Jake’s Birthday Costume Party

How in the world did my son turn 5? It’s not like the days or years have felt short; I honestly can’t even remember (because it seems so long ago) what my life was before this kid made me a mom. It’s just that I remember so clearly thinking he would be small forever. That his little hands and his little feet would always be doll-size. That 2-year-olds seemed as big as monsters.

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Smoky Sweet Potato, Black Bean, and Spinach Empanadas

Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas

A few weeks ago, I told Sarah of Well Dined that all I wanted to do this Fall is bake, bake, bake, and I wondered whether she would mind eating nothing but cookies for lunch when we got together. She thoughtfully responded that we should make empanadas.

And after we made these, we congratulated ourselves over and over again because the filling is so delicious. I mean seriously, we were both sneaking spoonfuls of filling as we assembled the empanadas, and licking our fingers when we were done. It’s amazing.

You should make yourself a batch of empanadas right away, so you will know what I’m talking about!

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Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake

Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake

About a year ago, a good friend of ours left a bottle of spiced rum at our house, as a gift.

To be honest, neither of us are big cocktail drinkers. And so, the bottle of rum has gathered dust in the cabinet.

But then, as part of the Secret Recipe Club challenge for October, I stumbled across a pumpkin recipe I knew I had to try: drunken pumpkin cake. (At last, the spiced rum will have its day!)

You know I love baking with liquor. And you know I love anything to do with pumpkin.

This month for SRC, I was assigned Little Bit of Everything, written by Julie. Julie has been blogging since 2009, and she started her blog as a way to document her journey through her cookbook collection! I love how she keeps a list of the daring recipes she wants to try, because I do the same thing!

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Maple Nutmeg Butter Cookies

Maple Nutmeg Butter Cookies

Now that it’s Fall, I am going to be all about the baking.

And what do we think of when we think of Fall? (No…it’s not just pumpkin.)

Leaves! Leaves turning orange and red and dripping from the trees and crunching underfoot. I think maple should feature as prominently in our Fall lineup as all the pumpkin and warm spices we normally expect at every turn.

And these cookies, sweet with sappy maple syrup and spiced with nutmeg, are the perfect bite of Fall.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Gingersnap Crust

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Gingersnap Crust

I have never liked pumpkin pie.

I know I’m not alone in that.

Because of pumpkin pie, I believed until well into my adulthood that I hated all pumpkin things.

Thank God I got over that!

But seriously, pumpkin pie is not the only way to enjoy your pumpkin this Thanksgiving. And why do pie when you can go cheesecake?

Pumpkin cheesecake is amazing and gorgeous, it’s creamy and tangy and sweet and warm with Fall spices. It’s basically Fall dessert perfection.

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Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

I fell off the thankfulness train a little bit. And I’m going to climb back on.

But first, I have to tell you what happened to me last week:

The pediatrician told me I have to give up eating dairy, because Caitlin is most likely allergic to it.

Major sad face.

And just in time for the holidays! (Don’t worry, I still have lots of good treats planned for you, even if I can’t eat them all.)

I suddenly realize that I have not been as empathetic as I could have been toward friends and family who have dietary restrictions. Because even though I know a million ways to substitute and avoid dairy, it’s really sad to eat in a world where butter is off limits.

So here comes some thankfulness! I am thankful for all the wonderful people who have gone before me in feeling hungry and cranky after giving up something that they loved for the sake of their health or the health of a loved one. I am thankful for all the vegans in the world (seriously, thank you) for being delicious without dairy. I am thankful for all the friends who called me, texted me, and gave me hugs as I cried silly tears when I realized I couldn’t eat any of my favorite breakfast foods for the next several months. I am thankful for special friends who sent me recipe ideas after I whined about being hungry.

To round off this thankfulness, and in preparation for eating a *gulp* dairy-free Thanksgiving meal, I made some brussels sprouts. Because I just can’t get enough of brussels sprouts in the Fall.

