Thanksgiving Weekend: The Food

I spent the past five days soaking in quality time with family and friends. It was fabulous. We had the best Thanksgiving, with Greg and I hosting for the first time as a married couple in our new home. I didn’t take many photos at all, but here are a few that I have of the food. Since after all, besides family and friends, it is alllllll about the food.

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Turkey turkey!
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Homemade Cranberry Sauce
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Aged Cheddar Mac and Cheese from Crave
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Modified version of this Brussels Sprouts Saute from Bev Cooks
I am so blessed for the gifts God has given my family and me. Thankful doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling. Praise the Lord for times like these, food this delicious, and big wins by OSU and Auburn this weekend ūüėČ Go Bucks and War Eagle!!
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Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

Soooo. I know I just told you the other day how I’m over pumpkin, and it’s really not all that great to begin with, yady yady yada…

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1. I may not quite be over pumpkin if it’s in the form of these cupcakes. But they hardly count, because like I also mentioned the other day you can’t hardly taste it in the cake anyway. Chocolate is the dominant flavor here. The pumpkin does add an amazing element of moistness and warmth, but overall not a standout flavor.
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2. I also neglected to mention there is one more pumpkin item I’m not over yet. Pumpkin pie!! I can easily get caught up in allllllllll of the other choices on Thanksgiving, but when it comes down to it, old trusty pumpkin pie always satisfies. As long as it has a giant dollop of whipped cream on top. I CAN’T WAIT! Two days, two days, two days, two days, two days!
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Moral of the story, I have to retract my previous statements about pumpkin just a little bit. I do in fact still enjoy it. Sorry for the confusion. 
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Oh, and one other thing. Shortly after publishing the last post, I realized I already have a baked pumpkin donut recipe РBaked Pumpkin Spice Donuts made with pumpkin Greek yogurt. My latest version are much prettier. Either that or my photography is getting better (thank goodness), but probably a combination of both. 
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These cupcakes though! Have I mentioned yet that I baked them specifically for a bake-off at work last week? Out of the four voting categories, I won two of them – “Yummiest” and “Martha Stewart Would Be Proud.” I came in second place for “Best Looking.”
Not to brag, but…¬†
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Maybe you should make these. They are that good. Award winning! 
I can’t take credit though, because¬†Jenny¬†is the genius behind the rich, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth concoction.¬†
This is actually another second-timer recipe for me. The reason I made these cupcakes in the first place was because of the rave reviews my family gave it when I made it in a whole cake form two years ago for Thanksgiving. It was just as good as I remembered, if not better, because what’s not better in cupcake form? As with the pumpkin donuts, these pictures give the cake much more credibility than the original post. I am also sharing the recipe below exactly how I made them, since there are differences from Jenny’s version.¬†
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Go make ya some!
Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

(Adapted from the Picky Palate)

Makes about 28 cupcakes

Ingredients:
For the cake-
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup almond milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
15 ounce can pumpkin (save two tablespoons for the frosting)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the frosting-
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons of canned pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
5 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons almond milk

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with paper or silicone liners and set aside.
2. In a stand mixer, combine all cake ingredients except chocolate chips. Beat on medium speed until well blended, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Fold in chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed. Pour batter into pan by the 1/4 cup. Bake 18-20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely before frosting.
3. For the frosting, add butter, cream cheese, pumpkin and cinnamon in a stand mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Slowly add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time until you reach desired thickness. Add milk and mix until completely smooth. Frost and sprinkle as desired!

*Very important to wait until cupcakes are completely cooled to frost, otherwise the frosting will melt and slide right off.

Southern Living’s Utterly Deadly Pecan Pie

Hey y’all!¬†
That’s my Southern speak for ya. I wonder if there will come a day when I don’t think twice about saying “y’all” versus “you guys.” I grew up in Ohio addressing a group of people using, “you guys” but living in the South for more than five years now has changed things. It seems natural to say “y’all” when I’m down here in Charleston (which is obviously the majority of the time).¬†
Then I go back to my hometown. If “y’all” slips out of my mouth, I suddenly feel self conscious. I will even try to catch myself and say “you guys” instead if I can help it.¬†

Funny how that happens.¬†My siblings seem to think I’m just trying to be cute or something when I say “y’all.”¬†
What’s not funny is this pie. I followed a recipe in Southern Living and let me tell you, Southerners sure know how to make a pecan pie.¬†
As if I didn’t know this already

The name itself made it hard to resist. “Utterly Deadly Pecan Pie.” Um, yes. I think so. It really was almost the death of me on Thanksgiving. I think I ate half of it by myself throughout one single day.¬†

While I made this pie for Thanksgiving, I think it would be equally enjoyable at Christmas time. So, y’all go make this pie!! Bring it home for Christmas, your family will love you. Or just save it all for yourself. Either way, I won’t judge.

Utterly Deadly Pecan Pie
(Recipe from Southern Living)
Makes about 8 servings
Ingredients:
1/2 package refrigerated piecrusts
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons milk 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Fit piecrust into a 9-10 inch pie pan (Southern Living calls for a cast-iron skillet, which I don’t have.) Sprinkle piecrust with powdered sugar and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until foamy. Whisk in brown sugar and the next six ingredients. Pour mixture into piecrust and top with pecan halves. 
3. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Bake 30 more minutes. Turn oven off and let pie sit in oven for up to three hours. 
4. Remove from oven, slice and serve!

Weekend Eats – Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving this year was just about as good as it could have been. I have so much to be thankful for, most importantly my family. I spent this past holiday weekend in Florida and Ohio to be with both Greg’s family and my own family for a couple of days each. It was a lot of traveling, but worth every minute of the long car ride and super early flights.¬†
Thanksgiving Day was spent in Florida. I got an early run in to balance out the feast I was about to consume. I did surprisingly well with staying in control and not overdoing it at lunch, but that’s not to say I deprived myself in any way. This plate was full of delicious food including all of your Thanksgiving staples: turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, vegetable casserole, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, and more.¬†
Then I proceeded to eat about half of the pecan pie I made throughout the rest of the night. Whoops. 
Friday morning I flew to Columbus where my sister and cousin (Maid of Honor and bridesmaid!) picked me up from the airport. We headed straight to Easton, a big shopping center/mall in Columbus, for the afternoon. The first thing on the agenda was lunch at Northstar Cafe. I have been hearing about this place from family and friends at home for over a year now and it just hasn’t ever worked out for me to actually go when I’ve been home. Well, I am pleased to say I finally made it. ¬†
More on THAT another day. 
For dinner, almost everyone from my mom’s side of the family met up for a surprise birthday dinner for my grandma GG. A traditional Italian meal only made sense for our Italian roots.¬†
Saturday wasn’t just any other college football game day, it was Ohio State vs. Michigan. The entire city was dressed up in scarlet and gray, as expected. My siblings and I went to a local sports bar & grill to watch the first half. Us girls had mimosas! ¬†
Later that evening, we had Thanksgiving Part II. Although most of the foods were similar to what I had on Thanksgiving Day with Greg’s family, I was excited to have all of my mom and step-dad’s dishes like corn pudding and sausage stuffing.¬†
Brooke was my assistant in the kitchen that night as we prepared a fresh brussel sprout side dish to accompany everything else. More on that another day as well.
Everything was amazing. Dessert (unfortunately not pictured) included pumpkin pie with whipped cream (my favorite) and a cherry cobbler.
What was the tastiest part of your Thanksgiving?

Green Bean Casserole

Can you handle one more (belated) Thanksgiving recipe? Please just say yes. 
This recipe has somehow been sitting on the back burner (no pun intended) since I made it on Thanksgiving day, but that’s not to say it deserved to be put there.¬†
Flipping through Southern Living¬†searching for T-day recipes, this one immediately caught my eye. The heading read, “Irresistible Side.” Well, ok then. If you say so.
I was looking for something with a pop of color for the meal, since most everything else is brown or white: turkey, potatoes, corn pudding, etc. Although the toppings of french fried onions and bread crumbs don’t help my argument here, the fresh green beans and tomatoes brightened it up perfectly.¬†

I had never made a green bean casserole before, and to tell you the truth I don’t even remember if I have tried anyone else’s. At a meal like Thanksgiving, it can be easy to pass up the healthier veggies for all of the other dishes. But this year was different.¬†

This is one recipe that shouldn’t be saved just for the holidays.¬†
Home-style Green Bean Casserole
(Adapted from Southern Living, November 2011)
Makes about 8 servings
Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 cup french fried onions
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add beans and cook about 5-6 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. 
2. In a large, deep skillet, heat butter until melted. Whisk in flour and continue to mix for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook 3-4 more minutes. Remove skillet from heat and whisk in buttermilk and next 4 ingredients. 
3. In another skillet, saute mushrooms over medium-high heat until lightly browned. 
4. Add mushrooms and cooled green beans to sauce mixture in the deep skillet. Toss all ingredients, then pour into casserole dish. 
5. In a small bowl, combine french fried onions, breadcrumbs and tomato. Sprinkle over top of the green bean and mushroom mixture. 
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately. 

