Monthly Archives: November 2013

Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s just over three weeks until Thanksgiving.  Wow, time is flying by!  We’re having the in-laws over the weekend before Thanksgiving for a little pre-holiday shopping.  I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to have for dinner that day.

I want to keep the flavors seasonal, but not make it too formal.  With the big meal only a few days later I don’t want to go overboard.  I had been looking at a couple of chicken recipes, but I don’t think poultry is the way to go.  Then, I ran across this recipe in my Fine Cooking magazine from last November.

Pork chops with cranberry maple sauce

Fine Cooking (source)

That’s right, pork chops.  This recipe is for a pan-seared pork chop with a cranberry maple sauce.  I love the idea of the cranberry and maple flavors, which I’m going to carry through out the menu.

Maple is a favorite flavor of both my DH and MIL and perfect for a November meal.  It goes well with both sweet and savory dishes.  The addition of the cranberry flavor helps to cut through the sweetness of the maple.

I am planning on a cranberry almond shortbread tart for dessert.  I’ve checked the reviews on it and there’s a little concern it may be too tart.  I’ll do a trial run on this one and see if it needs to be sweetened up at all.

Cranberry Almond Shortbread Tart

Fine Cooking (source)

I still have to figure out what I’d like to do for appetizers, but here’s the final menu.  I can’t wait, it’s going to be so good!

Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner

Appetizers: TBD

Dinner: Pecan, Radicchio, and Asian Pear Salad, Pork Chops with Cranberry Maple Sauce, Maple Roasted Carrots, and Yeast Rolls.

Dessert: Cranberry Almond Shortbread Tart

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Posted by on November 6, 2013 in Meals


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Dessert Choices For Christmas

There’s something about the holiday season that makes you want to pull out all the stops.  You want to show up with a dessert that makes everyone “ooh and ahh” about it.  Plus, you want it to taste as delicious as it looks.

I’ve run the gamut from super-rich, chocolatey cheesecakes to dense almond tortes with fresh cranberry sauce.  Each fit the occasion perfectly and was well worth effort.

Almond Torte with Cranberry Jam

Almond torte, yum!

This year I’m on the hunt for a really awesome dessert.  I’ve thought about making something I’ve already made, and know that the taste is guaranteed amazing.  Or, I could pick something new that looks like it could be awesome.  Like a croquembouche!


So fun!

I have a recipe for an eggnog cream-filled version, using white chocolate as the “glue” and drizzled over the tops of the pastries.  It’s in the “Southern Living Big Book of Christmas” holiday book.  It looks amazing!

It’s going on the shortlist for now.  I’m still on the fence about adding anything I’ve done before.  If I did it would have to be the “Black Forest Tart” from the Taste of Home Holiday magazine I mentioned here.  It was so rich and chocolatey.  We’ll have to see!

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Posted by on November 6, 2013 in Holidays


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Creamy Brussels Sprouts With Mushrooms

Myself, and a large chunk of the population, enjoy Brussels sprouts during the holidays.  Now, did I always?  Definitely not.  I had tried them a few times and they just didn’t do it for me.  Then, about five years ago my mother-in-law made Brussels sprouts with cheese sauce for Thanksgiving.  I put one or two on my plate fully intending to try one, but not expecting to like it.  Surprise surprise, I did like this recipe and proceeded to eat the leftovers for the following two days.

That Thanksgiving side dish has brought me to the following recipe.  I ran across this one in my Taste Of Home Holiday magazine, circa 2008.

Creamy Brussels Sprout Bake

Taste of Home Recipe

I’ve made it twice, once for Christmas Eve and once for Thanksgiving.  Both times I felt like it needed just a little something more.  I was still in the “follow the recipe exactly” mindset back then though so I didn’t feel comfortable tweaking it.

That’s not the case anymore.  Since I had some fresh mushrooms that needed to be used I decided today was a good day to try it with some changes.  That included using Portabella mushrooms, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Not a big change, just a little tweak.

Ingredients for brussels sprouts bake

All chopped up.

I added the garlic, salt, and pepper to the mushroom mixture while it was in the frying pan.  Then, that was added to the cream cheese mixture (which I added a little salt and garlic powder to).  Next up, baking time.

Recipe in the pan

Ready for the oven

I added the cheese at the end, put it in for a little longer, and then we’re ready to eat.  It looks tasty!

Creamy brussels sprouts ready to eat.

Ready to eat!

Overall, I was happier with the additions.  It’s a heavy side dish, so keep that in mind.  I made it as a main dish for tonight and it was more than adequate.  It’s a good recipe to keep on hand, but it still doesn’t beat the one that my mother-in-law made.  I need to ask her if she still has that recipe!

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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Holidays


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Christmas Cookies 2013 – The Planning Continues

So, I thought I’d be planning out my Thanksgiving recipes today.  Then I started reading through one of my recent Christmas board pins.  It was linked to a list of “49 Things That Taste Like Christmas” and that was where I found two new cookies for this year’s Christmas Baking list.

Candy Cane stuffed cookies

Candy Canes and Cake Batter, Yum!

One of them is the Candy Cane Cake Batter cookie shown in the pin.  The other is a sandwich style cookie with a brownie like cookie and candy cane butter cream filling.  They both look amazing!

I’m thinking this year may be a bit more heavy on the peppermint flavor.  For a few years it was heavy on the chocolate.  While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with all most of the recipes being heavy on the chocolate, I figured it’s good to change things up.

