Belly Rubbin’s Ultimate Thanksgiving Recipe Guide

Thanksgiving is just over a week away! If you’re scrambling to find recipes for your favorite holiday dishes, you’ve come to the right place!

thanksgivingroundup

Here is a collection of my favorite recipes for traditional holiday meals. Let me know what you think!

Half Baked Harvest’s Roast Turkey

halfbakedharvestturkey

Can’t forget the GRAVY! Betty Crocker has a great how-to article.

bettycrockergravy

Epicurious “Simple is Best” Stuffing – THIS IS MY FAVORITE OF ALL OF THESE RECIPES!

epicurious stuffing

This Southern Sweet Potato Casserole from Chef-In-Training:

sweet potato casserole.jpg

The easiest way to make green beans – in the crockpot! 

crockpot green beans

The Pioneer Woman has an AMAZING roasted garlic mashed potatoes recipe.

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And then there’s dessert. Aaaahhhhh, dessert.

Don’t forget to brew a pot of Trager Brother’s Coffee! 

Check out this Adorable Turkey Crust Pumpkin Pie:

turkeypumpkinpie

…and this classic apple pie from Liluna.

appliepie.jpg

Don’t forget about the Pecan! Sally’s Baking Addiction is one of my go-to blogs.

pecanpie

Or, if you want to try something a little different, go with my Caramel Apple Empanadas!

Baked Caramel Apple Empanadas

If you have any favorite recipes that you don’t see here, please feel free to comment or shoot me an e-mail. I’d hate to leave anything out!

Baked Caramel Apple Empanadas

bakedappleempanadas

Fall weather is finally here and I have been making ALL of the apple things! Apple pie, apple crisp, and the beauties you see here, my Baked Apple Empanadas. Apple orchards are the place to be on Saturdays in October. One of my favorite local orchards has an apple slingshot contest that yours truly won TWICE, and my family went apple picking at another hot spot, so my fridge is stuffed to the gills with Granny Smith, York, and (my favorite) Fuji apples.

To be honest, this recipe manifested from laziness. I love traditional apple pie, but I don’t always have the energy to make my own dough, bust out the rolling pin, and make a mess of flour all over the kitchen. I happened to have a can of crescent dough (because it’s delicious #guiltypleasure) and the aforementioned mountain of apples, so an idea was born.

I also wanted to give the miniature pies some sort of sauce, and went with a simple stove-top caramel sauce. The trick here is to NOT stir the sauce – just put the butter and brown sugar in the saucepan, bring to boil, off the heat, and pour over top of the dough. I did bake the pies without the sauce for the first few minutes just so that the crust didn’t end up soggy. The result was phenomenal, and this is my new favorite way to make apple dessert. Recipe below!

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 Granny Smith or York apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 can refrigerated “crescent” rolls
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine chopped apples, white sugar, cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons of the butter, melted and cooled slightly. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Using flour and a rolling pin, roll out individual crescent triangles until they are about 1/8″ thick.
  4. Place apples on the thick end of the triangle, tuck in the corners, and roll up. Pinch all corners to seal the dough.
  5. Place stuffed crescent rolls in oven.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the remaining butter and brown sugar. Allow the mixture to come to a boil for a minute or two, remove from heat, and pour over the stuffed crescent rolls.
  7. Continue baking 25 minutes, or until dough is slightly crispy and the caramel sauce is bubbling.
  8. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!

Upside Down Chicken Pot Pie

upsidedownchickenpotpie

I’m pretty sure chicken pot pie was created out of necessity. Someone, somewhere had a bunch of random leftovers and decided to bake them together in a pie crust, and I’m so glad they did. It’s the perfect comfort food, and a great way to sneak in some veggies.