Repurposing Leftovers

What do you do after eating the same foods over, and over, and over and OVER again? You start feeling sick, that’s what you do. But with a fridge full of leftovers, I hate to waste any of it. Instead of throwing it away, I had to great creative.
I admit, we really didn’t end up with too many Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. Probably the least amount compared to any other Thanksgiving in my memory. I tried to plan it this way and not go overboard with the side dishes. After splitting the leftovers with my family who took some back home with them, we mostly had some turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing.¬†
I love lean protein like turkey, but it can definitely get old. So, for yet another lunch filled with leftovers, I put a spin on the dish that made it taste completely different. The tastes of Thanksgiving were nowhere to be found.

This BBQ pulled turkey slider saved me from the point of Thanksgiving leftover insanity. Just when I thought I couldn’t eat leftovers for another meal, the sandwich turned things around.¬†
Need a way to use up the mashed potatoes? Potato pancakes! I didn’t get a picture after making them for dinner last night, but just imagine thick, brown and crispy potato cakes topped with cheese. It really doesn’t get much simpler. I topped mine with ketchup too.¬†
One last thing before I go: Our Christmas tree!!! I cannot tell you how excited I am about my first ever REAL tree. I am so in love with it!
Have you started decorating for the holidays yet?

BBQ Pulled Turkey Sliders
Makes 1-2 servings
Ingredients:
4 small rolls
1 cup turkey, cooked and shredded
1/4-1/3 cup barbecue sauce
Directions:
1. If not already done, slice rolls in half. Quickly heat in microwave for about 5-10 seconds.
2. Heat turkey in a microwave-safe bowl for 20-30 seconds.
3. In a medium bowl, add shredded turkey and barbecue sauce. Mix with fork or spoon until well combined.
4. Place about 1/4 cup shredded turkey mixture on bottom half of each roll. Top with other half and lightly press down. 
5. Enjoy!

It Doesn’t Get Much Better

If you had half the Thanksgiving I did, then you had it pretty good. Because mine was awesome! From start to finish, the day really could not have been better.

I know I already talked about the Turkey Day Run on Thursday morning, but that was the perfect way to start a day full of consumption. After the race, we came home to shower and clean up then it was time to party!

GG, my grandma, showed me how to make a great bellini. Since I have recently retired my blender, we had to skip out on grinding up peach slices. Instead we used a peach-mango juice and champagne. It was delish. 

Meanwhile, Brooke and Paw Paw relaxed on the couch…and I snapped a few sneaky pics.¬†
The bellinis helped pass the time as the turkey cooked, which seemed like forever by the way! Slowly but surely the bird’s internal temperature rose. We were counting along as we watched the temp rise and I yelled when it finally hit the magic number…165! Time to eat!
Thom was in charge of the turkey. And we really couldn’t have had it any other way. That thing intimidates me and nobody else here was about to take that on. I did baste it a time or two. So I did contribute in some way.¬†
Besides the turkey, our fancy spread consisted of mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, green bean casserole, corn pudding, stuffing and rolls. 
Like I said: Fancy. Don’t you like our plastic cups and paper plates ūüėČ I do. And it was extra easy to clean up, especially with GG’s help. Thanks, G!
A quick look at my plate before digging in…..just about a little of everything. My favorite sides were definitely the stuffing and corn pudding.¬†
Dinner was all and good, but the star of the show was this:
I will share the recipe another day, but let me just tell you that will now be on my list of favorite desserts. And that’s saying a lot considering all of the competition out there for me. It wasn’t just me that loved this cake either. My entire family has been raving about it for the past two days. My mom even said, “Oh em gee! This is so good!” Ha ūüėČ
Those are just the highlights, but honestly this was one of the best Thanksgivings I can remember. Unfortunately my brothers and Greg couldn’t be here (AND I MISSED ALL MY BOYS SO MUCH!). The brothers were home in Columbus and Greg was in Atlanta with his family. Besides missing them, we had a great day. I can’t say enough how thankful I am for my family and their sacrifices to drive hours and hours to come visit me in my new home away from home.¬†
This morning Brooke and I are going for a walk then heading to the downtown farmers market. Greg will be home this afternoon and we have a day packed full of football and more leftovers! 
Have a great weekend!