Monday, October 29, 2012

Hey, That's Pin-Tastic: Spiced Apple Cider Caramels

I just love Halloween week! My sisters and I have the best Halloween memories and dressing up and trick-or-treating was always one of the highlights of the entire year. I have been embracing all things orange and black, burning my pumpkin candles and during the day while I'm working at home, Wrigley and I like to listen to the Spooky Sounds of the Season on Music Choice. We're partial to Thriller and The Monster Mash. (it's a graveyard smash!) Alas, I took a Halloween dance party break this afternoon to link up with my favorite AP because this recipe is one to be shared this week. 

This week's Pinterest inspired treat is the perfect sweet ending to the glorious month that is October. My sister discovered this recipe and I immediately re-pinned it, hoping we could spend some time in the kitchen making them together. Candy making is something I haven't spent a ton of time doing but I'm learning that it's a slow process that requires some patience. My biggest piece of advice is to take your time and carefully follow instructions to ensure the best results. A candy thermometer is a must, too. 

These Spiced Apple Cider Caramels are soft, perfectly chewy and have a delightful balance of cider and caramel. Like a caramel apple, in decadent caramel form. We are packaging these little treats up to send off in festive care packages to some special lovies. Our afternoon in the kitchen was well worth it! Even Ozzie agrees.

Spiced Apple Cider Caramels
recipe from Not So Humble Pie

2 cups Apple Cider
2 Tbsp. mulling spices (I like Fresh Market's)
2 cups pure cane sugar
1.5 cups heavy cream
1 cup corn syrup
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
pinch kosher salt

Start by combining the mulling spices (Fresh Market's mulling spices come in powder form and dissolve into the cider) and apple cider in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Once the liquid has reduced to about 1/2 cup, set aside. 

Prepare a 9 x 9" pan and line with lightly buttered parchment paper.

In a large, heavy sauce pan, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and once cup of the heavy cream. Place over medium heat, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, bringing the mixture to a boil. This will take some time. Don't be tempted to turn the heat up. This requires patience.

Once the mixture boils, add the remaining half cup of heavy cream and the apple syrup in a slow trickle so your caramel mixture continues to boil, uninterrupted. Allow the mixture to boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Then, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring after each piece has melted. Wash down the sides of the pot with a damp pastry brush as needed.

Now clip on your candy thermometer and allow to boil over mediummedium-low heat until the mixture just hits 255°F. This should take about 30 minutes, if your temperature is climbing too quickly you might need to reduce the heat. By the same token, if you're not hitting 255°F by 40 minutes you might want to increase the heat a bit.

Once you've hit the right temperature, quickly remove the pot from the heat and pour into your prepared pan. Don't scrape the pot. Allow the caramel to cool completely before lifting the caramel slab from the pan using the parchment.

(Tip: If you notice tiny beads of butter on top of your caramel, don't fret. Just lightly blot them off with a paper towel.  This is usually from pouring the caramel into the buttered pan, not from the caramel separating (though that can happen if the candy crystalizes).

Cut the caramel slab into small pieces using a sharp buttered knife.  To avoid any arrgh-caramel-sticking-to-knife-headaches, I recommend using a sawing motion, pushing lightly with your buttered knife blade. Wrap each piece in a square of parchment. Store in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wrigley the Doodle

I suppose I have taken an unintentional blog hiatus but we have been busy enjoying life and fully embracing my favorite season! Truthfully, it's refreshing to unplug every now and then and spend time away from the noise of blogging and social media. I might even stay in hiding until the election is over. Plus, it's been so beautiful here! Crisp days and nights, clear Carolina blue skies and lots of fall baking. As excited as I am that the holiday season is just around the corner, I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to October. Can't it just stay for a little bit longer?

In other news...say buongiorno to Wrigley!

On Saturday, we added a four legged furry friend to our family and we are so in love! We knew we wanted dog but since we were renting our house in Illinois, we couldn't have one. Clearly, the first order of business once we got settled in Charlotte was to get a pup to call our own. My doodle dreams have finally come true! Wrigley is an 8 week old Labradoodle and truly the sweetest puppy ever. He has been so calm, has the sweetest personality and is just so easy to love.

