Wednesday, November 26, 2014

{Make-Ahead} Celery and Onion Stuffing

Once upon a time the blog you are reading had a recipe for celery and onion stuffing. It was graced with a confusing recipe layout, inconsistent measurement abbreviations and probably one of the most terrible pictures on here (and there are still many).

Today you are reading the revised version of that recipe where everything has been improved! The only downside is that I'm just sharing this with you the day before Thanksgiving and you won't get to see it in it's golden brown and crisped up glory until I edit this post (yet again) on Friday or so, so you can see the final product.

As I've mentioned only a trillion times, the life of a food blogger means that you typically have to make traditional holiday recipes way before the actual holiday in order to get them photographed and shared in time for your readers to make for the holiday. And as you also know, I'm pretty terrible at that. You still like me though, right? :)

In all actuality, this is dressing and not stuffing because it is being made separately from the bird but I cannot bring myself to call it dressing. Stuffing, dressing, that tasty good stuff on the table at Thanksgiving, no matter what you call it, it is a very versatile dish and super easy to make.

While the turkey is supposed to be the lead character on the day of thanks, I think that the side dishes need to act as supporting characters. A lead character cannot be a lead without their supporting counterparts. Which is why I strongly believe in making my stuffing crispy and flavorful enough to hold her own against the turkey. I do this by using a lot of seasoning.



{Make-Ahead} Celery and Onion Stuffing
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 8-10
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 4 celery stalks, diced
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 1 tsp. kosher salt 
    • 1 tsp. dried sage*
    • 1 tsp. dried marjoram
    • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
    • 1 tsp. dried thyme
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. dried basil 
    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper 
    • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
    • 2 cups assorted bread crumbs (white/wheat, focaccia, ciabatta, Italian, sourdough, etc.)*
    • 1 egg, whisked 
    • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock 
Directions:
1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
2. Add the salt, sage, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, basil, pepper and nutmeg to the skillet and stir to combine. Cook for 3 minutes longer.
3. Transfer the celery and onion mixture to a large bowl and top with bread crumbs and egg. Stir to combine, then add in 3 cups of chicken stock, stirring to fully combine. Mixture should be very moist.
4. Butter or spray a 9x13 baking dish and transfer stuffing mixture into it, pressing down evenly.

To Make Ahead: Press an even layer of plastic wrap on top of the stuffing and cover tightly with foil or a lid. Freeze up to 1 week in advance. To thaw, bring to room temperature. If stuffing looks very dry add the remaining 1 cup of chicken stock. Follow directions for baking.

To Make Immediately: Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 25 minutes. Increase temperature to 450 degrees and cook 5 minutes more or until the top of the stuffing is browned and crispy.

*Spices Note: If you do not have all of those spices on hand you can use Poultry Seasoning, which is made up of sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, pepper and nutmeg. Use 2 tablespoons plus the above measurements for salt, garlic powder and dried basil.

*Bread Note: A combination of multiple types of bread brings more flavor to your stuffing. You don't need to purchase multiple types at once though. Save the heel or ends of different breads as you buy them and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, then foil, then place in a zip top bag. Thaw to room temperature before crumbling or mixing into stuffing.


One purchase that has totally saved me with making dishes in advance are Pyrex glass containers. They can go from fridge to counter to oven to freezer to cabinet.


Since learning to make my own, stuffing (or dressing) has become one of my favorite side dishes to enjoy along with the turkey or really, at any time of the year!



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

If you are still looking for a quick dessert you can bring to your Thanksgiving feast, I have a great one for you.

These pumpkin bites are super easy to make and don't take up much time at all. Plus, the smell in your kitchen while this baking is just heavenly. Seriously, it really is.



Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites
Source: The Frugal Girls
Servings:  ~ 30 bites
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 15.25 oz. box of yellow cake mix
    • 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
    • 8 oz. cream cheese
    • 1 package vanilla almond bark
    • sprinkles, sanding sugar, etc. for decorating 
Directions:
1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine powered cake mix and pumpkin puree until smooth. (Do not add anything else the boxed cake mix calls for.)
3. Pour the cake batter (it will be thick) into a 9x13 greased baking dish. Bake according to boxed directions, usually between 24-32 minutes.
4. Let the cake cool to room temperature. While the cake is cooling, let the cream cheese soften to room temperature.
5. Break the cake into crumbly pieces and add in the cream cheese. You can either do this by hand or with the beater attachment in a stand mixer. Make sure no large lumps of cream cheese remain.
6. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
7. Roll the cake and cream cheese mixture into 1 inch balls. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
8. Melt the vanilla almond bark in the microwave (microwaving in thirty second intervals and stirring until smooth) in a large bowl.
9. Using two spoons, drop each cake ball into the melted almond bark and toss to coat. Allow excess to drip off before returning to the baking sheet.
10. Decorate with sprinkles, sanding sugar, etc.
11. Repeat steps 9 and 10 until all cake balls are coated and decorated.



Aren't they cute? They can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why You Shouldn't Shop on Thanksgiving

I didn't expect it, but whether or not stores should be open on Thanksgiving is a pretty controversial topic. Some people firmly believe they should be closed and others simply do not. I fall into the first camp of people and I'm taking my little corner of the internet to share with you why I think you should stay home.

I've talked about this before, last year I shared a post with you about why I thought stores should not start their sales on Thanksgiving. It was called Black Friday, a rant

There is a Facebook group called Boycott Black Thursday (that started back in 2011) that has over 80,000 followers who don't want stores to open on Thanksgiving. I completely agree with them. Now, let's talk about why.

Reason One: It's Personal For Me. My cousin works for a large retailer. We have always planned Thanksgiving around her schedule so she could still eat with us and get enough sleep to make it through her next shift. This has never bothered me until this year. Why?

Well, regardless that her days off are Thursday and Friday and regardless that she works overnight so her Wednesday shift actually ends at 7 am on Thursday, she is required to work on Thanksgiving day. Note that key word there, required. No one is allowed to take off, not even months in advance. If you don't show up, you're fired, end of story. That sure screams holiday spirit, doesn't it?

To add further insult to injury, let's talk about her current shift and her required Thanksgiving day shift. She goes into work at 11 PM on Wednesday night and clocks out at 7 am on Thursday shift starts at 4 pm on Thursday afternoon. Let's pause there. 7 am to 4 pm is 8 hours. She has eight hours to go home, fall asleep, wake up and get back to work. Actually, that's not true. The sales at this store start around 6 pm so the parking lot will be full by 3. She needs to get there between 2 and 3 pm to finding parking. So now that's 6-7 hours after her previous shift ends. And the real cherry on this bullshit cake? She's only scheduled to work 7 hours that day and because of how their schedules and work weeks fall, she's not even getting paid overtime or holiday pay.

Let's break this down. It takes her 20 minutes to get home so if she manages to clock out right at 7 am, hightail it out the door and warm up her car within 5 minutes she'll be home around 7:30 am. Now we also have to assume she will instantly fall asleep although that is highly unlikely. Now let's say she sleeps until 1:30, that's 6 hours which is enough to function on. Now she has 30 minutes to shower and get ready and 20 minutes to get to work to make it there right before 2:30 and hopefully still find parking. Oh yeah, she hasn't ate anything since her lunch break somewhere in the early morning. That's okay though, hunger won't kill you in a day. And why does she have to do this? Because someone thinks that a $70 GPS or a $100 television or $25 sheets is the most important thing in the world and they absolutely without a doubt need to be at a large retailer on Thanksgiving day to get these items because if not, their Christmas will be ruined. RUINED I TELL YOU!
However, do you know the history of Black Friday? That brings me to my second reason.

Reason Two: The Sales Really Aren't That Great
Black Friday was named as such because it was typically the day that stores turned a profit and finally got their numbers from in the red to the black. If you don't know much about finances, this means until that day stores were typically operating at a loss and then on that day, they began making a profit. Kinda scary to think that retailers solely depend on the Christmas holiday season to make money. However, people buy gifts on Christmas so at least there is some logic. 

So Black Friday became the day for deals. Get all your Christmas shopping done on this great day, save some money and come home and put yourself into another turkey-coma with all of the leftovers. 

Somewhere along the line, Black Friday became less about good deals and more about insanity. Because the retailers knew the people would come, they offered extremely low prices on otherwise expensive items. It wasn't just your large or small appliances, it was everything. If you put a stack full of sweaters at 50% off next to where your check out lines start, retailers know that most customers are at least going to take a look at those sweaters. Because they need a sweater? No, because you put a sign on it that says 50% off and retailers know that people are drawn to a deal. How many times have you bought something you didn't really need simply because it was on sale?

