Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving is over once again. It's now December and as I sit and type this the snow is falling outside, beautiful yet I'm not ready. I don't want to have to think about scraping my ice off of my windshield in the early morning, or trudging through piles of snow. But today I'm going to look back, not ahead. Back to last week Thursday. Thanksgiving 2016. This year I was even more thankful to be able to celebrate the day with my family because of my crazy work schedule. I was in the middle of an (almost) 28 day stretch of work, so when I found out that I actually did get Thanksgiving day off I was incredibly excited! That one day was very much needed. 

It was a pretty quiet holiday this year; just my immediate family went over to my Grandparents place for the big meal, only 9 of us. Since I didn't know in advance exactly how many people would be there, I went big an ordered a large turkey just in case. Well, it was quite a bit bigger than we needed, but that was okay. Plenty of leftovers is not a bad problem. 

 
 
 

I brought a wine from my favorite wine shop to Thanksgiving this year. It was recommended by one of the store employees and I enjoyed it quite a bit! A Spanish wine, Bodegas Juan Gil 2013 100th anniversary bottle. A commemorative  bottle blended and bottled to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Juan Gil winery. A blend of 50% Mourvedre, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Syrah. Grandpa approved! 

 
 

The week following Thanksgiving brought my family and me something, or should I say someone, else to be thankful for. My sister-in-law gave birth to her and my brother's second child, a little girl they names Piper. She's beautiful and perfect. I'm already in love. I can't wait to get to know her in the months and years to come! 

 

Classic Pumpkin Scones

So, I know I posted a pumpkin scone recipe just a few weeks ago, but I couldn't resist posting another one. Since it's almost the end of November (which I consider the unofficial pumpkin-baked-good month) I had to share this recipe before the month is over. I've made quite a few different pumpkin scone recipes in the past which have all been good, but when I made this one last week I knew I had the winner! I think this is probably the best one of the bunch. It's a classic scone, buttery and tender, with the addition of a little pumpkin and scented with warming autumn spices. I was planning on adding some chocolate or nuts to the dough, but I realized when they were all cut and on the baking sheet that I had forgotten to add anything at all. But I needn't have feared, they turned out amazingly! Everything I wish for in a scone. Whether you keep theses scones plain, or add your favorite mix-ins, you won't be disappointed, I promise! 

Yum!! So tender and delicious! These scones did not turn out tough like some pumpkin scones do. I think it's key to work the butter evenly into the dough, not leaving the pieces too big so the butter just melts out. And also be very careful not to add too much liquid. I've made this mistake in the past and it leads to a tough finished product. You want just enough of the liquid to pull it all together, and not any more. I usually don't add all the liquid right away at the beginning, instead adding it a little bit at a time until all the dough is moistened and just sticks together. Stop at this point and start shaping. This will help that end product be a real winner! Some chocolate, walnuts, pecans, or cranberries would all be fabulous. Or just keep them plain and simple, and enjoy those warm and buttery spices.

 
 

Classic Pumpkin Scones
Adapted from Vanilla and Bean
Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 cup (120 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the cold butter into 1/4" cubes and place in the freezer while prepping the other ingredients.

Sift the flour, corn starch, brown sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl.

Add the cold butter to the sifted ingredients. Use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter into the pastry until evenly incorporated. The butter should be small, about pea sized, evenly coated, and distributed in the flour.

In a separate bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the half and half, pumpkin puree and vanilla and pour into the flour mixture. Gently stir the mixture until the flour is just moistened. The dough will be shaggy and seem dry. Add more half and half very slowly as needed for the dough to just hold together. Do not add too much liquid or the scones will turn out flat and tough, you want to add just enough so that the dough barely holds together. 

Dump the contents out of the bowl onto a flour dusted work surface and shape into a circle approximately 3/4-1 inch thick, depending on your preference. Cut the circle into 4-6 wedges. Place scones on the parchment lined sheet pan, cover and place in the fridge for 20 minutes. (At this point, the scones can be held in the fridge overnight for a quick bake in the morning. Just make sure they are wrapped tightly).

Preheat oven to 425F while the scones are resting in the fridge.

