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!

The Secret To **Fall Off The Bone** Ribs

Since the 4th of July is fast approaching and ribs were on sale this week {Buy 1/Get 2 FREE…GREAT deal!!} I thought it would be the most opportune time to share with you the recipe for the BEST RIBS you will ever eat in your entire life.  The secret is in the TRIFECTA: {I named it for you, Chicky}



How to Prep the Meat:

To make the ribs – the VERY FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT step is to remove the membrane or the “silver skin”.  Otherwise your ribs will be tough and chewy.  It’s easy to do:

Step 1:  Remove the ribs from their packaging and lay them out on a cookie sheet to catch all of the yuck.  {I have these ones for roasting and reserve my pretty ones for baking}


Step 2: Slide your finger underneath the membrane {it is found on the bony side of the ribs – not the meaty side and it feels like rubber}


Step 3: Once you’ve got a piece of it – you should be able to just peel it off…you’ve just got to put some muscle into it.  Ha Ha.


{This was a really fatty rack of ribs – they aren’t usually that bad – so I cleaned the fat off of these ones a bit}

Step 4: Cut the ribs into 2 bone portions


That’s it for prepping the meat….now…

How to make them FALL OFF THE BONE tender:



Cook the ribs in the pineapple juice.  Yep – not only does it add a great flavor – but the acid in the pineapple juice will break down the proteins in the meat.

           Step 1: Pour 1 LARGE can of Pineapple Juice into a large pot {big enough to fit the number of racks you are making}

           Step 2:Turn the heat to high

           Step 3: Place the ribs into the pot of pineapple juice

           Step 4: Cover & and bring to a boil

           Step 5: Once they are boiling, reduce the temp to low and simmer for 3 HOURS!  I know that’s a long time – but it works it’s magic that way

***NOTE*** If you use a pressure cooker – they only cook for 30 minutes after they reach pressure!!  This {among other reasons} is where I highly recommend owning a pressure cooker!

I like my electric one. {Because I’m afraid I’ll make the other kind explode}  My sister in law uses a regular one.  They have the same results.

             *While they are cooking, line a baking sheet with tin foil.  {This makes clean up a breeze.  I recommend using the professional size foil.  It will cover the pan with no seams}

How to Make Them DELICIOUS!

Step 1: Remove the ribs from the pot and place them on a lined baking sheet MEATY SIDE DOWN.


Step 2: Sprinkle the ribs with Montreal Steak seasoning.  {It’s got a little bit of heat to it – so keep that in mind…}


Step 3: Squirt a little BBQ sauce on each rib – this is my favorite kind.  {If you like homemade – THIS recipe is DELICIOUS!!!}


Step 4: Spread the sauce around with a basting brush.  {This is a great way for cute nieces to help out…}


Step 5: Turn the ribs over and repeat the process on the meaty side.

Step 6: Bake the ribs for 15 minutes at 325 to set the sauce. {or throw them on the BBQ}

Step 7: Serve them up!

**I was so excited to eat my ribs – that I completely forgot to take a picture of the final product!!  I’m so sorry!!  Next time I make them I’ll put a photo up :0)

I served the ribs with grilled corn on the cob & Ruth’s Chris Chopped Salad.

And for a patriotic & DELICIOUS dessert try our Angel Food Cake Trifle


And…don’t forget about our Patriotic Stars & Stripes Bunting Banner Tutorial…cheap and easy to make and dresses up the table nicely!!



For great Photos of the Fireworks show: check out Jodi’s post 5 TIPS FOR TAKING PICTURES OF FIREWORKS


Happy 4th of July!!


His & Hers Soiree: Food, Glorious Food


Food presentation is a HUGE part of the “enjoying eating it” experience!

Randi has an amazing ability to present food…so everything looks and tastes amazing!

Here are a few tricks to follow – and you’ll soon have a few tricks up your sleeve!

Let’s start with the Cupcakes:


The first trick is to use a great big tip when piping your frosting like THESE

You’ll get a professional look, even if your piping bag is a ziploc baggie. {Don’t knock it til’ you try it!}

Don’t forget to top it with a sprinkle of Gold Edible Glitter

The cupcake liners were purchased at home goods – but you can find similar ones HERE
– or make your own with this template:


{Click on the image to download the template}

If you have an electronic cutter like the Silhouette, then you can zip them out on your striped paper looking FABULOUS!