Yeah, that's pretty much the entire purpose of Black Friday, to make the prices and ads so enticing that you absolutely need to purchase that 50% off sweater. It's only $9.99. What's $10? You spent that at Starbucks for two coffees. For this $10 you could get a sweater. Something that lasts longer than coffee. Oh and look it comes in various colors and prints. The green one is kinda cute with its bird print. Oh hey, the blue one has foxes on it and foxes are so in style right now. Wow, look at that purple one. It has kittens. Your friend Sarah is totally the crazy cat woman. For only $10 you could get this as a gag gift for her. She'd love it! 

See what I did there? Exactly what the retailers do to consumers. (Be honest, how many sweaters would you have in your arms?) We have become conditioned to believe that Black Friday is the best day to get a sale and the stores are only going to offer prices like that on that day only. 

But guess what. That is not true. Retailers basically jack up their prices all of the time for the mere fact that if they then slap a 'sale' or 'clearance' tag on it, people want to buy it. People want to feel like they are getting a good deal all of the time. How can a retailer compete with that? By constantly offering 'sales' which is really only reducing the cost of an item to what it should actually sell for. Novel concept, right?

Reason Three: There Are Other Days
Once retailers realized people would come out in droves on Black Friday to get a deal, they began offering different deals straight through the entire weekend so in case you couldn't shop on Friday, you could still get a good deal on an item on Saturday or Sunday. Then as Black Friday got a little more insane and the online shopping became more popular, strictly online retailers and retailers with an online presence realized they could create another day of sales. They dubbed it Cyber Monday and it became known as the day where you could score great deals on items online so you could shop in your pajamas and never brave the 'crazy' people out on the previous Friday.

Now, that wasn't enough. We still needed more. What about those small businesses struggling along to keep up with the lower prices and extended hours of the big box retailers? Small Business Tuesday was created and now you could go pick up some handmade soap from the local soap maker down the street for a discounted price.

Black Friday had now stretched into Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Five whole days of items at discounted prices. Money would be flying into the stores at an alarming rate!

But that still wasn't good enough. Retailers realized there was still a demographic of people they were excluding. The planners. The planners start holiday shopping months in advance and by Thanksgiving, they have their holiday stock pile of presents. Now, it would seem ludicrous to offer Black Friday deals in August, so retailers needed a new game plan and it came along by offering "Black Friday Pricing for the entire month of November!"

(You read that in the loud announcer voice too, right?)

Reason Four: Scrooge
To recap,
1. Black Friday Pricing is offered for the entire month of November.
2. Black Friday deals.
3. The Saturday and Sunday following Black Friday deals.
4. Cyber Monday.
5. Small Business Tuesday.

Depending on how the calendar year falls, Cyber Monday and Small Business Tuesday could actually be in December and I am not even going to cover with you the deals that are offered in December only to further drive people into the stores to spend money.

For the sake of simple math, let's assume that Thanksgiving falls on November 25th.

Retailers now offer Black Friday Pricing from November 1 - 24th, actual Black Friday deals on November 26th, weekend deals the 27th and 28th, Cyber Monday deals the 29th and Small Business Tuesday deals on the 30th. That is TWENTY NINE days of sales.

Twenty Nine days for retailers to go from operating in the red to operating in the black when they used to just have one big day. Twenty Nine days for people to collect paychecks and go shopping. Twenty Nine days of people to sit in their pajamas and order items online.

Do you know what mental image I get when I picture these retailers deciding that those TWENTY NINE days just aren't good enough? Scrooge (the duck form) throwing around paper money and swimming in it. It's pure greed at that point. If twenty nine days of sales isn't going to take your company from operating at a loss to being profitable, nothing is. And they are just opening on Thanksgiving day because they can.

Which leads me to Reason Four: Demand. 
Maybe you remember when stores weren't open at all on Sundays. If you needed bread or milk or gas in your car, you were SOL until Monday morning if you didn't have the foresight to take care of that by Saturday evening.

Obviously, we survived as a country through retailers not being open on Sundays or we wouldn't be here right now.

