How to Find Good Tomatoes in the Winter

For tomato lovers, August is a sacred month—it’s the magical time of year when the farmer’s market overflows with ripe, juicy, heirloom tomatoes. These in-season beauties are delicious on their own, or as the star of a simple tomato sandwich. In the winter months, the selection is slimmer. Out of season tomatoes can pale, watery, and flavorless. Don’t despair just yet! The secret to how to find good tomatoes in the winter lies in plain sight. 

good winter tomatoes

Smaller tomatoes don’t need as many resources to ripen. They also have a lower water content, so they’re less likely to taste, well, watery. In the winter months, the smaller the better. Look for cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes. If you can find them, vine-on cherry tomatoes will be the best bet. Once you get your tomatoes home, be sure to store them properly to preserve flavor

Even in the depths of winter, cherry tomatoes will bring bright flavor to salads, pastas and grain bowls. These are some of our favorite tomato recipes to make all year long. 

Cherry tomato recipes

Spicy Beef Tacos with Cherry Tomato Salsa & Creamy Corn

beef and tomato tacos

These tacos feature jalapeños two exciting ways: fresh, in a simple salsa (your cherry tomatoes may be red or yellow), and dried, in the chipotle paste used to season the beef. Chipotles are smoked, dried red jalapeños, and their bold, savory flavor complements the beef’s richness. 

Salsa Verde Shrimp & Cavatappi Pasta with Tomatoes & Zucchini

shrimp and tomato pasta

Cavatappi pasta provides a perfect complement to the bright flavors and textures of sautéed shrimp and zucchini in this easy dish. It’s all brought together by a light sauce of mascarpone cheese and our piquant salsa verde.

Crispy Baked Chicken & Honey-Chipotle Sauce with Cilantro Rice & Tomatoes

breaded chicken with tomatoes

You’ll make a delightfully crispy, golden coating for chicken breasts by dredging them in spiced butter and cheesy breadcrumbs before baking in the oven to achieve a golden, crunchy exterior. They’re finished with a drizzle of spicy-sweet chipotle sauce and a topping of dressed tomatoes for welcome freshness and acidity.

Fried Egg & Pesto Grain Bowls with Spinach, Tomatoes & Feta Cheese

egg grain bowl with tomatoes

Kickstart your day with these flavorful breakfast bowls, which feature pesto-dressed farro topped with garlicky spinach, tomatoes, fried eggs, and tangy feta.

Romaine Salad with Mozzarella, Tomatoes & Fig Vinaigrette

tomato romaine salad

This vibrant salad gets deliciously sweet flavor from a simple fig jam and apple cider vinaigrette. It’s perfectly balanced by a bounty of crisp vegetables (romaine, tomatoes, and radishes) and creamy mozzarella.

Italian Chicken & Orzo with Bell Peppers, Tomatoes & Onion

chicken and tomato dinner

Classic Italian ingredients like olives, capers, crushed red pepper, and more come together to make the bright, zesty sauce that mixes into tender orzo pasta. It’s the ideal pairing for chicken seared with sage, oregano, and more Italian-style herbs and spices.

Meatball Pizza with Bell Pepper, Fresh Mozzarella, & Cherry Tomatoes

tomato meatball pizza

Tonight’s pizza is sure to be a household favorite. We’re topping our dough with fresh mozzarella, garlic, and green bell pepper, then baking it to meld those dynamic flavors. To top the pizza just before serving, we’re cooking meatballs—seasoned with classic Italian spices—in a savory sauce made from cherry tomatoes (yours may be red or yellow).

Turkey Piccata Meatballs with Zucchini, Tomatoes & Orzo

tomato turkey rice

In this spin on an Italian-American classic, we’re cooking our turkey meatballs and vegetables in a rich butter sauce that highlights fresh meyer lemon juice, briny capers, and garlic.

One-Pot Chicken & Creamy Spinach Rice with Olives & Marinated Tomatoes

Winter tomato one pot chicken

This wholesome dish features savory-seasoned chicken and rice mixed with creamy mayo, spinach, and roasted red peppers, which all comes together in one pot.

If you know how to find good tomatoes in the winter, you can enjoy the taste of summer all year long.

Gin & Ginger Ale Punch

Ginger Gin Punch Ingredients

Gin and ginger ale combine forces to make this spicy, refreshing gin punch.

