Apple Chai-Spiced French Toast


One of my all-time favorite seasonings for fall is chai spice – similar to the flavorings used in apple or pumpkin pie, it is a rich mix of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, with the added zing of allspice and cardamom. A spiced chai latte or iced chai with milk are perfect companions to a crisp fall day spent amongst the colorful leaves.

This weekend, however, I decided to use some chai spice in a more creative way: to jazz up my typical Sunday morning french toast! This recipe also makes use of all those fall apples you might have lying around, and will fill your kitchen with a phenomenal combination of autumn aromas.

Apple Chai-Spiced French Toast

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs Chai Spice
  • 1/2 tsp + a pinch ground cinnamon
  • 6 thick slices French bread
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for serving
  • 3 apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • whipped cream and powdered sugar for topping

Whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla, chai spice and a pinch of ground cinnamon in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add the bread in a single layer, turning until all the egg is absorbed.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter, and add apples and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, stirring to coat until starting to caramelize. Add the water, cooking until water has evaporated and apples are tender, about 4 minutes. Pour in the maple syrup; simmer for a minute to combine.

In a large, heated nonstick skillet or griddle (I like to spray mine with cooking spray to further prevent sticking), saute the soaked bread until golden brown on each side, about 4 minutes. Place French toast on a plate and top with apple-maple mixture, plus whipped cream and/or powdered sugar if you’d like!



Super Easy (and Healthy) Homemade Applesauce

DSC02160As much as I love apples, just like any other fresh fruit or vegetable they tend to lose their quality pretty quickly if you don’t eat them right away. A couple of weeks after picking them, I found that the few remaining apples that I hadn’t been able to bake into a scrumptious dessert or meal were starting to get mushy and mealy. Enter: this fabulous applesauce recipe! Instead of letting the rest of my precious apples go to waste and simply throwing them away, I decided to boil those suckers down to (delicious) mush.

Since posting a plea to my readers for advice, a friend of mine from class has been helping me experiment with healthy cooking and baking (thanks Elizabeth!). This was the perfect starter recipe because I added absolutely no additional sweetener or flavoring. I got to witness just how far natural ingredients can go; the goodness comes exclusively from the apples 🙂  I was also able to use this applesauce to replace the vegetable oil recipe for my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip cookies to make these treats even healthier!

DSC02161Super Easy Homemade Applesauce from Elizabeth

  • 12-24 apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks (or 1 or 2 packages frozen apples to save time)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon (add/subtract to taste; fresh cinnamon sticks are recommended!)
  • 1 package driscolls (or other brand) fresh strawberries, cut into halves
  • or 1 package frozen peaches

For plain applesauce:

Put chopped apples, water and cinnamon into pot. Bring to boil, and let cook on medium heat until apples start to soften. Turn heat to low and let simmer (with lid on) until apples completely break apart, about 20-30 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate.

For strawberry applesauce:

Add apples and cinnamon and let them cook and soften until they are 75% to your desired texture (some people like chunky). Then add strawberries, stir occasionally and let simmer until desired texture is achieved.

DSC02172For peaches applesauce:

Add peaches to cinnamon sticks first (they take the longest to soften). After about 10-15, minutes add apples and continue to cook until desired texture is achieved.


Cider-Dijon Pork Chops with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Although they are not the stars of this dish, I wanted to try out another savory recipe  to use up the rest of the apples from our adventure to Wisconsin. Roasted apples are super delicious, especially when paired with sweet potatoes (one of my absolute favorites) and topped with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh rosemary sprigs. I also love roasted parsnips (this is basically the only way I care to eat them) because they develop a really great texture in the oven and are also a little sweet. However, feel free to omit them from this recipe if parsnips are not your thing! Pork chops go great with tarter fruit sauces, so I also thought they would be a great protein addition to this meal; the apple cider-dijon glaze is like fall in your mouth.  When it all came together, this apple-inspired dinner turned out to be a big hit!
Cider-Dijon Pork Chops with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples
Adapted from Epicurious
  • 4 boneless pork loin chops (each about 7 ounces and 1 inch thick)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces

Vegetables and Apples

  • 1 pound red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and cut lengthwise in half, then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 tart apples, cored and cut lengthwise into eighths (I chose to peel mine, but this is a personal preference; feel free to do you!)
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while the oven preheats. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven and heat until very hot.