But there was a demand. People wanted to shop on Sunday. The mother who ran out of butter for Sundays dinner wanted to be able to pop into the local Mom & Pop grocery store and pick up her stick of butter. The family traveling across country for the new job needed to drive straight through Sunday to arrive in their new town on Monday needed to be able to stop and fill up their gas tank on Sunday. So limited working hours on Sunday were introduced.

It's truly this simple. Had there not been a demand to shop on Thanksgiving day, stores would not have opened. It would not be mandatory for their employees to work. Retailers still had compassion. Still remembered that their employees are not their indentured servants. That they still have lives, families, interests outside of work.

Reason Five: It Should Be A Choice 
Now we live in a world where we expect stores to be open around the clock because if you need a new video game at 3 am you better damn well be able to get it. It's sad, really. That we live in a society of Give It To Me Right Now. Patience is a lost art. Instant gratification fuels our daily lives and it has taken away some of the most simple things we used to enjoy.

By no means do I claim that everyone likes their family, wants to spend the holiday with them, or even has a family to spend the holidays with. Some people really don't mind and I APPRECIATE THEM. I appreciate every doctor, nurse, emergency personnel, taxi driver, gas station attendant, etc. who chooses to work that day so someone else doesn't have to. Personal sacrifice is something we don't see much of these days so it means so much more when you actually do encounter it.

But that's not the case. There is no choice. You work on Thanksgiving or any other day that retailers no longer deem a holiday or you get fired. And that's just sad. Sad that money is more important than people. Sad that retailers used to be closed on ALL national holidays and now that no longer exists.

In Closing, all I can say is that I hope this has at least made you think.

If you'd like to join the Boycott Black Thursday group, please click that link to their Facebook page.

If you would like to boycott all retailers who are open on Thanksgiving, here is a list of the current ones, take from the Boycott Black Thursday page.





Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Steak Nachos with Wholly Guacamole Nacho Cheese Sauce & A Giveaway

Yesterday I shared Wholly Guacamole's Nacho Cheese Sauce recipe with you as part of their HOMEGATING possibilities and as I said yesterday, today I will share the nacho recipe I made.

But first, a quick re-cap.

HOMEGATING is when you can relax and watch the game with your friends in the comfort of your own home instead of at the stadium. And obviously, being the good friend that you are, you're going to serve some food to your friends. At the homegatinghq.com website, you can find recipes, how-to videos, football trivia and much more.

Wholly Guacamole asked me if I would be interested in sharing a recipe for HOMEGATING Headquarters. I chose to use one of their current recipes, the Nacho Cheese Sauce and make my own style of nachos with it. Yesterday, I also shared ten other things you could do with these cheese sauce.



Steak Nachos with Nacho Cheese Sauce 
Source: Wholly Guacamole & Cookaholic Wife
Servings: 6
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 2 lb. flank steak
    • 1 tbsp. chipotle chile powder
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • salt and pepper 
    • 1 bag tortilla chips
    • Nacho Cheese Sauce
    • 1 cup guacamole cream
    • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup pickled jalapenos 
    for the guacamole cream:
    • 4-6 oz. sour cream
    • 12 oz. Wholly Guacamole (in any flavor)
Directions:
1. Preheat a grill or skillet to high heat. Season both sides of the flank steak with chipotle chile powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
2. Cook steak for 3-5 minutes on each side or until it reaches desired level of doneness. Transfer to a plate to allow to cool.
3. Once cooled, slice against the grain into strips.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and guacamole until combined.
5. Divide tortilla chips among plates. Ladle Nacho Cheese Sauce on top. Divide steak among plates and then top each with diced tomatoes, pickled jalapenos and large dollop of the guacamole cream.

Delicious! I opted to use the Hatch Chile Guacamole to add in some extra heat to this recipe.

Just like last time, the Wholly Guacamole people have offered to give one reader a cooler of various guacamole flavors and other promotional products (including the squishy avocado!). I'll be honest, I immediately tore into the box the second I got it and completely forgot to take a picture, but I received at least 6 different guacamole samples, a coupon and another squishy avocado!

To enter the giveaway, please use the Rafflecopter below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wholly Guacamole: Nacho Cheese Sauce

Last month I told you that I'd be working with the cool people at Wholly Guacamole again this month and now the time has finally come.

