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During the last few weeks, I’ve been bingeing on really awful/amazing Christmas movies that were made for television.
And the older I get, the less I care about these films being so cheesy.
In fact, I kind of like how predictable they are. Because, at the end of the day, each one comes down to someone loving someone else — a family member, a pet, another person who they happened to meet through a freak accident, etc. — and making a decision to go after that person, adore them and spend the holidays happy.
Yes, I’m a sap. Y’all should know this by now.
That being said… I surprisingly have not cried during any viewings of these made-for-television movies.
And, as an added bonus, I’ve spotted two teenage crushes (Dawson Leery and Michael Guerin, obviously) starring as the leading men in two very similar-but-different films.
What it comes down to is these movies make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and I think we all need that this season.
And I plan on bingeing on more until Christmas arrives, as well as watching some of my favorites: Christmas Vacation, White Christmas, Elf.
Because I don’t just watch cheesy Christmas movies. I watch quality ones, too, to balance things out… even if the majority of what I’ve seen this year has fallen into the first category.
So. Before I embarrass myself more…let’s talk about this Cranberry Walnut Bread.
This recipe is a nod to my mother-in-law. She makes the best Cranberry Bread around the holidays, and I was lucky enough to eat about half a loaf when we were visiting Louisiana during Thanksgiving.
That clearly wasn’t enough for me, and I had some cranberries in the fridge, so I got out of bed super early this past weekend to bake some cranberry bread. And by “super early,” I mean 4 a.m. Pregnancy insomnia is real.
While this isn’t my mother-in-law’s recipe, it turned out pretty darn good and definitely hit the spot. It tastes like Christmas morning, and I think it would be the perfect bread to bake your family for the holiday.
The cranberries are tart, but not too tart, and the orange juice and zest balances them out. Add in the streusel topping, and this bread is to-die-for.
Oh, and I used whole wheat flour.
So, ya know, that means this Cranberry Walnut Bread is healthy. Or something…
Serve up this hearty Whole Wheat Cranberry Walnut Bread on Christmas morn. Topped with a streusel, it's extra decadent and perfect for a holiday breakfast.
Author: Erin Parker Skinner, The Speckled Palate
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cranberry Walnut Bread
⅔ cup unsweetened applesauce
⅓ cup orange juice
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1⅓ cup fresh cranberries, chopped and tossed in 1 tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour
⅔ cup walnuts
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
⅓ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1½ teaspoons orange zest
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. (I used a 9" x 5" regular-sized pan and three mini pans.)
Make the bread batter: In a large bowl, whisk the applesauce, orange juice and brown sugar together until smooth.
Add the egg, vanilla and orange zest to the wet ingredients, whisking until incorporated.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until combined.
Slowly, measure the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, whisking until just combined.
Add the cranberries and walnuts to the batter, and fold until incorporated.
Pour the bread batter into the prepared baking pans, and set aside.
Make the streusel topping: In a bowl, combine the sugars, flour and orange zest. Stir until combined. Pour the butter on top, and stir until the mixture has come together.
Sprinkle the streusel topping on top of the bread batter in the prepared pans evenly until distributed.
Bake for 45 - 60 minutes, or until the streusel topping is golden brown and the bread has cooked through. (It took 45 minutes for my mini loaf pans to cook through and 60 for the regular-sized bread pan.)
Cool on a cooling rack, then slice and enjoy slightly warm!
What kinds of traditions do you have around this time of year?
I stayed up entirely too late last night addressing our Christmas cards… and I woke up this morning feeling achey ALL OVER.
I think not.
To top off the aches and pains of being a 30-year-old pregnant lady who spent a little too much time hunched over the coffee table scrawling addresses on cards, it’s a gray day in Dallas.
Days like these make me crave comfort food… and I desperately want a giant vat of soup and some crusty, fluffy Cheddar Biscuits to go along with it so I can be sure to soak up all that goodness.
Y’all know fancy food isn’t my thing, and these biscuits are anything but…
However, that being said, they’re the perfect accompaniment to any wintertime comfort food, and they sop up juices really well. And we all know that’s a big, super important thing.
