Too Good To Be Seasonal

I know, I know. This post is six months too late or too early, depending on your perspective. But really, who says you can only enjoy stuffing on the fourth Thursday of November?

It may be a seasonal dish for some people, but it’s one of my favorite things. I love it in all forms (although I wish people would stop filling it with mushrooms), and I’m not ashamed to admit that even the Stove Top variety holds a special place in my heart. In fact, my cousin and I do our very best to eat the entire bowl each Thanksgiving.

Turns out, one of my favorite bloggers agrees with me, and when I saw her recipe, I knew that I just had to try it. And once we tried it, I knew there was no way we’d only eat it one day a year.

It’s easy to make, and it goes well with practically everything. I’ve added sausage (per Deb’s note at the bottom of the recipe) and called it dinner. (I’m sure I served it with a salad for balance, of course.) It’s a great way to use up the stray pieces of celery that get lost in the bottom of the crisper drawer (or the apple that’s on its last legs). And, thanks to my ever-growing cast iron obsession, I realized that I could make it in my  skillet, save a dish and have it look pretty at the table (or on the kitchen counter).

OK, so it’s technically dressing, since it’s not “stuffed” in anything before baking. Potato, potah-to. 😉

Apple Herb Stuffing

6 cups of torn bread chunks, I typically use French bread
4-5 tablespoons unsalted butter (4 if you’re baking the stuffing in a cast-iron skillet; 5 if you need to prepare a separate baking dish)
1 large onion, sweet if you have one, regular if not, finely chopped
1 large stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or a scant 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon table salt, plus more to taste
fresh ground black pepper
1 large or 2 small tart apples, peeled and finely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 fresh sage leaves, minced, or a generous pinch dried sage
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350° and make sure that the oven rack is in the center position.

Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the bread is lightly golden, about 15-20 minutes, stirring every so often. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool while you prepare the rest of the stuffing.

If using a separate baking dish, butter a one-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter. If you plan to bake your stuffing in the same pan that you’ll cook the vegetables in, skip this step. (Cast iron for the win! We are all about streamlining things over here. Ha!)

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the celery and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the apple to the skillet and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Place the bread in a large mixing bowl and scrape the contents of the skillet on top of the crumbs. Whisk the egg and 1/2 cup of stock together in a glass measuring cup and pour it over the bread crumb mixture. Stir in the parsley and sage and mix until just combined.

If you’re baking the stuffing in your already-prepared baking dish, spoon / scrape the stuffing into your baking dish. If you’re baking it in your skillet, spoon / scrape the stuffing back into the skillet. (Deb notes that you can add an extra 1/2 cup of chicken stock if you think it looks dry, and you can also let the stuffing rest, if you’re prepping it as part of larger meal. I’ve never done either.) 

Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until the stuffing is golden brown on top and no liquid shows when you poke it with a knife. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

From Smitten Kitchen

Click here for a printable version.


Sweet Potatoes and Bacon!

So, things have been a little dessert-heavy around here lately. I feel like that always seems to happen this time of year. Our CSA is still a few months away, and it’s not light enough in the evenings to get any decent pictures of dinner. And, let’s be honest, I’ve kind of been on a dessert kick, and I don’t see that ending any time soon. In an attempt to keep things balanced, I figured I’d talk about the sweet potatoes that I made for our Easter dinner. 😉

I actually first made these for Friendsgiving. I spent a lot of time flipping through cookbooks and magazines, searching for the perfect dishes to round out the menu. Sweet potatoes aren’t usually my first choice when it comes to sides (mostly because I like white potatoes better), but when I saw the picture in the Thanksgiving issue of Southern Living, I was immediately interested. And with good reason, too. I mean, there’s bacon, after all. Do I really need to say more?

Fine. It’s also super easy, AND it cooks in the crock pot. This means that you can get the potatoes going before church and come home to a great lunch, or free up stove / oven space during a big meal. Of course, it’s one of those crock pot recipes that only cooks for 4 hours, so unless you have one of those fancy crock pots with a timer, it’s not ideal for a workday meal.

Frozen concentrate isn’t an ingredient that I typically have on hand, but since the unused portion keeps well in the freezer (obviously), I figured  I could just use keep the extra for another batch. As long as we liked them, anyway. Which we did. So much so, in fact, that I made the full batch for Easter, even though it was just the two of us.

The picture won’t win any food blogger photo awards, but you can only take pictures for so long before you give in and eat the food. 🙂


Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

4 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ thick slices
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 cooked bacon slices, crumbled

Place the sliced sweet potatoes in a 5-6 quart crock pot.