For this recipe, I take traditional pot pie filling and pair it with canned biscuits. I have seen similar recipes in which the biscuits are placed on top of the filling and baked together, but the bottom of the biscuits don’t really cook and you’re left with half-biscuit, half-goo. Keeping the two items separate also makes it easier to clean up and store, but I doubt you’ll have many leftovers to worry about!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, cubed
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (or 1 1/2 cups frozen chopped onions)
  • 1 cup chopped green beans (or peas)
  • 1 cup frozen yellow corn
  • 1 quart low sodium chicken stock
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 can biscuits

Instructions:

  1. In a large pan, heat 2 T. butter over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery, and sauté until soft and lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add remaining butter to pan. After butter has melted, add flower and whisk vigorously, forming a roux. Continue cooking 2-3 minutes, or until flour is browned.
  3. Pour chicken broth into pan slowly, whisking continuously as you pour. Continue whisking until flour bits have dissolved and allow mixture to come to a boil.
  4. Boil for several minutes, and then turn heat to low. Add seasonings and stir.
  5. Return cooked veggies to pan along with chicken, beans, and corn. Stir to combine. Bring mixture back to boil, then allow to simmer for 30 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat.
  6. Prepare biscuits according to package instructions. Serve together.

Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Energy Bites

Have you ever found something so wonderful you’re not sure how you ever lived without it? For me, this recipe is that thing. I found the original recipe on chevsavy.com, and the only change I have made is using crunchy peanut butter rather than creamy, because I just love it.

Besides the classic chocolate-peanut butter combo, these bite-sized balls are packed with protein and fiber to help you beat the afternoon crash and stay out of the cookie jar. Win, win, win. All the wins.

Rolled oats and flaxseed pack the punch in this recipe, with healthy fats from the nut butter, a slightly sweet boost of dark chocolate, and honey to hold it all together.

The directions are as simple as combining the ingredients, rolling into balls, and tossing them in the refrigerator to chill – no baking necessary!

I now keep a container of these at home for late night sweet cravings and one at work for the afternoon crash. Try playing around with different nut butters and flavor combinations, and I guarantee this will soon become your favorite snack.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup flaxseeds (whole or ground)
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or agave nectar)

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Use about a tablespoon of the mixture per ball. Roll into balls.
  3. Refrigerate.

Crunchy Asian Slaw Salad

Ah, mid-September. That mysterious and wonderful time of year in which I both pine the loss of summer and eagerly anticipate the arrival of fall. Cookout season is almost over, and tailgate season has begun! This weekend, we had the pleasure of traveling back to Hampton for an end-of-summer pool party with some of our dearest friends. Along with burgers and dogs, pasta salad, and caprese bites, we had my Crunchy Asian Slaw Salad. This recipe is perfect for BYO-dish events, as it can be prepared ahead of time and functions perfectly as a stand-alone side or hot dog topping.

This recipe has been adapted from my mom’s classic, and it’s always a big hit. In addition to the package of coleslaw mix, I added an extra shredded carrot and shelled edamame for more nutrients, protein, and fiber. The ‘crunch’ in this salad comes from toasted almonds, sesame seeds, and, I kid you not, a raw packet of ramen noodles. Maintain the seasoning packet for the dressing, too! Toast the almonds, mix everything together, add the special sauce, and you’re good to go. The salad can be enjoyed immediately, but I recommend refrigerating for at least an hour to allow the flavors to develop fully.

Tip: If making a day ahead, wait until an hour or so before serving to add the dressing to avoid sogginess.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 package coleslaw mix
  • 1 package raw ramen noodles, chicken flavor, broken into small pieces
  • 1 raw carrot, shredded
  • 1 cup shelled edamame, rinsed
  • 1 bunch green onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, honey, or agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Toast almonds in oven for 5-7 minutes, watching carefully after the initial five minutes to avoid burning.
  2. Mix the coleslaw, shredded carrot, edamame, and green onions. Add the sesame seeds, toasted almonds, and crunched ramen. Stir to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl or mason jar, combine the sugar, ramen seasoning packet, oil, vinegar, and soy sauce. Whisk or or cover and shake until sugar is dissolved.
  4. Add dressing to coleslaw mix and chill for one hour before serving.

I moved back home.

I never realized how unique my childhood experience was until I moved away from the three mile radius in which most of my family lived. As a teenager, I remember feeling almost guilty that we lived in a fairly big house, my parents bought me a fairly new car (Ford Focus! So fancy!) and could afford to put me through a fairly nice college. Many of my classmates worked hard to make car payments, then cell phone payments, and some even had to forfeit their part-time job paychecks to help pay the household bills for their families. We were by no means wealthy, but, in Nelson County, I was considered one of the rich kids. 

Then, I went to college. I have never felt more like a dumb frumpy redneck backwoods HICK than I did my first month at Mary Washington. I learned that the Vera Bradley luggage I thought was so cool was…not…cool, I had a hard time making friends (thank God for Becky Honaker Miller & Noelle Turbitt Verfurth), and, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t one of the smartest kids in the class. No one knew who my momma and daddy were, and I started to understand that, in the big bad world, a lot of folks just aren’t that nice, bless their hearts.

Eventually, I got over my fear of the “big city” and thought I would never go back to living more than a few miles away from a Starbucks, a Target, or my closest friends. I felt evolved and cultured and, dare I say, superior? that I had escaped the county life and was now totally comfortable walking a few blocks by myself in downtown Richmond at night (sorry, Mom). When I first got to college, I wouldn’t even cross the street by myself at night. Now, I DARE you to catch #thesehands. Forreal.

It has been exactly one month since I moved back home, into my grandparents’ old house, less than a mile away from my parents, three aunts, two uncles, and some cousins, to name a few. I am 35 minutes away from the nearest Target or Starbucks. We only have one grocery store, and pretty much everything shuts down before 10 p.m. Most of my friends live more than an hour away, and I’ve never been happier.

For over ten years, I was constantly adjusting. I adjusted to new cities, new schools, new apartments, new bosses, new roommates, no roommates, and all of the subtle and not so subtle cultural differences between the places I was living and working and the place I call home. Although I made strong connections wherever I went (I even met the love of my life!) I often felt like I was just a little different. I never considered that what I was missing was the view of the mountains out my back window, the sound of the tree frogs in the summertime, and the brilliancy of the stars in the night sky.

I am so grateful that an opportunity opened up at my old high school and that I landed the job. I’m grateful that Dave agreed to take a leap of faith and move out to the middle of nowhere with me, and that he got a job so quickly. I’m grateful to see so many familiar faces at work, at the grocery store, and down the street. I’m grateful that I see my family every day. Most of all, though, I am grateful to be home.

These frosé pops are the only thing you need to beat the heat this summer.

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Frosé Pops

Rosé has quickly become everyone’s favorite summer wine, and for good reason. Although it is pink in color, this is no white zin – rosé is on the dry side, traditionally, while maintaining a that crisp and refreshing finish wine lovers crave. Ever since bartenders, bloggers, and Instagrammers began using rosé for a frozen summer drink and calling it, “frosé,” I’ve been dying to try it for myself.

Originally, I had planned on using my popsicle molds for the recipe, until I found these ice pop molds at my local grocery store. I loved ice pops as a kid, and nostalgia is all the rage these days. They came in a pack of 18 for around $4, but I found several deals on Amazon for much cheaper (see links below).

They were a HUGE hit at my 4th of July gathering! One or two and I was feeling…er…quite patriotic!

Here’s how I made them…

Frosé Pops Recipe

Prep Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 8 hours

Yield: 12 pops

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle rosé wine
  • 8 oz Stoli citron vodka (plain would work, too)
  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (I used coconut sugar, but any type will do)

Instructions:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, place strawberries and sugar and stir to mix. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, or until syrupy.
  2. Combine all ingredients in blender and puree.
  3. Carefully pour mixture into molds and allow to freeze overnight.

How to Host an Epic Cookout +bonus Lemon Tart Recipe

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It’s the weekend before July 4th! If you’re anything like me, your favorite part of the holiday is the FOOD. I love cooking out with friends and family, clad in our red, white, and blue, and shouting, “MERICA!” during fireworks demonstrations.

I’m not gonna lie, I know how to host a good cookout. Here’s a list of my top party-hosting tips, guaranteed to make your event run smoothly and keep your guests smiling all evening long.


1. Choose cookout-friendly menu items that can be prepped ahead of time. 

Obviously, if you’re hosting a cookout, you’re probably going to be doing some grilling while your guests are there. That’s totally OK; however, you don’t want to spend the rest of the time in the kitchen getting your side dishes together. Fruit salad, veggie trays, and pasta salad are cookout staples for a reason: you can make them the night before. Check out my refreshing summer caprese salad recipe here!

It’s also important to consider how your guests will be eating their food. If people are sitting in lawn chairs eating out of their laps or even just standing around, you don’t want too many items that are messy or have to be eaten with a knife and fork. Bite-sized food like the lemon tarts below are great for easy eating and help keep the conversation flowing. If you’re hell-bent on serving BBQ ribs and steak, make sure you have plenty of table space for folks to spread out and chow down.

2. Be descriptive in your invitation.

Guests like to know what to expect for a party. You don’t have to give all of your surprises away, but if you are planning on having a water balloon fight, it would be courteous to warn them they might be getting wet. If it’s an adults-only party, let them know. If it’s BYOB, let them know. If you need them to bring a side dish, let them know. You don’t want your guests to feel awkward because they didn’t get the memo. After all, the more comfortable everyone is, the better the party!

 

3. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests for help.

Most people don’t mind bringing their own drinks and/or side dish to a cookout or party. The best way to have an awesome spread at your gathering is to be clear with guests about what kind of food they should bring and what you will already have available. Technology has made this even easier, with apps like Google docsThing to Bring, and even Facebook. Simply set up your event, invite your friends, and ask them to RSVP with their item of choice. Don’t be afraid to ask guests for specific food items, and be sure to thank them compliment their dish.

4. Provide activities guests can enjoy at their leisure.

During any event, there is always some downtime or the occasional lull. Having activities and games that are self-explanatory and ready-to-play can help curb the inevitable downtime and provide a great opportunity for guests to bond with each other. Yard games like ladder ball and corn hole are always popular, as well as outdoor adaptations of board games like Scrabble or Jenga.

Another one of my favorite things to create for parties is a selfie station. You can purchase selfie sticks for as little as $5, or ask a friend to bring one. I always find amazing decorations, props, and accessories at the Dollar Tree believe it or not! Simply find an empty wall in your space (or create one by hanging a sheet), and your guests can take care of the rest.

5. Remember the small stuff, but don’t sweat it. 

Some things you might forget, but will save you time and stress in the long run: plenty of bottled water, extra toilet paper and a pre-lit scented candle in the bathroom, icing/refrigerating beverages early, full bottles of condiments, extra plates, napkins and cutlery, and serving utensils.

I will leave you with some general tips for hosting:

  • Welcome and thank EVERY guest for coming (even little ones!).
  • Be sure to let everyone know where to find food, drinks, and the bathroom.
  • Provide plenty of seating.
  • Expect guests to indulge and account for it when planning how much to cook.
  • Have FUN! A stressed host makes for a tense gathering.


Easiest Ever Mini Lemon Tarts

For this recipe, I used mini filo shells, which you can find in the freezer section of your grocery store. I found a simple recipe for the filling from Pretty.Simple.Sweet and chose to top the finished product with fresh blueberries for garnish and depth of flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package frozen mini filo shells
  • Optional: fresh blueberries

For the filling:

  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks (or 3 whole eggs)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • ½ cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-3 lemons for both zest and juice)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream, optional
  • ½ cup (1 stick/115 g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Instructions:

  1. In a medium heatproof bowl, place eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and heavy cream and whisk to combine. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (bain-marie).
  2. Cook on moderate heat, whisking constantly, until mixture becomes thick. If you have a thermometer, it should register 170F/75C; otherwise, it should coat the back of a wooden spoon and leave a clear pass if you run your finger through it. The curd will thicken more once cooled.
  3. Remove from heat and immediately strain mixture through a sieve.
  4. Add butter, a few cubes at a time, and whisk until completely melted and incorporated, and mixture is smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature before filling the tart. (Lemon curd can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or can be frozen for up to 2 months. To thaw, place overnight in the fridge. Whisk the mixture to smoothen it before using.)
  5. Fill the tart shell with lemon curd, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours until chilled. Serve with berries.

Slow-Cooker Spaghetti Squash & Marinara

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If you’ve never tried spaghetti squash, you are m i s s i n g  o u t. It’s simple to prepare and serves as a fantastic substitute for traditional pasta. Spaghetti squash is also packed with nutrients including vitamin C and potassium, so you won’t get that carb hangover that comes with a plate of pasta and a side of bread – how bout dah??

Recently, I discovered the absolute easiest way to cook spaghetti squash – in the crockpot! Simply cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place it face-down on top of your favorite sauce & veggies, and cook on low for 4-6 hours. When it’s done, the squash will easily scrape out of the rind in spaghetti-like strands.

Here’s my favorite way to do it:

I start by throwing a bag of frozen peppers and onions and a bag of frozen squash and zucchini in the bottom. Have I mentioned how much I love frozen vegetables? They make things so easy.

Next, I dump an entire jar of marinara sauce (look for no sugar added!) on top of the veggies and season with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, basil, & oregano.

Stir the veggie/sauce mixture until well combined, and then place the squash face-down. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, and that’s that!

Feel free to add chicken, beef, or ground turkey and top with cheese, but I like to keep this meal meatless and dairy-free.

Do you have a favorite spaghetti squash recipe? I’m always looking for new ideas!

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Full Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1 12oz bag frozen peppers and onions
  • 1 12oz bag frozen squash and zucchini
  • 1 24oz jar no sugar added pasta sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to crockpot except spaghetti squash and stir to combine.
  2. Slice spaghetti squash in half and place face-down on top of sauce mixture.
  3. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.
  4. Remove spaghetti squash and scrape out innerds.
  5. Top with sauce and serve.

Dollar Store Finds Your Small-Space Garden Will LOVE

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Gardening can be quite expensive, but it doesn’t have to be! Whether you have a small-space container garden or an acre-full, these low-cost items will help protect your crop and your bank account.

1. Containers

Almost any bucket, tub, or basket can be transformed into a functional planter for vegetables, flowers, and shrubs. The main thing to consider is drainage– if the container doesn’t have any, you’ll need to drill holes in the bottom so that the plants don’t drown and rot. This is a great alternative to expensive planters found at garden supply stores that can cost upwards of $50!

2. Mesh Laundry Bags

Use this $1 mesh laundry bag to protect plants from small animals and insects.
Small critters and bugs can be devastating for your garden. After all of your hard work planting, watering, and weeding, you want to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor without having to share it with the squirrels, rabbits, and birds! If you rent or live in the city, building a fence around your garden isn’t always an option. A great compromise to protect your plants without using harsh pesticides or fencing is netting. These mesh laundry bags fit perfectly over tomatoes, cucumbers, and other climbing plants, without shading it too much from the sun. Score!

3. Pinwheel Spinners

Pinwheel spinners, aluminum pie pans, and other shiny objects help deter birds and squirrels as well. It’s almost like a mini scarecrow! And they’re just so darn cute, too.

Pinwheel spinners act as miniature scarecrows.

4. Epsom Salt

If you don’t want to invest in MiracleGro or other plant food, epsom salts work, too. Simply sprinkle the salt on the dirt around the plant before watering. Not only does it provide nutrients to the soil, but the salt also deters slugs. I hate slugs.

5. Gloves

Before handling ANY plant, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly and/or put on protective gloves, and even the dollar store has them this time of year. The gloves are not just to protect your manicure, but also prevent any bacteria from your hands transferring to the plant. Tobacco users, people who handle meat, or anyone exposed to chemicals during the day are especially vulnerable. Just because plants live in dirt doesn’t mean they like to get dirty.

Do you have any clever gardening hacks? I’d love to hear about them!

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