This year’s Thanksgiving may very well have been the tastiest one yet. Although we decided to forgo the turkey, we compensated for its absence with plenty of old favorites and new ventures. The spread included pepper-encrusted beef tenderloin, pulled pork BBQ, potato casserole, gouda and gruyere mac ‘n’ cheese, fresh baked sour dough rolls, and an assortment of sweets -including my first attempt at bread pudding. I must admit that I was pretty happy with the finished product. I found the recipe on one of my favorite cooking blogs, Smitten Kitchen, which adapted the recipe from the October 2007 issue of Gourmet Magazine. I love pumpkin and I love bread pudding, so I was really excited to find this great seasonal combination. It was so easy to make that I wanted to pass it along to anyone with similar taste buds to my own. Even people that don’t particularly like pumpkin will probably like this as the flavor is not overwhelming at all. So here goes…

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

(borrowed from Smitten Kitchen)

1 1/2 cups whole milk (Or 1 cup heavy cream plus 1/2 cup whole milk)
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle

While oven is preheating, toss the bread crumbs in the melted butter in an 8-inch square baking dish until they are pretty evenly coated. In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients and then pour evenly over buttered bread crumbs. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. I used Breyer’s coffee ice cream and the flavors were great together.

In closing, here are a few of the happy moments from my family’s Thanksgiving…

my mom loves her thanksgiving decorations.

my dad, the BBQ master, and his smoker.

my mom is awesome.

my bro and sis.

i decided to eat off my old tray from when i was a wee one. portion control!

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tis far better to give…

November 14, 2011

Words cannot describe how much I love Fall. I love the scent of woodsmoke, the clear starry nights, and of course the sight of foliage in its brilliant, graceful decline. Fall is also a great time of year to share the fruits of your labor with the people you love. With the holidays fast approaching, I’ve made it my goal this year to give in a more meaningful way. Among many other giving-related activities, I’ve decided to make all holiday gifts by hand. My first project of the season is Apple Pie Liqueur, a little something to awaken the taste buds and warm the heart. This liqueur embodies many things that I love about Fall -apples, cinnamon, and spirits. A lovely lady named Pat made this for me last Christmas. The recipe is so simple, I decided to give it a try. It’s so good! This liqueur makes a nice host/hostess gift for holiday parties, not to mention a great after dinner libation. Here is the recipe:

Apple Pie Liqueur

Ingredients:

1 Gallon Apple Juice

1 Gallon Apple Cider

8 Cinnamon Sticks

3 Cups Sugar

1/5 (750 mL) either Everclear (this can be hard to acquire) or Vodka with a high alcohol content

Directions:

In a large stock pot add apple juice, apple cider, cinnamon sticks, and sugar, then let it simmer covered for 1 hour. Enjoy the magical scent that will fill your kitchen. After an hour, remove the pot from the heat. Let it sit for about 20 more minutes then remove the cinnamon sticks (otherwise the cinnamon taste will be overwhelming). Let the liquid get completely cool before you add the alcohol, or else it will burn off a lot of the alcohol content. Once you add the alcohol and mix it thoroughly, you can use a funnel to pour the liqueur into glass vessels of your choice. Mason jars or even thrift store and flea market finds give it that cute home-made look. I added a cute piece of winter-esque fabric tied with baker’s twine to the top so it looks fresh from the farmer’s market. I also picked up some tiny mugs from Michael’s to include with the jar. They are the perfect size for sipping this winter time beverage. Enjoy!