Thanksgiving Recipes, Tips & Tricks

Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday, mostly because I refuse to worry about fat, calories and more calories.  It’s the one day where you get a free pass on being a total fatty.   Thanksgiving is when I will enjoy every savory and sweet bite.

I’ve been in charge of making Thanksgiving dinner for 3 years.  In the past 3 years, Thanksgiving has consisted of 6 to 10 people including myself.  Each year has been equally delicious!

Unfortunately, most Americans are freaking out, stressing out and putting “fun” in family disfunction on Thanksgiving.  To create a less stressful and daunting Thanksgiving, I will provide you with my tips, tricks and recipes that I’ve been using for the past 3 Thanksgivings.

Marlee’s Thanksgiving Menu

Phyllo Cups with Brie and Cranberry Orange Sauce
Herbed Butter Turkey Breast
Mashed Potatoes
Ruth Chris’s Sweet Potato Casserole
Traditional Green Bean Casserole
Stuffing
Honey Cornbread Muffins
Turkey Gravy
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Pumpkin Pecan Pie

Recipes

Phyllo Cups with Brie and Cranberry Orange Jam
Place unbaked phyllo cups (found in your grocery store’s frozen baked section) on a sheet tray with a cube of brie. Bake until the edges of the phyllo cups have started browning and brie melting. Finish with any tart jam. I use the cranberry orange sauce I made the day before.

Herbed Butter Turkey Breast
1 Stick of Room Temperature Butter (Breast Only) or 2 Sticks (Whole Bird)
Chopped Thyme
Mince Garlic
Lemon Zest
Salt & Pepper
Onion (Quartered)
Lemon (Quartered)
Thyme Sprigs
Garlic Bulb (Cut in half)
Chicken Stock

The day before, mix the room temp butter with the chopped thyme, minced garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Place mixture in plastic wrap and shape into a log.  The day of, prep your bird and place in your preferred cooking device.  Pat the skin dry with a paper towel.  Rub with kosher salt.  Rub the room temp. compound butter over and under the skin of the bird.  Place the quartered and halved onion, lemon, garlic and thyme sprigs in the cavity of the bird.  Place a shallow amount of chicken stock at the bottom of the pan.  Cook and baste the bird as the directed packaging informs.

Ruth Chris’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Traditional Green Bean Casserole

Stuffing
2- 3 Boxes Stovetop Turkey Stuffing
Chicken Stock
Butter
1/2 to 1 Sweet Onion
4-6 Stalks Celery

Rough to finely chop your celery and onion.  Saute in butter (amount of butter as indicated on packaging) your celery and onion, Cook until translucent.  Add your chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Add the contents of the Stovetop box. Cook as directed.  Use measurements for butter and chicken stock according to the Stovetop packaging.

Honey Cornbread Muffins
The Neely’s Honey Cornbread Muffins
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/patrick-and-gina-neely/honey-cornbread-muffins-recipe.html  These are super moist and absolutely delicious.  My go-to cornbread recipe!

Cranberry Orange Sauce
1 Pound Fresh Cranberries
2 Cups Sugar
1 Orange (Zested and Juiced)
1/3 C. Water
Dash of Cinnamon
Splash of Vanilla Extract

Place all ingredients in a pot.  On medium heat, occasionally stirring, cook until cranberries have burst open and the sugar has completely dissolved.  Place in a serving bowl and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie

Tips & Tricks

1.  Make as many dishes and prep as much as you can the day before.
The dishes I make and prep the day before:
Compound Butter
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Cornbread Muffins
Pumpkin Pecan Pie
Chop the vegetables for the stuffing
Green Bean Casserole (Not baked)
Sweet Potato Casserole (Not baked)

2.  Designate a family member that is in charge of dish duty.  If you’re cooking, you shouldn’t have to do the dishes too, that’s just cruel.  Wash your dishes as you go.  Don’t just pile them up until the very end of the meal.

3. Set your table the night before.  One less thing you have to do the day of.

4. Stick to what you know, don’t decide to experiment with overly complicated recipes the day of.  You will be sitting on your kitchen floor having a tantrum like Julie in the movie Julie & Julia.

If you have some tips and tricks that are helpful, please provide them in the comment section! Your tip might help someone else!

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

xo,
Marlee

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin Top Cookies

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My sister Rachel has started to become a little baker herself.  Unfortunately, I can’t take any credit for this recipe, only the pictures.  My sister had found this recipe online a long time ago.  The original recipe wasn’t very good, but she had the knack to tweak it into a delicious and highly addictive cookie, that tastes and has the texture of a banana muffin.

I’m not a huge cookie person, but I could easily eat three of these at a time.  If this cookie wasn’t good enough already, she sprinkles cinnamon sugar on top right when they come out of the oven, yummmmmm…

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These cookies are easy to make and you probably have the ingredients already in your pantry.  If you’re a mom and have little ones in school, I swear their friends will be jealous.  If I was in 3rd grade again, I would try and barter my fruit snacks for these cookies!

You will be the hero of your family for at least as long as these cookies last, I promise! Banana fans rejoice, because these cookies are delicious! I think that’s the second time I’ve said they’re delicious, but hey, they REALLY ARE D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.

Thank goodness Rachel started baking, because I would be lost without these cookies in my life.  Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic.  How about you make these and see for yourself! Thanks for the recipe Rachel!

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin Top Cookie Recipe:
2 1/4 C. All Purpose Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 C. Softened Buter (1 Stick)
1 C. Sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
3 Very Ripe Bananas (Mashed)
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 Bag of Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (Rachel likes to use regular size chips, I prefer the mini chips)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Instructions:
1. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream butter until fluffy, add sugar and continue to mix until fluffy and pale yellow in color.

2. Add one egg at a time, vanilla and mashed bananas.

3. Once incorporated, add your dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking powder). After the dry ingredients are incorporated, add your chocolate chips.  (Note: Your batter will be runner than normal cookie dough).

4. With a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, scoop spoonfuls of batter.  Bake in the oven for 8-12 minutes or until the cookies edges are just starting to turn golden brown.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar after cookies are taken out of the oven.

Thanks for reading!

xo,
Marlee & Rachel

Fresh Cranberry Orange Scones

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Happy November! In honor of November and the soon approaching American holiday, Thanksgiving, I had to utilize the fruit of November – Cranberries! With fall, comes fresh cranberries.  Fresh cranberries seem to only enter your local grocery store between mid-October through the holidays, which stinks.  Luckily fresh cranberries freeze well and can be stored all year long, so stock up now! I’ve been wanting to make fresh cranberry scones since May, well now I finally can and they were worth the wait.

They are without a doubt my new favorite scone recipe! The tart cranberries pair beautifully with fresh orange zest and the soft pillowy dough. I like to top these scones with turbinado (raw) sugar for an added crunch to contrast the soft inside.  These scones are even better with a small smear of soft butter and a cup of camomile tea or coffee.  Perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea.

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Scones are easy to make and don’t take long to whip up! If you have guests from out of town or friends and family coming for brunch, these are a must have.  This recipe is great, if you have left over cranberries from Thanksgiving and don’t want to through them out.

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Fresh Cranberry Orange Scone Recipe:
1 C. Roughly Chopped Fresh Cranberries
1 Orange Zested
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 tbsp. Sugar
2 C. All Purpose Flour
2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
3 tbsp. Sugar
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/3 C. Cold Butter
1 Egg (Beaten)
4-6 tbsp. Milk
Turbinado (Raw) Sugar

Preheat oven to 400.

Instructions:
1. In a small bowl, add roughly chopped cranberries, orange zest, vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix together and set aside.

2. In a medium size bowl, measure out and mix your flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

3. Add your cubed butter into your dry ingredients. You will want to use a pastry blender or the tips of your finger to incorporate the butter and dry ingredients. The consistency should look like wet sand.

