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RECIPE: Apple Cider Cocktail In A Fresh Apple

We love the creativity and fun of this apple cider cocktail, served in a fresh apple.

The recipe was developed by Eastern Standard Provisions, which sells the soft pretzels in the photo as well as the French Toast Sugar used for the rim.

(Here’s our review of their yummy line of soft pretzels in classic and unusual shapes.)

We like this apple cider cocktail with brunch or as an after-dinner drink or dessert substitute.

The sweet sugar rim is satisfying instead of dessert, and of course, the apple should be eaten when the drink is gone.

Don’t want a vanilla-cider cocktail? Here are some other options to use an apple cup:

  • Appletini.
  • Plain cider or hard cider.
  • Mulled cider, the venerable “cup of good cheer.”
  • Diet option: apple-flavored club soda.

    Ingredients For 6 Drinks

  • French Toast Sugar (from Eastern Standard Provisions, or substitute cinnamon sugar*)
  • 6 apples, hollowed†
  • 2 shots apple pie liqueur (substitute apple schnapps)
  • 2 shots vanilla vodka†
  • 1 cup unfiltered apple juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • Maple syrup to for sugar rim
  • Ice cubes
  • Optional garnish: cinnamon sticks

    1. POUR the French Toast Sugar onto a clean plate, and wet rim of the apple cups with maple syrup. Place the rim apple cup into the sugar and twist to coat the rim.

    2. FILL a shaker with ice, apple pie liqueur, vanilla vodka, apple juice and allspice. Shake well.

    3. POUR the cider cocktail into apple cups, garnish with cinnamon sticks, and enjoy!

    Cinnamon sticks and cassia sticks (here’s the difference; also see the photos) are pricey.

    We really don’t like using them because they’re a garnish that isn’t eaten; it just gets thrown away unless you know that you can wash and reuse them.

  • Simply rinse the cinnamon sticks under hot water, then pat dry and allow them to thoroughly dry on a paper towel.
  • When you’re ready to use them again, run a grater lightly over the surface to restore the flavor and aroma. You can do this 4 or 5 times before you need to discard the stick.
  • But wait: don’t throw it out just yet. Re-grate the surface to see if there’s any aroma left. If so, toss it into a bowl of potpourri, or at the bottom of your kitchen trash can.
  • Even if it no longer has aroma, it can still look snappy in a dish of potpourri.
    You can substitute star anise, or an orange orange peel curl, for the cinnamon‡‡ sticks.


    [1] An edible drinks glass: first drink up, then eat the apple (photos #1 and #2 and recipe © Eastern Standard Provisions).

    [2] Eastern Standard Provisions French Toast Sugar is one of several flavored sugars they sell to top pretzels (there are flavored salts, as well).

    Ambrosia Apples
    [3] Ambrosia apples are slow to brown (photo © Stemilt Growers).

    [4] Gala is another apple variety that is slow to brown. See the footnote† (photo © Good Eggs).


    *To make cinnamon sugar, thoroughly combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons cinnamon. To approximate Eastern Provisions’ French Toast Sugar, use vanilla sugar instead of table sugar, and substitute 2 tablespoons of the vanilla sugar with 2 tablespoons of maple sugar.

    †Chose a red apple variety with low or no browning: Ambrosia, Cameo, Cortland, Empire, Gala. Here’s why apples turn brown.

    ‡ A substitute for vanilla vodka is 1 cup regular vodka and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

    ‡‡ You’re probably buying cassia, not real cinnamon. Check out the difference.



    GLOBAL CHAMPAGNE DAY: Champagne Tips

    This year, World Champagne Day will be celebrated on October 23rd. Plan ahead if you’re planning to celebrate!

    Although New Year’s Eve is more than two-and-a-half months away, we can’t object to another “official” occasion to drink champagne.

    First, an important thing to know: Champagne only refers to the sparkling wines of the Champagne region of France.

    Everything else, by law, is called “sparkling wine,” no matter where in the world it is produced.

    Champagne is made in seven styles, or levels, of sweetness. The first three, dry wines, are to be paired with savory foods.

    The last four are to be paired with sweeter dishes, from lobster thermidor to desserts. Read the footnote* for Extra Dry.

    The sweetness comes from a step in the secondary fermentation of Champagne, when the bubbles are created.

    The process is called dosage (doe-SAZH): a small amount of sugar is added into the wine bottles before they are corked. The sugar also reduces the tartness/acidity of the wine.

  • Primary fermentation of Champagne: In the classic méthode champenoise used to make Champagne, Cava and American sparkling wines, the primary, or alcoholic, fermentation of the wine transforms the grape must (the pressed juice of the grapes) into wine. Natural yeast consumes the natural grape sugars, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  • Secondary fermentation of Champagne: To create a secondary fermentation, the dosage is added to the wine. The the added yeasts eat the added sugar, again creating alcohol and carbon dioxide.
    Based on the amount of sugar in the dosage, the seven levels of sweetness based on residual sugar (what’s left after the secondary fermentation) are:

  • Brut Nature/Brut Zero: 0-3 g/l* residual sugar
  • Extra Brut: 0-6 g/l residual sugar
  • Brut: 0-12 g/l residual sugar
  • Extra Dry†: 12-17 g/l residual sugar
  • Dry: 17-32 g/l RS residual sugar
  • Demi-Sec: 32-50 g/l residual sugar
  • Doux: 50+ g/l residual sugar

  • How Champagne Is Made
  • How To Buy Champagne
  • Low Cost Champagne & Other Sparkling Wines
  • Holiday Champagne Alternatives
  • Cava, Spanish Sparkling Wine
  • More Champagne Alternatives
  • Rosé Champagne Alternatives

  • How To Pour Champagne
  • Why You Need A Champagne Recorker
  • …Or A Champagne Cap
  • How To Chill Champagne Quickly

  • Bellini
  • Kir Royale
  • Make Your Own Cold Duck“>Make Your Own Cold Duck
  • Red & Green Champagne Cocktails
  • Rosé Champagne & Grapefruit Mimosa Cocktail

  • Appetizers With Champagne
  • Berries In Champagne
  • Champagne Jell-O Shots
  • Champagne & Oysters
  • Champagne & Turkey
  • Champagne & Sorbet
  • Champagne Vinaigrette
  • Champagne With Chocolate
  • Drunken Fruit
  • Rosé Champagne With Turkey
  • Sorbet Champagne Desserts


    Moet Gold Bottle
    [1] During the holiday season, you can find bottles with special packaging. Stock up for gifting occasions throughout the year (photo © Moet et Chandon).

    Champagne  Bottle Top
    [2] Only wines grown and made in the Champagne region of France can be legally called Champagne. Everything else is “sparkling wine” (photo © Champagne Bureau).

    Champagne Flute
    [3] The ideal glass to showcase champagne is the flute (photo © American Club Resort).

    Rose Champagne
    [4] Rose champagne gets its color from allowing the just-pressed use “skin contact” with the red grape skins from which it is pressed. “Pink champagne” is an inexpensive product with color added (photo © Rocky Slims | NYC [permanently closed]).



    *It’s a paradox in the Champagne industry that “dry” indicates a sweeter wine; as do sec (which means dry in French) and demi-sec. Doux, the sweetest style of Champagne, does mean sweet.

    †Grams per liter.



    RECIPE: Cream Cheese Icing (Frosting) For National Chocolate Cupcake Day

    [1] This cream cheese frosting adds sour cream for a nuance of flavor and more spreadability (photo and recipe © American Heritage Chocolate).

    [2] Whether you like the name brand, store brand, or organic cream cheese, you need a block of it (photo © Bay Business Help).

    Sour Cream
    [3] A bit of sour cream creates a variation of the classic recipe (photo © Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board).


    October 18th is National Chocolate Cupcake Day.

    We’ve been using this classic cream cheese icing recipe on our chocolate cupcakes for years.

    But we recently received this recipe to try from American Heritage Chocolate.

    It adds sour cream to the cream cheese, which cuts the sweetness and adds a barely-discernible hint of tartness.

    We prefer cream cheese icing to buttercream, and always use it on cupcakes, carrot cakes and other loaf cakes.

    So is this recipe frosting or icing?

    The difference between frosting and icing is that:

  • Icing is made with confectioners’ sugar (also called icing sugar and 10x sugar), as in this recipe.
  • Frosting is made from granulated sugar (table sugar).
    But the two words are used interchangeably by those not aware of this nuance.

    Prep time is 10 minutes.

    We used it on our dark chocolate cupcakes recipe.
    Ingredients For 3 Cups

  • 1 block (8 ounces) plain cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • Coarse salt (sea salt, kosher salt)
  • 2½ cups confectioners’ sugar

    1. CREAM together the cream cheese, butter, sour cream and a pinch of salt on medium speed of an electric mixer, until light and fluffy (approximately 2 minutes).

    2. ADD the confectioners’ sugar. ½ cup at a time, stopping the mixer and scraping down the bowl before each addition. Gradually increase the speed to medium after each addition of sugar. That’s it!

    3. STORE in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 5 days, if not using immediately. Bring to room temperature before using.





    RECIPE: Spaghetti Pie For National Pasta Month

    Try something new for National Pasta Month.

    It could be as simple as a shape of pasta you haven’t tried before, from wagon wheels (ruote) to strozzapreti (photo #4—the name means “priest stranglers—here’s why†).

    Perhaps it’s baked pasta, like manicotti, pastitsio or ziti.

    How about this fun approach to baked pasta: Spaghetti Pie, a recipe from DeLallo.

    This spaghetti pie is called Pasta Frittata in Italy.

    The spaghetti is tossed with hot Italian sausage, roasted red peppers and San Marzano-Style tomatoes.

    Don’t want sausage? Substitute your ingredient(s) of choice.

    It’s not your grandmother’s spaghetti dinner—unless, perhaps, your nonna was Italian. Have fun with it!


  • Butter for greasing the pan
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound loose hot Italian sausage (removed from casing)
  • 1 jar (12-ounces) roasted red peppers, diced
  • 12 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 can 28-ounces San Marzano diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 pound package spaghetti
  • ¾ cups whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • Fresh-ground pepper
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2½ cups fontina cheese, grated
  • 1½ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil, chopped

    1. HEAT the oven to 425°F. Butter a 9-½-inch springform pan.

    2. COOK the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

    3. HEAT the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and crushed pepper; cook for 1 minute.

    4. ADD the sausage and roasted peppers. Cook, breaking the meat into small bits until cooked through, about 6 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes.

    5. STIR in the tomato paste and cook 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes and salt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally and scraping any bits from the pan, until the liquid is mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

    6. WHISK together the milk, eggs, pepper and ¾ teaspoon salt in a large pot (you can use the pasta pot). Stir in the cheddar, fontina and 1 cup of parmesan. Add the sausage mixture and the spaghetti. Stir until combined.

    7. TRANSFER the mixture to the springform pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the edges are golden and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

    8. REMOVE the pan from the oven and turn on the broiler. Sprinkle the pie with the remaining parmesan and fresh basil. Broil until the cheese is golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the inside of the pan.

    9. LET the pie rest about 10 minutes, then release and remove the sides of the pan. Cut the pie into slices and serve.
    Also try these pasta pies:

  • Baked Rigatoni Pie
  • Stuffed Lasagna pie
  • Spaghetti Carbonara Pie

    Spaghetti Pie Recipe
    [1] Bake a “pie”: a new way to enjoy spaghetti (photos #1, #2, #3, #4 © DeLallo).

    [2] There’s no pie crust: just spaghetti with sausage, red peppers and more.

    [3] “Slice” is no longer reserved for pizza.

    [4] Strozzapreti: hoping to choke the priest so he stops freeloading (photo courtesy Alchetron).






    *Strozzapreti literally means “priest stranglers” or “priest chokers.” This twisted tubular pasta (pronounced STROAH-tsa-PREH-tee) was named centuries ago when it was common practice in Italy to let priests eat for free in restaurants and homes. According to the story, some restaurateurs wished that the “freeloaders” would choke on the pasta course before they could get to the more expensive meat and fish courses. The apocryphal story is that they rolled a shape that might get lodged in the priest’s throat. Here’s more of the history.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat Four Prunes For National Four Prunes Day

    [1] Prunes are dried plums (photo © Mallivan | Panther Media).

    [2] Plums are laid out on wooden trays to dehydrate (photos #2 and #3 © California Prunes).

    [3] Prunes dehydrate to 1/3 the size of plums.


    October 17th is Four Prunes Day.

    Why four prunes?

    It was named after earlier medical advice to help digestive regularity.

    The recommendation is that eating four to nine prunes daily will aid digestion.

    Why? Prunes are a fiber food, but also contain fructans and sorbitol, fermentable sugars that can have a laxative effect.

    Even people with no problem like to eat them for general gut health: A healthy gut is a healthy immune system.

    Prunes are also a nutrition powerhouse and packed with B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and boron and Vitamin K.

    Alas, this homeopathic tie to constipation was so widely touted that prunes, which are dried plums, were perceived by American growers to be stigmatized.

    Sales dropped over time, as more and more over-the-counter remedies for constipation appeared in pharmacies.

    Prunes were more top-of-mind as a digestive remedy than as a snack and recipe ingredient.

    As a result, plum growers took to marketing and in 2001 successfully petitioned the government to allow prunes to be rebranded as “dried plums.”

    This was a purely American undertaking. Other cultures love prunes unreservedly. The French, for example, prepare prunes stuffed with foie gras as a delicacy.

    We have our own favorite ways to use prunes.

    And we’re exercising our choice to call the fruit prunes, not dried plums.

    Most prunes sold in the U.S. are grown in California from a particular variety of plum that dries the best.

  • Farmers determine harvest time by checking fruit firmness and sugar content with a tool called a light refractometer.
  • After the plums are shaken off of the trees, they are placed onto wooden trays where the fruit is dehydrated (photo #2).
  • The Golden State is the world’s largest producer of prunes, supplying 99% of the U.S. supply and nearly half of the world supply!
  • It takes 3 pounds of plums to make 1 pound of prunes.
    Only about three-quarters of a pound of prunes are eaten each year per capita in the U.S.

    These dried fruits are delicious. Eat more prunes!

    For more information and lots of recipes, visit the California Prunes website.




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