Bake Group Fall Recipes 2015

Bake Group Flavors of Fall - Bake Group Fall Recipes - Purdue Avenue

I look forward to our fall bake group EVERY YEAR!  My husband summed it up perfectly {while having his own little tasting session with the extra goodies I brought home} when he said, “This just makes me excited for Thanksgiving.”  While it’s still 90 hot degrees here in Phoenix mid-day, it makes me long for cooler weather and more time outdoors, yummy soups & homey desserts!

This collection of recipes had some of my absolute favorites of all of the bake groups we’ve had.  What is bake group?  I explain it all in THIS POST.  If you love to bake – grab a group of your favorite baker friends & start one of your own!  It’s been SO MUCH FUN!  {I do suggest that you keep the group small to minimize how sick you are when you leave the table. HA!}

The first recipe is my contribution…I normally don’t feel good about the recipes I produce for bake group…but not this time!  I found a winner!!

Caramel Apple Shortcakes with Apple Cider Reduction - Bake Group Fall Recipes - Purdue Avenue

I modified the recipe, (you can print my version HERE) from one found in Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook & I cannot begin to describe how much I loved it.  This is fall’s version of the classic Strawberry Shortcake…so you really can’t go wrong!

Let me walk you through the layers in this beautiful treat:

Drizzled on the bottom is an apple cider & spiced rum reduction infused with vanilla beans

TOPPED WITH a shortcake biscuit that was sweet, flakey perfection

TOPPED WITH caramelized granny smith apple compote

TOPPED WITH a sour cream vanilla bean whipped cream (say THAT fast 5 times!)

TOPPED WITH the other half of the beautifully browned shortcake biscuit that was brushed with milk & sprinkled with sugar to give it a crunchy, caramelized crust that’s TO DIE FOR!

Tips & Tweaks

Tweak #1:  The original recipe called for Apple Brandy, but I happened to have spiced rum on hand from our last bake group (WHAT!  I thought you were Mormon!  HA HA – I am!  It cooks out!!) so I substituted it thinking that another flavor profile couldn’t hurt…and I was right!

Tweak #2: Absolutely, without a doubt, you’re going to want to double the Apple Cider Reduction portion of the recipe!  It doesn’t stretch as far as the other ingredients…and just double the biscuit recipe while you’re there.  It’s so easy and you’ll want more of them.  Trust me.

Tip #1: If you’re hosting a large group – you could easily use a smaller biscuit cutter to stretch the batches.  And they’d be darling bite-sized!

Tip #2:  Experiment with this one! I think my favorite part of making this was dreaming about all of the possibilities for tweaking this recipe seasonally.  It would be AMAZING with peaches, blackberries, FIG, a pomegranate reduction would be something I’d probably drink out of the pan!  Anyway – I’m getting carried away over here.  If you’d love the recipe as I’ve modified it – you can print it HERE.  If you want Bobby Flay’s version – I highly recommend his cookbook.  Several of our favorite dinner recipes are in there…it’s a can’t go wrong kind of cookbook!

White Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites with Gingersnap Crust - Bake Group Fall Recipes - Purdue Avenue

Vickie found her recipe on OUR BEST BITES.  The texture of these cheesecake bites had me eating more than one!  It was light and fluffy, almost mousse-like.  The gingersnap cookies in the crust & topped with a light whipped cream, there was nothing heavy about it!  A whole slice would have been okay by me – and I would have finished it easily.  If you’re planning for a crowd – the bite sized portion was perfection!!

Tips & Tweaks

Tweak #1: To simplify the recipe, she left off the caramel topping…but she said it’s delicious with it, too!

Tweak #2: Because she made the recipe into bite sized portions, she changed the cooking time to 11 minutes @ 375 degrees.

Tip #1: She had no tips.  The recipe was very well written!  Love that!

Maple Gingerbread Cake with Salted Maple Caramel Sauce - Bake Group Fall Recipes - Purdue Avenue

Nancy modified this one quite a bit – and it was one of my favorites…the original baker Joann at Eats Well With Others trades out the traditional fall spice line-up for a Chinese 5 Spice blend that really grabs you on the first bite. (in a good way! not in a “ew – I wasn’t expecting that” kind of way)  The frosting is light and airy made using whipped cream, creme fraiche & brown sugar.  And those candied pecans add the sweet that you’re craving in the bite while adding the perfect crunchy element.