Before baking, sprinkle the coarse sugar evenly over the top of each scone if desired, using a little water to help it stick if needed. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. 

Cranberry Walnut Granola Bars

As I believe I've said before, I'm always on the lookout for healthy, easy and delicious snacks that I can carry with me on busy days. Something that can keep hunger at bay when I have to postpone lunch for a little bit, but still need something to fill my stomach in the mean time. I've found that oat bars are my favorite. I feel good about eating them, there are so many different options out there that you don't have to make the same thing twice if you don't want to. These oats bars are a mash up of a couple of different recipes that I adapted to fit my needs. They turned out wonderfully!

There oats bars hold together GREAT!! Sometimes I have a problem with getting bars to hold together. I think this is because I don't like to fill my bars with tons of sugar, but sugar is often what holds them together. I've found that while you do need some sugar, both for structure and for flavor, if you add a little bit of flour and an egg or two this can also help firm things up. These bars are not super sweet, you could always add a bit more sugar if you'd like, but they were perfect for me. They were easy to keep in a little baggie in my purse, ready for whenever I needed them!

These bars are just a little crisp with some chew as well. They aren't hard, but not super chewy either, they're just the right mix! I put cranberries and walnuts in this time, a classic combination that never disappoints. If I'd had an orange laying around I would have thrown in a bit of orange zest as well to really take things over the top. But as is, they are a great bar to have on hand for when those snack attackts sneak up on you, but you want to keep things a little more on the nutritious side! Enjoy!

 
 
 
 

Cranberry Walnut Granola Bars
Adapted from My Humble Kitchen and Delectably Mine
Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) almond butter
  • 1/3 cup (112 grams) honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups (160 grams) old fashion oats
  • 1/3 cup (38 grams) whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup cranberries
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 12x9 inch or 8x8 inch pan, or line with a parchment paper sling, and set aside. 

Place the butter, and almond butter in a large microwave safe bowl and microwave until the butter melts. Stir until the well combined. Mix in the honey, vanilla and salt and give a good stir. Add the egg and stir the whole mixture until smooth and combined. 

Add the oats, whole wheat flour, cranberries and walnuts and stir everything together until well combined and there are no more dry pockets of flour. 

Transfer the mixture into the prepared  pan and pat down firmly into an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Yields: approximately 14 granola bars
Approximately 130 calories each

Crunchy Olive Oil and Maple Granola

I have quite a few granola recipes on this site. This makes sense when I think about the fact that of everything I bake and cook I make granola the most frequently of all. I have been making some kind of granola every 2-3 weeks for probably at least 4-5 years now. I ALWYAS have granola in the pantry. To be honest, I can barely eat a meal without finished it with a bite (or two...or three...) of granola. It's my little sweet treat. Needless to say, I love granola!

I usually go in spurts; I'll find a good recipe and make it for months and months without trying something new. I get on a roll where I love what I'm eating and have no desire to stray from it. Well, this granola is my current favorite. Earlier this year, I can' even remember when, I was looking for a change. I found a recipe on Food52 for olive oil and maple granola. I took this recipe for inspiration and then completely changed it to suit me! It was a good base recipe to build off of to create my very own recipe, a recipe I've been absolutely loving! The finished product is super crunchy and deliciously sweet, but not so sweet as to make you feel like your eating dessert. It's just the right balance of sweet and savory, and an absolute joy to eat. Every. Single. Day. 

I cut back quite a bit on both the sugar and the fat from the original recipe because I like to keep things just a bit lighter. Not that the original recipe was super sugar-y or oily, but I just wanted to a bit less. I also cut back on the nuts (first, because they're expensive, second because they are super high in calories) and replaced them with more oats. I then added in some wheat bran (or you could use oat bran) for more nutrition, and coconut flakes instead of chips. The final product is my very own favorite, personalized granola. I highly recommend checking it out. And make some of your own adjustments. To fit your very own wants and and needs.

