Streusel-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole | @stephmwise

Right there, between the crunchy, nutty streusel topping and the smooth, buttery, warm sweet potatoes? Where I want to be alldayeveryday.

Say hellloooo, dahling to another one of my family’s Thanksgiving side dishes that we just can’t get enough of every year. Unlike Mom’s baked bean casserole, this one wasn’t a part of our annual repertoire until a little later in my youth, and that’s because it’s based on a recipe from my dear aunt Lynn. We had Thanksgiving at her and my uncle’s house in Alabama once way back in the day (I think I was still in my scrunchies/crimped bangs/Lee Pipes/clogs phase) and, true story, she made this casserole and we all were done for, in a slump-over-our-chairs-in-bliss-from-all-the-yums kind of way.

It was love at first bite, and we couldn’t go without it for subsequent Thanksgivings. It’s been on our holiday table every year since then — a beacon of bright-orange, buttery, sweet and streusel-y deliciousness, cuddled up right next to the rolls and the green beans.

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Mom's Baked Bean Casserole | @stephmwise

Psst — see the bottom of this post for a fun freebie!

Ladies and gents, I present to you the Thanksgiving side dish of. your. DREAMZ.

I feel quite blasphemous suggesting that you break with your traditions and add this casserole to your Thanksgiving menu when my family, in fact, has been serving the exact same foods (including this casserole) for years upon years upon years. We never stray, ever, right down to the cranberry sauce in the shape of a can. We are a stubborn holiday dinner folk.

Mom's Baked Bean Casserole | @stephmwise

But if ever there was a time to shake things up, or if you’re just getting your own Thanksgiving traditions started, I implore you to give this five-ingredient casserole a try. It’s amazing — to the point where I literally don’t even remember a holiday when my mom hasn’t made at least a double batch of it and it’s gone before the weekend. That’s 27 years of baked bean casserole eating/loving, you guys. I rest my case.

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Pumpkin Pie Brioche Rolls | @stephmwise

Think of this recipe as the result of the fact that a) I love carbs and b) because of my carb love, I couldn’t decide between pumpkin pie and dinner rolls. So I combined them.

Genius/crazy/this is my brain on Thanksgiving? It’s probably all of the above.

Thanksgiving has looked a little different for us every year for the last five or so years. While growing up it was always at my parents’ house, since Elliott and I got hitched it’s also been in our tiny apartment in Iowa, at his parents’ place and this year, we are hosting again. Except on Saturday, instead of Thursday (because the husband has to work on the holiday, boo).

Another new tradition that’s popped up somewhat unplanned-ly is the fact that I always end up making the dinner rolls and at least one of the desserts. It’s not like we even decided, “Hey Steph, these are the things you make.” It just happened that way — which means those are just the things I tend to make for funsies. Someone else can be in the charge of the turkey; I’m very good at eating that, though.

This year, these pumpkin pie brioche rolls will obviously be gracing the Thanksgiving dinner table as the dinner roll portion of the evening’s eating festivities. If they can make it that long. I’ve already polished off three of them for testing purposes, ahem.

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"Baker's Dozen" Tips and Tricks | @stephmwise

I really like the term “baker’s dozen” when it comes before words like “bagels,” or “doughnuts,” or “slices of cake.” But it’s also pretty nifty when it refers to 13 baking tips and tricks that come in handy for, well, baking. In case that wasn’t obvious.

Having a list of baking tips and tricks isn’t something I conjured up overnight. You can refer to the times I’ve baked molten lava loaves or challah crowns on wax paper (!) as proof (side note: shield your eyes from the horrid photography) that this journey of learning the baking knowledge has been years in the making. And I still have much to learn. Still, what good is all this knowledge I have thus far acquired if I can’t share it with you? Mostly because I want you to avoid the pitfalls I’ve had along the way — though I think you all are smarter enough than me to know that wax paper does not go into the oven.

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Caramelized Shallot and Mushroom Quiche | @stephmwise

Much as I love being here, chatting with you, hopefully both of us with a big mug of hot coffee in our hands as it is Monday morning and we probably both need it, there is nothing like having a conversation in real life.

There is also nothing like a good quiche.

Both are why this weekend did my soul good.

On Saturday morning, I had a few of my blogger friends over for a brunch in real life — IRL, as the fancy interwebs folk say. It was potluck-style, so everyone contributed a dish and let me tell you, it was proof that these virtual baby showers and wedding showers and linky parties and such we have ’round these parts every once in a while? They would cure whatever ails ya with one happy food coma. In short, the food was amazing.

So was the company. Because sometimes me + this computer screen can get a wee isolating, and much as I love to have heart to hearts with my baby daughter and my cat in the long afternoons, it doesn’t compare to being able to spend intentional time with the women in my life who walk a similar path. I was telling Melissa, who spearheaded the idea for the gathering, that I feel like we are so lucky to have such a uniquely warm, kindhearted and encouraging group of food bloggers in this tundra/great state we call home. All of that to say: I hope this weekend can be repeated again and again.

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Six Months of Motherhood {A Baby Update} | @stephmwise

Firstly, thank you all for being so kind and understanding about my little blogging hiatus last week. It was much-needed and super restorative and relaxing. We went to my parents’ house in the Chicago suburbs, ate a lot of yummy home-cooked food from my mama and grandmother (and of course, all the Halloween candy) and I got to meet my bestie’s most adorable new puppy, George Washington, named as such because the shelter said he had confidence issues (a.k.a., a fear of squirrels).

It was also good for my soul to get extra snuggle time in with this little one who is, quite unbelievably, SIX months old already. For Avery, six months old looks like a lot of army crawling all over the house (towards anything and everything that is not a toy, of course… we are in serious need of babyproofing ’round these parts), laughing at our funny faces and her reflection in the mirror, lots of talking — or blowing raspberries or squealing or SCREECHING, ahem — a particular affinity for crawling toward our cat Percy and grabbing his tail while squealing (he’s such a good sport about the fact that she pulls out small tufts of his fur every.single.time.) and the early stages of cuddling ← FAVORITE.

Six Months of Motherhood {A Baby Update} | @stephmwise

For me, having a six month old looks like more sleep (do you hear the choir of angels singing?): Avery goes down for bed around 6:45 p.m. and wakes up between 4 and 5 a.m. for a feeding, then goes right back to sleep until 7:30 or 8 a.m. so I cannot complain one iota. It also looks like a little more confidence for me in so many departments: Knowing how to listen to Avery and what her cries mean, anticipating her needs, nursing in (slightly more) public places, going to the grocery store/Target without fear that she’s going to have a conniption fit in Aisle 5 and taking in all the cuddling time I can get, because my girl is already one independent little lady. Oh, and wine. I let myself drink some wine every now and then and it is glorious.

Six Months of Motherhood {A Baby Update} | @stephmwise

The memories of our difficult first few months together cloud over more and more every day with each giggle, smile and reach with those chubby little arms asking for me to hold her. Watching her spunky, headstrong, hilarious and sweet personality develop is just the best. And every night as I am about to put her to bed and she’s cuddled and cozy in my arms, I fall deeper in love with her, never thinking it’s even possible to do so.

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