This gingery punch will be beloved by all—even those who claim to not like gin-based drinks! The angostura bitters turn this punch a gorgeous shade of  blush and the massive ice cube, shaped by a bundt pan, cools the festive drink without making it watery.

Sliced Lime

The ingredient list is simple. You’ll need limes, ginger root, and ginger ale. The ginger root gets minced into pieces and made into a sweet, spicy syrup that gives this cocktail a special kick.

Ginger Gin Punch in A Bowl Being Served

Ginger ale blends all the flavors together and adds pizzazz with some bubbles. To garnish, try frozen lime slices. Freezing them before helps the slices maintain their shape in the punch. Once everything is all mixed in together, the punch is ready and your work is done.

Cheers Over A Ginger Gin Punch Bowl

Read on for the full recipe

Continue reading “Gin & Ginger Ale Punch”

The Perfect Hot Toddy Recipe

hot toddies with tea
The best way to warm up is with a hot, spiced drink

We should all drink more hot drinks. On winter nights, when the sun goes down early and the nights are really just so cold, a warm hot toddy with tea makes us feel unbelievably cozy.

What is a hot toddy?

At its most basic, a hot toddy contains only hot water, lemon, honey, and booze. It’s actually known as a remedy for the common cold, because of the combination of heat, citrus, and sweetness. But the hot toddy can be so much more.

To that warming formula, we add cinnamon sticks, Earl Grey tea, and apple cider.

cinnamon sticks for a hot toddy
hot toddy ingredients

Hot toddies are really easy to simmer on the stove. The combination of ingredients will make the house smell like the holidays, and they’re as easy to brew up for two people as for a larger crowd. Next time a chill hovers in your house, turn cocktail hour into hot toddy time.

Old Fashioned Hot Toddy Ingredients
Continue reading “The Perfect Hot Toddy Recipe”

Moroccan Braised Chicken Legs with Couscous & Currants

braised chicken recipe with harissa

Chilly weather calls for flavorful, slow-cooked chicken legs adorned with buttery olives and bright lemon slices. This recipe borrows flavors from a Moroccan tagine (like harissa paste, which you can find in the international aisle or in a Middle Eastern grocery; we love the New York Shuk brand) and yields a similar, slightly stewy result — perfect to serve over fluffy couscous. Try this Moroccan-inspired braised chicken recipe for a cozy night in.

What is the Difference Between Braising and Stewing?

Braising and stewing are both simple cooking techniques that yield flavorful results. There are a few key differences. Braising typically refers to cooking large cuts of meat or vegetables, partially submerged in liquid, until they are tender. Stewing uses smaller cuts of meat or vegetables, and completely submerges them in liquid. Browning is also a key factor; braised meats and vegetables are always browned before they are slowly cooked. Browning is not a requirement of stewing.

How to Make Moroccan Braised Chicken with Couscous

Serves: 4
Time: 75 – 80 minutes

Ingredients

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs (thigh and drumstick together)
2 shallots, cut into ½-inch wedges
1 tbsp unsalted butter
6 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup couscous
2 tbsp currants
½ cup white wine
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 lemon, thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed
2 tbsp harissa paste
½ cup castelvatrano olives, smashed and pitted
2 tbsp sliced almonds
1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Brown the chicken:
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels; season on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high until melted and hot. Add the chicken. Cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Leaving any browned bits (or fond) in the pan, transfer to a plate.

2. Cook the vegetables:
To the pot of reserved fond, add the shallots; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 to 9 minutes, or until softened and caramelized. Add the garlic; cook, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the harissa paste; cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until coated and combined.

3. Start the braise:
Add the wine; cook, stirring constantly to scrape up any fond, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until combined. Add the stock, browned chicken (skin-side up), olives, and lemon slices. Cover the pot and cook 29 to 31 minutes.

4. Finish the braise:
Remove the lid. Cook 10 to 12 minutes, or until the liquid is slightly reduced. Stir in the tomatoes. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until softened and the chicken is cooked through (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken thigh should register 165ºF).

5. Cook the couscous:
While the chicken cooks, in a medium pot, combine the couscous and 1 cup of chicken stock; season with salt and pepper. Heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 6 to 8 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the couscous is tender. Fluff the cooked couscous with a fork; season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Finish the couscous & serve your dish:
To the pot of cooked couscous, stir in the currants, almonds, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve the finished couscous with the cooked chicken, vegetables, and sauce. Garnish with the parsley. Enjoy!

