Holiday Gifts Roundup

Here are my favorite gift ideas for the season.  The chewy chocolate ginger cookies I make every year without fail, and they freeze beautifully, so you could make them today. Just click on the links below the pictures for the recipes.  Merry Christmas!


Sea Salt Caramels


English Toffee


Ginger Molasses Cookies


Chocolate Sables


Rose Water Marshmallows


Gnome Terrariums


Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies

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Holiday Leftover Recipe Roundup


Potato Chive Fritters

You have a fridge full of leftovers.  If you are like me, you made extra food on purpose so there would be a fridge full of leftovers.  Don’t pass up the opportunity to make a batch of stock with your turkey bones, ham bones, or beef bones.  Throw it all in a big pot with a few veggies and water and you’ll have stock in your freezer for months. Click on the chicken stock recipe link below for more details.  Here are some ideas for your leftovers!

Turkey Macaroni Bake

Ham and White Bean Soup

Ham and Egg Pies

Turkey Croquettes

Potato Chive Fritters

Savory Meatloaf with Leftover Stuffing

Creamy Cauliflower Bake

Making Chicken (or Turkey) Stock

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Holiday Turkey Roulade


A roulade is a French method of cooking meat that is spread with a filling, rolled and tied.  When you slice into a roulade you get a lovely spiral pattern that is as festive as it is delicious. Roulades are surprisingly easy to make and can be filled with an infinite combination of ingredients.

Huge family gatherings seem to be fewer and farther between these days. Maybe you’ve moved away from home and your “family” is composed of close friends.  Or maybe you just can’t stand being around your family.  In either case, you need not roast a huge turkey for a party of 4 or 6.  A boneless, skin-on turkey breast is a terrific alternative. You can purchase them fresh from any good meat counter or butcher. New Seasons has them in the meat case now and they are beautiful.  You need about 3 lbs. to serve 4-6 people.  This needs about two hours in the fridge before cooking, so plan accordingly.

  • 1 3 lb. boneless, skin-on turkey breast
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 C. dried cranberries
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C. fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2-1 C. fresh Italian parley, chopped
  • 2 T. plus 1 t. olive oil

If you need to, butterfly the turkey breast so that is lays flat in one piece. Pound the turkey breast into a flat rectangle about 1 inch thick. Generously season both sides with salt and pepper.


Combine the cranberries, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, egg, and parsley, and 1 T. of the olive oil in a bowl.  Add a bit more olive oil if the mixture seems too dry. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and pat it into a single layer on the turkey with the skin side down. Get your kitchen twine and scissors ready.  Begin carefully rolling the turkey into a log, tucking the filling mixture into the roll. Secure with twine.  Here is a great video on how to tie any roast or roulade. 

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Wrap the roulade tightly in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for a couple of hours.  You can prepare your roulade the day before up until this point if you wish.  When you are ready to cook the roulade, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add a teaspoon of olive oil.  Brown the roulade in the hot pan on all sides, about three minutes per side.


Put the whole thing  into the oven to roast for an additional 20-30 minutes.  Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer and remove the roulade from the oven when it reads about 160 degrees. Tent with foil and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.  When you’re ready to carve it, have a heated serving platter ready to go.  Remove the twine with scissors, and slice the roulade into 1 inch thick slices. Use a serrated knife in a sawing motion to get nice clean cuts. Serve with all of your holiday  trimmings!

Here is a link to another turkey roulade filled with prunes and pine nuts!



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10 Things You Can Do Today To Get Ready For Thanksgiving



I posted this last year and I stand behind every word.

The key to a low stress holiday is to plan ahead and do as much as you possibly can BEFORE the big day.   It’s pretty much humanly impossible to do the entire Thanksgiving dinner in one day.  Here is a handy list of things you could do NOW to reduce your work load later.

10.  Order your turkey.  Call your local natural food store, or meat market and order your fresh, free-range turkey.  You don’t want to be stuck with a frozen-solid factory bird! Here is my recipe for classic roasted turkey. 


9.  Print or clip all the recipes you will need for the meal.  Organize them into a folder or plastic sleeve.  Highlight all the non-perishable items that could be bought ahead.

8.  Shop for all the non-perishables.  Today is a great day to go out and pick up all things that can be bought ahead like dry herbs and spices, canned items, and dry mixes, beverages, or even long-lasting produce like squash and potatoes.   Crossing as much off your list as you can now will save time later.  When you get home, don’t put it all away in your cupboards.  Keep the items in a box in a closet or garage so that you don’t have to search for them among the Lucky Charms later.

