Man, what a fantastic snowed in weekend we had! We had a pretty nasty winter storm come through here on Friday, and after dropping a ton of ice and sleet, the storm decided to finally bless us with some snow. Some of the forecasts were calling for almost a foot of snow here—we only ended up getting about 6″, but that’s plenty enough to turn this place into a winter wonderland!
And definitely plenty enough (combined with the sleet and ice) to make the curvy country roads here totally impassable. Our county has been under a no-travel state of emergency all weekend (it was finally lifted to just a “travel advisory” last night). Fine by me. We didn’t have anywhere to go. In fact, it was kinda nice not to even be able to go somewhere if we wanted to. Snowed in, indeed.
Growing up, snow days always meant making snow ice cream. But now that we’re fully ingrained in maple syrup culture (if you missed it, we make our own maple syrup), we learned about another awesome snow day treat—maple syrup taffy. It’s basically caramels made from real maple syrup that are insta-cooled by snow, making them ready to eat in just a few seconds. And it’s something that a lot of folks in the maple syrup regions are familiar with.
This was my first time making maple syrup taffy, and it was so fun! Caramels are absolutely one of my favorite homemade candies (see this recipe for yumminess), but I hate that they take so long. All the boiling and cooling means that it can be hours and hours before you actually get to eat a darn caramel! Thanks to the small batch of this candy, plus the insta-cooling action of the snow, you can go from no candy to candy in about five minutes. Win.
To make maple syrup snow taffy, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix together 1/2 cup pure (the real stuff!) maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of butter and a pinch of sea salt. You can also go totally pure and just use maple syrup, but I love the caramel-y addition of the butter and salt.
Bring it a boil, stirring frequently. You’ll want a pot that’s at least twice the size of your syrup, it’ll do a lot of bubbling.
And then you pop in a thermometer, and once it hits 235° (soft ball stage), you can kill the heat, and go put on your snow boots. Since this is such a small amount of syrup, it’ll happen fast, it was less than five minutes from the time I turned on the burner to 235°.
You’ll want to find a clean bank of snow for pouring. I just used the snow that had accumulated on our deck, mostly because it’s right outside the kitchen, but also because it was entirely untouched by animals.
You could also scoop up a bunch of snow, put it in a pie plate, and do this part inside. But what’s the fun in that?
Next step is to slowly pour the syrup mixture onto the snow in ribbons. It might sink in a little bit, no worries.
But for the most part, it’ll just stay right on top. And looks are deceiving, because it still looks like glassy liquid syrup…
…but it isn’t! It’s been instantly transformed into ooey, gooey maple-flavored taffy. If you have a few popsicle sticks, you can scoop it up onto those.
The taffy will be cold, but it will melt in your mouth, and be pretty much the best snow day treat ever.
If there is any leftover, you can just pick it up with your hands, bring it inside and it’ll warm up and soften into a soft-set caramel. But trust me, it’s so good, it won’t make it that far.
I love treats like this because they are so fleeting (at least in this region). We see a decent number of snowfalls each year, but it’s only a few times a year we get enough to make snow ice cream of maple syrup taffy, and it usually melts within a few days. Sure, you could make some shaved ice in the blender and fake it, but the whole appeal of snow day treats is that they’re reserved for those few days a year where everything slows down and simple treats like this are all you need to make a day special.
I hope you had an amazing weekend!
What’s your favorite thing about a snow day?
Anyone out there still working on Thanksgiving leftovers? We did a pretty good job of keeping the haul to a minimum this year, so we only had full leftovers for a few days, but we are still working on the last of the turkey. There were only four of us at our dinner, and I roasted a 14-pound bird, which meant we had a decent chunk of leftover meat. A few days ago, we officially hit our collective turkey sandwich limit, and I decided it was time for the remainder of our delicious turkey to head into the soup pot.
In year’s past, most of my post-Thanksgiving soups have been of the turkey veggie variety, but this year, I was inspired by a bread bowl full of soup I had at Panera a few weeks back. It was a creamy chicken and rice concoction that was absolutely perfect for the gray, dreary, cold day. If I’m being quite honest, I walked in there wanting a bowl of their potato soup in a bread bowl (CARBSGOOD), but they were out of the potato soup, and I mourned, and then picked the cream of chicken and was happily surprised by the yumminess. I liked it so much I decided that turkey leftovers were destined for a copycat.
My version is a little heartier than Panera’s. I’m a fan of stew-like soups, so this is chock full of thick-cut veggies, big ole chunks of turkey and a heavy hand of wild and brown rice. It’s definitely one of those meals-in-a-bowl kind of soup (and absolutely does not need a bread bowl, although a chunk of crusty bread for sopping is always a good thing).