4. Add your beaten egg, cranberry mixture and milk and mix until you have a dry/sticky dough. If the mixture is dry, add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time, until the dough comes together. (You don’t want a super crummy dough, but you don’t want a really moist dough either).

5. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place 6-9 blobs of dough down. Top with turbinado sugar and bake the scones for 12-15 minutes. Scones are done when the edges are a light golden brown and firm to the touch.

Hope you fall in love with these scones!

xo,
Marlee

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

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Chocolate chip banana bread is the best.  I grew up on the this bread and I have been eating it as a special breakfast since I was at least 5 years old.  My mom would make it a lot when I was younger.  When I started getting into baking, I happily took over the job!

SInce I grew up on chocolate chip banana bread, I’ve never enjoyed eating banana bread without chocolate chips.  A banana bread without chocolate chips is like pancakes without maple syrup! It’s just not right.  Plus, who doesn’t want to eat chocolate for breakfast?!

This recipe is really easy to make! It’s perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack and will please even the pickiest of eaters.

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe: (Makes 1 large loaf or 2 medium loaves)
1/2 C. Butter (Softened)
1 C. Sugar
2 Eggs
2 C. All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
3 Very Ripe Bananas
1 12oz Bag of Mini or Regular Semisweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350.

Instructions:
1. In a small bowl, mix the dry ingredients.

2. In a small bowl, mash the ripe bananas. It should be mashed to the consistency of a thick puree.

3. In a stand mixer, beat the softend butter until light and fluffy. Then add the sugar and continue to mix until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time.

4. With the mixer on, alternate the mashed bananas and dry ingredients, starting and ending with mashed bananas. Once incorporated, add the chocolate chips.

5. In greased pans, divided the batter evenly. Place in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, loosely cover the top with foil. Cook for an additional 15-40 minutes, depending on how big your loaves are.

This bread freezes really well!
Hope you try it and enjoy!

xo,
Marlee

Pumpkin Scones with a Pumpkin Spice Glaze

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Third pumpkin recipe in a row! I swear after this I’ll take a pumpkin break, I promise! Even though I love pumpkin, I’m starting to get a little pumpkined out.  But…in case you aren’t, than here is another delicious pumpkin recipe!  I’m always looking to new flavors in scones.  Seasons are always influencing what I decide to add to my basic scone recipe.  In the spring and summer I like to make scones with blueberries, lemon zest, strawberries and peaches.  In the fall, I like to use pecans, pumpkin, fresh cranberries and apples.  The list of scone possibilities is endless.

The key to making pumpkin baked goods taste good, is unfortunately more sugar and a lot of cinnamon and spices.  Otherwise you will end up with a bland baked good.

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Pumpkin Scones with a Pumpkin Spice Glaze Recipe:
2 1/4 C. All Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Pumpkin Spice
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/3 C. Cold Butter
6 tbsp. Maple Syrup
1/2 C. Canned 100% Pumpkin Puree
1 Egg (Beaten)
4-8 tbsp. Milk

Glaze:
1 C. Sifted Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Spice
1-2 tbsp. Milk
1/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 400.

Instructions:
1. In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Cube butter and add to the dry ingredients. You will want to use a pastry blender or the tips of your finger to incorporate the butter and dry ingredients. The consistency should look like wet sand.

2. After the butter and dry ingredients are incorporated, add 1 beaten egg, pumpkin puree, maple syrup and milk. If the mixture is dry, add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time, until the dough comes together. (You don’t want a super crummy dough, but you don’t want a really moist dough either).

*Make sure the butter, milk and eggs are cold in order to achieve a flaky scone.

3. On a floured surface, form the dough into a 9 inch circle and cut into 8 separate pieces.

4. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, bake the scones for 12-15 minutes. Scones are done when the edges are light brown and firm to the touch. Let cool completely before glazing.

For the Glaze:

Combine and whisk the powder sugar, pumpkin spice, vanilla extract and milk. If the glaze is too thick, add more milk. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar.

