
    3. Using a food scale weigh 3 oz pieces of pie dough.
    4. Roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick.
    5. Wrap apple in the pie dough. Cut off the excess pie dough. Place apple in the prepared pan with the seam on the bottom of the apple.
    6. Repeat with the remaining apples.
    7. When placing apples in the pan try not to let the apples tough one another.
    8. Once all of the apples are in the pan use a knife to poke a small hole in the center of each apple.
    9. Bake apple dumplings in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until the pie dough is a nice golden brown.

While apples are in the oven make the brown sugar sauce.  

Brown Sugar Sauce

Ingredients
1 1/2 stick butter
1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup water  (reserved from poached apples)
 

In a medium sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the brown sugar and honey until the sugar dissolves. Add heavy cream and water and cook until the mixture comes to a boil.  Let cool slightly and pour over the apple dumplings.  While the mixture is cooking it will appear to be very loose.  The mixture will thicken as it cools. 

Once the apples come out of the oven pour the brown sugar sauce all over the apples and sprinkle with candied pecans. 

This recipe was also made with gluten free flour. I like to use
https://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/gluten-free-measure-for-measure-flour-1-lb


Vanilla Pear Apple Sangria

Every year, my family has a party for Christmas Eve. My mom always makes her famous sangria. We love it but this year I said maybe we need to switch it up. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to be a Grinch, but as wonderful as her sangria is, she makes it for EVERY party all year long. Sometimes people even ask her to bring it for their parties. So we get a little sangria-ed out. Plus, I’m not a huge fan of red wine. So I dared to be different and decided to make a white sangria. I thought of some winter fruit to add and decided to build the flavors around that. Pear is such a perfect flavor for this time of year so I decided that would be my spirit-spirit (haha, get it?).

Unfortunately for me, when I got to the liquor store to buy Arbor Mist Pear, they were all sold out of it. The salesperson at the liquor store directed me to a wine called The Legend of Big Bill which was a blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Grenache Blanc and had aromas of pear, peach and guava. He also mentioned that if I was looking for a great pear flavor I might like to try a vanilla pear cognac called Xante. (I made this recipe with the Pear Arbor Mist and an unflavored Cognac and it was just as good, especially when the vanilla had time to infuse in the simple syrup for a long period of time.) 

I stood there for a bit trying to decide whether or not to get the cognac. I mean, the thought of vanilla cognac just sounds delicious, right? Right! So I decided why not get it. It’s the holidays after all and we should totally live it up and enjoy the holiday spirit.

At home, I worried aloud to my husband about the vanilla flavor and how strong it was. Would it overpower the sangria? I figured I’d give it a shot, literally.

I tasted both the wine and the cognac. The cognac was incredibly delightful. It was just the right strength and I felt that the vanilla flavor deserved to be acknowledged a little bit more. I concocted a simple syrup with vanilla and cinnamon to add to the sangria in order to to bring out the vanilla flavor of the cognac.  Then, I used pear nectar to bring out the pear flavors in the wine.  When making drinks that contain alcohol, I like to make ice that mimics the flavors in the drink, instead of making ice with water so the drink doesn’t water down and lose flavor. This sangria had a nice crisp taste that was very smooth and refreshing.

All of the flavors truly paired well together, or pear-ed well, should I say? While Mom’s sangria will always be the star of other parties, I think this Vanilla Pear Apple Sangria will be our new Christmas Eve star for sure!   

Vanilla Pear Apple Sangria

Makes about 1/2 Gallon

Ingredients
1 750 ml bottle of white wine (preferably something with a hint of pear)
1/2 cup of pear nectar
1 1/2 cups of sparkling apple cider
1/4 cup of cognac
1/2 cup simple syrup

Mix all of the ingredients together. Give it a stir and serve 

Apple Cider Ice
1/2 pear
1/2 apple
About 1 cup Apple Cider

Dice apple & pear and place a little of each into each segment of an ice cube tray.  Pour Apple Cider in the ice cube tray over the apple and pear. 

Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean   
1 cinnamon sticks

Mix sugar and water.
Split the vanilla bean down the middle, and scrape the seeds.  Add the vanilla bean and the seeds, along with 1 cinnamon stick to the pot. 

Let boil for 5 minutes
Infuse the vanilla and cinnamon in the simple syrup up to an hour for a stronger vanilla and cinnamon flavor
** If the simple syrup is made the day before the flavors blend together and has a more powerful taste. 


Cinna Maple Glazed Chicken and Waffles

Sometimes breakfast can become repetitive…dare I say boring? Not anymore. The sheer versatility of the delicately sweet and aromatic waffle will give you so many options throughout the year for including seasonal fruits, yoghurt and even savory food matches. I would say waffles are my favorite “go to” breakfast. Both to make myself at home and to buy when I’m out . 90% of the time after church on a Sunday, I’ll go out for breakfast and buy myself a delightful waffle.

To be honest I rarely made waffles until I stumbled across a recipe that gave me true inspiration! That’s what I’m hoping to pass onto all of you. Please join me in my waffle revolution and add some excitement into your breakfast! The recipe that I’ve found so valuable is from ‘FineCooking.com’ and it’s about ‘How to Make Light and Crisp Waffles’. http://www.finecooking.com/articles/how-to/light-crisp-waffles.aspx

The article recommended corn starch, so I figured I would try corn starch in my own recipe. OMG! I couldn’t get enough of those waffles. Neither could anyone who tasted what I’d made. I went for a daring sweet and savory mix; using chicken. The tender mouth-watering chicken and sweet yet understated delicacy of the freshly made waffles combined together, was simply out of this world.

I made a brown sugar and buttermilk marinade to allow the delightfully savory chicken to compliment the sweetness of the waffles. The textures and flavor combinations created something very special indeed. An awesome taste experience! The maple with a little dusting of cinnamon really brought out the flavor of the chicken and made the taste incredible!

Cinna Maple Glazed Chicken and Waffles

Makes 4 Waffles

Ingredients
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
6 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs separated
1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Sift flours, baking powder, corn starch, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a second bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the eggs have lightened to a pale yellow.
  4. Add vanilla extract, melted butter, milk and butter milk to the egg mixture.
  5. Combine the milk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until everything is blended but don’t over mix.
  6. Use an electric mixer to whisk egg whites in a third bowl until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
  7. Fold the egg whites into the waffle batter using a rubber spatula. Do not over mix.
  8. Spray the waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray and pour about a ladle full of batter into the waffle iron. Close and cook the waffle per manufacturer’s instructions until golden brown. (I like to use a 2oz scoop to makes my waffles, I use a scoop and a half per waffle)

    https://www.webstaurantstore.com/vollrath-47143-jacobs-pride-2-oz-dark-blue-16-disher/92247143.html

Cinna Maple Glazed Chicken

Ingredients
1 1/2 lb chicken tenders cut in half
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1 tsp granulated onion
1 tsp cinnamon

Cinnamon Sprinkle
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Maple Sauce
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter

Directions

  1. Mix buttermilk, brown sugar and salt together and let the chicken soak in that mixture for 2 hours up to over night.
  2. Mix flour, granulated onion and cinnamon.
  3. Mix seasonings together for the cinnamon sprinkle.
  4. Using a deep frying thermometer heat oil to 375 degrees
  5. Pull the chicken tenders out of the buttermilk and coat well one at a time in the seasoned flour.
  6. Shake off excess flour and place the chicken into the hot oil.
  7. Cook until golden brown, or until an instant read thermometer reaches 160 degrees. When pierced with a fork the chicken juices should run clear.
  8. As the chicken comes out of the hot oil, sprinkle it with some of the cinnamon sprinkle.
  9. Serve with the Maple Sauce.