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Easy Apple Cider From Scratch

Autumn is in the air and nothing says it quite like warm apple cider.  Too often, I find recipes that call for store-bought bottled cider and it makes me want to weep.  It feels counter intuitive really, to take the thick golden nectar of cider and zap it in the microwave or simply plunk another store-bought counterpart of pre-packaged mulling spices into a crock pot and call it a day.  There’s magic in the fresh apples that exude their natural sugary juices and permeate your home with the beautiful scent of autumn all around you while it stews all day long.  The glorious apple perfume alone is worth your time.  And let’s be honest, it’s fairly low maintenance.  Just tumble all your ingredients into a pot or slow cooker and stir every once in awhile.  After many hours of simmering, the soft fruit nearly begs to be pressed into a finer mash to produce that pure golden cider, swirled with wholesome apples and rich cloudy juice.

What exactly is apple cider you ask?  How does it differ from apple juice?

Apple cider is simply pressed and is thicker without any of the pulp/sediment removed, often utilizing the whole apple while apple juice is much more clear, filtered and usually pasteurized and sometimes concentrated then reconstituted with water.

My simple technique doesn’t require a fancy apple press or any special equipment.  You have the option of using a pot or slow cooker, tailoring the spices with your favorites or adding oranges or pears.  Don’t have a strainer?  You can simply use unbleached cheesecloth.  Desire a more tart cider?  Toss in a few granny smith apples.  Looking for a spiked cider?  Add in your favorite liquor.  Needless to say, the options are endless.

In terms of how to enjoy your homemade apple cider, there are even more possibilities.  Lately, I’ve been loving a simple frozen apple cider on those autumn days that see more sunshine than edges of chill in the air.  A few years ago, I created these delicious apple cider donuts that I intend on making again for some friends in a few weeks but I’m wondering if there will be any cider left.

5.0 from 4 reviews
Easy Apple Cider From Scratch
Serves: 1 gallon
  • 5 pounds of apples of your choice
  • ½ c brown sugar
  • 2 ts whole cloves
  • 5 whole cinnamon sticks
  • ½ whole nutmeg
  • ½ ts ground all spice
  • 16 cups/1 gallon fresh filtered water
  1. Combine everything in a heavy bottomed pot.
  2. Bring to a fierce boil, uncovered then drop it to low and simmer, covered.
  3. Stir regularly, mashing the softened fruit as you go and cook for 4-6 hours.
  4. Cool slightly then mash through a fine mesh strainer.
  5. Decant into a clean jar/bottle and chill. Lasts up to 2 weeks in the fridge.


For the Love of Bacon

Remember the story of J consuming a pound of bacon every day for a week?  True story, by the way.  Fast forward a decade and a half later and his love for bacon remains fervent but his once daily habit has normalized to a bi-weekly pace.  Since this is the case, I like to showcase it in a special way when it’s to be enjoyed like with my bacon jerky.  If you haven’t tried it and you’re a fan of bacon, I urge you to.  Thick slices of salty, meaty bacon are applied to low heat, slowly rendering its fat to produce a crisp yet chewy bacon jerky that’s been brushed with a sweet, spicy, sticky sauce that candies the bacon while deeply penetrating it with flavor.

Here are a few other ways we’ve been enjoying bacon lately.


Peanut Butter Bacon Banana French Toast


Bacon Jam


The ever popular bacon egg cups

And in the midst of my all important bacon research, I found this article with a list of crazy bacon recipes that have piqued my gluttonous-maschostic side.  The bacon-bourbon brownies need to have been made like, yesterday.  What says you?

Which of these crazy bacon recipes would you be willing to try?


Pumpkin Spice – 3 Healthy Breakfast Recipes


#PumpkinSpiceEverything am I right?  SO many of you guys have requested pumpkin spice recipes for my channel and I’ve created 3 healthy and delicious ways to enjoy pumpkin spice for breakfast.  These are recipes that you can either create the night before and take along with you on-the-go or prepare within minutes for those crazed mornings where you need sustenance that’s filling and nutritious but you don’t have time to prepare a proper meal.

