The Gingered Apple

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As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t enjoy overly sweet cocktails. If I had to choose between a strawberry daiquiri and a gin and tonic, I’d pick the gin any day. So that means you can count me out on all of your gingerbread martinis and drunken pumpkin pies. I concocted a cocktail for everyone like myself to drink this holiday season. It starts out with a shot of Irish whiskey, a swizzle of spicy homemade ginger syrup, a splash of tart apple cider. and then topped off with a little ginger ale for some fizz. The cinnamon rim adds some much needed spice and a festive touch. The whiskey will warm your belly and give you just enough buzz to listen to your weird uncle’s post-dinner political rants. The Gingered Apple won’t fill you up like those super rich holiday martinis do, which means more pumpkin pie for you! Don’t be intimidated by the ginger syrup. It’s surprisingly easy to make. You don’t even need to peel the ginger. I just thinly sliced a piece of ginger slightly longer than my thumb and steeped it along with water and sugar in a saucepan for an hour. It’s one of those recipes you don’t have to babysit. Just make sure that you strain the syrup well. Pieces of ginger floating in your drink is not that appetizing.

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The Gingered Apple

  • cinnamon for the rim
  • a shot of Irish whiskey
  • 2 oz of ginger syrup (about a shot and a half)
  • 5 oz of apple cider
  • a splash of ginger ale
  • apple slices and a cinnamon stick for garnish (optional)

1. Wet the rim of a tumbler with your finger. Sprinkle some cinnamon on a plate and twist the wet side of the glass in the cinnamon until the rim is thoroughly coated. Carefully place 3 ice cubes in the rimmed glass.

2. Pour a shot of whiskey and a shot and a half of ginger syrup in the glass. Stir to combine. Add apple cider until the glass is 3/4 of the way full. Stir. Then top off the drink with a splash of ginger ale. Add apple slices and a cinnamon stick to garnish. Sit by the fire and enjoy your drink.

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Whiskey that’s old enough to buy cigarettes is a nice touch.


Gourmet Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is one of those dishes that you either love, or love to hate. I, myself absolutely love it. I look forward to it every year. There’s nothing better than crisp green beans enveloped in a creamy sauce topped with salty fried onions. What I don’t love is condensed cream of mushroom soup. That stuff is nasty. What goes into that can is anything but natural. My take on green bean casserole is stepped up a notch without sacrificing any classic holiday flavors. And besides, the best meal of the year deserves far better than creepy canned goods (I’m lookin’ at you, cranberry sauce!).

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This version starts out the best way possible, with caramelized shallots. The shallots instantly give the dish a homey taste that you expect at Thanksgiving. Then we add a delectable blend of mushrooms that includes baby bellas, shittakes, and oysters which are far better than those unrecognizable gray chunks in a can. I like to pick up the gourmet blend of pre-sliced mushrooms at my grocery store to cut down on cost and prep time. After that we add cream, fresh thyme, sharp Vermont cheddar, and chicken stock to create the foundation of the casserole. Since green beans are no longer in season in Illinois, I decided to use frozen instead, and I think it worked out better. This way, there’s no chance of over cooking. After the filling is assembled, you sprinkle on the delectable topping. This is where it gets good. The topping is a blend of buttery panko bread crumbs and crispy French fried onions for nostalgia purposes. I love the contrast between the crunchy crust and velvety filling. This gourmet casserole may turn all of those haters into lovers. I mean, how could you not love it?!

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Caramelized shallots and mushrooms

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Creamy and dreamy homemade mushroom gravy and crisp green beans

Gourmet Green Bean Casserole

Adapted from The Galley Gourmet

Serves 10


For The Topping:

  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups (6 ounces) of French fried onions

For the beans and mushroom gravy:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces assorted mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Vermont cheddar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 pounds frozen green beans

For the topping:

1. In the bowl of a food processor combine butter and Panko. Pulse until coarse crumbs form. Add fried onions and pulse a few more times until the butter is well incorporated. Set aside.

For the casserole:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add sliced shallots and cook over low heat until they start to caramelize. About 8 to 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are softened and begin to brown. Add fresh thyme and stir.