Mix the concentrate, butter, brown sugar and salt together and pour the mixture over the potatoes. Stir the potatoes until they are well-coated with the butter/sugar/concentrate mixture.

Place the lid on the crock pot and cook on low for about 4 hours, or until potatoes are tender. (The original recipe says to cook for 5-6 hours, but I found that the longer time turned the potatoes into mush. Maybe my crock pot runs hot?) 

When the potatoes are tender, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a serving dish. Whisk the cornstarch and water together, and then whisk it into the juice in the bottom of the crock pot. Turn the crock pot temperature to high and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the potatoes.

In a small bowl, combine the parsley, orange zest and garlic. Sprinkle the parsley mixture over the potatoes and top with the crumbled bacon. Serve warm.

From Southern Living, November 2015

Click here for a printable version.


FriendsgivingI’ve said it before, but somethings are worth repeating: I have amazing friends. You know the saying “friends are the family you get to choose”? That’s how I feel about these people. No matter what we’re doing, two things are certain: We will laugh until our sides hurt or until we cry (sometimes both), and we will eat good food.

Last year we had our first “Friendsgiving,” and it was such a success that we decided to repeat it this year. I had the privilege of hosting this year’s event, and I used it as an excuse to break out all of my serving dishes and the never-used, real silverware!

I also had the honor of making the turkey and gravy. This was only the second or third time I’d ever made a turkey in my life, and I am glad to report that it was a success! I used a new recipe, and while the flavor was good, wrestling a 16 pound bird in and out of roasting bags full of two gallons of brine was kind of a hassle. It sloshed brine/raw turkey juice on Andy twice, leaving him to declare war. “I WILL CUT YOU,” he threatened at one point.

I tried a new gravy recipe too, which ended up being pretty salty thanks to our brined drippings. I added some water and extra apple cider to balance it out though, and now I’m hoarding the leftovers.

One of the best things about this dinner is the fact that everyone brought part of the meal, so no one was overloaded. (Overloaded with work, that is. We were all overloaded post-dinner.) 

The rest of our menu included:

Stuffing (made by Bethany of guest-blogging fame)
Green bean casserole (homemade, courtesy of Jackie)
Mashed potato puffs (thanks to Lacey)
Spinach salad (from Emily, the brains behind our cooking club nights)
Cranberry sauce (also from Jackie. This ended up being Andy’s favorite item. He literally ate it by the spoonful.) 
Sweet potatoes (I tried a crockpot recipe from Southern Living, and oh my goodness, it was AMAZING. I will make it again for sure.) 
Rolls (brought by Lacey, and the perfect vehicle for the herbed butter I made) 
French onion soup (Jackie’s husband, also an Andy, MADE HIS OWN BEEF STOCK/BROTH for this soup. AWESOME.) 
Chocolate cream pie 
Vanilla bean ice cream
Cranberry margaritas (Another brilliant Emily idea. I kind of wanted to drink the entire pitcher.) 
Apple cider (Thanks to Bethany for introducing us to another local beverage!) 

Of course, I was so busy having a good time that I didn’t take pictures of the food or the event, and of course, we forgot to get a picture of all of us (AGAIN!), but that’s OK.

I am so thankful for these friends and the investment that they’ve made in our lives. I really do love them like family. 🙂 I’m already looking forward to Friendsgiving 2016!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Talking Turkey…

… or not.

I have yet to host/prepare a Thanksgiving dinner. For us, Thanksgiving weekend starts (and ends) with some quality windshield time. (Yes, we are one of the billion people driving on I-90 through Chicago Wednesday evening. You’ve probably seen us; we’re the car with the wife who’s trying to sleep in the passenger seat while the husband mutters about how Chicago is a miserable city and why would anyone want to live there. Just smile and wave as you pass us. Anyway.) 

The fact that I’m not cooking dinner next Thursday hasn’t stopped me from eyeing up every single Thanksgiving recipe that’s come my way. And there have been a lot of them, let me tell you. From magazines and food blogs to the NY Times, I’ve been up to my ears in recipes. So, I figured I’d share some of them with you… and perhaps I’ll make some time to cook up some of these over the next few weeks.

Citrus-Roasted Turkey with Lemon Aioli from Southern Living – so different and fresh. Mmmm.
Julia Child’s Stuffed Turkey, Updated from Cook’s Illustrated – I have to admit, this one intimidates me… breaking down an entire turkey?? I had a hard time removing the neck from the last whole chicken we had.

Cranberry Swirl Loaf from Taste of Home – I can’t decide if this is breakfast, dessert, or both. I just know that I want some ASAP.
Cranberry Orange Breakfast Buns from Smitten Kitchen – I clearly have a thing for cranberries in my bread. 🙂

Potato Sides:  
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes from Cook’s Illustrated – these look SO good to me. Definitely on my “must make soon” list.
Mashed Potato Casserole with Sour Cream and Chives from the NY Times – No explanation needed here, right?

