Cranberry Sauce and Christmas Menu

Cranberry Sauce on Whisk Together


Cranberry sauce is a nice side dish with most meats at Christmastime.  Even though it is a traditional “Thanksgiving” side dish, I really like to make it also at Thanksgiving.  The flavor and texture of cranberry sauce tastes fantastic with ham, turkey and chicken!

Christmas Menu

Best Ham Ever on Whisk Together

Best Ham Ever

Honey Wheat Rolls
Honey Wheat Rolls

sweet potato casseroleCR


Sweet Potato Casserole

Cheesey Spaghetti Squash and Spinach on WT


Cheesy Spaghetti Squash and Spinach

Cranberry Apple Cake (recipe coming this week!)


Why I love this recipe:

1.  It’s all homemade.
2.  You can make it 1-2 days ahead of your party.
3.  The flavor and texture is a little different than standard sauce – I like that.
4.  Super simple.

Perfect Cranberry Sauce and Christmas Menu
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
  • 12 ounce fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup sugar (up to 1 cup for sweeter sauce)
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 Tb. water
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  1. Put a medium pot on the stove. Set aside 1/2 cup of the cranberries.
  2. Add the rest of the cranberries to the saucepan with the sugar, orange zest, orange juice and water.
  3. Cook on low for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the spices: cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Stir together.
  5. Cook on medium heat for 12 minutes. Gently stir and smash the cranberries. They will burst.
  6. Turn the heat down to low.
  7. Add the reserved 1/2 cup cranberries. Stir together.
  8. Add any sugar, salt or pepper to taste.
  9. Remove from heat and serve once cooled off. Or let cool on the stove and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
Recipe adapted from Food Network’s “Perfect Cranberry Sauce”


Slow Cooker Pulled BBQ Chicken

BBQ Pulled Chicken-2251 on Whisk Together

Book:    Still nothing yet.  Though I think I have concluded society’s whole problem.  It boils down to a lesson that my kid actually did back in first grade.  They had to put things into two categories:  wants and needs.  The problem is a lot of our “needs” are actually wants.  Some people would argue up and down and even fight for that “need” which…. is a want to begin with.  One of the items on the assignment was “milk”.  We had an interesting little discussion on whether milk was a want or a need.  And I mean need.  Do we NEED milk?  I am all for milk.  I bake and drink and love milk.  But will I survive without it?  Yes.  Could I thrive without it?  Probably.  So we put it under the “want” category.  I’m not arguing about dairy – just an example of something to get the wheels turning.


If you want pulled chicken, pork or beef – the slow cooker is the way to go.  Unless you own a smoker of course.  Low and slow, the trusty slow cooker will turn your chicken to shreds which is what you want here.

Why 2-3 hours on low?  Because that is when you’re chicken is done and why chicken that sits in the slow cooker for 8-10 hours tastes gross, dry and overcooked.  So how do you have this ready to go when you are home from work?  I would make a batch on the weekend and freeze or fridge the leftovers.  Cooked chicken is good for 5-7 days in the fridge.  Raw chicken is only good for 2-3 days, so might as well use it up.

(Okay, technically this might not be considered BBQ because it is just meat with BBQ sauce… I get it. )

Why I like this recipe:

1.  Easy and delicious.
2.  You get that smokey flavor without the wait time.
3.  Great for small or large families.
4.  Freezer friendly.
5.  Kid approved!

BBQ Pulled Chicken-2253 on Whisk Together

Slow Cooker Pulled BBQ Chicken
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (or about 1 small can) of tomato paste
  • 5 tsp. chili powder
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 Tb. mustard
  • 4 tsp. cider vinegar
  • 4 tsp. hot sauce (or less for less heat)
  • 1 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 4 – boneless skinless chicken breast
  • salt and pepper
  • sandwich buns
  1. Put all of the ingredients from onion through cayenne pepper in a medium microwave bowl. Pop it in the microwave for about 3 minutes. Stir once or twice before the three minutes is up and the onion should be a little soft.
  2. Add this hot mixture to the slow cooker. Add the ketchup, molasses, mustard, and cider vinegar. Whisk to combine.
  3. Add chicken to the top and nestle them in the sauce. Cook on low about 2-3 hours or until it shreds easily with a fork.
  4. Whisk in the hot sauce and liquid smoke. Serve on buns.
BBQ sauce recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen


Homemade No Cook BBQ Sauce

BBQ Sauce_1 on Whisk Together

Our book club book for the month is

Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall.