2. Add the flour to the pot and stir until the onions and mushrooms are coated in flour. Cook for a bout 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add cream and stir. Cook over medium until the sauce has thickened. Add cheese and nutmeg then stir. Pour in chicken broth and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Add frozen green beans to the sauce and stir to coat. Transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the beans and bake until it is golden and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool for 7 minutes before serving.

**To make in advance-
The topping can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, then combined with the fried onions just before cooking.  Once the beans and sauce have cooled separately, they can be combined.  Transfer the mixture to the baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  To serve, remove the plastic wrap and cover with foil.  Heat the the casserole in a 400º F oven for 15 minutes.  Remove the foil, add the topping, then bake for another 10-15 or until browned and bubbling.

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Black Bean & Pumpkin Soup

Even though October is over, I refuse to give up on the pumpkin craze. I will be eating pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, and drinking pumpkin pie lattes from my favorite bakery cafe for as long as I can. But I can say with great certainty that I will not be eating pumpkin soup. You see, most pumpkin soups are gross. They taste like warmed up pumpkin pie filling without sugar. But this incredible soup recipe from Smitten Kitchen circa 2007 is different. And I mean waayyyyy different. It’s almost like a chili. Black beans and cumin take center stage while pumpkin gently reminds you that it’s still fall even though it snowed on Halloween. It almost tastes like an early Autumn bonfire before it gets too chilly. Cumin and garlic will warm your tastebuds and smoked ham will wrap you up in a great big hug. One taste of this meaty soup will leave all of those other pumpkin bisques in the dust.

I also have some exciting news to share! I will be publishing gourmet versions of your favorite Thanksgiving sides every Thursday from now until Turkey Day. So stay tuned for some fun twists on your old favorites!

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Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen

Yields 9 Cups


  • Three 15 1/2 ounce cans black beans (about 4 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup drained canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped onion (if you’re lucky like me, your wonderful boyfriend will help with all of the chopping. Thank you my love!)
  • 1/2 cup minced shallot
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • a 16-ounce can pumpkin puree (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/8-inch dice

For Garnish

  • Sour Cream
  • Lime Wedges
  • Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

1. Coarsely puree beans and tomatoes in a food processor.

2. In a 6-quart dutch oven, sauté onion, shallot, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper in butter over medium heat, stirring, until onion is softened and beginning to brown. Add cubed ham and briefly sauté.  Stir in pureed beans and tomatoes. Stir in broth and pumpkin until combined and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

3. Taste soup before seasoning. The beef broth and ham will add salt to the soup so season accordingly. Before serving, garnish with sour cream and pumpkin seeds if using. Serve with lime wedges on the side.

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Beer Brined Pork Chops with German Potato Salad and Applesauce

Last night I told my boyfriend that pork chops may just be my favorite thing to cook. He laughed and then quickly realized that I was serious. I think I love preparing them so much because so few people have experienced the joy of a delicious pork chop. I’m here to show you that there is more to this delicious cut of meat than bricks soaked in Italian dressing disguised as pork chops. I have practiced self-restraint when it comes to posting a zillion pork chop recipes on the blog, but I can’t hold back any longer… This pork chop recipe is too meaty and flavorful to keep to myself! The marinade creates a slightly sweet apple-flavored sauce that pairs perfectly with homemade apple sauce. The marinade will also ensure that your pork chops are fork tender and not tough.

Beer Brined Pork Chops

Yields 6 Servings


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups apple cider beer
  • 1/4 cup coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons mild-flavored (light) molasses
  • 6 1- to 1 1/4-inch-thick center-cut bone-in pork chops
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 7 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt

1. Combine 2 cups water, beer, 1/4 cup coarse salt, sugar, and molasses in large bowl. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Place pork chops in large resealable plastic bag. Pour beer brine over pork chops; seal bag. Refrigerate 4 hours, turning bag occasionally.

2. Heat canola oil large skillet over medium high heat. Remove pork chops from brine and pat dry. Mix garlic, pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt in small bowl. Rub garlic mixture over both sides of pork chops. Sear pork chops in the pan until an instant-read thermometer reaches 145 degrees, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to a serving dish and cover with foil until dinner time.IMG_3347

Hot German Potato Salad

Adapted from The Food Network

Yields 6 Servings


  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives, for garnish

    1. Place the potatoes in a medium-size pot and cover them with enough water to extend 2 inches above the surface of the potatoes. Salt the water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and slice into 1/4-inch rounds.

