Your Week-By-Week Thanksgiving Countdown

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Don’t panic but Thanksgiving will be here before you know it! My helpful November checklist has plenty of planning tips and ideas to help get you ready for the big day! I’ve laid them out week-by-week to help better organize you and get you ready for the holiday. Keep checking back for added tips and information as we get closer and closer to the holiday. Gobble, gobble!!

THREE WEEKS BEFORE THE HOLIDAY

  • Time to plan your guest list and begin reaching out to family and friends in order to get a headcount.
  • Take inventory! Do you have enough paper goods, china, utensils, serving bowls and dishes, glasses, etc? Look over what you have, plan your table settings and go shopping early for items that you might be missing.
  • Stock up! Thanksgiving isn’t without leftovers and if you’re planning on sending your guests home with “doggy bags” make sure you have plenty of food storage containers on hand. You can find lots of different options at restaurant supply stores, warehouse stores such as Costco and party outlet stores. Make sure to have an assortment of sizes and shapes so that everyone has what they need for leftovers.
  • Plan your menu. Start thinking about what appetizers, dishes and desserts you’d like to make OR which ones you’ll need others to bring that day. Also, plan what things you can make ahead of time and freeze so that you have less work to do on the actual holiday.
  • Get your home holiday ready by planning what decorations you’d like to put out and how you’ll fit everyone. Try different configurations for your tables so that every guest is seated comfortably that day.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE HOLIDAY

  • Plan out your table setting and guest seating. Gather dishes, silverware, linens and serving dishes. Make (or buy) guest place cards and fill them out. If possible, set up your table now so it’s one less thing to take care of Thanksgiving week.
  • Begin your grocery shopping early. Purchase non-perishable items such as chicken stock, Gravy Master, soda, wine, beer, canned vegetables, flour and other baking essentials, etc now so that you have less to shop for later.
  • Start making room in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Use up the food you have, organize to make room for more.
  • Plan out your cooking schedule. Make yourself a list outlining what you need to cook, when you need to cook it and for how long. Having a cooking plan in place ensures that your meal comes together perfectly and at the same time on the big day!
  • Cook ahead! Start prepping what you can now to make your cooking flow more easily later. Good ideas to make and freeze are pie crusts, cookie dough, rolls, cranberry sauce, gravy stock, etc.
  • Get your house holiday ready! Start cleaning, especially in areas of the house you aren’t in often such as the formal living and dining room. Put our your Thanksgiving decorations and create a warm, festive place for your guests.
  • Start thinking about serving dishes. Plan out which platters and bowls you will use for each dish. Use sticky notes to label each one so that on Thanksgiving you won’t need to scramble for the right serving vessel, everything will be ready and marked.
  • Plan about your drink menu. Wine, soda and beer are all essential drinks to have on hand but think about adding a specialty cocktail that you can easily make for your guests or even a nice autumn inspired sangria. Hot mulled cider is also another cozy, festive beverage to serve on Thanksgiving.
  • Breathe and take some time for yourself to decompress.

ONE WEEK BEFORE THE HOLIDAY

  • If using a frozen turkey, begin to plan your thawing schedule.

In the Refrigerator (40°F or below)
Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds
4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days

In Cold Water
Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound
4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours

  • Finish your food shopping however, buy fruit and vegetables as close to the holiday as possible so they are at peak freshness.
  • Chill beverages ahead of time and if possible, have a cooler set out on the big day to keep everything cold without sacrificing fridge space.
  • Confirm your guest list.
  • Finish cleaning your house. Also, if you have not done so already, clean our your refrigerator and make room for all of the ingredients and prepared dishes.
  • Set your table with the linens, dishes and silverware. Put out your labeled serving pieces so they are accessible as you need them.
  • They day or two before Thanksgiving, chop up all of your vegetables so that you can easily grab what you need when cooking.
  • Prepare all of the cold dishes in advance, about a day or two before Thanksgiving. This includes any relishes, dips, cranberry sauce, or cold salads. Also, prep your cold hors d’oeuvres such as cheese platters and crudités.
  • Prep your stuffing the day before so it is ready to be baked the day of Thanksgiving.
  • Assemble nut platters and candy dishes ahead of time so that all you need to do on the big day is place them on the tables.
  • Go over your schedule for cooking times. Make sure you have every dish accounted for and planned out ahead of time.
  • The day before Thanksgiving, prep your bird so that all you have to do in the morning is put it in the oven. Place the turkey on a roasting rack, season, add your aromatics and cover with tin foil.
  • Take a breath! You’re in the home stretch now.