You can also cut them with scissors and then use a scalloped edged scissor at the top.

For the Mustache Toppers: Just cut them out from our TEMPLATE and glue them to a flat topped toothpick.

I’ve also made a TEMPLATE for the Happy Birthday Pennants…just cause I like ya so much!



The pennants were attached to wooden skewers {cut in half} and topped with a glittered wooden ball on top. (the balls can be found in the craft stores by the wooden dowels)

 Click HERE for a tutorial on making the glitter ball sticks. (just scroll all the way down)

The Drinks

The decision for how to make this drink was made because she had a color that she wanted it to be!  Genius!

So she found a juice that was the right color and built the drink from there.




What’s great about this drink is that it can be a formula for any party drink

1. choose a color them – pink for example

2. add coordinating frozen fruit – raspberry

3. fill 1/2 with juice that matches the color palette

4. fill remainder of the glass with gingerale.


We also made darling

Buffet Signs

to go in front of the different goodies on the table.

Here is the one we made for the drink:


It says “Drink Me, I’m just peachy”

You can download the buffet sign template HERE.

I’ve left the template blank so that you can add in whatever you’re serving…

Like the sign for the cupcakes:


It says: “Let Them Eat Cake, Lots of It”  Hee Hee.

 {Let’s just say it was midnight and we were getting silly with our sign making.}

and for the



The sign says “Lots of Chocolates for Me to Eat”


You can get the mustache chocolate mold HERE

It really is as simple as:

1. Place the sticks in the mold

2. Pour in your melted chocolate

3. Wait for the chocolate to set (refrigerator works great to speed this along}

4. Pop the chocolate pops out of the mold

To keep the pops standing upright she filled a trophy cup with rice…GENIUS!



Follow the same steps for the Crown Molds

Before you pour in the white chocolate – sprinkle some Edible Gold Glitter
into the mold.  Then you’ll have sparkly crowns ;0)

The truffles are just lindt truffles, unwrapped with a sprinkling of Edible Gold Glitter
…so easy!  So smart!

chocolate-ballsSound like a lot of work?  You could save yourself the trouble by winning our {#PARTY IN A BOX#}!

You can read more about how to win this box in THIS POST!

Good Luck!


Tomatillo Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice

A few years ago, my friend Elaine called me up and said she had just made the yummiest dinner and she was bringing me a taste!

She called it Tomatillo Chicken and had made it in the slow cooker.   She served hers street taco style with just the meat and cheese.  She folded it over and deep fried it.  It was delicious.

The meat was so incredibly tender – while the flavor of the meat was tangy, spicy and sweet all at the same time.  SOOOOO GOOD!!!

I’m not a member of the fry club {Don’t own a deep fryer} and greasy foods and I don’t get a long well.  So – I’ve adapted the way I serve it from hers – but didn’t stray at all from the recipe for the meat.  Because you really don’t want to mess with perfection.  I have since made it for several friends and family and have yet to find someone that doesn’t snarf it and then ask for the recipe.  It’s that good.

I serve mine with a Cilantro Lime Rice {recipe to follow} that is delicious on it’s own – but to die for when paired with this meat.

They were meant to be together, I believe.

Here’s what you’ll need to make the meal:


For the Meat:

15 Tomatillos {about the size shown above} – husks removed, rinsed and quartered

1 Small Onion – Roughly Chopped

1 Can of Chipotle Chile’s in Adobo Sauce – I only use about 3 or 4 chili’s from the can – but you can add them to how spicy you like it.

3 Cloves of Garlic, Crushed

1 C. Chicken Stock

2 Tbsp Dried Oregano

1/4 C. Brown Sugar

4 Chicken Breasts (I also like to use a small pork roast sometimes)

Toss all of the ingredients together in the crock pot and cook it on high for 4 hours, or on low for at least 6.

(The longer it cooks on low the more tender the meat will be.

**Since I’ve started making this – I have been introduced to this Cuisine Art Electric Pressure Cooker.


It cooks the meat from frozen to fall apart in 90 minutes.  Perfect for those days that I space out thawing my meat out and forgetting to make the dinner in the morning so it can slow cook all day.  Not to mention, you don’t lose the nutrients the way you do otherwise.  The flavors are more intense and the meat is WAY more tender.  Just so you know ;0) **

With about 30 minutes to dinner – I start making the rice:

Here is the recipe for Cilantro Lime Rice:

You will need:

2-4 Tbsp Butter

2 Green Onions, Sliced

2 C. Rice (I like Jasmine)

**Note – it’s equally good with brown rice – but you’ll have to refer to the package directions for cooking time**

Zest of 2 limes

Juice of 1 lime

2 Tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro

4 C. Chicken Stock

Salt and Pepper to taste


In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and add in the green onions and sauté.  Then add the rice and coat with the butter and toast it just a bit.