7.  Make your pie crust, roll it out into circles, and layer between sheets of parchment paper.  Roll it up just like a store-bought crust, wrap in plastic and freeze.  When you’re ready to make your pies, just thaw and unroll!   If you have time, you can make whole pies, wrap them and freeze them.  Instead of thawing and baking, bake them from frozen, just add extra baking time. Here is my pastry crust recipe.  Here is my pumpkin pie recipe.

6. Make turkey stock with purchased turkey legs or wings.  Freeze for use in gravy and stuffing. Here are my tips for making stock.

5.  Make your cranberry sauce and store it in jars in the fridge.  Here is my recipe for Simple Cranberry Orange Sauce.

4.  Make your homemade rolls, wrap and freeze them unbaked.  Here is a link to a great recipe for Parker House Rolls from Food Network 

3.  Wash and iron your good napkins and table cloth.  To store your tablecloth without creases, lay it on top of a towel and roll it up.  Keeping it in a roll will help keep the creases at bay.

2.  Polish silverware (if you’re lucky enough to have silver or silverplate flatware), inspect your china and glassware for chips and cracks.  Decide what serving pieces you will use and determine whether you might need to purchase any bowls, platters, or serving spoons.  Do you have a gravy boat?  If you’re hosting Thanksgiving you need one!

1.  Call your family and guests to confirm that they will be joining you for dinner.  Ask them to bring things like wine, beer, and pre-dinner snacks.


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Vegan Mushroom Sage Stuffing

Ready to pop in the oven!

This stuffing is deeply flavorful and satisfying enough for any group, vegan or otherwise!  Serves 4-6

  • 1 t. olive oil
  • 1 T. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
  • 2 leeks, washed and sliced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, pulled off the stems
  • 5-6 leaves of fresh sage, minced
  • 1 C. sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1/2 C. white wine, champagne, or rose
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 1/2 C. pureed pumpkin (this takes the place of the egg)
  • 1 C. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 5-6 C. french bread cubes, dried
  • 2-3 C. vegetable stock
  • 1 T. Earth Balance, cubed

Heat a skillet to medium and add the oil and Earth Balance.  Sautee the celery, leek, shallot, and onion until translucent, about five minutes.  Add the thyme, sage, and mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms are browned.  Add the wine and let it simmer until the wine has evaporated, about four minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and take it off the heat.  In a large bowl, add the bread cubes and parsley.  Stir the pumpkin puree into the mushroom mixture until just combined.  Toss the bread together with the mushroom mixture using your hands.  Add half of the vegetable stock and continue to toss until the mixture is completely moistened.  You want the mixture to be wetter when it goes into the oven since it will come out a bit drier.  Add more stock until you get the right level of moisture.  It should feel pretty gloppy, but not dripping wet.  Be careful not to toss too much or the bread will begin to fall apart.  Taste again for salt and pepper.  This is critical since all stocks are different and have different amounts of seasoning.  Many store-bought vegetable stocks taste like crap- so I suggest going with a base that you can mix with water like Better than Bullion.  Pour the mixture into an oiled casserole dish and dot the top with Earth Balance.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until heated through and golden browned on the top.  This can be made a day ahead up to the point of baking.  Just cover it and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it.


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Oven Charred Vegetables

Just in case you are still trying to use up your garden tomatoes and zucchini…

This is an adaptation from Lucinda Scala Quinn’s terrific book Mad Hungry.  Her recipes are perfect for feeding hungry families.  In fact, many of the favorite dishes that my family requests came from her book (go buy it, it’s awesome – and I am not being paid to say that!).  The charred edges of the onions and eggplant are so tasty.  The cooking time on this dish is long- save it for a weekend.  The good news is that the hands-on time is minimal.  Just let your oven do all the work!

  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced horizontally
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into rounds
  • 1 large purple eggplant, sliced into rounds
  • 1 large white onion, sliced into rings
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t. dried thyme or 1 T. fresh
  • 1/3 C. olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Oil the bottom of a large heavy casserole dish.  Begin with one layer of tomatoes, then onions.  Drizzle some olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add a layer of eggplant.  Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the garlic and thyme over the eggplant.  Now add a layer of zucchini.  Keep repeating the layering until you have used up all your veggies.


Finish with a layer of tomatoes and a final drizzle of oil, salt, and pepper.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 1 and a half hours.  Half way through baking, use a spatula to press down on the veggies and flatten them.  The juices will rise to the top.  Return to the oven for the rest of the baking time.  Most of the juices will be evaporated by the end of 1 and a half hours.  Let the dish cool for ten to twenty minutes before cutting and serving.


