Mini Pecan Pies {12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies}

I’ve realized that I should have dubbed this series 12 Weeks of Christmas Goodies rather than Cookies but it’s too late now. I apologize to any of you that were totally excited about pure cookie bliss. Hopefully these will make up for any disappointment. Who doesn’t love a mini treat?

Today, I bring you one of our family favorites…Mini Pecan Pies. These are a must during the holidays in our home. They are usually my brother’s requested dessert. Each person in my family has different favorites so we each get our own dessert. Yes, you heard that right. There are always about 4 desserts at the holidays (if not more) because we just can’t choose and my mom always wants each of us to have our most cherished sweet treat. A few of us usually agree on something pumpkin while the rest go on with their choices. It’s a bit excessive but it has become tradition and you just can’t mess with that.

I am a big fan of crust so these are so much better than a big, traditional pie because the crust to filling ratio is more equal. Plus, there is no rolling involved making me a very happy girl! They are pretty simple to put together and look so cute piled up on a serving tray or in a cookie tin.

Mini Pecan Pies

1 stick butter, room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup flour

1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. butter, melted
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 tsp. vanilla

1. For the crust: cream butter and cream cheese then mix in flour. Make 24 balls from the dough and press in mini muffin tin.*
2. Stir together filling ingredients. Evenly fill dough cups. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes.

*This mini tart shaper makes this step so much simpler. All you have to do is place a ball of dough in the mini muffin cup and then press down with the tool. It pushes the dough down over the bottom and up the sides. So simple.

Recipe linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Totally Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, What I Whipped Up Wednesday, Sweet Treats Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Friday Potluck, Fusion Friday, Holiday Sweet Swap, Seasonal Inspiration, Strut Your Stuff Saturday,  Sweets for a Saturday and A Themed Baker’s Sunday.


Monkey Bread

Family traditions, especially those revolving around holidays, are deeply cherished by Joel and me. We both grew up with special Christmas breakfasts and monkey bread was something that always graced Joel’s Christmas table. Because we still go home to visit our parents for Christmas and rotate houses each year, we have our personal family traditions every other year. Now that we have a child, we are starting to think about what traditions we want to start for ourselves. But no matter what we decide to do, I have a feeling monkey bread will always be a part of Christmas breakfast.

I love that you prepare these the night before and then simply bake them the next morning. It makes them perfect for holidays when you are working on the big dinner all day. Plus, they are ooey, gooey and sticky…what could be better?

Monkey Bread

1 pkg. Rhodes frozen rolls (36 count)
1 small pkg. butterscotch pudding (Cook & Serve)
1 cup margarine, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts, optional


Place frozen rolls into 2 greased bundt pans. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over the rolls. Place aluminum foil loosely over pan and then cover with a towel. Leave at room temperature overnight. Bake the next morning at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


Dinner Roll Sandwiches

You can only eat leftover turkey and ham for so long before you revolt. Or go crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving and all the food that comes along with it but I just can’t stand leftovers. I suck it up for a day or two but then I just can’t take it. We did a Thanksgiving meal with my in-laws on Sunday and real Thanksgiving with my family so I am totally over Thanksgiving food in its original form. I have been eating turkey slathered in gravy for almost a whole week people. Me? A week of leftovers? I think not. I have been in a constant daze this whole time because of all the Tryptophan. It has to stop.

Thankfully, I recently found a great use for leftovers from the holidays over at Jane Deere (one of my favorite food blogs) and I just couldn’t wait to try it and of course share with you all! It still contains turkey (or ham if that’s your thing) but in a totally different presentation…therefore, making it acceptable. And I always love me a sandwich.

It starts with Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (um, yeah!). Then it gets layered with turkey, cheese, an amazing buttery sauce, the tops of the rolls and more sauce. I also love me some sauce.

Throw it in the oven for a crispy, melty masterpiece of leftover glory!

Dinner Roll Sandwiches
recipe from Jane Deere

2 packs Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
1 lb shaved ham or turkey
½ pound shredded mozzarella cheese
½ pound shredded Swiss cheese

2 sticks melted butter
2 Tbsp. mustard
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dry onion
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Slice rolls horizontally as a unit – don’t break apart into individual rolls.  Put the bottoms in a 9×13 dish.  Lay meat on top.  Cover with cheese.  Pour 2/3-3/4 of sauce on top of cheese.  Place tops of rolls on top.  Pour remaining mixture over tops of rolls and spread evenly.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Watch closely – if the tops begin to brown too much, place a sheet of foil over the top.

Pretzel Cookies {12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies}

Ok, so I totally watched Elf last week. It’s not my fault, it was on TV. I couldn’t stop myself. I know there are two camps out there – those that are all about Christmas the second Halloween is over and those that think it is necessary to get past Thanksgiving first. I am usually in the second camp but when I saw that it was on, I just couldn’t resist. It cracks me up every time. Please forgive me.

Although cookies aren’t listed as the four food groups for elves, I totally think an exception would be made for these delicious gems. They are sweet and salty, soft and crunchy….how could you go wrong? I mean, look at the little pretzel pieces poking out. You can’t tell me you don’t get all “super cute” over them. It’s kind of undeniable.

Pretzel Cookies
recipe from The Foodie and The Family
makes 24 Cookies

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup pretzels, broken up
sea salt for sprinkling

1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy (2-3 minutes). On low speed, add the egg and vanilla extract. Beat to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and pretzels. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop onto the parchment paper in well rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire cooling rack.

Gratitude Rolls

These Gratitude Rolls are another amazing Pinterest find. See, good things do come from obsession. The idea is you write what you are thankful for on a little piece of paper then roll it up in your roll of choice and bake. I have also seen them over at The Girl Who Ate Everything where she wrapped the paper in foil before baking.

We always have Thanksgiving with close family friends and they started a tradition years ago of passing around a basket with a dried ear of corn. Each of us pick off 3 kernels and say 3 things we are thankful for. Most of the kids (although we aren’t kids anymore) usually grumble when the corn comes out but it really is a great tradition to verbalize how lucky and blessed we all are. This is just a fun twist on our usual tradition. Have guests arrive before baking the rolls and ask them to write down a few things they are grateful for then you all can read them as you devour.

I chose to make Taste of Home’s roll recipe because they never let me down. Shape your rolls in any way (crescent, twists, knots, rosettes), we chose to do cloverleaf rolls. Then place your foil wrapped messages somewhere in the rolls where they will be hidden once they bake.

Bake and rip open to find the gratefulness. Then enjoy your roll in the best way ever, drenched in gravy.

Taste of Home’s Best Dinner Rolls
recipe from Taste of Home Magazine
yields 2 dozen

4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 pkg. (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. butter
2 eggs
1 egg, lightly beaten
topping, optional (recipe follows)

Everything Topping:
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. dried minced garlic
1 tsp. minced dried onion
1 tsp. kosher salt

1. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, water and butter to 120-130 degrees. Add to dry ingredients; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add 2 eggs; beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

3. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 24 portions. Divide each of those portions into three and roll into balls. Place 3 balls in each greased muffin cup. Place foil wrapped message in between balls.

4. Cover with a clean, lightweight towel and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Brush lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with everything topping.

5. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks.

Brined and Roasted Turkey {My 1st Turkey}

I have never, ever made a turkey. I have never eaten a brined turkey but I know about all the hype. So I thought for my first turkey, I would go all out and hope for the best. And it turns out it was pretty simple. The hardest thing was rinsing the turkey and getting all the inards out. I absolutely hate touching raw meat so I may have been a little prissy about the whole process. I’m glad the family was downstairs watching a football game so that they didn’t have to witness my ridiculousness. I may have let out a squeal-y “ewwww” as I stuck my hand in the darned bird.

But oh man was it worth the 30 seconds of disgust. I don’t mean to brag but this was probably the juiciest and tastiest roasted turkey I have ever had. Brining really does make all the difference. Any turkey cooked in my home will always be brined…no question.

Because I’ve never made a turkey before, Joel has never had to carve one so he got a little lesson from his dad.

This turkey seemed like a lot of work…more work than I had time for so I skipped the homemade turkey stock and simply basted the turkey with chicken stock. I also just made a simple pan gravy with the drippings and a cornstarch slurry. If you want to be a total allstar, you can click the source below to get the details.

Brined and Roasted Turkey
recipe from Emeril Lagasse

1 (10 to 12-pound) turkey
Brine, recipe follows
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large yellow onion, cut into 8ths
1 large orange, cut into 8ths
1 stalk celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or turkey stock, for basting

1. Remove the neck, giblets, and liver from the cavity of the turkey. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water. Soak the turkey in the brine, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.   Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels, inside and out. Place breast side down in a large, heavy roasting pan, and rub on all sides with the butter. Season lightly inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff the turkey with the onion, orange, celery, carrot, bay leaves, and thyme. Loosely tie the drumsticks together with kitchen string.

3. Roast the turkey, uncovered, breast side down for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, turn, and baste with 1/2 cup stock. Continue roasting with the breast side up until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the largest section of thigh (avoiding the bone), about 2 3/4 to 3 hours total cooking time. Baste the turkey once every hour with 1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken or turkey stock.

4. Remove from the oven and place on a platter. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.

1 cup salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 oranges, quartered
2 lemons, quartered
6 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs rosemary

To make the brining solution, dissolve the salt and sugar in 2 gallons of cold water in a non-reactive container (such as a clean bucket or large stockpot, or a clean, heavy-duty, plastic garbage bag.) Add the oranges, lemons, thyme, and rosemary.

Note: if you have a big turkey and need more brine than this, use 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar for every gallon of water.

Pioneer Woman’s Creamy Mashed Potatoes

I was so blessed as a child to have been welcomed in the kitchen. Since I was young, I helped mix batters (and licked beaters), cracked eggs, peeled potatoes and “piped” frostings. It was something I enjoyed and my parents always nurtured that love. I am so grateful that they took the extra time in the kitchen to allow me to do something I loved (even if it wasn’t always a help). I never felt rushed or as if I was a bother.

Here I am at around 3 or 4 helping peel potatoes in my little play chair in the kitchen. This is an incredibly cherished photo because it proves to me that I was passionate about cooking from the very beginning.
So today I am bringing you my newest favorite mashed potato recipe in remembrance of this picture and just in time for Thanksgiving.

Could it possibly be my new favorite because of all the cream cheese and butter? Maybe. They are rich, creamy and definitely indulgent which is just perfect for stuffing yourself on holidays. Enjoy. And please don’t hate me.

Pioneer Woman’s Creamy Mashed Potatoes
recipe from The Pioneer Woman

5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
3/4 cups Butter
1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened
1/2 cup (to 3/4 Cups) Half-and-Half
1/2 teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1/2 teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Black Pepper

1. Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

2. Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

3. Turn off the stove and add 1 ½ sticks of butter, an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and about ½ cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and ½ a teaspoon of black pepper.

4. Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.

Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.