SRC Holiday Treats: Chocolate Rum Cake


It's time for a special Secret Recipe Club event! This month the event is Holiday Treats! Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way and you likely don't want to see another turkey for the next 11 months, we can move onto December, Christmas and the holiday season.

For this reveal, I was assigned to Daily Dish Recipes which is written by Nicole. Nicole has a lot of great recipes and many of the savory ones kept catching my eye, but I needed to find something sweet for this reveal.

I was looking at the shelf that holds all of our liquor not too long ago and wondering how in the world we were ever going to get rid of it. Neither of us are big drinkers and tend to buy something for a specific recipe and then the rest of the bottle never gets used. So I was eyeing up this shelf and then thought, "I wonder if she has any recipes that use liquor..."

And lo and behold, there was Chocolate Rum Cake, which was perfect. 1: Chocolate and "Holiday Treats" go pretty well together. 2: It used up rum that I probably wouldn't use otherwise. 3: It allowed me to use my bundt pan which collects more dust than it does bake cakes. Total win all around!

Chocolate Rum Cake
Source: Daily Dish Recipes
Servings: 16
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for the cake:
    • 18.25 oz. box chocolate cake mix (any brand is fine)
    • 3.4 oz. instant chocolate pudding mix
    • 4 eggs
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce 
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 cup white rum 
    for the rum glaze:
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/4 cup white rum 
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine all of the ingredients for the cake and mix on low speed with the beater attachment until fully combined.
3. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
4. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving plate and continue to cool.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by combining the glaze ingredients in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 10 minutes.
6. Pour the sauce over the cake and enjoy.

The only change I made to the recipe is I used unsweetened applesauce instead of vegetable oil in the cake. I haven't baked with oils in I don't know how long. Unsweetened applesauce is such an easy substitute and makes the cake incredibly moist. The pudding mix also helps with that and combined with the rum glaze soaking into it, there was no dry or dense cake over here.

I work in a very casual office so I knew bringing in cake spiked with alcohol would be no big deal. I just didn't expect how quickly they would absolutely devour it. I put the cake out around 9 am and when I went back into the breakroom for lunch at 1, there were some crumbs left on the platter and that was it.

Happy Thanksgiving: Why you Should be at Home

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you're having a great holiday with friends and family, or both!

But what I really hope is you're not reading this while you stand in line outside of some retailer on Thanksgiving impatiently waiting for them to open. If you've been a reader for years, you'll know that I am firmly against stores opening on Thanksgiving and one of these years I'll just share a list of posts with you that I previously shared telling you why I think you should stay home.

First, I don't really expect you to listen to me. You're likely an adult who can make their own decisions and do whatever you want. I just hope that if you were on the fence about shopping on Thanksgiving, you'll hear me out and hopefully change your mind.

In recent years it has become a competition between retailers for who can open their doors the earliest and offer the best sales for Black Friday. Somewhere along the way, "Friday" was lost because stores started opening on Thursday instead. There are two arguments regarding Black Thursday that I hate the most.

1. Stores have always been open for Thanksgiving. Don't work retail if you don't want to work on Thanksgiving. Actually, that's not true at all. The majority of stores never used to be open on Thanksgiving. Less than a decade ago I remember stopping ten different times on the way to my aunts house looking for somewhere that was open and had orange juice I needed for a recipe I was bringing. Stores used to open in the early hours of Friday morning; five or six am. That slowly got earlier and earlier. Retail workers used to say that they had to eat Thanksgiving dinner early in order to go to bed in time to make it to work for the deals. And of course anyone can say "don't work retail if you don't want to work holidays" but have you looked at our economy lately? It's not like we're in a society thriving with jobs where retail workers are nothing but high school kids.

2. But police, firefighters, nurses, doctors, etc. have to work so who cares if stores are open. Yes, well those are considering essential personnel for emergencies. Cashiers, stockers, warehouse and store managers are not. If my house was on fire, I'd much prefer a firefighter to come instead of a cashier, wouldn't you?

But here is the real reason you should stay home:

Retailers have admitted that by opening on Thanksgiving there is no increase in sales and because of this many of them are offering  THE SAME deals online on Thanksgiving day. 

Now, I don't know about you, but after stuffing my face with turkey and all the fixings, who the hell wants to put on pants and go outside in the cold to go shopping? Slip on those fuzzy penguin pajama pants and matching socks and do your holiday shopping from your computer chair. You seriously can't tell me that's not more appealing.

Also, don't forget, retail workers are people too. Most of which have families they would like to celebrate Thanksgiving with. Last year it was a conflict of interest for me to get detailed, but that's no longer the case. My cousin works for Walmart. She works overnight, getting off at 7 am. So Thursday morning she gets off at 7 am and guess what time she has to go back into work. 4 pm. Just enough time between shifts to make it legal. Not nearly enough time to get anything more than a shower and a catnap, much less see family for a holiday.

