One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is cook; specifically, baking! I am from the south so big family gatherings followed by lots of southern food was a common tradition in my family when I was young. Even though I am no longer around my family, unfortunately, I find it harder and harder to find the motivation to cook new recipes. I'm tring to find that magic again, of trying new things and coming up with my own recipes. Here's a list of some of my favorite holiday meals. Dig in!

Appetizers Entrees Sides Desserts Party Food


Smoky Pumpkin Beer
and Cheddar Potato Soup

Cal/Serv Yields Prep Time Total Time
590 6 20 min 50 min

Ingredients: 4 tablespoons butter, 1 small sweet onion diced, 1 potato peeled + diced, 2 cloves garlic minced or grated, 1/4 cup flour, 2 cups of your favorite pumpkin beer, 2 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth, 2 cups pumpkin puree*, 1-2 in chipotle chilies adobo minced, 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, salt + pepper to taste, 1 cup heavy cream or whole milk, 1 cup smoked gouda shredded, 1 cup smoked cheddar shredded

4 slices thick cut smoked bacon (chopped), 1/2 cup pepitas shelled pumpkin seeds, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 4-5 cups air or stove popped popcorn, salt to taste

1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat, add the butter to melt. Once melted, add the onion and cook until it begins to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Add the potato + garlic and continue cooking another 5 minutes or until the potato is tender. Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and cook 1 minute, stirring the flour around so it coats the veggies. Season lightly with salt + pepper.
2. Slowly pour in the beer + broth, stir often to avoid any clumps from forming. Stir in the pumpkin puree, chipotle chiles, thyme, smoked paprika and curry powder. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes or until the potato is completely soft. If desired, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until completely smooth.
3. Stir in the heavy cream, smoked gouda and smoked cheddar, cook over low heat until the cheese is fully melted. If the soup is too thick for your liking, thin with more chicken broth.
4. Divide the soup among bowls and top with popcorn and more cheese if desired. Enjoy!

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Spread the bacon and pepitas out on the baking sheet and toss well with the brown sugar. Spread them into an even layer.
3. Bake for 10 minutes and then remove from the oven and add the popcorn, toss the mixture together very well, making sure the bacon grease and brown sugar coat the popcorn. If the mixture seems dry, add 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil. Place back in the oven and continue baking another 10-15 minutes, tossing once throughout cooking until the bacon is crisp. Keep in mind that the bacon will crisp up a bit more once it's out of the oven. Remove from the oven and serve atop the soup!


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Cranberry Cider Braised Beef
Stew with Rosemary Polenta

Cal/Serv Yields Prep Time Total Time
693 6 6 hours 6 hours 20 min

Ingredients: 3 pounds beef chuck (trimmed and cubed), kosher salt and black pepper, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 3 shallots (thinly sliced), 6 carrots (chopped), 2 cups apple cider, 1 cup dry red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon can also use beef broth), 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 dried bay leaves, 2 cups fresh cranberries, 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, 2 cloves garlic (smashed), 1 1/2 cups dry instant polenta, 3 tablespoons salted butter

Slow cooker:
1. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, sear the beef on both sides. Remove the beef and transfer to the slow cooker.
2. To the slow cooker, add the shallots and carrots. Add the cider, wine, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar (or honey), thyme, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper, gently stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. During the last 2 hours of cooking, add the cranberries.
3. To make the polenta. Heat the butter, garlic, and rosemary in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is golden and the rosemary is crisp and "fried", about 3 minutes. Remove the rosemary and reserve. To the pan, add 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the polenta, stirring until the polenta is soft and thick, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If the polenta thickens too much, thin with additional water or cream for an extra luscious polenta.
4. To serve, remove the thyme and bay leaves from the stew. Serve the stew and gravy over the polenta. Top with crisped rosemary. Enjoy!

1. Switch the instant pot to sauté. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Sear the beef on both sides until browned. Turn the instant pot off.
2. To the instant pot, add the shallots and carrots. Add the cider, wine, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar (or honey), thyme, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper, gently stir to combine. Seal the instant pot and cook on high pressure for 35 minutes.
3. Switch the instant pot to sauté. Add the cranberries and bring the sauce to a boil. Boil 8-10 minutes until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens slightly.
4. Make the polenta and finish as directed above.