And they basically go with whatever dish you want to serve them with. We’ve eaten them along side beef stew and cauliflower soup. They’d even be a delightful biscuit for breakfast. Heck, you could even make them into a breakfast sandwich with egg (blerch), sausage/bacon and cheese. OR a regular sandwich!
The possibilities are endless, y’all.
Do y’all know my pal Kelly? She writes a blog called Hidden Fruits and Veggies, and she’s all kinds of fabulous. She makes vegetarian dishes and sneaks veggies and fruits into them while she’s at it… and her food always looks and sounds divine. (I may or may not have drooled over my keyboard on more than one occasion due to the stunning photos on her blog, taken by her hubby!) She’s also a big beer fan, which makes me happy, and she always makes me think differently about adding fruits and vegetables into my food, as well as inspires me to try some different dishes I normally wouldn’t.
Kelly’s cruising in the Caribbean right now, which makes me uber jealous, especially with my current weather and ache situation going on. However, she lives in Michigan, so she deserves a break from real winter, which I know is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more brutal than the winter-esque weather Dallas throws my way occasionally.
That being said, she asked me to write a post for her while she was off galavanting in the tropics, and I’m over there today!
Head on over to Hidden Fruits and Veggies for my scrumptious Cheddar Biscuits recipe.
I know I am… and in my excitement, I began plotting some breakfast dishes to celebrate in style.
As a kid, I (obviously) looked forward to all the presents underneath the tree.
As an adult, I look forward to the time spent with the people I love and giving them the presents I’ve purchased on their behalf. It’s fun seeing this change in perspective as I’ve grown older, and the older I get, the more I want to spend quality time with these important people in my life.
I’m sure my perspective will continue to evolve, as next year, we’ll have a 9-month-old at Christmastime, and I’m sure that will add some new and amazing revelations to our holiday.
It goes without saying that Christmas morning is one of my favorite mornings of the year and having a good breakfast to savor is an important part of it for me. And since I’m currently on a no-egg kick (thanks, pregnancy!), the traditional Christmas Casserole I was going to share isn’t happening.
So how ’bout we make some Walnut Sticky Buns?
You can look at them as a pretty little decadent present to the people you love.
Yes, they absolutely are. Because these Walnut Sticky Buns require a little bit of planning and foresight to make. Unfortunately, they’re not something you’ll be able to pull together on Christmas morning. Unless, of course, you’re awake at an unreasonable hour, and then maybe, just maybe, you could have them ready in time for when everyone else is out of the bed and hungry.
However, this is a recipe you can make the night before and pop in the fridge, then the morning of, let the rolls come to room temperature and complete their second rise before baking. And then you can bake ‘em after presents have been opened.
They require some effort, I won’t lie, but they’re well worth it. These sticky buns are completely decadent and perfect for a big family breakfast… or even a small breakfast because they freeze well!
Decadent Walnut Sticky Buns, chock full of brown sugar, maple syrup and walnut goodness, are topped with a delightful Cream Cheese Icing to make the perfect plan-ahead Christmas morning treat.
Author: Erin Parker Skinner, The Speckled Palate
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 18 rolls
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
½ cup granulated sugar
2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Sticky Glaze (for the bottom of the pan)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
Cream Cheese Icing
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
For the dough: Measure the milk and butter in a glass measuring cup. Microwave until the butter has melted.
Pour the warm milk/butter mixture into the bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment.
Add 1 cup of the flour, as well as the sugar, egg, yeast and salt. Beat on low for around 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of bowl.
Add the rest of the flour to the dough. Mix on low until the dough has come together and feels tacky. If dough is extremely sticky, add flour by the tablespoon until the dough comes together and pulls away from sides of bowl.
When it is of the right consistency, turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky. (This should take around 8-10 minutes.) Form into ball.
Spray a large glass bowl with nonstick spray, and transfer the dough into the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel, and move to a warm place in the house.
Let the dough rise until doubled in volume. (This took my dough about 2 hours.)
For the filling: In a medium-sized bowl, combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, walnuts, cinnamon, salt and butter. Stir until combined.
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down in the bowl, then transfer onto a floured work surface.
