Ancho Chile Manhattan [featuring Heritage Distilling Co.]

Ancho Chile Manhattan

It's the first snow day here in the Chicago area! The timing couldn't be more perfect. We set up our Christmas tree yesterday, and there's nothing sitting by the fire while the snow quietly falls. And to make room for the tree, we moved our TV to the basement...a move we're hoping will be a permanent one.

Ancho Chile Manhattan
Ancho Chile Manhattan

That means that if I want to enjoy the fire, falling snow, and twinkling lights, I have to do so without the accompaniment of The Office reruns or football games. We're not about to get rid of television all together, but at least this way, watching something won't be my immediate default. The option is no longer sitting there staring at me. It's a change I'll probably hate for the first couple weeks, but I think overall it'll be for the better.

I'm hoping to spend more time reading, which to me is the perfect cozy wintertime activity...and a good book requires a good beverage.

Ancho Chile Manhattan

I first started playing around with this recipe a few months ago, when I was trying to figure out how to use the huge stash of ancho chiles I acquired. Yeah, random, I know. My brother was using ancho chiles for something and had extras, which then ended up at my house. So, if you've been following me for a while and you're wondering why I have two ancho chile posts in the last couple months, now you know why. (There will probably be more to come, too.) 

This drink is a twist on the Manhattan, one of the most quintessential cocktails. Part of me doesn't want to mess with the perfection that the Manhattan already is, but then again, I can't help but change things up. I used Elk Rider Bourbon Whiskey from Heritage Distilling Company, and instead of the traditional angostura, this version uses orange bitters. The sweet vermouth is partially subbed out for ancho chile simple syrup, which gives this a spicy kick.

It's a cocktail that will warm you from the inside out - perfect for snow days, by the fire, with a good book in hand. 

Ancho Chile Manhattan

Ancho Chile Manhattan
Yields 1 cocktail

Cocktail
2 1/2 ounces bourbon (such as Elk Rider Bourbon)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce ancho chile simple syrup (recipe below)
2 dashes orange bitters
Strip of lemon or orange zest
Ice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, along with a handful of ice. Stir well, for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass. Serve with a strip of lemon or orange zest. 

Simple Syrup
1 ancho chile
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Cut the ancho chile in half, and toss it in a small saucepan (along with all the seeds). Add the water and sugar. Heat over high heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar melts and the mixture comes to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, and simmer about 5-7 more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. The syrup will thicken slightly as it cools.

Strain out the chile and the seeds using a fine mesh strainer. Store syrup in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Yields about 5-6 ounces of syrup (enough for 10-12 cocktails).

P.S. Need an affordable cocktail shaker set ? Click here to check out the one I have!


Elk Rider Bourbon was provided by Heritage Distilling Co. All opinions are 100% my own.

Linguini with Red Wine, Corn + Kale

Linguini with Red Wine, Corn + Kale

I often feel like the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are full of paradoxes. You're excited but exhausted, busy but you want to spend time reflecting on Advent. You plan big meals, get together with family, attend office Christmas parties, and eat until you can't stuff your face any more. Then there are those random few days thrown in when you actually have to cook a regular, weeknight meal. And that can sometimes seem more daunting than the holiday feasts.

This recipe is for those weeknights (although, to be honest, I'd entertain on the weekends with this one, too). It's a "pour a glass of wine, light a fire in the fireplace, and stare at the beautiful Christmas tree your family just decorated (while pondering how you're going to rearrange the ornaments your kids hung without them noticing)" kind of meal. Not that I'd ever change my kids' decorating...

It's a meal that's relatively inexpensive to make, but packed with flavor. Red wine and Parmesan cheese make it the perfect comfort food, but it's full of kale - and everything is healthy when there's kale in it, right? Leftovers also heat up really well, so you've got lunch covered tomorrow.

So in the midst of the holiday craziness, I hope you get some quiet evenings, and I hope those evenings are still full of really good food.

Linguini with Red Wine, Corn + Kale
Linguini with Red Wine, Corn + Kale
Linguini with Red Wine, Corn + Kale
Linguini with Red Wine, Corn + Kale
Linguini with Red Wine, Corn + Kale

Linguini with Red Wine, Corn + Kale
Yields about 6 servings

1 pound linguini
4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium shallots, minced (about ½ cup)
10 ounces chopped kale*
1 cup dry red wine
2 (15.25 ounce) cans corn, drained
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more for topping (optional)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded, plus additional shavings for topping

Cook pasta according to the package directions, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water when draining. Set the reserved water and cooked pasta to the side. 

