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Gifts that Give Back: 2016 Holiday Guide

The Gifts that Give Back guide has quickly become one of my favorite posts of the year. As early as August, I start planning and pinning, finding new organizations and businesses to fall in love with. Just like earlier years, I was overwhelmed again by how many beautiful, life changing organizations and products exist. It really is possible to find something for everyone on your list. The following are some of my favorites of the year, including products for men, women, kids, and your home. The organizations below are committed to producing quality goods in an ethical way. The communities they support range from women scholars in Rwanda to shoe makers in Guatemala to people right here in my home state of Ohio. I’ve tried to include a short summary of the work of each business, but I’d encourage you to visit their websites to learn more about what they do. There is so much inspiring, encouraging work being done. You can shop your values this Christmas, putting your dollar towards the causes you care about most, while also getting a unique gift for someone you love (or yourself)! Trust me, I was tempted to give myself plenty of early Christmas gifts this year. This list includes many new finds, as well as some old favorites. There simply wasn’t enough room to include all the organizations I researched, so definitely check out last year’s Gifts that Give Back guide as well as my Pinterest board, which is updated year round! I hope you all enjoy the list as much as I do and have a ton of fun giving back this year!

If you're looking for unique and meaningful gifts this Christmas, check out my Gifts That Give Back Guide, full of fair trade, ethically conscious gift ideas!

MudLOVE Custom Rise and Shine Mug or Stein– We gifted these mugs to several family members and friends this past year, and everyone loves them. They’re beautiful and hefty, with just the right size handle. Evening Hike and Man in the Moon are the hers and his steins we have at our house.

Mango and Math Square FramesTen Thousand Villages works with makers throughout the world, who handcraft their variety of jewelry, accessories, clothing, and home goods using local materials.

Twill Throw BlanketTwill is on a mission to provide warm, comfortable products to your neighbors. Guys, I couldn’t love this idea more. For every cozy purchase you make, you choose a local friend to donate a second product to. Give where you live. How awesome is that?

Olive Wood Cheese Board– My husband probably needs to place me on a restraining order with cheese boards, because I can’t seem to get enough. I am definitely eyeing this olive wood one from From the Earth, a business committed to holistic partnerships and investments in farmers and makers around the world. Check out their selection of home goods, coffee, cufflinks, and accessories as well.

Buttercup Pillow Cover– Forai supports immigrant and refugee woman who have home based microbusinesses. They also carry a range of clothing, jewelry, accessories, and adorable kid’s onesies, dresses, and bibs.

Hand Hammered Copper Candle Bowl– If you’ve never heard of the Preemptive Love Coalition, go visit their website right this second. The work they are doing in the middle east providing life saving heart surgeries, emergency refugee relief, small business grants, and education for children is truly inspiring. Their soaps and candles are all handmade by refugees of ISIS.

Write with Purpose Notebook from Marie Mae- Every purchase of their gorgeous stationary, notebooks, and cards provides one hour of business training to women entrepreneurs in emerging markets, like Rwanda.

The Plum Journal– Flora Stationary makes gorgeous stationary, notecards, prints, and even a coloring book. Best of all, every purchase helps support the tuition fees for a woman in Kosovo to attend university.

If you’re in Columbus, consider booking a housecleaning for a friend (or a gift to yourself!) and help support women who have survived sex trafficking through the She Has a Name cleaning service.

The Gifts That Give Back Guide features loads of ideas for beautiful and unique gifts with a purpose for this Christmas season.

Gaby in Emerald Shoes– The Root Collective makes the most gorgeous shoes, and every purchase supports a quality job for makers in Guatemala. Watch the video of Otto, a master shoemaker, on their site. It’s truly inspiring to see the process and the possibilities of a simple shoe.

Strand Bracelet– I’ve had my eye on this arrow stacked bracelet from Mulxiply since last season. Their collection of jewelry, ipad and laptop sleeves, and totes is gracefully modern and simple. Every item is handcrafted by an artisan in Nepal, where Mulxiply is committed to providing artists with dignified employment.

Aasha necklace– Every item in Paisley + Sparrow’s shop has a purpose, whether it’s empowering women in Tanzania to earn an income for their families or teaching literacy to women in India. This particular item was handcrafted by survivors of modern day slavery. Paisley + Sparrow also has scarves, bags, shirts, hats, and beautiful stationary and baskets.

Sofia Silk Tie Shirt Dress– Their motto is “empowering women through design” and their entire collection of accessories, clothing, and purses is way cooler than I am. Everything on the site is made by at-risk women around the world.

Soleil Bag from Three Chords– Three Chords makes purses, totes, and hair accessories in bright and bold fabrics. I have one of their Soleil bags and love it. It’s comfortable, a great length, and perfect for carrying our book selection when we visit the library. Three Chords employs Haitians with disabilities, and right now 25% of every order goes directly to Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts.

Cambodia Clutch– Trades of Hope works to provide opportunities for women artisans around the globe. This particular clutch was made by Cambodian women who have been attacked with acid, a terrible and heart wrenching practice that leaves women permanently scarred and with few options. Through Trades of Hope, these women have a future full of opportunity. You can shop their catalogue online, but they also host in home parties (think LuLaRoe or Pampered Chef), so if you want to get the girls together this season to shop, this is a great organization to partner with!

Ribbon Sandals from Sseko- These sandals are amazing. They’re a universal sandal base with loads of unique leather and cloth ribbons you can tie in over 20 different ways. You can literally customize a new look for every mood. Along with sandals, Sseko also make bags and jewelry. Every purchase supports employment for women in Uganda as well as college scholarships for continued education.

Coal Infinity Scarf– Not pictured: the coziest, warmest, comfiest looking scarf ever. COLORS is a social enterprise providing job opportunities for women recovering from the sex trade, drug addiction, and refugees in Atlanta, GA. Their site includes all kinds of lovely, cozy scarves.

If you're looking for a unique and meaningful gift for the man in your life this year, check out my Gifts That Give Back Guide. There are tons of great options for everyone on your list!

Damn Handsome Shave Cream– Guys, the Damn Handsome Grooming Co. has one of the coolest business models, products, and packaging I have ever seen. They make soaps, after shaves, and shave lotions out of recycled hops from brew makers in Michigan. I guess all that hoppy goodness at the bottom of the barrel is actually great for your skin! For every purchase made, the company donates to a child in need, through organizations like Clean the World.