Roll the dough into a rectangular shape, and smear the softened cream cheese over the dough.
Fold the dough in half, then half that and so on until you have folded the dough into a small rectangle. Then roll out the dough again until it is about ½" thick rectangle.
Spread the filling mixture evenly on top of the dough, leaving a ½" border.
Starting on a long side, roll the dough into a log, pinching gently to keep it rolled. Be gentle with the dough, as the cream cheese makes it a bit more delicate, and this part can get messy. (You've been warned! But it's totally worth it.) Pinch the seal closed gently.
With the seam side down, cut the dough crosswise with a sharp knife into 18 slices. I've found that making a cut in the middle, then making cuts in the middle of those (and so on and so forth) is the easiest way to get evenly-cut rolls.
Prepare the sticky glaze: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and salt until incorporated and smooth.
Spray two round baking dishes with nonstick spray.
Pour the sticky glaze in the bottoms of the baking dishes, then gently place the rolls in the dishes. There should not be much space between the rolls.
Cover the baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towels. Let the dough rise for a second time in a warm spot until it has doubled in size. (This second rise should take around 45 minutes.)
Bake the Sticky Buns! Preheat the oven to 375°F.
When the oven has preheated, place the baking dishes in the oven. Bake until the tops are golden, then remove from the oven.
Invert the rolls onto a plate (so the sticky topping is front and center!), and let cool for 10 minutes.
While the rolls are cooling, make the Cream Cheese Icing.
In a small bowl, whip the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth with a hand mixer (or a stand mixer.)
When rolls have cooled slightly, serve individually, and drizzle the icing on top of the served rolls. Enjoy with a glass of milk!
Note that the prep time includes rising time and rest time.
If you make these the night before, put them in the refrigerator in the baking dishes BEFORE the second rise. The morning of, be sure to pull them out of the fridge in time to do their second rise. This will take a little longer, as they'll be cold, so allot about an hour and a half for them to sit out and rise, then bake as directed.
You can also freeze these cinnamon rolls in pans before the second rise in a freezer-safe container, then when you're ready to eat, defrost in the fridge, do the second rise at room temperature, and bake as directed.
What kind of food does your family make for a big holiday breakfast?
Technically, I should’ve posted a pregnancy update last week, but it was Christmas Cookie Week, so we’re still a week off in the monthly pregnancy updates. But it’s all good, and I’m not fretting much about it. (I’ve got bigger fish to fry, ha!)
This past month has flown by, and I can hardly believe that I am in my third trimester. We’ve got 11 weeks to go, and that feels like not a lot of time, especially since we’ve still got a ton to do!
At our baby shower in Louisiana. We thought it would be a good idea to point to the belly, just in case people didn’t realize there’s a baby in there.
How far along? 29 weeks, 1 day.
How big is baby? Apparently, she’s the size of a head of cauliflower. Which is huge. And she’s still got a ways to go!
Total weight gain: ~22 lbs
Updates? The nursery has been painted! Our baby has a crib to sleep in; a carseat, a high chair and a stroller, too! She’s received a ton of cute clothes and accessories, too, and we’re moving right along.
Symptoms? I feel like a switch flipped at the beginning of the third trimester. I’m more tired these days. I have to sit down after being on my feet for a short(ish) period of time, something that has never been an issue before. I also get winded waaaaaaaaay more easily, and it’s embarrassing to have gone from running a marathon to huffing and puffing my way up a hill in our neighborhood in the span of about eight months. Also, I’ve been experiencing swelling in my hands and feet some evenings and heartburn that just won’t quit.
Every year when we go get our Christmas tree, it turns into a Grisowold-esque adventure. (Strapping the Christmas tree to the top of the car? Sure! Stuffing the tree in my car’s trunk and hanging a red flag from it? Why not?) This year, our tree experience didn’t end with a Griswold story… just a sweet one: an employee congratulated me on my pregnancy when I approached her with a question. She’s the first stranger to do so, and it was lovely.
Missing… Fitting into regular people clothes and the lack of drama that entails finding new clothing for yourself because you don’t have to go to a specialty store. Running. Feeling like I used to. Eating the occasional rare steak and drinking the occasional beer during a football game.