This Year, Make New Year’s Brunch at Home

new year's brunch spread

The best way to welcome a new year is with a good meal. That’s what makes New Year’s brunch so essential. This year, make a delicious meal at home with this Pull Apart French Toast recipe. If you’re feeling ambitious, we’ve also included a recipe for winter citrus salad and spiced maple yogurt to round out the meal with flavors of the season. Whether you’re feeding a full house or just feeding yourself, this meal is sure to start the year off right.

Pull-Apart French Toast With Maple Yogurt and Minted Citrus Salad

INGREDIENTS
1 long French loaf (or Braided Challah!)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 tsps cinnamon
4 Tbsps butter, melted
2 Tbsps coarse sugar like Demerara or Turbinado

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

Pull-Apart French Toast:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a sheet pan with 2 long pieces of aluminum foil in an X pattern. Using a bread knife, slice through the loaf at ½ inch intervals, without cutting all the way through. Place onto the foil-lined pan.

In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together the milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and eggs until well-combined. Carefully and evenly pour the mixture into the bread loaf (some may spill out). Wrap the foil up and around the loaf and bake for 25 minutes, or until the bread is nicely spongy. Remove from the oven, uncover the top, and brush the melted butter all over the loaf. Sprinkle the coarse sugar evenly over the top and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the center is no longer soggy and the top is nicely browned.

french toast for new year's brunch
A New Year’s Brunch to remember

Maple Yogurt:

Stir together a tub of greek yogurt (35oz) along with ½ cup maple syrup and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Citrus Salad:

Peel and segment a dozen different citrus fruits (grapefruit, navel orange, blood orange, clementine). If this is a task for the kids, just have them separate the sections as they would a clementine. Those with more knife skills can supreme the citrus – here’s how. Toss these pieces together with ¼ cup of pomegranate seeds and the leaves from a bunch of mint.

Happy New Year, chefs!

7 Festive New Year’s Eve Drinks

New Year's Eve drinks
An assortment of New Year’s Eve drinks

Champagne is synonymous with New Year’s Eve, but the night is long, and variety is the spice of life. To make your celebration extra special, try kicking off the night with one of these festive New Year’s Eve drinks. These 7 cocktail recipes have something for everyone.

For the spice-lover: Cozy Cran-Apple Cider

1 ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice
8 ounces apple cider
4 ounces spiced rum
2 dashes cranberry bitters
Whole nutmeg (for garnish)
Fresh cranberries (for garnish)
1 apple (for garnish)

Heat the apple cider on low, but do not boil. While the cider heats, divide the lemon juice and rum between 2 glasses. Add a dash of cranberry bitters to each glass. Divide warmed cider between the glasses and grate a little nutmeg on top of each. Garnish with cranberries and a piece of apple.

For the sour candy fan: Meyer Lemon Champagne Cocktail

1 ounce freshly-squeezed Meyer Lemon juice
1.5 ounces elderflower syrup or liquor
10 ounces Champagne
2 pieces Meyer Lemon rind (for garnish)

Divide the Meyer Lemon juice and elderflower syrup between 2 Champagne flutes. Top with Champagne. Garnish with the Meyer lemon rind. Note: be sure to pour Champagne slowly in multiple rounds to let the bubbles settle.

If you love Dark and Stormies: Ginger Mule

3 ounces vodka
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
8 ounces ginger beer
Candied ginger (for garnish)
1 lime (for garnish)

Fill a traditional copper mule mug with crushed ice. Divide the vodka and lime juice between the mugs. Top each with ginger beer, and garnish with a lime wedge and piece of candied ginger. Top with more crushed ice if desired.

For the party-lover: Festive Gin Fizz

2 Ounces fresh yuzu juice
3/4 ounce honey
4 ounces gin
2 pasteurized egg whites
Club soda

In a cocktail shaker, combine the yuzu juice and honey. Stir to thoroughly dissolve the honey. Add the gin and egg whites and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Add 2 handfuls of ice and shake for additional 10 seconds until very cold and the mixture is frothy. Using a strainer, divide the chilled gin mixture between 2 glasses. Top each with club soda. Garnish with yuzu rind if desired.

