Cooking Disasters

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Kitchen Trouble
source: Kenny Louie

Whether you’re a novice cook, a mediocre one, or even a well-trained chef, you’re going to have cooking disasters.

Since our little family is going to stay home for Christmas this year for the first time, I’ve been thinking ahead and trying to plan not-too-crazy but special meals. And I can’t help but think of all the kitchen catastrophes we’ve had.

  • We got married in July 2004, and that Christmas we spent in Nashville because I didn’t have vacation time to travel. It was just me and Mr. V on Christmas Eve. I made this Paula Deen Asian Pork Tenderloin that looked amazing … only I didn’t know the difference between a LOIN and a TENDERLOIN. I ended up cooking it for another two or three hours after we got home from church service, and just sawing any cooked parts off the end for us to eat. Happy first married Christmas, darling!
  • Maybe the second time we had people over after we were married, we tried to make a pan-fried fish recipe. We had one pot with water to boil and one pan with oil for the frying. One of us had accidentally turned the burner with the oil onto high. Mr. V came by and said, “Hey should that be -” and immediately it burst into flames. We had an apartment full of smoke, a brand-new pan that was destroyed, and a pretty funny story to tell forever.
  • That same year (obviously I was learning as a cook!), I curdled milk in a chowder. Yum, yum …
  • Much more recently, I put ground cloves in some enchiladas instead of chili powder. I knew it smelled funny but I didn’t realize what I had done until way too far into the cooking process. Mr. V put on a brave face and tried to eat them anyway … for about two bites. Bye bye, beautiful enchiladas. Ground cloves are meant to be used only by pinches!
  • Just last weekend, I made a cake to take to church. Unfortunately, the icing was made of butterscotch pudding and Cool Whip, and it hadn’t set enough. By the time we got to church, the cake layers had slid apart and one layer was broken in half. Anytime I have a messy cake … it becomes trifle. And it was delicious anyway.
  • One time my best friend was visiting with her boyfriend, whom we had never met. We tried to make a new recipe, and it ended up making enough food for approximately one person. Whoops. The boyfriend valiantly ate the failed recipe (which really wasn’t good, either), and I think the rest of us ordered pizza.

So even accomplished cooks make big mistakes. I hope you have the happiest Thanksgiving, and if you have a disaster … make lemonade from lemons. I promise it’ll be funny in a few weeks or months. And you’ll always be able to say, “Remember the time when …”

Happy Thanksgiving!

My Most Favoritest Thanksgiving Recipes Ever

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Thanksgiving is just so easy for our family. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Sure, there is occasionally some family drama during the meal. But Mr. V and I never really discuss where we are going or have to deal with logistics. We always go to visit my grandparents in Ohio. We always go up a day or two before the holiday and come back on Sunday. We enjoy being around many relatives. It’s lovely.

We’ve only spent two Thanksgiving at home since we got married. The second one after we married we decided to host both sides of our families at our little apartment in Nashville. (????) Then in 2008, Libbie was only 4 weeks old so we went around Christmas instead. It’s nice to have a solid tradition for our family.

This year, my cousin is getting married the Saturday after Thanksgiving and Libbie is going to be the flower girl. So we’re even more excited!

I usually just contribute a few dishes to each of my mom’s and dad’s side-celebrations. One side is very traditional and I don’t do much mixing it up – I almost always make Cherry Cheesecake Pie. But on the other side, I feel like more of a kid and let the grown-ups take care of the staples while I play around with appetizers and desserts.

Here are my absolute favorite Thanksgiving recipes, traditional and not-so-much. Hope you’ll be able to squeeze one onto your table this fall.

thanksgiving recipes

Cranberry, Cherry, and Walnut Chutney can be ready in 15 minutes. Make it a few days before your celebration. Watch eyeballs get big as you serve it instead of that canned, jellied stuff. If you have some leftover, pour it over chicken and add mandarin oranges, and then bake. Fall perfection! {You can always leave out the nuts, too, if you aren’t a fan.}

Rachael Ray featured the Winter Fruit Cake with Caramel Glaze in her magazine a few years ago, and I’ve been obsessed since then! I love using fresh cranberries and pears instead of the crazy-sweet dried fruit of a “regular” fruitcake. I make this in a springform pan, and it’s always a hit.

Last year I served up Spicy Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip at my dad’s side “Thanksmas” celebration. The jalapeno just adds a little kick without being too overpowering or spicy. The dip is fairly healthy (depending on your personal definition, of course …) and gluten-free. And DELICIOUS.

Layered Salad is one of those dishes that is wonderful without rhyme or reason. Maybe it’s just because it’s been at every Thanksgiving for my entire life, or because my Grandma makes it.  It’s a good, basic salad and it actually keeps well, which you can’t say for most dressed salads.

Cherry Cheesecake Pie tastes good warm or cold, is creamy and sweet but not cloying (look, I learned new words from Chopped). People go nuts over it and the lattice top makes it look fancy when it’s really not.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving eats?

Cranberry, Nutmeg, and Vanilla Breakfast Cake (or Muffins)

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Last year during a batch cooking escapade, I made these Cranberry Vanilla Muffins (from last November’s Once a Month Mom menu). I liked them OK, but Mr. V really liked them, so I slid them away in my memory to play with at a later date.

