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One Happy Mama: My experience with a chocolate chip pecan pie with a candied bacon graham cracker crust

I absolutely love bacon. I could subsist on it, seriously. I also love pecans. I think they’re awesomely yummy! These are two of my weaknesses, so you can imagine my reaction when my BFF casually mentioned this pie, that a friend of hers serves at a local restaurant. Get ready, it’s a chocolate pecan pie, with a candied bacon, graham cracker crust. My heart skipped a beat when I envisioned this awesomeness!

Unfortunately, I live in PA, while my very lucky friend, Steph, lives in Hilton Head, the home of this wonderful pie. I’ve been vowing a visit, to no avail, but luckily, Steph loves me so much that she shipped one to me as a Thanksgiving treat!!! She was my most favorite friend that day! And, it was awesome. This pie had a cool smokey flavor that blended so well with the nutty pecans. It was dreamy.

I felt so privileged, that I posted a picture on my Facebook page and bragged to all of my friends. I was the only girl in PA that had a pecan & bacon pie from One Hot Mama’s in Hilton Head. I’ll tell you what, I was ONE HAPPY MAMA that day!

Are you jealous? Well I’m going to feel a bit like OPRAH when I tell you that you can have one too! My handy dandy friend Steph just sent me a link to order these pies and have them shipped anywhere! (ok, maybe just the US) Don’t you want one? I know you do! So, here is the link. Click it & order one so that you can be the envy of your bacon & pecan loving friends too!

Click here to get your pie!

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie with a Candied Bacon Graham Cracker Crust Ordering Instructions

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What Leftovers? Mashed Potato & Cheddar Soup with Stuffing Croutons

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‘Tis the season for leftovers, because this mama is pretty cooked out. Really, I’ve spent weeks cooking, cleaning, shopping, serving, etc… I just want to plop on the couch and ignore the impending doom that is the end of my long weekend.

Usually, I don’t get into the leftover craze. I either try to plan my meals well enough to prevent a huge surplus of food, or I divvy them up among my guests so that everyone has a second taste of the meal, but this year, I have a lot of stuffing and mashed potatoes. I chose to freeze some, but I was also in the mood for some soup. Potato soup is the perfect dish to compliment a cold beer and a good football game! This soup is so creamy and full of flavor, you will find it hard to believe that it was simple mashed potatoes in a previous life.

Mashed Potato & Cheddar Soup with Stuffing Croutons

Ingredients:

2 cups of mashed potatoes (I used roasted garlic mashed potatoes)

1 1/2  cups of chicken broth

1/2 cup of light cream

4 oz. of extra sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup of leftover Simple Sausage Stuffing

2 scallions, sliced thin

Preparation:

The Croutons—Spread 1 cup of stuffing onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, until the bread is toasted and crispy on the outside.

The Soup—Meanwhile, on the stove top, pour cream and broth into a large stockpot and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add mashed potatoes, 1 cup at a time, whisking briskly. Once all of the mashed potatoes have been blended into the soup, simmer until it’s hot.  Chop cheese into small chunks, or shred it, then add to the soup and stir until it is melted and incorporated. Once the cheese is melted, and the soup is hot, it is ready to be served.

Presentation—Spoon the soup into individual bowls, then top with the toasted stuffing and scallions. Serve immediately. This soup pairs well with a fall beer.

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My Super Renegade, Rebellious Ciabatta Stuffing

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Look out people, I’m on a rant. Yup, it’s only been five minutes since my last post, but I’m on a roll. I have been nursing my wounds all week from the news that I was not allowed to “go all food fairy” with Thanksgiving this year. Apparently, change is not appreciated in my family with regards to the Thanksgiving meal, but I have other plans. On this, the most peaceful of holidays, I am waging war on tired recipes. Today, I am thankful for my creative mind, and my cooking skills. Today, I plan to go rogue, be the lone wolf, and make a maverick stuffing! (Ok, I still plan to also serve the preferred Simple Sausage Stuffing, but whatever!)

