Spiked Pear Cider

I’ve fallen hard for the homemade cider this year…

This Spiked Pear Cider is made in the slow cooker and can easily be made virgin for kids to enjoy!

And for this version I’ve even brought on the booze! That’s right, this Spiked Pear Cider is just as tasty as any hot apple cider and has a splash of bourbon to boot. My kind of cool weather treat!


In case you missed it, a little while back I forayed into the world of homemade ciders with this From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider and I was more than pleased with how it turned out. It wasn’t too sweet and had just the right amount of spice. It made me start thinking about what other types of homemade ciders I could create, and a pear version was the first thing that popped to my mind.

And now that I’m back (at least a tiny bit) in the drinking game, I thought it only appropriate to make my pear cider into somewhat of a hot toddy by adding some tummy-warming bourbon. BUT, if you are not a drinker or not drinking at the moment for any reason (I feel ya) then I’m happy to say that this Spiked Pear Cider tastes just as delicious when it’s just plain ol’ “Pear Cider.” In fact, you don’t even add the booze until the end, so it’s easy to make a batch for a crowd and then just add the booze to the mugs of those who want it.

A couple of mugs of warm Spiked Pear Cider are just what you need on a cold fall or winter's night.

Aside from a little difference in the spices, the directions for making this Spiked Pear Cider are nearly identical to those for the apple cider. And whereas my apple cider recipe had no added sweetener, I did decide to add some honey to the pear cider to help counteract the booze a little bit. Which means it’s that much closer to a legit hot toddy and that much more acceptable to drink if you’re ever feeling a little bit under the weather this winter. Am I right?

So what I’ve done here is included the recipe for the pear cider itself – which you’ll make in the slow cooker – and then also the ratios for boozing it up. Plan on making the nonalcoholic pear cider in the slow cooker at least one night before you want to drink it (or first thing that morning since it takes 7 hours to cook) and then you can easily just keep it warm in the slow cooker or refrigerate it and reheat it when you’re ready to enjoy it as a cozy adult beverage.

A mug of Spiked Pear Cider is the perfect hot toddy for the holidays.

This Spiked Pear Cider is the perfect drink to have on hand for the holidays when you have guests and visitors stopping by at any given moment, or when you’re just looking for a little something special to serve up for family. It’s easy to throw together and can be made suitable for kids and adults alike. Plus, who doesn’t love a great “set it and forget it” recipe for this crazy time of year?

A couple of mugs of warm Spiked Pear Cider are just what you need on a cold fall or winter's night.
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Spiked Pear Cider
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
7 hr
Total Time
7 hr 10 mins
 

This slow cooker recipe is a fun new take on cider and can easily be made nonalcoholic for the young 'uns or non-drinkers in the crowd.

Course: Drinks
Servings: 6 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the cider:
  • 8 pears, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 of a whole vanilla bean
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 8 cups filtered water
For one cocktail:
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 4-6 ounces pear cider
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the cider ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 7 hours.

  2. Strain cider into a pitcher or a few Mason jars and discard solids.

  3. To make the cocktail, measure out 2 ounces of bourbon into a mug and add 4-6 ounces of the cider (depending on the size of your mug.) Enjoy warm.

Spiked Pear Cider | CaliGirlCooking.com

Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs

We’re stepping a bit outside the Thanksgiving box today.

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is the perfect vegan side dish for Thanksgiving.

Because, although not a traditional holiday side dish, this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is completely worthy of a spot on your holiday table. It’s full of dried cranberries, whole grains, white beans and seasonal fresh herbs like fresh rosemary, sage and thyme and literally is a Thanksgiving explosion in your mouth. You’re going to get this one on the menu STAT.


I’ve been a big fan of grain salads for quite a while now, as evidenced by this Spring Fava Bean and Burrata Grain Salad, this Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad and this Herbed Grain Salad with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans. I love them because they are filled with a ton of healthy ingredients and filling to boot. The whole grains give them plenty of heft to make them completely suitable as an entire meal, although they are equally delicious (and the portions go a bit further) if you serve them as a side dish among all the other delicious things you typically serve up for a holiday meal.