First up is my pumpkin granola.  This one is packed with warm spices with bits of caramelized nuggets of sweetness weaving through toasted oats.  I like to serve mine with ground flax seeds which are more easily absorbed than whole flax seeds and hemp seeds which lend a nutty quality to the granola.  Did you know that oats have more dietary fiber than any other grain?  The FDA also claims that they can be part of a healthy diet to reduce heart disease, lower cholesterol and high blood pressure.  How about that for just eating breakfast?  And with granola as delicious as this one, you’ll look forward to it!

Next is my favorite.  Pumpkin chia seed pudding.  Its creamy decadence defaults to a true pumpkin pie experience.  I’ve literally had this for breakfast the past 4 days straight.  It’s that good.  I’ve experimented with enjoying it cold, at room temperature and warm {gently heated through a bit of extra nut milk in a sauce pan} and I can vouch for all of them.  I like to top my chia pudding with a nutty topping {walnuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds are especially good here} and dust with ceylon cinnamon aka “real cinnamon.”  Cassia cinnamon is what most folks are familiar with but ceylon cinnamon possesses a much more delicate and sweeter flavor profile.  More importantly, cassia cinnamon contains more coumarin which is a natural compound that acts as a blood thinner.  In any event, the lighter quality of ceylon cinnamon is best used in sweeter applications like desserts vs it’s heavier cousin, cassia.

Lastly is my pumpkin smoothie which has been a wonderful switch up from my regular kale or spirulina smoothies.  It’s been a real treat but still keeps me full with its protein while being satisfying at the same time.  The frozen banana keeps it thick and creamy.  If you want it even thicker, I highly recommend freezing the pumpkin puree.  Both elements eliminate the need for any extra ice cubes which can later water the smoothie down.  This smoothie is also a great way to nix the overwhelming craving for pumpkin spice milkshakes or ice cream as they’ve been bombarding the shelves lately.  My pumpkin smoothie is packed with protein from the milk and yogurt, vitamin A and beta carotene from the pumpkin and is free of refined sugars all while tasting like a dessert drink.


5.0 from 3 reviews
Pumpkin Spice - 3 Healthy Breakfast Recipes
Cook time
Total time
Pumpkin Granola
  • 1.5 c rolled oats
  • 2 tb brown sugar
  • 2 tb raw honey
  • 2 tb coconut {or pumpkin oil}
  • 2 ts pumpkin spice
  • ½ ts kosher salt
  • Optional add ins: ground flax, hemp hearts, walnuts/almonds/pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin Chia Pudding
  • 3 tb chia seeds
  • 1 c milk {nut/dairy}
  • ½ c pumpkin puree
  • 1 ts pumpkin spice
  • ½ ts pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 2-4 tb honey/maple syrup
  • Optional: ceylon cinnamon/pumpkin or nut garnish
Pumpkin Smoothie
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ¼ c greek yogurt
  • 1 ts pumpkin spice
  • 1 c milk {dairy/nut}
  • 2-4 tb honey/maple syrup {can also sub with dates}
  • ½ c pumpkin puree {frozen for a thicker smoothie}
Pumpkin Granola:
  1. Mix everything together and spread evenly onto a lined baking sheet.
  2. Bake at 250 for 1 hour, regularly stirring.
  3. Cool and toss in desired add ins.
Pumpkin Chia Pudding:
  1. Mix everything together and let sit for 20 minutes. Occasionally stir.
  2. Before serving, garnish with desired toppings.
Pumpkin Smoothie:
  1. Blend everything together.



Halloween Severed Finger Cookies


These severed finger cookies are gory and creepy but in the best way.  They’re not only fun to make, the reactions you’ll get alone are well worth it.  J recently took these to work with him and he told me his receptionist was horrified.  I don’t know if that makes me a bit twisted but I couldn’t stop laughing.  She did eventually enjoy a few and told him to tell me that the cookies themselves were delicious but she still couldn’t get over the way they looked.  For halloween, I think that’s the best possible compliment you can get.

The fingers are actually a tender and buttery sugar cookie that is gently sweet, infused with your choice of vanilla or almond.  They’re wonderful too because they don’t spread when they bake.  I once had 200 animal shaped cookies that I volunteered to make for a pet adoption fundraiser and I think between all the other projects I had going on simultaneously, I seriously over committed to way too many things at once.  Regrettably, I reached for store-bought cookie dough and boy did it turn out disastrously.  Every one of my animals looked horribly swollen and unnatural, not really the best message to attach to a pet sanctuary for abused/neglected animals.  So if you’ve ever encountered such an issue, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.  As long as you keep this dough chilled, my recipe is perfect for any cut outs you desire.