My rebellion was a departure from all of the traditional ingredients. I swapped dried bread cubes for a loaf of fresh ciabatta bread. I’ve ditched the onions for shallots & garlic, and I tossed the celery in favor of fennel! The sausage stayed, because it’s tasty. I pureed, sauteed, tossed, and baked. Then we tasted, smiled, and let the satisfaction seep in. I have done it. I have created a stuffing that my kids adore! In fact, they cried when I swatted their hands away and stashed the new deliciousness for its formal unveiling tomorrow. Mission complete, rebellion successful, personal satisfaction.

I am now one happy lady that did “go all food fairy” this year, and I’m pretty damn proud of myself!

HA!

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Ciabatta Stuffing with Fennel & Sage Pesto

Ingredients:

3 loaves of fresh ciabatta bread

4 cups of chicken stock

1 roll of sage sausage

1 bulb of Fennel

4 shallots

4-5 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup of fresh parsley

10-15 fresh sage leaves

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 Tbsp. of olive oil

Preparation:

Cut the bread into large cubes and place them in a large roasting pan.

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Next, brown the sausage in a large skillet, until fully cooked. Drain and set aside, but do not wash the pan.

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Now, combine the parsley, sage, thyme, garlic, shallots, and olive oil in a food processor and chop until fine.

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Dump the pesto into the same pan that you used to cook the sausage.

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Coarsely chop the white bulb of the fennel into pieces (save the pretty tops), and add to the pan.

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Sautee for 5-7 minutes over a medium heat until the fennel starts to soften and the garlic and shallots have also browned a bit. Next, add the stock and stir, de-glazing the pan and scraping up all of the yummy leftover sausage bits.

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Toss the drained sausage with the bread cubes, then add the liquid mixture, pouring it evenly over the bread and sausage.Use a large spoon to toss the stuffing, ensuring that everything is well mixed, but being careful not to smoosh the bread into a paste.

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Once it is well mixed, chop the feather fronds of fennel and sprinkle them evenly over the top of the stuffing to make it look really pretty. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until it is hot and the cubes on top are brown and crispy.

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Crazy Good Cranberry Sauce

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IT IS NOT TOO LATE!! I promise you, there is enough time to make homemade cranberry sauce, and you really need to do it this year!

The other day, I was curled up on the couch with my cup of coffee watching Good Morning America, and I saw a segment about nutritional traps at the holidays. They showed a plate of jellied cranberry sauce, you know, the kind from the can with the ridges on it. I have to admit that I love this stuff. Not only do I eat it plain, but also in a warm dish mixed with baked apples…mmmm.

Well, to my horror, the expert then whipped out a tray of chocolate eclairs and proclaimed that my beloved canned cranberry sauce had as much sugar as the WHOLE TRAY OF ECLAIRS! Holy cow!! It was then and there that I decided I would make my own.

Once I finished my coffee, I headed right to the store to get some ingredients. This was my next mission, to make the best damn cranberry sauce, ever.

Well, the trip to the store was successful. In fact, my creative juices were so abundant, that I made three different varieties to ensure that I could make a sauce that was a worthy replacement of the traditional can. (In case you did not read my last post, my family is a bit possessive of their “traditions”, even if they come in the form of a gelatinous cylinder with decorative ridges in the center.)

Luckily, my efforts were not in vain. I had two good recipes and a third that was a bit of a puzzle. So, I did what any sane human being would do, I took all three varieties to work and made my colleagues taste test them in between parent teacher conferences. One was immediately ruled out for being just plain gross. This was actually a Pinterest find, not a creation of my own. The pictures were so pretty; I was sure the recipe would be just as great. No such luck. It could only be described as “earthy”. UCK! It tasted like I mixed it in a tree stump out back. Not a winner. But the other two were so AWESOME, I am including them below.

Now that the truth is out, and you know what I know about canned cranberry sauce, I am empowering you with the necessary plan to make your own, please. It is so freakin’ easy. If you can boil water, you can make this recipe. I promise!

You are welcome, happy Thanksgiving, eat well, & enjoy your family 🙂

Grand Orange Cherry Cranberry Sauce

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Ingredients:

1 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries

3/4 cup of dried cherries

1/4 cup of water

1 cup of orange juice

2 Tbsp. of light brown sugar (you can add a little more if you like your sauce sweet)

2 Tbsp. of orange zest (1 orange worth)

1 Tbsp. of Grand Marnier Liqueur

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Preparation:

Mix all ingredients except for the Grand Marnier in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the cranberries split open and the liquid starts to thicken (about 10-15 minutes) Stir it often. Remove from the heat, and mix in the Grand Marnier, stirring well and smashing any whole cranberries with the back of your spoon. Transfer to a dish and cool before serving.

Simply Scrumptious Cranberry Sauce

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Ingredients:

1 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries

1 cup of cranberry juice

1/2 cup of palm sugar (use a little less if you prefer it to be more tart)

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Preparation:

Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the cranberries split open and the liquid starts to thicken (about 10-15 minutes) Stir it often. Remove from the heat, stir it well, smashing any whole cranberries with the back of your spoon. Transfer to a dish and cool before serving.

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Extra Creamy Pumpkin Dip with Chai Whipped Cream

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This recipe is an old favorite with a new twist. I have made this simple pumpkin dip for many fall occasions, but this is the first year I have topped it with the chai whipped cream. This marriage of flavors makes a simple recipe into something sophisticated that is sure to catch the attention of your fellow party goers.

Extra Creamy Pumpkin Dip with Chai Whipped Cream

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Preparation:
I recommend making the whipped cream first. While you can used a pre-made whipped topping, it’s really not the same as homemade.

Chai Whipped Cream

1 pint of heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup of confectioner’s sugar
3 tbsp. of powdered chai drink mix ( I prefer Tastefully Simple)

1. Place an empty metal mixing bowl in the freezer for about 5 minutes.
2. Remove the chilled bowl and add the cream.
3. Using an electric mixer, whisk on high-speed until it starts to stiffen.
4. Add sugar & chai slowly until fully blended.
5. Set aside in a clean bowl.
6. ** Be sure not to over-whip it so that it is stiff and firm. It should be soft & fluffy.

Extra Creamy Pumpkin Dip

2 blocks of cream cheese, softened
1 can (14.5 oz) of pumpkin puree
2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of ground ginger

1. Place the softened cream cheese into the same bowl that you just used to make the whipped cream. (I don’t even wash it.)
2. Using the whisk, whip the cream cheese on medium until it is fluffy and free from any lumps.
3. Spoon in the pumpkin puree, 1 dollop at a time, until it is completely incorporated.
4. Add the sugar and spices until creamy & smooth. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl!

The Final Presentation

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Pour the pumpkin dip into a shallow dish. Then gently spread the whipped cream on top. Garnish with a few sprinkles of cinnamon. Keep refrigerated until you are ready to serve it.
I have served this dip with apple or pear slices, ginger snaps, Nilla Wafers, or graham crackers, but be creative and see what else you can pair with this simple favorite.

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Note: The chai whipped cream is great on pumpkin bread or gingerbread. It is also heavenly on top of pecan pie 🙂

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Fall Apple and Pear Sangria

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Just because its fall does not mean that you have to abandon fruity cocktails. This recipe allows you to hang on to a fabulous fancy drink, while embracing the flavors of fall. I made this for a harvest girls’ night out, but it would also work well for a Sunday Funday football gathering. I also plan to add it to my Thanksgiving menu this year. The added bonus is that the potency of the wine is cut by the fruit, soda, juice, so it is a nice cocktail to sip on throughout a party. So sit back, sip away, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