I’m not joking when I say tell you this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs tastes like your entire Thanksgiving menu in a bowl. Sure, there’s no turkey in there (although you could easily add some and I wouldn’t be one bit upset about it) but just the cranberries and the fresh herbs alone are enough to mentally transport you to arguably the most well-known food holiday of the year. I love allll the fresh herbs, but there’s also just something about fresh sage in a recipe that really screams fall and all the deliciousness that comes with it.

A bowl of this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is filling enough to be a delicious vegan holiday meal.

As far as making the dish goes, it couldn’t be easier. Not only does it come together fairly quickly (the longest step will be cooking up the grains) but it can also be made in advance and served cold or at room temperature, which means it’s easy to fit into an already busy cooking and kitchen schedule once T-day rolls around.

For the whole grains, I used a combination of farro and Italian couscous because they were what we had on hand, but feel free to use other varieties such as quinoa, barley or even wild rice. I also added in some toasted pine nuts, and I highly recommend you do not skip this step, even if you want to sub in some other type of toasted nut for that little extra crunch. (Pecans? Almonds? So many possibilities.)

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is an easy, make-ahead side dish for the holidays.

I would also like to point out that said Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is completely vegan, which makes it a delicious, healthy, high-protein option for anyone in your group that may have certain dietary preferences. It’s a great way to serve them up some protein and filling flavor without having to bend over backwards making some sort of interesting Tofurkey creation.

Since I was developing recipes so far in advance this holiday season due to our little one’s arrival, I served this up as a side dish at my mother-in-law’s birthday celebration we held down here in Santa Barbara at the beginning of October. Let’s just say my sisters-in-law were already requesting I make it as our contribution to the Thanksgiving meal when we go celebrate with them in a couple of weeks.  I hope you decide to add it to your menu as well!

Serve this vegan Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs as a hearty side dish or light, healthy meal during the holidays.

This Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs is the perfect vegan side dish for Thanksgiving.
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Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs
Prep Time
10 mins
 

This festive vegan side dish is full of filling whole grains, protein-rich white beans and pine nuts, and the freshest herbs of the season. 

Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Servings: 6 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked grains of your choice (I used a combination of farro and Italian couscous)
  • 2 15.5-ounce cans Great Northern or white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to two days before serving.

Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs | CaliGirlCooking.com

Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup

It’s hard to believe something so simple can be so delicious.

A couple of bowls of Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup make the perfect dinner for cooler weather.

This Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup is the perfect example of how just a few ingredients can turn into something completely magical. We’re talking creamy mouthfeel, layers of flavor and in fact a pretty darn healthy meal. Once you taste it, your life just may be changed forever.


The hubs and I have a favorite restaurant here in Santa Barbara, Trattoria Vittoria, that serves quite possibly the most legit Italian food I’ve encountered stateside. They employ Italian chefs, the owner spent a good portion of his childhood in Italy and speaks fluent Italian, the food is amazing and, in fact, so are the drinks with an incredibly entertaining flair bartender manning the helm (who also has a blog, Flair Project, that you should most definitely check out for some out-of-this-world cocktail recipes.)

The restaurant also happens to be one of my husband’s work accounts, so we often find ourselves eating there both for lunch during the week and quite frequently on a “date night” out on the town. What can I say, when we find something good, we stick with it.

Anyhow, even though alllll of the food is delicious, one of my favorite things to order at lunch (okay, even often at dinner) is a cup of their soup of the day. It changes frequently, and you’ll rarely get the same thing twice, but it’s always tasty and I’ve never been disappointed.

A big bowl of Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup ready to be devoured.

