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Thanksgiving Menu Ideas

Hey, folks…

Reposting last year’s round-up of Thanksgiving ideas for a little menu-planning inspiration!

~Amy

APPETIZERS

Cranberry Chipotle Meatballs

Corn and Bacon Fritters with Smoked Salmon

Bacon-Wrapped Dates stuffed with Bleu Cheese

THE MAIN EVENT

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy (and tips for roasting a whole turkey)

Bacon and Cider Braised Turkey Drumsticks (and garlicky creamed spinach)

Spiced Sweet Potato Puree with Pecan Streusel

Sausage, Apple, and Leek Stuffing

Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Green Beans Almondine

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts

Hot Doughy Buns

DESSERTS

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Coconut Pie

A Few Variations on Apple Pie (in an all butter pie crust)

Caramel Apple Cake

Turkey-Shaped Sugar Cookies

Caramel Apple Tartlets

Spiced Mango Upside Down Cake

Cannoli Cheesecake

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Huevos Rancheros Pizza

Back in the spring, I strong-armed a couple of my friends into taking Irish step dancing lessons with me. (I actually didn’t need to twist their arms too hard.) We three became the unlikeliest bunch of dancers you could imagine. It was a blast. We clobbered away through a few classes, along with an (almost) equally novice classmate, before the weather became too hot to continue in our dance space. At that point, we broke for the summer, with the intention of resuming classes come fall.

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Well, fall rolled around and I sent an email to our instructor expressing our eagerness to continue. But we never heard back. After a few months with no reply, we’d become fully convinced that we’d been silently dumped as a result of our utter hopelessness in the field of Irish dancing. We couldn’t really blame her. We truly are a hopeless bunch. But then, just as we were about to pack away our dancing shoes, I received a message explaining an email switch, along with an invitation to resume classes. We accepted, of course.

This time though, there are a few other adults in our class and a second instructor. Apparently, our new classmates danced all throughout their childhood and teen years. They’re just picking up where they left off, which is someplace lightyears ahead of the rest of us. While we practiced basic skips, intently concentrating on not running into each other, one of our new classmates gracefully danced circles around us, quite literally. It feels oddly like being stuck in the ‘guppies’ group, aside out advanced classmates in the ‘shark’ group. They’re reading War and Peace, while we struggle through Ted in a Red Bed. Us four clumsy guppies stick as close together as we can without kicking each other. It’s a level of comfort thing. We huddle close together, executing every drill as a unified group, in a fruitless attempt not to draw too much attention to ourselves.

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It’s a ridiculously fun time, swimming in our guppy group. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long while. Graceful, we are not. Skillful, we are not. Coordinated, we most definitely are not. But for all we lack in ability, we more than make up for it with enthusiasm. We will probably never have the graceful, swift-footed skills of our river-dancing role models, but we’re certainly having fun with it. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it??

The added bonus is that our weekly lesson and all the practice in between burns a bucketload of calories. Now, if I were smart, I’d save those burned calories and let them work their magic on a bit of weight loss. Oh, but I love food too much and the dancing leaves me ravenously hungry. So, I choose to ‘spend’ my burned calories on fun food, like this Mexican-inspired huevos rancheros pizza. Truth be told, this pizza is fully inspired by nothing more than my desire to cook a pizza with eggs baked into it. It starts with a cornmeal crust, in place of the corn tortillas which would typically be used in huevos rancheros. The homemade crust is then topped with beans, taco sauce, Mexican cheese, chiles, and tomatoes. Fresh eggs are then carefully cracked on top of the pizza before baking for a stunning and unique twist on pizza.

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Today’s Focus on Technique – Cooking with Baker’s Yeast

Baker’s yeast is a single cell organism, commonly used as a leavening agent in many breads, pretzel doughs, and pizza doughs. As the yeast feeds on the sugars in the dough, it releases carbon dioxide, which becomes trapped within the dough, causing it to rise and expand. The most common types of yeast used in baked goods are active dry yeast and rapid rise yeast. Rapid rise yeast is made up of smaller particles, which touch a greater surface area of the dough and typically require half as much time to rise. Many people feel that the long rise time required for active dry yeast recipes results in a more flavorful dough.

Typically, many yeast dough recipes begin by proofing the yeast. Proofing is simply a process of dissolving the yeast in lukewarm water. After a few minutes, the yeast should begin to foam, proving that it is alive and ready to work its leavening magic. If the yeast doesn’t foam, it’s time to buy some new yeast. The magic temperature for proofing yeast is somewhere between 110-115°F. To assure you’ve got the right temperature, it’s helpful to use an instant-read thermometer. I usually stick the thermometer in hot water from the tap, then wait until it reduces to the right range before adding the yeast.

Yeast doughs rise best in a draft-free area, on the warmer side of room temperature (around 70°F). If your house is chillier than that, allow extra time for rising. If time is an issue, I sometimes find it helpful to preheat the oven for a bit, then place the bowl of rising dough on top of or near the oven. You don’t need to keep the oven on throughout the rise time; just long enough to release a little extra heat near the rising dough.

** Lots of other interesting information about yeast can be found HERE.


Huevos Rancheros Pizza

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup refried beans
  • 1/3 cup taco sauce
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 tablespoons green chile (fresh or canned), finely diced
  • 5-6 grape tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chorizo, chopped (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • Additional taco sauce or hot sauce for drizzling (optional)
  • Cornmeal Pizza Dough (recipe from www.marthastewart.com)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Prepare the cornmeal pizza dough according to the recipe found HERE, except do not divide the dough into smaller portions. Roll the entire dough into one large (approximately 12″) crust. Transfer the rolled dough to a baking sheet, which has been sprinkled with a bit of cornmeal.

Spread the refried beans onto the crust, leaving a 1/2″-1″ lip around the edge. Drizzle the taco sauce over the beans. Scatter about 1/2 of the cheese over the sauce, then sprinkle with the onion, chile, tomatoes, and chorizo. Scatter with the remaining cheese.

Use your fingers to create three shallow wells in the pizza toppings. Carefully crack an egg into each well.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the toppings are hot and melty and the eggs are cooked to your desired doneness.

**Be aware that the egg whites and yolks will maintain a bright, glossy appearance as they bake. In this case, touching the eggs to check for doneness is a more reliable indicator than their appearance. (I made the mistake of relying on appearance and cooked my eggs past the cooked white/runny yolk I was aiming for. The yolks in the photos with this post are actually fully cooked, even though they appear runny.)

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Thanksgiving Inspiration

I learned something interesting about myself this week – I do not like corn bread stuffing. I love corn, corn muffins, corn bread, and corn fritters. I eat a ridiculous amount of corn when it’s in season. I even once made a sweet corn ice cream. But I do not like corn bread stuffing.

I guess it comes down to what you’re raised with – sort of how some families are the Crest kind of people and some families are the Colgate kind. Some families are loyal to Miracle Whip, while others will only use mayonnaise. Some families have corn bread stuffing at Thanksgiving and some families have white bread stuffing. Our family was always a Crest, mayonnaise, and white bread stuffing sort of family.

The four things I am most thankful for.

I didn’t realize how ingrained this inclination towards white bread stuffing was until I set about preparing a corn bread stuffing earlier this week. It should’ve been delicious, with crispy bits of bacon, tender dates, shallots, and celery. It was supposed to be a new recipe to feature in this post about Thanksgiving ideas. But I didn’t like it. I can’t even tell you if it was good or not, as far as corn bread stuffings go. I am just a white bread stuffing girl through and through and I couldn’t wrap my taste buds or my heart around that corn bread stuffing. I’m not sharing the recipe.

But I am going to share this round-up of wonderful, tried and true Thanksgiving ideas, in plenty of time to add them to your Thanksgiving menu…

Give thanks for good food, friends.

APPETIZERS

Cranberry Chipotle Meatballs

Corn and Bacon Fritters with Smoked Salmon

Bacon-Wrapped Dates stuffed with Bleu Cheese

THE MAIN EVENT

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy (and tips for roasting a whole turkey)

Bacon and Cider Braised Turkey Drumsticks (and garlicky creamed spinach)

Spiced Sweet Potato Puree with Pecan Streusel

Sausage, Apple, and Leek Stuffing

Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Green Beans Almondine

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts

Hot Doughy Buns

DESSERTS

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Coconut Pie

A Few Variations on Apple Pie (in an all butter pie crust)

Caramel Apple Cake

Turkey-Shaped Sugar Cookies

Caramel Apple Tartlets

Spiced Mango Upside Down Cake

Cannoli Cheesecake

Bacon Cheddar Drop Biscuits

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There’s a full moon tonight. Of that I am certain. I didn’t look it up online and I haven’t glanced at the evening sky. I need only to spend a moment observing my children to know for sure that the moon is full. They are like small, incredibly accurate phase of the moon indicators. And they’ve been in rare form this week.