For the fruit-lover: Blood Orange Margarita

4 ounces freshly-squeezed blood orange juice
2 ounces Cointreau or Triple Sec
4 ounces Tequila blanco
1 ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Salt (for garnish)
Blood orange (for garnish)

Place the salt on a dry, flat surface. Wet the outside rim of a glass with water and roll the rim of glass around in the salt to cover. Carefully fill each glass with ice. In a shaker, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, Cointreau or Triple Sec and Tequila. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Add 2 handfuls of ice. Shake vigorously for another 10 seconds until very cold. Divide the chilled mixture between the prepared glasses. Garnish with thin slice of blood orange.

If you’re craving something light: Winter Mint Swizzle

2 ounces freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 ounce honey
4 ounces Bourbon
5 dashes citrus bitters
6 sprigs fresh mint

In a shaker combine the honey, lemon juice and 4 of the mint sprigs. Muddle until the herbs are fragrant and the honey has dissolved. Add the bourbon and shake vigorously for 5 seconds. Add 2 handfuls of ice, and shake for an additional 10 seconds, or until very cold. Using a strainer, divide between 2 glasses. Top with crushed ice and garnish with the remaining mint sprigs.

If you have leftover Christmas candy: Candy Cane Cooler

5 ounces Kahlua
4 ounces half and half
2 ounce vodka
2 to 3 drops peppermint extract
3 Candy Canes (for garnish)

Carefully crush one candy cane (to prevent it from flying everywhere, you can put it in plastic bag). Transfer the crushed candy cane to a dry, flat surface. Wet the rim of a glass with water and roll the rim of glass around in the crushed candy cane to cover. Carefully fill each glass with ice. In a shaker, combine the vodka, half and half, peppermint extract, 1 ounce of the Kahlua and ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds or until very cold. Divide the remaining Kahlua between the prepared glasses. Top with the chilled half and half mixture. Garnish each with a candy cane.

Once you have your New Year’s Eve drinks selected, don’t forget about the snacks. Try creating a beautiful cheese plate for a sense of occasion.

Baked Pasta and Penne Alla Vodka Got Together in One Dish

What happens when chef Lili Dagan combines her lifelong passion for cooking with her new found love of the Sopranos? A baked pasta dish for the ages.

baked pasta topped with cheese and basil
Just look at that cheese

Every winter, I say I’m going to watch The Sopranos. Somehow, I never get around to it. Whenever my fellow test kitchen Chef Lauren asks me how it’s going, I have the same answer: “I’m waiting for a blizzard, so that I have time to really get into it.”  Well, here I am, the cherry blossoms in peak bloom outside my window, 40-odd hours into a blizzard with Tony, Paulie, Furio, and most importantly, my girl Carmela, who makes a mean ziti.

The eating doesn’t stop there, the entire show is full of culinary wisdom: “Well, when you’re married, you’ll understand the importance of fresh produce!” Tony exclaims to Meadow. Clairvoyant. Everywhere these guys eat, whether it’s at Vesuvio’s, or Sunday dinner with Father Intintola, Vodka sauce flows freely. Someone is in crisis? Baked Ziti makes an appearance. 

What does it all mean? I am sure there is a small library somewhere filled with graduate theses about the food on The Sopranos underscoring themes of identity, masculinity, family, and culture. For me, it means I need to make a baked pasta right now.  

There are a few parts to this dish but when they come together, it’s worth it. Buon Appetito. 

baked pasta shells with cheese
Cheesy, saucy, delightful

For the vodka sauce and pasta:

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 28 oz whole peeled tomatoes
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb pasta (penne, rigatoni, or shells would all be good choices here)
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds

For the herbed ricotta:

  • 8 oz fresh ricotta
  • ½ cups chopped parsley and basil (if you have chives, tarragon or other tender herbs, use those too)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
  • Zest of one lemon 
  • Salt and pepper

For the garlic breadcrumbs:

  • 1 tbsp butter 
  • ½ cup panko
  • 1 garlic clove, grated

Make the vodka sauce:

1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes until translucent. 

2. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano and cook for 1-2 minutes, until softened and fragrant. 

3. Add the vodka and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, crushing the whole tomatoes with your hands as you add. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

4. Add the heavy cream, and blend the sauce with an immersion blender. Simmer for ten minutes more. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer the puree to a blender or food processor and blend, then return to the pot to simmer. If you don’t have any of those things, the sauce will have more texture but will still be perfectly delicious. 