I haven’t started it yet, but I did pick up Marina Keegan’s book The Opposite of Loneliness during our Fall Festival at the library.  I saw her on the news a couple of years ago due to her tragic death at the height of all she had accomplished by age 22.  Here are some quotes:

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. ”
“Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it: already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.”
“Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.  But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes . . .). We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.”

I like the last one the best 🙂


Yes, Fall is upon us.  But who doesn’t grill up a nice juicy burger in the garage or outside every now and then?  I know most guys are outside unless it’s -30 degrees.  And any burger needs a good BBQ sauce.  We were craving some BBQ sauce and were out… but had all the ingredients in the pantry.  #1, I try to stay away from high fructose corn syrup.  #2 I try to stay away of processed junk.  Okay, so the first ingredient is processed… sorda.  I think Trader Joe’s organic ketchup is pretty close to the homemade thing.  #3 – I don’t like Trader Joe’s BBQ sauce.  It’s way too spicy hot for me and I can tolerate a good medium heat salsa.  So, I stopped buying it and made this one.  It’s even BETTER.  I promise.

The secret to great BBQ, sauces and smoky flavor without all the time and wood chips?  Liquid Smoke, my friend.  Sigh.  It deserves its own book even.  One of the best ingredients ever.  Amazingly cheap.  And all natural.  If you can count smoke as natural.  Ugh I would hope so.  I’m sure some paleo policeman will come after me.  

Homemade No Cook BBQ Sauce


  • 1 and 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 Tb. cider vinegar
  • 3 Tb. honey
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. hot sauce (I left this out.)
  • 1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (I like Figaro's hickory smoke. But try the smoke you like the most.)
  • 2 Tb dijon mustard (or the mustard you have on hand)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Mix it up and eat! Always taste test as you go. Add more honey for a sweeter sauce. Add more hot sauce if you like it with a kick.
  2. Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Homemade No Cook BBQ Sauce

1 and 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
2 Tb. cider vinegar
3 Tb. honey
1 and 1/2 tsp. hot sauce (I left this out for the kids’ sake.  I’ll stick to that story.)
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (I like Figaro’s hickory smoke.  But try the smoke you like the most.)
2 Tb dijon mustard (or the mustard you have on hand)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it up and eat!  Always taste test as you go.  Add more honey for a sweeter sauce.  Add more hot sauce if you like it with a kick.

Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken and BBQ Sauce

Book Update:  I finished “The Secrets of Happy Families” by Bruce Feiler while on vacation since it was a suggested book by Amazon.  I think a lot of it could be applied to classrooms as well – especially elementary classrooms.  The book is thoroughly researched with hundreds of books and authors referenced that are the top of their fields.  Some of the things I found unconventional … and therefore interesting were:

1.  Creating a family manifesto
2.  Family meetings (I’ve seen these mentioned in magazines before)
3.  Family dinner is important.  Like really important.  Family dinners resulted children with higher self-esteem, better vocabularies, higher academics, fewer behavioral problems, and more resilience.  It doesn’t have to be dinner.  It could be breakfast or a late dessert.
4.  Kids should not be allowed to “duke it out” before age 8.  They really should have parental assistance in their squabbles before this age.
5.  You can have kids pick their own punishments, check off their own chores, etc.
6.  Adapt.  Adapt  Adapt.  My notes: I wonder if this is the most pressing flaw in Education – mainly public.  It is so large (and government funded) that it is simply is difficult to adapt to the changing times and changing children.  Similarly, families have to adapt to their growing children as well.  A smart board does not make a smart child.

Recipe Update:  This was quick and easy.  I liked it with added toppings below and trying to use different cooking methods for similar recipes in order to create one recipe that you can make several ways depending on time constraints.  The BBQ sauce was thin after cooking, but could be boiled a while to thicken it if you wish for a sauce.

**My camera battery died, so this is a phone photo.**

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken on Whisk Together

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken
serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast
16-18 oz. BBQ sauce (purchased or one of my favorite recipes for BBQ sauce is below)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tb. Worcestershire sauce
Optional toppings:  smoked gouda cheese, red onion slices and cilantro

1.  Mix the sauce, sugar, vinegar and sauce in the slow cooker.  Add chicken.
2.  Cover and cook HIGH 3-4 hours or LOW 4-6 hours.
3.  OR  you can bake in the oven in a sprayed 7×11 or 9×13 pan at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
4.  Serve and eat!  Toppings are delicious, but optional.  To melt the cheese I placed them on top of the cooked chicken and placed a piece of foil over the whole pan.  The cheese melted in 5 minutes and the chicken stayed hot.

BBQ Sauce

2 cups ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
5 Tb. light brown sugar
5 Tb. sugar
1/2 Tb. black pepper
1/2 Tb. onion powder
1/2 Tb. ground mustard (I think I omitted this once because I didn’t have it.  Still tasted good!)
1 Tb. lemon juice.
1 Tb. Worchestershire sauce

1.  Dump all this stuff in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Boil.  Reduce to simmer.
2.  Simmer for 75 minutes.  Since it is a sauce you can store it in the fridge, or freeze in bags for later!

BBQ sauce recipe from The Neely’s on the Food Network

Homemade Caramel Sauce and Salted Caramel Sauce

**Updated the Pancake Post with some delicious Buttermilk Pancakes.  The Best non-whole wheat pancake I have tried.
**Updated the Shortbread Cookie recipe with an easier method of making/baking the cookies into a traditional wedge shape.

I needed some caramel sauce for my sister’s birthday Turtle Cake but I was too lazy to go to the store.  Here is the recipe I used and photos of most of the process.  Caramel burns very easily and quickly, so towards the end I don’t have a photo of when I took it off the stove.  I can’t wait to use this in the Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars!

A while back I made Salted Caramel Brownies.  The middle layer is made from salted caramel sauce and that is the second recipe.  It is yummy as well all on its own and without the brownie!

Caramel Sauce
yield about 1/2-1 cup

1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 Tb. light corn syrup
1/2  cup heavy cream
2 Tb. unsalted butter, soft and cubed
1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Preparation during candy making is really helpful.  Have everything out, pre-measured and ready to go.  You want the cream to not be straight out of the fridge, so letting it sit out will help.  You will also need a high sided, heavy bottom 3 or 5qt. stainless pot – not non-stick – and a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula (like silicone).  A candy thermometer is helpful, though not essential.
2.  Pour water into pot and pour the sugar into the middle.  Add light corn syrup.  Gently stir together so the sugar is moistened.  You don’t want sugar water up the sides of the pan.  Heat at medium-low to medium heat.

3.  Continue to gently stir occasionally until the water begins to boil.   When the mixture begins to turn amber you can gently swirl the mixture using the handle on the pot.  Very gently and just once in a while to get the mixture heated evenly.

4.  Once the mixture hits 340 degrees on the candy thermometer, or golden brown – Remove from heat IMMEDIATELY.  Here is a website that has all the photos.  I usually pull it off the heat just before it gets to stage 5 to avoid burning.  The residual heat cooks it the rest of the way.

5.  Off the heat, slowly stir in the cream.  It will bubble a lot and that is okay.  Add the butter and salt.  Once incorporated add the vanilla.

Store room temp. for 3 days or 3 weeks in the fridge.  The mixture will get thick in the fridge just like the canned stuff from the store.  That is okay – just throw it in the microwave to soften for a few seconds.

Salted Caramel Sauce
yield about 1/2-1 cup

1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tb. light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt (I used fleur de sel)
1/4 cup sour cream

1.  Very similar to above.  Stir the water, sugar and corn syrup gently in a high sided pot.  Heat over medium-low to medium heat.  After bubbles start, swirl the pan until 340 degrees and/or light amber/dark brown in color.
2.  Remove from heat and slowly add in cream.   Add in salt then whisk in the sour cream.  Cool and eat.

Recipe from Baked Explorations under “Sweet and Salty Brownies”

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