Then add the chicken stock, lime zest and juice, cilantro and salt and pepper.

Bring to a full boil, then cover and turn to low.

Let simmer on low without stirring or removing the lid for 20 minutes.

Then take the lid off and fluff the rice with a fork.

To Serve: 

Once the rice is finished – I shred the chicken with 2 forks right in the crock pot.

Then place a mesh strainer over your crock pot, and let some of the juices drain out.  You don’t have to do this step – but I hate leaky burritos.


While the juices are draining – start cooking up your tortillas

I like to use store bought, uncooked tortillas and then brown them on my cast iron griddle.


When they are nice and toasty, just assemble your burrito with the ingredients that you like: (we do it buffet style)


I like mine with:

Sour cream spread on the bottom, Cilantro Lime Rice, Tomatillo Chicken, Cheese, and Avocado Slices.  Just don’t add so much that you can’t fold it up.

You could just wrap it up burrito style and eat it at this point – but I like to toast all of the sides to give the burrito a nice crunch.

And my husband has this nifty little trick to seal up the burrito.

Fold it burrito style, and leave the last flap open a bit and sprinkle on some cheese:


Then fold it shut:


Place it seam side down on the cast iron griddle:


Then eat it and leave me a comment about how delicious it was!  Because you’ll love it!!


If you  aren’t a tortilla fan (like my son) he eats his rice bowl style:


If you want carb free – this meat makes a DELICIOUS salad…and if you don’t strain the meat – you don’t need a dressing.

I’ve also made a salad Cafe Rio style – with the lettuce, meat, black beans, and the cilantro lime rice.

A little sour cream and some avocado slices and you have a yummy and light meal.

However you eat it – this is one that gets requested a lot at my house…I’m sure the trend will continue.  Leave a comment if you try it!! I know future readers would love to know how delicious it is from more than just me ;0)



The Doctor is In…


Doctoring cake mixes is a great way to make it easy to have bakery quality with the ease of a mix.

Adding a few extra ingredients makes the cupcake more moist & flavorful.  Getting asked what bakery you bought the cupcakes from when you made them yourself makes a girl smile ;0)

If you’re loving the cupid’s arrow through the cherry {above} make sure to check out the tutorial!

These changes “Doctor” the boxed cake mix:

Extra Eggs

Sour Cream

Jello Instant Pudding

Just doing this to any mix will make a huge difference – but don’t stop there – get creative!!

This batter is super thick because of the pudding…so tucking in delicious surprises to the cupcake center is easy!

**Just make sure that if you are using a candy {like peanut butter cups or rolos or kisses} freeze them first so that they don’t melt away during the baking process!

Possible Flavor Combinations:

Chocolate Cupcakes:

Doctor The Mix

Chocolate Instant Pudding

Mini Chocolate Chips

Add in a flavored extracts and fruit or candies that you think will work

( I chopped up some cherries and added raspberry extract and mini chocolate chips to the frosting)

Pina Colada Cupcakes:

Doctor The Mix

Vanilla Instant Pudding

Crushed Pineapple (Drain the Juice)

Add Coconut Extract to the frosting and top with shredded coconut

My favorite Doctored Recipe is Coconut Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:

{This recipe was modified from one on Our Best Bites }

To make the Cupcakes:

1 Box White Cake Mix

1 Small Box Instant Vanilla Pudding

1/2 C. Oil

1/2 C. Water

1/2 tsp. Coconut Extract

3 Eggs

1/2 C. Sour Cream

1 C. Shredded Coconut

Combine all the ingredients and mix together well.

Place batter into lined muffin tins.  I like to use a cookie scoop for this – you’ll get more uniform, evenly baked cupcakes.


Bake @ 350 until the tops are golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean

18 Minutes for normal sized cupcakes

8-10 minutes for mini cupcakes

(I prefer making mini’s…it makes so many and they are easier to eat without feeling like I’m snarfing. Ha Ha.)