A while back, I met Chris there for lunch and they were serving a Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup. I wasn’t too sure what to expect (for some reason I thought it might be chunky?) but I went ahead and ordered it because I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. What came out of the kitchen was a delicious, velvety smooth purée that was chock full of flavor and left me practically licking the bowl. I immediately knew I wanted to recreate something like it in my own kitchen!

And that’s what you have here today folks, what I’m proud to say is almost a spot-on rendition of the soup I tasted on that fateful day. I made this Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup all from taste, without asking the chef for any tips on how they did it, but I’d have to say I’m really darn proud of the result.

The best part about this recipe? It only requires 6 ingredients (well, 8 counting the optional one and salt and pepper) and comes together easily and beautifully as long as you (a) have the patience to caramelize some onions beforehand and (b) have a regular or immersion blender on hand. I mean, I found myself standing at the stove asking “Is this really all I need? Is the flavor really already this outstanding?” Yep yep, they are!

Mix up a big pot of Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup for dinner tonight!

So here’s all you need to make this Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup tonight:

Onions
Potatoes
Butter
Chicken stock
Garlic
Heavy cream (optional)
Prosciutto (again, optional)

Plus a little salt and pepper. That’s it! I’m venturing to guess you may already have a lot (if not all) of this stuff on hand, which means Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup is becoming even more of a reality for gracing your dinner table tonight.

Although this recipe is easy and does not require much hands-on work, it does take a little bit of time. We have to give all of those delicious flavors time to come together, after all! But the results are totally worth it. Promise.

Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup is the perfect comfort food meal.

Do you have any fun and delicious soup recipes I need to try? Now that fall is just around the corner (and Baby D’s due date!) I’m looking for all the cooler weather recipes I can get my hands on. Leave me your recs in the comments below!

A couple of bowls of Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup make the perfect dinner for cooler weather.
Print
Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
55 mins
Total Time
1 hrs 5 mins
 

A creamy, velvety soup full of hearty potatoes and flavorful caramelized onion. The perfect, easy comfort food meal for cooler weather!

Course: Main Course, Soup
Servings: 4 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 white or sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cloves peeled garlic
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • 3 slices prosciutto, to top (optional but highly recommended)
Instructions
  1. First, you’ll want to caramelize your onions. Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add sliced onions and cook, low and slow and stirring occasionally, until onions take on that beautiful caramel color. This may take up to 30 minutes. Be patient! You don’t want to cook the onions too fast and give them a burnt flavor. 

  2. Once onions are sufficiently caramelized, add them to a large stockpot along with potatoes, chicken stock and peeled, whole garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and simmer until potatoes are tender when you poke them with a fork. Reduce heat to low.

  3. Use either an immersion blender or transfer the soup to a regular blender and purée until there are no longer any chunks. Transfer back to the stockpot on low heat (if using a regular blender), stir in heavy cream (if using) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep soup simmering on low while you make some crispy prosciutto to top it off!

  4. Heat a small nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once pan is hot, add slices of prosciutto and cook until crisp, flipping when necessary. Transfer to a cutting board and chop prosciutto into little pieces.

  5. Ladle warm soup into bowls and top with crispy prosciutto. Enjoy immediately!

Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup | CaliGirlCooking.com

Mom’s Peanut Butter Chicken

Looks can be deceiving…

Mom's Peanut Butter Chicken | CaliGirlCooking.com

I know, I know, this photo doesn’t necessarily jump out at you as the PRETTIEST dish around, but boy oh boy does it make up for its looks in flavor. There’s a reason Mom’s Peanut Butter Chicken has been a favorite family recipe of ours for longer than I can remember!


Let me just paint a little picture of the cooking situation in my family for you: My dad is the one who never relies on a recipe, simply using them for “inspiration” and successfully pulling dishes together relying on his taste memory and previous cooking knowledge. When I was younger, whenever there was a dish at a restaurant that we absolutely loved, my dad would be able to taste it and recreate it back at home without even asking the waiter or chef what all was in the recipe.