So, hugs and kisses  to these stores who are NOT opening on Thanksgiving:

P.C Richard & Son
Game Stop
HomeGoods/TJ Maxx
Pier 1
Crate & Barrel
and a few others! 

If you hate the idea of stores opening on Thanksgiving, check out the Boycott Black Thursday Facebook page! 

Apple Cranberry Turkey Sliders


Sandwiches are a classic recipe made with leftovers from Thanksgiving. This one seems pretty basic from the list of ingredients but don't let it make you think this is just any old boring turkey sandwich.

It is so much more.

Apple Cranberry Turkey Sliders
Source: Cooking Light
Servings: 3
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3 slider rolls
3 tbsp. mayonnaise
3 thick slices Gruyere cheese
leftover turkey, shredded
1/2 small apple, thinly sliced
3 tbsp. cranberry sauce

1. Slice the rolls in half and spread the mayo on both sides of every roll. Fold each slice of cheese to fit onto each roll. Divide the turkey among the rolls.
2. Add a few apple slices on top of the turkey and a tablespoon of cranberry sauce.

Delicious! I may have ate all 3 of these so quickly I barely tasted them. They were that good! The only thing I can think of that would make them even better is if some arugula leaves were added in.

#handcraftededibles: Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds


One of the easiest appetizers you can put out for the holidays are nuts. Cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts, peanuts...any type of nut will do. And, according to Ina Garten, you don't even need to make them yourself. A tin of nuts from the store is more than acceptable to put out for your guests. Just dress them up a little by tossing them into a bowl.

But, if you wanted to make your own, here is a great recipe for you to try. You can never go wrong with the combination of cinnamon and sugar and adding almonds to it makes it almost seem healthy.

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds
Source: The Recipe Critic
Servings: 3 cups
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    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 3 tbsp. cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp. salt 
    • 1 egg white
    • 2 tsp. vanilla 
    • 3 cups unsalted, raw almonds
    • 1/8 cup water 
1. In a medium bowl, combine the sugars, cinnamon and salt.
2. In a large r bowl, whisk together the egg white and vanilla until frothy. Add the almonds to the bowl and toss to coat, making sure to get them all coated. Then pour the cinnamon sugar mixture over the almonds and toss to coat until each almond is covered in the mixture (there will still be some cinnamon sugar left)
3. Spray a 4 quart slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Add the coated almonds and turn the slow cooker on low. Cook for 3 hours stirring every 20 minutes. In the last hour, add the water.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the hot almonds out onto the sheet in an even layer with a spatula. Allow to cool and then break up individually.

As an added bonus, your house will smell absolutely amazing while you have these almonds cooking. Crunchy, sweet and cinnamon-y! You can easily package these up into little treat bags and give them out as a gifts. If you can manage not to eat them all first. Good luck with that...

In an effort to make all of my holiday gifts this year, we are sharing recipes for hand-crafted edibles. Over the course of twelve weeks, we'll be sharing recipes that you can make at home to give to friends and loved ones, or things to serve at holiday parties. We hope you'll follow along for inspiration. You can find out more information, including the schedule: here.

This week, we are "going nuts" and sharing all sorts of recipes with nuts. Think spiced nuts or nutty fruit cake or whatever floats your
nutty boat!

Here's what we're posting this week...
Next week - week 10 - check back for our recipes to inspire you as we let our confectioner’s skills shine. Think truffles, barks, anything

and everything with chocolate. Don't forget to check out our #handcraftededibles pinterest board.

Roast Turkey Pho


In a few days Thanksgiving will have come and gone and you'll likely be left with a pile of leftover turkey meat. I don't know about you but I easily get bored of reheating leftovers to the same meals that I once had them.

Which is why I decided to share some recipes with you that can be make with leftovers in advance of Thanksgiving. Takes the planning out of it!                            