For the hipster who loves Ohio– Clothe Ohio combines so many of my loves. Fabulous Ohio gear, supporting local business, and helping families in need. For every order, they donate a t-shirt or sweatshirt to an Ohioan in need. That’s what I call Buckeye spirit.

Black Velvet Bow Tie– It doesn’t get more classy than a velvet bow tie. Bull + Moose is a veteran owned socially conscious business which uses its profits to help fund microloans for underprivileged men in North America.

Pocket Square from Neighbor’s Apparel– I have one of the Ohio tees from this company and love them. Each purchase empowers refugee women in Akron, OH through meaningful employment opportunities. They have apparel for men, women, and children.

Ebony Bluetooth Speaker– LSTN makes gorgeous, dare I say sexy, headphones, ear buds, and speakers. Best of all, proceeds from every purchase go towards helping someone hear for the first time through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

Steel Belt– Mission makes adjustable belts with no holes and interchangeable leathers and buckles. For every belt purchased, $1 goes toward funding microloans for people living in poverty throughout the world.

1 Face Watch– 1 Face makes watches with bold, colorful designs. Every color supports a different charity–from cancer research to hunger to AIDS. There are vibrant pinks and aquas for the trendsetters in your life, but also more classic blacks and golds for those looking for something more traditional.

If you're looking for meaningful, unique, fair trade gifts this Christmas, check out the Gifts That Give Back Guide. There's really something for everyone!

Alpaca Baby Mittens and Hat- The Little Market is a HUGE fair trade store I just discovered this year. They are a non-profit founded by women with the purpose of empowering women. Every purchase of their ethically made products help transform lives in women all over the world. Visit their website to learn more about each of the artisans they support!

You Are My Sunshine Wrap– Rockin Baby makes adorable kid’s clothing and reversible slings and pouches. For every sling purchases, Rockin Baby donates a sling to a mother in Haiti. Also, check out their Fairisle Christmas Romper (cuteness overload)!

Benedict the Bunny- I honestly get a little teary every time I look at these dolls. Aren’t they the sweetest? cuddle + kind sells these ethically made, heirloom quality dolls for girls and boys. They are adorable, cuddly, quirky, unique. I LOVE THEM. For every doll that’s purchased, they donate 10 meals to children in need.

Donut Rattle from The Little Market

Learning Carpet– Little P loves playing with cars, so we’re in the market for these learning carpets! Endeavor Toys was founded by parents who struggled to find socially conscious toys for their children. Years of research led them to develop this website, which has a huge selection of unique, fun toys for all ages, all sourced from companies who ensure their workers are fairly treated and compensated.

Knit Fox Hat– I have long been obsessed with Krochet Kids’ lovely knit scarves, hats, and accessories, but now that I have a little one, the obsession has only grown. Their baby booties will make your ovaries explode. And these fox hats? DYING. Krochet Kids empowers women to rise out of poverty and transform their families, communities, and the developing world.

Cotton Toddler Dress from Dsenyo– I need someone in my life to have a baby girl so I can channel all my need to buy cute things onto them. These cotton dresses were made by a cooperative of women in Malawi, Africa. The site has matching baby bloomers (GAH!), headbands, and skirts for mom as well.

Locally made onesie– from Clothe Ohio- I can’t even with this cuteness.

If you’re still at a loss for what to get that one person who seems to have everything, I recommend checking out the World Vision Gift Catalogue. You can pick a category you’d like to give towards, such as hunger, clean water, education, or medical care and then choose a gift you’d like to donate. The site has everything from a New Mother and Baby Kit for $95 to 2 Chickens for $25. These also make fantastic gifts to give as a family. It’s a great way to teach kids about giving back and a wonderful tradition you can practice every year.

I hope you enjoy shopping for the ones you love this year, and please, help spread the word about these wonderful organizations by sharing this post with your friends!

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Turkey, Bacon, and Egg Breakfast Sandwich with Cranberry Mayo

The best part of Thanksgiving? The leftovers of course! Use up all of your Thanksgiving haul with these epic Turkey, Bacon, and Egg Breakfast Sandwiches with Cranberry Mayo.

Got Thanksgiving leftovers? Use them up in this epic Turkey Egg and Bacon Breakfast Sandwich with Cranberry Mayo.

A few times over the last two decades of life I can remember, my family has eschewed tradition and gone out to eat on Thanksgiving. There are various reasons–the holiday hit during a stressful time or half the family was traveling and it seemed silly to make a huge feast for four people.

Honestly, I don’t mind going out for Thanksgiving. I’m always grateful to be with family in the presence of good food, whether it’s all of our favorites made from scratch, or an epic takeout spread made by the Chinese place up the street. This year we actually considered going out again. My mom is still recovering from an unexpected heart surgery, and we thought it might be easier for everyone to scrap the homemade feast.

In the end, we decided we just couldn’t do it. You know what the deciding factor was? It wasn’t the maple roasted sweet potatoes or the party potatoes or the balsamic roasted green beans (although they all make a compelling argument). Nope, the one thing we couldn’t give up was the leftovers.

Turkey Egg and Bacon Breakfast Sandwich

You see, you can have a great meal when you go out to eat on Thanksgiving day, but what you can’t have is the day after, arguably the best food day of all. The day after means stuffing hash, waffled turkey sandwichesmashed potato croquettes, and cranberry sauce apple crisp. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert is all taken care of with some creative re-working of your Thanksgiving haul.

My epic leftover mashup is this Turkey Bacon and Egg Breakfast Sandwich. It’s so good, you might just want to skip the whole Thanksgiving feast and have breakfast instead. It starts with whatever leftover bread you have hanging around from the day before. I used these Honey Bacon Biscuits, but rolls or sliced bread would work just fine too. Then we layer. And slather. And stack. We start with leftover turkey bits (obviously), then cheese (also obvious), then bacon (it is breakfast after all), then an egg (see previous comment + what isn’t improved with a fried egg?), and finally a generous dollop of cranberry sauce and mayo.

This Turkey Egg and Bacon Breakfast Sandwich with Cranberry Mayo is perfect for Thanksgiving leftovers!