Wrigley, we love you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin Arugula Salad with Apples, Walnuts and Goat Cheese + Blood Orange Cinnamon Pear Vinaigrette

This recipe was developed for Pour Olive.

What started out as a simple side of roasted pumpkin took on a whole new meaning last weekend when I whipped up this salad. The crisp Fall air is certainly getting to me because all I can think about are the flavors of Autumn! Cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin...with gingerbread and peppermint peeking around the corner. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

I started out by roasting a sugar pumpkin and the rest just fell into place. I plated up some fresh arugula, sliced fuji apples and walnuts. I crumbled some goat cheese atop the greens and the roasted pumpkin, still slightly warm, made the goat cheese nice and creamy. I added some fall flavors to my Pour Olive pantry stock and the Blood Orange infused olive oil and Cinnamon Pear balsamic were begging to marry together. This made for a delicious pairing and each bite was bursting with the flavors of Fall! Make this for an October dinner party or add it to your Thanks

For a pretty presentation, plate these salads individually with dressing on the side.

For the Salad
Fresh organic baby arugula
Fuji apple, thinly sliced
Goat cheese, crumbled

Roasted Pumpkin
1 sugar pumpkin, sliced into wedges
olive oil for drizzling
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Cut pumpkin half and scoop out seeds until it's clean. Keeping the skin on, cut pumpkin into wedges. Place pumpkin on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil along with a tiny bit of salt and pepper. Bake pumpkin at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until pumpkin is easily pierced with a fork, but not mushy. 

To prepare pumpkin for salads, slice off the skin and chop into large chunks.

Blood Orange + Cinnamon Pear Vinaigrette
1/4 cup Pour Olive Blood Orange infused balsamic
1/8 cup Cinnamon Pear balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste

Whisk olive oil and balsamic together briskly until emulsified. Season with salt & pepper, then drizzle onto salad. 

For an orange cinnamon vinaigrette with regular olive oil and vinegar, try adding orange zest to your dressing and sauteeing the walnuts in brown sugar and cinnamon.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Project Pinterest: {Glittered} Pumpkin Filled Hurricanes

October really is the most magical month. Some may argue that December is when the magic happens but in my mind, October 1st is the official start of of the time of the year that encompasses all things wonderful in this world. Otherwise named by Mark as the "time of year in which glitter takes over my house". That's right, honey. Glitter makes everything better. 

I'm liking up again this week with my Avocado loving sister for Project Pinterest. It's so much fun to see everyone else's pin-spired creations! To everyone who has linked up with AP- how productive are we!?

These pumpkin and branch filled hurricanes were kind of the starting inspiration for my fall mantle. I like the simplicity, the use of natural elements and bonus points because I didn't even have to go to the store to recreate my own.

I picked up these tiny pumpkins from Hobby Lobby last year. I kept half of them as they were and the other half? I added some bling. I mod podged the pumpkins and sprinkled generously with Martha Stewart glitters. These branches also came from Hobby Lobby last year. 

I'm really happy with how these look sitting on our mantle! Our fall mantle is still a work in progress but here are some details....

A glass pumpkin from my mom filled with moss for some added texture.

White pumpkins are everywhere this year! I needed some for my mantle. I also grabbed a spare mirror I picked up several years ago at Marshalls and my favorite photo of all time to kind of lean up on the mantle. We may eventually re-do this fireplace, add in some built ins, mount our TV...the list is endless! I was actually 100% convinced that I wanted to paint the brick but the longer we live with it, the more we love this antique part of our house. Most of our home has been re-done and updated but along with the original hardwoods, this "reclaimed brick" fireplace is one of the few original pieces of the house.

Again, you can never have too many pumpkins. Galvanized flower bucket, again, courtesy of my mom! Pumpkins are from Trader Joe's and the Hob.

Head over to I Love You More Than Carrots to see everyone else's fabulous pins put into action! Better yet, LINK UP!

Peace & Pinterest love to all. Make it a wonderful week!