Since slow-roasted turkey isn’t a normal thing kicking around most folks’ fridges all year ’round, you can easily sub in cooked chicken breast and chicken broth in this recipe and still have a rockin’ good soup. Poultry is poultry, amirite?
The best things out soup like this? They just keep getting better and better as the flavors meld in the fridge. It’s awesome the day you make it, and even better when you heat it up for lunch the next day.
And I am so glad to have this soup to heat up for the next few days. Not only did I give our sad turkey leftovers new life, but it’s also the perfect thing to have for the winter storm we’re supposed to be getting tomorrow. I know a lot of folks dread snow (and I used to when I was commuting to work), but man, now that I don’t have to go anywhere, I get so pumped when it’s time for snow. Especially the big storms like they’re predicting for here tomorrow—I heard some forecasts predicting as much as 9-12 inches! Which is a big one for us in this area of the world. That much snow would be amazing, but I’d be happy with just a few inches. We have lots of firewood and a big batch of soup in the fridge, so, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Enjoy! And I hope you all get a snow day tomorrow.
Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice Soup
Makes: 8 Servings | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 40 minutes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 large carrots, sliced into coins
- 3 large stalks of celery, sliced
- 2 cups cubed roasted turkey (white and dark meat)
- 8 cups turkey broth
- 1 cup wild rice (or a wild rice blend, which is what I usually use because wild rice is so darn expensive on its own)
- 2/3 cup half and half cream
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Melt the butter in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add in the carrots and celery and cook until the veggies soften, about 10 minutes.
- Add in the turkey and turkey broth. Bring to a boil, add in the rice, bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice is soft, about 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in the half and half, salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.
How’s your battle with Thanksgiving leftovers going? Anyone have any stragglers still left in the fridge?
Hiya there, friends. Long time, no see. How’s it hanging?
I know I just kinda dropped off the face of the Earth there for a second, but it’s nothing to worry about (which I’m sure you weren’t, you have much more important things going on in your life than worrying about me), I’ve just been swamped with a lot of awesome projects (some secret, some not) and lots of work—which is a good problem to have. Overscheduled and overworked Cass is not a happy Cass. So when that has happened in the past, I’ve given myself permission to “drop” something. I’d love to be a SuperWoman and tackle every single thing on every single to-do list I’ve ever made, but that just ain’t realism. As much as I love blogging and cooking and chatting with you guys, sometimes, it just falls to the back burner. Alas, sometime shortly, I should regain my blogging energy and be back to slinging recipes your way.
In the meantime, I thought I might bribe you to forgive my absence with a free holiday printable. Yay!
One of my earliest Thanksgiving memories is bounding out of the car after a 2 1/2 drive to my grandparents’ house on Thanksgiving morning, and running inside the house to look at the fridge for the menu. It always had the exact same foods listed on it every year (we’re creatures of habit), but there was something about my Papaw’s handwriting on a piece of lined paper up on that fridge that really made it feel like a special event every year.
My grandparents have long since passed, and we’ve sorta disbanded family Thanksgiving (thus the plight of a blended and extended family), but even if it’s just Craig and I for Turkey Day, I always make sure to make up a menu and put it on the fridge. It just makes dinner so much more special.
I thought you guys might be interested in carrying on our menu tradition, so I made a customizable printable for you to download, type in your own menu and print out. Unlike most of my printables (that are PDFs) this is a Word doc, so you can open it up on your own computer and input your own Turkey Day menu. Feel free to use your own fonts and styles, but if you want to stick with the styles I created, you’ll need to have two fonts installed—Times New Roman (you should already have that one) and Sail (you can download it for free).
If you’re still struggling to pull together your holiday menu, I might be of help! I’ve pulled together all my Thanksgiving table-friendly recipes in one place just in case you’re looking for a bit of Turkey Day inspiration. Happy eating!
And if you didn’t see me pimping it out over on social media, a bunch of my friends at Anytime Fitness and I worked together to create a FREE healthy Thanksgiving e-cookbook. It’s chock full of healthier Thanksgiving options, cooking tips and beautiful photographs. Oh, and did I mention it’s totally, completely, 100% free? Go download your copy!
I hope you have an absolutely fantastic holiday week! Happy Thanksgiving!
What’s on your Thanksgiving menu for this year?
This giveaway is now CLOSED. Thanks for your participation!
Scroll down to see if you won.
Let’s talk about my blender situation.