THE DAY OF THANKSGIVING

**Coming Soon**

Butter Crumb Coffee Cake with Vanilla Drizzle

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A steaming hot cup of tea and a warm slice of coffee cake are the perfect snack on a chilly fall afternoon. This delicious recipe comes right from a wonderful cookbook that I own entitled, Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More: 200 Anytime Treats and Special Sweets for Morning to Midnight  by Carole Walter. It’s chock full of amazing recipes for all kinds of sweetly baked treats. Her recipe calls for a dusting of confectioners sugar on top of the finished cake but I decided to go for a vanilla drizzle instead because in all honesty, everything is just a little better with some icing!

I followed the recipe as written but like I so often do, I increased the amount of vanilla and I used vanilla paste instead so I got that nice flecking throughout the cake. I also added a light sprinkle of ground cinnamon to the batter for a little extra flavor and warmth. The highlight of any good crumb cake is the crumbs and these don’t disappoint. If you like a really thick layer of crumbs don’t hesitate to make and add more to the top. The crumbs are super easy to make and they are something that you can make ahead of time, freeze and just grab a few chunks whenever you need them. They are also delicious added to the top of a vanilla or pound cake, muffins or even pancakes! Throw some warm cinnamon apples on those pancakes as well and you have yourself an Apple Strudel pancake breakfast. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the streusel

  • 2/3 cup ( 10 2/3 tbs) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • scant 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

For the cake

  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the vanilla drizzle

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 to 2 tsp pure vanilla extract or paste
  • 6 to 7 tsp half-n-half

Instructions

For the streusel – Place the butter in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and heat over medium heat until almost melted. Remove from the heat and cool to tepid.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and nuts. Add to the butter and stir with a fork until blended and mixture begins to form crumbs. Gently squeeze the mixture with hands to form larger clumps and then break apart into smaller crumbs. Let the streusel sit for 10-15 minutes before using.

For the cake – Position the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Generously butter a 10″ springform pan, line the bottom with parchment and butter that as well. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, thoroughly whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the room temperature butter and work with your fingertips until fine crumbs are formed, the mixture should look “sandy”.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the liquid. Gradually push the crumbs into the liquid beginning with the crumbs in the center of the bowl. Beat on low for about a minute or until the batter is smooth. Take note, the batter will be very thick.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Take a handful of the streusel crumbs and squeeze them to form a large clump, break the clump apart and sprinkle all over the top of the batter. Repeat until all of the streusel has been used. Lightly press the streusel into the batter.

Set the pan on a 12″ strip of aluminum foil and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and firm to the touch. A toothpick inserted should come out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and let stand on a cooling rack for 25 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edge to help release the cake the remove the outer ring of the springform pan. Place a piece of aluminum foil directly over the top of the cake cupping it around the side to hold the crumbs in place. Cover with a cooling rack and gently invert the cake. Lift the bottom of the pan off and remove the parchment paper. Cover with another cooking rack and invert one last time. Remove the aluminum foil allow the cake to cool completely right side up.

For the vanilla drizzle – Combine all of the ingredient and stir until well combined. If the drizzle is a little too thick, add a touch more half-n-half.

To finish the cake – Using a spoon or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off, drizzle the cooled cake with the icing. Allow to set for a few minutes and then serve.

Homemade Chunky Applesauce

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I am a HUGE fan of apples and I love to eat them every which way from Sunday. Raw, sliced on a ham sandwich, cooked alongside pork or chicken, on top of a fall salad, in cakes and cookies and as good old-fashioned applesauce. Apples are such a delicious and versatile fruit, the possibilities for using them up are simply endless. This is my favorite recipe for homemade applesauce because it’s not only scrumptious but it’s SO easy to prepare, it practically makes itself! It’s so easy that even your kids can help you make it!

