Big-Batch Cocktail Recipe: Hot Buttered Rum Apple Cider

By Angela Keyser, Director of Marketing for High Quality Organics

The hustle of the holidays are well upon us. Whether your scrambling to get some last minute shopping or baking in, or preparing for a holiday party this weekend, I hope you find time each day to take just a few minutes to stop and enjoy the beauty of the season. The lights, sounds, smells and excitement of children are such wonderful little blessings that help us remember it’s not the gifts or glamor, but the moments that make this season so special.

This make-ahead recipe is ready in minutes and makes your house smell so delicious!

This make-ahead recipe is ready in minutes and makes your house smell so delicious!

One of my favorite memories growing up was the annual Christmas caroling party my parents hosted in our tiny farmhouse. I, along with my siblings, would help my mom decorate the house and prepare all the food. Looking back, I’m in awe of how she did it: four kids, working on the farm full-time and still managing to turn our house into a magical masterpiece at Christmas! What I learned was her awesome ability to plan, organize and create simple, great-tasting foods…and throw one heck of a party!

So, in the effort to help with your holiday celebrating, I wanted to share some seasonal favorite recipes  that are easy to make and just as delicious to enjoy. (Check our recipes section for additional recipes.) Most of them you can make ahead of time so, hopefully, (yeah, right!) you can avoid the last-minute rush of making cocktails or setting out the appetizers and actually have a few minutes to compose yourself before the razzle dazzle begins. Enjoy!

Hot Buttered Rum Apple Cider*

NOTE: This cocktail is best enjoyed while strolling through the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights, wrapping presents in the wee hours of the night or simply snuggling up on the couch and watching your favorite Christmas movie.

Serves: 8-16
 
Time Required: 10 minutes plus time for spiced butter to firm in refrigerator. Then, 5-10 minutes to warm apple cider and melt butter in cider.
 
Just a few simple ingredients make this big-batch cocktail recipe so simple and perfect for holiday gatherings.

Just a few simple ingredients make this big-batch cocktail recipe so simple and perfect for holiday gatherings.

Ingredients

For Spiced Butter
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 heaping teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of salt
 
For Cocktail
64 ounces (half gallon) of apple cider
Spiced Butter
Cinnamon Sticks
Rum or Apple Brandy
 
Directions
Step 1: Make spiced butter. Combine butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a medium bowl using a fork.  
 
Step 2: Use a plastic scraper or spatula to form butter mixture into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
 
Spiced butter has been chilled and then cut into chunks and added to simmering apple cider.

Spiced butter has been chilled and then cut into chunks and added to simmering apple cider.

Step 3: Place apple cider in large pot and heat on the stove until it simmers.  Reduce heat to low.

 
Step 4: Remove spiced butter from refrigerator and plastic wrap. Cut into small chunks and add to hot apple cider.  Stir until butter is melted. Optional: Transfer to a crock pot for buffet service.
 
Step 5: To serve, add hot cider to a mug with a cinnamon stick and a shot of rum or apple brandy, if desired.
 
*Recipe adapted from Once Upon a Chef on Yummly.com
 

Pork Vegetable Stew with Thyme, Oregano & Lemon-Pepper

Pork Veg Stew Cover PicBy Angela Keyser, Director of Marketing for High Quality Organics

Oh baby, it’s cold outside! Temperatures across the country are dipping below normal recently.  So, I wanted to share a simple, healthy stew that will keep you warm inside and out during this busy holiday season.  While the ingredient list is long, the steps to make it are quite simplistic so you can easily make this on a weekend afternoon while you squeeze in some holiday baking.

This recipe is adapted from the original version found in Midwest Living magazine. Pair it with your favorite cornbread recipe and you have a comforting meal the entire family will enjoy.

Pork Vegetable Stew with Thyme, Oregano & Lemon Pepper

A comforting stew full of veggies and soft, succulent pork.

A comforting stew full of veggies and soft, succulent pork.

1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cubed

1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 medium onions chopped
28 ounces chicken broth, 1/2 cup reserved
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups (16 ounces) frozen corn
1 pound red potatoes, cubed
2 cups (16 ounces) cut green beans
 
Step 1: In a stovetop and oven-proof dish, brown half of the cubed pork in 1 tablespoon hot oil and brown.  Remove meat and place on a plate.  Add remaining meat and onion and brown.
 