I’m hard on blenders. Really, terribly abusive. I’ve had the same, bright orange KitchenAid blender since I was about 22, and the poor girl is in bad shape. We’ve done a lot of fixes and repairs, but the truth is, my eight-year-old blender just isn’t made to go through the kale-blending, soup-pureeing, ice-chopping daily abuse I put it through. In fact, a few months ago, some part in the blade assembly broke again, and she’s been sitting in basement purgatory waiting for me to decide if she’s going to be fixed again or going to go to the landfill ever since. We’ve had a good run, but my blender was made for folks who want to make the occasional blended margarita, and as much as I love the occasional blended margarita, I use my blender for a lot more than just that.
I’ve seen the big ole fancy high-speed blenders demonstrated at Whole Foods, but, as much as I love a good kitchen appliance that can blend a cell phone without losing step, I gotta draw the line at dropping $500+ on an appliance that isn’t really necessary in my life. I’m just way too
cheap frugal to spend that kind of money. It’s the same way I feel about organic red bell peppers. Would I love to buy them? Yes. But I cannot justify $4 a pepper, regardless of how pesticide-free they are.
ANYWHO. This sordid tale of my blender-related life is all to inform you about my frame of mind with I walked up to the Ninja booth at the Healthy Living Summit a couple of weeks ago. They had this beautiful, incredible, high-speed blender (the Ninja Ultima) sitting out, and right next to it, a sign saying they were giving away five blenders to HLS attendees—just as long as you snapped a photo with the blender and posted it on Instagram. I was, quite shamelessly, all over that.
And immediately started thinking about all the amazing things I was going to whip up in my new, shiny blender. So many options! No longer would I have to pre-smash ice. Or only blend things a cup at a time. Or drink a gritty smoothie. Oh, the possibilities!
I really wanted to put my new blender to the test, so I decided to start of with a green smoothie. Green smoothies can be tricky because, if you aren’t careful, you might find yourself chewing your smoothie a lot more than drinking it. No one wants to chew a smoothie.
I know a lot of folks use bananas as the base for smoothies, but we don’t eat a lot of bananas in our house, so instead, I make sweet, tangy persimmons the base of this smoothie. If you’ve never had a persimmon before, it’s one of the sweetest fruits on the planet, it’s soft and has a slightly citrus-y flavor. It’s incredible delicious. And we’re very lucky that they grow wild right in our backyard. But if you don’t have your own persimmon tree, many grocery stores carry them (albeit a totally different variety than what grow around here).
The Ultima totally rocked this smoothie. The thing that impressed me the most was the speed. With my old blender, it took me a good 3-4 minutes worth of blending to make sure there aren’t any spinach chunks, with the Ultima, it was ready to go in just a few seconds. And the added ice? Absolutely no problem. It was smooth, creamy and totally delicious. I’m a big fan.
I am so thankful to Ninja for being an HLS sponsor, and giving away their awesome blenders to attendees. And if that wasn’t cool enough, Ninja also decided to giveaway more blenders to two friends of the winners. Which means, not only did I win an awesome blender, but so did the amazing Coach Krissie (because it was the least I could do to pay her back for all the awesome she brings to my life). And, because I’m a rule-breaker, I asked Ninja if they’d be willing to give the other blender to one of my very best friends—you guys! I asked if it was okay to giveaway the third blender to my readers, and they were totally excited. Yay!
More about how to win the blender below, but first, a recipe for you to make once you win…
Persimmon Spinach Smoothie
by Cassie Johnston
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: None | Makes: 1 large smoothie
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup persimmon puree
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1 cup nut, soy or cow’s milk
- Handful of ice cubes
Combine all the ingredients in the carafe of a high-speed blender. Blend on high until very smooth. Serve immediately.
Ready to win?
- PRIZE: One Ninja Ultima blender (a $250+ value!)
- TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post telling me what’s the first recipe you’ll make with your new blender.
- GIVEAWAY CLOSES: Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 at Noon (12pm) EST
- NUMBER OF WINNERS: One
- ELIGIBLE FOLKS: This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only at this time. Sorry international readers! I try to score as many international giveaways as I can. Maybe next time!
- WINNER ANNOUNCED: Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 on this here post!
- LEGALESE: To enter you must be 18 or older. Winner will be chosen by random drawing from the pool of comments on this post. To be considered for the prize, you must be a resident of the U.S. and provide a valid email address. One entry per email address. Once a winner is notified and verified, Ninja will be provided with the contact information of the winner and they will be responsible for prize fulfillment. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. To enter, leave a comment on this post. No purchase necessary to win. Entries will close on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at noon (EST). The winner will be contacted by email on or before Wednesday, October 16, 2013. If the winner does not claim the prize within seven days, the original winner forfeits the prize and a second random entry will be chosen from the pool. This contest is sponsored by Ninja and is void where prohibited by law.
