Pumpkin Swirl Bread

Here we go! The start of holiday season and as I said last time, I can’t wait to start cooking our favorites. Thanksgiving brings pumpkin swirl bread, which is a perfect add to your Thanksgiving breakfast or dinner. It’s that savory. This year, I decided to bake it in mini-loaves to share the love where ever we go this weekend (as long as we don’t devour it first)

Cream Cheese Layer

1 8oz package of cream cheese (softened)
1/4 c sugar
1 egg


1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin spice (or nutmeg)
1 c pumpkin puree
1/2 c unsalted butter (melted)
1 egg
1/3 c water

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Blend cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and egg with a mixer. Set aside

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside

Combine pumpkin puree, butter, egg and water. Fold into dry ingredients. Reserve 2 cups of the batter. Pour remaining batter into greased and floured loaf pan. Carefully spread cream cheese mixture over batter. Top with reserved batter.

Bake about 70 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (if you’re using mini loaf pans, reduce baking time to about 45 minutes)

Store in fridge when not enjoying!

Peach Upside-Down Cake

Is there something you make for your spouse/significant other/dear friend that is such a part of their memories, you are terrified to screw up their expectations of making it yourself? For me, it was peach upside-down cake from the recipe my mother-in-law shared with me at my bridal shower a few years ago. She lovingly explained how it was my soon-to-be husband’s favorite and she made it each year for his birthday. When she passed away, I got the recipe out and decided to tackle it myself. No pressure.

3 eggs (separate whites from yolks)
1 cup sugar
5 tbsp juice from peaches*
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 can sliced peaches
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat the yolks of the eggs with the sugar and fruit juice. In a separate bowl, sift the flour. Mix in the baking powder to incorporate well. Add to the egg yolk mixture and stir well. In another bowl (this is the last one – it does generate a lot of cleanup), whip the egg whites until stiffly beaten. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the rest of the ingredients. In a 9 inch cake pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Remove from oven, give it a quick stir, and place the peach slices into the butter and brown sugar mixture. Pour the batter over the fruit/butter/brown sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. Here’s the terrifying part (at least in my mind). After removing cake from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes. Then invert on a cake plate and leave undisturbed upside-down for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the cake should have come out of the pan. (She must watch over me for this step because I haven’t screwed it up yet). It’s wonderful as-is, but a dollop of whipped cream doesn’t hurt!

The best thing about enjoying the cake is that when I make it now each year, we spend time re-living all the memories of what an amazing person she was. In my mind, there’s nothing better than that!

*Don’t be put off, it seems like a lot, but it’s perfect

Happy Fourth of July

It’s a bit challenging celebrating our independence this year but as I watched Hamilton this weekend, I was struck by these lyrics: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…we fought for these ideals, we shouldn’t settle for less.” Personally, that gave me a bit of a reset.

So hopefully you all had a happy and safe weekend. And on the blog posts coming up, I’ll be sharing a few of my holiday favorites. Like the best baked beans, appetizers, and desserts. And they all work no matter the reason you’re celebrating!

Easy Easter Treats

I was chatting with a friend the other day and I shared that I think of all the holidays, Easter is my favorite holiday to plan food for because it can be done pretty easily and relatively stress-free. Much as cherish them both, Christmas has so many moving parts and extra things going on and Thanksgiving just lends itself to an amazing feast of many dishes. I’ll share my Easter dinner menu, but let’s start with the important stuff: the sweet treats!

These mini-cini rolls are the perfect Easter morning bite (sorry, it’s a terrible name I came up with for them but what they lack in a proper title, they make up for in taste)

Roll Base
1 loaf Rhodes Bake-N-Serve Bread Dough (thawed)
1/2 butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
ground cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 oz softened cream cheese
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tbsp milk (see note below)

Roll the thawed dough out into a 24″ x 8″ rectangle, spread melted butter over the top (reserve a bit to drizzle on the top before rolling). Sprinkle enough cinnamon to generously cover the whole dough. Add the sugar over the butter & cinnamon. Sprinkle the remaining butter on top (I always add a touch more sugar and cinnamon too, since it’s a holiday after all). Starting with the long side, roll the dough tightly, pinching the seam together when all rolled up. Slice the dough into 1″ pieces and lay into a greased springform pan. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown. While the rolls are baking, make the icing by beating the butter, sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add the maple syrup and mix well. Cool the rolls slightly and top with the icing.*

Next up, I made Snickers brownie bites (better name I know). I am always so conflicted when it comes to holiday desserts. I want to serve something, but don’t want to something super rich or filling after a full meal. These fill the bill perfectly (especially with a bit of ice cream on the side)

One package of brownie mix (my go-to is Ghirardelli chocolate supreme**
1 bag of Snickers mini candy bars
1/4 cup M&M’s mini baking bits

Using the mix is a super-quick hack to speed things up. Mix according to directions, then line a mini muffin pan with 24 liners. Fill the cups with 1-2 tablespoons of the brownie base, press a Snickers bar into the cup, then top with a couple of the M&M’s (mine sunk in as the brownies baked, but it made for a fun surprise).

