Spiked Hot Apple Pie Cider

Hot apple cider is one of my favorite things to serve (and drink!) throughout the Fall. When entertaining, I think it's an especially nice touch to offer mugs of it--spiked or otherwise--at the end of the night. It warms people up, and is a cozy way to send them back out into the chilly evening.

This recipe uses Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka and whole spices to add a distinct apple pie flavor to the cider. Simply start off with good local cider (I get mine from the farmer's market, but I find that most grocery stores offer it in the refrigerated aisle this time of year) and simmer with your favorite spices.

Stir the vanilla vodka in just before serving, and garnish with fresh apple slices and more cinnamon sticks.

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Hot Apple Pie Cider Cocktail
Serves 6

Ingredients
8 cups apple cider
2 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks + more for garnish
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka
1 large apple, cored and sliced

Directions
Combine cider, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a pitcher through a sieve and stir in Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka. Divide into 6 mugs, and serve warm garnished with apple slices and cinnamon sticks.

Mini Peach Pie Pockets

As the weather gets cooler, I find that there are few things better than spending a warm and cozy night in with the family.

Curled up on the couch in comfy pajamas with a good movie and a tasty treat close at hand and, it's pretty much the perfect way to spend a chilly Fall evening.



I'm super excited to have partnered with Netflix to create a series of movie-inspired treats for you and your family to make and enjoy together.

Each month, Netflix will be sharing a themed playlist of family-friendly movies and TV shows that you can stream right in the comfort of your own home through your computer or television.

And, because we all know that movie snacks are just as important as the movie itself, I'll be sharing a monthly recipe inspired by one of the films on the list!


For the month of November, the theme is movies based on children's books, both old and new.

It's a pretty fantastic list that includes some of my own childhood favorites like The Baby-Sitters Club and A Wrinkle in Time. For the younger kids, there are selections like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Me, Eloise.

This month's movie snack was inspired by one of my other favorites on the list--the Roald Dahl classic James and the Giant Peach!

These individual Mini Peach Pie Pockets are super simple to make, and are perfect for enjoying while watching James get carried away on one adventure after another.


Starting with a flaky, buttery pie crust (I include a recipe below, but you can also start with a store-bought crust), the mini hand pies are stuffed with a totally no-fuss filling made with sweet diced canned peaches (in season all year long!) and just a touch of cinnamon for that perfect Fall touch.


Cut into mini rounds, they're perfect for little hands. And with no messy cutting, forks or plates required, the whole family will be able to eat and enjoy without missing a single scene.

Enjoy the show!

Note: This post is sponsored by Netflix. Thank you for supporting cool companies like Netflix who make it possible for me to keep creating fun new content for you to enjoy. All photos, opinions, and recipes are (of course!) my own.
 
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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    


Mini Peach Pie Pockets Recipe
The flaky all-butter crust is quick and simple to make, but if you're extra tight on time, you can easily replace with 2 store-bought 12-inch pie crusts or sheets of puff pastry. This series is all about enjoying precious moments with your family so I encourage you to do what works best for you!

Yields: 12 individual mini pies
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
6 tablespoons ice cold water

For the filling:
1 1/4 cup drained diced canned peaches (*drain before measuring and see note below)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup heavy cream


Directions
First make the crust (if using a purchased crust, skip to the next step):
In a food processor or large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt, and pulse or whisk together until combined. Add the cold butter and pulse 6 times or until the flour resembles course crumbs (this can be done by hand with a pastry cutter). Add the water and pulse or stir just until the dough starts to stick together when pinched. Dump onto a clean surface and gently knead into two disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour, or overnight.

Make the pies:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the diced peaches, sugar, salt, cinnamon, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Set aside.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and let come to room temperature on the counter for about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle some flour on the counter and on your rolling pin, then working with one disc of dough at a time, roll out the dough about 1/3" thick. Use a round 3 1/2" cookie cutter  (or an upturned glass dipped in a bit of flour) to cut out circles from the dough and arrange them about 1 inch apart from each other on the baking sheet. Knead and re-roll out any scraps of dough until you have 12 circles.

Repeat this step with the second disc of dough (these will be the tops of your pies), and then poke each one with a fork a few times to create vents.

Drop about one heaping teaspoon of filling into the center of each circle. Top with one of the perforated circles of dough, and use a fork to tightly crimp the edges.

Whisk together the egg yolk and cream, and use a pastry brush (or your fingertips) to brush onto the top of the mini pies.

Bake 17-20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the pie filling is bubbling through the vents. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving (test one first to make sure the filling isn't too hot for the kids!).

Note: I use Dole diced peach fruit cups in 100% fruit juice; if you can only find the kind in light syrup, rinse it first to remove excess sugar. Diced frozen or fresh peaches will also work when in season.

Travel Diaries: Óbidos, Portugal

One of the things I loved most about our week-long stay in Portugal, was having the time to explore the surrounding villages. The owners of the home we rented left us a binder filled with suggestions and information about the area, and one of their recommendations was the city of Obidos.