    2. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once crisp, place on a paper towel-lined plate and crumble into small pieces. Pour off the rendered fat, reserving 1/4 cup in the pan. Turn the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook until translucent and just beginning to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.

    3. Whisk in the vinegar, sugar, mustard, and salt and stir until thick and bubbly. Add the sliced, cooked potatoes and toss to coat. Top with the crumbled bacon and garnish with the chives. Serve warm.



Homemade Apple Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of Mama Marini ❤

Yields 1 1/2 to 2 quarts


  • 3 to 4 pounds of granny smith apples, (about 7 to 10 apples) cored and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup of apple juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Place the apples in a pot. Leave the skins on for flavor and texture. Add the lemon juice, sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, apple juice, and salt to the pot. Stir all of the ingredients until the apples are thoroughly coated. Bring the mixture to a boil then simmer on low for 1 hour, or until the apples are tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.



Butternut Squash Penne in a Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Are you a squashaphobe? Do you cringe at the sight of acorn squash dripping in brown sugar and butter? I’ve been squashaphobic ever since I can remember. My parents absolutely loved eating sickeningly sweet squash as soon as there was a chill in the air. Every time we ate it for dinner I would take my obligatory bite and twist my face in disgust. It doesn’t matter how old I am, I just can’t eat sweet and savory together. It wasn’t until last year that I developed my deep love for butternut squash. I was working for a catering company and the brilliant head chef turned relatively inexpensive butternut squash ravioli into an extra special pasta dish for a wedding. It was just ravioli, butter, and bacon but it was insanely delicious. All of the guests went crazy for it. I decided to take those flavors and amp them up with as much fall-goodness as possible. This pasta is basically a chilly autumn night curled up by the fireplace. The squash is roasted until it’s dark on all sides creating a caramelized nutty-goodness. Applewood-smoked bacon lends a much needed smoky-sweetness without being cloying and the brown butter sage sauce gives the dish the earthy punch that it needs. What could possibly be better than that?!

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Butternut Squash Penne in a Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Yields 5 Servings


  • 6 strips of applewood-smoked bacon, cooked until crispy
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon of olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 pound of penne pasta
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  •  half of a white onion, minced
  • 5 sage leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan

1. Cook the bacon until crispy. I prefer baking my bacon. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Toss the cubed squash in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper, and garlic powder. You’ll want to season the squash generously. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping the squash once. It should be dark on at least one side and fork tender. Don’t be afraid of a little color. This is what creates flavor.

2. Cook the penne according the the package directions. While the penne is cooking, saute the onions in butter until translucent. Once the butter starts to brown, lower the heat and add the sage and thyme. Then toss the squash, walnuts, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and bacon in the sauce. Add about a half a cup of reserved pasta water and stir. Then toss the drained pasta in the sauce. Top with parmesan and serve immediately.

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The Ultimate Spicy Bloody Mary

I’m already thinking about your weekend, even though it’s only Thursday. I’m thinking about a boozy Sunday brunch with your girlfriends where you obsess over your latest Home Goods purchase (I’m not the only one who does this, right?!). You will serve these eggs with these pancakes. Your girlfriends will love them. I’m sorry for coming off a little bossy. It’s just that I live for boozy Sunday brunch and I want you to have the best Sunday Funday possible. My Spicy Bloody Mary recipe will do just that.

I’ve never been a sweet cocktail girl. Fruit juice of any kind makes my stomach very unhappy and grenadine makes me cringe. I tend to drink more refreshing and savory cocktails than anything. If anyone were to ask me what my absolute favorite cocktail on the planet is, I would tell them it’s the Spicy Bloody Mary from The Smokey Barque in Frankfort, Illinois. It’s perfection in a glass. I even order it when I go there for dinner, it’s that good. At The Smokey Barque they infuse their vodka in-house with jalapenos, lemons, and limes which makes for the most perfectly delightful spicy kick. In my version, I spice it up with the addition of horseradish and tabasco sauce. This way, you can control how spicy they are without skimping on liquor.

My tips for Boozy Perfection

As far as toppings go, I’m kind of obsessed with these Bloody Mary pickles from Archer Farms. I’m not a fan of super briny Bloody Marys and this eliminates that. I also think bacon is pretty essential but maybe that’s just me. But whatever you do, please don’t feel like you have to put a giant celery stalk in your drink. No one eats it and it will just get thrown out. There are 2 factors that contribute to the perfect Bloody Mary, and they are the quality of the vodka and the amount of ice. When you’re purchasing vodka to make in a specialty cocktail, go the extra mile and buy Grey Goose. It really is worth it. If you buy cheap liquor your cocktail will taste cheap. Another key factor is the amount of ice. Bloody Marys taste better with a lot of ice. They go down much smoother when they’re icy cold.



The Perfect Amount of Ice

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The Ultimate Spicy Bloody Mary

Yields 1 Serving


  • 1/2 of a lime cut into wedges
  • Lawrys seasoning salt, for rimming the glass
  • plenty of ice
  • 1 and 1/2 shots of Grey Goose
  • dash of celery salt
  • 2 shakes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 shakes of Tabasco sauce
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of horseradish
  • 1 cup of V8 tomato juice
  • Bloody Mary pickles (for garnish)
  • bacon strips (for garnish)

1. Rub a lime wedge over the rim of a glass. Dip the rim into a plate sprinkled with Lawrys to line the glass. Very carefully fill the glass 3/4 of the way full with ice. Pour vodka, celery salt, Worcestershire, Tabasco, black pepper, horseradish, and the rest of lime, onto the ice. Then stir well. You want the ingredients to coat the ice.

2. Very carefully pour the tomato juice into the glass and stir some more. Garnish with your favorite toppings and enjoy your weekend!

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Grey Goose is even better if it’s a housewarming present from your friend Joe ❤

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White Pizza with a Twist

I’m sure many of you have seen the “miracle creamy cauliflower sauce” all over Pinterest. Like many of you, I had my doubts. I absolutely looooove traditional Alfredo sauce and I’ll put it on anything. And honestly, the calories don’t even bother me because I think they’re worth it. I wanted to try this sauce for purely experimental reasons.  I needed to know if cauliflower could actually replace my favorite creamy sauce, so I followed the recipe exactly as it was written on Pinch of Yum.

The Verdict

I found that Lindsay’s original recipe was too watery. Her recipe calls for adding 1 cup of cooking liquid to the puree which made it taste like water. It didn’t matter how much garlic or salt and pepper I added. The sauce was not going to get my stamp of approval. So I tweaked the recipe a bit. I added only 2 tablespoons of cooking liquid, more milk, parmesan cheese, a bit of pesto, and a glug of olive oil. The sauce became so creamy and flavorful after I modified it. The consistency is much thicker than traditional Alfredo, which I enjoyed. I think the pesto is what made it extra special. Best of all, the sauce is still pretty healthy with my modifications. Have you tried Pinch of Yum’s creamy cauliflower sauce? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

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White Pizza with a Twist

Serves 16


  • whole wheat pizza dough, either store bought or homemade. I like this recipe. 
  • 1 batch of Angie’s Cauliflower Alfredo (recipe below)
  • half of a rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 7 sun dried tomatoes, sliced
  • half of a jar of marinated artichokes hearts
  • mozzarella cheese, to taste
  • 1 quarter of thinly sliced red onion
  • chopped parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare pizza dough according to the directions. Stretch the dough onto a large rimmed baking sheet. You’ll want the dough to be somewhat thick. Prick the dough with a fork a few times.

2. Spread an even layer of Alfredo sauce over the pizza. Top with shredded chicken, artichokes, and sun dried tomatoes. Sprinkle mozzarella all over the pizza. Top it all off with thinly sliced red onions.

3. Bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes. Then place it under the broiler for 3-5 minutes. This is what makes the pizza so dang good, don’t skip this step!

4. Allow the pizza to set for 5 minutes after baking. Sprinkle parsley on top and serve immediately.

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Angie’s Cauliflower Pesto Alfredo

Adapted from Pinch of Yum

yields 4 cups


  • 1 large head of cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of pesto
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese

1. Boil the chopped cauliflower until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Do not drain. Add tender cauliflower to a food processor with a slotted spoon along with the milk, pesto, olive oil, and cooking liquid. Puree until very smooth. Add parmesan cheese and adjust seasoning accordingly.

2. Serve immediately or freeze for up to 6 months.

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