Just yesterday, two of the boys spent thirty minutes engaged in a volatile argument over who is going to get the longer surfboard. You should understand that getting a surfboard of any size is not (and has never been) in our plans, which made this argument completely irrelevant and bizarre. But for thirty minutes they argued their way around Target shouting at each other about surfboards, until my five year old exclaimed that he was going to hire a shark to bite Lucas’ arm off. Anyone know what the going rate for mercenary sharks is this days??

Meanwhile, the baby has learned how to remove his own diaper and in the process has discovered that he’s a boy. He’s absolutely delighted with his new skill and new discovery. So, in between calling off the sharks, I’ve been chasing the baby and his bare tushy around the house, hopelessly trying to keep him dressed. He thinks he’s pretty funny. But I had the last laugh when I stuck him in a onesie and foiled his disrobing endeavors.

Trouble monkeys; every one of them.

When life gives you chaos, make bacon. Bacon makes everything better. Truly. Even the baby eagerly oohs and ahs at the sight of a plate of bacon. Smart baby. When he was younger he used to crawl around teething on a rubbery piece of pretend bacon. We called it his ‘training bacon’. We’re raising these kids right.

Make a lot a bacon and then throw some in these biscuits. These super simple drops biscuits are a delicious variation on my cheddar garlic biscuits. Cheesy, buttery, bacony; they make a perfect accompaniment for just about any meal. We enjoyed them alongside some grilled chicken in a spicy apple barbecue sauce and corn on the cob. You may want to make a double batch. These biscuits are gonna go fast.

Bacon Cheddar Drop Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup bacon, cooked to crisp, crumbled
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted (for brushing the biscuits)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly coat baking sheets with cooking spray or vegetable oil. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the 3 tablespoons of cold butter and 3 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening to the flour mixture. Use a dough cutter or fork to blend the butter and shortening with the flour mixture until pea-sized bits of flour-coated butter and shortening are dispersed throughout the mixture.

Stir in the buttermilk, cheese, bacon, and green onion. Do not overmix. Use an ice cream scoop or measuring cup to drop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small pan or microwave. Brush over the baked biscuits.

Makes 10-12 Biscuits

Breakfast and Brunch Recipe Round-Up

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I recently shared a recipe for a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bagel Casserole, as an option for a special Father’s Day breakfast in bed. Just in case that idea doesn’t float your boat, here’s a round-up of previously posted breakfast ideas. Any of these would make a spectacular Father’s Day breakfast for the dad in your life or a great addition to your next brunch buffet!

Cinnamon-Raisin Donut Bread Pudding

Carrot Cake Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze

Potato and Chorizo Frittata

Fluffernutter Bread Pudding

Nutella and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Raspberry Coulis

Sausage, Biscuit, and Gravy Casserole

Eggs Benedict

Birthday Cake (Sprinkles) Pancakes

Cinnamon French Toast Bake

PB&J French Toast

Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Quiche

Strawberry-Stuffed French Toast

Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes

Quiche Lorraine




Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bagel Casserole

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My poor husband. He woke up this morning thinking that it was Father’s Day. He woke up thinking there would be breakfast in bed. And gifts. And probably lamb burgers for dinner. Alas, he had pegged the wrong Sunday. Not only was today not Father’s Day. And not only would he not be leisurely reading the newspaper while dining on breakfast in bed. But, today was my morning to sleep in, since he’d had his turn yesterday morning. It was his turn to prepare breakfast for the three boys, while I grabbed a few precious extra minutes of peaceful slumber. Sorry, hubs. Next Sunday you’ll get your breakfast in bed. And gifts. And maybe even lamb burgers.

Breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day has become our annual tradition. There’s just something so luxuriously relaxing about it. And since it doesn’t happen often, the kids get really excited about the occasion. If the kids ever sleep past six in the morning, perhaps we’ll start treating them to a special breakfast in bed on their birthdays.