Top the cooled scones with glaze and enjoy!

xo,
Marlee

Super Moist Pumpkin Muffins

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As we all know, it’s PUMPKIN SEASON! Going along with pumpkin season, I decided to whip up another delicious, super easy recipe – PUMPKIN MUFFINS! These pumpkin muffins are one of my all time favorite muffins, besides the higher calorie Panera Bread pumpkin muffins.

Fall is without a doubt my favorite season! I love that you can wear comfy sweaters, eat comfort food and hide those extra pounds under those big comfy sweaters! 🙂  I love to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and watch the return of my favorite shows! Wearing my Ugg slippers that feel like a cloud on my feet! And I can’t get enough cinnamon and pumpkin goodies! I’ll probably be in a cinnamon/pumpkin comma after this season is over.

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Did I mention I love this recipe!? I’ve been making it since high school and it’s super easy to put together and even easier to eat! They’re so good, I usually eat two for breakfast, because it’s really hard to just eat one, unless you use a jumbo muffin pan.  If you use a jumbo muffin pan and eat two, I think you might suffer from a self-control problem.

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Muffins are comfort food, that’s why this pumpkin muffin is perfect for a cold morning.  It seriously will make your day better.  If you’re having an awful day, I actually challenge you to see if your day still sucks after eating one of these!

If you try this recipe, I guarantee you will like it, unless you’re a person that hates pumpkins, muffins and puppies.
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Super Moist Pumpkin Muffin Recipe: Makes 12 – 15 muffins
1 1/2 C. All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Apple Pie Spice
1 15oz Canned 100% Pure Pumpkin Puree
2 Eggs (Beaten)
1/3 C. Canola OiL
1 1/4 C. Granulated Sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

Instructions: 

1.  In a medium size bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, combine with a whisk, canned pumpkin, cinnamon, apple pie spice, eggs, oil and sugar.  Once combined, add the dry ingredients.  Mix until incorporated or until most of the lumps are gone.

3.  Line a muffin tin with muffin cups/liners and scoop batter 3/4 of the way up with an ice cream scoop.

4.  Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.  I took me 25 minutes.  Once cooled, place muffins in an air tight container – this will keep them moist up to 5 days.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

xo,
Marlee

Fall Harvest Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

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With everything pumpkin spice this season, I had to jump on the pumpkin spice wagon! There’s pumpkin spice bread, pumpkin spice oreos and pop tarts and pretty much anything else you can imagine has pumpkin spice.  This bowl of pumpkin spice oatmeal is fall in a bowl – warm and comforting! Perfect for your health crazed family member or even yourself!

You either like oatmeal or you don’t.  I use to hate oatmeal.  The globby, mushy, flavorless texture made me want to gag after two bites.  It wasn’t until college that I gave it another chance. I was on a health kick. And what’s healthy with a good amount of fiber, well…oatmeal! So I had to make oatmeal interesting!

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I would add different fresh and dried fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, maple syrup, spices, etc.

The trick to liking oatmeal, is texture and multiple flavors.  Adding crunchy, naturally sweet fruit like apples makes a world of difference.  I always like to add nuts for fiber and healthy fats like 0mega-3 fatty acids.  I usually go with chopped, roasted, non-salted almonds, or chopped walnuts.

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Fall Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Recipe:
1/4 C. Old Fashioned Oats
1/4 C. Quick Cooking Oats
1 tbsp. Canned 100% Pumpkin Puree
1/8 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 C. Almond Milk or Reg. Milk
Honey Crisp Apples
Pecans or Walnuts
Maple Syrup

Instructions:
1. Mix oats, pumpkin pie spice, almond milk and pumpkin puree. Heat in the microwave for 2 minutes. I like to add a little more almond milk, to loosen it. Who likes thick, globby oatmeal! Sorry if I offended you, but yuck!

2. Top with your favorite apples, nuts and drizzle with maple syrup and maybe a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice!

Hope you enjoy this healthy fall breakfast!

xo,
Marlee