Remove to a cooling rack

For the Frosting:

Make it Homemade! {I modified a recipe from Our Best Bites – I halved it – because it made a TON!}

1 – 8 oz. Package Cream Cheese, Softened

1/2 Stick Butter, Softened

1/2 tsp. Orange Extract

3-5 Cups Powdered Sugar

Beat on low speed until the taste and consistency is what you want.


You can take the lazy man approach:

Use a pre-made cream cheese frosting (I like Betty Crocker)

Add in 1/2 tsp. of orange extract

Stir it Up!

Once the cupcakes have cooled – I think it makes a big difference to not just slather on some frosting.  Piping it on makes it look amazing and doesn’t take long!!  I LOVE THIS LARGE PIPING TIP


I stick it inside of a disposable piping bag (I love them) or a quart or gallon ziploc freezer bag works great, too!

It makes quick work of frosting a big batch of cupcakes and makes them look professional.


Top with some shredded coconut and edible glitter and a raspberry and just try to keep them around.  You can’t.



I also LOVE Edible Baking Glitter!!  Heck – you can throw it on mashed potatoes just for fun…here are my favorite colors:


The flavor combinations of the coconut, the orange in the frosting and the tart raspberry are SO DELICIOUS together!!

My funny hubby said I needed to teach you all how to properly eat a cupcake:


He’s so funny.  I’m always entertained. ;0)

What flavors have you tried??  I’d love to hear about them {And I’m sure the other readers would, too!}


Christmas Eve Dinner

A few years ago – my husband and I were into watching Hell’s Kitchen.  Gordon Ramsay’s Beef Wellington always sounded DELICIOUS!! My husband was always drooling a little bit when they would show it.  So – for Christmas 2 years ago – I surprised him and made it for our Christmas Eve Dinner as one of his presents.

Since it was Christmas – I wrapped it like a gift ;0)Beef-Wellington

He absolutely LOVED it!  And it’s become a tradition to have this Christmas Eve.

You can get the recipe HERE and watch the instructional video HERE

To make the bow on top:

Cut the extra puff pastry into 3 long strips

Fold both ends of one strip into the center (so that there are 2 loops)

Wrap a small piece around the center to hide the seam

Place the bow in the center.

Lay long strips down both sides of the bow

Cut 2 small pieces to hang and notch the edges

The tradition at our house is that we get to open 1 gift on Christmas Eve – our PJ’s.

So I set a really fancy schmancy table – and each person has their gift to open on their plate.

We open them, and change, and eat our super fancy dinner in our new Christmas PJ’s.  I love it.

It helps that the PJ’s have an elastic band with this deliciousness…I’m just sayin’…

That’s what we’ll be doing tonight!  Have a Very Merry Christmas!!  And don’t forget to enter our GIVEAWAY!!


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!!!


1 Chicken = 3 Soups

Finally!!  Soup weather has hit Arizona!!  I realize that, for many of you, soup weather has been around for awhile.  But last week we were still in the 90’s.


But – it’s finally cooled down to where warm soup sounds wonderful.

So…I thought I’d show you how I take 1 simple rotisserie chicken to make 3 delicious soups!

I’m lazy & I buy the rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  If you’re more motivated you can roast the chicken yourself. :0)

Step 1

Remove the meat from the bones

**Just a note: this step is much easier while the chicken is still warm.  You can do it later, after it’s cold, but I do it as soon as my other groceries are put away.

I think the container that the chicken comes in works perfectly for this…

I leave the meat in pretty good sized chunks, because that’s how I like it in my soup.

Cover the meat & refrigerate for later, leave the carcass out for step 2.

Step 2

Place the carcass (the bones, the skin, the juices…) in a  large stock pot and fill the pot with water.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to med/low and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes.  The longer you leave it, the more concentrated your stock will be.  I try to give it an hour.

**Note: a lot of people will add celery, carrots, onions, etc at this point to give the stock more flavor, but since I’m using them in soups later, I just use the carcass.

Step 3

Pour the stock through a strainer into a bowl large enough to hold the liquid.

Discard the bones.

Step 4

Pour the stock into individual containers and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Now you have your stock made, let’s talk about the soup.

Soup #1: Chicken Noodle Soup

I always make this soup first, since I’ve got the chicken all ready to go.

I usually just leave enough stock for this soup in the pan (about 1 quart) from making the stock.