Recently, I made this bacon, egg, and cheese bagel casserole. It was inspired by a bag of bagels which my parents had brought up from Long Island. They’d been left unwrapped for a few days and had gone slightly stale. But as anyone who’s ever had a good Long Island or NYC bagel knows, it’s a crime to let them go to waste. So, I thought I’d try throwing them into a breakfast casserole, with a hefty dose of bacon, eggs, and cheese. The resulting casserole was a satisfying success; every bite with the flavor of a good Long Island/NYC bagel sandwich.

I’m betting that a lot of dads out there would enjoy this special casserole for their Father’s Day breakfast!

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bagel Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 5-6 large bagels (any variety), chopped into 1″ chunks*
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
*Slightly stale bagels work perfectly.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Use a paper towel to rub the bottom and sides of a large (13×9) baking dish with the softened butter. Arrange 5-6 chopped bagels in the baking dish. They should mostly fill the baking dish. Scatter the bacon and cheese over the bagels. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the bagels, bacon, and cheese. Press down on the mixture, so that the bagels are mostly submersed in the egg mixture. Allow the mixture to rest for about 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator, so that the bagels absorb some of the egg mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes.

Serves 6-8

Fluffernutter Bread Pudding

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On the weekends, my husband and I take turns sleeping in, while the other person brings the boys downstairs to get them started on their day. Yesterday was my turn to sleep in. Today, my husband’s.

But my husband picked the wrong day to sleep in. For today is April Fool’s Day. And while he leisurely slumbered, the boys and I began to lay a few tricks. We hid his breakfast cereal and the coffee K-cups. We turned the chairs around in the dining room and planted a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs to trap him. We agreed that when he came into the room, we would all pretend not to know him and demand to know what he was doing in our home. Just a few fun, non-destructive tricks.

And then I lost all control over the situation. Within moments, the two boys were giggling wildly as they ran from room to room trashing the place. Apparently their idea of an April Fool’s joke involves complete demolition of our home…dumping out every bin of toys, pulling cushions off the couch and rearranging every piece of furniture. Clearly the joke was on me now.

As I buzzed around after them, fruitlessly trying to contain their holiday spirit, my husband came down the stairs to find himself trapped by the gate. One of the boys immediately thrust a coloring book at him and demanded that he sign his name in order to be released from the gate (he came up with that part on his own). All the while, his younger brother stood there repeatedly shouting “Butt” in between wild giggles…because shouting butt is clearly hilarious. A moment later, Señor Butt ran off and came flying back over to wag the bag of hidden K-cups in his father’s face, totally busting that joke before my husband had a chance to discover they were missing. I might as well tell you that we also hid your cereal and there’s a giant plastic spider in your work bag.

I have a feeling that I’ll be contending with a higher than usual level of mischief and mayhem today. Lesson learned…kids shouldn’t be told about April Fool’s Day.

But fun days require fun food. And I can’t think of anything more fun that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches turned into a warm bread pudding and drizzled with marshmallow topping. I’m not even sure if this qualifies as breakfast, lunch, or dessert. Almost certainly dessert, but I won’t tell if you serve it for breakfast or lunch. It’s made out of PB&J sandwiches…sounds like lunch to me! The marshmallow Fluff was an afterthought. I’d initially planned to sprinkle my pb&j bread pudding with powdered sugar, but the marshmallow fluff caught my eye at the grocery store. Not sure I’ve ever purchased fluff before, but it certainly works for this fun little treat!

Fluffernutter Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 small/medium loaf of crusty Italian bread, sliced
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (approximately)
  • 1/2 cup jam or jelly (approximately)
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup marshmallow fluff or other marshmallow topping

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Use the bread, peanut butter, and jelly to make several peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then, cut the sandwiches into small (approximately 1″) chunks. Arrange the chunks of PB&J in a large baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the half and half, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until well combined. Pour the mixture over the PB&J chunks. Press down on the mixture to ensure that all pieces have been moistened. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, periodically pressing down on the mixture to soak all pieces.

Remove the baking dish from the fridge. Bake for 45 minutes. While still hot, drizzle the marshmallow topping over the bread pudding. Serve warm.

**A little trick for drizzling the marshmallow topping: Place some of the topping in a small baggie. Cut off a tiny bit of one corner and squeeze the topping over the bread pudding.

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