Roast Turkey Pho
Adapted from: Cooking Light
Servings: 6-8
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    for the broth:
    • carcass of a 12 lb. turkey 
    • 1 large yellow onion, quartered
    • 1 lemon, quartered
    • 1 garlic head, halved crosswise
    • 3 tbsp. canola oil
    • 6 cups water
    • 3 cups chicken (or turkey) broth
    • 1 tbsp. whole black peppercorns
    • 2 tsp. brown sugar
    • 3 star anise
    • 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
    for the soup:
    • 10 oz. shredded turkey (breast, thigh, etc.)
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. fish sauce
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 4 oz. uncooked wide rice noodles 
    • 1 tbsp. chili oil
    • 1 cup carrot, peeled and sliced
    • 1 cup basil leaves
    • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
    • 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1 lime, sliced into wedges 
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. On a rimmed baking sheet, combine the turkey carcass, onion, lemon and garlic. Drizzle the canola oil over the ingredients. Roast for 40 minutes or until everything is a deep golden brown, turning over once halfway through.
3. Transfer the ingredients of the baking sheet to a large stock pot, discarding any fat. Pour the water into the stock pot followed by the remaining broth ingredients (through ginger).
4. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids.
5. Return the broth to the stock pot and add the shredded turkey, fish sauce and salt. Cook for 5 minutes or until heated through.
6. Prepare the noodles according to package directions, omitting any salt and fat. Drain the noodles and divide between 6-8 bowls. Pour the hot broth over the noodles and then drizzle with chili oil. Stir in the carrots, basil and cilantro leaves, red onion and jalapeno pepper. Squeeze the lime wedge into the soup.

In order to make this more appealing to Tom I omitted the bean sprouts and added carrots. (Plus my local store doesn't carry them) I thought this was delicious. It's time consuming to make the stock, but you could easily just use prepared chicken or turkey broth if you don't have the initial hour and 40 minutes for roasting and simmering.

75+ Thanksgiving Recipes


Next year I plan to share a round up of Thanksgiving recipes with you well in advance of the holiday. I think I've finally amassed a large enough collection of Thanksgiving related recipes to do so. Of course, I'll still end up making and sharing a few recipes leading up to the big day of all things turkey, but I think as a food blogger, that's kind of inevitable.

So for all of you procrastinators out there, here are more than enough recipes to help you out if you're hosting this Thanksgiving holiday. And if you're a procrastinator with a big frozen turkey, you need to get him into the fridge very soon!

* Estimate 1 full day of thawing for every 5 pounds of turkey. (Ex. 15 pound turkey = 3 days)

Make sure to factor in thawing time if you're doing something like an overnight cure or brine on your turkey!

First, let's check out a previous round up of recipes!

And here are some new recipes for this year!



wild mushroom risotto {paleo & vegan}


Next week I have a couple recipes to share with you to help reduce all that leftover turkey and Friday will host a round up of those recipes as well.

Improv Challenge: Butternut Squash Soup with Parmesan-Sage Croutons


There is a whole world of squash out there that I'm just beginning to try. Growing up, a squash in any form never grazed the dinner table. I had only heard of zucchini and had no idea that you could even cook with the varieties of squash that showed up in the grocery stores in the fall.

I can't remember if it was zucchini or butternut squash that I tried first, but for the sake of the fall season, let's say that it was butternut. I quickly realized I had been missing out on a world of flavors. On it's own, there isn't a huge amount of flavor coming from the squash but it goes so well with so many different spices and seasonings creating entirely unique combinations.

Of course, like anything else that's a vegetable, Tom doesn't like it. He'll occasionally eat a bite or two if it's mixed in with something else, but something like a soup where the squash is the main ingredient? Nope. Which means I get to spend  the better part of the fall and winter season having all of these recipes for lunch.

It's funny, I made this soup last week and then realized I didn't have anything prepared for the Improv Challenge this month. Would you believe that the ingredients for November are squash and sage? How amazingly perfect was that? It was like my brain somehow knew this (granted, I did read the ingredients but that was months ago) and just so happened to remind me to make this soup right in time for the challenge.

Butternut Squash Soup with Parmesan-Sage Croutons
Source: Cooking Light, December 2004
Servings: 6-8
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for the soup:
    • 5-6 cups of butternut squash 
    • 3 tbsp. olive oil
    • 3 tsp. kosher salt 
    • pinch of black pepper 
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 3 celery stalks, diced
    • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
    • 6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable to keep it vegetarian)
    • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
    for the croutons:
    • 3 thick slices rustic bread
    • 1 large garlic clove, minced
    • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
    • 3 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
    • pinch of salt 
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash together with the 2 tbsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. salt and the pepper. Arrange on the sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the pieces over and bake another 15 minutes or until the pieces are caramelized and fork tender. (Leave the oven on and don't wash the bowl.)
3. In a Dutch oven, heat the butter with the remaining 1 tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and sage. Cook, stirring frequently for 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened.
4. Add the squash and the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the croutons. Reduce the oven temperature to 375.
6. Cut the bread into 1 inch pieces and toss together in the large bowl with the sage, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and salt. Spread into an even layer onto a baking sheet (if using the one from the squash, just blot any excess oil with a paper towel first) and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and crisp, flipping pieces over once halfway through the cooking. Set aside.
7. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. (Blend in batches and hold a towel over the blender to stop the hot liquid from splashing)
8. Divide the soup among bowls and top with the croutons. Divide the Parmesan cheese among the bowls and serve.