Feeling… Pretty good, all things considered.
Exercise? Lu, Lady Baby and I are still walking daily. We took some long walks this weekend, and while they both wore me out, it felt really good to get out of the house and be outdoors and appreciate the beautiful weather we’ve experienced.
Sleep? Off and on. I slept like a rock Saturday night after not sleeping at all Friday. I’d love to be sleeping more consistently, but as long as I’m getting some sleep, I won’t complain. I feel like, if nothing else, this is my body inadvertently training me for sleepless nights up with Lady Baby.
The drink I had to consume in five minutes for my glucose test. It tasted like flat Sprite, which is super weird. However, y’all will be happy to know that I passed! *happy dance*
Movement? So, so, so much. When she moves now, my entire belly moves with her, and it’s surreal to watch and feel. I’ve been told she’ll be settling into a routine in the coming weeks, and while I’m excited about that, I really love feeling her bop around at random hours of the day. She’s especially active around the time we go to bed, and I love just lying there and watching/feeling her. It’s incredible.
Food cravings? Sweets of any variety. Honeycrisp apples. Cheese, especially sharp cheddar.
Aversions? Eggs. Spearmint-flavored products. Smoothies of any kind. Wilt-y spinach and greens. Carrot soup. (I know this is super specific, but I made some for us this past week, and it was just disgusting to me.)
My bump looks like a basketball beneath my shirt here, and this photo makes me giggle because of that.
Anxious about… Getting everything done in time. I’m currently compiling a huge spreadsheet of all the work that needs to be done between now and when Lady Baby is due (and beyond!) for both my job and The Speckled Palate. I realize some things will fall by the wayside as I run out of time, but I have a goal to get as much completed in advance so I can settle into motherhood and figuring out our new routine without attempting to freelance and blog on top of it.
Excited about… Seeing my family and friends during Christmas. Also, is it nerdy to say learning more about what’s to come? We’ve got a few baby-centric classes scheduled for the beginning of January, and even though they’re big important waaaaaaaaay-too-grown-up classes, I am excited to learn as much as possible about what’s about to go down and how we can best take care of our baby once she arrives.
What I’m loving… We spent Thanksgiving with Winston’s family in Louisiana, and we had the best time. That weekend, they hosted an open house and baby shower, and my mom, dad and his wife all came down for the festivities. I also found it especially exciting to let our families feel Lady Baby as she moved, even if she gets shy when someone touches my belly. It’s such an incredible thing to feel, and I have fun sharing it with the people I love.
What I’m looking forward to… Christmas in Memphis. Upcoming showers in Memphis and Dallas. Meeting our little girl.
And that’s all I got for y’all.
29 weeks down, and just 11 to go!
Let’s do this thing!
Interested in following along? Here are all of my pregnancy updates to date: 20 weeks | 25 Weeks | 29 Weeks
Christmas Cookie Week flew by in the blink of an eye, and I cannot believe it’s already time for this year’s recipe round-up.
It was an incredible week — the biggest Christmas Cookie Week to date! — and I am so pleased with the turnout. It’s truly amazing to see so many bloggers coming together to all create something similar at the same time. Not to get all sappy on y’all, but my heart is full from the turnout, the stunning cookies presented and the new blogger friends made.
For those of you who are curious, here’s a little breakdown of some tidbits I found interesting about this year’s Christmas Cookie Week:
Thirty-four total recipes were submitted during the week by 20 total bloggers from various countries and three separate continents. (!!!)
The most popular ingredients were chocolate and peanut butter. (Is anyone really surprised?)
There were several gluten free and food allergy-friendly recipes shared, too!
… And without further ado, here are all the gorgeous recipes and the bloggers who whipped them up in celebration of Christmas Cookie Week. Feel free to visit all of these blog friends — new and old — and leave them some love on their posts… and then bake their cookies because they ALL look delicious!
Hey there! My name is Erin. I'm the head cook and baker around these parts. I enjoy a nice iced latte in the morning. I carry my camera with me at all times. And I am fascinated with capturing life as it is.