Let's start at the beginning. Whether you are a fan of it or not, it is football season and during football season the fans are doing two things - either going to games and tailgating in the parking lot, or having their friends over to watch the game at home and serving food there. Wholly Guacamole opted to call that HOMEGATING and a new thing was born. HOMEGATING is all about making cool recipes for your friends to eat at your house while you watch the game and avoiding the craziness at the stadium.

They even created a separate website solely for this HOMEGATING phenomenon. You can find party planning tips, recipes, how-to videos, football info AND a coupon! You totally should go visit the site: homegatinghq.com You'd be surprised at what you could learn. (Like it was 1943 was the last year that a football game ended with a 0-0 score...who knew?!)

But let's get to the recipe portion of this post, since I'm sure that's why you're here. Right? I opted to make the Nacho Cheese Sauce because it is so versatile. Now you have 3 ways to get this recipe.

First, you can go to their website: Nacho Cheese Sauce 



Or if you're more of a visual learner, they made a how-to video for this recipe, that you can find on YouTube. (I really should try that sometime!)

The third way is to read the recipe below.

Wholly Guacamole: Nacho Cheese Sauce
Source: Eat Wholly 
Yield: 3~ cups
Printer Friendly 

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
2 tsp. chile powder
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne

Directions:
1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until no lumps remain and the mixture is a golden brown color.
2. While whisking slowly pour in some of the milk. Once the milk has been absorbed fully, add the rest of the milk and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens.
3. Reduce to low heat and stir in the shredded cheeses and spices. Whisk until there are no lumps of cheese. Remove from the heat.

Now there are quite a few things you could do with Nacho Cheese Sauce.

Obviously, the first option would be to use it for nachos (and I'll share that recipe with you tomorrow) but you could also:

1. Pour it over 2 cups cooked pasta then bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven for a nacho-flavored mac and cheese.
2. Dip soft or hard pretzels in it.
3. Use as a cheese sauce for tacos or enchiladas.
4. Pour over cooked lasagna noodles in a 9x13 pan. Top with browned ground beef, diced tomatoes and jalapenos, and repeat layers for a Mexican lasagna.
5. Ladle onto a tortilla and top with shredded chicken, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and guacamole for an open-faced quesadilla.
6. Pour over any steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc.
7. As a topping for a baked potato.
8. Combine with 2 cups boiled potatoes, 3/4 cup chicken/beef/vegetable stock, and heat, stirring until combined. Top with a dollop of sour cream and guacamole and cooked crumbled bacon for a loaded baked potato soup.
9. Pour over a burger and top with salsa and guacamole. (No seriously, you need to do this one)
10. Drink it.

Okay maybe I'm kidding about the last one but it really all depends on how strongly you love cheese sauce. If you wanna slurp it down by the ladle-full, I'm not going to judge you. And I think if you balanced it out with some guacamole and chips, the nice people at Wholly Guacamole wouldn't judge you either.

So check back tomorrow for my nachos recipe using the Nacho Cheese Sauce and also a chance to enter another giveaway!

Disclaimer: HOMEGATING is a registered trademark of Wholly Guacamole. I did not receive financial compensation for this post, however I was provided with guacamole samples. The Nacho Cheese Recipe is not my own, nor is the above image or Youtube video, it was created by Wholly Guacamole and with their consent, posted on this blog. The ideas presented for the nacho cheese sauce are my own. Written consent from both parties agreed for this post to be shared on either party's social media sites. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Apple pie was one of my first successful baking adventures. I got the idea in my head that making an apple pie from scratch couldn't possibly be that difficult so I set out to do it. I made two batches of the dough because I was convinced one of them wouldn't work out. I peeled the apples and then had to cut them with a steak knife because we didn't even have a chef's knife in the house. (This should tell you a lot about my mother's cooking skills)

By some culinary miracle, I kept all my fingers and the pie was delicious. I've made one almost every year since then. This time I wanted to shy slightly away from your standard apple pie and add in some salted caramel. I'm sure to some people 'salted caramel' was so five years ago but it is still one of my favorite flavor combinations.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie
Source: Brown Eyed Baker
Servings: 9
Printer Friendly 

Ingredients:
for the crust:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/3 cup ice water
for the filling:
5 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3/4 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 cup salted caramel, homemade or store-bought

