A Shepard Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving.
One of my very favorite holidays next to Christmas. Time to be with family. Plenty of yummy food to be eaten. Long turkey-induced post-pig-out naps. Leftovers for dinner and Friday (typically there isn’t much beyond that with my big family!)

I’m excited this year to spend thanksgiving in Greenwich, CT with my aunt and cousins. My mom and dad are making the trip too, as well as two brothers and my dear sister-in-law!

Each year we all have different tasks– things we claim or things we are assigned to cook. It’s become a beloved tradition for me to be on sweet potato casserole duty. I tend to help out with pies or other things as well but you can always count on me making the sweet potato dish:)
I haven’t changed much from when I first tried this recipe my mom had found for “Holiday Sweet Potatoes.” There was one time I switched the topping to a pecan/brown sugar crumble instead of marshmallows, but given the reactions of the family, I will keep on with the ooey-gooey beloved Jet-Puffed topping. You can never have enough marshmallows, my siblings say as they try to fit a few more handfuls on top of the already-peaked marshmallow mountain.

This year I’ll be doing it again in my aunt’s kitchen. This recipe isn’t really a secret so I’m happy to share… I tend to not measure the spices as much though and use these measurements as more of a suggestion. You won’t know until you take a lick.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Holiday Sweet Potatoes
6 large sweet potatoes
3/4 cup Sugar
1tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup Buttermilk
1/2 cup butter

Marshmallows for topping

After baking sweet potatoes until soft, peel when they’re cool enough to handle and then combine with all other ingredients in large mixing bowl. Beat or mash together thoroughly, til sweet potatoes are smooth. Bake at 350 for 45 mins to an hour. During last 10 mins while they’re in the oven, top with marshmallows.

I’m also bringing with me 2 apple pies and a new dessert I’ve had success with at 2 different occasions (it’s so quick and easy) — I call it Pumpkin Pie cake. Hoping it’s going to become a new Shepard Thanksgiving tradition!

For the apple pies, I’m using one recipe from the Joy of Cooking and one from Smitten Kitchen’s delightful cookbook! We’ll see which one wins… I have my bets on the Deepest Dish Apple Pie from Deb:)

deepestdishapplepie

I baked this one last night and threw together the other pie before we got in the car to make the trek to CT.

Deepest Dish Apple Pie

Also on our menu we have my husband’s mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (which we always make following the recipe on the back of French’s crunchy onion topping), some vegetarian dishes I don’t yet know the details on (this is why we split up the work), turkey of course, Gorgozola Pear salad, and the you-can-never-not-have Pecan Pie. Probably other things I’m forgetting!

If you can’t hear it from my use of punctuation in this post, I’m extremely excited! I think this might be my husband’s first Thanksgiving with my clan (or some of my clan)… It’s just worked out that the past 2 years have been at his house and Christmas was at mine even though we’re supposed to switch off!

Gotta run…. there’s more pie than we know what to do with here. 🙂

so many pies

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sweet Tooth | Balsamic Blueberries Dessert

balsamic-blueberries

We were over at our good friends’ house, having just eaten a delicious meal and were playing a fun round of  the board game “Ticket to Ride,” when it was suddenly time for dessert. Our friend pulled out a lovely dish from her oven containing saucy blueberries and proceeded to serve it up with vanilla ice cream. We were stunned to find out the dessert we had been smelling was blueberries cooked with BALSALMIC VINEGAR! You may think this sounds a little strange or off-putting…. well, you have to give it a try before you can judge.

We licked our bowls clean and helped ourselves to seconds. It was delicious!!

Of course when I had the chance to use the recipe myself I tried recreating it. Mine came out smelling a bit too strong of vinegar…. and I found out the other day why! I must have let the vinager boil, which, according to America’s Test Kitchen only enhances the pungent vinegar taste/smell. So make sure to just simmer the balsamic when you’re cooking the blueberries 🙂

You’ll find the recipe here from Epicurious… they combine peaches with the blueberries which I’m sure must be delicious but it’s great with blueberries alone too. It is hands down one of the simplest/quickest desserts to make and sure to be loved by all! I would say it even might be healthy, too. 🙂 I hope you enjoy as much as we did!

Time to Read (and make some changes)

Wheat-BellyWheat Belly is a recent book about by Cardiologist William Davis my oldest sister told me about since she just finished reading it. Yep, it might sound pretty gross and you may not want to read it for fear it will make you want to cut out wheat, but that’s exactly why I want to finish reading it.

After stocking up on Chia seeds and trying to get into the habit of making fruity breakfast smoothies a few weeks ago, I have started trying to pay attention to what I eat at all times of the day– whether that means remembering to pack a healthy salad for lunch or saying no to the always fully stocked snack cupboard in my office, not going overboard with the sugar and cream in my coffee, etc. I have yet to feel that Chia seeds “give me energy” like everyone has been saying but since I have them every morning now, I’ve realized I don’t feel as starving when 11:50am rolls around – when my stomach would typically be starting to growl. Chia seeds affect everyone a little differently I guess.

My sister mentioned the book Wheat Belly on Father’s Day when we were all on Google Hangout as a family. She challenged us to give up wheat and said she’s only been off it for a few weeks herself and has already lost a good amount of weight. I thought, why not give it a try? I know so many people that say they feel so much better being gluten-free. Some of the stuff in Davis’ book is just so interesting too. His main point (which you can find just in the intro) makes me want to buy the book to read more:

I believe that the increased consumption of grains – or more accurately, the increased consumption of this genetically-altered thing called modern wheat – explains the contrast between slender, sedentary people of the fifties and overweight twenty-first century people, triathletes included.

So I have been off wheat so far for about 1.5 weeks.

Have I noticed anything different? So far, nothing too drastic.

Is it hard? Yes. Well, it can be very difficult on certain days.

My first week was almost a bust. There was one day when I simply forgot I was doing this no wheat thing and ate a cookie. Another day when I had half of a cupcake jar (couldn’t let that go to waste!)… and yes, last Wednesday I ate one slice of pizza. Baby steps right?! The hardest for me is definitely baked goods. Especially since our office often has cookies and cupcakes just sitting around….

platter of cookies

I’ve got too big of a sweet tooth! 🙂 I’m not going super strict with this no-wheat thing yet. I haven’t been reading all the labels scouting for gluten. I think I just have to start slow … and we’ll see what happens!

At least things like this aren’t off-limits!

Ice Cream salmon, shish kebabs, potatoes

On Saturday, I went to a Birthday party and they had lots of yummy pizza. Gluten-free pizza crust (using rice flour)! It was some of the best homemade pizza dough I’ve ever tasted. I’m not normally one to like the taste of things like this that are actually “good” for you, so it was exciting to try this! 🙂

So. I’ll leave you with this… let’s get baking!
Gluten Free No-Bake Cookies

How about you, readers — what do you think of a wheat-free diet? Are any of you gluten free eaters?

Bachelorette Season Finale Party

A couple weekends ago the Bachelorette season finale was on. Of course I invited some girls over to watch it with me and it turned into the first “party” we’d hosted so far in the new place! It was all kinds of fun….and I made a few desserts and some Sangria for refreshments.

First, I found these yummy things and had to try them since they seemed so appropriate for a “Bachelorette” party (and um, they looked delicious for obvious reasons)!

These Red Velvet Cheesecake Cookies were just as amazing as the blogger said they would be. Be sure to make them in advance though as they do take quite some time with chilling and rolling and all….

So here’s the recipe which I stole from Culinary Couture and Two Peas & Their Pod (credit and big props go to them!). Notice again that you’ll need to freeze the cream cheese filling for 2 hours and chill the dough for at least 2 hours, so be sure to leave yourself enough time! I never read all the way through a recipe about the chilling part until it’s too late, which is why I’m calling it out here again! 🙂

What You’ll Need:

For the cookies–

  • 1 box red velvet cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • pinch of vanilla powder (I threw in a little bit of vanilla extract since I didn’t have any powder on hand, and they turned out fine!)

For the cheesecake filling–

  • 4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • pinch of vanilla powder (again, I used vanilla extract)

For the white chocolate drizzle
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips, melted

Instructions:
For the cookies
In a large bowl, combine the cake mix and flour. Whisk together until clumps disappear. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the cake mix with the flour, eggs, oil and vanilla and mix until smooth. The dough will be really oily (that’s normal!). Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

For the cheesecake filling
Using a hand mixer, combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Using a teaspoon, scoop out balls of cheesecake filling and place on a plate. Continue scooping out cheesecake filling into teaspoon balls until you have 10. Place plate in the freezer and freeze for at least two hours. (I started off making teaspoon balls and realized halfway that I was going to have a lot of filling left over, so I made my balls bigger. If you do this, make sure to use enough dough to completely cover the balls of filling so it doesn’t leak out. You can also just make more than 10 teaspoon balls, and consequently, make smaller cookies to use up all of the balls.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray, or line it with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

To assemble the cookies, take about 1/4 cup of red velvet cookie dough and flatten in your hands. Be ready to get messy! Place a ball of cheesecake filling in the center and wrap the cookie dough around the filling. (If the dough starts to crack when you’re wrapping it around the filling, don’t worry, just press it all together by cupping the dough between both your palms…). Gently roll into a ball and place on prepared baking sheet. Only bake 3-4 cookies at a time because the cookies are pretty big and will spread.