Since it simmered for so long, it’s pretty concentrated, so I’ll add water (about 64 oz) & salt to taste.

Crank the stove up to high to get it boiling again.

Then I add my chicken I removed from the bones.  Like I said, I like to leave it in good sized chunks.

Add 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (more if you like things spicy)

& this (my favorite seasoning)

You can get it at Costco.  I use it A LOT!!  So – I throw in about 1/3 cup of this.  This soup is good without it, but better with it. :0)

If you can’t get it from Costco, just throw in 2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning.  But trust me, the Costco seasoning is better!!  Get it if you can!!

Then I roughly chop:

1 large russet potato (skins on)

2 large carrots

1 onion

and throw them all into the food processor.  I use the Ninja.  I love it.

Give it a few pulses until it looks like this:

As you can see, the pieces aren’t uniform.  But I like that.  And this is a heck of a lot faster than dicing all of these veggies.

The celery, however, I do chop by hand.  Leaves and all.  I think they add flavor and are visually pretty in the soup!

Toss it all in the pot, cover, & let it simmer for at least 10 minutes and then add Ditalini pasta.  I use about 1 cup.  You can add more or less (or none if you want low carb)

Let cook until pasta is soft (about 12 minutes).

Top with shredded parmesan & serve warm.

You can get the printable recipe by clicking on the image.

Soup #2:  Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup w/ Bacon “croutons”

I love butternut squash.  {That’s pretty apparent from my choice of dessert at our last Bake Group.} So I LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED (do you get it?) this soup!  I ate all of the leftovers myself.  I’ve had butternut squash soup before, but I think it may have been the granny smith apple & the bacon in this one that won me over.  I just loved it. (oh yeah, I said it, LOVED!!)

I found this recipe in the Williams Sonoma catalogue & made the following changes:

Change 1: Instead of Pork Belly, I used bacon.

Change 2: Instead of their Chicken Stock Concentrate, I used the stock we made a the beginning of the post.  (Again, it is pretty concentrated, so add about 64 oz. water & salt to taste.)

Change 3: I gave it a dash of chipotle pepper in each dish on top of the bacon.

Here are some pictures of the process:

The Roasted Butternut Squash & Carrots


Caramelizing the apples & onions



The bacon “croutons”

You really have GOT to try this one!!

Soup #3: Zuppa Toscana (Tuscan Potato Soup)

I love this soup at Olive Garden.  So – I went on a quest to find the recipe.  This one is the closest I’ve found.

A few notes:

**Just use the stock we made above instead of the chicken broth.

**Add in the Kirkland Seasoning I mentioned earlier, if you’ve got it

**Make SURE to use the ground mustard & the fennel seed.  He says optional, but it’s not. It makes the soup.

What are your favorite soups?  Come on people, I want to hear from you!!! ;0)




At least that’s what he called it.

I had completely forgotten all about it.

And then, as I was borrowing the correct spelling of voilà [I am not proficient in the special character aspect of blogging and must resort to borrowing correct spellings on occasion], informed me that voilà is a great word to know and so is slumgullion. Then I was asked to guess it’s definition. Which I randomly happened to know.

You see, every other month we will have a Relief Society meeting called Fun with Foods. Last month a pastry chef brother from the ward was asked to come and share his favorite quick and easy breakfast foods. He let us each try our hand at preparing crepes and then he fixed us slumgullion. His favorite throw together breakfast.

I made it for breakfast this morning and considered taking a photo, but realized that sometimes photos are not necessarily the best selling tools. Which is to say, if I were to share a photo it’s very possible that no one would try the recipe simply because it doesn’t look appetizing. At all. But it is. I promise. And it’s so very simple…

For my kidlets and I [that’s five] this is what I used:

1/2 lb sausage [we like Jimmy Dean’s sage flavored sausage] or a few slices of bacon

5 slices of bread

5 eggs

  1. Brown the sausage [do not drain].
  2. Break the bread [bite sized chunks] into the pan with sausage and drippings. It isn’t necessary to break each piece individually… stack a few together and chunk them up.
  3. Stir the bread around with the sausage and drippings for a few minutes so it can soak up all that good, um, flavor.
  4. Crack the eggs into the pan and mix them up with the rest of the ingredients until done [I interpret eggs done when they are no longer shiny… these will cook up similar to scrambled eggs with a bunch of other stuff mixed in].
  5. Serve + enjoy. Seriously.

A few notes:

When he made this he actually used bacon. Truthfully I’m not a fan of bacon, but it gave a great flavor in this mix. Though I did avoid actually eating the bacon pieces. It’s more of a texture thing for me. We use sausage because I don’t buy bacon.

There are no rules here. Ladies kept asking him how many slices of bread he used, how many eggs, etc. He had no idea. He just threw some stuff in. I kept track of what I used so I could share. I know some people like actual numbers. I’m more of a tosser-inner myself. I think this makes just enough to feed those of us at home during breakfast. My boys think they would like more. It won’t fit in my skillet. I don’t want to use a bigger pan.

Wiktionary says slumgullion is a stew of meat and vegetables and the images that pop up [if one were to choose to google the word as I did] look much like what we call goulash around here. So I like that he called it slumgullion.

And my kids love it.

ps. The photo above is obviously not of slumgullion. It’s just fun. And every post needs a fun photo.

The end.

pps. Happy Halloween

ppps. I found a reference to slumgullion that may indicate where this particular recipe originated… Apparently Jack Kerouac talks about making slumgullion in his book The Dharma Burns. It was made with home fries and eggs.

Bake Group: Tricky Treats

I always think that the previous Bake Group will be the best one…because you really can’t top perfection.  But, as usual, WRONG!!

Everything was super delicious this month.  I won’t keep you waiting…

This Pumpkin Cheesecake w/Pecan-Gingersnap Crust is from Our Best Bites Recipe Book.

But – Lucky for you – they have the recipe on their blog.  You can get it HERE.

When the baker was describing it – she said the topping is melted kraft caramels.  I was sold.  I love them.  Too much at times.

The whole cake was completely amazing.  I don’t love firm cheesecakes – so this was perfect.  Very soft and moist.  And DELICIOUS!!

Let me just say, first, that I couldn’t eat the chocolate spiderweb atop my cupcake.  It was too cute.

The nice thing about this cake, as the creator pointed out, is that it doesn’t taste like a muffin.  It still tastes like a cupcake.

And that frosting!!!  Oh my!!  HEAVEN!! Get the recipe for the cake HERE and the recipe for the frosting HERE.

So – to make the cute chocolate art deco on top – she printed out an image and put it under wax paper.

Then cut a tiny hole in her piping bag and used the image underneath as a guide to pipe the chocolate onto the wax paper.  GENIUS!!

Okay – this funny baker apologized over and over that the frosting wasn’t right.

But – oh my – it definitely wasn’t wrong.  I could have licked it off.  And I’m not a huge frosting person.

It was delicious and the cake was 3 perfect layers.  She does suggest that if you make this – to not cook the frosting so long.  She said it was probably at the right consistency after 1 minute instead of the 5 the recipe calls for.  You can find this one in the 2010 Southern Living Ultimate Christmas Cookbook  I can’t give you the recipe right out of the book – but this one looked similar.

This may replace plain old pumpkin pie this thanksgiving at my house.  It can be made as a whole pie…and it may or may not be served to guests.  I might hoard it.  SOOOO GOOD!!

So – she had me at cream cheese at butterscotch – but then there is a layer of pumpkin pie, topped with a gingersnap streusel.  Seriously.  I don’t think I need to say anything else, do I?

You can get the recipe HERE.

This recipe was found in the Better Homes and Gardens at my hairdressers!!  Ha Ha.

I was getting cute-ified and found this and knew it was what I wanted to make.

It sounds a little weird {it calls for mozzarella cheese} and I couldn’t decide if it was meant to be a dessert – but I finally decided it was.

There is whipped cream on top.  That makes it dessert, right?

But – some of the gals in bake group said they might make this in place of the sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving.

So – try it out and let me know what you think…you can get the recipe HERE

Last, but certainly not least…This apple cake was AMAZING!!!  Honestly – it would be good alone.

But I wouldn’t recommend it.  That frosting was the best thing I’ve ever had in my life.

It was light like whipped cream – but with WAY more flavor.  SOOOOO GOOD!!!

And – I’m sorry – but I just love the edible gold baking glitter and witches feet she added.

Delicous and Cute.  Win Win.

Sorry – can’t give out this recipe.  You can find it in the Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented Cookbook.  Or I found one at a different blog HERE.

Let us know which recipes you try out and which are your favorites!!

Happy Halloween!!