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A Kidcentric Halloween Party

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Last year this party was a highlight of our fall season.  I’d love to repeat it, but until then I will make do with reposting it.

One of the best things for me about having kids is being able to make my own childhood fantasies come true.  As a child, it was always very important to me that things in my life were the “way they were supposed to be”.  For example, if you are having a party, there MUST be two colors of crepe paper twisted together to make streamers and taped across the room.  I had seen this in books and movies, and so decided that this is was you need for a party.  Pumpkin-shaped cookies MUST be decorated with candy corn.  There MUST be a cake that has layers with icing in the middle, just like the pictures in all the books!  In my childhood-mind this is what a party looks like.  So as an adult with access to the craft store and funds, I get to throw the parties for my kids that I wanted to have.  Not to say that I didn’t have some wonderful parties- When I turned 16 my parents dressed up like waiters and served me and my friends a fancy dinner party.  Here are some ideas for a fun and easy party, that your kids will love.  I may or may not have time to put up streamers.

Kids Halloween Party Menu

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

  • 1 box Krusteaz Sugar Cookie mix
  • 1/2 C.  canned pumpkin
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1/2 C. flour
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • Icing: 1 C. powdered sugar, water, 1 t. vanilla, food coloring

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined.  Wrap and chill for an hour or overnight. Roll out and cut into desired shapes.  Bake at 350 on a parchment lined baking sheet for 10 minutes, or until set.  Cool before decorating.

Combine 1 C. powdered sugar with vanilla, and water a few drops at a time, until smooth. You want it spreadable and not too drippy.  If it gets too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar. Pour a little of the icing into a small bowl and color it with green food coloring.  Color the rest of the icing with orange food coloring.  Decorate the cookies with icing, then add sprinkles, candy corn, licorice, etc.

Tip: if you are having the kids decorate, give them each a cookie sheet or tray to work on, that way your sprinkles don’t end up all over the floor.

Mummies in a Blanket

This is one of those supermarket check-out women’s magazine kind of ideas that I hate, but kids love.  No matter how “foodie” we are, we all know that Little Smokies taste flipping awesome, so stop scoffing.  You know you love them.

  • 1 package of Little Smokies cocktail sausages
  • 1 roll of prepared crescent roll dough
  • Yellow mustard

Unwrap the crescent roll dough and use a pizza cutter to cut it into little strips about three inches long and 1/3 inch wide.  Wrap the smokies with the dough like a mummy, leaving a little space for a “face”.  Bake on a rimmed baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, or until the dough is golden.  Let them cool for a minute, then use a toothpick to dot mustard on to make the little eyes.

Pumpkin Soup – click for recipe

I know, kids might not care for this one, but the moms and dads need something to snack on too! This is butternut squash soup, but you are going to tell everyone it’s pumpkin soup because it is Halloween and everything MUST be pumpkin related!  I love serving soup at a party in these little glass cups. They are just the right size for sipping, and you don’t need a spoon.  Garnish with a slice of crispy bacon or a lemon wedge!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Finger Sandwiches (makes 12-16)

Make Four PB and J’s on white bread as you usually would.  I like to use a really red jelly for the gross out factor.  Cut the crusts off all sides with a serrated knife.  Cut each sandwich into four or five rectangles- the long way, depending on the size of your bread, and how big you want the fingers to be.  Use a butter knife to press knuckle marks into the bread at the halfway point.  Use a dab of peanut butter to stick on the peanut “fingernail” at one end.  Make these a few hours ahead and cover loosely if you want to, or they can be made right before the party.

The day before the party, make the candied apples, the pumpkin cookies, and the soup.  A great party activity is to decorate the cookies, so I leave that part to the kids and just roll, cut and bake the cookies ahead of time.

Brownie Bite Backs

My 7 year old came up with the cute name for these little iced brownies with eyes.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 1/2 C. canola oil
  • 1/2 C. cocoa powder
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 C. flour
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Beat the eggs and sugar with a whisk until well combined.  Stir in all other ingredients.  Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners and spray with cooking spray.  Drop a teaspoon of batter into each one.  Bake for about 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.  Allow to cool.

Mix 1 C. of powdered sugar with 2 T. cocoa powder.  Add milk or almond milk a few drops at a time until smooth.  Spread icing on top of cooled brownie bites and top with an edible eye.

Here are some links to craft ideas for your party:

Pumpkin pom poms

Pumpkin Paper collage



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