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Fall Apple & Pear Sangria

Ingredients:
1 bottle of white wine (I used a sweet white blend)
3 cups of apple cider
1 cup of club soda
1/2 cup of brandy
2 chunks of fresh ginger cut into 1 inch pieces
2 apples (I used Pink Lady)
2 pears (I used Bosh & Anjou)

Preparation:
1. In a saucepan, simmer the apple cider and ginger for about 5-7 minutes. Remove the ginger and set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, mix the wine, club soda, & brandy in a large pitcher.
3. Wash the apples and pears, and then slice horizontally through the core, creating thin large circles. Remove any
seeds. Set aside.
4. Add the cooled cider to the pitcher and mix well.
5. Add the sliced fruit and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can make it up to several hours ahead.

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The Turkey is Done!

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How to Brine a Turkey

 

 

Brining a turkey seem like a daunting, messy process, but trust me; It is so worth every ounce of the effort. I use a brine recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse (recipe)

BRINE:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 oranges, quartered
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sprigs rosemary

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1. Measure the ingredients.

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2. Add water and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve.

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3. Prepare your cooler with 2 strong kitchen trash bags. You can purchase bags specifically for brining, but if you make a large turkey, it is easier to use my method.

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4. Place one bag inside of the other so that you have a double wall of support and leak protection.

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5. Rinse the turkey and remove any “parts” from the cavity. Check both ends…

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6. Place the turkey in the bag, inside the cooler.

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7. Pour brine into the bag with the turkey.

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8. Squeeze out the air, and ensure that the turkey is completely immersed in the brine. Knot each bag tightly.

9. Pack the cooler with ice and store it in the garage or on your deck or patio, out of the sun, for 4-24 hours.

10. After the appropriate amount of time has passed, remove the turkey from the cooler, discard the brine, and rinse the turkey under cool running water.

11. You are now ready to roast the best turkey ever.

For the complete recipe, click here: The Best Freakin’ Turkey, EVER!

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ThanksgivingTimeline

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, and the preparation in full effect, I get loads of questions about what can be made ahead of time, and what must wait until the day of. Here is the timeline that will help you to spread out the workload and manage your stress.

1-3 weeks ahead

  • Send out an invitation and confirm guests.
  • If your guests are contributing to the meal, send out a list of specifics that you need. I used Sign Up Genius this year and it was wonderful and very easy!

3-5 days ahead

  • Go grocery shopping for all of the items on your list.
  • Wash and iron table cloths and napkins
  • Clean the house.
  • Get wine
  • Defrost the turkey (depending on weight, some can take 3-5 days to thaw)

1 day ahead

  • Brine the turkey
  • Boil the giblets with any extra veggies you may have floating around in the fridge. Strain and reserve the broth for roasting the turkey.
  • Purchase and assemble any flowers for centerpieces.
  • Set the table
  • Make the stuffing, but do not bake it until tomorrow.
  • Chill white wine

Thanksgiving Day

  • Put the turkey in the oven.
  • Make mashed potatoes in the morning and then keep them in your crockpot on “warm” until you are ready to serve.
  • When the turkey is done and resting, make gravy
  • Cook any side dishes, including the stuffing.
  • Try to do as much of your prep-work early in the morning so that you can wash those pans and dishes before anyone arrives.
  • Run the dishwasher and empty it  and the sink prior to the meal so that when you start clearing the dinner dishes, you have somewhere to put them all.
  • Hint– ask guests to bring their own storage containers, or purchase some extra at the dollar store, and share the leftovers with all of your guests. This prevents food waste and helps to keep your own calorie indulgence to a minimum! No one needs to eat pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes for 4 days straight!
  • Take a moment and enjoy the meal! You worked hard to make it, so be sure to savor it!
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My Mother-In-Law’s Stuffing

I recently had the opportunity to write a guest post for the website http://www.justshortofcrazy.com be sure to check out my post here My Mother-in-law’s Stuffing and check out her other very helpful posts!