Bake at 350 for about 18 minutes.

*OK, this can be a debate. As you see, I like the frosting on the thicker side. Some people prefer a glaze. If that’s your jam, just add a bit of milk to the frosting to thin it out.

**If you want to make the brownies yourself, melt 1 stick of butter and 4 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate in a saucepan. Beat 1 1/3 cups of sugar, 3 large eggs, and 1 1/2 vanilla extract together with a hand mixer. Stir in 3/4 cup of flour, then add the chocolate & butter mixture

Almond Raspberry Streusel Bars

Digging out from yesterday’s snowstorm, Valentines Day approaching… today I decided it was time for a treat for us! And these are super easy and made with ingredients you probably have in your pantry!

  • 1 pouch Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
  • 1/3 c butter (softened)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c raspberry jam (seedless)
  • 1/4 c crushed almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 inch square pan (I used a metal pan).

Mix cookie mix, flour, butter, almond extract and egg. It’s going to end up being a little course.

Press two thirds of the batter into the bottom of the pan (reserve the last third of the batter). Bake for 15 minutes. While the bottom layer is baking, add the crushed almonds to the reserved batter and mix to combine.

Remove bottom layer from oven and carefully spread jam over the base. Crumble batter/almond mix over the raspberry layer. Return to oven and back 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Let pan cool completely, then cut into squares (I cut mine into 5×5 bars)

A Very COVID Christmas

When last minute changes to holiday plans threaten your dinner, help is found in your pantry (with some emergency supplies in your freezer) See how a Christmas dinner postponement didn’t stand in the way of our holiday feast.

I’ll confess, I was worried about our Christmas dinner plans falling through, so I did pick up a frozen turkey breast to have on hand just in case. My son was home from college and if you are a parent, you know that you want everything to be perfect. Anyway, back to the turkey. It’s one staple that’s always in my freezer, whether for a quick dinner or a supply of sandwiches for the week. But the rest of the menu came together with staples I had on hand (and was much more festive than being stuck rummaging the fridge for leftovers). As the turkey was in the oven, I got the rest of the sides ready to go.

  1. Stuffing
    You can’t have a turkey dinner without stuffing (well at least in my house). Since I didn’t have stuffing cubes on hand, all I needed to do was toast some bread in a 200 degree oven for about 20 minutes to make cubes. While the bread was toasting, I melted a stick of butter in a sauce pan, added some chopped onion, celery and garlic and cooked until soft. Then I tossed in some parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary and poultry seasoning till the kitchen began to smell amazing (no fresh herbs, no problem).

    When everything was ready, I tossed the bread with the butter and seasoned veggies until everything was combined. Then I added in chicken stock until it was the texture I wanted (some like it dry, we like it a little more moist). I finished up with some salt and pepper and added it to a casserole dish coated with cooking spray. That’s the only drawback of a frozen turkey breast, you can’t have the spirited debate of stuffing in the bird or not!
  2. Green Bean Casserole
    Confession, I’ve never made the traditional green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup. My mom actually turned me on to this version, which is healthier and I think more flavorful.

    Once you’ve cooked your green beans (and again, this can be an item for debate, as some of us like the beans a little more toothful than others), drain them, put them in a casserole dish, and toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of balsamic or red wine vinegar. Add garlic, paprika and oregano to taste and finish with fresh ground pepper.

    In a small skillet, melt half a stick of butter then add breadcrumbs and grated parmesan until a nice topping has formed. Sprinkle the topping over the beans. If you’re inclined (spoiler, we see this as a necessary ingredient) add some fried onions over the top of the casserole.
  3. Mashed Potatoes
    There are probably a million different ideas on the perfect mashed potato, but I like to scrub and dice the potatoes with the skins on. Boil them in salted water until fork-tender and drain. I like to add a couple tablespoons of butter, a couple tablespoons of cream cheese, and a couple tablespoons of sour cream. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg (which honestly I did as an accident once and it stuck). As I mash, I keep adding a dash of milk until they’re the consistency we like. Want to make it fancy? Sprinkle with some parsley (as you’ll see below, I forgot that step. No one seemed to mind.)
  4. Gravy
    Depending on the frozen turkey, it may come with a gravy packet for you. It can be super salty, so I don’t tend to use them. Instead, I melt half a stick of butter and add a quarter cup of flour to make a roux (or if you are feeding more than 4, just double it). Add the drippings from the turkey (lesson I’ve learned: if the turkey is cooked in a cooking bag, be careful draining the drippings into the pan because the bag and the clasp will be hot). Season with pepper (I don’t add salt until I give it a taste at the end). Add stock to get the gravy to the consistency you’d like it to be. Not tasting how you’d like? Add poultry seasoning, sage, rosemary or additional salt.

Bringing it all together

The turkey was supposed to take about three hours in a 375 degree oven. After two hours, insert a meat thermometer to keep track of it. At that point, I put the stuffing on (covered with foil). After 30 minutes, I checked the turkey and uncovered the stuffing. After another 15 minutes, I took the turkey out and put the beans in to warm. I finished the gravy and away we went to the table for our makeshift feast.