I love to use a variety of different apples so that I get a more complex and interesting flavor. Some of my favorites are Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Pink Lady , McIntosh, and Lemonade apples. Of course you can use just one variety but don’t be afraid to try out different combinations as well. Traditionally applesauce has a smooth consistency however, I really love to bite into and taste the fresh apples so I like to keep my applesauce chunky. A simple potato masher is perfect for making chunky applesauce as it allows you to control the consistency to your liking. If you prefer a smooth applesauce, simply run the cooked apples through a food mill or blend using an immersion blender or countertop blender.

Last note, feel free to adjust how much sugar you use in this recipe. You can increase, decrease or eliminate it entirely depending on the level of sweetness you prefer. You can also adjust the spices as well. I tend to go light on the ginger because it can be an overpowering, bold flavor but if you prefer to use more, go for it! You can even substitute the ginger for apple pie spice, baking spice or any other warm fall spices that you may have handy. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 12 medium-sized apples, any baking variety such as Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, McIntosh, etc.
  • 3 tbs apple cider or apple juice
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger

Instructions

Peel, core and dice the apples into large chunks.

Place the apples, cider, butter, brown sugar and spices into a large pot. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes or until apples are tender.

For a smooth applesauce – Blend using either a food mill, blender or immersion blender to desired consistency.

For a chunky texture – Use a handheld potato masher to mash the apples to desired consistency.

Whiskey Glazed Carrots

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These are my favorite way to prepare carrots! It’s not only an easy recipe but also full of delicious flavor which makes these carrots a great side dish to almost any meal. They are perfect with a roast chicken, meatloaf or Thanksgiving dinner! This recipe comes from one of my favorite cooks, Ree Drummond who is better known as, “The Pioneer Woman“. Click here to link to her site.

The recipe calls for Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey® but really any good whiskey will work well. My personal favorite is Tullamore Dew® which is also what I use in my out-of-this-world Whiskey BBQ Cocktail Meatballs . Also, when I am in a rush and don’t have time to peel a bunch of carrots, I have used the small baby carrots instead. Just grab a paring knife and dice them up into small, thick “pennies”.  For an extra kick of flavor, top the finished carrots with chopped chives. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2-3 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into thick circles
  • 1/2 cup Jack Daniels® or other whiskey
  • 3/4 – 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • chopped chives, optional

Instructions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add carrots in two batches, cooking for 60-90 seconds each batch. Remove from skillet.

Pour in whiskey and allow to evaporate 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining butter. Once the butter melts, sprinkle the brown sugar over the top. Stir together and then add the carrots to skillet. Cover and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking until carrots are done and glaze is thick, about 5 more minutes.

Pour onto a platter and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped chives if desired.

 

Brown Gravy Meatballs Over Buttered Noodles

gravy meatballs

I absolutely love me some homemade meatballs and I could drink hot gravy by the gallon so I thought to myself, why not bring these two delicious things together? Brown Gravy Meatballs over Buttered Noodles is a really warm, cozy meal that is perfect for the cool nights of autumn. It’s also really easy to make and the best part?……………it’s kid friendly too! What kid doesn’t love buttered pasta and meatballs? My kids devoured this meal and even asked for seconds!

To make the meatballs, I used my Italian Meatball recipe but I just rolled them smaller into bite-sized servings. I like to bake them simply because you don’t have to pay attention as you do when frying but if you prefer to fry, that is perfectly fine too. You can even make these meatballs ahead of time which really speeds up the cooking of this meal. Simply thaw the cooked mini meatballs and add them right to the hot gravy mixture to warm through. So easy!