Guys, does this sound weird to you? Because I get that some of you might look at all of these things and think to yourself, Ummmm, no. You crazy, Courtney. In fact, I knew my husband would be one of those people. His hatred of mixing fruit and savory foods is well documented, which is why I purposely didn’t tell him what was in these sandwiches before we ate them. Guess what, guys?? He LOVED it. I mean, really, truly LOVED it. We both did. This sandwich works. Everything together–the savory bacon and turkey, the melty cheese, the drippy, smooth egg, the pop of tart sweet cranberries–it all comes together to make one heck of a good sandwich.

This will fuel you for a morning of feverish Black Friday shopping or a day of loafing on the couch. Your choice. Either way, make sure you save some leftovers for this beauty!

Speaking of leftovers, If you want to make sure you have leftovers (which I know you do!), plan for 1 1/2 lbs. of turkey per person. Reheat your leftovers to 165 degrees and be sure to finish them up within 3-4 days. For more turkey tips, be sure to follow the Ohio Poultry Association on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram and join me TONIGHT for an Ohio Talks Turkey Twitter party from 9-10 p.m. EST! We’ll be chatting about answers to common questions, from buying a turkey to thawing, prepping, cooking and serving. Win everything you need to make a full Thanksgiving feast, including a Turkey Fryer, Oven Roaster, Carving Set and much more!

Cranberry Turkey Biscuit Sandwich with Bacon and Fried Egg
 
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Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 8 strips bacon
  • ½ cup whole berry cranberry sauce
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • Squeeze lemon juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 slices turkey (leftover shreds or turkey pieces work great too!)
  • 4 slices monterey jack cheese (a garlic and herb variety is especially good)
  • 4 leftover rolls, biscuits, or bread
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, fry the bacon until crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside, reserving the bacon grease for later.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cranberry sauce, mayo, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Split your rolls or biscuits in half then spread with cranberry mayo. Stack with turkey pieces, cheese, and bacon and top with the top half of the biscuit or roll. If you’d like to serve the sandwiches warm, microwave or pan fry the turkey with the cheese before adding to the sandwich.
  4. Meanwhile, fry the eggs in the leftover bacon grease over medium heat until set on the bottom. Flip, and fry another 30 seconds to 1 minute for an over easy, dippy egg. Place an egg on each sandwich and serve.

 

This post was developed in partnership with the Ohio Poultry Association. As always, all opinions are my own. 

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Baked Mushrooms with Red Wine and Parmesan Crumbs

Hey there, friends. I’m glad you’re here. I don’t say it often enough. This space is so special to me, and I’m glad to share it with you. Join me at the table today for some Baked Mushrooms with Red Wine and Parmesan Crumbs.

Wine soaked baked mushrooms sit under a layer of Parmesan bread crumbs for the ultimate mushroom lovers side dish.

It’s been a rough week (month…year) in America. At times, it’s felt like hate has become the new norm. We have ridiculed and mocked each other. We have drawn lines, vilified the other, yelled over and at each other. Social media has provided a place for us to speak our minds without consequence, and we have acted like children given a playground without a principal.

This type of event always seems to bring out the best and worst in people. I’ve decided to cling to the best.  During a season of uncertainty, doubt, and confusion, I have witnessed incredible kindnesses. I have seen people of all persuasions reach out a hand, offer grace, choose to give someone the benefit of the doubt rather than assume the worst. It’s the start of something, a seed of healing. We water that seed by treating each other tenderly, by listening carefully to each other’s stories, and by seeking to understand rather than prove we are right. Then we get to work, together creating an America that is big enough for all of us.

These Baked Mushrooms with Red Wine and Parmesan Breadcrumbs are the perfect side dish for the holidays or an elegant weeknight.

What better time to heal than during the holiday season, when our tables are full of casserole dishes and people we love. There will probably be people you disagree with around your table. That’s great. Love them. Talk to them. Listen to them. I’m praying my heart is as soft as salted butter this season. I want to hold my convictions closely and my love loosely. I want to seek common ground, wherever it may be found.

Speaking of common ground, let’s talk about mushrooms. Most of my friends and family seem to be divided over the issue. They love them or they hate them. I am firmly in the love them camp. This year, I plan to add these Baked Mushrooms with Red Wine to our Thanksgiving line up. I will share my love for rich, earthy mushrooms soaked in butter and red wine, with hints of garlic and thyme. I will proclaim the goodness of crispy Parmesan breadcrumbs sprinkled over top, adding a savory crunch to each luxurious bite. But for my friends who hate mushrooms, I will offer grace and pass the rolls instead. There’s enough room at our table for all the mushroom-y convictions our hearts and tastebuds hold.

Baked Mushrooms soaked in red wine and butter and covered in parmesan bread crumbs--the ultimate mushroom lovers side dish!

Mushrooms may not be the best place to find common ground, but Parmesan cheese is. Now there’s a food we can unite behind. Real Parmigiano-Reggiano (the kind with the pin holes on the rind) adds a nutty, aged flavor to almost any dish. Add a sprinkling to your mashed potatoes, a few shavings to your green beans, or a good grate on top of the garlic rolls. You can never have too much love or too much Parmesan. Let’s be generous with our hearts and our cheese this season.

Baked Mushrooms with Red Wine and Parmesan Crumbs
 
Prep time
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Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter, divided
  • 1½ lbs. baby portobello mushrooms, in thick slices
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs thyme leaves
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a 9 x 13 inch pan or deep, 9 inch cast iron skillet, combine the mushrooms, 2 Tablespoons butter, red wine, vinegar, garlic, and thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the remaining butter, oil, bread crumbs, garlic salt, and cheese. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the mushrooms. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and breadcrumbs are golden brown and crisped. If the crumbs brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil for the remained of the cooking time.

This post is sponsored by the great folks at Parmigiano Reggiano. As always, all opinions are my own. For more information and recipe inspiration, follow them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter

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Braised Apple Cider Turkey

This Braised Apple Cider Turkey gets a triple whammy of flavor from butter, herbs, citrus, and cider. 

This Braised Apple Cider Turkey gets its juicy, intense flavor from butter, herbs, citrus, and cider!

I recently asked my friends on Facebook what kind of dishes they prefer for their Thanksgiving dinners. I was curious if they liked to keep things traditional or if they liked to mix things up with new recipes every year. Unsurprisingly, nearly everyone said they prefer to stick to the classics. Well, everyone, that is, except my fellow food blogger friends. We seem to be cursed with an insatiable desire to try something new. We’re the weirdos who try to sneak grilled pineapple or pomegranate brussels sprouts onto the Thanksgiving table. Seriously, don’t put us in charge of the holiday menu plan unless you’re ready for some surprises.

I usually find myself wanting to experiment around the holidays, but there’s something beautiful and good about our loyalty to family tradition. We love green bean casserole and sweet potatoes piled with marshmallows not just because they’re delicious, but also because they’ve been shared by generations of family around the same table each year. There are memories wrapped up in those french fried onions, and sometimes memories taste better than any new and improved recipe ever could.

This Braised Apple Cider Turkey is juicy and tender and AMAZING with a drizzle of cider gravy!

This year, I’m trying to stick to the classics. We’ll have sour cream and chive mashed potatoes, fluffy butterhorns, and pecan pie bars. We’ll make Stovetop stuffing (don’t judge! It’s got all the memories!), and I’m sure someone will bring a nice healthy green salad that no one will eat. Because tradition.

Of course, no classic Thanksgiving is complete without turkey. Turkey tends to be an afterthought on most spreads. It’s just another thing to drench with gravy one day and mayo, cheese, and a bun the next. But traditional should never be synonymous with boring. This Braised Apple Cider Turkey is just the right amount of classic and inventive. It’s a little different, but not so crazy it will scare away the loyalists.

Typically braising involves searing a piece of meat in high heat, then cooking it low and slow with vegetables and a flavorful liquid until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender. The technique is great for tough (or boring) cuts of meat, but braising a turkey can be a bit cumbersome. A 15 lb. bird is a tad hard to maneuver! Luckily, I found another (easier) way to get the same effect. For this braised turkey, I roasted it in a blazing hot 500 degree oven until browned. Then, I turned the heat down, added plenty of broth and cider, and continued to roast for several more hours, until cooked through.

Citrus, herbs, butter and cider all come together to make this Braised Apple Cider Turkey juicy and tender!

There’s something here for everyone to love. Butter and herbs rubbed under the skin keeps things classic and extra juicy, while hints of lemon, orange, and cider keep everyone interested. Then there’s the gravy. Apple cider gravy, friends. It’s a thing. A delicious, wonderful thing. This gravy made from pan drippings and apple cider is savory with a subtle sweet tang. I put a dollop of dijon mustard in mine which made the dreamiest sauce, but folks wanting something a little more standard might want to leave it off.

I’ve shared my tips for preparing turkey here, but the same principles remain the same for this recipe. Most importantly, get all your ingredients ready before you even think about opening that turkey bag! It’ll save you so much time, clean up, and unnecessary hand washings. Other than that, you’ve just got to be willing to dive in and get real up close and personal with the bird. No fear–it won’t bite. 🙂

braised-apple-cider-turkey-5

I highly recommend Honeysuckle White’s fresh or frozen turkeys for your Thanksgiving spread. Their network of over 700 family farmers is committed to producing great turkeys raised with care. Having spent time with one of their farmers, I can tell you confidently this is a company committed to doing the right thing for their animals, farmers, and customers, and I couldn’t be more excited to partner with them this holiday season. Visit their website to learn more and look for Honeysuckle White (or Shady Brook Farms for you East Coasters!) in your local grocery store.

Braised Apple Cider Turkey
 
Prep time
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Serves: 10-12
Ingredients
For the turkey:
  • 1 14-16 lb. Honeysuckle White Turkey (either fresh or thawed)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons thyme leaves
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves
  • Zest of 1 orange + the orange itself, halved
  • Zest of 1 lemon + the lemon itself, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 cups hard apple cider
  • 1 cup apple cider
For the gravy:
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 2 apples, in thick slices
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey broth
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper
Instructions
For roasting:
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. In a roasting pan, toss the butter, garlic, butternut squash, apples, and onions together. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Mix together the butter, thyme, rosemary, orange and lemon zest, and garlic in a bowl. Place about ¼ cup of salt and 2 teaspoons pepper in two small bowls. Get a piece of kitchen twine ready to tie the legs together. Place all of this near the roasting pan so you won't need to get turkey juices everywhere when you're prepping.
  3. Remove the turkey from the bag and pull out anything in the cavity. Place the turkey on top of the vegetables and pat it dry. Cut a small slit in the skin above the cavity and gently work your hand between the skin and the breast meat. Spread the butter mixture under the skin, then rub it all over the breast, legs, thighs, and cavity of the bird. Sprinkle with Kosher salt. You probably won't need the entire ¼ cup, but it should look like a light snow has fallen on the turkey. Follow that up with a sprinkling of pepper.
  4. Place the orange halves in the cavity along with a few apple and onion slices from the pan. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wing tips under the bird to protect them.
  5. Place the turkey in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Remove the turkey from the oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Pour the chicken broth, hard cider, and apple cider into the pan, scraping up any bits at the bottom. Cover the breast meat with a small strip of parchment paper. Wrap the pan in foil. Place an oven safe or probe thermometer in the breast meat then return to the oven and continue to roast for 2-2½ hours or until turkey reaches about 150 degrees. At that point, remove the foil and continue to roast until the turkey reaches 161 degrees. Remove the turkey from the oven, tent with foil, and let rest for about 30 minutes before carving.
For the gravy:
  1. To make the gravy, strain the vegetables, reserving them and the liquid for another use. Skim the fat off the top of the liquid. You can use a gravy separator or place it in the fridge for a bit to make it easier.
  2. Place a ¼ cup of the fat from the pan in a pot over medium heat. If you weren't able to get a full ¼ cup of fat, add enough butter to make a ¼ cup. Measure out a ½ cup of the liquid from the roasting pan and whisk it together with the cornstarch to form a slurry. Stir this into the fat in the pan, whisking until the mixture begins to thicken. Slowly stir in the broth and then the cider in a steady stream, alternating stirring and whisking. Continue to cook for another 5 or so minutes, or until the gravy is the consistency you want. If desired, whisk in mustard then season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the gravy with the turkey.

This post is sponsored by the wonderful folks at Honeysuckle White Turkey. As always, all opinions are my own. 

