Even though it’s October (and the weather is still feeling like August…), I’m starting to think about Thanksgiving. I know, I know, but I get to host this year and I’m pumped! We’re not sure if we’ll have a big crowd or just the four of us, so I’ve got several menus floating around in my head.
I knew this month’s Improv Challenge theme, Sugar and Spice, was perfect for trying out some of the recipes I’m considering. Sugar and spice is SO fall – apple spice, pumpkin spice – but I couldn’t get these nuts off my mind, so they won out.
This is such an easy recipe – the slow cooker makes it totally hands off. Just mix, let the slow cooker do it’s thing, then spread them out to cool. They were so good – and a perfect pre-Thanksgiving dinner snack!
Candied Spiced Nuts
(adapted from Crunchy, Creamy, Sweet)
Makes 3 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups almonds
2 cups pecans
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
Grease the crock of a slow cooker and add the nuts. Add the sugars and cinnamon and stir. Add the water and stir until everything is evenly combined and wet.
Cook on high for 3 hours.
Remove nuts to a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool. Sprinkle with remaining seasonings. Once fully cooled, store in an airtight container.
You can check out the other Sugar and Spice themed recipes that bloggers made here:
A lot of my Lenten Friday dinners are recreated junk food or takeout fakeout. There’s a reason for that. By the time Friday rolls around, that’s really all I want. And I’m assuming I’m not alone in that since pizza is such a popular Lenten dinner.
So, here’s another option if you’re thinking of ordering pizza tonight.
No, you won’t be fooled into thinking the cauliflower is tortilla chips – but this is delicious in it’s own right. And you’ll feel more virtuous downing a whole plate!
1 large head cauliflower, chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese
Your favorite nacho toppings – we used salsa, black beans, black olives, pickled jalapenos, and sour cream
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a large bowl, toss cauliflower with olive oil. Sprinkle spices evenly over the cauliflower and toss to coat. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 35-40 minutes, until golden and crispy.
Top with cheese and any other toppings you want warm and bake for 5 minutes more, until the cheese is melted.
Add remaining toppings and serve.
There’s nothing new about cocktail meatballs. I’m sure you’ve had them a million times. But I wanted to share this recipe today because it’s a great, easy option for your Super Bowl party.
This version uses the slow cooker – it’s a mix-it-up-and-forget-it dish that’s always a crowd pleaser. Use a slow cooker liner for even easier clean up!
Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs
(from Cincy Shopper)
Serves 10-12 as an appetizer
12 oz. chili sauce
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 1/2 cups grape jelly
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 lbs. frozen meatballs
Add all ingredients, except meatballs, to the slow cooker and whisk to combine. Stir in meatballs. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
Just about two weeks until the Super Bowl! Are you having a party? We’re going to one with some of our best friends and I’m super excited about it.
We’ve been chatting about the menu for weeks. Chili, a nacho bar, and pickle dip are all on the short list. This is a contender, too.
I made this up as a Christmas day munchie and it was well received. This is a great make-ahead option and it’s done in the slow cooker, which is awesome. I used a slow cooker bag for this to aide with cleanup (it was a breeze!) but I also kept the mix in the bag while it cooled, instead of spreading it on baking sheets. I just shook the bag/ mixed it around every few minutes until it was fully cooled. Super easy and it worked perfectly!
Slow Cooker Ranch Chex Mix
(from Oh Sweet Basil)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
4 cups corn Chex cereal
3 cups mini pretzels
3 cups oyster crackers
3 cups Cheezit crackers
1 cup dry roasted, lightly salted peanuts
Line your slow cooker with a slow cooker bag or spray with non-stick spray.
Whisk together the butter, ranch mix, Worcestershire, sugar and corn syrup in a small bowl.
Mix remaining ingredients together in the slow cooker. Pour liquid mixture over and stir to coat.
Cover and cook on low for 3 hours, stirring every half hour. When finished, pour the contents onto large baking sheet sand continue stirring as it cools to avoid it lumping together. Store in an airtight container.
One of the things I struggled with right after Julie was born was snack time for Jake. It seemed like every time I sat down to nurse her, he’d start begging for a snack. And, oh, the meltdown if I grabbed the wrong snack!
My solution was to make him his own snack bin. I filled it with pre-portioned snacks I was okay with him helping himself to.
Here’s what’s in the snack basket this week:
The snacks in plastic bags are ones we buy in bulk. It takes me just a few minutes to grab a handful and add them to the bags – and is way easier than trying to get Jake not to eat an entire 1 lb. bag of yogurt raisins.
