Maple-Sweetened Eggnog (No Refined Sugar!)

Maple-Sweetened Eggnog (No Refined Sugar!)

Eggnog is a surprisingly polarizing drink. Surprising to me, because of how much I love it. It is creamy, sweet, and lightly spiced (which you know I love if you read my recent gingerbread post). 

When drinking eggnog I try--try so hard- to make it last, sipping slowly the way you would with a glass of wine. It never really works, going down far too easy. Sip by sip my gulps become larger until it's gone altogether. 

This eggnog is just my kind: creamy, sweet, with a hint of spice. There are a lot of variations on eggnog so if you would like to customize yours, here are some tips! 

On Spiking Your Eggnog: I prefer not to tamper with my eggnog, and let it stay like it was when I was a kid. Alcohol free. That's just me. There's likely a time and a place that spiked eggnog would fit into my life well, but regular old eggnog drinking isn't it. This recipe works either way: my friends stirred in whiskey, which adds to that sharp spicy flavor. Rum would be good as well! No matter what, top with fresh nutmeg (advice from my grandmother). 

To Cook or Not to Cook: This recipe will ask you to cook your eggnog on the stove-top. It doesn't take long, and it helps you get a thick, creamy eggnog. I've made it in the blender (i.e., skipped cooking), and the flavor is there but the creaminess falls a bit short (Plus, without adding alcohol, this makes drinking the raw eggs a little risky). Lots of recipes will ask you to whip your egg whites to stiff peaks and fold them in to get that creamy texture, but that is just too much work (...in my opinion 😉) considering you could also just stir everything on the stove for a few minutes. And while eggnog is usually enjoyed cold, warm eggnog straight from the stove is something else (and an experience worth having).

Maple-Sweetened Eggnog (No Refined Sugar!)
Maple-Sweetened Eggnog (No Refined Sugar!)

Maple Syrup > Sugar: This recipe calls for maple syrup rather than sugar. It does have a subtle maple flavor, but it's quite nice, and I'm surprised you don't see more maple-sweetened eggnogs around. It might sound odd, but really, has maple syrup ever messed up anything?? Plus, it's an unrefined sugar. Three cheers for maple syrup! 

What's All the Fermentation Talk? Fermenting eggnog is the traditional way, and does several things. First, it mellows out any alcohol you may have put in. Second, whatever alcohol you have added kills off any bacteria (or so I've heard). Third, it gives flavors time to meld together. Have you heard of leaving your cookie dough in the fridge over night? Same idea. Key to fermentation: use booze. The alcohol is what kills off any bacteria. I wanted my eggnog now, so this recipe is a drink-it-right-away recipe. You can try adding booze and fermenting it for a few weeks if you're that sort of daring (use a 1/4 cup cognac and 1/4 cup rum).

Maple-Sweetened Eggnog (No Refined Sugar!)
Maple-Sweetened Eggnog (No Refined Sugar!)

Maple-Sweetened Eggnog (No Refined Sugar!)

Published December 7, 2017 by
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Serves: 12   |    Total Time: 10 minutes



Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 6 egg yolks 
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Combine milk, cream, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla in a sauce pan and heat until almost simmering. Stir frequently to avoid scalding. 
  2. While the milk heats, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/2 cup maple syrup until frothy and golden.
  3. Ladle 1 scoop of the hot milk into the egg mixture, while whisking it quickly to avoid curdling. Do this two more times to temper the eggs and then pour the egg mixture into sauce pan with milk, whisking while you pour. Cook for 3 minutes while whisking constantly. Do not allow mixture simmer (or boil), as this will cause the eggs to curdle. 
  4. After 3 minutes, remove from heat. At this point, you may add extra maple syrup if you would like, just taste it and adjust, stirring between each addition. (for me, the 1/2 cup we added in step 2 is enough, but if you are accustomed to store-bought you might want a bit more).
  5. Pour the eggnog through a fine mesh sieve to remove the whole cloves and ensure a silky smoothy eggnog.
  6. Serve warm topped with freshly ground nutmeg, or store in air-tight jar and chill to serve later.

Gingered Chicken Meatball Soup

Gingered Chicken Meatballs Soup

Between Thanksgiving and other wintertime holidays there's this little break where we can all take a few deep breaths and recover from the hustle and bustle. The beginning of December still feels really busy, but it doesn't have to, at least that's what I'm saying with this bowl of cozy, slow-down soup. 

It's brothy. It's warm. It's satisfying. This bowl tells you to take a deep breath and sit back in your chair while you slurp. It’s one of those feel better soups, if you’ve been feeling a little under the weather, or just need a little pick me up on a grey day (which we’ve had quite a few of lately). With fresh ginger it has a little kick, and with sautéed shiitakes it’s full of umami goodness. For me, this soup is just the thing to eat in between big gatherings and slices of pie! 

Cozy night in with a movie and steaming bowls? Let's do it. 

This ladle? My mom got it for me in Italy!! But I found something similar on Amazon if you would like one like it. (Affiliate link).

This ladle? My mom got it for me in Italy!! But I found something similar on Amazon if you would like one like it. (Affiliate link).