Step 2: Return all meat to stove and add all but the reserved 1/2 cup chicken stock, thyme, oregano, lemon-pepper and bring to boil.  Then, cover and bake in oven for 1 hour at 325.
 
 
Step 3: Combine flour and reserved 1/2 cup chicken stock. Add it to the pork along with the corn, potatoes and beans. Stir well and cover. Bake another hour or until vegetables are tender.
 

Gingerbread Biscotti with Vanilla Cinnamon Frosting

By Angela Keyser, HQO Marketing Director

Biscotti FinalI’ve been wanting to make homemade biscotti for some time but just never had the time or reason to make them.  Well, I was heading home to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving and wanted to take something that would travel well. I came across this recipe for Gingerbread Biscotti and thought it was perfect – my dad loves ginger or molasses cookies at Christmas so I thought this recipe would be a fun surprise for him and an unexpected treat to dip into his morning coffee. The result; a resounding success! (They were gone in record time, devoured by many in the family.)

Below is an adaptation of the Land O Lakes recipe. These are perfect for traveling, hostess gifts, holiday gift-giving and more. Enjoy!

Gingerbread Biscotti with Vanilla Cinnamon Frosting

Ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves make these biscotti wonderfully flavorful.

Ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves make these biscotti wonderfully flavorful.

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
3 tablespoons mild molases
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
 
Frosting
6 ounces white chocolate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 
Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 
Step 2: Combine butter, sugars and spices in medium bowl and beat until well combined.
 
Step 3: Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated.
 
Step 4: Add molasses and beat until blended.
 
Step 5: Add flour and baking powder and mix on low until just combined.
 
Biscotti dough log.

Biscotti dough log.

Step 6: Divide dough in half and shape into 12-inch logs on floured surface. Transfer to greased cookie sheet, placing each log about three inches apart.

 
Step 7: Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops of logs are cracked and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
 
Step 8: Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
 
Biscotti after first baking step.

Biscotti after first baking step.

Step 9: Cut logs 1/2 inch thick on a diagonal with a serrated knife. Place back on the cookie sheets, cut side up.

 
Step 10: Bake for about 5-10 minutes. Turn biscotti and bake another 5-10 minutes or until they look dry and crisp. Remove from oven and completely cool.
 
Frosting Step 1: Place white chocolate in microwavable bowl and heat on high for one minute.  Continue heating for 15 second increments until chocolate is melted.
 
Frosting Step 2: Add vanilla and cinnamon and stir until well combined.
 
Frosting biscotti with a ziplock bag and on cooling racks that are on baking sheets makes the job and clean-up really easy.

Frosting biscotti with a ziplock bag and on cooling racks that are on baking sheets makes the job and clean-up really easy.

Frosting Step 3: Place white chocolate mixture in a small ziplock bag. Cut a small corner off the bag and drizzle white chocolate over biscotti. 

 
Allow biscotti to sit at room temperature until chocolate sets.  Then, store in air-tight container for up to five days. Or, freeze for up to one month.
 
 
 

All About Sage

By Angela Keyser, Director of Marketing for High Quality Organics

When I ask you what herb reminds you of Thanksgiving, most of you will probably say sage.  This perennial herb, native to the Mediterranean, is indeed quite popular at Thanksgiving. Often added to a stuffing or roasted turkey recipe, sage has a wonderful, slightly sweet and citrusy smell.  Some say it smells camphorous, cleansing or purifying and it can linger for some time – good if you enjoy the smell, not so good if you don’t!

The botanical name for sage is ‘Salvia’ which, in Lattin, means “to heal” or “to save.” The reason sage was named this way is because it’s essential oils contain antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. (Sage is an excellent source of vitamin A, C, E and K  – important antioxidants for health and wellness.)

Sage has been used for centuries not only in cooking but for medicinal purposes for many things including healing the common cold or flu and soothing insect bites.  The Native Americans believe it wards off evil spirits and the Arabs believe it helps with immortality. At one time, the Chinese regarded sage so highly they would trade up to four pounds or sacks of tea (camelia sinensis) for one pound or sack of sage leaves to make tea. (While sage tea isn’t commonly found in most grocery stores, you can find it online.)

The sage plant is quite easy to grow, will weather over the winter and is fairly drought tolerant. So, it’s a great herb to try if you’re new to (or not so good at) gardening.  It’s leaves are soft and blue-greyish in color and the plant can have delicate purple or blue flowers, depending on the variety.

Sage is an extremely versatile herb to use in the kitchen. Here are just a few delicious ways to play with it in your everyday cooking:

Steep in hot water for tea
Infuse in water with blackberries
– Added to ice cubes (fresh only)
Eggs
Flavoring for white bean dishes
Infuse with salt
Rub on poultry, pork or lamb
– Incorporate into sausage
Savory flavor to bread or rolls
Simple syrup for cocktails
Savory flavor for homemade crackers
– Soups and stews
– Vegetables or potatoes

Chef Dawn’s Super Simple Compound Butters

By Chef Dawn Wykoff

Click on the picture to watch our short video on super simple compound butters. Recipes are below.

Click on the picture to watch our short video on super simple compound butters. Recipes are below.

Compound butters – or flavored butters – are an wonderful way to infuse flavor into everyday cooking.  The options or limitless and the butters can be made in less than 5 minutes.  Here are some of my favorite combinations for Thanksgiving.

Asiago Pesto Compound Butter

Use plastic wrap or wax paper to form a log before refrigerating.

Use plastic wrap or wax paper to form a log before refrigerating.

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

1 tablespoon of pesto
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of tobacco (optional)
2 tablespoons shredded Asiago cheese
 
Instructions: Mash butter in a medium bowl with fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well incorporated.  Place onto a large piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log and tightly wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Use on bread, pasta, flatbread, pizza and more.

Sweet Vanilla Compound Butter

Compound butter log ready for refrigeration.

Compound butter log ready for refrigeration.

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon seas salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or apple pie spice
 
Instructions: Mash butter in a medium bowl with fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well incorporated.  Place onto a large piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log and tightly wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Use on sweet potatoes, french toast, pancakes, muffins, toast, and more.

Blue Cheese & Walnut Compound Butter

Compound butters are an easy, make-ahead way to add flavor to your Thanksgiving Day meal.

Compound butters are an easy, make-ahead way to add flavor to your Thanksgiving Day meal.

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 
Instructions: Mash butter in a medium bowl with fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well incorporated.  Place onto a large piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log and tightly wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Use on bread, crackers, mashed potatoes, red meat and more.
 

Have you made compound butter before? If so, share your favorite combinations!

Simple Turkey Brine Recipe

This simple turkey brine recipe will ensure that your turkey is moist and flavorful whether you’re baking, frying or smoking your bird this Thanksgiving!

Image

To begin you’ll need:

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup organic brown sugar

1 tbsp peppercorns

1 tbsp allspice berries

1 tbsp chopped ginger

1 gallon vegetable stock

1 gallon ice water

Add all your ingredients (except ice water) to a medium stock pot over high heat and stir until dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and add your ice water. Allow the brine to cool and insert your turkey, breast side down for 12 hours. Flip the bird half-way through. The next day, remove your turkey from the brine and rinse off excess brine. Your turkey is now ready to cook. Enjoy!

To view the step-by-step instructions, please visit our YouTube channel

Recipe adapted from: FoodNetwork.com

Chef Dawn’s Thanksgiving Day Tip: Use a Leave-In Oven Thermometer

By: Chef Dawn Wykoff, High Quality Organics R&D/QC Manager

Click on this picture to watch our short video on how these savvy thermometers work.

Click on this picture to watch our short video on how these savvy thermometers work.

Hosting family and friends for the big Thanksgiving Day feast can get a little crazy.  The last thing you want is to be constantly watching the clock and opening and closing your hot oven to take the temperature of the turkey.  One of my super simple tips is to get an affordable leave-in the oven meat thermometer.  They range in price from a few dollars to about $50.  Below are some good ones. (Note: Many you can get online at Amazon.com but I wanted to include some stores that might be in your local area in case you are in a time crunch!)

Walmart – Maverick Roast Alert Oven Thermometer – $17.86

Amazon.com – Polder Original Cooking All-In-One Time/Thermometer – $14.67

Williams-Sonoma  – OXO Digital Leave-In Thermometer – $40

Bed, Bath & Beyond – All-Clad Digital Oven Probe Thermometer – $50