To cook the vegetables and apples: In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes, apples, parsnips, and rosemary with the olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and spread the vegetables and apples on it. Roast, turning the ingredients over halfway through, for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are nicely browned and tender.

Meanwhile, cook the pork: Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then add the chops to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and barely pink when pierced in the center with the tip of a small sharp knife. Transfer to a platter (reserving the oil in the skillet) and let stand for 5 minutes.

Pour off all but 1 teaspoon of the oil from the skillet, leaving the brown bits in the pan. Return the pan to medium-low heat, add the apple cider, and bring to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Whisk in the mustard and simmer for about 2 minutes to reduce the liquid slightly. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter to lightly thicken the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

DSC02153Divide the sweet potato mixture among four dinner plates. Place a pork chop alongside the vegetables on each plate. Drizzle with the pan sauce and serve.


Apple Sausage Cheddar Quiche

2013-10-17 09.27.18I’m sure by now you’ve had about enough of the apple recipes… but GUESS WHAT? I’ve got some more comin’ to ya! Getting rid of 30 apples is no small task, let me tell you, and I am proud to say that I found some pretty creative ways to do it.

This recipe, thankfully, is not another dessert, but a deliciously savory breakfast dish! I got the idea of an apple-sausage quiche from an Instagram post of a friend of mine, and immediately went to work to find a recipe that I could replicate.  For me, cheese is a vital quiche ingredient. I decided on cheddar because the sharpness pairs so nicely with the tartness of the apples and the sweet italian sausage. Of course I piled on the veggies, in this case plenty of chopped onion and green pepper, and added a little fresh basil from my herb garden to a prepared pie crust before pouring the egg/milk mixture over the top. Just bake and voila! A tasty, nutritious and out of the ordinary meal that is easy as pie to make – no pun intended. The best part? The numerous compliments I received from my taste-testers, and the leftovers lasted for days 🙂

2013-10-17 10.31.28Apple Sausage Cheddar Quiche

Adapted from Sweet Luvin in the Kitchen

  • 1 9-inch pie crust (store bought or homemade)
  • 1/2-1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 1/2 cups (6-oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup fresh apple, peeled and chopped (I used a Johnathan apple picked from the orchard, but Granny Smith or any other tart cooking apple would work, as well)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • Paprika

2013-10-17 10.31.51With your pie crust fitted in a pie plate, prick bottoms and sides of pie crust with a fork. Bake at 400 degrees F for 8 minutes. Brown sausage in a large skilled, stirring until it crumbles. Drain and cool. Combine sausage, cheese and next 5 ingredients; spoon into prepared crust. Beat eggs. Pour over sausage mixture, along with milk to cover. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Bake at 325 for 50 minutes OR until set. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. For even more hearty goodness in the morning, add some southwestern skillet potatoes on the side.


So Good Apple Pie

I don’t like to brag (OK that’s not true, but who doesn’t like to brag occasionally?!), but I make THE BEST apple pie. Trust me, I have the feedback to prove it. So, now that I’m in my seasonal apple frenzy, I would like to share my tried and true apple pie recipe with you, readers. I hope you try it out for an upcoming holiday dinner or celebration! Don’t be afraid to leave comments of gratitude when your guests’ compliments start flowing 😉

2013-10-12 12.07.34So Good Apple Pie

  • Pastry for 9-in double pie crust (store-bought or homemade, if you need directions click here)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 cups tart apples (about 8 medium, or 6 large), peeled and thinly sliced (I like to use Cortland if picked fresh from an orchard; Granny Smith also work just fine)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place one pie crust in the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. In large bowl, mix sugar, 1/4 cup flour, the cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir in apples until well mixed. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Cut butter into small pieces; sprinkle over filling.