- DISCLOSURE: I was not compensated for posting this giveaway, however, I won my own Ninja blender in a giveaway.
We have a winner! Congrats to Arianna C., who is going to use her blender to make melty cheddar cheese slices (thanks for the recipe link, Arianna, I’m totally gonna try this!).
What’s the first recipe you’ll make if you win the blender?
Let’s talk tofu, shall we? I know tofu is all the rage among healthy eaters like myself, but I was honestly a very hesitant tofu eater. I’d had some health concerns about soy products in the past (the fuzzy link with soy, estrogen and breast-cancer, which you can read about all over the internet), but mostly, I just never really cared to try it. I mean, a block of white mushy goo just never really looks all the appetizing, does it? But a few years back, when we decided to start eating more meatless meals, it became obvious that we needed to find a replacement for the quick-and-easy meat meal. You know the one. You defrost a chicken breast, slap on some seasoning and grill it with some veggies. Dinner done in 15 minutes. We struggled staying meatless on nights when we didn’t have time to make some elaborate vegetarian feast.
Enter tofu. Tofu became our meatless quick meal go-to. Sure, it was almost entirely flavorless on its own and when cooked improperly, it had that mushy goo feeling to it, but with a little bit of trial and error, we were able to become tofu masters. And a big part of that was finding the right tofu.
We’ve tried a lot of different tofu brands. We’ve tried local, we’ve tried store brand, we’ve tried the most expensive stuff on the shelf, but our favorite so far (especially for grilling) has been this Wildwood Super Firm Tofu. This is a sponsored post, they are paying me to write about their tofu, but even if they weren’t, I would happily say that this is my favorite tofu I’ve ever eaten. We literally drive 45 minutes out of the way just to pick up this tofu from a specialty store in Louisville. Not only did it stay firm and solid on the grill (without sticking!) but the texture was neither rubbery or mushy—two pretty common tofu issues. It was tender, meaty, and light. Perfect for burger night!
It also made me warm and fuzzy to see how much attention Wildwood pays to the important things in my world. They are certified organic, non-GMO and stick to an even higher standard—their eight “Genuinely Natural” principles. I love it when companies go above and beyond what the government requires of them, and Wildwood is doing just that!
The other night, we pulled out a couple blocks of Wildwood’s sprouted tofu (with 14g of protein per serving!) and went to making a common dinner in our house—tofu burgers. We tend to do all kinds of crazy things with tofu burgers here, but this night we were mimicking a burger Craig had at my birthday dinner a few months back. A burger topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions, then sprinkled with blue cheese and topped with a dollop of barbecue sauce. It sounds like a weird combo, but the mixture of flavors and textures is spot on! Especially if you get a nice and sweet barbecue sauce. C’est magnifique!
While the burgers were totally delicious, my favorite part is that they are ready from start-to-finish in about 15 minutes. Because Wildwood’s sprouted tofu isn’t water-packed, you don’t have to press it like most other tofu. It comes out of the package dry and ready to use, which is a great time-saver!
I’m a Wildwood tofu fan for life. (I just wish it was available a little bit closer to us!) And these burgers are definitely going to be a staple in our menu rotation. Want to find out if you can snag Wildwood tofu (and other meat alternatives, dips and spreads) in your area? Check out their website. Enjoy!
Grilled Tofu Burgers with Mushrooms and Blue Cheese
by Cassie Johnston
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 10 minutes | Makes: 4 burgers
- 2 blocks of super firm tofu, drained and pressed (if necessary)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Barbecue Spice Rub
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 4 hamburger buns
- 4 ounces blue cheese
- Barbecue sauce
- Preheat the grill over high heat. While the grill is heating, slice the tofu into burger-sized planks, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with spice rub. Set aside.
- In a medium skillet over high heat, melt the butter. Add in the mushrooms and onions and continue to cook over high heat until the veggies are soft and beginning to brown. Set aside.
- When the grill is heated up, place the tofu on the grill grates, close lid and sear for 2-3 minutes, or until the tofu is browned. Flip and repeat on the other side. If you’re using good firm tofu, you don’t need to “cook” it as much as just warm it up and sear it. Remove from the grill.
- To assemble the burgers, stack a tofu slice on the bottom of a bun, top with 1/4 of the mushroom mixture, 1/4 of the blue cheese and a big dollop of barbecue sauce. Place top of bun on and serve with plenty of napkins.