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Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce is the exclamation point for all of your holiday recipes. Drizzle it on (nearly) anything for some serious wow factor.

This Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce is easy to make and goes great with ice cream, apple crisp, pancakes, and more!

I first made this Salted Caramel Sauce five years ago. I screwed it up royally, and somehow it was still ridiculously good. I knew then this sauce would be a mainstay in my holiday rotation, and indeed, it has. It usually makes its inaugural appearance in October, when we bring our first load of apples home from the orchard. Unsurprisingly, salted caramel sauce and apple slices get along quite well.

Another batch is usually required for Caramel Apple Cider Floats and then another for drizzling over homemade apple crisp. In the in-between time, it gets drizzled on pancakes and apple french toast, swirled into coffee and licked right off the spoon. At Thanksgiving, you’ll find the sauce stationed next to the pies, ready to take your holiday desserting to the next level, and at Christmas it gets poured into cute jars and tied with ribbon for everyone’s favorite DIY gift.

You'll want to put this Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce on everything! It's the perfect DIY holiday gift!

My friends have started calling this THE SAUCE, and it’s certainly earned its reputation. The sauce is remarkably easy to make, and it’s one of those recipes where the reward far outweighs the work required. Trust me, you’ll have to restrain yourself from licking the flaming hot pot you make it in. It’s that good.

Now, I promise this recipe really is easy. Only four ingredients and about 15 minutes of time is needed to make it. But of course, I have found ways to mess it up. From time to time (usually when I’m in a hurry), the caramel seizes up on me, but luckily nearly any caramel can be saved with a little bit of heat and patience.

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce is the wow factor for all of your holiday desserts. It makes a great gift too!

Because I love you, and I really, really, REALLY want you to have this sauce in your lives, I’ve swallowed my pride and included my original tutorial photos from five years ago below the recipe. They aren’t winning any awards, but I hope they will give you the confidence to give this a try and push forward, even if you find yourself looking at something that resembles a pile of burnt cheese. Do not despair friend, sweet sultry Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce is only a stir or two away!

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
 
Cook time
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Serves: 1½ cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • ½-3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla (if I'm feeling especially extravagant, I'll use the seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste)
Instructions
  1. In a large heavy pot, spread sugar in a thin, even layer. Turn burner to medium and heat until parts of the sugar begin to bubble and liquefy.
  2. Gently stir, making sure unmelted sugar comes in contact with the greatest heat source. Continue, stirring occasionally until all the sugar is melted.
  3. Meanwhile, heat cream in the microwave or over the stove until warm, but not boiling.
  4. When the sugar is completely melted and has turned an amber color, remove from heat. Whisk in ½ the warmed cream. The mixture will bubble a lot. Whisk in remaining cream until smooth. If any of the caramel hardened, simply place it back over medium heat and stir gently until melted.
  5. Stir in salt and vanilla. Serve warm or pour into an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve. The caramel will harden when cold. Simply rewarm in the microwave when ready to use.

Recipe Tutorial + How to Fix Seized Caramel:

First, spread a cup of sugar on the bottom of a big, heavy saucepan. Turn the heat on medium and let that sit for a while.

Parts of the sugar will start to get liquidy and bubbly. For me, this was the center of the pot. Gently stir the outsides of the pot toward the center, and the liquid part towards the outside (or vice versa if your pot is heating better on the outside). My mixture looked like this:

Continue to heat until the sugar turns a deep amber color.

Now. This is very important. Are you listening? Heat up 1 1/4 cups cream on the stove top or in the microwave until it is warm, but not boiling.

If you whisk cold cream directly into the caramel, it often turns into something like this:

No bueno. BUT, if this does happen to you, don’t fret! Simply return the pot to medium heat and melt again, stirring constantly. Once everything is smooth, add sea salt and vanilla!

Voila! Golden, lovely salted caramel sauce for every holiday dessert imaginable.

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce takes all of your holiday desserts to the next level. It also makes a great DIY Christmas gift!

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Honey Bacon Biscuits

If you’re a sucker for sweet and savory foods, you won’t be able to resist these Bacon Biscuits with a hint of honey. 

These sweet and savory Honey Bacon Biscuits are fluffy, flaky, and perfect for the holidays.

Guys, it’s November, and it’s also 75 degrees outside. On Halloween, little P wore his lion costume without a winter jacket over it. We went to the park today in short sleeves. I keep putting sweaters on in the morning then having to rip them off halfway through the day because I’m so warm. I honestly can’t remember the last time we’ve had such a lovely, long, golden fall.

It’s both bizarre and wonderful to be jumping in piles of leaves in shorts. I have been loving this season, but it has completely warped my perception of time. Is Thanksgiving really only three weeks away? It feels like Labor Day was yesterday, and you know Christmas will be here tomorrow. If I have to break out my NSYNC Christmas album in 70 degree weather, SO BE IT. The Christmas music waits for no man (and no appropriate seasonal weather pattern).

Despite the warm weather, I have been getting into the fall spirit by making cauldrons of soup, Crock Pot Beer Roast, and apple crisps. (Perhaps my enthusiastic use of the oven could explain the desperate pulling off of sweaters every day). This past week, I made these Honey Bacon Biscuits to accompany a big ol’ pot of Sweet Potato Turkey Chili, and even though the house was 80 degrees, I loved every warm, cozy, flaky bit of it.

These Bacon Biscuits with a hint of honey will be a hit on your holiday tables.

I know every family has their own favorite bread to accompany their Thanksgiving feast. I’ve always considered Thanksgiving to be a roll kind of holiday. Would you judge me if I told you my family can get DOWN on some frozen Sister Schubert’s rolls? (C’mon, you know they’re amazing). However, this year I’m giving biscuits another look. (Sorry, Sister).

These Honey Bacon Biscuits could make a convert of just about anyone. They’re everything a good buttermilk biscuit should be–flaky, tall, and buttery–but with the added benefit of crunchy bits of bacon and sweet honey. These do quite well with a smear of butter and a side of soup, but my favorite way to enjoy them is with a few slices of apple, an assertive cheese, and a drizzle of honey. I also think they’d be ridiculously good paired with some apple butter as part of your holiday spread.

Sweet and savory Bacon Biscuits with a touch of honey are a showstopper!

I’ve gone into greater detail about how to make fluffy buttermilk biscuits here, but the basics are 1. Keep everything cold, 2. Use White Lily Flour, and 3. Laminate your dough (instructions are in the recipe). Keep those tips in mind, and you’ll have easy, flaky bacon-y biscuits in no time! Just be sure to save one biscuit for a killer egg sandwich the next morning. I’ll have a recipe for one coming up you won’t want to miss!

Honey Bacon Biscuits
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 7
Ingredients
  • 5 strips bacon
  • 6 ounces (1½ stick, 12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups White Lily self rising flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1½ Tablespoons honey
  • 1 egg white
  • Melted butter for brushing (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the butter into small (1/2 inch) chunks then place it in the freezer while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  3. Fry the bacon until crisped. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Once the grease is soaked up, remove the paper towels and crumble the bacon. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
  4. Place the flour in a mixing bowl. In a measuring cup, whisk together the cold buttermilk and honey.
  5. Take the butter out of the freezer and add it to the flour mixture. Use two knives or a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse, pea sized crumbs.
  6. Add the buttermilk mixture, a little at a time, and stir the mixture gently with a wooden spoon until it starts to come together and form a ball. Gently stir in the bacon crumbles.
  7. Sprinkle a flat surface with more flour. Turn the biscuit mixture out onto the flour and use your hands to pat it into a thin rectangle. Fold the left side to the center of the rectangle then fold the right side over the left side (think about folding a brochure). Roll the mixture out then fold again. Roll out a final time to ¾ inch thickness. Use a biscuit cutter or upside down juice glass to cut out the biscuits, making sure not to twist the cutter when you remove the biscuits. Reroll the dough with any scraps until all of it is used. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet and brush with a whisked egg white.
  8. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until puffed and golden brown on top. Serve immediately brushed with melted butter or store wrapped loosely in a kitchen towel for a day. Reheat before serving.

 

 

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Chipotle Sweet Potato Turkey Chili

This Sweet Potato Turkey Chili is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with the smoky, warm heat of chipotles in adobo and the tang of tomatillo salsa.

This smoky Chipotle Sweet Potato Turkey Chili is a healthy and hearty meal you'll want to eat all week. #glutenfree #dairyfree If you’re anything like me, you usually leave the grocery store without one crucial item you really needed, even though you had a list and you checked it twice. Because of this rather infuriating trait, I often end up calling my husband and asking him to swing by the store and pick something up for me on his way home. He’s always been very willing to do this for me, but ever since The White Bean Incident the rules for this sort of request have become a bit more stringent.

The White Bean Incident started like any other last minute grocery request. I sent over a short list, which included “white beans.” In my mind, this clearly meant canned white beans–like Great Northerns or Cannelinis. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t see things as clearly. He spent the better part of 30 minutes wandering the store, seeing every kind of white bean imaginable. He spotted white green beans in the produce section and picked them up. Then he got to the dried bean section and thought maybe that’s what I wanted, so he threw those in too. Then he got to the canned section and realized there are at least three different kinds of canned beans that are white in color but approximately zero that say WHITE BEANS on the can.

Exasperated, he called me. “What in the world are white beans???” I thought the whole thing was rather amusing. He…didn’t. So now I have to be a tad more specific with my list making, or else I might lose my willing “I forgot something can you pick it up for me pleeeease??” shopper.

Chipotle peppers in adobo give this Sweet Potato Turkey Chili a smoky heat.

I recently had my husband pick up canned white beans (Great Northern, to be exact) to throw into some chili along with a slew of other good things. This chili is PACKED with stuff that tastes great and also happens to be great for you. I start with Honeysuckle White ground turkey, onions, and garlic sizzling in some olive oil. It smells amazing already. Then I add broth, sweet potatoes, bell peppers and those infamous white beans and season everything with some green tomatillo salsa, chipotle peppers in adobo, and oregano. Everything gets to bubble and stew together for awhile until the flavors make best friends with each other. Then I throw in some kale at the last minute, stir it until it’s soaked up all the goodness, and then ladle everything into bowls.

This Chipotle Sweet Potato Turkey Chili is a super hearty, healthy meal that's gluten free and dairy free!

I can’t seem to resist throwing some fresh avocado and cilantro at any chili situation and this one was no different. This bowl is all about balance–giving every part of your tastebuds their own little party. We’ve got tangy, smoky heat, a bit of sweetness, and an earthy vibe from the oregano. The green stuff cools everything down, so it’s juuust right. This is what you want to eat when you come home from the pumpkin patch, rosy cheeked and ravenous.

And hey, I know some of you aren’t into the sizzling and simmering and stirring at the stove top, so I’ve also adapted this recipe for the crock pot so you can have this delicious chili waiting for you at the end of the day.

This Sweet Potato Turkey Chili is absolutely loaded with flavor and good-for-you vegetables. It's a hearty gluten free and dairy free recipe for the cold winter months.

I’m sharing this recipe today in partnership with Honeysuckle White Turkey (or Shady Brook Farms for all of you East coast folks!). Honeysuckle White’s turkeys are raised on over 700 family farms, and they’re all raised without any growth promoting antibiotics. I’m so proud to be partnering with a company who cares so much for their farmers, their animals, and their customers. To learn more about them, visit them on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and be sure to stay tuned for more delicious turkey recipes!

Chipotle Sweet Potato Turkey Chili
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This turkey chili has a great smoky heat and can be made on the stove top or in the crock pot. See the notes for the crock pot instructions!
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1½ lbs Honeysuckle White ground turkey
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, chopped in ½ inch chunks
  • 2 sweet bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo + 2-3 teaspoons sauce
  • 1 cup tomatillo salsa
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can white beans
  • 3 stalks kale, stems removed and torn into bite sized pieces
  • Avocado and fresh cilantro for serving
Instructions
  1. In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and the turkey and cook until no pink remains in the meat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes, bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper, then add the chipotles in adobo, oregano, salsa, and chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then add the white beans and reduce the heat to a consistent simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Stir in the kale and cook until wilted. Serve the soup with avocado slices and fresh chopped cilantro.
Notes
To make this in the crock pot, saute the olive oil, onions, garlic, and turkey in a skillet until no pink remains. Drain all but a Tablespoon of the fat. Add the mixture to a crock pot, then add the sweet potatoes, bell peppers, oregano, chipotle peppers, tomatillo salsa, broth, and beans. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8. Add the kale during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

This post is sponsored by the wonderful people at Honeysuckle White Turkey. As always, all opinions are my own. 