I took this for lunch last week and it was incredible. It reheated really nicely in the microwave and the croutons stayed crispy in a plastic bag all week. The soup is rich with flavor and hearty enough to keep you full for hours.

Thansgiving Menu


Every single year I say that we're not going to have a ton of food and every single year the exact opposite happens.

I've pretty much given up and decided that as long as we try to keep the appetizers light so people actually eat the turkey and side dishes, there isn't much more I can do than that. Here's what I came up with for this year.

Thanksgiving Menu

veggie tray
deviled eggs
apple/pear gouda bacon bites
charcuterie & cheese plate 

Main and Sides:
stuffing in a bundt pan
mashed potatoes
Parmesan sage mashed sweet potatoes
Italian green beans
cardamom carrots
pull-apart buttery dinner rolls 

pumpkin pie cheesecake
apple bundt cake

hot cranberry cinnamon rum
caramel apple sangria 

My mom is making the veggie tray and the pumpkin pie cheesecake. My aunt, who I mentioned before gets a free turkey every year, so she is taking my recipe and making the turkey as well as the gravy and the deviled eggs. I'll be handling the rest. 

Currently, I think our headcount is 11, but it's always subject to change. And like every year, I know I'll end up posting a picture of all of the food on Thanksgiving and asking if any stragglers want to join us. Maybe one day someone will take me up on that. I'm serious in my offer! 

Herbed Bread Stuffing


Stuffing, or dressing since I don't cook it inside the turkey, has always been a weird side dish to me. I love the flavors but would prefer it to have more texture. Most stuffing/dressing recipes only have a tiny bit of crunch on the top layer that's baked in the oven and everything underneath is kinda mushy.

There are a lot of things I can eat, but mushy food just isn't one of them. I wanted to try this recipe and see if the larger pieces of bread would make a difference, giving this a firmer texture.

Herbed Bread Stuffing
Source: Blissfully Delicious
Servings: 10-12
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    • 1 lb. crusty country style bread, cubed
    • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
    • 3 medium onions, diced
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
    • 1/2 tbsp. fresh sage
    • 1/2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup water
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Arrange bread cubes onto a jelly roll pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until dry.
3. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the celery, onions and herbs. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until the celery is softened.
4. Transfer bread cubes to a large bowl. Pour the celery and onion mixture on top, followed by the chicken broth and water. Stir to combine.
5. Transfer to a 13x9 baking dish and bake for 20 minutes or until heated through.

*The photos are for half of this recipe.

This recipe pretty much did exactly what I wanted it to do! The larger pieces of bread and smaller quantities of chicken stock made this taste more like a flavorful softened crouton as opposed to a pile of mush. Ironically, Tom commented that the stuffing was too crunchy for his liking. Looks like we'll be a house divided on stuffing consistencies! 

Brown Sugar-Cured Turkey with Apple Bourbon Gravy


Brown sugar and apples are probably one of the most classic ingredient combinations. You can use it in tons of desserts, but the flavors also pair together really nicely with proteins such as pork, chicken and turkey. I knew I couldn't pass up making this delicious combo and putting it on a turkey.

Since it's just Tom and I for all of these mini Thanksgiving-like meals I'm hosting, I opted to make this recipe with just a turkey breast, albeit a large one since there weren't any small ones in the store. The original recipe calls for a 12 pound turkey, but cuts it up before cooking to ensure that all parts of the turkey are cooked the best way possible. If you're making a whole turkey, definitely check it out as my adaptions (in cooking only, not ingredients) are just for a turkey breast.

Brown Sugar-Cured Turkey with Apple Bourbon Gravy
Adapted From: Cooking Light
Servings: 12
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    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 4 tsp. kosher salt
    • 2 tsp. ground fennel seeds
    • 2 tsp. ground cumin
    • 2 tsp. paprika
    • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
    • 8 lb. turkey breast
    • olive oil
    • 2 tbsp. fresh thyme
    • 3 shallots
    • 3 celery stalks, cut into 3 inch pieces
    • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and quartered
    • 3/4 cup bourbon
    • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
    • 1 tbsp. flour
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
    • salt and pepper, to taste
1. Combine brown sugar, salt, fennel, cumin, paprika and crushed red pepper. Rub over the turkey breast. Refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 375.
3. Place the turkey breast in a roasting pan.
4. In a large bowl, toss together shallots, celery, and apples with olive oil. Arrange in the bottom of the roasting pan.
5. Roast the turkey breast for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and brush with oil. Rotate the pan and roast an additional 30 minutes. Roast for another 45 to 90 minutes or until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees.
6. Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil.
7. Pour drippings/fat from turkey into a small saucepan. Add bourbon, chicken stock and flour and cook over medium heat until the liquid reduces to 1 cup. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.
8. Take half of the shallots, apples and celery mixture and combine with the bourbon-chicken stock mixture in a blender. Process until smooth then reduce to the saucepan.
9. Add butter, parsley, cider vinegar and salt and pepper. Stir until butter has melted. Adjust seasonings to taste.
10. Carve turkey breast, discarding skin and serve with the gravy.