Make the herbed ricotta:

1. Using a rubber spatula, fold together all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Season to taste.

Make your garlic breadcrumbs:

1. Heat butter over medium heat in a 6” skillet until melted.  

2. Add the panko and grated garlic. Stir to combine, and toss frequently until panko is golden brown. 

3. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. 

Cook the pasta and assemble your bake:

1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. 

2. Cook the pasta according to al dente package directions, then drain and add to the vodka sauce. Stir thoroughly to coat. 

3. Transfer pasta and sauce to a 11X7 baking dish, and top with the sliced mozzarella. 

Note: When Janice tries to pass a ziti off as her own, she’s outed because the dish carries Carmela’s signature—basil leaves under the mozzarella. Don’t forget to place a basil leaf under each mozzarella round.  

before you bake your pasta
The Carmella touch

4. Dollop the herbed ricotta between the mozzarella rounds. 

5. Bake for ten minutes, or until mozzarella is golden brown. Top with breadcrumbs and broil for 1-2 minutes. 

6. Allow the baked pasta to cool for about 5 minutes. Top with fresh basil.  BUON APPETITO.

Eat and Drink Like a Winemaker: Lamb Stew with Rosemary Dumplings

Try this hearty winter stew courtesy of a French wine dynasty. 

The Cazes family, who brought us the L’Ostal Eclipse Minervois red wine, offered up this hearty recipe from their award-winning restaurant at Château Lynch Bages in Bordeaux. It’s a perfect pairing with any bold, spicy red wine, but also just a delightful, soul-warming winter dish.

lamb stew

Lamb Stew with Rosemary Dumplings

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE STEW
1.5 lb lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp butter
12 pearl onions, peeled
2 carrots, diced
1 rutabaga, diced
4 Tbsp white wine
2 sprigs rosemary
4 bay leaves
5 1⁄4 cups beef or lamb stock

FOR THE DUMPLINGS

9 Tbsp all-purpose flour
5 Tbsp lard or vegetable shortening
1⁄2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
2 cups beef or lamb stock
Pinch of salt

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 250°F.

2. Season the lamb with salt and pepper, and dust with the flour. Place a heavy-bottom casserole dish over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter, then the lamb cubes. Sear on all sides until golden brown. Remove the lamb to a plate.

3. Reduce the heat and add the onions, carrots and rutabaga until caramelized. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, then add the lamb, plus the 5¼ cups of stock. Bring the stew to a simmer then add the bay leaves and rosemary. Cover with a lid, transfer the dish to the oven and bake for one hour.

4. For the dumplings, use a fork to mix the flour, lard or vegetable shortening, baking powder, rosemary, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Gradually stir in 3–5 tablespoons of cold water, or enough to form a sticky dough. Flour your hands and roll the dough into 12 small balls. Chill these in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

5. After the dumplings have chilled, place 2 cups of stock into a pan and bring to a simmer. Add the dumplings and simmer for 6–8 minutes. When the dumplings are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside to rest for a minute. Discard the stock.

6. Divide dumplings and stew among four bowls, and garnish with parsley. Enjoy!

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Recipe for Wine Lovers: A tasty twist on risotto with whole-grain goodness

Halfway through January and craving the flavors you typically enjoy? Risotto likely isn’t on your resolution-driven menu, but sub in a few classic Italian ingredients and you’ll have a delicious side dish: farrotto. With whole-grain farro and polyphenol-rich red wine, farrotto is sure to satisfy.

January Wine Blog header

Farrotto

INGREDIENTS

4 oz. Parmesan cheese
1 medium yellow onion, small-diced
1 cup semi-pearled farro (farro is a wheat)
2 1⁄4 cups red wine (or 1 Blue Apron bottle)
1⁄4 cup chicken broth
4 Tbsps butter, divided
2 Tbsps hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp parsley, roughly chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

1. PREPARE THE CHEESE
Discarding any rind, cut the cheese in half. Grate one half on the small side of a box grater; crumble the rest, using a fork.

2. START THE FARROTTO
In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the farro; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Add the wine and 1 1⁄2 cups of water. Heat to boiling on high, then cook, stirring occasionally, 30–35 minutes, until the wine has cooked off.