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are softened and translucent, about 2-3 minutes. 

Turn the heat to medium. Stir in the kale and the wine. Cover and let the kale wilt for about 3-4 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Add the corn, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook for about 5 more minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently. 

Turn the heat to low. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cooked pasta, shredded Parmesan, and ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss well, until the cheese is melted and the ingredients are fully incorporated. At this point, if the pasta seems a little too dry, add in a bit more of the reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the right consistency. (I typically end up needing about ½ cup of pasta water total.)

Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I usually add nearly a full teaspoon more of salt.) Serve immediately, topped with Parmesan shavings and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

*Many stores (such as Trader Joe’s) sell washed and ready to use kale in 10 ounce bags, which is perfect for this recipe!

Apple + Sage Cocktail

Apple + Sage Cocktail

The first Thanksgiving my husband and I ever hosted, we crammed 21 people into our one-bedroom apartment. We lacked both a dining room and a dishwasher, but I refused to use disposable dinnerware. We moved furniture, borrowed folding tables, and arranged place settings for a full-fledged, seated meal for friends and family.

My parents came to visit early in the week, and my mom helped me host, because, well, I had no idea what I was doing. I was determined to make things the way she did and called her up to ask for her stuffing recipe in advance. As with most of her dishes, I was given vague instructions that barely resembled a recipe because often, she would improvise in the kitchen. I even have one recipe card from her that actually lists the ingredients and then says, “And from there, I kind of just wing it.” (Not the most helpful instructions when you're trying to impress your new husband, in-laws, and other friends and family with a giant feast on a major holiday.)

Although our apartment was crowded and I lacked well-written recipes, that first hosting experience was a success. My mom and I stood side-by-side, whipping potatoes and roasting squash. I learned how to make my first-ever turkey, she coached me as I seasoned the stuffing, and we talked through the timing of oven space. And 21 of us sat down together, eating off mismatched plates and taking turns drying the endless amount of dishes that piled up after the meal.

Now, several years later, I’d do a lot of things differently. I’d simplify the menu, use disposable dishes, and avoid staying up late to make handmade decorations. (Apparently pre-kids, I had much more time on my hands!) Despite my overzealous attempts at entertaining, I look back on that Thanksgiving with joy. But it’s a joy mixed with grief.

Continue reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!

Apple + Sage Cocktail
Apple + Sage Cocktail
Apple + Sage Cocktail

Full recipe and instructions can be found at Coffee + Crumbs!

Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale

Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale

My eating habits over the past couple weeks have been less than stellar. As much as I try to eat clean most of the time, some weeks all of that falls to the wayside. I'm especially susceptible to temptation when I'm running errands with the kids, and the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru is just too easy. Or when I taste-test a few too many waffles and pancakes in the name of "recipe development." Or when the kids poop in the tub, you're not home, and your husband ends up scrubbing said tub and two poop-covered toddlers. And then afterwards, he needs feel-good comfort food, so you give in to take-out from Portillo's.

(By the time I came home, he had everything and everyone completely cleaned up. But of course, I couldn't have him eat cheese fries all by himself. Also, maybe I shouldn't talk about poop on a food blog? Oops.)

Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale

Needless to say, my body isn't loving my recent food decisions. As much as I love to cook, there are plenty of days when it doesn't happen - and this week included a few too many of those days. But, I'm not going to sulk and feel guilty about it. 1. Because Chick-Fil-A waffle fries and homemade pancakes soaked in orange-bourbon syrup are totally worth it. And 2. That was last week.

Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale

Today is a new day, and it's time for me to get back on track. This slow-cooker curry stew is the perfect way to do that. It's vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and almost Whole30 compliant (just sub the chickpeas for more potatoes or other vegetables to make it a W30 recipe). You can also easily change up the vegetables to use what you have on hand. Sub white potatoes for sweet potatoes. Toss in a bag of spinach instead of kale, or add broccoli florets that need to be used up.

Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale

So even if you have a rough day with the kiddos, and you end up spending the evening cleaning who-knows-what, you've got a hearty, comforting, clean meal ready to go. 

Of course, no judgment here if you need a few cheese fries, too. 


Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale
Adapted from The Kitchn
Yields about 8 servings

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 Tablespoon kosher salt, divided
1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
2 Tablespoons curry powder
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth, divided
2 (15.5 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 (5 ounce) bag kale (or a few big handfuls of chopped kale)
1 (13-14 ounce) can coconut milk

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (a Dutch oven would also work) over medium heat. Add the diced onion and 1 teaspoon of the salt, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and 1 more teaspoon of salt. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the curry powder, ginger, garlic, and cayenne pepper (if using) to the pan. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in 2-3 tablespoons of the vegetable broth, and scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan.*

Pour the onion, potatoes, spices, and all the liquid from the skillet into the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. Add the rest of the broth, the chickpeas, bell peppers, tomatoes, black pepper, and the last teaspoon of salt. Give everything a good stir. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 3 ½ - 4 hours, or until the potatoes are tender. 

Stir in the kale and the can of coconut milk. Replace the lid and allow cook about 10 minutes more, until the kale is wilted. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!

*Note: I have made this recipe by completely skipping the sautéing step, omitting the olive oil, and just tossing the raw onion, potatoes, and spices directly into the slow cooker. It does work and the recipe will still taste good, so that’s an option if you want to cut down on prep time. However, I highly suggest taking the extra few minutes to sauté the onions, potatoes and spices. You’ll get a richer, sweeter, and more flavorful finished dish.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins

Whole Wheat Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins

The faucet is leaking, toys are strewn on the floor, and the lack of check marks on my to-do list is painfully obvious. I need to head downstairs and start a writing project while the kids nap, but I see a load of clean laundry dumped on the couch. Should I fold that now? Maybe I’ll bring it upstairs. Oh! There’s the estranged sock I’ve been looking for and the pajamas my son needed last night. I stop in my tracks, wrinkled clothes still in hand. What was I going downstairs for again?

My distracted self eventually makes it to the basement office, and there’s a pile of clean sheets dumped on the armchair. Crap. The laundry baskets are upstairs. Maybe I do need to stop and finish the laundry. No wait. I’m supposed to be writing.

I finally sit down at the computer, determined to utilize these few quiet moments when my toddlers sleep to put thoughts on paper. Without even thinking, I pull up Facebook. I just checked Facebook on my phone, right before I almost started folding laundry. Do I hear a baby crying? I forgot to schedule their pediatrician appointment. I’ll have to do that later. Why am I still scrolling through Facebook?

Continue reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins
Whole Wheat Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins
Whole Wheat Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins

Full recipe and instructions can be found at Coffee + Crumbs!

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

This past week has been marked by cloudy, rainy days and crisp, fall weather. All I’ve wanted to do is curl up on the couch with a hot drink and a good book. And to be honest, that's exactly what I've done. I've unabashedly taken advantage of the days when my kids took a good, long nap (which definitely didn't happen ever day, but I'll take what I can get). 

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

I know chores and to-do lists can't be put on the back-burner forever, but sometimes you just have a to let good things go in order to fill up with the best things. My kitchen may still be a mess, but my soul is refreshed - and for that, I'm grateful. 

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles
Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

Of course, during this season, if you've got a good book in one hand, you need a mug of hot cider in the other. I changed things up from my normal orange-clove-cinnamon combo and threw an ancho chile into the mix. I absolutely loved it. I know the added heat may not be for everyone, but for me, there's something calming, comforting and pleasantly surprising about the slight kick after every sip. Rest assured, this is a drink that'll keep you warm during those cool fall days!

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

P.S. Want to know what I'm reading? Check out the new "Reading Now" section on the sidebar, and let me know what you're reading in the comments below!

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

2 quarts apple cider (make sure it doesn't have any added sweeteners or spices)
8 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 medium lemon)
1 lemon, sliced
1 ancho chile

Add the cider, cloves, cinnamon sticks, lemon juice and lemon slices to a large saucepan. Cut the ancho chile in half and add it to the cider (seeds and all).

Bring the cider to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cover. Let the cider simmer for at least 30 minutes. Pour into mugs and garnish with a slice of lemon or a cinnamon stick. Enjoy!

Quick Tip: You can also make this recipe in a slow-cooker. Just let it mull for at least a couple hours before serving. 

Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon + Maple Syrup

Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon, & Maple Syrup

Nothing can totally prepare you for motherhood. We know this.

When I was pregnant, I did everything I could to learn about breastfeeding. I read books, took a class, sought advice from other twin mamas, and got the best pump I could afford. But it was still a completely unknown world to me, and I was nervous. Would I be able to produce enough milk? Would they be able to latch correctly? Would I ever sleep again? Would they gain enough weight?

I tried to hold on to the idea of nursing lightly. Like much of motherhood, the things you hold onto most tightly are often the same things that get painfully ripped out of your hands. As I anticipated, feeding turned out to be a huge challenge during those early months. My son took weeks to latch, and I remember at an outpatient appointment, the lactation consultant kindly looked at me and said, “How are you doing with this? Do you want to keep going?” She offered support and encouragement, but I was also relieved that she offered me permission to quit. As we talked, I choked back tears of exhaustion and frustration. I was about one feeding away from giving up completely

Continue reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!

Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon, & Maple Syrup
Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon, & Maple Syrup
Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon, & Maple Syrup
Baked Oatmeal With Apples, Bacon, & Maple Syrup

Full recipe and instructions can be found at Coffee + Crumbs!

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes

Before kids, "30-minute-meals" were my thing. If I could come home from work and put together a good dinner from start to finish in less than a half hour, that recipe was a keeper. I thought I'd stick with a lot of those dishes once I had kids, but I've realized that as a stay-at-home mom, 30-minute-meals just don't work for me. You know why? 

They require uninterrupted time. I'm still a fan of quick recipes, but most of the time, they involve standing in the kitchen without little hands clawing at your legs or wanting to touch the knobs on the stove. Or, while one dish is in the oven, you need to be prepping a sauce or side to go with it. Sometimes it feels like a recipe uses 47 different bowls and utensils - and who wants more dishes to wash? Uninterrupted time, especially in the evening "witching hour" doesn't happen quite as often as it used to. 

Instead, my obsession lately has been marinades. At least once, if not 2-3 times a week, we eat a meal that involves a meat soaked in a simple marinade. (And, full disclosure, I use store-bought marinades at least once a week! I like Tessemae's since they have quite a few that are Whole30 approved.) While it does take a little planning, I can make the marinade during nap-time rather than scrambling at 5pm. I usually end up cutting vegetables or doing other prep work early in the day, too, so come evening, it's just a matter of throwing a pan in the oven. 

This recipe works perfectly with our family schedule. Make the marinade in advance (even the day before), and then let the chicken soak up all that flavor for at least a half hour. Toss everything together on a baking sheet and roast. You can even use a zip-top bag for marinating and discard it right in the trash when your done. Fewer dishes for the win!

Of course, if making everything all in one shot still works best for your schedule, you can still cook this meal in less than an hour, most of that being inactive time (marinating and roasting time). I served this with a simple arugula salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette for a healthy (Whole30 approved!), flavorful weeknight dinner.  

Do you like to cook everything all at once? Or do you prefer meals that can be partially (or completely) prepped in advance? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel + Grapes
Yields 4 servings

¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard (try Tessemae's for a W30 approved version)
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 fennel bulb, stalks and fronds removed
1 pound seedless red grapes
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

In a small bowl*, make the marinade by whisking together ¼ cup olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, thyme, garlic, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. 

Add the chicken to a gallon-sized zip-top bag, and pour the marinade over the chicken. Seal the bag, and shake it a few times so the chicken gets thoroughly coated. Marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the fennel bulb in half from top to bottom, and then cut out the core of the bulb. Slice the fennel crosswise into ¼-½ inch thick slices. (For tips on how to cut fennel, check out this helpful video from Martha Stewart.)

Add the fennel slices and grapes to a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Give everything a quick toss. Remove the chicken from the marinade and add to the baking sheet. Discard the used marinade. 

Place the baking sheet on a middle rack in the oven, and roast for 22-25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. The chicken should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Remove from the oven, cover and let rest for a couple minutes. Transfer to a serving platter or plates. Serve with additional fresh thyme and the pan juices. Enjoy! 

*Quick Tip: To use fewer dishes, make the marinade directly in the zip-top bag. Add the marinade ingredients to the bag, seal and shake well. Then, add the chicken, seal the bag, give it another shake, and marinate as directed above.