Chocolate and Peppermint

Chocolate and Candy Canes = Flavor of Christmas

One of my favorite, non-chocolate, Christmas cookie recipes is the Candy Cane Cookie.  It’s not a peppermint flavor though, it’s an almond flavored cookie.  The peppermint comes in to play by way of the candy cane dust sprinkled over the baked cookie.

I’ll be following up on those when I start my holiday baking.  That won’t happen until after Thanksgiving.  Last year’s baking weekend was Black Friday weekend.  That means we focused a lot more on candies, fudge, and trying out new recipes.

So now I have three cookies on my final list.  It’s off to a good start but still nowhere near complete.  While I continue building out the list let’s review some favorites from my 2011 Christmas Baking list.

2011 Christmas Cookies

Candy Cane Cookies, Slice and Bake Peppermint Cookies, Double Ginger Crackles, Lime Nut Buttons, Vanilla Bean Angel Pillows (these include homemade vanilla sugar!), Italian Fig Pockets (everyone loved these), Eggnog Cutouts

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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in Holidays


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Jumbo Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

It’s November 1st and we are less than two months away from Christmas!  I guess that means time to start trying out Christmas cookie recipes.  That’s exactly what I just did and am going to share.

I’ve looked at the Giant Cranberry Oatmeal Cookie recipe in one of my standby magazines a few times now, but it’s a bit rustic for a Christmas cookie.  The flavors lend themselves to something more fall-like.

Cookie recipe

Don’t they look good?

Which is why today is a great day for them.  We’re moving into the holiday season but it’s still very much Fall.  I had everything I needed on hand so I was off and running.  I had the dough mixed up in no time.

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookie mix

Already looking good…

Yes, those are snowflakes on the handle of the spatula.  Anyway, I did omit the corn syrup (didn’t have that) and subbed the cake flour with regular.  Then it’s time to roll them out.  You can see that they’re already looking pretty big.

Cookie on pan

My pan has seen better days…

I made half of these without the white chocolate and coconut.  The DH requested them that way, so the first batch was for him.  This recipe only made about 16 large cookies.  That’s a good thing for us as it makes it slightly easier to not go overboard. Slightly.

Up next was the loaded batch.

Cookie Dough

White chocolate and toasted coconut were added.

These were really easy to make which is always nice.  The flavor was great!  Very fall-like with the cranberries and nuts.  I’ll keep these in rotation through Thanksgiving.  I could see myself making these the weekend before Thanksgiving when my in-laws are coming over.  We’re going to have a pre-Black Friday shopping day and I have been trying to decide what to make for dinner afterwards.  These will be a good dessert, very seasonal.

Final cookie

These are a mouthful!

Alright, one recipe to try is down!  Now, I’m going to go read through my cookbooks for some more holiday recipes to try.  The in-law dinner is going to be here quick and I want it to be nice, without being too heavy right before a big holiday.

Until next time!


Posted by on November 2, 2013 in Desserts


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“Haunted” Cookie House

Happy Halloween!  We’ve had quite a bit of Halloween fun starting with a party and fall festival over the weekend.  For both of those I took Pumpkin Pie Spice Rice Krispie Treats.  So delicious (when you do the whole recipe).  I didn’t do the whole recipe.  I skipped out on the graham cracker crust.  Yes, it makes a difference.  They were still good, but I knew they could’ve been great.

The big star for Halloween though was the “haunted” cookie house.  It took some time, but the end result was worth it.  First things first, you need to build the house.

Just getting started on the "haunted" cookie house.

Just getting started.

I used melted sugar for the glue.  I got the idea from Pinterest and it was right on the money!  It held tight and was edible.  It’s a good thing too because it was going on top of a cake.

The house was made out of chocolate graham crackers; little marshmallow ghosts were added to the inside.  Scary!

Once that part was done I got the cake in the oven and then made the frosting.  I went with chocolate, mainly because it’s my favorite.  We don’t do much dairy here so I used almond milk instead of regular.  Just beat it all together until it’s at the consistency and sweetness that you want.

Homemade Chocolate Frosting

Yum, homemade chocolate frosting!

I took a cup or so of the frosting out before adding the cocoa so I’d have a white frosting to work with too.  I ended up adding in a bit more sugar, cocoa, and milk because of that.  So good!  This frosting has some sticking power so it was perfect for holding the decorations on.

I went with candy corns, candy pumpkins, pretzels, and a bit of assorted Halloween candy to jazz it up.  I didn’t go overboard as I didn’t want it to look too cutesy.  I tinted the white frosting orange and used it to add windows on the sides.  Let’s take a look at the end product.

Front view of the "haunted" cookie house.

Watch out for the ghost!

The cake was frosted with a coconut frosting (yes, I went with the canned version, I know…).  I also underestimated the size of the house.  I was thinking there would be room to add in more decor around the house.  It was fine though, the house was the star!

Side view of the "haunted" cookie house.

Look at the size of it!

Overall, it was a good learning project.  Using melted sugar for glue was perfect, and the graham crackers were a good choice for the walls.  I’ll go with a smaller house next time.  It would’ve been nice to add in a lot more details, but the house was just so big.  It was well received though, so no complaints here.

Alright, so Halloween is wrapping up.  I’m going to snack on a little cake and start thinking about the next holiday.  Here’s the frosting recipe I use.  Until next time!

Chocolate Frosting

1/2 C. Crisco

2 C. Powdered Sugar

1/4 C. Cocoa Powder

1 t. Vanilla

1/4 C. Almond Milk (or regular milk, whatever works for you)

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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Desserts


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