3. FINISH THE FARROTTO
Add the broth and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, until the farro is tender and the liquid has reduced by half. Turn off the heat. Stir in 3⁄4 of the butter and the grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. MAKE THE BROWN-BUTTER HAZELNUTS & SERVE
Once the farro has cooked for 25 minutes, melt the remaining butter over medium-high heat in a small pan. Add the hazelnuts and season with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes, until the butter is browned and fragrant. Turn off the heat. Stir in the parsley. Top the finished farrotto with the hazelnut brown-butter and crumbled Parmesan. Enjoy!

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Twelve Days of Edible Gifts

Twelve Ideas for Edible Gifts

Since the start of the holiday season, we’ve been crafting edible gifts to inspire you to delight your family and friends. Twelve of them, to be exact. Because there’s nothing lovelier than a homemade present. You can catch the whole series on our Instagram feed, but fortunately, there are still a few days left before Christmas for you to hop on the edible gift bandwagon. Here, our twelve delicious ideas.

1. Cinnamon-Infused Tequila

For the first in our edible gift series, we’re making the fixings for a spicy, refreshing holiday cocktail. In a large container, combine 750ml tequila and 7 to 10 cinnamon sticks. Let sit for 1 to 2 days for a warm tasting tequila and 3 to 4 days for a strongly flavored cinnamon tequila. Strain the tequila and discard the cinnamon sticks. Pour the tequila back into its original bottle for a pretty presentation.

2. Holiday Herb Wreath

Create 10 to 12 small bundles of fresh woody herbs (such as thyme, sage, rosemary, bay leaf, oregano, or lavender) and secure the stems with wire. Attach the bundles to a small (6 to 8 inches) wire wreath frame, slightly overlapping each bundle over the previous bundle. Attach a bow or pinecone and enjoy!

Vanilla3. DIY Vanilla Extract

In a clean mason jar (or other decorative bottle) combine 8oz. bourbon and 3 to 5 vanilla beans, split open. Make sure the vanilla beans are completely submerged. Tightly seal the jar and give it a good shake. Let the jar stand in a cool place for 3 weeks, shaking occasionally. The extract will intensify the longer it sits with the vanilla beans.

Granola5. Cardamom & Chia Seed Granola

Make a big batch and share this with your friends for the holidays, packaged in glass Weck jars.  It’s the perfect, healthful breakfast to balance out your lavish holiday feasts! Here’s the recipe.

Nuts4. Rosemary-Spiced Nuts

On a sheet tray combine, 2 cups cashews, 2 cups walnuts, 1 cup pecans, 1 cup almonds, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1/3 cup date molasses, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons orange juice, 2 teaspoons chipotle powder, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary and 2 teaspoons salt. Toss to combine and spread out in one layer. Roast the nuts at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Remove from oven and toss with an extra 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary. Allow to cool completely before packing the nuts into an airtight container. Will keep for 2 weeks at room temperature. Happy gifting!

Limoncello6. Limoncello

In a large container, combine the peel of 10 unwaxed lemons and one 750 ml bottle of 95% proof grain alcohol. Let sit for 10 to 12 days and then strain through a layer of cheesecloth into a large bowl. In a large pan, make simple syrup by combining 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar and bringing to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Let the simple syrup cool to room temperature and then add it to the alcohol mixture, tasting as you go. Decant into pretty bottles with instructions to keep the limoncello in the freezer where it will keep indefinitely. Cheers!

Hot Chocolate7. Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

In a food processor combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 cup cocoa powder, 2 cups powdered milk, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp cornstarch, 1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips and 1 tsp cinnamon. Divide the mixture between 3 pint-sized containers and enjoy! The hot cocoa mix will keep for 2 months. Stay warm!

Lemons8. Preserved Lemon

Wash 5 lemons. Make 4 cuts lengthwise in each lemon without cutting through to the stems. Stuff the cuts in the lemons with a mixture of 5 tbsp. sugar and 5 tbsp. salt. Stuff the lemons into a 12oz. jar, pressing them down tightly to pack. Let the lemons sit for 3 to 5 days at room temperature. Then, add 1 cup lemon juice and let sit in the refrigerator for 3 weeks or until the rinds have softened. Before using, rinse the preserved lemons to remove excess sugar and salt. Use in Moroccan dishes like this one.