Veggie Sides:
Green Bean Casserole from Alton Brown via Smitten Kitchen – I think I’m in love with those onions. And I’m trying to figure out how to make this without being overwhelmed by the mushrooms, since I haven’t learned to love them just yet.
Blue Cheese Brussels Sprouts from Apple a Day – I’ve never had Brussels sprouts before, but roasted + blue cheese? How can we go wrong?
Sauteed Cauliflower with Apples and Pecans from Real Simple – I want to add bacon to this one. 🙂

Spicy Red Pepper Cranberry Relish from the NY Times – Different? Yes. Too “out there” for Andy? Possibly. Going on my “things to try soon” list? For sure. 😀
Apricot Beet Cranberry Sauce from Farm Fresh Feasts – Also different, but probably less “out there” in Andy’s mind. Can’t wait to try this one.

Cranberry Sorbet from David Lebovitz, via Brown Eyed Baker – This may be next in line for my ice cream maker.
Apple Slab Pie from Smitten Kitchen – I did actually make this one already! It was fantastic. And we ate way too much of it ourselves. (We did share a little… but not nearly as much as we should have.) It was also my best pie crust to date. 🙂
Caramel Spiked Pumpkin Pie from “Baking: From My Home To Yours” by Dorie Greenspan, via Annie’s Eats – I’m not a big pumpkin person. Depending what other desserts are available (i.e., my mom’s chocolate pie), I’ve been known to forgo pumpkin pie altogether. But this one has caramel.
Rich Chocolate Tart from Cook’s Illustrated – You’ve may or may not have noticed this, but chocolate desserts are my favorite, hands-down. I’ve had my November issue of CI for a couple weeks now… why haven’t I made this yet???

What do you think? Anything I should add to my list?

Pumpkin Roll

File this one in the “Recipes I Never Thought I’d Make” category. Not because I don’t like it, or because I couldn’t make it, it’s just that someone else has always made it. 


dramatic pause

pumpkin roll!

Pumpkin roll is one of those holiday traditions in my family. It’s there every year, but this past year was the first time I was asked to make it. Imagine the pressure! (all self-induced, of course.) What if I screwed it up and was responsible for us NOT having pumpkin roll?

OK, it wasn’t THAT bad. Both my mom and my grandma assured me that I could do it. And since I’d seen Karen tackle it earlier in the fall, I felt like it might not be impossible for me. 🙂

I’m happy to report that my first pumpkin roll was a success! It both looked AND tasted like Grandma’s. (Good thing, since I used her recipe!) 

In spite of the multiple steps in this recipe (baking, rolling, unrolling and re-rolling), it’s actually easy to put together. Its one downside (and Kirsten will agree with me on this) is that it doesn’t use an entire can of pumpkin. But have no fear! I have another recipe coming soon that only uses one cup of pumpkin, so you won’t be stuck with leftovers. 🙂

Side note: I know this recipe seems a little out of place in January, but there’s really no reason why it would be. Did you put up pumpkin puree this fall? Or hit up the post-holiday pumpkin sale at your local grocery store? (No? It’s not too late! Go check, because I saw cans of pumpkin for $1 each at Walmart over the weekend.) 

Pumpkin Roll
Yes, the cake is good, but I’ll be honest… I’m here for the filling. 🙂

Pumpkin Roll 

For the cake:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground gloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup chopped walnuts (I used about half this amount since I’d rather not have my dessert overwhelmed by nuts.) 
splash of vanilla (not in the original recipe, but I love the stuff.)
Powered sugar, for sprinkling the towel and garnishing

For the filling:
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
6 tablespoons of butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 15″ x 10″ jelly roll pan; line with parchment paper. Grease and flour the parchment paper. (I actually think my jelly roll pan is 11″ x 17″. It worked fine though.) Set pan aside. On a work surface (but not where you’ll be mixing things!) sprinkle a clean, thin cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a small bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until thick. Beat in the pumpkin, then stir in the flour mixture until just combined.

Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan and sprinkle with walnuts. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when touched.

Remove the pan from the oven and immediately loosen the edges of the cake. Invert the cake on to the prepared towel. (He who hesitates is lost here – take a deep breath and give it a quick flip!) Carefully peel off the parchment paper, and then roll up the cake and towel together, starting at the narrow end. Place the roll on a wire rack and let cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the filling. Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. (I used my hand mixer for this part, since the bowl for my stand mixer was dirty…)

When the cake has cooled, carefully unroll it. Remove the towel from the cake and spread the cream cheese filling over the cake. Re-roll the cake. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.*

Cut chilled cake into pieces about an inch thick. If desired, sprinkle slices with powdered sugar before serving.

