Cranberry Jack Cocktail

Cranberry Jack Cocktail

Have you tried Jack Daniels Winter Jack Cider?  If not, go out and buy some pronto, because it is super tasty.  You could just sip it from a glass as is, but it is equally nice in this perfect-for-the-holidays cocktail.   

Cranberry Jack Cocktail

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Ginger Pear Breakfast Bake

Ginger Pear Breakfast Bake

Whole grain breakfast bake with ginger and pears that you prep the night before.  It sounds like a win to me!  I originally made something like this with apples and cinnamon and I decided that the same concept would work just as well with pears and ginger.  It turns out I may actually like this variation even better.

Ginger Pear Breakfast Bake

Baked oatmeal is a great breakfast when you have guests around the holidays (or any time for that matter!) because you can get it ready the night before and pop it in the oven the next morning.   That way you don’t have to get your butt out of bed super early to cook them breakfast, and they don’t come into the kitchen in search of coffee only to find you slaving over the stove, which in turn makes them feel obligated to help.  Let’s be honest, they don’t want to help.  Chances are they didn’t sleep well because they aren’t in their own bed, or not in a bed at all, and all they want is some caffeine in an extra large mug to help get them motivated to face whatever their day will bring.  You know what I’m talking about.  We’ve all been there.  

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Salty Sweet Pecans

Salty Sweet Pecans

I love candied pecans.  Are you with me on this?  OMG, they are so very very good…and so very very bad for you.  I tried to clean them up a bit, cutting out ingredients such as refined sugar and butter and simplifying the process.   Making a cleaner, slightly less unhealthy version of candied pecans was fantastic, but I admit that I was driven to make them this way as a direct result of my not wanting to wash a baking sheet.  Don’t ask me why, but I hate washing cookie sheets.  They are unweildy, they don’t fit well in my sink, and they end up splashing water all over the place.  And, in cases like these, they are about 5 times bigger than what I need.  So, I fired the cookie sheet for nut toasting purposes and brought out the nonstick skillet.  It works just as well and clean up is a bit, well, cleaner. 

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Favorite Apple Cinnamon Cake

Favorite Apple Cinnamon Cake

As a general rule, I get a bit annoyed when people title or identify their food as “The Best”.  This is likely because I inherently resist being told that I must/should/have to do anything, so I am less inclined to try whatever it is you deem “The Best,” even if it is to my detriment.  Accordingly, for all of you stubborn folks like me,  I don’t want to identify this apple cake as The Best Apple Cake because then you may never try it.  It is, however, my favorite apple cake, so we’ll go with that.  Favorite Apple Cinnamon Cake.  

Favorite Apple Cinnamon Cake

There is no salted caramel frosting or rum whipped cream on this cake (although both of those sound pretty good, so we may return to that another day for another cake).  Here we just have apples, cinnamon, and a cream cheese batter.  The beauty of this cake is its simplicity.  I have been making it for years and years and chances are if you ever come to my house between September and November you are basically guaranteed to have this cake.  I make it so often because it never disappoints.  

Favorite Apple Cinnamon Cake

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Maple Walnut Butternut Squash Soup

Maple Walnut Butternut Squash Soup

Come fall, pumpkin becomes the star of the culinary world and it is easy to forget that there is a whole family of winter squash out there that are equally delicious.   Somehow we have started putting pumpkin in just about everything.  It’s certainly festive, but I’m always a bit perplexed by the pumpkin-everything phenomenon because when it comes to winter squash, pumpkin is arguably not the best one. Butternut squash is sometimes a bit neglected but it is just as versatile as pumpkin, if not more so.  It is naturally sweeter than pumpkin with a mellow flavor.  Just because Starbucks has thus far failed to bring the world a butternut squash spice latte doesn’t mean that butternut squash isn’t worth a try.  The next time you find one, pick it up and make this soup!  

Maple Walnut Butternut Squash Soup

Maple Walnut Butternut Squash Soup

For as good as butternut squash tastes, it doesn’t make it easy on those that want to cook with it!  Its shape is cumbersome and the peel is tough enough that a vegetable peeler doesn’t really cut it (literally), so you actually have to peel it with a knife.  On top of that, butternut squash tends to leave an orange film on your hands, which is admittedly a bit bizarre.  When it comes to butternut squash, however, preparation and cooking doesn’t get much easier than cutting it in half, scraping out the seeds, and tossing it on a pan to roast.  By the time it comes out of the oven, the flesh is tender and you can scoop it out with a spoon.   No peeling, chopping, or orange hands necessary.

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