Roll out the other pastry onto a counter and cut into 8 strips, approximately 1-1.5 inches thick. Assemble the strips into a lattice- alternating over and under. Press the two edges together and onto rim of pie plate to seal; flute as desired. Cover edge with 2- to 3-inch strip of foil to prevent excessive browning. Sprinkle crust with granulated sugar crystals, if desired, for a fancy touch.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through the crust, removing foil for last 8-10 minutes of baking. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm, if desired, with fresh vanilla ice cream!


Apple Fritters with Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese

2013-10-13 11.12.16-2As I mentioned in my last post, I have gone slightly apple-crazy lately.  After going apple-picking in Wisconsin, my friends and I came back with tons (I’m talking like 20 pounds) of delicious fresh apples, and I’ve been desperately trying to find recipes to use them all. I came across this one from Southern Bite and couldn’t wait to try it. One of my favorite parts of apple-picking are the fresh apple cider doughnuts, and I figured this could be my own spin on the delicious fried treat.

They turned out amazing! With the soft, sweet dough, large chunks of apple throughout, and a nice crunch to the outside, the consistency was mind-blowingly delicious. Plus, the honey cinnamon cream cheese added an additional layer of flavor that shouldn’t be skipped. This recipe gets 5 stars!

DSC02145Apple Fritters with Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese

  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 apples, finely chopped (about 2 cups chopped)
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • powdered sugar
For the Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

DSC02146Make the Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese by stirring the honey and cinnamon into the softened cream cheese; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, all spice, and brown sugar. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla and stir well. Stir in the apples.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil to about 350 degrees F. Once the oil is hot, drop the fritter batter by heaping tablespoonsful into the hot oil. Cook about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes then carefully flip the fritters over and cook another minute or so – or until golden brown.

DSC02148Drain the fritters on paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with the Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese.


Brown Sugar Cinnamon Apple Pancakes

DISCLAIMER: The next series of posts will be slightly apple-obsessed.
I absolutely LOVE fall. Pumpkin-flavored everything, colored leaves, candy corn, scary movies, Sunday Night Football, chilly weather, Halloween, comfort food, warm drinks, and APPLES. What else could one possibly need for pure bliss? It’s hands-down the best time of year.
2013-10-06 11.25.05After living in New England for several years, it became one of my little traditions to go apple-picking every fall. This is an awesome activity for kids, and for those of us who are still young at heart 🙂 I was thrilled to discover that there are a plethora of opportunities to go apple-picking from Chicago, as well; you can find great family friendly orchards in Northern Illinois, as well as in Wisconsin and Michigan. My mom was in town last weekend from Colorado, where, sadly, apple-picking does not exist. So, I decided to share the joys with her and made a day of it, trekking up I-94 to Apple Holler in Sturtevant, WI.
Needless to say and to my sheer delight, we came back with TONS of freshly picked apples! I quickly got to baking and whipped up some delicious fall treats. You’ve got to try these pancakes! So thick and packed with apple goodness in every bite, if you are an apple lover like me you’re sure to fall in love at first bite.
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Apple Pancakes
For the Pan Roasted Apples
  • 3 medium-sized Pink Lady apples
  • 1 Tbsp. salted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, grated
  • 1/2 tsp. gluten free vanilla extract

For the pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups low-fat milk
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
DSC02139Peel and core the apples, then slice them very thinly.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and cook until slightly softened. About 5 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; continue to cook, stirring often until very tender, around 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
DSC02141To make the pancake batter, whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg, then stir in the milk and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. Mix in the cooled apples.
2013-10-10 10.36.50Lightly oil a griddle or large skillet and heat over medium heat until it is hot enough for water to dance across the surface. Drop batter by the tablespoonfuls, slightly spreading the batter to the desired size as they start to set on the bottom. Cook until golden then flip and repeat with the remaining side.
Serve with warm maple syrup, and fresh apple juice.