Here’s what everything looks like in the basket:
The basket lives on the lowest shelf in our pantry. Jake can open the pantry to get to the snacks on his own, but 90% of the time he still needs help opening the packaging. This is proving to be the best of both worlds – he feels like he’s in control, but he still brings it to be before eating so I can monitor.
How do you handle kid snacks at your house?
Jake loves dip. Or, as he says it “deeeep!” Anything that can be dipped is a hit – and that extends to spreads, too. It’s common now to get halfway through a meal and then have him start asking for dip. I’ve been keeping things like hummus in the house so we have some healthy options to dip – but sometimes you just need something fun.
This was fun.
It pairs well with crackers and we loved it with cucumbers, too. And it really couldn’t be easier. This is an awesome option for summer potlucks!
(slightly adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything)
Serves 10-12 as an appetizer
2 packages cream cheese, softened
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/3 cup chopped black olives
8 green onions, chopped
3 oz. roasted red peppers
Add everything to a food processor and pulse until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
I’m pretty obsessed with caramelized onions. Like, if they weren’t destined for this tart, I probably would have just eaten them with a spoon.
This tart is a great option for a holiday appetizer. It’s a nice mix of sweet and savory and warm cheese makes pretty much everyone happy. This was a definite crowd-pleaser.
Caramelized Onion Tart
(from Annie’s Eats)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the onion, thyme, sugar, salt, and pepper. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized and golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a small bowl whisk together the ricotta and egg yolk until smooth.
Roll out the puff pastry sheet on a baking sheet and fold in each edge about 1 inch to make a crust. Spread the ricotta mixture over the puff pastry and sprinkle about half of the Parmesan cheese over the ricotta mixture. Spread the caramelized onions evenly over the cheese and top with the remaining Parmesan. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden. Slice and serve.
I was so excited when I found this recipe. First, it was another no-cooking-involved appetizer that was still fun and festive. Second, I knew any leftovers would be awesome alongside my favorite use of leftover turkey – Turkey Cranchiladas. Seriously, though – can you think of a better day-after-Thanksgiving meal?
If you’ve already have your Thanksgiving menu set, keep this in mind for Christmas. The color is such a beautiful, rich red that would be super festive on a holiday table!
Makes about 2 cups
1 (12 oz.) package of fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 medium jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
1 green onion, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp. cumin
Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until you reach the desired consistency. Serve with tortilla chips.
I’m thankful for a lot. My husband who works so hard for our family in so many ways. My little guy whose smiles just make my day. That we’re all healthy, fed and safe. And my friends – because I really don’t know where I’d be without them.
Last night, we had some friends over to celebrate an early Thanksgiving. Friends I went to middle school with who have loved me since before I’d really learned to love myself. Friends from college who have been supportive of us as we dated, got married and grew the family. And newer friends, who helped me stay sane during the early months of motherhood. It was just a small cross-section of our friends, but as I looked around the table it reminded me just how lucky we are.
I think something that often gets lost in prep for these big meals is that the goal is really to spend time together – not hours cooking. With that in mind, I whipped up a few no-cook appetizers. This one is whipped up in about five minutes and can be ahead of time. For a busy day like Thanksgiving, it’s a definite winner.
Cranberry Pumpkin Walnut Spread
(from Pen and Fork)
Makes about 2 cups
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup dried cranberries, plus a tablespoon for garnish
3/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients, except cranberries for garnish, in a food processor and pulse until nearly smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with crackers or toast points.
I often tease my husband that he must have had a boring childhood because he doesn’t know 99% of the kid songs I know and he doesn’t get any of my Sesame Street references – and this started way before we had kids. There’s a few times he’s been able to tease me back – and making pumpkin seeds is one of them.
His family always roasted their seeds as a part of the annual pumpkin carving festivities. We never did. And now that I found a recipe I really like, I’m happy to incorporate them into our new family traditions.
This year was Jake’s first time helping with everything – he was unimpressed with the pumpkin and the seeds. Here’s to hoping he grows to love it!
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
(from The Homesick Texan’s Family Table)
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 tsp. paprika
Pinch of cayenne
Rinse the seeds until they’re free of all pumpkin. Place in a pot and add 4 cups of water and the salt. Bring the pot to a boil then turn down and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees.
In a bowl, whisk together the melted butter and spices. Add in the pumpkin seeds and toss until evenly coated.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and spread out the pumpkin seeds in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes, then let cool for 15 minutes before serving.