In our house we LOVE gravy and when making pasta dishes such as this one my husband specifically asks for his noodles to be very “saucy”. Therefore, I like to double the brown gravy so we have plenty to go around and if there are any leftovers, they will stay more moist in the fridge. You can use beef broth in this recipe as well but I much prefer beef stock as it has a much richer, beefier flavor. Kitchen Basics® brand is my go-to but any brand will suffice. Lastly, add as much (or as little) red wine as you’d like, no need to measure and be overly specific here. The red wine adds a really nice, rich flavor to the finished brown gravy. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the meatballs

  • 1 lb of 80% ground beef or a combination of beef and pork
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tbs fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 slices white bread, crusts removed and moistened with water

For the brown gravy

  • 2 cups beef stock, divided
  • 1 tbs cornstarch
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs ketchup
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • splash of red wine

For the finished dish

  • 1 lb wide egg noodles
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • fresh parsley, for garnish

Instructions

For the meatballs – Preheat oven to 350ºF. Except for the white bread, combine all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix until just combined, do not over mix or the meatballs will be tough. Break off small pieces of the moistened bread and add it to the meatball mixture. Mix into the meat and then continue to add more bread until it’s all combined.

Form the meat into bite-sized meatballs and place them about 1″ apart on a sheet pan lined with a Silpat® or aluminum foil. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Alternatively, the meatballs can also be fried in oil until crispy and golden brown.

For the gravy – Whisk together 1/2 cup beef stock and cornstarch in a small bowl, set aside. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a pan. Add the onions to the skillet and cook until golden brown and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

Whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 cups beef stock, Worcestershire and ketchup and mix until well combined. Add to the pan along with a splash of red wine. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat and gradually whisk in cornstarch mixture. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Add more beef stock as needed until desired consistency is reached.

To finish – Add the cooked mini meatballs to the sauce and stir to coat. Keep warm over low heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the egg noodles to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the softened butter.

Place the buttered noodles on a large serving platter and top with the brown gravy meatballs and sauce. Garnish with parsley, Serve hot.

**TIP – Make the mini meatballs ahead of time and freeze them for later use in this dish. Thaw the cooked meatballs and then add them right to the hot gravy mixture to warm through. Proceed according to recipe instructions.**

Autumn Spiced Apples

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Spiced apples are absolutely one of my most favorite things in the whole world. They are warm, delicious, cozy and remind me of everything autumn which in my opinion is the best time of the year! This is one of those recipes where being accurate and measuring is completely unnecessary, I like to fly by the seat of my pants with this one. I add a “little bit of this” and a “little bit of that” until I stumble upon the perfect amount of spice and flavor. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different spices and apples, you simply cannot go wrong here. Since this is such an easy recipe to master, try letting your kids in the kitchen with you so they can give it a whirl themselves!

My favorite apples to use when I am making this recipe is a combination of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp. The Granny Smith apples add just the right amount of tartness to balance the sweetness and they hold up well when cooking. Honeycrisp apples are the perfect blend of sweet and tart and work really well in cooking as well but are also excellent apples to grab and eat raw. When making spiced cooked apples you can slice them up in nice big wedges or dice them up as I did above. To get nice, even pieces and speed up the cooking process I used my Vidalia Chop Wizard . It’s a great little gadget to quickly chop and dice veggies and fruit and it’s worth the small investment especially for those who aren’t comfortable with their knife skills.

I love to top my pancakes with a huge scoop of warm spiced apples, drizzle them with a little Apple Butter Syrup and then top it off with a nice dusting of confectioners sugar. It is the perfect Sunday morning treat especially on those cool, crisp fall days. They are also delicious stirred into yogurt or as a topping on your vanilla ice cream. Serve alongside pork, top your chicken, spread on toast or even eat them straight! They are so delicious no matter how you eat them and they are the perfect accompaniment to many dishes. Turn on your creativity and whip up a batch today. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 apples, any combination of varieties
  • 1-2 tbs unsalted butter
  • splash of apple cider OR apple juice
  • few sprinkles of granulated sugar
  • few pinches of ground cinnamon, apple pie spice, baking spice, nutmeg OR other spice
  • dash of pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Wash, peel and core the apples then slice or dice them up. In a small saucepan set over medium heat melt the butter. Add the apples, cider or juice, sugar, spices and vanilla extract. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender but not falling apart. Adjust seasonings as needed and serve warm or store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Brown Butter Sugar Cookie Peach Cobbler

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What is better than crunchy, buttery sugar cookies and warm spiced fruit? How about when you put those two things together to make a delicious cobbler! This super simple dessert is made mostly from ingredients that you have around the house in addition to a pouch of sugar cookie mix and frozen fruit, which is always good to keep stocked in the freezer. This is such an easy and delicious dessert to make when last minute company shows up, they will think you were baking for hours when in reality this recipe takes just a few minutes to pull together. Be sure not to skip browning the butter, it takes just a few minutes but will impart layers of warm, nutty flavor to the cookie topping.