Gingered Chicken Meatballs Soup

The meatballs in the soup are inspired by some of my favorite potstickers—ones I learned to make as I kid. They have green onions, ginger, garlic, and cilantro folded into them, giving them fresh and bold flavor. Meatballs in soup is not something I do often (actually, this is the first time I've tried it) but a little day dream about potstickers got in my head and it expressed itself as this soup.

If you’re into slurping up pho, or ramen, or egg drop soup, you are sure to love this one. It’ll warm you up, head to toe! The perfect thing after a day of skiing, snowshoeing, or snowman building ☃️

Gingered Chicken Meatballs Soup
Ginger Chicken Meatball Soup

You can also add rice noodles to this, if you like slurping up hot noodles (and who doesn't?). See the "Tip" in the instructions. Adding rice noodles will increase the number of servings to 6-8. 

Gingered Chicken Meatballs Soup

Published December 5, 2017 by
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Serves: 5   |    Total Time: 45 minutes



Ingredients:

    For the meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/4 heaping cup sliced green onion
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, grated on microplane (or ginger paste)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
  • 1 dash cayenne 
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil 

  • For the soup:
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil 
  • 2 cups mushrooms, diced into bite sized pieces (if the mushrooms are small, feel free to skip this)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated on a microplane
  • 6 cups chicken or mushroom broth (I do half chicken, half mushroom)
  • Splash of soy sauce 
  • Pepper to taste 

  • To Serve: 
  • Chopped green onions and cilantro
  • Sesame seeds 
  • Sriracha or red chili flakes

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the ingredients for the meatballs, except for the coconut oil, using a rubber spatula. Once combined, heat the coconut oil in the bottom of a large soup pot over medium heat. When the oil sizzles, shape the chicken mixture into small spheres, about 1-inch to 1-1/2 in in diameter each. Cook them in batches, browning on each side for 1-2 minutes and turning. Once cooked, move meatballs from pot to a plate and set aside. Continue until all the chicken is used.
  2. Now work on the rest of the soup: Add another tablespoon of coconut oil to the pot. Once it sizzles, add the mushrooms, onion, garlic, and ginger. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and the mushrooms are tender. Add broth, splash of soy sauce, and a few cracks of pepper to the pot. Then, return meatballs to the pot.
  3. Bring soup to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Then, serve hot in bowls and top with green onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, and Sriracha or red chili flakes.
  4. Tip: If you would like to add rice noodles to this, add an 8 ounce package of thin (vermicelli) noodles in the last 3 minutes when you are simmering the soup. Simmer until the noodles are softened through, then remove soup from heat and serve.

Roasted Maple Chai-Spiced Cashews

Maple Chai-Spiced Roasted Cashews

Thirty minutes before friends were set to arrive, I heated maple syrup in a skillet until it was sticky. I was making this salad from Saveur Magazine. No more than five minutes later, the cashews were candied and slowly disappearing while they cooled. (Who? Me? Steeling cashews from the pan? Never! 😏)

The cashews from that salad reminded me of the honey sesame cashews Trader Joe's sells in it's trail mix section. But better, because maple syrup. All things maple syrup are better, right? 

Those cashews sat in my mind for the next week. My eyes had been opened to something new: homemade maple cashews, and the flavor possibilities were endless. Maple Cayenne Cashews. Maple Cinnamon Cashews. Maple Rosemary? It could work. 

Maple Chai-Spiced Roasted Cashews
Maple Chai-Spiced Roasted Cashews

But the flavor profile that really got me excited was Maple Chai (you know how I love all things chai-spice). 

And now? Now I don't think I'll ever go back to Trader Joe's honey cashews. These homemade puppies are easy to make (we're talking a 10 minute recipe) and I find the maple flavor, with a bit of warm spice, SO. MUCH. BETTER. I couldn't stop eating these once they were made. 

And while I did no gifting of these cashews, and we ate most of them while they were still warm, they would also make a pretty little gift. Can you picture a mason jar filled with Maple Chai-Spiced Cashews tied up with a festive bow and a little name tag? Cute! And so sweet, in more ways than one. 

Maple Chai-Spiced Roasted Cashews

P.S., I did also try the Maple Cayenne idea but with pepitas instead of cashews. After they were candied they needed something else, so then I drizzled them with dark chocolate. They were good, but I liked these cozy cashews more. 

Roasted Maple Chai-Spiced Cashews

Published November 30, 2017 by
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Serves: 8   |    Total Time: 10 minutes



Ingredients:

  • 2 cups roasted, unsalted whole cashews 
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 pinch ground anise
  • 1 pinch ground cloves

Directions:

  1. Prepare a baking pan with parchment paper or a Silpat (affiliate link!). Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine cardamom, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, anise, and cloves. Stir to combine.
  3. Heat maple syrup in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 1-2 minutes, stirring, until it begins to thicken. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add spice mix to syrup, stirring to distribute.
  4. Now, add cashews to skillet. Stir using a spatula or wooden spoon until all cashews are coated. Scrape cashews with maple syrup onto lined baking sheet and spread out into a single layer, breaking up large clumps. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes.