Thanksgiving & Christmas Breakfast Recipes: My Favorite Coffee Cakes

One of my favorite things for breakfast is a truly awesome coffee cake. I crave it this time of the year, especially as the weather cools. My recipe for Apricot Almond Coffee Cake (above) was on my blog last year, and it’s so delicate and flavorful (I love the added touch of using Greek Yogurt). I have been eyeing some other recipes to try this season to serve on Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. I hope you’ll enjoy some of these recipes from some of my favorite sites that I look forward to reading on a daily basis.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake from How Sweet It is

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake from Two Peas & Their Pod

 Corner Bakery Cinnamon Creme Coffee Cake from Barbara Bakes

Blueberry Lemon Coffee Cake from Cooking Light

Cinna-Bun Coffee Cake in a Jar from Picky Palate


Virginia Willis New Cookbook Giveaway & Winter Greens and Butternut Squash Gratin Recipe

I was fortunate to meet Virginia Wills several years ago, and I had the pleasure and honor to co-speak with her last year at Food Blog South. Last fall, I attended an event in Atlanta where she previewed some of her recipes for her new book, “From Basic to Brilliant”. I couldn’t wait for it to be released. Virginia is a graduate of  L’Academie de Cuisine and Ecole de Cuisine LaVarenne and, previously, was the Kitchen Director for Martha Stewart Living. Virginia expands on her incredible style in this 150 recipe cookbook where she offers incredible preparation and presentation techniques (her writing is amazing too). This recipe for Winter Greens and Butternut Squash Gratin is just one of the many stellar recipes in this book. I served it to company this weekend on a cold evening, and I received rave reviews. Her amazingly beautiful photos were taken by Helene Dujardin of Tartlette. “From Basic to Brilliant” can be found at Amazon or any of your favorite online stores as well as bookstores nationwide.

For a chance to win a copy, leave me a comment telling me why you want a copy of this book. Winner will be drawn on Thursday, November 10th and must be a U.S resident. For more chances, leave as many comments as you like telling me that you did the following:

1. Follow Alison Lewis on Twitter

2. Like Ingredients, Inc on Facebook

3. Follow Virginia Willis on Twitter

4. Like Virginia Willis on Facebook


“Reprinted with permission from Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company by Virginia Willis, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.”

Photo credit: Helene Dujardin © 2011

My Favorite Comfort Food: Fall Pies and Tarts

Just coming off speaking at Food Blog Forum in Nashville this weekend, I woke up feeling so inspired. The talent of food bloggers across the globe truly amazes me. These are some of the hardest working people you’ll ever meet. If you’re not a food blogger, I can’t begin to describe the amount of time and effort it takes to put together just one post. Starting with the recipe concept, there is grocery shopping, cooking and testing, writing, photography, styling and then posting. Each post takes many, many hours. On that note, I wanted to start the week with comfort food at its best: Fall pies and Tarts. These selections have caught my eye in the last week, and I’m not sure which one to make first. This Pumpkin Pie Tart with Almond Crust (Gluten Free) comes from fellow blogger and friend, Marla Meridith of Family Fresh Cooking. I can’t wait to make this one with my kids. Hope you will enjoy looking at these recipes and photos as much as I have.


Fig Almond Tart from Gourmande in the Kitchen

Mini Apple Pies from Family Food Finds

Gingery Cranberry-Pear Pie with Oatmeal Streusel from Cooking Light

Tollhouse Pie from Completely Delicious

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie from How Sweet it Is


Maple Almond Tart from Better Homes and Gardens 

Easy Holiday Appetizer: Cranberry-Orange Glazed Brie

While cranberries are still at their peak, why not prepare a simple sauce to serve with your holiday turkey or to serve over Brie. This festive appetizer recipe for Cranberry-Orange Glazed Brie is perfect served this holiday season at an open house on Christmas Eve or for a New Years Day celebration. Served with crackers and some toasted bread, preparation is a snap. If you have leftovers, just give to neighbors or friends for a last minute gift.

Savory Bread Pudding with Spinach, Bacon and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Breakfast and brunch recipes are some of my favorites, and I love celebrating the holidays with my family with a great brunch menu. I’ve had so many emails and questions for Christmas brunch recipes, so I thought I would suggest one of my favorites. This Savory Bread Pudding with Bacon, Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes makes a hearty breakfast or brunch main course, but it’s also great to serve for a weeknight or Sunday night dinner. This recipe is so easy and can be made ahead the night before. Then, all you have to do on Christmas morning is bake it in the oven. Enjoy this recipe anytime of the year since it’s also perfect for showers or any morning celebrations.

My Favorite Winter Salad: Radicchio Salad

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I want something light, healthy and flavorful. Radicchio Salad, with Walnuts and Pomegranates, is a wonderful combination of radicchio, romaine, arugula, apples, walnuts, pomegranate seeds and cranberries. Feel free to use whatever greens you have on hand, and be sure to mix them for color, flavor and texture. If you haven’t tried radicchio before, you should. It’s a red-leafed salad green that is slightly bitter. It can also be grilled or sauteed, but I love it in this salad. Add cooked turkey, chicken, pork or shrimp for a main dish salad.

Creating Meaningful Thanksgiving Traditions with Children

As my kids have gotten older, I have realized the importance of creating meaningful family memories and traditions, especially on Thanksgiving. This is a great way to give back to your children and reinforce the meaning of family. Here are some ideas that my kids have enjoyed which I recently shared with Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms. Now, I thought I would share them with you.

1. Thanksgiving Eve Meal – Since most moms, like me, are so busy cooking the day before Thanksgiving, make a tradition to do something fun, casual and memorable the night before. Is it pizza night, Mexican night or Asian? We usually visit our favorite local pizza restaurant. If you have been in the kitchen all day, this is a good way to take a break.

2. Create a “Thanksgiving Box” – I love the idea of creating a “Thanksgiving Box”. Choose a special box to be the “Thanksgiving Box” and have your kid’s help you pick out the “special” one. Every week or month during the year, have each family member write down on a piece of paper something they are thankful for. Each slip of paper is deposited in this box. During the week of Thanksgiving or during Thanksgiving dinner, read aloud the slips of paper.

3. Children’s Thanksgiving Craft – Create a kid’s corner or workspace with a small table where children can make a special craft and share with the elderly or someone in need. Deliver it with a small food gift teaching kids the idea of “giving back”.

4. Thanksgiving Games – On the afternoon during Thanksgiving, my family has the tradition of having a family-touch football game as well as taking our holiday card pictures on that day. We also like to go around the table and answer the question, “What are you thankful for?” Sometimes we make a game out of it, and vote for our favorite answer.

5. Create a Thanksgiving Scrapbook – Kids love art projects, and this is a great way to keep memories. Prepare a page for the Thanksgiving holiday and include pictures and papers from your “Thanksgiving Box”. This book makes a lifelong treasure that kids love to look at throughout the year.

6. Book & Hot Cocoa – Spend part of the morning or the day after Thanksgiving with hot chocolate and a good book. Spread out blankets and pillows in front of the fireplace for “reading time,” creating a warm memory.

7. Macy’s Day Parade – We love to spend the morning of Thanksgiving in our pajamas eating breakfast while watching the Macy’s Day Parade. It’s something my kids look forward to every year, and it’s great quality time spent together.

8. Afternoon Walks/Hikes – If you eat a Thanksgiving lunch, it’s always fun to take afternoon walks or hikes with the kids. It feels great to be together in nature, and this is also is a wonderful time for talking with no distractions of TV, computers, phones, etc.

9. Sharing – Since many people (college students, elderly singles, widowers etc.) do not have family or loved-ones nearby, why not invite them for the Thanksgiving meal? You can also invite them just for informal time, playing games, putting together puzzles and working on crafts with the children

10.  Disconnect for Game-Time – This is a great family-time idea, which is easier said than done. Disconnect from cell phones, computers, video games and television for an hour or two and play a board game, card game or put together a puzzle. You’ll be amazed at how wonderful the laughter and conversation will be.

I feel so fortunate this year to have the incredible opportunity to work with Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms who I wrote this article for originally. Hopefully, you can find some inspiration here for your holiday and family.