For halloween, this is also perfect for slightly green tinged dough that makes it look like decaying severed fingers too, an homage to the upcoming premiere of The Walking Dead {which I’m beyond stoked for}!  However, if keeping things a bit more PG is your objective, I also made these adorable candy corn cookies a few years ago and this dough is also my go-to for christmas time like for my candy cane cookies.  The beauty of it is that it’s extremely versatile and you can tint or shape your way to anything you want and with just a few simple ingredients most of which you probably already have, there’s no reason not to sneak in a little trick with your treat this halloween.

5.0 from 3 reviews
Halloween Severed Finger Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 3-4 dozen
  • 1½ c unbleached flour
  • 1 ts baking powder
  • ¼ ts fine salt
  • 1 stick soft unsalted butter
  • ¼ c brown sugar
  • ¼ c white sugar
  • 1½ ts pure vanilla or almond extract
  • 1 room temperature egg
  • Sliced almonds
  • Optional: unsweetened cocoa
  1. In the first bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In the second bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.
  3. Blend in the extract and egg.
  4. Roll out 1-2 ts into logs and lay on parchment/silpat. Pinch in "knuckles," score the tops, and create a nail bed as shown in the video. Place a sliced almond at each tip.
  5. Chill for 15-20 minutes {the longer, the better}.
  6. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Cool completely and lightly dust with cocoa powder if desired.


Easy Pumpkin Spice & Hot Cocoa Lip Balm

With cooler weather comes the demand for pumpkin spice from the masses, warmth from sweaters and hot cocoa, apple picking and the need to arm yourself against harsher conditions.  I’ve got you covered in at least 3 of those areas.  Both of my easy DIY lip balms smell and taste incredibly yummy with the simplest of ingredients so you can feel good about applying it to your lips.  Particularly with lip balm, it’s important to use the cleanest most natural formula possible as we tend to inadvertently eat some of the product.  I like to obtain local wax from a trusted beekeeper when I can but if I can’t find it, I use this raw beeswax that hasn’t been bleached.  With just 3 ingredients each {honey being the optional choice here}, these lip balms encapsulate all the delicious scents and warmth of autumn all while nourishing your lips, just like my classic 2 ingredient lip balm.

If you’re a chocolate lover, you’ll love the decadence of spreading hot cocoa on your lips and if you’re a pumpkin spice fan, you’ll love that not only does this one smell of your favorite latte, the infused spices have a natural plumping quality to them.  And don’t worry, both glide on clear and the possibilities for special tailoring either one is endless.  To review questions from my last lip balm video, I would just avoid mint or vanilla extracts as they tend to be drying.  Rather, opt for quality essential oils that are safe to use in beauty products.  To boost the scent of my pumpkin spice lip balm, sometimes I like to add 2-4 drops each of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove on top of my DIY pumpkin spice.  Making your own pumpkin spice ensures that you never have to run out again with endless applications for things you never even considered needed its attention {I’m looking at you, pumpkin spice rubbed shrimp}.

5.0 from 3 reviews
Easy Pumpkin Spice & Hot Cocoa Lip Balm
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 3-4 lip balms
Pumpkin Spice Lip Balm
  • 1 tb coconut or pumpkin oil
  • ½ tb beeswax {add more if using honey and essential oils}
  • ½ ts pumpkin spice
  • Optional: 1-2 ts honey and essential oils
Hot Cocoa Lip Balm
  • 1 tb coconut oil or cacao butter
  • ½ tb beeswax {add more if using honey and essential oils}
  • 1 ts unsweetened cocoa or cacao
  • Optional: 1-2 ts honey and essential oils
  1. For both lip balms, melt the beeswax and cocoa/cacao or pumpkin spice low and slow in a double boiler or in the microwave.
  2. Allow to cool for 30-60 seconds and stir in desired oil.
  3. Stir in honey and essential oils, if using.
  4. Decant into containers of your choice {I used sterilized makeup pots in this video and tubes in my last lip balm video}
  5. Allow to set and enjoy.


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