My mom, on the other hand, is more of a by-the-book gal. This may be partly due to the fact that she’s the primary baker in the family, and we all know that bakers must adhere to much stricter measurements and instructions to come out with the perfect treat. Mom’s always skimming magazines and cookbooks and dog-earing different recipes she wants to try. Some of these recipes end up being massive fails, but others take us by surprise and end up appearing in regular rotation on the dinner table.

I can’t remember exactly where my mom found this recipe, but it’s since become her own, hence why I’m dubbing it Mom’s Peanut Butter Chicken. It’s an incredibly homey meal, the ultimate comfort food, which is why I feel the need to share it now before our weather gets too warm for us to want to make anything that requires time both on the stove AND in the oven!

Mom's Peanut Butter Chicken | CaliGirlCooking.com

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I am a HUGE peanut butta lova.  Yep yep! I’m pretty much addicted to it it and have been for as long as I can remember, which is why there should be no question as to why I love this hearty, tummy-warming dinner so much.  Seriously, take any dish and add peanut butter to it and you’ve pretty much sold me.

I also love that Mom’s Peanut Butter Chicken is loaded with spinach and tomatoes, yet all of those veggies are covered up in the most delicious peanut butter flavor. Served over a bed of brown rice, this is a healthy, protein-packed meal that I’m pretty sure even the pickiest of eaters will love (yes, if they can get past the looks 😉

Mom's Peanut Butter Chicken | CaliGirlCooking.com

This dish is also incredibly easy to make, and even the most novice of chefs will have no problem whipping it up on any night of the week. The key to bringing it all together is a trusty Dutch oven, and if you’re looking for an affordable option, I highly recommend my go-to Lodge 6-quart cast-iron one, which you can grab on Amazon for less than $60. Seriously, you’ll never regret this purchase.

The Dutch oven and your stove/oven are ALL you’ll need to bring Mom’s Peanut Butter Chicken recipe together in just about an hour and a half. We start with a quick sear of the chicken, and then throw all of the veggies and sauce ingredients into the same Dutch oven before literally setting it and forgetting it. That’s right, after you get all of the ingredients combined, you just pop this big pot of deliciousness in the oven and let it cook away for about an hour.

Mom's Peanut Butter Chicken | CaliGirlCooking.com

I do want to note that this recipe makes a HUGE amount of food. It’s great if you’re serving a large group (growing up, we were a family of five) or if you want to have days and days of leftovers 😛

While Mom’s Peanut Butter Chicken is cooking, steam up some brown rice because you’re definitely want some extra carbs to soak up all of that delicious peanut butter-y sauce. Now how’s that for a complete meal?

Mom's Peanut Butter Chicken | CaliGirlCooking.com

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Mom's Peanut Butter Chicken | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Mom's Peanut Butter Chicken
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
1 hrs
Total Time
1 hrs 15 mins
 

Chicken is topped with a creamy, vegetable-filled peanut sauce to make a healthy, protein-packed comfort food meal for any night of the week.

Course: Main Course
Servings: 6 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 one-pound can Italian tomatoes, drained with liquid reserved
  • Reserved tomato liquid, chicken broth or tomato juice
  • 1 pound frozen spinach
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus additional for seasoning chicken
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper plus additional for seasoning chicken
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)
  • 1/2 cup ground peanuts, for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Heat butter and olive oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and add them, in batches, to the pan, browning on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside to add back in later. 

  3. Add the onion to the warm pan and cook until translucent. Add tomatoes and spinach, stirring to combine. Add the chicken back to the pan.

  4. Place reserved tomato liquid in a measuring cup and add chicken broth or tomato juice until combination measures 1 ½ cups. Add liquids to a medium mixing bowl with peanut butter and whisk until mixture is smooth. Add ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and cumin (if using) and whisk to combine. Pour sauce over chicken mixture in Dutch oven.

  5. Place Dutch oven in 350 degree oven and cook for one hour, or until chicken is tender. When serving, garnish with ground peanuts.