Brussels Sprouts-Tomato Salad

I love Brussels Sprouts this time of year, and I was so excited about a new way to serve them in this Brussels Sprouts-Tomato Salad. This recipe is perfect for Thanksgiving or your weeknight dinner, and it’s a cinch, flavorful and pretty. It was featured in the November issue of Birmingham Magazine and on NBC 13 “Daytime Alabama” this month so it’s quite the popular Brussels Sprouts recipe. I even got two out of three of my kids to try it, and honestly, they liked it a lot!

Cinnamon-Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Since we make the same traditional Sweet Potato Casserole every year on Thanksgiving, I thought I would try something a little bit different. These Cinnamon-Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes came out wonderful. My 3 kids went nuts over them and finished them off before I could get a second helping. These are super easy to prepare, much easier than the traditional casserole I usually prepare. They are a perfect side dish for your holiday (or weeknight) dinner. This recipe is a wonderful recipe for Thanksgiving, or anytime with steak, pork or chicken. If your kids don’t normally eat sweet potatoes, have them try these.

Putting the “Giving” Back Into Thanksgiving

I am so excited about Thanksgiving this year, and all of the love, joy and peace the holiday brings. I feel so fortunate this year to have the incredible opportunity to work with Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms. They recently asked me to write this first newsletter for November, and it really took some inner thought. Putting this together has really put Thanksgiving in perspective for me. Hopefully, you can find some inspiration here for your holiday, as well.

Thanksgiving is a time for you and your family to share and enjoy wonderful memories. It’s also a time to think about others as well. Why not spend this year giving back to your community, yourself and your loved ones? For the past six years, I have hosted Thanksgiving at my house with my two sisters, one brother and their families as well as my parents and relatives. Honestly, it was a little scary and intimidating the first time, but when the entire family arrived, everything just flowed. Sometimes, I do get stressed out, but this year I am going to channel all of my energy on “giving back” to my community, my family and to myself.

I know we have all heard it before, but Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks. Despite how tough life can get, there are many people who are facing tougher times. Why not make a point to make someone else feel good by reaching out to them? Believe it or not, this will make you feel incredible and energize you as well. For the past few years, I have tried to make a point to do something charitable with my three kids to teach them the true meaning of Thanksgiving. I know many families who do this, and these types of activities have become a way to build family memories and traditions. Here are some examples and ideas that my family, friends and relatives do on Thanksgiving. These are not only meaningful, but they are also fun and enjoyable for the kids.


Here are some activities that are good ways to help others, and they also help you think about the meaning of the holidays. Maybe this will spark some ideas of your own. We would love to hear back about what your friends and family likes to do.

  1. Thanksgiving walk/run/race for Charity – Many cities have these and incorporate a 1-mile fun run for the kids. Our run is called the “Turkey Trot”, and it benefits cancer.

  2. Feeding the Homeless – One of my friends does this every year with her kids. Her dad took her when she was young, and this tradition has continued. Some friends also go to major baseball stadiums to feed the homeless people nearby.

  3. Help Feed America – One thing for certain every year in our house for Thanksgiving is a turkey. But this year, I learned that we can actually help a good cause by buying Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms turkey brand. Their company has partnered with Feeding America to help feed one million people and our purchase supports their company’s contribution of $250,000. You can learn more about how to personally take action here.

  4. Visiting Children’s Hospital – My sister visits the intensive care units and brings food to nurses every year (since she had a premature child of her own). Her kids go along with her and decorate cookies with the older children who are hospitalized on Thanksgiving.

  5. Holiday Gift-Wrapping – Every year, my kids and I go to the mall and volunteer to gift-wrap presents for a charity. The kids really enjoy this, (especially my daughter, who loves to make the bows), and they love seeing the gifts people buy.

  6. Bringing Police/Firemen Thanksgiving Meals – Some friends visit police and fire stations and bring them food. These men help us year-round, and this is a great way to show our appreciation.

  7. Visiting Retirement Homes – This is a great way to visit people who are lonely. I know some local teens that visit, sings songs and play card games at a local home. Many of these people no longer have families, and these activities really make Thanksgiving special for them.

  8. Humane Society/Animal Shelter Work – Some animal lover friends volunteer at animal shelters on Thanksgiving and make special donations to these shelters.

  9. Go Green on Thanksgiving – Be extra aware about recycling this year by using traditional silverware and dishware rather than paper goods, etc.

  10. Leftover Donations – Make turkey sandwiches with your leftovers and bring to homeless shelters or facilities taking food donations.

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