Bake cookies for 11-13 minutes or until they begin to crackle. Let them cool on a baking sheet for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Melt the white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl or over a double-boiler. Drizzle the white chocolate over the cooled cookies.

brownies and red velvet cookies

To go along with the Sangria I made, I wanted to add a little more red to the glasses, so I made these “Wine glass Tags” – my version of wine glass charms that most people use to keep track of and distinguish people’s glasses. I thought it added a little more “Bachelorette” to the night. 🙂

wine glass marker tags

Hope you enjoyed this post! Now let me know if you have any other creative ideas for wine glass charms/tags. And let me know what you think of those cookies if you decide to try making them!

Au jardin | A garden themed baby shower!

I’ve been looking forward to this post ever since my friend Kat (blogger @ Withywindle) and I decided to host a baby shower together for our friend Johanna! So I’m excited to finally share some pictures from the event.

Couple of things you should know:

  • We decided to make it garden themed partially because Johanna is vegetarian and super healthy…and because it was spring, and because it’s so darn cute!
  • Much of the credit for the way this shower turned out I owe to my friend. She gave up her beautiful house for the event, did most of the decorating and a great deal of the cooking!
  • Many of our ideas were from other blogs which we stumbled upon probably through Pinterest (I’ll credit them below the pics)
  • A classic children’s book can make a great guest book! Have the ladies sign the inside of the book and write a note to the baby
  • Cake Batter popcorn is really really addicting

Garden Baby shower

Credits & Links

Luscious Lemon Squares

My take on Mini Spinach Quiche

Mini Fruit Tarts

Mini Caprese Salad Bites

Inside Out Carrot Cake Muffins

 Garden Baby Shower

Credits & Links

Birthday Cake Batter Popcorn

Some garden inspiration gathered here

The best and easiest Tissue Paper Poms tutorial

Cute graphic design elements

I learned a lot throwing this little shower. It was so much fun, we had a great turn out, and the food was all delicious! We were pretty pleased, to say the least. Aside from all the baking, I really liked learning to make tissue poms! I hadn’t done any before but my green poms ended up looking like heads of lettuce, which was pretty perfect! 🙂

Check out Kat’s cute post of the same event with her beautiful pics here!

Here’s one more baby shower idea I had to share from Sea Kettle Diaries –a flowery onesie bouquet! One of the cleverest, prettiest gifts!

No-Bake Nutter Butter Nutella Pie

Happy Friday everyone! Since it is Friday, it’s time for a dessert recipe.

I’m a huge sucker for sweet things and I grew up baking a lot. Whenever my family was having company over (which was pretty often), I was typically the one that made the dessert, so I really miss baking as frequently as I used to. I made this recipe a few weeks ago when we had friends over and it turned out delicious. How can you go wrong with Nutella PIE with Nutter Butter crust?!! Oh and did I mention you don’t have to bake this and you can throw it all into your KitchenAid? Extra big points for it being quick and easy to whip up. I found this keeper here on Eat, Live, Run. Make sure to travel over there to see her pretty pictures.

mixing the cream cheese

You’ll Need: (copied from Eat, Live, Run)

for the crust-
24 nutter butter cookies
1/4 cup butter

for the filling-
2-8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup nutella
1/2 cup whipping cream

for nutella ganache {optional}
1/4 cup nutella
1/4 cup cream {or more if you like a thinner ganache}

Step-By-Step

Spray 9-inch pie plate with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

{1}Place nutter butter cookies into food processor and grind until they are fine crumbs. Stir together with melted butter.

{2}Press into prepared pie plate. Place into refrigerator to chill.

{3}For the filling, whip cream cheese and sugar together until well blended. Stir in vanilla and nutella. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. Stir in cream and then increase speed and whip 3 minutes or until very thick.

{4}Pour into pie crust and smooth the top. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

To serve, prepare nutella ganache by microwaving nutella and cream together until a thin sauce forms. Drizzle over pieces of pie.

Nutter Butter Nutella Pie

A few things to note:

  • I had my pie in the fridge for at least 3 hours and it still wasn’t quite set enough when I cut into it. Either I didn’t whip it long enough, or my fridge hardens pies very slowly. Next time I make this I might try popping it in the freezer for a few hours instead.
  • By the time dinner was over and digested, I was ready to dig into the pie and there was no time to make a ganache. It was totally great without it but if you have the patience to drizzle some more chocolate over it, by all means, go ahead! It definitely pretties up the pie… 🙂
  • This is a dangerous one to keep around the house… leftovers sure didn’t last long!