I recently took this recipe and made a few different variations of this recipe. One was mocha (with cocoa and espresso powder) and another was pumpkin spice (add in a bit of pumpkin and some of your favorite fall spices like nutmeg, ginger and allspice). I also sometimes switch things up and add a bit of melted butter or coconut oil in place of some of the olive oil. All of these spin-offs have turned out great as well. Granola is so forgiving that it's a blast to experiment with!

 
 


Crunchy Olive Oil and Maple Granola
Inspired by Food 52
Ingredients

  • 4 cups (320 grams) old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup (30grams) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1/4 cup (35 grams) raw almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (20 grams) raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (15 grams) wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup (75 grams) maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) olive oil

Directions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

In a large bowl place the oats, coconut, salt, almonds, walnuts, bran and brown sugar. Stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup and olive oil. Pour over the oat mixture, stirring well, until everything is evenly coated and no dry pockets remain. 

Pour the granola onto the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer. Bake the granola for 45-55 minutes, rotating halfway through, until golden brown and toasty. Towards the end of baking time check the granola more frequently to ensure that it is not over-browning. 

Remove from oven and let cool on the pan. When completely cool, transfer granola to an airtight container for storage. 

 

Autumn Rose Wedding Cake

I had a fabulous night last night celebrating the wedding of my friend Corrie and her now (new) husband Jon. I have known Corrie for my entire life and am so glad that I still count her as a good friend. Our families have so made so many memories together, camping at Lake Michigan, swimming in her family's pool on many hot summer days, family vacations to Iowa, Kentucky and Florida together, and so much more. I was so excited when she asked if I would be willing to make a small cake for her and Jon to cut at their wedding. This was the perfect way for me to be a part of her special day!

It was so much fun to put this delicious cake together. If you've been following my blog, you might notice that this cake looks similar to the cake I made for my birthday last month. That was by design! On my birthday I decided to do a little test run of the cake I was thinking of making for her wedding. Happily my birthday cake turned out so well that I wasn't too nervous about how the wedding cake would turn out. I made the exact same recipe for the cake and frosting this time, but multiplied them both by 1.5 because I wanted three layers instead of two. It worked great! A beautiful triple layer chocolate cake covered it stunning fresh flowers. A fabulous cake to celebrate a fabulous couple!

Find the recipe for the cake and frosting HERE. If you want a triple layer cake like you see here, multiply all the ingredients by 1.5, use 3 cake pans instead of two and you'll be good to go!

Cherry Walnut Pumpkin Scones

This past week I took my first vacation days of residency. It has been absolutely wonderful. 5 days off (plus both weekends - bonus!) to do absolutely nothing. I really had nothing planned (other than a dentist appointment, woohoo) which is really how I like my days off to be, relaxing and uneventful. It's been kind of a gloomy week. Rainy and cold for several days, not a lot of sun. Early in the week I decided that I needed to had something fun to enjoy for breakfast while on vacation. Since it's October I really didn't have any other choice than to make something pumpkin-y! Something seasonal to leisurely enjoy with my morning cup of coffee. After much deliberation I settle on scones. 

Scones are one of my favorites! I made some delicious pumpkin scone with cranberries and pecans last year, but I had a couple other recipes pinned so I figured I'd try a new one! This recipe is from Joy the Baker, one of my favorite bloggers, and probably the blog I've been following the longest of any food blog. I trust her recipes so I knew this would be a winning recipe. They were the perfect treat for my chilly fall morning breakfasts!

Scones are not difficult. These are pretty basic as scones go, similar to the ones I made last year. These did spread a little while baking, but not too much. They are moist and hearty. Pumpkin scones never have that crispy airiness that traditional scones have, but that's to be expected due to the moist and dense pumpkin. Add a little drizzle of glaze for looks and extra sweetness and then dig in. Don't forget the coffee! 

(Sorry about the dark, not so wonderful pictures of these scones. The batteries in my camera died and I haven't been able to go buy some new batteries yet!)

 
 

Cherry Walnut Pumpkin Scones
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons, 3 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup (110 grams) buttermilk, cold
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup a mix of coarsely chopped walnuts and dried cherries

Directions
Place rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and all of the spices.  Add the cold butter to the dry ingredients and toss to coat.  Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, break the butter down into the dry ingredients.  Work quickly so that the butter remains cold.  Some of the butter will be the size of oat flakes, others will be the size of small peas.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract.