Directions:
1. Make the pie crust by combining the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add in the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add in the water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse just until the dough comes together.
2. Remove dough from the processor and form into two evenly sized discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
3. Remove one disc of dough and roll out into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Drape the dough over a 9-inch pie plate and gently press into the bottom and sides of the pans. Return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
4. Prepare the filling by tossing the apples together with the lemon juice in a large bowl. Place in a colander and allow to drain thoroughly. Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. Return the apples to the large bowl and toss with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
5. Remove the dough-lined pie pan from the refrigerator and use a slotted spoon to make an even layer of apples. Drizzle with the salted caramel. Repeat another layer of apples and caramel until all are used.
6. Remove the remaining disc of dough from the refrigerator and roll out to 1/4-inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut 1-inch strips of dough. Place over the pie in an alternating fashion to create a lattice top. Trim away excess dough and/or press into the edges of the pie to crimp.
7. Freeze the pie for 30 minutes.
8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
9. Place the chilled pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush lightly with an egg wash (egg and water whisked together). Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Cover the edges with a pie ring or wrap with foil and return the pie to the oven for an additional 30 minutes.
10. If the crust is much lighter, remove the ring and cook for 5 minutes more to get an even color over the pie.
11. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Covered pie can be kept at room temperature or refrigerated for 2 days.


Salted caramel is by far one of the best things you can add to an already delicious apple pie. This may just be my new favorite way to make it! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

2014 Thanksgiving Menu (with Free Printable To-Do List!)

Thanksgiving, already!? I swear, if it weren't for the Canadian Thanksgiving being in October, the thought of planning my menu would pass right on by in my head. So, a special thank you to my Canadian friends for always providing that reminder.

Thanksgiving last year was a little bit crazy. As in, I hosted for 20ish people in my 1200 square foot apartment where I have a pub style dining table that seats four. We did bring in a long folding table and chairs so there was some additional seating, but it was only enough for half of us to sit. I think I may have sat on the floor to eat. 

It was also a complete whirlwind of an event. With that many people, there was a ton of food and I spent more time working on the food than I did spending time with everyone. I'd prefer not to go that route this time and I've tried really, really hard to limit the amount of food I'm going to make. 

My guest count is still up in the air. My cousin is due on December 6th and no one thinks she's giving birth anywhere near her due date and will end up much earlier. If that happens, I'll be down 4-5 adults and a toddler. 

I've also spent a lot of time watching Ina Garten on the weekends in hopes that her simple but fancy appetizers and very laid back party planning will rub off on me. I'll let you know how it goes. 

I haven't spoken to my other aunt yet to see what she plans on making, so this is subject to change, slightly. 

2014 Thanksgiving Menu 

Appetizers:
rosemary cashews
stuffed mushrooms
mini cheese balls
pancetta pear crisps
veggies and dip

Main and Sides:
turkey
crock pot mashed potatoes
gravy
honey-pear cranberry sauce
individual twice baked sweet potatoes
cheesy green bean casserole
wild rice, mushroom and celery stuffing 
dinner rolls

Desserts:
turtle cheesecake
pumpkin pie
sweet potato pecan pie mini tarts

It's still way too much food for the amount of people that will probably show up, but it is actually cut down over the previous years. The cashews and cranberry sauce can be made far in advance. Almost everything else will be made the day before so Thanksgiving will really be about cooking, re-heating and plating. 

Wow, writing the year in front of the menu really hit me. This will be the sixth year I've hosted Thanksgiving. That's just crazy! I've got it all down pat by now, but if this is your first year hosting and you're looking for some recipes and tips, check out what I've said in other years:

Thanksgiving 2013

And guess what else! You can have a free printable! Remember the other week or so when I mentioned internet friends? Well one of them is starting her own printables business and emailed me to see if I'd be willing to share her printables on my blog. Of course I said yes and the timing was perfect. She made a Thanksgiving To-Do list for you! 


Look at that turkey! Isn't he adorable?! To print a copy without the watermark, simply click here

And then head on over to the Bound for Keeps Facebook page and tell Jennifer "thanks!" 

Guess what else  --- I'll have more printables to share with you in the very near future! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Paleo Shrimp Fra Divolo

I haven't been able to find shrimp the grocery store for an affordable price in so long. We used to eat shrimp almost once a week and then the prices skyrocketed and I've spent the time ever since missing seafood. Usually I am not a fan of red sauces with shrimp but this just looked so good that when I found some shrimp on sale, I knew this was what I needed to make.