I was kind of disappointed with the turkey by itself. I don't feel like the brown sugar and apple flavors were at all infused into the meat. The gravy, however, is entirely different. This is one flavorful gravy, which makes sense given the mild flavors of the turkey. You might even want to further thin this out with additional chicken stock (unsalted!) to take away from the intense roasted apple and shallot flavors.

Chinese Five Spice Carrots


I remember not long after I started blogging Chinese Five Spice seasoning became a frequent spice used in recipes. Of course, Maryland grocery stores (at least in my area) hadn't caught up to the times and I wasn't able to find it anywhere.

Eventually I caved and ordered a small jar of it online from Penzey's spices and I was finally able to make all of those recipes! This simple side dish of carrots is so easy to make that if you don't include salt and pepper, there are only three ingredients in this whole recipe. You'd never know it though, the Chinese Five Spice adds a depth of flavor.

In case you aren't familiar with it, Chinese Five Spice is a seasoning made up of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan peppers and fennel seeds. The flavor is hearty and warm and the seasoning is most frequently used on pork and chicken.

Chinese Five Spice Carrots
Source: All Recipes
Servings: 6
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    • 7 large carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
    • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil 
    • 1/2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
    • salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Place the halved carrots in a baking dish and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle the Chinese Five Spice powder over them.
3. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Vanilla Bourbon Pumpkin Pie


When I saw this recipe in Food Network Magazine I knew I needed to make it right away. Bourbon has been very high on my cooking with list recently and adding the sweetness of vanilla to it could only make it better.

At first I couldn't even imagine what this flavors would taste like together with a pumpkin pie, but I quickly found that delicious doesn't even begin to describe it. The pumpkin pie takes on a custard like consistency teased with hints of vanilla and bourbon. In other words, perfection.

I altered the recipe a bit, using a store bought crust and adding the vanilla to the pumpkin mixture instead of the crust like the original. If I had more time I would have made the crust from scratch, but this was a last minute decision. I'll leave it up to you whether or not you chose to follow my recipe or the original.

Vanilla Bourbon Pumpkin Pie
Slightly Adapted from: Food Network Magazine
Servings: 8
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    • 1 refrigerated pie crust
    • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    • 2 tbsp. bourbon
    • 1 cinnamon stick 
    • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste, or the seeds from 1 vanilla bean
    • 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
    • 3 eggs
    • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Allow the pie crust to come to room temperature before unrolling.
2. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the heavy cream, bourbon and cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat then transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
3. Once cooled, whisk in the vanilla bean paste, pumpkin puree, eggs, sugars and spice.
4, Roll the pie crust out over a 9-inch pie plate, crimping the edges.
5. Discard the cinnamon stick and pour the pumpkin mixture into the prepared crust. Cover the edges of the pie with foil or a crust shield and bake for 35 minutes.
6. Remove the foil or crust shield and bake for another 35 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust is golden brown.
7. Allow to cool to room temperature on a rack, then refrigerate for 1 hour before slicing and serving.

Refrigerating the pie allows you to slice it easier as the pumpkin mixture is not as dense as it would be in a regular pumpkin pie. 

Spiced Pecan Green Beans


I don't know the last time I shared a side dish recipe with you, which is really terrible considering I have hundreds of them pinned to make!

I'm spending this month making a lot of recipes that can also be made for Thanksgiving to give you a huge variety to choose from. I made this green beans with a small turkey and mashed potatoes.

Green beans are probably my go-to vegetable side dish when corn on the cob isn't available. You can roast them, saute them, even fry them! How can you go wrong there?

Spiced Pecan Green Beans
Source: Cooking Light
Servings: 6
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for the pecans:
    • 1/2 cup halved pecans
    • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 1/2 tbsp. water
    • pinch of cumin
    • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
for the green beans:
    • 1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed
    • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, water, cumin and crushed red pepper flakes. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar melts.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the pecans and rosemary until combined. Spread out in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
4. Bake for 6-10 minutes or until the pecans are golden brown and fragrant.
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before breaking apart.
6. While the pecans are baking, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the green beans and cook for 2-3 minutes or until bright green, then transfer immediately to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
7. Pat the green beans dry. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the green beans and saute until heated through, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
8. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to combine with the pecans.

Soooo good! If you were making these for the holidays and didn't want to spend this much time on one dish, you could easily make the pecan mixture a week in advance. Once the pecans have cooled, transfer them to a sealable bag and keep in the pantry until ready to use. Once blanched, green beans can be frozen or refrigerated for 3-4 days before being cooked. If using from frozen, allow to come to room temperature and pat dry with a paper towel before sauteing in the butter. 

SRC: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Chili


The end of this year is really flying by. I have no idea where October went. One day it was September, then it was Halloween and now it's already the second week of November. Thanksgiving is coming! Christmas is coming!

The weather we've had lately has really left me all out of sorts with the holidays quickly approaching. I vaguely remember some colder (more seasonally appropriate) days in September and October that prompted me to switch out my summer clothes to fall and winter ones. And then it warmed up again. This past Friday was nearly 80 degrees. I'm not complaining AT ALL. The longer I can wear flip flops the happier I am.

Anyway, that's partially relevant to the Secret Recipe Club and my chosen recipe because we received our assigned blogs back on October 12th and I made my recipe the following Saturday, which feels like ages ago. Look at me NOT procrastinating! And I think that was a particularly cold weekend so it totally fit right in with the weird weather.

I was assigned to Flavors by Four, which is written by Susan and Nicole, a mother daughter foodie team. The second I saw this recipe I was intrigued. Pulled pork + chili. I immediately sent the link over to Tom and asked him if he would eat it. As soon as he said yes, I added it to the menu for the following week.

There are a bunch of other recipes by Susan and Nicole that I can't wait to try, like Crab Rangoon Stuffed Mushrooms (which I think will make my Christmas appetizer menu), Mini Gobbler Pies (made with Thanksgiving leftovers that I am totally making this year) and these Dark Chocolate Cherry Muffins that Tom requested I make.

Note: This recipe takes 12 to 18 hours. Please plan accordingly! 

Pulled Pork Chili
Source: Flavors by Four
Servings: 10-12
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for the pulled pork:
    • 3 lb. pork shoulder or butt 
    • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. black pepper
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • 8 oz. beer 
for the chili:
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 shallot, diced
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 1 small red pepper, diced
    • 1 small green pepper, diced
    • 28 oz. can crushed potatoes
    • 28 oz. can tomato puree
    • 2 14 oz. cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    • 6 oz. tomato paste
    • 4 tbsp. chili powder
    • 2 1/2 tbsp. cumin
    • 1 tbsp. paprika
    • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes 
for toppings:
    • green onions, shredded cheese, sour cream 
for the pork:
1. Combine the brown sugar, salt, pepper and onion powder together in a small bowl. Rub all over the pork.
2. Place the pork in a 6 quart or larger slow cooker and pour the beer around the pork. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or until pork can be shredded with a fork.
3. Shred and set aside.
For the Chili:
1. Add garlic through tomato paste to the slow cooker. Stir in the shredded pork. Add the remaining spices and cook on low for 4 hours but up to 8.
2. Serve the chili with additional toppings if desired.

If you like your chili with more vegetables and beans than meat, I would only use half of the shredded pork in this recipe. You could buy a smaller piece, or freeze the pulled pork for another use later on. Tom thought this was the perfect amount of meat to vegetable ratio. We both thought the flavors were great and ended up eating it again the next day for leftovers.

This recipe makes a ton so be prepared to freeze a bunch of it!

Rosemary-Orange Roast Turkey


Every year around the holidays my uncle is given a 20 pound turkey from his work. It's just him and my aunt so they have no use for a jumbo bird like that. After the first year I started hosting Thanksgiving my aunt asked me if she could start making the turkey to use up the big bird she was getting for free.

It might sound silly, hosting a holiday and not making the star of the show, but it's allowed me to focus on other recipes, like the side dishes and desserts. However, it doesn't really allow for me to share turkey recipes with you, now does it?

So this year I decided the second that I found turkeys in the store I was going to buy one and make a turkey recipe. Tom definitely wasn't complaining when I told him we could have up to four Thanksgiving like meals this year.

I love the combination of orange and rosemary so I couldn't wait to make this recipe. The original recipe is doubled and used on a 12 pound bird but buying it the last week of October didn't exactly provide me with a lot of turkey options. I was only able to find a 6 pound bird, which turned out perfectly. We ate one of the breasts for dinner that night, I used the half of the other one in a second dish the next night and then we used the thigh and remainder of the breast to make a soup recipe the third night.