Tips & Tweaks

Tweak #1: She didn’t have maple sugar, so she replaced it with white sugar.

Tweak #2: Since she still wanted the maple flavor to come through she replaced 1/2 of the molasses with maple syrup.

Tip #1: If you don’t have or can’t find Creme Fraiche – sour cream makes a great replacement!

Tip #2: Look elsewhere for a caramel sauce recipe.  She ended up leaving it off of the cake entirely because after 3 attempts – she couldn’t get it to turn out, even though she followed the directions exactly.  (I’d love to taste this one WITH the sauce, but to be honest – it wasn’t necessary.  It was absolutely delicious!)

Magnolia Bakery's Caramel Apple Cake with Butterscotch Frosting - Bake Group Fall Recipes - Purdue Avenue

Randi didn’t only make this Magnolia Bakery Cookbook cake look DARLING, but it tasted incredible!  Chunks of apples throughout the cake batter give it an incredible texture, while maintaining moisture in the cake.  SO GOOD!!

Tips & Tweaks

Tweak #1: She swapped out the Caramel Cream Cheese Icing in the original recipe, for a Butterscotch Cream Cheese Frosting – also found in the same book.

Tweak #2: Wanting to serve mini cakes, she modified the recipe from 2 9″ rounds to a jelly roll pan & used a biscuit cutter to cut out the individual mini cakes. No modification to the baking time or temperature – but since all ovens are different, she suggested you watch closely the last few minutes.  She did mention that she watched it like a hawk in her oven because she was worried that it would spill over – but it didn’t!

Tip #1:  Use a potato peeler to create curls on top by scraping it across a bar of white chocolate!  Scrape along the length for longer curls!

Tip #2: To add a fall touch, she sprinkled on some cinnamon & edible gold baking glitter above the white chocolate curls.  This glitter glams up everything you put it on!

Sweet Karin was our hostess this month – and MAN did she a WONDERFUL job!!  Here’s a look at how she set the room up:

Bake Group Fall Recipes Tablescape

And a closer look at her place settings:

Bake Group Fall Recipes Table Setting

Everything was so festive – including these take-away gifts she made for us!  She graciously sent me the recipe card to share with you, so that you can make someones day giving this cute gift away!!  **YOU CAN PRINT THE RECIPE CARD HERE**

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal Free Printable Recipe Card - Bake Group Fall Recipes - PurdueAvenue

What is so beautifully displayed in those jars was an INCREDIBLE Baked Pumpkin Granola, a recipe that she got from one of her amazing baker friends!

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal - Bake Group Fall Recipes -

You don’t have to wait for breakfast to make this…it was EASILY passable as a dessert.  Think Apple Crisp – only Pumpkin Crisp.  YUM!  The bottom layer of this baked granola was a pumpkin flavored almost custard-like texture that paired perfectly with the topping that was crunchy-buttery-caramelized-nutty-sugary-deliciousness. This is one you’ll definitely want to share! (or not – we won’t judge.)  Here is the recipe:

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal Recipe - Bake Group Fall Recipes - PurdueAvenue

Be a part of our bake group via the internet!  Leave a comment describing YOUR favorite fall recipe & leave us a link to any that are tested and approved by you!


Happy Fall!

Photo Ornaments

I believe in printing photos. I believe in giving photos as gifts. I believe in decorating your home with the photos you love. This project combines all three.

How to make a photo ornament:

Create a 5×7 (or you could do a 4×6) in photoshop (or whatever editing program you’re using) and use grid lines to divide it into quarters. Then choose your four images, open them, and drag them onto your 5×7. You can resize them first so they fit into one of the quarters, or you can resize them after dragging them onto your image by simply holding down your shift key and dragging the corners to resize. You can use the text tool to add the year, or you could hand-stamp that on later.


I printed my 5×7 already mounted on a board. If your lab doesn’t offer that option, you could try mounting it on styrene board with spray adhesive. Let me know how that goes.  (see update at end of post)


Cut the four images apart with kitchen scissors. It’s alright if the edges are rough.


Drill holes for hanging.


Take sandpaper and sand the edges, even taking some of the image itself off.


Put a ribbon through, and you have a beautiful keepsake. We love pulling out these ornaments every year and putting them on our tree!

ornamentsWEB02 ornamentsWEB03 ornamentsWEB01

I try to make a couple of these every year with my favorite photos, and I also make an ornament for everyone whose picture I have taken during the year and send it to them at Christmas time.