*Have pumpkin roll, will travel! Want to take this bad boy on the road? Simply wrap the cake in plastic wrap, then foil, and place in the freezer. Bam! Pop the frozen roll in the cooler with an ice pack or two, and you’re good to go for at least eight hours. 🙂 

From my Grandma

Click HERE for a printable version!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and not just because of the great food. (Although, let’s be honest, that is a huge perk!) I love getting together with friends and family, and I think it’s great to reflect on all of the blessing that are in my life.

So here are some (by no means all) of the things I’m thankful for this year (in no particular order):

1. Andy. I realize this sounds sappy and kind of like a cop-out answer, but he’s my best friend and biggest fan. He’s a willing taste-tester and a very helpful food critic, as well as a my resident beater-and-bowl licker. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. (Literally! Hes’ the reason we moved here!) 

2. My friends. I seriously have the best friends. You know, the kind where you fall asleep on each other’s couches after spending the entire day together. Or the kind who you can pick up right where you left off, even if you haven’t seen them in six months. I’m even lucky enough to have a friend who not only understands my obsessive love of cupcake wrapper, but goes on a road trip with you just to buy some.

3. God’s never-ending love, grace and faithfulness, none of which I deserve.

4. My KitchenAid mixer. Every time I make frosting, knead pizza dough or whip egg whites, I am SO thankful I don’t have to do it by hand!

5. Chocolate. No further explanation needed. 🙂

Turkey Time!

Why, hello, November. Seems like you’ve arrived much quicker than last year… maybe that’s because I was having so much fun with my summer produce that I didn’t notice the months flying by. But since you’re here, you might as well make yourself at home. After all, we have exciting things planned this month. Things like THE GAME (watching with some of my favorite people and, of course, excellent snacks), Thanksgiving (I’m making my first pumpkin roll this year!), and participating my first-ever, food blogger cookie exchange!

Yes, you read that right. Three lucky individuals are going to received goodies straight from my kitchen! I’m pretty excited about it, as you could probably guess. I spent some time wandering through Michael’s, looking at different packaging options, and I have been brainstorming cookie ideas already! I’ve already warned Andy that he’s not to open my cookie packages when they arrive – he’ll just have to wait until I get home from work to see what goodness is inside!

But anyway, we’re not here to talk about cookies, at least, not today. Maybe sometime next week. Today, I have the solution to your extra-Halloween candy problems. And if you don’t have a stash of Halloween candy to use up, then get yourself to the store. (I’m pretty sure they’re selling candy corn until Thanksgiving.) 

Look at how cute! They’re the perfect addition to a Thanksgiving table. 🙂 And yes, my turkeys were blind. It was late; I was tired; there weren’t any appropriate sprinkles in my kitchen… you get the idea. Still cute though. 🙂

Tom Turkeys

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (11-ounce) package candy corn
52 fudge stripe cookies (I bought mine, but you could get ambitious and make them with Annie’s recipe.)
4 cups mini marshmallows
1/4 cup butter
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (feel free to go off-brand!)

Heat oven to 170 degrees. While the oven is heating, place the chocolate chips in an oven-proof bowl, then place the bowl in the oven to melt the chips. Check the chips every 5-10 minutes, stirring until melted. Remove melted chips from oven.*

Prepare the tails: Using a spoon, spread melted chocolate on the top half of the back of a cookie. Lay the candy corn in a fan shape on the cookie and press into the chocolate. Let the chocolate harden (the fridge is a great help in speeding up this process!) Repeat with 25 more cookies.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the marshmallows and stir until melted. Stir in the cereal. Allow mixture to cool for a few minutes (but not too long – you have to form it into balls). With greased hands, shape the cereal mixture into balls about 1-1/2″ in diameter.

Remelt the chocolate, if necessary. Dip the bottom of the cereal ball into the chocolate and position it on an upside-down cookie. Using chocolate as “glue,” attach the tails to the back of each ball, at a 90 degree angle from the base. Let chocolate cool and harden.

Use chocolate to attach one candy corn piece to the front of the top of the ball – this serves as the turkey’s “head.” Let everything set/harden, then store in an airtight container. Makes 26 turkeys.

*This is my preferred method of melting chocolate. I have problems with a double boiler AND with the microwave. Thankfully, a friend gave me this tip, so no more seized, unusable chocolate! If you’re more talented than I am not afraid of the microwave or the double boiler, by all means, go that route.  

From Taste of Home