The recipe was adapted from the site, tablespoon.com and you can find the original recipe right here . Although the recipe calls for peaches, you can easily substitute in any fruit that you desire. With fall upon us, warm cinnamon apples would make for a perfect cozy, cool weather dessert but berries, nectarines or even pears would also make for a yummy dish as well. Cinnamon is called for however, apple pie spice, baking spice, nutmeg or any other warm, fall spice would be equally delicious too. Experiment with the fruit and spices until you find something that you love. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the fruit base

  • 2 12 oz. bags of frozen sliced peaches, thawed
  • 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbs fresh lemon juice, about 1 medium-sized lemon
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the cookie topping

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker™ sugar cookie mix
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1tbs coarse sparkling sugar

Instructions

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray a 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray. Scatter peach slices evenly in pan. Sprinkle granulated sugar, cornstarch, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and the lemon juice evenly over top, stir to combine. Top evenly with 3 tablespoons cubed butter.
In a small saucepan, heat the 1/2 cup butter over medium heat and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown, stir frequently. Pour into large bowl. Add to the bowl the cookie mix, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and the egg and stir until a soft dough forms. Spoon the dough evenly over the top of the peach mixture. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cookies are golden brown and edges of fruit filling are bubbly. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
**Tip – This dessert is best served warm and topped with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream**

 

Chef Emerson’s Homemade Ciabatta Bread

Em Ciabatta

(Pictured above is the loaf that was made by my daughter at cooking school)

What is more delicious than the smell of fresh homemade bread? How about fresh homemade bread that is baking right in your own oven? This simple recipe comes directly from the children’s cooking class at Sur La Table that my daughter has participated in for the third year in a row. This recipe requires a little advanced preparation as you need to prepare the “sponge“, a fermented bread starter, the day before but once that is ready to go it’s really a very easy recipe for both kids and adults to make. The end result is a delicious, crusty, warm loaf of bread perfect for sandwiches or as a side to your meal.

Ciabatta, pronounced [tʃaˈbatta], is one of my most favorite breads. I love the crusty cracked outside and the soft, delicate inside. The word ciabatta is Italian in origin and translated it means, “slipper” which is descriptive of this bread’s distinctive flat, tapered shape. Ciabatta bread originated in the region of Italy known as Liguria and quickly spread across the country in popularity. Depending on the region of Italy you are in, ciabatta bread can vary in its texture from soft and porous to a more crunchy, firm crust with a dense crumb. Here in America it is easily found in most supermarkets and bakeries and has what is commonly known as an “open crumb” structure. This is due to the use of a sponge, otherwise known as a “starter“, that is added into the dough preparation. Regardless, it is a wonderful and delicious bread that is the perfect accompaniment to any meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the sponge

  • 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbs warm water (110°F to 115°F)
  • 1/3 cup water, room temperature
  • 1 cup ( 4 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

For the bread

  • 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbs warm whole milk (110°F to 115°F)
  • 2/3 cup water, room temperature
  • 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups bread flour OR unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt

Instructions

To make the sponge – In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the yeast and warm water and let stand for 5 minutes until the yeast dissolves. Mix in the room temperature water and flour until well incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the sponge stand at room temperature at least 12 hours and up to one day.

To make the bread – In a small bowl stir together the yeast and milk and let stand for 5 minutes or until it looks creamy and a little bubbly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, blend together the yeast mixture, sponge, water, oil and flour at low-speed until the flour is just moistened.