The really awesome folks at Wildwood and BlogHer have offered to give away a $100 Visa Gift Card to one lucky Back to Her Roots reader. That’ll buy you a whole lot of tofu! For a chance to win, all you have to do is answer the question: What would be your ideal dinner recipe when using Wildwood products? Good luck!
- No duplicate comments.
- You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
- Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
- Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
- Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
- For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
- This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
- The Official Rules are available here.
- This sweepstakes runs from 10/1/2013-10/31/2013.
Be sure to visit the Wildwood brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!
What would be your ideal dinner recipe when using Wildwood products?
Alright, you know how yesterday I mentioned that I was going crazy thinking about the pumpkin cake balls I made last year? But I couldn’t make them because they are so crazy delicious that I’d probably just shovel the entire batch into my
pie cake ball hole and then crawl off and die the happiest/most painful sugar-fueled death ever?
Well, I did it anyway (made the cake balls, not die). Hiya, there, cake balls.
I just couldn’t resist any longer. Plus, I figure, I can always pawn the majority of them off to my husband’s co-workers. Nothing makes working folk happier than a big, heaping plate of bite-sized sugar bombs.
If you’re thinking that cake balls are probably a little bit out of the ballpark of the usual repertoire of this here blog, you’d be partially correct. Yes, I’m a total organic, local, whole foodie snob—so no, the boxed cake mix and artificially flavored candy coating doesn’t really make that part of my personality jump up and down with enthusiasm. But, on the other hand, part of my food philosophy is that being terribly restrictive with your diet is just bonkers boring. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t eat cake balls.
Of course, if I was really on top of my game, I could have made the whole recipe from scratch. But man, who has time for that? I am not a baker, and I bake cakes so infrequently that I totally rock the cake mix aisle of the grocery store when I need to. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love cake mixes. I can doctor up a cake mix with the best of them. For the 3-4 cakes I bake a year? When I really don’t like baking to begin with? Cake mixes are my savior. In this particular recipe, spice cake mix is where it’s at.
If you’ve only ever hit up the cake mix aisle to grab chocolate or white cake for birthday cakes, you might not know that these little boxes of fall-flavored deliciousness are there. You might have to look closely. It might be on the bottom shelf, but I promise, there will be a spice cake mix. Grab it. Buy it. Learn to love it.
If you’ve never made cake balls before (or cake pops, if you put a stick in them), let me tell you, they are so fun to make. Basically, you bake a cake (see aforementioned cake mix), let it cool, then smash the crap out of it with your hands (fun!) and then mix in some frosting (we’re using cream cheese frosting here) until it is goopy, dense and totally delicious.
Then, you form that mixture into little balls, roll those balls in a candy or chocolate coating, decorate them and prepare yourself for the rapid-fire praises of all those who partake in cake balldom. Seriously. You’ll never hear more compliments than when you bring cake balls to a party.
I really like the way these cake balls look with a little dark chocolate drizzled on top and some fall-colored sprinkles, but, take it from me, don’t be tempted to swap out the candy coating for chocolate. I’ve done them with chocolate before, and they’re still delicious, but the chocolate way overpowers the pumpkin spice cake and cream cheese frosting. Stick with the vanilla or white chocolate coating.
Enjoy! I’m gonna go eat a raw kale salad or something.
Pumpkin Spice Cake Balls
Prep Time: 45 minutes | Cook Time: 25 minutes | Makes: 3 Dozen
For the Cake
- 1 box spice cake mix
- 3 eggs
- 1–15 ounce can pumpkin puree (or about 2 cups)
For the Frosting
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 stick butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Coating
- 1 pound vanilla candy coating
- 1-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 ounce semisweet chocolate
- Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly-flour two cake pans, set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cake mix, eggs, and pumpkin puree on medium-low speed until just combined. Then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely.
- To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a mixer. Add in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until smooth.
- To make cake balls, break up the cake into a large bowl, add in the frosting, and using clean hands, smoosh it together until well-mixed. Using damp hands, form the mixture into 1″ balls and place them onto a baking sheet. Once you’ve finished with all the mixture, place the baking sheet in the freezer.
- While the cake balls are chilling, melt the candy coating in a saucepan over low heat, until smooth. Add in the vegetable oil, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the thickness of a thin alfredo sauce. Do not try to thin out the coating with milk or water (it’ll just make it clumpy). Turn off the burner.
- Remove the cake balls from the freezer, and working one at a time, gently drop a cake ball into the candy coating, and spoon more over top to coat. Fish out the ball with a spoon, and place it on wax paper to harden. Repeat with remaining cake balls, you should have just enough candy coating to do all the balls.
- For decoration: melt the semisweet chocolate in the microwave, using a spoon, drizzle it on the cake balls and then top with sprinkles.