Bitters9. Grapefruit Bitters

Slice 1 grapefruit in half. Juice 1 half, reserve the juice and discard the flesh. Roughly chop the other half and reserve. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, combine ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the chopped grapefruit and a chopped 2-in piece of ginger and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. In a large wide mouthed container, combine the cooled grapefruit syrup (including fruit), reserved grapefruit juice, 1 cup Campari, 1 cup vodka and ¾ cup sweet vermouth. Stir to combine and refrigerate overnight. Strain the mixture and discard the fruit. Will keep up to 1 month stored in the fridge.

Truffles10. Chocolate Truffles

Chop up a ½ pound of the best-ever dark chocolate. Heat ½ a cup of heavy cream to boiling. Add 1 tablespoon espresso powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate. Stir well, then add 1 tablespoon of flavored liqueur (your choice!). Set aside for an hour, then roll 2 teaspoon portions of the mixture into balls. Roll the balls through two different cocoa powders, chopped nuts, or powdered sugar. Store in the fridge. (See more detailed instructions here.)

11. Peppermint Swirl Bark

Line a sheet pan with parchment or wax paper. Crush 5 candy canes into pieces. In 2 separate bowls, melt 8 Ounces of Chopped Bittersweet Chocolate and 12 Ounces of Chopped White Chocolate in the microwave in 15 to 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted and smooth. (If desired, stir ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract into the melted white chocolate.) Spread the melted white chocolate onto the parchment paper. Evenly top with dollops of the melted bittersweet chocolate. Using a knife, pass the knife through both chocolates to swirl. Press the crushed peppermint pieces into the chocolate. Set aside to harden.

Spice Mix12. Mexican Spice Blend

In a small jar, combine 2 Parts Ground Cumin, 2 Parts Ancho Chili Powder, 1 Part Ground Coriander, and1 Part Chipotle Pepper. Use in tacos, fajitas, tortilla soup, and mole.

Cranberry-Walnut Muffins

Muffins1

Presenting: the muffin you’ll need to get you through fall. Through the Halloween sugar hangover and the family visiting for Thanksgiving weekend. Through the lazy Sundays, and even through Christmas morning. With their jewel tones and sweet cinnamon spicing, these are an unforgettable staple, a simple meal that manages to have pizzazz.

Cranberry Walnut Muffins | Blue Apron

There’s an actual method to muffins, a formula that’ll help make sense of the recipe you’ll see at the bottom of this post. Essentially, muffins are quick breads, baked goods that use a leavener like baking powder to rise (as opposed to bread, which could be known as “slow bread,” and takes its time when rising). Like zucchini and banana bread before them, cranberry-walnut muffins should be moist and just slightly chewy. At their best, they’ll melt in your mouth.

How do they get this way? Well, first you combine the dry ingredients. That means sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices–here, cinnamon.

Cranberry Walnut Muffins | Blue Apron

In  a second bowl, we combine the wet ingredients: eggs, oil, and orange juice.

Cranberry Walnut Muffins | Blue Apron

When we combine the two, we do so with a light touch, pouring the wet ingredients over the dry and then folding together gently. This preserves a light crumb and that melt-in-your-mouth texture that makes people go back for seconds.

Cranberry Walnut Muffins | Blue Apron
Cranberry Walnut Muffins | Blue Apron

When the wet and dry ingredients are just barely combined–it’s far better to see a few streaks of flour, which will be absorbed during baking, than to overmix–we throw in the good stuff, cranberries and walnuts. The fall flavors of this pair are what elevate this muffin to its true height.

Cranberry Walnut Muffins | Blue Apron

Baking is a cinch: scoop the batter into muffin tins and stick in a hot oven for around 20 minutes.

Once they are risen and golden, they’re ready to eat!

Cranberry Walnut Muffins | Blue Apron

All muffins are best warm, still hot from the oven. These are instant gratification in muffin form, and fortunately for early birds, there’s not much need to let them cool.

Cranberry Walnut Muffins | Blue Apron

Smear with butter, if you like.

Cranberry Walnut Muffins | Blue Apron

Get the recipe below.

Continue reading “Cranberry-Walnut Muffins”

Home Chef: Season Your Soup Like You Mean It

Every month, Lori Yates from Foxes Love Lemons takes a lesson she learned in culinary school, while working with some of the country’s best chefs, and takes it into the home kitchen, where her tips will help make you a faster, better, and more confident cook. Welcome to her column, Home Chef

In one of the final classes of my culinary school curriculum, we learned how to work the various stations in our student-run kitchen. Groups of three students would take their turns on the sauté, grill, and salad stations.