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Chocolate Candy Bar Cake

Got leftover Halloween candy? This Chocolate Candy Bar Cake is a great way to use it up!

This Chocolate Candy Bar Cake is the perfect way to use up leftover Halloween candy. Use your favorite bars for the ultimate dessert!

I have a confession to make: I don’t really like candy bars.

Are you making a shocked face at me? Or is that a grimace? You’re grimacing, aren’t you?

Before you think I’m some kind of monster, let me assure you I like chocolate desserts. I’ll go to town on some one pot fudge brownies or chocolate chunk cookies. But to sit down and eat a chocolate bar? It’s not my thing.

The problem is, I seem to forget this when I’m staring at all the fancy, specialty chocolate bars at the store. Suddenly, I’m tossing a Sea Salt and Caramel, a Dark Chocolate Hazelnut, and an Espresso Cream bar in my cart like I’m some sort of candy bar connoisseur.

Then it’s Halloween and I’ve overestimated the amount of chocolate we’ll need by about 25 lbs, and before you know it my cabinets look like a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Got leftover Halloween candy? This Chocolate Candy Bar Cake is the perfect way to use it up! Rich, chocolatey, and with the dreamiest fluffy frosting!

I could probably live around this amount of candy for a year, taking squirrel sized bites from the bars every few days. But the Mr. is a candy bar lover, and to ask him to leave this amount of candy alone is akin to putting a dog in a tub of bones and telling him not to eat them. It’s just cruel.

So I was faced with the not-so-unfortunate task of having to use up quite a collection of candy bars. I searched through my old recipe box and happened upon this recipe for Chocolate Candy Bar Cake. I had made it soon after we got married, and though the memory of it had faded, I knew if I took the time to write it on a card, it must’ve been good.

Chocolate Candy Bar Cake is the perfect way to use up leftover Halloween candy. Use any of your favorite candy bars for a special treat.

I recreated the recipe, this time throwing in the rag tag collection of candy bars I had accumulated the last few months. This cake exceeded expectation on every account. It is surprisingly easy to make. Seriously, I made the cake and the frosting, cooled and decorated it in about 3 hours time, with most of that time being baking and cooling. The recipe starts with a box cake, which is not my usual go-to, but it works in this case. I think next time I might try starting with my Chocolate Crazy Cake, which is also super simple to make.

The cake is then layered with the dreamiest, fluffiest frosting that’s filled with hunks of chopped up candy bars (and also happens to look exactly like Oreo Ice Cream!). Mine was studded with bits of caramel and nougat, silky milk chocolate and deep dark chocolate, a hint of hazelnut and the occasional bite of crispy cappuccino. It.was.fabulous.

This Chocolate Candy Bar Cake starts with a fluffy chocolate cake layered with the fluffiest whipped frosting studded with your favorite candy bars!

If you find yourself in a bit of candy bar situation come November 1st, give this recipe a try. It’s great with specialty chocolate bars, but equally wonderful with your run-of-the-mill Halloween haul. Throw in some Milky Ways or Crunch, add a dark chocolate bar or a Reeses, and every bite will be a sweet surprise.

Chocolate Candy Bar Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
For the cake:
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • 1 3.4 ounce package instant vanilla pudding
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 3 eggs
For the frosting:
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 8 ounce container whipped topping
  • 4 candy bars, any variety or flavor, coarsely sliced
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 9 inch cake pans (or 3 8 inch pans). Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat all of the ingredients for the cake together on low speed. Increase to medium speed and beat for 4 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Divide the batter evenly in the prepared pans and bake for 23-27 minutes (for 9 inch pans) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes before running a knife along the edges and flipping them out of the pans and onto a cooling rack.
  3. Meanwhile, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and powdered sugar until smooth. Fold in the whipped topping followed by the candy bars.
  4. To frost the cake, place one layer on a flat surface. Spread the frosting over the cake and along the edges. Place the second layer on top and spread the frosting on the top and sides, blending with the bottom layer. Place candy bars pieces on top to decorate, either piled in the center or around the top and sides. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com

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Old Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Cookies

These simple, spiced Old Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Cookies feel like home–familiar, cozy, and oh-so-comforting. 

These Old Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Cookies are deliciously sweet and chewy and full of nostalgia.

Usually when the phone rings after 10 PM it’s not good news, but when I worked for a domestic violence shelter, midnight phone calls took on a new meaning. For the most part, they still meant something bad had happened, but they also meant something else, something extraordinary actually. Those middle of the night phone calls signified an incredible act of bravery. Behind every call was a woman facing her fears, standing up for herself, and saying no to the intimidation and manipulation she’d become accustomed to.

Most women in the shelter probably wouldn’t have called themselves brave. They were scared for their safety and burdened with worry, but I saw their courage and strength. Many of them had nothing but the clothes on their back, but they kept their chin up. They kept going, one day at a time, waking up, making beds, cooking meals, finding new friends. They made tough decisions. They found jobs. They got their kids to school. They got groceries. They looked for houses. Each act was another act of defiance, another way of reclaiming power over their own lives.

Next time you're in a nostalgic mood, try these chewy Old Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Cookies.

I learned so much from these women during the time at the shelter. I learned about the cycle of power and control, why so many women stay, and why it’s dangerous to leave an abuser. I got a better understanding of the challenges domestic violence victims face and the incredible strength it takes to get out of an abusive situation. My time there has stayed with me all these years, and it’s still an issue I feel deeply invested in.

This past week, I had the chance to take some homemade cookies to the women currently living at Choices, the domestic violence shelter here in Columbus. I remember from my days working at a shelter what a treat it was to get some homemade baked goods in the house. Truly, food transcends every circumstance and season. I knew I wanted to bring something that would be comforting and special, so I finally settled on these Old Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Cookies.

These Homemade Iced Oatmeal Cookies are even better than the boxed version!

I don’t know about you, but even looking at these cookies makes me nostalgic. I used to love the boxed version of these cookies, but the homemade version far surpasses the old boxed kind. These are chewy and sweet, with a good kick of cinnamon and nutmeg to warm them up. I thought they were the perfect thing to spread a little love and joy to the women and kids in the shelter. There’s just something about them that makes you feel at home–safe, warm, and loved.

These cookies are very easy to make, and I plan to dress them up for all kinds of different occasions. I made a few with heart sprinkles and a few more with festive Halloween colors. You could easily color the frosting to fit the mood or pipe on smiley faces, letters, or fun designs. This recipe will definitely be making many more appearances in my kitchen, and I hope they’ll bring joy and comfort in every place they go.

These Old Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Cookies can be dressed up for any occasion, but are perfect for a simple after school treat.

Right now, Choices is raising money to help build a new shelter for domestic violence victims in Columbus. I’ve included a lot more information about this critical issue, as well as ways you can help, below the recipe. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month, and I’d love for you to join me in sharing your stories and spreading awareness about the impacts of domestic violence in our communities.

Old Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 32
Ingredients
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place the oats in a blender and pulse for about 10 seconds or until the oats are coarse. They should still have some texture.
  3. In a bowl, stir together the oats, flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
  5. Slowly add the oat mixture to the butter mixture and beat until well combined.
  6. Scoop the cookies out onto the prepared baking sheets using a standard cookie scoop (about 1½ Tablespoon balls), spacing them at least 1.5 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown. For soft, chewy cookies, pull them out when the centers are still soft. For crisper cookies, continue to let them bake until centers are set. Allow the cookies to set up on a baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth. When the cookies are cooled, spread the frosting on top. Feel free to color the frosting or sprinkle with holiday themed sprinkles if desired!

Recipe adapted from The Novice Chef

The current Choices shelter has only 51 beds, but they have upwards of 80 women and children staying in the shelter at any given time. The shelter never turns anyone away, so they’ve had to get creative, placing cots in offices and hallways to ensure everyone has a bed. Choices expects to provide services for over 2,000 people in 2016 and field 4,300 calls on their 24 hour helpline.

Currently, Choices is working with Columbus police, the Sheriff’s Office, and local domestic violence shelter to design a new shelter which focuses on Building Dignity for survivors of trauma. The new shelter will increase the number of beds to 120, and will include family units, shared kitchen and living spaces, green spaces, play areas, and even a kennel for pets. Guys, I can’t even tell you how wonderful this space would be. Having a space designed for restoring dignity, empowering survivors, and taking care of the details (like room for pets) that can make leaving an abuser so difficult would be a huge gift to survivors and our community.

If you would like to learn more about the shelter campaign as well as the services provided by Choices, visit their website, where you can donate money or time (or cookies!), hear stories from survivors, and write a note of hope.

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Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail

These Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktails with cinnamon simple syrup are just what I want to sip on at the end of the day.

These Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktails made with cinnamon simple syrup are perfect for fall.

There in my bathroom little P sat, looking adorably ornery, in a pile of unraveled toilet paper. It made for a cute picture, the kind you share on Facebook with a caption like, “Can’t take your eyes off this kid for a minute!” Here’s what the picture doesn’t tell you: I let him do it. This is something I didn’t realize about motherhood before I had a child of my own. Sometimes your need for 2 minutes to brush your teeth and swipe some mascara on your lashes is greater than your need for neatly rolled toilet paper.

Before we had kids, I was always careful to avoid saying “I will never ______ with my kids.” I had enough mom friends to know this was pure folly. Still, I never imagined I would willingly, knowingly let my kid unravel an entire roll of toilet paper just for a little bit of me time.  And the destruction I’ve allowed unfortunately doesn’t stop there. He has gleefully ripped dish rags out of drawers, pulled ziplock bags out of boxes, and unearthed mounds of tupperware from the cupboards. Cluttering the house seems to be his favorite his past time.

These Warm bourbon and cider combine for the ultimate fall beverage: Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktails. are the perfect beverage for fall!

I’m tempted to spend my days chasing him around, picking up after every mini Godzilla event, pulling him away from the kitchen cabinets, closing drawers, and dragging him back to his designated play area. Unfortunately, that leaves us both exhausted and frustrated. Instead, I’m learning to let him explore, and when I’m tempted to despair over the mess, I join him on the floor, attempting to see the world through his 2 foot tall eyes.

It appears sacrifice is the name of the game for new parents, and one of those sacrifices seems to involve having neatly folded dish towels and orderly cabinets. It gets to me sometimes. Truthfully, it does. I don’t love messy drawers and cluttered floors. I like having my toilet paper in a nice roll. I miss having 30 luxurious, uninterrupted minutes to get ready in the mornings. Heck, I even miss doing the dishes without having to pull a baby away from the dog bowl every other minute.

Cozy up with a Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail--the perfect fall drink!

But at the same time, I wouldn’t trade these messy days for anything. I’m so thankful little P is growing and exploring. I love to watch him learn, love that every little thing can amuse or fascinate him. The opening and closing of a drawer, the stacking of cups and bowls, the clang of a wooden spoon on a pot. Our boring, every day stuff is his playground. So I’ll keep letting him play, and at the end of another long, full, wonderful, chaotic day, I’ll treat myself to a Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail.

This is all I really want after the baby’s asleep. A couch to sink into, a blanket to cozy up in, and a cocktail to sip on. This cocktail is modeled after a drink I had at Kraft House No. 5, one of my favorite restaurants in the area. It’s called The Flannel Shirt and it has fall written all over it: warming bourbon, crisp apple cider, spicy cinnamon syrup, and a hint of lemon and orange. It is familiar but sophisticated, comforting but refreshing. It really does feel like slipping into your favorite flannel on that first chilly day of fall. The cinnamon simple syrup will make your house smell amazing, and may even stir up a desire to start playing Christmas music (sorry/not sorry). But I won’t get too far ahead of myself. For now, I’ll just enjoy the season I’m in: colorful, crisp, messy Autumn, and all the joys it brings.

Bourbon, cider, and cinnamon syrup combine for the ultimate fall beverage: Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktails.

Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
For the simple syrup:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 2 ounces apple cider
  • ¼ ounce lemon juice
  • ½ ounce cinnamon simple syrup
  • Dash orange bitters
  • Orange peel, for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a small sauce pan, bring the water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. The syrup can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.
  2. For each drink, combine the bourbon, cider, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled then pour over ice in a glass and serve.

 

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