Add the wet ingredients, all at once to the dry ingredients.  Stir together until almost thoroughly combined.  Add walnuts and cherries and stir until no dry flour bits remain.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Shape into a small circle, approximately 1 1/2 inches tall. Use a bench scraper or a sharp knife to cut the circle into 6 or 8 wedges. Transfer scones to prepared baking sheet.  Leave about 2-inches of space between each scone.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until browned slightly with dry tops.  You can insert a toothpick into the center of a scone to test for doneness.

Sun-dried Tomato and Kale Strata

There are times when my fridge and freezer are full of odds and ends, little bits of leftovers from various meals that have been hanging around a week or two. There are a couple ways to go at this point, pasta is always a good way to "clean the fridge," but recently I've been going another of my favorite routes, eggs! I've done frittatas, omelettes, and scrambles, but most recently I also needed to use up a couple of weeks worth of bread ends that have been floating around the freezer. Strata - here I come! 

Strata's are great; a full meal all in one pan. And you can basically put whatever ingredients you want in them. All you need are some bread cubes and eggs, then let your imagination go wild! I really enjoyed the sun-dried tomatoes and ricotta in this version. The creamy ricotta and the sweet tomatoes are a lovely combination, I added in some finely chopped leftover kale and called it good! This is a perfect lunch to make ahead and eat all week. Super easy to grab and go in the morning. You can eat it for breakfast or lunch, or even dinner. Super versatile, healthy and delicious! 

 
 

Sun-Dried Tomato and Kale Strata
Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 2-3 cups bread ends, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-2 cups kale, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta

Directions
Crack eggs into a large bowl. Add the milk, salt and pepper. Whisk until well combined.

Line a 9x9 inch baking dish with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Spread the bread, tomatoes, and kale evenly in the baking dish. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread cubes. Press the bread down into the eggs to ensure it is all moistened with the egg. Spoon dollops of the ricotta evenly over the whole dish. 

Place in preheated oven and bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes. Let set for 5-10 minutes before slicing to enjoy hot, or let the dish cool to warm or even room temperature before digging in. You can also let cool and place in the fridge. If you choose to refrigerate, let come back up to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before eating. 
 

Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars with Chocolate and Walnuts

We're halfway into October now, which means that for several weeks now, every food blog has been posting pumpkin recipes ad nauseam. Well, I don't want to miss out on all of the fun, so I thought I'd share these pumpkin oat breakfast bars today. I made this recipe twice in the couple of weeks and have been eating them for breakfast pretty much every day. I've been doing a pediatric rotation this month, and have to be at the hospital at 6:30 every day. I haven't been getting up early enough to eat breakfast at home before I head to work so these bars have been the perfect thing to throw into my lunch bag each morning. Then, whenever I get a few minutes (more like 30 seconds) to scarf something down, I can enjoy a little treat for a (very) quick breakfast. 

The recipe is simple, and not fancy at all. Oats, pumpkin, a little sweetener and some spices. That's the bulk of it. Plenty of room to switch things up as you see fit. Add more chocolate, add less; try some dried fruit and/or your favorite nut instead. Swap out the spices if you don't care for all those warm fall flavors. Whatever you decide, you should end up with a hearty breakfast bar, sturdy enough to carry in your purse and eat out of hand whenever you have a chance. If you have a few extra minutes, do what I've been doing, and top the bar with a little bit of almond or peanut butter for a little extra protein boost. This is my favorite way to enjoy these bars. I hope you enjoy them too!

 
 

Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars with Chocolate and Walnuts
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups (200 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (160 grams) canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons (40 grams) molasses
  • 2 tablespoons (40 grams) maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup (26 grams) chocolate chunks

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Lightly spray 8 x 8 square baking pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

Mix together oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. Add in the vanilla, pumpkin, milk, egg, molasses and maple syrup. Mix together until evenly combined. Stir in walnuts and chocolate.

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 20 minutes-30 minutes, or until baked through in the center. Allow to cool and cut into bars.