But one station was tucked away in the corner, with little contact to the outside world. The Soup Station. While other groups scurried to prep the 15 – 20 items needed for that day’s dish, this station had only one task: make a great pot of soup. Why did it take four hours for three students to make one pot of soup? Because it wasn’t about the soup. It was about the seasoning.

Read more: Blue Apron’s Soup Cookbook

There’s a myth that the reason restaurant food tastes so good is because it’s so well salted. But there are many ways to season food other than just with salt. In fact, my chef instructors taught us that salt isn’t always the first thing to reach for. That’s great news for anyone looking for a way to make healthy dishes taste great without going overboard on sodium. Since hearty soups make for great food resolution eating, I thought I’d share these tips.

The culinary school’s Soup Station meant lots of one-one-one time with the chef instructors, tasting and re-tasting the soup of the day, and adjusting it until it was perfect. We were instructed to start with spice, then move on to salt, then finish with acid (wine, then vinegar, then lemon juice) We learned this technique using the blank canvas of basic broth soups, but of course they’ll apply to ramen or tortilla soup, too.

Let’s get started. Taste your almost-finished dish. Is it perfect? If so, you really lucked out. That never happens for me.

If you get the feeling that “something is missing,” start with spice. If your dish already includes some sort of spice (like cayenne, black or white pepper, paprika, etc.), it’s natural to add an extra dash of that to try to perk things up. Or, now might be the time to add some pepper for the first time, if it’s appropriate for the flavors of your meal. Take it slow, and add just a little bit at a time until you can taste a difference. You don’t want to make your dish spicy, you just want to jazz up the flavor a little bit. Sometimes, an extra dash is all you need.

If you’ve added a few more sprinkles of spice, and you’re still not totally loving it, the next step is salt. Salt is known as a flavorant – something that enhances the flavor of food, rather than contributing its own. Because salt is one of the five primary tastes the human tongue can detect, a dish without any trace of salt will almost always seem flat. The coarse texture of kosher salt makes it a cook’s best friend – it’s easy to grab a pinch to stir into your dish.

Watch: Our Video on Seasoning to Taste

After you’ve gradually added a few pinches of salt, make sure you have a drink of water to cleanse your palate, and then re-taste. Would you describe your dish as bright and well-rounded? Does one bite make you want to keep eating ten more bites? If the answer is no, you still have work to do.

The final line of defense against a bland dinner is acid. Let’s start with wine, a mild acid. Because I don’t always want to open a whole bottle of wine for just a splash, I like to keep those little one-serving bottles of wine on hand – both dry red and dry white varieties. Think about the dish you’re making, and what type of wine you would like to drink with it – that’s the type of wine you’ll want to season with. For chicken noodle soup, I like to add a splash of white wine. Beef and barley soup would be complemented by red wine.

If you don’t keep wine on hand, or you added it and it didn’t quite cut it, move on to vinegar. Here too, I like to reach for red wine and white wine varieties of vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is also very versatile. A little bit of vinegar goes a long way, so add a teaspoon of vinegar at a time, and taste after each spoonful. You should be able to taste your dish perking right up. The flavors of each ingredient will start to pop, and the brightness will make your dish have that “craveable” nature every cook strives for.

If you’ve tried spice, salt, wine and vinegar, and your dish STILL tastes dull, that’s a rough day in the kitchen. Don’t despair – yet. Grab a lemon (or a lime, if the flavor works with your meal). Squeeze some juice into your dish and cross your fingers. I’m a firm believer that a little lemon juice can improve ANY dish. After all this hard work, you should be looking at a pretty great pot of soup now.

I know this process sounds like it takes about an hour. I promise it doesn’t. When you’re first getting started learning about seasoning, it can take about ten minutes at the end of your cooking time to make adjustments and get everything tasting great. But once you learn the basics, these rules become second nature, and can be done in less than a minute.

Always keep your seasonings nearby. That’s the sign of a true home chef.

Lori Yates is a Detroit-area food writer, photographer and recipe developer. She is the author of Foxes Love Lemons, where she posts special yet simple original recipes and restaurant reviews. Her mission is to encourage people to enjoy the act of cooking at home. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.