I really wanted to try to sweeten up the cranberries, but even with letting mine sit in sugar for a little while, it didn’t do anything. If you’re serving these to kids or don’t care for the very tart cranberry, you can sprinkle the top of the cake or muffins with some turbinado (raw) sugar. You could sub in dried cranberries for a sweeter flavor. Or just make Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake instead!

My pregnant tastebuds were a lot less receptive to the tart flavor than my non-pregnant ones are—possibly due to too much ice cream during David’s incubation period. Maybe. I really enjoyed the combination of the cranberries with the nutmeg, and I hope you will, too!

Cranberry, Nutmeg, and Vanilla Breakfast Cake (or Muffins)

Yield: 2 8-inch cakes or 14 muffins


  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 T melted butter
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 c. white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 10 oz. fresh cranberries (one bag), coarsely chopped*


Whisk together vanilla and sugar in a large bowl until completely incorporated. Add in butter, sour cream, and eggs, and stir well to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add to wet ingredients and stir. Pour in milk and stir until smooth and uniform.

*The only way I have found that I can efficiently get cranberries chopped is with my Kitchen Aid chopper. They roll away from a knife. A food processor or blender might work, but I find the chopper easier to clean.

Fold in chopped cranberries.

Pour into greased 8-inch cake pans or muffin tins. This recipe makes two 8-inch cakes, one cake and 8 muffins, or about 14 muffins.

With oven at 375F, bake muffins for 20 minutes and cakes for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center is clean. Cool on wire racks.

Thanksgiving Recipes: Cranberry Chutney and Cherry Cheesecake Pie

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I shared these recipes on Vanderbilt Wife … three years ago! They are still two of my favorite holiday recipes and make an appearance pretty much every Thanksgiving and Christmas. The cranberry chutney makes canned, jellied sauce seem laughable and can be cooling in the fridge in 15 minutes. The lattice crust on this pie seems fancy but is simple; and because it is served cold, you can make the pie a day or two ahead and have extra time – and oven space – for your holiday feasts!

From our kitchen to yours, enjoy.



Cranberry, Cherry, and Walnut Chutney

Yield: about 1 quart cranberry sauce

From Cooking Light, November 2005


  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. port, sweet red wine, or 100% grape juice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 c. dried tart cherries
  • 1 pkg. fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 c. chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 tsp. grated orange rind
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • orange rind strips, optional


Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Add cherries and cook 1 minute. Stir in cranberries; Return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, until all cranberries pop.

Remove from heat. Stir in walnuts, rind, and extract. Garnish with orange rind strips if desired. Cover and chill.

[Combine leftovers with a can of mandarin oranges and pour over raw chicken, then bake in the crockpot on low 6-8 hours for an amazing dinner!]



Cherry Cheesecake Pie

Slightly adapted from Woman's Day Magazine


  • 1 box refrigerated pie crusts (2 crusts) (or homemade)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 2 (8 oz.) bricks cream cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 egg white, beaten


Heat oven to 350.

Fit 1 crust in a 9-inch pie plate. Cut other crust into 1-inch strips.

Mix sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Add cream cheese; beat with mixer until smooth. On low speed, beat in egg and extract.

Spread batter evenly in crust; spoon pie filling on top.

Brush crust strips with egg white. Place strips over top in lattice pattern.

Bake 50-60 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Linking up with:
Sweet Tooth Friday
Mouthwatering Monday
Tasty Tuesday
Ingredient Spotlight: Cream Cheese and Fruit


Thanksgiving Links

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In lieu of my normal Saturday linky love, or anything else until Monday, here are some fun Thanksgiving links for you!

Here’s a post from last year on our Thanksgiving traditions.

Fun Thanksgiving crafts from Impress Your Kids

I love this toile Thanksgiving table runner Tiffany from The Nesting Project created!

Why It Is Good to Give Thanks at Bible Study Tools

Black Friday Tips from Simply Staci – all true! I will miss shopping this year, but it’s NOT happening in my beached-whale-pregnant state.

Recipes from my family and others:

I could potentially list recipes forever, but I am already so hungry I am gnawing off my arm. (It’s been three hours since dinner!) So instead, I will bid you adieu and the happiest of Thanksgivings.

Menu Plan Monday: Thanksgiving Week

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My only goal for this week is to not to go to the grocery store–except to buy pears, sugar, and caramels so I can make this Fresh Winter Fruit Cake to take to one of our Thanksgiving celebrations. (My daddy will LOVE it.)

I do solemnly swear I am not going to buy anything else. We are working on cleaning out the fridge since we will be gone several days.

Mr. V will also be home this week, so we’ll have three meals a day to eat for a few days. Here’s what I’m planning on.

Breakfasts: Omelets, toast, granola, hash browns
Lunches: Cheese quesadillas, canned soup, leftovers
Dinners: Pasta with olive oil and Parmesan cheese, pancakes

Probably not the most healthful things you can think of, but it fits my goal of fridge-cleaning!

And oh my, how I am looking forward to devouring turkey and stuffing, scalloped corn, pickled beets, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, layered salad … and, well, looking at the oyster dressing.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving recipe?

Added to Menu Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie.