Dad's Beef and Red Wine Chili | @stephmwise

Prepare thyself to eat at least two bowls of this goodness. With alllll the toppings.

Remember that one time I told you about my dad, my dad’s white chicken chili, my dad’s plans to open a restaurant that serves hot dogs and chili, and the fact that my dad also has ah-mazing red chili that I wanted to share with you one day (like a year ago, oy)? OH YEAH. This is it, my friends. Dad’s (family-wide) famous, flavorful chili, loaded with chopped veggies, lean beef, red wine, tomatoes, chipotle chile pepper, beans and spices.

You actually might want to start preparing a third bowl.

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Thick and Fudgy Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Brownies | @stephmwise

Oh hai. Let me introduce you to the reason I am going to be in a sugar coma all holiday season. BROWNIES.

Not just brownies, but the best-ever thick and fudgy and chewy dark chocolate-drizzled peppermint mocha brownies. Life is complete.

As my husband claims he is a hash brown snob (um, OK), I am most definitely a brownie snob. I blame it on the fact that I’ve eaten so many brownies in my life, my palate has become selective. So yeahhhhh no cakey and fluffy brownies allowed, if you even dare to call those brownies. It’s a fudgy, chewy brownie dessert club only over here.

If you’re in full agreement with me on the brownie thing (this is a rhetorical question, right?), then you’ll be oh-so-pleased to know that this recipe is based on what are by far the most delicious, fudgiest, chewiest and densiest brownies I’ve ever eaten. I stumbled upon Tessa’s recipe for ultimate brownies a few months ago and I don’t think I could ever make brownies any other way again. These are just too perfect. And though you can’t improve upon perfection, they taste pretty darn festive and fantastical with an added hint of mint and espresso flavoring.

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Cherry, Coconut and Pistachio Biscotti Gift Jars | @stephmwise

There’s something extra special-like about homemade gifts, don’t you agree? Because you know the person who is giving you the homemade gift really took the time to think about what you like, and make it just for you. Even if it is, say, a lime green crocheted scarf for your cat.

One of my favorite gifts to give are baking mixes in jars — because if you can’t actually bake the cookies/bread/pancakes/snack mix for the person, you can certainly hand her a jarful of the goodies to make herself. And this season, I’ll be giving the gift of cherry, coconut and pistachio biscotti in jar form. It’s gonna be grand.

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Apple, Walnut and Brie Bread Pudding Pancakes | @stephmwise

Apples and walnuts and Brie and maple syrup on top of bread pudding pancakes? I’m making this a regular thing for my face.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when the husband and I were able to go out to breakfast sans bebe. We headed over to Colossal Cafe in St. Paul; he ordered the biscuits and gravy (always) and I hemmed and hawed and fidgeted and deliberated — it’s not like we get to go out to eat and have someone else make our breakfast every day, so the stakes were high — and finally settled on the house special, a short stack of flappers (a.k.a., yeasted pancakes) with an apple, walnut and Brie topping.

I think you and I both know I made absolutely the best breakfast decision ever.

It was true pancake nirvana. I melted into my seat with each bite of fluffy flapper. I tried to dab some of the buttery apple-walnut topping on my wrists (juuuuust kidding. Maybe). I wondered why I’d never thought in all my days to put Brie on pancakes before, because hot diggety that’s a good idea. While I was unable to finish the colossal plate (har har) before me, I did manage to polish off the entirety of the toppings, which I feel doesn’t even need justifying. You are my people; you understand.

Since then, I’ve been wanting to bring the recipe into my home kitchen. So when Cartwheel by Target approached me about creating a simple and delicious seasonal recipe using ingredients found in their slick savings app, I was oh-so-pleasantly surprised to discover that almost everything you need to make these pancakes can be found on Cartwheel. Huzzah!

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Cherry Cheescake Monkey Bread | @stephmwise

You know what they say about Thanksgiving — eat all the turkey and green bean casserole and cranberry sauce and pie, twice, then make cherry cheesecake monkey bread and eat that, too. At least that’s how we do/did this year.

Because my husband works in the medical field, and we need medical people even on holidays, he worked on Thursday afternoon so I ended up having two Thanksgivings: one on Thursday with his family and one on Saturday with mine. My belly = SO FULL, and my heart = so thankful. And nestled right in between the two days of festiveating was the making of (and, also, eating of) this monkey bread.

Please excuse me while I collect myself as I think back on those fond memories of eating said bread warm from the oven with cherry pie filling and cream cheese icing and soft, pillowy, baked-from-scratch pull-apart dough and GAH. Maybe we all need a moment.

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Cranberry Old-Fashioned Cocktail | @stephmwise

Thanksgiving is T-minus three (!!!) days away and I just couldn’t leave you without a cocktail in that free hand of yours while you’re basting, baking, whisking, stirring and serving (har har). As everyone knows, the key to a delicious Thanksgiving meal is a cook with a cocktail.

Specifically, this cranberry Old-Fashioned cocktail, which is made with canned cranberry sauce, hey-o!

I know we like to remain classy folk around here, but there is one thing I have to tell you and I hope you don’t get all, to borrow a phrase from a one Billy of Wit & Vinegar, Ramona eyed about it: I really, really, ridiculously love the cranberry sauce from a can. And not just any sauce. The sauce that actually LOOKS like a can. The kind you can slice.

Cranberry Old-Fashioned Cocktail | @stephmwise

The kind that looks just like this, actually. BEHOLD.

But waitwaitwaitwait because guess what we’re gonna do with that can-shaped jelly wonder? We’re gonna make classy-folk cocktails, that’s what. Redeemed? Eh?

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