I have a sneaking feeling I might be turkey'd out by the time Thanksgiving finally rolls around, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make to share turkey recipes with you. :)

Rosemary-Orange Roast Turkey
Source: Cooking Light
Servings: 6
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for the turkey:
    • 6 lb. turkey (thawed if frozen)
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. orange zest
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
    • 1/2 tbsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. black pepper
for the glaze:
    • 1/8 cup fresh orange juice
    • 1/8 cup orange marmalade
    • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
    • pinch of black pepper 
    • 2 cups water 

1. Combine orange zest, rosemary, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
2. Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey. Place the turkey in a roasting pan and gently work your fingers under the skin to loosen it.
3. Rub the orange zest mixture under the skin, cover the turkey and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
4. Combine the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and allow the mixture to simmer for 3-5 minutes or until it thickens and reduces.
5. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for 1 hour. Pat dry with a paper towel.
6. Preheat the oven to 425.
7. Bake the turkey for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the water to the roasting pan.
8. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 and cook for 30 minutes. Divide the glaze in half and brush half on the turkey. Return to the oven to cook another 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until the internal temperature of the turkey's thigh reaches 165 degrees.
9. Remove from the oven and tent loosely with foil. Allow the turkey to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Drizzle the remaining glaze over the turkey.

We both agreed I probably could have left the sauce at the original recipe amount since it was SO delicious!

Recipe Remake: Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars


Recipe Remake: I originally posted this recipe as part of an Improv Challenge back in May of 2013 where the two ingredients for the month were cinnamon and sugar. I decided to remake this dessert when one of my coworkers told me that he didn't think he was a fan of cream cheese in sweet dishes. Considering sweetened cream cheese ranks really high at the top of my must-have list for desserts, I knew I needed to try and change his mind. 

I did not make any changes to this recipe, I just wanted to update the picture and convince my coworker that sweetened cream cheese is a necessity for life. 

Original Post: I am quite embarrassed to admit that I only heard of sopapilla a few years ago. This is particularly embarrassing because it is commonly made here into a cheesecake bar form. Cheesecake made with cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract. As in, like my favorite combination ever. How I managed to let a dessert made with my favorite ingredients slip past me for so long is just blasphemy, but at long last, I can now say that I have partook in the wonderful deliciousness of sopapilla.

The ingredients for this month's challenge are cinnamon and sugar. I realize these aren't the star ingredients in the sopapilla cheesecake bars, however, they do provide the topping and since I had planned to make the sopapilla regardless, it only made sense to use it for my challenge recipe.

Now, if you are one of those people really concerned about how you are going to look in a bathing suit in a few months, I sadly must say, this is not the recipe for you. It is one of those recipes that would make Paula Deen proud considering it involves "A stick of butter, y'all!" So uh, just keep that in mind.

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars
Source: Pillsbury
Servings: 12
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    • 2 packages crescent rolls 
    • 2 bricks of cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 1/2 cup sugar, divided
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1 stick butter, melted
    • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Combine the cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.
3. Meanwhile, press one can of the crescent dough into the prepared baking dish, making sure to pinch together all of the triangles to form a smooth sheet.
4. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the crescent dough and then top with the remaining can of crescent dough, also pinching the seams together to form a smooth sheet.
5. Pour the melted butter over the crescent roll.
6. Stir together the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle over the melted butter.
7. Bake for 30 minutes then let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and cut into 12 bars. Serve cold or warmed in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.

Would you believe me if I told you that I think this is the most incredible dessert ever and it may just become your new favorite? You should, because I am pretty sure that it is mine. Which means that I like it more than creme brulee...yeah, I can confidently say that.

Recipe Remake Update: Mission complete! And successful! My coworker loved these and is now on board with any sweetened cream cheese recipe I might bring in. 

Bacon Caprese Salad


When Sarah posted this recipe and shared the picture on Facebook, I nearly tripped over my own feet in my haste to get to the store and pick up all of the ingredients. You really can't go wrong with a caprese salad. Mild, creamy fresh mozzarella, sweet and acidic tomatoes, pungent fresh basil...and then adding in bacon? Hell yeah!

So that was more than 2 months ago and I'm just getting around to sharing the recipe with you. Sorry about that. I hope you'll still be able to find decent tomatoes in the stores! If not, pin this recipe and save it for the summer when the tomatoes are even better.

Sarah made this recipe with a warm bacon dressing which I intended to make, until I thought about the fact that I planned on having this for lunch at work. I knew I couldn't pour the dressing over the tomatoes and mozzarella in the morning or it would get soggy and weird by lunchtime. I opted to just skip the dressing portion (except for what I ate at home that day) and put the crumbled bacon on top. Not a bad choice for a portable meal! 

