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Where do some of the best recipes come from?

I started paying attention to “back of the box” recipes when I covered the baking contests Hershey’s sponsors at the Pennsylvania Farm Show each year. Hershey’s has a ton of awesome recipes on their website, like the peanut butter paisley brownies I make for special occassions.

Last week, it was my turn to bring the goods for our weekly staff meeting, and I decided to make muffins. When I pulled out the flour to make another recipe I found online, I saw the sour cream blueberry muffin recipe on the side of the bag. I decided to swap Greek yogurt for the sour cream and chocolate chips for the blueberries and … wow. I had half of one when it came out of the oven, then took the rest to work and didn’t have any more.

But then I couldn’t stop thinking about them, and it was the weekend, and …

I tend to beat the bejeezus out of any sort of dough or batter, but you can’t do that with muffins. I combined the ingredients until everything was just wet.

And then this emerged from the oven.

When I made them for us, I reduced the sugar to 2/3 cup. I like muffins to taste like muffins, not naked cupcakes.

Hello Kitty cupcake wrappers are optional.

Printable recipe

A few weeks ago, I picked up a few old cookbooks at an estate sale — one was compiled by members of a church in 1985, and the other is the 1973 edition of “What’s Cooking, Doc?” which was put together the Florida Medical Association’s women’s auxiliary — and there are so many old-fashioned Southern recipes in them, and none of them are complicated.  A former editor recently sent me that newspaper’s holiday recipe insert, and there are some great ideas in it, too.

I wouldn’t make most of the dishes for us for a regular weeknight meal, but you can’t beat these simple old recipes if you’re entertaining, cooking for a potluck, etc.

What’s your favorite back-of-the-box recipe?

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My first Thanksgiving dinner was a success!

But why shouldn’t it have been? A 7-pound turkey breast is not particularly difficult to cook, and the roaster oven my mom sent us earlier this year made the task even easier. A good rubdown with butter and an assortment of spices and the turkey was taken care of.

The man of the house carved the turkey and did the stuff I didn’t want to do, like wash out the roaster before its inaugural use. (I promise this is not product placement for Glad cling wrap, just lazy photography.)

I know I wrote that I was so excited to put my own spin on the Thanksgiving classics, but I didn’t get too creative.

I considered a couple different takes on sweet potatoes, but we eat them year-round and never do we eat them candied with melted marshmallows on top, and the classic dish sounded too good to pass up. I used the Cooking Light recipe for classic sweet potato casserole, which simply uses less butter and brown sugar than a traditional recipe might. I don’t believe in “diet foods,” especially at holidays, but if you can lighten something without ever tasting the difference, why wouldn’t you? Fiance said he never would have known this is a light dish, and I don’t think anyone would ever guess. We loved this so much I’m already planning to make it for Christmas.

Sausage stuffing was a new dish for both of us. I knew that fiance wasn’t wild about the idea, but I was really into trying it, so he humored me, and we both enjoyed it. I used this recipe as a base and instead of butter used boxed chicken broth that was pre-doctored with white wine and herbs. Instead of poultry seasoning, I used a Greek spice blend. Honestly, the meatiness does not jump out at you; the hot Italian sausage I used enhanced the flavor and texture of classic stuffing.

I made the stuffing the night before and let it warm to room temperature before popping it into the oven on Thanksgiving Day. So easy! I think this will be my go-to stuffing.

I made mashed potatoes, too, but they were nothing noteworthy and I got nervous that, combined with the stuffing, it would be too much starch and I would have a bad reaction, because I take metformin for insulin resistance. So I skipped them.

As it was our first Thanksgiving as just the two of us, so we felt the need to document the day with  ’round-the-dinner table shots.

In the interest of full disclosure, I had to supplement the very few drippings I got from the turkey breast with gravy from a jar, but I had filled the bottom of the roaster with onionss, so the drippings and onions jazzed up the jarred stuff. But other than that, there was nothing on our table that came pre-packaged.

While we both enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner, it was dessert that really stole the show.

Martha Stewart’s pumpkin cheesecake. I followed the advice of one person who commented on the recipe on marthastewart.com and crushed gingersnaps to make the crust. You can see where one part of the cheesecake stuck to the pan, but I was proud that there were no cracks in the top and that it exited the springform pan mostly unscathed.

As I uploaded our Thanksgiving photos, I started to think that I should have put together some sort of centerpiece and that I should have picked up some pretty serving dishes, but honestly, I would not change one thing about our Thanksgiving. It was a calm, relaxed, fun day. The sun was shining and I cooked our meal in a dress with the back door open, and later, fiance was in such a good mood/food coma that he sat through one and a half Thanksgiving episodes of “Roseanne.”

Even the puggle took a moment to count his blessings, over special doggie ice cream.

That’s his sock monkey in the background. It has since lost two limbs and its tail.

What was the highlight of your Thanksgiving?

When my friend Kassia gifted me a bottle of tupelo honey from the Savannah Bee Co. in Savannah, Ga., I wanted to find something really different to make with it. I went in search of a recipe in which honey wasn’t just an ingredient — it was the star of the show.  Naturally, I ended up at the company’s website, where they have a bunch of recipes that feature honey.

As an ice cream addict, I was intrigued by the nougat ice cream recipe. It seemed so simple — and so delicious. The site actually lists the recipe as one to be used with their peace honey, but I figured it’d be OK to use tupelo. And I was right!

(I’d say tupelo honey is just “regular” honey, but I don’t think I’d be doing it justice. The Savannah Bee Co. describes it as “the gold standard by which all other honeys are measured.”

  • 1/2  cup  honey
  • 1/4  cup  Sugar
  • 1/4  cup  Water
  • 1  Large egg white
  •  Pinch of salt
  • 1  cup  Chilled whipping cream
  • 1/2  cup  Slivered almonds, lightly toasted, chopped
  • 1/4  cup  shelled unsalted pistachios, chopped (I left these out; they’re expensive, and I’m not entirely sure I even like pistachios)
  • Heat the honey, sugar and water, stirring, until sugar dissolves, then bring it to a boil without a stirring for one minute.

    The hardest thing about making the ice cream was trying to beat the egg whites watching the sugar, honey and water on the stove, but I managed to do it and snap a photo at the same time.

    The you add the hot honey mixture to the meringue and beat until “stiff,” about four minutes. I always have trouble judging when things are “stiff” (or my other favorite, “fluffy”) according to recipes, so I beat the mixture for five minutes and called it good.

    Reading over the recipe I realized you are supposed to let that mixture sit and cool for 10 minutes, but I did not. I beat the cream in a large bowl until peaks formed.

    Then I used a wooden spoon to combine the cream and the meringe and folded in the slivered almonds. I strayed from the recipe yet again and poured the mixture into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish. It took about four hours to firm up in the freezer.

    It was sooooo good! I think it would’ve gotten a little harder, had more of an ice cream-like consistency, if I’d actually followed the directions, but it was still delicious! I think this would be an excellent dessert to make for company — it would look cute in little parfait glasses, and I know I would be impressed if someone served me ice cream made from scratch.

    I’m kinda weird about fall. I’m a native Pennsylvanian, but I can’t stand the chill in the air, the inevitability of the approaching winter and dark, cold, gray gloom. When I moved to Florida, some of my Pennsylvania family and friends said they’d miss the changing seasons if they moved to a subtropical climate. I could go the rest of my life without seeing the leaves change because I hate what those fiery colors signify.

    But I do love pumpkins, pumpkin-flavored anything and Halloween. I woke up on Sunday wanting pancakes, and although I’d never made them from scratch, I was pretty sure I had all the necessary ingredients. Some quick Googling led me to Maria’s Rodale super-easy recipe. I remembered the can of pumpkin pie filling — already laced with spices, sugar and syrup — shoved in the back of cupboard, waiting for its moment to shine. It was Labor Day weekend, the unofficial start to fall. Its time had come.

    Plus, fiance was still asleep, and he loves pumpkin, too. I wanted to surprise him after he was such a good cheerleader at my 10K the day before.

    Whole wheat pumpkin pancakes

    Recipe based on Maria Rodale’s Pancakes from Scratch in a Pinch

    • 2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup pumpkin pie filling*
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 2 Tablespoons sugar
    • 3 eggs
    • 1¾ cups milk

    *I purchased pumpkin pie filling accidentally some time ago. In the future, I’ll just use 1 cup of canned pumpkin and doctor it up with some cinnamon.

    Spray a skillet or griddle with non-stick cooking spray and pre-heat the pan over medium heat. Dump all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix together until it’s a nice, thick batter.

    I followed Rodale’s instructions and used a ladle to spoon the batter onto the skillet. I spread it out a little with a fork because this batter was thick. Once the pancake begins to bubble, flip it.

    This is the first pancake I have ever successfully flipped! Usually they break apart and are a literally a hot mess.

    The size of the pancakes is pretty much up to you. Ours were medium-sized, the perfect size for a salad plate (which we use for almost every meal). This recipe made five medium-size pancakes, but they were pretty thick. They also froze really well and easily heated up in the microwave for a quick weekday breakfast. I’m a big believer in “cook once, eat twice.”

    We drizzled them with tupelo honey from Savannah Bee Co., which was part of my birthday gift from our friends Kassia and Scott. (Like honey? Don’t miss tomorrow’s post — a dessert that puts honey center stage!)

    Because of my insulin resistance, pancakes usually aren’t the best choice for me. I got really sick on pecan pancakes (so good, they were bad … for me) in the spring and have avoided them ever since, but I figured that one pumpkin pancake paired with my usual egg white and cheese scramble wouldn’t do too much damage, and thankfully, it didn’t.

    After making these pancakes, I’m not sure why anyone would buy pancake mix — this was just as easy as any box mix, sans the questionable ingredients list. I’m looking forward to trying this same recipe with canned pumpkin instead of the pie filling — it’ll be even healthier!




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    I'm a bride-to-be who's lost 120 pounds -- and gained a whole new perspective on food and a passion for fitness! My ego would like to think I'm the Carrie Bradshaw of weight loss, but really, I'm just another former fat girl with too much to say.

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