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Cardamom-Scented Delicata Squash with Yogurt Sauce

Cardamom-Scented Delicata Squash

There is so much to be thankful for!

Day 7: Thankful for new friends and birthday parties. Thankful for family visiting from out of town, for cuddles with Caitlin and s’mores around the fire pit.

Day 8: Thankful that my brother is home from his adventures in Africa!

Day 9: Thankful for the cool weather of Fall and the opportunity to eat fresh food seasonally, a blessing I know not everyone has. Thankful for Fall squashes.

Like the lovely delicata!

This month for the Secret Recipe Club challenge, I had the pleasure to peruse Culinary Adventures with Camilla, written by the fearless leader of the group B exchange. Camilla cooks recipes from all over the world, which I love! But this month I really wanted to focus on Thanksgiving fare, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try delicata squash, which Camilla says she cooks almost weekly when it’s in season.

This recipe combines two of my favorite things: a hint of warm, spicy cardamom, and sweet, starchy Fall squash. The end result is simple and basic, a perfect complement to the rich and saucy dishes that will litter the Thanksgiving table.

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Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Casserole

Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Casserole

What is it about Thanksgiving that makes us gravitate toward casseroles and gratins? From the simple classics of green beans and candied yams, to some of my new favorites like kale gratin and scalloped potatoes, if it’s creamy and comes in a 9″x13″ baking dish, it’s sure to find a home on the Thanksgiving buffet.

People always ask me what I eat for Thanksgiving, since I don’t eat the turkey. But with a dish like this cheesy sweet potato and chard casserole on the table, how could anyone go hungry?

I hope it’s not too heretical to proclaim that this casserole would be my choice over candied yams any day! I have never been a fan of emphasizing the sweet character of sweet potatoes: it just seems like too much sweet in one place. I love hitting sweet potatoes with some savory and some spice, and this casserole, with the barely bitter greens and the mountain of Gruyère, does not disappoint!

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Butter-Glazed Carrots

Butter-Glazed Carrots

I am trying to grow in gratefulness in my life. My husband has pointed out that I spend a lot of time moping about things that went slightly wrong rather than taking joy in all the ways I am blessed.

So let’s rumble, November: 30 days of thankfulness.

Day 1: Thankful for sweet friends who share deeply from their hearts. Thankful for cool weather and autumn leaves.

Day 2: Thankful for the bright, contagious smiles of my children. Thankful for the way Jake fake giggles at Caitlin to try to make her laugh (it’s so weird but so sweet).

Also thankful for Jacques Pepin and his butter-glazed carrots. These carrots put all other carrots to shame. They are so good—I really can’t rave about them enough.

Don’t be fooled by the name “glazed carrots,” people, because these are not mushy or overwhelmingly sweet like so many carrots by that name. They have just the barest of buttery, gingery sauces, with a hint of fresh garlic and grassy parsley and a crisp but not crunchy bite. The word that comes to mind is luscious.

Bring these to Thanksgiving and they will definitely be a hit!

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Morning Glory Carrot Muffins

Morning Glory Carrot Muffins

When I was a kid and someone brought out a carrot cake at a birthday party or celebration, I would seriously mope. No offense if carrot cake is your favorite…but who wants vegetable-flavored cake? Not even cream cheese frosting can redeem that.

Cake should be rich and sweet with a light but even crumb. There should be no carrots.

But I read recently that carrots are the only vegetable in season where I live during the month of October. So I made you some morning glory muffins—which, of course, is what we call carrot cake when we eat it for breakfast, which we should all agree is a much better time to eat “cake” made of carrots!

I love the idea of a healthy muffin, and these muffins really are pretty glorious: they have no refined sugar, they use whole grain flour, and they are full of shredded fresh carrots and apples, as well as coconut and pecans!

My son begs for these muffins, and I love to indulge him! Hiding a vegetable in plain sight while my son scarfs it down? Yes please.

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