Beat the dough at medium speed for 3 minutes. Add the salt and beat for another 4 minutes on medium. Turn the dough out into a large bowl coated with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature until it’s doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. The dough will be bubbly and quite sticky.

Line a rimless baking sheet with a 12X12″ piece of parchment paper and generously dust with flour. Turn the dough out onto a well floured work surface and cut in half using a bench scraper or knife. Transfer the halves to the prepared baking sheet and form into irregular ovals about 9″ long. Dimple the loaves with floured fingers and dust the tops with flour. Cover the loaves with a damp kitchen towel. Let them rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425°F and place a pizza stone in the center of the oven.

Transfer the loaves on the parchment paper sheet to the pizza stone. Bake until pale golden and the loaf sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped with a finger, about 20 minutes. Using a large spatula, transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool.

Chef Emerson’s Almond Vanilla Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

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If there is one thing my daughter loves to do it is bake and now that she’s getting older, she is almost 10 now, she really loves to work independently on her kitchen creations. I try to give her as much space as she needs during her time in the kitchen assisting only as needed with measuring and baking tips. Don’t be afraid to hand over the reins to your little baker, the only way for them to learn and grow in the kitchen is for them to do the work on their own.

This recipe was adapted from one of my daughter’s favorite cookbooks, The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook: Sweet Treats for the Geek in All of Us by Rosanna Pansino who also happens to have a really great YouTube® baking channel. It’s a simple to follow recipe so it is great for kids to try on their own. The original recipe is for a lightly lemon flavored pound cake however, my daughter Emerson isn’t fond of lemon so she decided to change-up the flavor profile. She eliminated the lemon zest and instead used a little less vanilla extract while adding in some almond extract. Then she decided to incorporate some mini chocolate chips as well because in her world, everything is better with chocolate! If you wish to make the original recipe simply use 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of finely grated lemon zest instead of the chocolate chips and extracts combination.

One small tip to ensure that you chocolate chips are evenly dispersed throughout the cake, lightly dust them in flour before adding them to the batter. Chocolate chips have a tendency to sink to the bottom of batter however, a light dusting of flour will help to suspend them nicely throughout the finished cake. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or paste
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease a bundt ban with cooking spray and lightly dust with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Place the mini chocolate chips in a small bowl and very lightly dust them with flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until softened. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.

On low-speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the mini chocolate chips and mix until just incorporated.

mixer pic

Pour the batter evenly into prepared bundt pan. Tap the bottom of the pan on the work surface to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. If needed, loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a small butter knife. Carefully turn the cake out of the pan into a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Lightly dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

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**Tip – To quickly bring eggs to room temperature, gently place them into a bowl of hot tap water and allow them to sit for a few minutes.**

Honey Sesame Chicken with Pineapple

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Nothing beats a quick and easy dinner especially on those days when you’re exhausted but still need to get dinner on the table. This recipe is super flavorful and as delicious, if not better, than take-out! Even your pickiest eater should enjoy this sweet and sticky chicken meal.

My kids are huge rice eaters so I like to serve this meal over white or brown rice which is also nice and filling. To make this meal even more complete you can add in some vegetables during baking. Good options are onion, green pepper or baby corn. You can even try a bag of frozen vegetables, Bird’s Eye® makes a delicious Asian Medley blend that you can steam right in the microwave and add after the chicken comes out of the oven. This meal also reheats nicely so you can have a delicious lunch the next day too. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, about 2 lbs
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 3 eggs
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 can pineapple chunks, drained

For the sauce

  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbs cornstarch
  • sesame seeds, for garnish

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease a 9X13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Clean the chicken of any fat and cut into bite size pieces. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add the cornstarch to a large Ziploc® bag. In batches, add the chicken to the bag and shake to coat. Remove chicken and dip lightly in the egg. Set aside on a plate.

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned. Place the chicken into the 9X13 baking dish. cover evenly with the drained pineapple chunks.

Whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce and pour evenly over the chicken and pineapple. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes during cooking. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over white rice.

**Tip – If you prefer your pineapple a little more firm, you can add them in the last 20 minutes of cooking instead of at the beginning.**