Bacon Caprese Salad
Source: A Taste of Home Cooking
Servings: 4
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    • 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
    • 2-3 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into 1/2 rounds 
    • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
    • 1/2 cup basil leaves
    • salt and pepper, to taste 
1. Arrange tomatoes and sliced mozzarella on a plate with basil leaves. Sprinkle crumbled bacon and top and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Isn't it gorgeous? I loved having this for lunch and can't wait until tomatoes are in season again to make it much more of a regular side dish! 

#handcraftededibles:Honey Lemon Apple Jam


Around this time last year the cookbook, Food in Jars, was highly recommended to me. I added it to my wishlist on Amazon and ended up getting it for Christmas. I looked through it immediately and flagged a bunch of recipes I wanted to try.

And then the cookbook went onto the bookshelf with the other cookbooks and life happened. A month or two ago when the farmers market I visit had out baskets of tomatoes and peppers for canning, I pulled the book back off the shelf and read through it again with a plan that every week I was going to buy mason jars and get some recipes canned.

But weekends were busy and I kept running out of time and making excuses to not pick up the mason jars and you can't exactly get any canning done without the proper jars to put everything in! So the cookbook went back on the shelf and then I realized a few weeks ago that I had signed up for the Jellies and Jams week for #handcraftededibles.

Looks like I subconsciously forced myself into finally making a recipe from Food in Jars. Better late than never, right?

Honey Lemon Apple Jam
Source: Food in Jars
Servings: 3 pint sized jars*
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    • 3 lbs. (6 cups) Golden Delicious apples
    • zest and juice of 4 lemons
    • 2 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1/2 cup honey 

1. Wash jars and lids in soapy water. Rinse well.
2. Add the jars to a large pot, cover with water and boil for 30 minutes. Place lids in a small saucepan and simmer over very low heat.
3. Meanwhile, peel, core and chop the apples.
4. Add the apples and lemon juice to a large pot. Bring to barely a simmer over medium heat, then reduce to medium low, cooking for 20-30 minutes, or until the apples are soft. Mash with a potato masher to remove large pieces.
5. Add the sugar and honey to the apple-lemon mixture. Increase the heat to medium-high, cover with a splatter shield and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.
6. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest.
7. Remove the jars from the boiling water and use add in the jam, leaving 1/4 inch of head space.
8. Wipe around the rims of the jars with a wet towels to remove any spills. Place the lids and rims onto the jars and tighten the rims with your fingertips (you do not want it to be too tight.)
9. Place the filled jars back in the pot they first boiled in and boil for 10 minutes.
10. Transfer jars to a dish towel to cool. The jars will ping and the lids will become concave as the vacuum process takes place.
11. Once the jars have sat for 24 hours, remove the rims and lift the jar by the lid, 2 inches off the counter top. If the lid holds, the jars can be stored for up to a year in a cool, dark place. If it doesn't hold, refrigerate and eat within 2 weeks.

*As you can see from the pictures, I did not use pint sized jars. Mainly because for some reason I scribbled down jelly jars on my grocery list and then managed to pick up 4 and 8 ounce jars but not the actual ones I need. 

Now that I've finally canned something, expect to see more recipes in the future. It was a lot easier and less intimidating than I thought! Despite the name, I figured this would be an apple jam with a lemon tartness to it. It's actually quite the opposite, as the name suggests. The lemon flavor is strong but is sweetened up quite a bit with the honey and apples.

Next week, check back for our recipes for pickles. Or check out our #handcraftededibles pinterest board.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Mac and Cheese


I recently realized I hadn't made mac and cheese in  a very long time. That needed to be remedied immediately. Tom is a huge fan of chicken cordon bleu, but I don't really like it in it's usual presentation. I figured this combination of the two recipes would make us both happy.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Mac and Cheese
Source: Iowa Girl Eats
Servings: 6-8
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    • 1 large chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
    • 1/2 lb. deli ham, sliced thick and cut into cubes
    • 10 oz. penne pasta
    • 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 1 cup milk, divided
    • 1 cup chicken broth
    • 1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
    • 1 cup swiss cheese, shredded
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, for garnish
1. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
2. Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
3. Add the ham to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes or until heated through and lightly crispy. Add the ham to the plate with the chicken.  Set aside.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente. Drain and set aside.
5. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and 1/2 cup of milk. Add to the skillet over medium high heat and slowly whisk in the remaining milk and then the chicken broth. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir constantly, for about 10 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and is bubbly.
7. Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of each of the cheeses, stirring until melted and smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
8. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir in the cheese and ham. Spread the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of each cheese on top.
9. Set the oven to broil and broil for 3-5 minutes or until the top layer of cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
10. Allow to set for 10 minutes before serving so the cheese has time to thicken back up. Sprinkle parsley on top the dish and serve.

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