Browned Butter Sage Stuffing with Walnuts & Cranberries (& a Thanksgiving Menu)

This is better than I thought it would be. Truly, when I went to put together suggestions for this year’s festivities I thought it would be slim pickings. That there wouldn’t be much to choose from because I hadn’t gotten up nearly as many posts as planned. I’d been behind, slacking, negligent about my duties and responsibilities. Turns out, that wasn’t (entirely) the case. It’s rewarding to look back on the year and see what’s been accomplished. I got more up than I planned! And a lot of it would fit nicely on the Thanksgiving table, if there’s still room.

Browned Butter Sage Stuffing with Walnuts & Cranberries

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O’Henry Bars (& asking)

When did you realize your parents were humans?

For me, it was Christmas two years ago.

We had just finished eating dinner and my mom walked toward the kitchen making a comment about how “it’d be nice to have a little help cleaning up” as she wandered away, continuing to mutter.

“Mom,” I called. “If you want me to clean up, just ask! I can’t give you what you want if you don’t tell me what it is. Being passive aggressive isn’t going to help anything!” (Home for the holidays, amirite?)

She huffed. “Fine. Will you please do the dishes? I’m tired from cooking.”

Yes, I could do the dishes. Yes, I would do the dishes. And while doing them I thought about how I had found myself in my mom’s position a multitude of times. Wanting help, guidance, acknowledgement, but being unable or unwilling to ask for it.

So that’s where I had gotten it. From my mom. In addition to a multitude of positives – my sweet tooth, my determination, my penchant for sweatpants – I had gotten my tendency toward passive aggression from my mother.

Because she’s only human. As am I.

So, for the last two years I’ve made a conscious effort to be more straightforward, more upfront, ask for what I want. And so has my mom. No more muttering about dishes, no more wishing for people to read minds. It’s made a marked difference to both of us, I believe.

When it’s important, it’s easier to ask for things. Like my mom did years ago when she asked for the recipe to these O’Henry bars from the women in her hospital’s cafeteria. And like she did weeks ago when she made it very clear what she wanted for Mother’s Day. A shovel. Yes, I could get her one. Yes, I would get her one. Yes, I did get her one. All she had to do was ask.

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Cinco Leches Cake (& a secret ingredient)

I have a hard time liking what I make.

Not because it’s not good. It is! My friends and family and random strangers who I share my wares with all enjoy what I make. They are enthusiastic and emphatic in their praise.

I am, however, my harshest critic. Always have been, (probably) always will be. (I shudder to think at someone being harsher to me than I am.) I’ve got a bad case of perfectionism with a touch of the imposter syndrome – so even if a dessert is good, even great, I think it can be better.

There are exceptions – of course. My banana cream pie, for instance. Or my browned butter chocolate chip cookies. Marion’s mayo cake is beloved by everyone – even me!

And now, there’s this cake. A cake so good it sold out in one night the first time I made it (something my coconut icebox cake was also capable of). A cake so good I waited an entire year to make it again, because I just had to make it again. A cake so good even I like it.

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Cake Batter Waffles (& Galentine’s Day)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cake Batter Waffle Recipe via Midwest Nice Blog

Or Galentine’s Day!

Cake Batter Waffle Recipe via Midwest Nice Blog

Or Palentine’s Day!

Cake Batter Waffle Recipe via Midwest Nice Blog

Or Mardis Gras!

Cake Batter Waffle Recipe via Midwest Nice Blog

Or Anna Howard Shaw Day!

Cake Batter Waffle Recipe via Midwest Nice Blog

Or Wednesday!

Cake Batter Waffle Recipe via Midwest Nice Blog

I made these waffles in honor of Galentine’s Day’s largest and most well known supporter and perpetuator – Leslie Knope. She loves her friends. She loves her waffles. She loves her work (but work always comes third). Making them cake batter waffles seemed like a decision she would applaud, as did the copious amounts of whipped cream. And I think she’d also understand them going up a day after Galentine’s Day – seeing as how I was too busy actually Galentine-ing with my bestie since birth, Mandy, to get it up in time. Work comes third, remember?

Cake Batter Waffle Recipe via Midwest Nice Blog

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Overnight Paczki (& Fat Tuesday prep)

I know what you’re thinking.

Overnight Paczki Recipe

“Homemade doughnuts?! Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Overnight Paczki Recipe

But do you know what I’m thinking?

Overnight Paczki Recipe

Well, right now I’m thinking about the amazing meal I had at Henrietta Red last night. But! What I was thinking before was how you totally have time for doughnuts. These doughnuts.

Overnight Paczki Recipe

Because I figured out you can make this dough the night before, let it do a slow rise in the fridge while you’re snoozing, then wake up in the AM and fry these beauties up! Just in time for Fat Tuesday! Technically Paczki, these Polish balls of love (much like myself) are meant to use up the remaining sugar, lard, butter, and flour before the beginning of the Lenten season. But if you have leftover butter, sugar, and flour I’m sure we can find something to do with them.

Overnight Paczki Recipe

We got time for that.

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Mimosa Layer Cake (& resolutions)

This may be controversial – but I didn’t make any resolutions for 2018.

Mimosa Layer Cake

I didn’t want to.

Setting lofty goals and harsh guidelines (let’s face it, that’s what most resolutions are) fills me with an exorbitant amount of anxiety. The pressure to perform is too much. I worry about failing and disappointing others. In the end, I end up disappointing myself more than anything.

This year, I just want to continue. Keep moving forward.

Mimosa Layer Cake

2017 was a year of hardship and heartbreak (for me and so many other people). But it was also a year of achievements and accomplishments. I’ve spent a good portion of the last few weeks looking back on this year, and previous ones before that, and I have to say, I’m proud. I made serious changes to better my body, my mind, and my heart. I moved back home, got a new job, put myself first. Finally. For once.

And I continued to do that last night. I spent New Year’s Eve with my family – going over to my older sister’s house where we played Mad Libs and drank champagne and colored in coloring books. I squeezed babies and sang terribly. We laughed and ate and took a group photo. It was the perfect end to a less than perfect year.

Mimosa Layer Cake

Imperfect though it was, it was still useful, necessary. If I could label it, I would say that the last year was “The Year of Transition.” It was uncomfortable at times, making me stretch in ways I wasn’t ready for, even if they were necessary. In that discomfort there was growth, real and measurable. Nothing really turned out the way I expected it to, but, truthfully, that seems to be for the better. I’m proud of where I am, grateful for where I was.

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