Oven-Roasted Cranberry
Dijon Glazed Ham

Cal/Serv Yields Prep Time Total Time
-- 16 10 min 2 hours 10 min

Ingredients: 2 cups fresh cranberries, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup honey, 2 tablespoons dijon mustard, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 5-6 pound cooked ham (I used a sliced spiral ham)

1. Combine cranberries, water, and honey in a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat.
2. Stir occasionally for about 4-5 minutes, until most of the cranberries have popped.
3. Add dijon mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, and cayenne pepper.
4. Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes until the sauce has thickened some and is syrupy. Remove from heat.
5. If you have an immersion blender, use it to puree the sauce. (If you don't, transfer the mixture to a regular blender. Leave the top of the blender vented (to allow steam to escape) and cover with a towel. Blend it up until smooth.)
6. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare a roasting pan with a roasting rack so that the ham doesn't cook in it's own juices (you want a nice crispy bottom, no soggy ham bottoms please.)
7. Place the ham on the roasting rack and use a sharp serrated knife to score the ham diagonally.
8. Use a brush to coat the ham all over with the cranberry sauce. (You will repeat this process once more about 20 minutes before the ham is done.)
9. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 1 and 1/2 to 2 and 1/4 hours, or until a thermometer registers 135 degrees F. (About 20-25 minutes per pound). (You don't need to worry about the temperature too much since the ham is already cooked. You just want to make sure it's hot all the way through.
10. 20 minutes before you think it will be done, brush with sauce one more time.
11. Serve the ham with the remaining glaze (Warm it up in the microwave or on the stove since it will be cool by now.)


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Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole
with Sweet ‘n’ Savory Bacon Pecans

Cal/Serv Yields Prep Time Total Time
426 8 20 min 1 hour 50 min

Ingredients: 4 medium sweet potatoes, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 cup whole milk, 4 tablespoons salted butter (melted), 2 large eggs (beaten), 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional), kosher salt
4 slices thick-cut bacon (chopped), 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups raw pecans roughly chopped, 6 tablespoons salted butter melted, 1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper using more or less to taste, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage, 1-2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Poke a few holes in the sweet potatoes and bake for 1 hour or until soft and tender. When the sweet potatoes are cooked, slice them in half and allow to cool.
2. Meanwhile, make the bacon pecans. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain onto a paper towel. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, pecans, butter, cayenne, sage, and rosemary (if using). Stir in the bacon.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Peel the skins away from the flesh of the sweet potato. Add the sweet potatoes to a mixing bowl. Mash well. Mix in the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, milk, butter, eggs, and bourbon until combined. Season with salt.
4. Spoon the sweet potato mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle the pecans evenly over top.
5. Transfer to the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the pecans are golden. Serve warm topped with flaky sea salt.


Creamed Spinach Stuffed
Butternut Squash

Cal/Serv Yields Prep Time Total Time
173 8 20 min 1 hour 50 min

Ingredients: 2 butternut squash halved, 2 tsp salt, 1 cup boiling water

For the creamed spinach
1 onion finely chopped, 2 garlic cloves crushed, 1½lbs baby spinach washed, 2 tbsp flour, 1 cup milk, ½ cup cream, salt and pepper to taste, ½ cup mozzarella cheese grated, 4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
2. Place the halved butternut squash into a deep roasting pan then season with the salt.
3. Pour the boiling water into the pan and cover with foil.
4. Place in the oven and allow to roast for 30-45 minutes until soft. Once roasted, scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh. Set aside.
5. While the butternut is roasting, make the creamed spinach. Saute the onion and garlic in 2 tsp of olive oil until soft and translucent.
6. Add the spinach and cook until wilted then add the flour and stir into the spinach. Pour in the milk and stir until the sauce is smooth then add the cream. Allow to simmer gently for 7-10 minutes or until the sauce is thick and smooth. Season to taste and remove from the heat. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before adding the mozzarella cheese.
7. Once the butternut is roasted, spoon the creamed spinach into the hollows of each butternut and top with Parmesan cheese.
8. Place back in the oven and allow to cook until the tops are golden brown, approximately 10 minutes.
9. Remove from the oven and serve.


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Gingerbread Men

Cal/Serv Yields Prep Time Total Time
184 24 4 hours 4 hours 30 min

Ingredients: 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), 1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, ¾ tablespoon ground ginger, 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon allspice, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ⅔ cup unsalted butter, ¾ cup packed light or dark brown sugar, ⅔ cup unsulphured molasses, 1 large egg, 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Icing: 1 cup powdered sugar (sifted), 2 tablespoon water, pinch of salt

1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside.
2. In another large bowl, using a handheld mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Add brown sugar and molasses and mix until combined. Add egg and vanilla and mix until fully combined. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. The dough will be sticky and thick. Knead it by hand a few times and divide in half. Shape into discs and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
4. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough discs to a thickness of ¼-inch (6mm). Using a 4-inch (10cm) gingerbread man cutter, cut out cookies and place on prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1-inch (2.5cm) between them. Then bake for 8-9 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
5. OPTIONAL: Whisk together the sugar, water, and salt until combined. Place in a piping bag and cut off a small piece of the tip. Decorate the cooled cookies as desired. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.


Hazelnut Truffle Sandwich Cookies

Cal/Serv Yields Prep Time Total Time
-- 22 20 min 35 min

Ingredients: 2 cups 240g all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup 38g unsweetened dark cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup 113g butter (softened), 2/3 cup 130g cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup 105g brown sugar (packed), 2 eggs room temperature, 2 cups chocolate-hazelnut spread divided, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 cup 150g hazelnuts (finely chopped)

1. Combine flour, cocoa powder baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. With the mixer still running, gradually add sugars. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; add in 1 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread and vanilla extract; mix until well combined. Turn mixer to low speed and gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture until just combined. Cover mixing bowl with cling wrap refrigerate dough for at least an hour.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two or more baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
3. Spread chopped hazelnuts into a shallow bowl or dish. Shape the cookie dough into 2 inch or walnut-sized balls and roll in the chopped nuts. Place 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes; remove from oven and let cool on pans about 5 minutes,. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
4. When cookies have cooled, spread about a 2-3 teaspoons of the remaining chocolate-hazelnut spread onto the bottom of a cookie, then top with another cookie to form a filled cookie sandwich.
5. Store cookie sandwiches in an airtight container.


Matcha Almond Shortbread Trees

Cal/Serv Yields Prep Time Total Time
-- 18 15 min 27 min

2 cups unsalted butter softened, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons matcha tea powder sifted, 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup almond flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon almond extract

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips or semisweet chips melted, 1 teaspoon coarse grey sea salt or other coarse sea salt

1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated. Add the sifted matcha tea powder. Mix again until well dispersed. Scrape down the bowl and mix again.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, almond flour, and salt. Add half of the flour to the creamed mixture and mix until a dough forms. Add the almond extract; mix to incorporate. Then, add the remaining flour and mix again on low speed until a stiff dough forms.
4. Gather the dough together with your hands and place on a lightly floured surface. Divide into two pieces. Using a floured rolling pin, roll each piece of dough until flattened to the desired thickness (slightly less than 1/2 inch for thick soft cookies, 1/4 inch for thin, crisper cookies with browned edges).
5. Wrap the dough pieces in plastic film and place on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. The dough will firm quickly because of the high butter content.
6. Remove dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and cut shapes from the dough. Transfer to parchment-lined cookie sheets and freeze the shapes on the cookie sheets for at least 10 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
8. Bake until lightly golden around the edges: 7-10 minutes for small cookies, 12-15 minutes for medium cookies, 17-20 minutes for large or thick cookies.
9.When cookies are lightly golden around the edges and fragrant, remove them from the oven and let cool on the pans completely. These are tender cookies, and they will break if you try to move them while still hot.

1. Place the melted dark chocolate in a piping bag and cut a small opening in the tip. Pipe the chocolate onto the cooled cookies still on the parchment paper in the pans. Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of coarse salt. Let stand until the chocolate sets, about 10 minutes, or refrigerate them to speed setting.
2. Remove the cookies from the pans and tap off excess salt – do this gently, as these cookies are delicate. Place cookies in an airtight container, or plate them and cover with plastic wrap.


Almond Butter Kiss Cookies

Cal/Serv Yields Prep Time Total Time
-- 18 15 min 27 min

2 cookie sheets 13×9 inches each, cookie scoop 4 teaspoon capacity

18 Hershey’s Kisses with Almonds, 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar divided, 1 cup almond butter shelf stable recommended, 1 large egg at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Unwrap all of the Hershey’s Kisses ahead of time and keep them on a plate away from the oven so they don’t get soft or melt.
3. Place 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar into a small bowl and set aside.
4. In a mixing bowl, combine the almond butter, the 1 cup of remaining granulated sugar, and the egg using a hand-held mixer. Beat until the mixture is well combined and thick. The dough should not be sticky.
5. Using a cookie scoop (4 teaspoon capacity, or a slightly heaping tablespoon) portion dough and roll into a ball between your palms. Roll the dough balls in the 1/4 cup bowl of sugar and place them, well-spaced, on the baking sheets. Lightly flatten the cookies with the bottom of a cup or with your fingertips, so they have a fat coin shape. The edges will bark (split) slightly at the edges as you flatten them. This is normal.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until well set around the edges and soft in the centers. Let cool on the pans for 2 minutes, and then lightly press a single kiss into the center of each cookie. Don’t press it all the way through to the bottom of the cookie or the cookie will break apart. Just set it on the cookie and press lightly. The chocolate kiss will melt slightly and hold to the cookie on its own. When cookies are firm enough to move, transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.


Chocolate Bourbon Pumpkin Cake

Cal/Serv Yields Prep Time Total Time
367 12 45 min 1 hr 25 min

2 ¼ Cups All Purpose Flour, ¾ Cup Hazelnut Flour, 2 tsp Baking Powder, 1 tsp Baking Soda, 2 tsp Cinnamon Powder, ½ tsp Ground Ginger, ½ tsp Ground Nutmeg, 1 tsp Kosher Salt, 1 Cup Unsalted Butter room temperature, 1 Cup Granulated Sugar, 1 Cup Light Brown Sugar, 4 Eggs, 2 tsp Vanilla Extract, 1 15 oz Can of Pumpkin Puree (425 g), ⅓ Cup Chopped Medjool Dates

2 Cups 460g Unsalted Butter (room temperature), 5-6 Cups 420g Powdered Sugar, ⅗ cup Extra Dark Cocoa Powder, 6 Tbsp Almond Milk, 4 Tbsp Bourbon, ½ tsp Kosher Salt, 2 tsp Vanilla Extract

2 Cups Chocolate Chunks, 1 Cup Chopped Hazelnuts

1. Preheat Oven to 350 F (190 C) and prepare three 6 inch cake pans.
2. In a medium bowl, hand whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
3. In bowl of stand mixer with whisk or paddle attachment, beat together sugars and butter on medium high speed until smooth.
4. Add one egg at a time, continuing on medium speed until incorporated and mixture is fluffy.
5. You may need to scrape sides and bottom of the bowl periodically to make sure all ingredients are well mixed.
6. Add vanilla and pumpkin puree. Mix until incorporated.
7. Slowly spoon flour mixture into wet mixture, continuing on medium speed until a smooth batter is formed.
8. Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in chopped dates with a spatula.
9. Spoon batter into cake pans, dividing evenly amongst all three. (I prefer to weigh my batter with a kitchen scale to be exact.)
10. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
11. (Bake on low to middle rack. I check each cake individually.)
12. Once cake are done, place on cooling rack for 10-15 minutes.
13. Next, place your hand on top of cake and flip upside down, to release cake from pan. (You can also fo this with a plate.)
14. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap gently and place in freezer for 45 minutes.

1. In bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment whip butter at medium high until smooth.
2. Add chocolate powder, salt, bourbon, vanilla and almond milk and whip again until creamy.
3. Slowly spoon a cup of powdered sugar at a time into the mixture. Make sure each cup is well mixed before adding the second. (Again, you may need to scrape sides and bottom of bowl.)
4. If you find your mixture is too thick add more almond milk a Tbsp at a time.
5. If you find your mixture is too thin, add more powdered sugar, mixing until desired thickness is reached.

1. Remove layers from freezer.
2. Unwrap and Peel the parchment paper from the bottom and set layers face up on counter.
3. Take serrated knife and trip the tops of each layer, just enough to create a level surface.
4. Grab your cake stand or serving dish and dollup a half dollar size of buttercream frosting onto the center.
5. Place one layer onto cake stand, trimmed side up.
6. Spoon and smear a layer of chocolate buttercream across the top. Slightly going over the edges.
7. Repeat with second layer.
8. Add top layer of cake trimmed side down. Cover with chocolate buttercream.
9. Using an icing spatula or piping bag, fill in open sides with additional frosting.
10. Then, take a bench scraper in one hand, while holding the cake stand in the other. Gently rotate the cake as you scrape the sides with an angled bench scraper.
11. Place cake in refrigerator to set icing before decorating.

1. While cake is setting, melt your chocolate morsels and pour onto parchment lined cookie sheet.
2. Set chocolate in fridge or freezer to harden.
3. Once chocolate is hard, break into shards with hands.

1. Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts onto the top of the cake.
2. Insert chocolate shards gently into icing.


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Party Food

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