Paleo Shrimp Fra Divolo
Source: Home Sweet Jones
Servings: 2
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 3/4 lb. peeled and deveined
    • 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 cup chicken stock
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
    • 1 tsp. dried oregano
    • 1 tbsp. anchovy paste
    • 1 pickled pepper, minced and 1 tsp. juice
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
    • salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Drain tomatoes in a colander, saving the juice.
2. Add olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add chicken stock, red pepper flakes, oregano, anchovy paste and bring to a simmer.
3. While the liquid is simmering, lightly mash the tomatoes. Once the chicken stock mixture has reduced by half, add the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of the tomato juices.
5. Cook for 5 minutes.
6. Add the shrimp, pickled pepper and brine. Cook until shrimp are pink and cooked through.
7. Garnish with parsley and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.


I changed the recipe up a little bit for the sake of time. The original calls for browning the shrimp shells and then simmering them in the wine. That would create more of a seafood/brine flavor and the way I chose to do it lessened that. You could easily add in a clam juice or reduce the juice from the canned tomatoes if that was the flavor you were looking for and didn't have time to simmer the shells either. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Crock Pot Maple Chile Pork

You know what? Pork cooked in the crock pot is not easy to photograph on its own. It's much easier when you're going the pulled pork sandwich route and piling that porky goodness on top of a bun. But regular old shredded pork? Not so much.

So work with me a little bit and pretend that these are at least decent pictures. I can tell you though, that the taste more makes up for its less than stellar photography skills.


Crock Pot Maple Chili Pork
Source: A Year of Slow Cooking
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 2 lbs. pork tenderloin, quartered
    • 2 tbsp. all natural maple syrup
    • 1 tbsp. chile pepper sauce (see below)
    • 1 tsp. five-spice powder
    • salt and pepper 
    Chile Pepper Sauce:
    • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tsp. white vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp. coconut palm sugar
Directions:
1. Place the quartered pork in a 4 quart slow crock pot.
2. Combine the maple syrup, chile pepper sauce, five spice powder, salt and pepper. Pour over the pork.
3. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

I was really concerned about cooking pork tenderloin for that long in the crock pot because with little fat on it, it tends to dry out very quickly. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was still very moist and cooked perfectly. In a way, it was slightly overdone since I couldn't pull the quartered pieces out without them starting to shred on their own, but taste wise you couldn't tell at all.

*If you don't wish to make your own Chile Pepper Sauce, you can use Sambal Oelek, but it is not Paleo since it contains sugar. ** Most people in the Paleo lifestyle consider coconut palm sugar as an alternative to other sugars and will still use it, even if it is 'sugar'.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Pumpkin Roll Cake

Making a cake into a log will always be intimidating I think. I got the cake part down and I even know what type of towel to use and how much powdered sugar to put down so the cake doesn't stick, but for some unknown reason I almost always get a break in my cake in the first roll over.

One day I'll get this right, but until then you'll just have to enjoy pumpkin roll cake. Terrible fate, huh?


Pumpkin Roll Cake
Source: All Recipes Magazine, Oct/Nov 2014
Servings: 9
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Ingredients:
    • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
    • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375. Spray or grease a jelly roll pan (15x10 rimmed baking sheet). Line with parchment paper and spray or grease that. Sprinkle with flour and shake to coat all of the parchment paper.
2. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together in a small bowl.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or with an electric mixer) beat the eggs on high speed for 5 minutes, then slowly beat in the sugar until the mixture is a pale yellow color. Add in the pumpkin and lemon juice.
4. Add the flour mixture to the mixer a little at a time until fully combined.
5. Pour batter onto the prepared jelly roll pan and spread smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle chopped walnuts evenly over the batter.
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
7. Dust a large linen or cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar. Loosen the cake edges with a knife and quickly invert over the towel. Peel off the parchment paper and quickly roll the cake up in the towel starting with the short end. Allow to cool for at least 1 hour.
8. Beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed. Once combined, slowly add in the powdered sugar and vanilla. If frosting is too sweet at a pinch of salt.
9. Carefully unroll the cake and spread the cream cheese frosting almost to the edges of the cake. Roll up again and chill until ready to serve.

If the ends of your cake aren't pretty, slice off a thin layer with a serrated knife before serving.