Mom's Peanut Butter Chicken | CaliGirlCooking.com

Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail

Who’s ready for a tummy-warming treat?

Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail | CaliGirlCooking.com

I hope everyone is, because today I’m bringing you a warm, fruity libation that’s going to get you through the rest of these winter months. That’s right, this Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail is going to be the only thing you want to make while the weather is still well under 60 degrees in most parts of the world (and if you’re in a tropical locale, get thee to some good air conditioning and you’ll be just fine while sipping on this deliciousness.)


I’ve been meaning to bring you another tea cocktail for a while now (you may recall this Warming Ginger Tea Whiskey Cocktail I brought you last year, which was a huge hit) but I’ll have to admit the inspiration was slow-coming. But with all of the crazy weather we’ve been having in our neck of the woods (and all over the country, from what I’ve been seeing,) I didn’t want to put this off any longer. There’s nothing like a hot, alcohol-ridden beverage to get you feeling nice and cozy on a cold, rainy day!

In fact, I wish I’d had the ingredients for this Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail while we were down in Southern California this past weekend. We braved the pouring rain to make the long trek to Palm Springs on Friday night to visit Grandma, then drove to Santa Clarita for a baby shower on Saturday, then down to Ontario Saturday night for the brother-in-law’s girlfriend’s birthday, then over to Seal Beach (again in the pouring rain) on Sunday because the hubs had a meeting there all day Monday.

I was supposed to drop my man in Seal Beach and drive back to Santa Barbara on Sunday, but I decided to crash with him and wait out the storm. I’m so glad I did! It turned out to be a beautiful day to do some touristy things and I actually got a lot of work done without all of the usual distractions I have at home.

But, lesson learned, I will now be sure to have all ingredients for Elder-Berry Tea Cocktails on hand whenever I am on a road trip, especially with a weather forecast like that!

Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail | CaliGirlCooking.com

So this week I took the liberty of sorting through my tea stash in the pantry and all of the random alcohol we have on hand, and decided to see what I could make. I ended up coming across some Twining’s Blueberry & Apple tea and some random berry-flavored vodka.  Match made in heaven! I was also reminded that we had a beautiful bottle of elderflower liqueur just hanging around our liquor cabinet, and I thought it would be the perfect slightly floral, slightly sweet addition to the toasty concoction I was heating up. I was right.

This Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail comes together effortlessly once you have all of the ingredients gathered up. It’s also the most brilliant shade of red, and might just be the perfect drink for you to surprise your SO with on Valentine’s Day <3

Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail | CaliGirlCooking.com

If you can’t specifically find the Twinings Apple & Berry flavor of tea, any berry tea will do just fine. They do have a Twinings Wild Berries tea on Amazon which I think would be the perfect substitute in lieu of any other options.

We get this cocktail started by soaking our tea bags in the berry-flavored vodka and elderflower liqueur while our water is heating up. This gets the extraction started and makes sure the drink will not be watered down. Once the tea kettle has started whistling, simply pour the hot water over the booze-teabag mixture and allow to steep for at least 5 more minutes.

Voila! Your Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail is hot and ready to go. Now how’s that for a TGIF?

Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail | CaliGirlCooking.com

Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail | CaliGirlCooking.com
Print
Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail
Prep Time
10 mins
 

A warm, fruity and boozy cocktail to get you through those cold-weather days, berry tea is spiked with berry-flavored vodka and elderflower liqueur. 

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 cocktail
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 berry-flavored teabag
  • 1 1/2 ounces berry-flavored vodka
  • 1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur
  • Hot water
Instructions
  1. Place teabag in a tea cup and add vodka and elderflower liqueur.

  2. Place a tea kettle filled with water over high heat and bring to a boil. 

  3. Once tea kettle is whistling, pour hot water over tea bag and liquor mixture to fill the tea cup. Enjoy immediately.

Elder-Berry Tea Cocktail | CaliGirlCooking.com