Tag Archives: holiday

Sausage Stuffing

Turkey day is fast approaching – I am actually hosting a friendsgiving (for 16!) this weekend so I needed to get my act together in way in advance but I know some of you are still working out your menus.  The best thing about my friendsgiving is that lots of people are bringing their family’s must have Thanksgiving dish so we will have a really fun mix of friends and memories around the table.  My family has several traditions, one being my grandmother’s stuffing with sausage.  My Aunt Carol gave me the recipe years ago and you can see its pretty simple but oh so good.  I have to say I had to tweak it a little as I think a nice hearty bakery loaf is better than Wonder bread and I used homemade chicken stock instead of the boullion but I would NEVER consider not using Jimmy Dean sausage like she did!

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This year I am going to change it up again and mix in some cornbread to reflect our southern home but making it will still make me smile and think of my Nana and that is what Thanksgiving is all about.

Sausage Stuffing 

  • 1 loaf of bread, preferably a rustic farmhouse style
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped sage
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 pound Jimmy Dean sausage roll
  • 1 cup turkey or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Calvados (apple brandy) or another 1/2 cup stock

Cut the bread into bite size pieces and leave out on a cookie sheet overnight to dry out.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a large skillet heat the butter over medium high heat.  Add the onions, fennel, and celery and cook for about 10 minutes until softened.  Add the sage, thyme, fennel seeds and salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute then add to a large bowl.  Add the sausage to the pan breaking it up as you add it to the pan.

Cook over medium high heat until no pink remains, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Add to the bowl with the veggies.  Add the bread cubes to the bowl and toss all together.  Pour over the broth and brandy (if using) and stir to combine again.

Pile the stuffing into a 9 by 13 baking dish and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is crusty.

Holiday Bark

Every year I try and find new things to gift that are edible.  At some point no one really needs more stuff and food gifts are a great way to tell people you care.  Second only to my spiced nuts, this bark always gets top ratings from my friends and family.  Bark is by far the easiest thing to make and you can mix up what kind based on the person you are giving it to or what is in your pantry.  This method makes bark even easier as it entails almost zero clean up.  Most recipes will have you “temper” the chocolate, which means slowly melting it over a double boiler while adding more chocolate as it melts to keep a steady temperature.  This keeps the chocolate from getting a gritty texture and a grey color (no good!) but is kind of a pain.

Years ago I saw a tip in Southern Living magazine about just putting the chocolate on a cookie sheet in a low oven.  The heat just barely melts the chocolate so you don’t run the risk of grey bark and it’s already spread out on the sheet so all you have to do is spread it out a bit more and sprinkle on the toppings.  Once the bark is hard you throw away the parchment paper which means only 1 spatula to clean.  Here I give you 2 different variations but use whatever kind of chocolate you like – other good bark toppings are crushed candies like peppermint, chopped dried fruit such as apricot or cranberries, you could even throw on mini marshmallows and graham cracker cookie shards and make smores bark.  The options are limitless so next time you get invited to a last minute holiday party, within an hour you can have the perfect hostess gift.

Holiday Bark 

  • 4 four ounce bars of good chocolate – I used 3 dark chocolate and 1 white chocolate bars
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 a pomegranate, seeded
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and line with chocolate pieces.  If you are going to use two chocolates like I did with the dark and white break up the pieces and mix them together so you can swirl them when they are melted.  Otherwise you can just unwrap the bars and lie them next to each other like I did with the 2 other dark chocolate bars.

Bake for 5 minutes – the chocolate should still be holding its shape but when you press it with a spatula its melted inside.  Using a spatula swirl the two chocolates together and spread them out so the layer is even (if you use one kind of chocolate just use the spatula to spread it out and make sure no logos remain).

Sprinkle with toppings evenly (I did one tray of dark and white chocolate with pecans and sea salt and one dark chocolate with pomegranate seeds and sea salt).

Place in the fridge and chill for at least 1 hour.  Break up the bark into smaller pieces and serve or gift.  If you use a fresh ingredient like the pomegranate seeds you should serve them right away or store at room temp for no longer than a day.  Any other topping stored in the fridge will last at least a week.

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Cookie Decorating Party

It’s easy to get bogged down during the holidays with all of the very important staff adults “have to do” like attend boring work parties, address and send hundreds of Christmas cards, not to mention the daily vacuuming of pine needles.  An easy fix is to spend an afternoon with some kids decorating cookies.  Seriously, I came up with the idea of this party because I thought it would be fun for some of the little people in my life but the adults had just as much fun as the kids.  It was so therapeutic that my friend Tara said she hadn’t been that relaxed in months! So bust out the frosting and sprinkles and have yourself a party.

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Keep the party low key so you can enjoy yourself – I took several short cuts.  First and foremost cover your table!!  We made a ridiculous mess but I had put down craft paper before we started and at the end of the party I just rolled it up and tossed it (along with about 3 pounds of marshmallows).  I went a step further and bought premade dough.  Did you know they even sell it rolled out for you??  Normally I am a bit of a snob about these things but in the interest of my sanity, and the fact that I knew the cookie would just end up being a means of delivering frosting I took the shortcut and was glad I did.  If you want to make your own this recipe has always worked for me.

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It is important to make the cookies in advance, even the day before if you want.  Cutting out cookies is hard enough for adults let alone kids but also you can’t frost them until they are completely cooled.  Trust me you don’t want to be the one telling the kids they have to wait an hour to decorate!  Turns out I had a million different holiday cutters (shocker) so we had snowmen, wreaths, trees, stars, gingerbread men, and snowflakes.

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I decided to make my own frosting but you can certainly buy tubes of the premade stuff.  Just make sure you have lots as the icing went fast!  I used Wilton’s Royal Icing recipe – it’s great because it hardens fast but you may need to tinker with the proportions, I found I needed a lot more water than called for.  To make the different colors I really like gel coloring because you need a lot less of it than standard liquid food coloring and the colors are a lot richer.  I did white, red, green, blue, yellow and purple cause heck it was a girls cookie party.  I also put out some mini marshmallows and Hershey Kisses for decorating/snacking.  My friends Karin and Tara brought their adorable girls Sophie and Grayson who dove right in.

It is also important to have some non-cookie food to munch on.  I made mini pizzas and a cheese board (with some bubbly for the adults of course).  It was such a fun way to spend the afternoon and in the end each kid had a special box with their names on them to pack up their cookies and take them home.

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Everyone had a great time and with about 1 hour of prep time I was able to pull this off.  Who can argue with a party that comes with a cookie goodie bag?  I think this just might become an annual tradition….

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