Updated: I tried making these by mounting the picture myself, using a board from an old school binder my son had that was falling apart. The edges don’t sand the same way, so I cut them rounded to make it look a little more finished. And be careful not to get glue all over the picture. Other than that, it worked great and was super simple. I even made the holes by just pushing a ballpoint pen through the board because I was extra lazy.

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How to Take a Picture of Your Christmas Tree

Step One: Go to the woods and pick out the tree. For some of us, the woods are in a lot next to Costco that was a pumpkin patch a few weeks ago.

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Step two: Decide on a tree. When you have found the perfect tree, take a moment to stand in awe and reverence and sing the hallelujah chorus, which goes something like this, “Hurry and get it on the car; there are no bathrooms here and we’ve got to go.”

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Step three: Get it home. Assign one of the kids to stick their hand out the window and hold the tree onto the car, just because it freaks them out and is funny. Then feel guilty and tell them they can let go of the tree and admit that it will not fall off the car.

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Step four: Decorate tree. Curse chandelier that is in the way of your pictures.

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Step five: Find tripod. Dust it off. Attach camera. Set your shutter speed low, about 3 seconds or longer. Set your iso fairly low, under 500. Set your aperture to expose your shot correctly. (by the way, if you set your aperture to a high number, like 16, then your lights will have a starburst look to them. If you set it more open, at 4 or lower, then your lights will be more of a glow.) If you don’t know how to shoot in manual, try shutterspeed priority and just set your shutter speed to a slow speed and your camera will do the rest. (all lights are turned off except the Christmas tree lights)

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Step six: Add some people to your photo. Tell them to hold really still. Openly mock anyone who cannot. Laugh a lot.

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Step seven: bask in the Christmas glow.

And ask yourself, why can’t we be like Christmas trees, and the fatter we are the better we look?



December Daily | Day 1-4






As I worked on the pages I realized that I needed to pay attention to the book as a whole unit and not the individual pages. Example: the back side of the day 2 photo. I’ve got nothing. Though I am positive there’s some piece of kid art around here somewhere. Or I could always take a photo of a big pile of tissues and a warm cup of something. After all, that’s what this week has really been about. I’m just a little bit tired of it.

Pretty much everything I’ve used here came from my Hello December Journal Kit. The only exceptions are:

  • The December calendar. It’s a free download from  Rebekka Seale at Dear Friend. I altered it slightly so it would tie in with the rest of the chalkboard stuff in my book [hopefully that’s okay].
  • Day 4 is one of the digital papers from my Brown Paper Packages paper pack [still not up in the shop]. I printed it onto the back of the print of the Etsy treasury.
  • The black/white polka dot washi is Smash tape from my stash.
  • The gold letter stickers on day one. I got those at Michael’s. They’re sticko from EK Success.

I would have shared my cover, but it’s not done.

Not even started, actually.

Though I do have some ideas.

And some liquid gilding.

In gold.

To Brine or Not to Brine…There is No Question!

I’m sure that most of you have heard of brining your turkey.  I heard of it about 3 years ago…and my whole world was changed!  That may sound melodramatic – but honestly.  Those of you that have brined your turkey know what I mean.

My dear Mother-in-law was hesitant.  Because, she had been doing it a certain way for years.  And, it is well known that Eames’ fear change! (that was for you Chicky)

So – we decided to make one the traditional way & to brine one.  (We feed a small army on Thanksgiving – and I have 3 ovens.  ha ha) That way we could test the difference side by side, and if it didn’t work out – we still had the stand-by traditional turkey.

Let me save you the trouble, people.  Just do the brined turkey.  We wished we had brined them both. It was the juiciest, tastiest, most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.  And, I’ve never been one to eat the leftover turkey.  It always tasted dried out and kind of gamey the next day.  Not with the brined turkey.  Oh no.  Still moist and delicious!!

For those of you that don’t know what a brine is or what I’m even talking about – a brine is a flavor infused salt water solution that you soak the turkey in for 24 hours before cooking it.   It absorbs the salt and helps break down the protein in the meat to make it tender and hold the delicious juices in.  Oh my.

There are so many recipes.  Here is my favorite – and because she did such a fabulous job – and I didn’t take pictures last Thanksgiving – I’ve just copied her post here.  All photography and text from here is from The Pioneer Woman.

I brine a turkey every year because it’s the right thing to do. Brining involves soaking a turkey in a very salty solution for a certain length of time, long enough for the salt to infiltrate the turkey and actually alter the molecular structure of the meat. It doesn’t turn it into a salty mess, either. It just results in a juicy, fantastic turkey. If you’ve never brined a turkey, you’ll just have to trust me on this.

You can buy ready-made brining solutions. I used to buy one at Williams-Sonoma. But making one is a cinch, too. You basically need a bunch of salt and whatever other ingredients you want to throw in. I like to balance the saltiness with the mild sweetness of apple cider (and okay, the not-so-mild sweetness of brown sugar) but you can use whatever you’d like.

A couple of important things to remember, though:

1. Only brine fresh turkeys. Brining a frozen turkey is never a good idea, because frozen turkeys are most typically injected with a sodium solution. There are some organic frozen turkeys (my friend Julie found some at Whole Foods recently) that have a much lower concentration of the sodium solution. Generally speaking, though, you’ll want to brine fresh–not frozen–turkeys.

2. Making gravy from the drippings of a brined turkey can result in a really salty gravy if you’re not careful. In the next post, I’ll show you a few steps that will prevent this from happening.

But for now: let’s brine!


Here’s what you need.



Cut off the top and bottom of each orange.



Carefully slice off the peel in sections.



Mmm. Fragrant to the max.



Strip the leaves off the rosemary sprigs, measure the salt, sugar, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Inhale. Exhale. Thank the Lord above for the aromas that spring forth from the earth.

At least that’s what I do every time I make this turkey brine.

(Oh, and you’ll need some minced garlic. I just forgot that step. Happens.)



Pour three cups of apple cider into a stock pot.



Add two gallons of water…



A cup and a half of salt…



Two cups of brown sugar…



Bay leaves…









And orange peel.

And the forgotten garlic.






Now, bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat and cover the pot. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature; feel free to stick it in the fridge or freezer halfway through the cooling down process



This is an alien hand (left) and a brining bag.

I’m obsessed with brining bags. Obsessed!

It’s all I think about anymore.



Here’s the turkey inside the brining bag.



Once the brine solution is cooled, pour it over the turkey.



Now you’ll just need to seal up the bag and refrigerate it for at least sixteen hours. Twenty-four hours is better, though, especially for a large turkey. Place the turkey, breast side down, in the bag, but 2/3 of the way through the brining, flip the turkey in the bag to make sure it brines evenly. Just pretend you’re an obstetrician and you’re trying to get a breach baby to flip!

Note: This is enough brine for a 20-pound turkey. If you feel as though the turkey needs even more liquid, just top it off with more water and it’ll be fine. If you’re using a much smaller turkey or a turkey breast, just halve the recipe.

Next up: Roasting this dang thing.

The fun has only just begun.

Recipe: My Favorite Turkey Brine

Prep Time: 10 Minutes  |  Cook Time: 15 Minutes  |  Difficulty: Easy  |  Servings: 18

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  • 3 cups Apple Juice Or Apple Cider
  • 2 gallons Cold Water
  • 4 Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary Leaves
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1-1/2 cup Kosher Salt
  • 2 cups Brown Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Peppercorns
  • 5 whole Bay Leaves
  • Peel Of Three Large Oranges

Preparation Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover.

Allow to cool completely, then pour into a large brining bag or pot. Place uncooked turkey in brine solution, then refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours.

When ready to roast turkey, remove turkey from brine. Submerge turkey in a pot or sink of fresh, cold water. Allow to sit in clean water for 15 minutes to remove excess salt from the outside.

Discard brine. Remove turkey from clean water, pat dry, and cook according to your normal roasting method.”

It’s Erin again – I hope you’ll try out a brine this year if you haven’t in the past.  If you have…feel free to share your love of brining in the comments section to help me persuade the noobies. ;0)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!



This is why I don’t even put forth an effort anymore on Halloween.

We peaked in 2008.

Themed family homemade costumes. The lion costume was made from one of my grandmother’s old blankets.  Last year, I even re-used the old lion costume.

I’ll never top 2008, so I don’t even try. This year, I bought my son a plastic blood-soaked knife. That’s the extent of my halloween effort.

How’s your halloween shaping up?