Described as a "must-see," Obidos was absolutely my favorite place we visited in Portugal. Located at the top of a large hill, the entire medieval city is surrounded by a fortified wall.


Stepping into it is like going back in time (or at least onto a film set); with narrow cobblestone streets, tiny shops, and horses that clop through the stone city.
We spent the day strolling around the village, poking in and out of shops and tasting local specialties.
(Like gelato made from a local sour cherry liqueur and egg pastries.)

I love the name of this store--"Pleasure & Vice Chocolate Shop."

Some of the group went up to climb the high, narrow wall that surrounds the city, but I prefer to stay close to the ground and so Ilana and took the opportunity to do a bit of shopping instead.

One of our favorite finds was this incredible bookstore, which displayed books inside old winecrates that lined the walls.

One end of the store also featured a small food market, where we ended up buying vegetables for that evening's dinner.






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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!   

Travel Diaries: A Portuguese Farmer's Market

On our third day in Portugal, we decided to visit the farmer's market at nearby Caldas da Rainha.

As far as markets go, it wasn't particularly remarkable, but it was lovely to stroll around and stock up on a few goodies for our vacation kitchen.

From this stand, I bought a large bag of toasted corn kernels (basically corn nuts), and some garlicky olives, which we snacked on while sipping glasses of sparkling local wine.
The prices were pretty incredible, and because my concept of kilos is not very refined, I kept buying way too much of everything.
These tiny tomatoes were an amazing purchase. You can't tell from the photo, but they're all about the size of a nickel (some even smaller!), and would burst with tart flavorful juices at each bite.
We spotted a bakery truck selling assorted breads, and picked out this amazing creation: a freshly baked loaf of chewy yeast bread stuffed with a whole chorizo.

After the market, we wandered around town a bit, dipping into stores (for more cheese and some cured meats).
We passed by this place, which was decorated with a bright and colorful bird mural. Inside, the place was filled with squawking birds in cages. I hope it was a pet store, but strongly suspect that it was a home.

(If you know how I feel about birds, you'll understand that this was basically the home of my nightmares. ::shudder::)


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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!   

Travel Diaries: Sao Martinho do Porto, Portugal

Over the next few days, I'll be sharing photos and stories about my recent trips to Portugal and Spain. xx
I recently remembered a snippet of conversation I had several years ago with one of my friends. It was one of those long, meandering talks about life and the future that used to happen so often during our college years.

We were--as we usually were--sitting on the carpeted hallway floor sharing a pint of Ben & Jerry's, and talking about travel. Places we'd been. Places we wanted to go to. I don't remember the exact words, but I remember saying something about how I never want to be one of those people who doesn't travel.

"You don't have to worry about that," he assured me. "That'll never be us because it's something that's important to us and so we'll always make it a priority. It'll just be part of our normal."

And in the dozen or so years since, this has definitely proven to be true.

Thanks in no small part to the incredible group of friends I made during those long, ice cream-fueled nights. These amazing people scattered around the country and world, doing awesome things, and every so often, we all meet up in different places to share, eat, and celebrate each other.

This is how we found ourselves spending a week in the Portuguese seaside village of Sao Martinho do Porto; a place I'd never even heard of until my best friend Ilana suggested it as the destination for celebrating her 30th birthday.
Sao Martinho is lovely. It's a quiet, seaside town on the Western coast of Portugal, about 1 hour north of Lisbon.

We rented a 3-bedroom villa for a week, during which we spent our days exploring nearby villages, and our evenings cooking elaborate feasts, drinking wine, and splashing around in the pool.


(Well, my friends splashed in the pool. The water was far too cold for my Latin blood, and so I stayed in the warmth of the sun, tanning, reading, and eating gigantic grapes.)

I really loved the food in Portugal. Simple, but abundant dishes made from freshly-caught seafood dominated the menu, and we indulged liberally.
One of my favorite meals was at a restaurant called Tasca no Cais, where we sat by the water and the waiter brought us the morning's catch to choose from.
We selected a stunning snapper that he brought to the back to grill to prepare for us.

While we waited, we sipped chilled Vinho Verde, and shared a plate of sauteed prawns served in a luscious garlic sauce, that I soaked up with thick pieces of broa--a local yeasted cornbread that I plan to recreate here soon.
We also ate chorizo. Or, rather, chouriço.

Served hot and grilled, it was the first of many (so many) that we would enjoy during our week in Portugal (and subsequent week in Spain).

When the fish was ready, our waiter brought it back to the table, where he filleted it and divided it between us (except Ilana, who does not each fish and instead got an order of incredible piri-piri chicken). 

They also brought out bowls filled with little round potatoes poached in olive oil, french fries, and the most perfect green beans I've ever had in my life.

They were thinly sliced, blanched and tossed with a salty, garlicky oil. I ate nearly the entire bowl myself and have been craving them ever since.
After our meal, we slowly walked back to our house through town, admiring the local architecture and tilework.



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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!   

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