Amy’s Holiday Favorites

Recipes, Gadgets, and Music

Who else is a sucker for “favorites” lists? For years I used to love reading Oprah’s favorites. It was usually the first page in the magazine I would read.

I’m ready to share some of my holiday favorites with you today including favorite holiday recipes from all over the web and my tradition of purchasing a new Christmas album every year.

Since I start listening to Christmas music the first of November – the same time I start Christmas pieces with my students, I figured it’s the perfect time to bring you my favorites. We’re planning our biggest holiday meal of the year – Thanksgiving, and simultaneously setting the mood for the Christmas season to come.

I’m not one to make the same recipes over and over so anytime you get a recommended recipe from me, it means it’s a keeper!


Favorite Holiday Recipes


Cranberry Feta Pinwheels

cranberry-pinwheelsMy family goes CRAZY over these Cranberry Feta Pinwheels from

A couple of tips. First, when I used a regular soft taco shell size, I needed six tortillas. If you use the large burrito shells, you might be okay. Second, I found adding 1/2 cup of sour cream to the mixture helped make it more spreadable.

A nice variation is to add thin slices of ham on top of the spread before rolling.


Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

sausage-stuffed-mushroomsMushrooms are one of my top five foods. I could eat them on everything. Ina Garten’s Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms are delectable. My best friend and I salivate over these puppies.

The recipe calls for 5 oz. of mascarpone – forget that I just threw the whole 8 oz container in!


Roasted Vegetable Winter Crumble

roasted-vegetable-winter-crumbleDELICIOUS! Love this – I thought there was a little bit too much “crumble” though and that is not something I would normally say! I made a note to try using half the crumble next time.

Also, don’t do like I did the first time and sprinkled the cheese on the top of the crumble instead of underneath as it just gets hard. I should have known better.


Green Bean Casserole

green-bean-casserole My sister-in-law often makes this, and everyone loves it.

It’s as creamy as they come, and the pimentos are a nice touch in  Pioneer Woman’s Green Bean Casserole.


Brined Smoked Turkey

I can’t stand dry meat. Brining is the way to go. My husband loves to smoke meat on our kamado-style grill, so this recipe is a match made in heaven.

I just found out apparently my nephew is excited for Thanksgiving because “Aunt Amy make’s the best turkey” (we make this recipe approximately every other year). It’s from a Canadian Show called Licensed to Grill I used to watch when we lived in Australia.

It’s a LOT of effort but totally to DIE for.

Here I am in 2010 with my first grilled turkey. He was a 25-pound beauty!



2012 – looking even better with experience!



With mama. Pssst. See that beautiful cutting board? That’s one of my equipment recommendations (see below).



 Super-Moist Pumpkin Bread


Super yummy and moist. Pinch of Yum hit this recipe spot-on.

Note: Instead of two loaves, I did one loaf and a pan of mini-muffins. There ended up with a bit too much batter in the loaf so that it was still wet in the middle after 50 minutes in the oven. The batter was probably 3/4 full in the loaf pan. If you do two loaves as the recipe calls for you, will probably be fine. 


Ultimate Ginger Cookies

ultimate-ginger-cookiesIna Garten’s Ultimate Ginger Cookies are deliciously spicy. I’m not a huge ginger fan but still, love these. I pull back just a bit on the amount of chopped crystallized ginger in the recipe – just a little.


 Favorite Gadgets

J.K. Adams Reversible Maple Carving Board

Click on the image to link to each item. Yes, the equipment and CD links are all affiliate links, which means it doesn’t cost you any extra and I’ll get a very tiny percentage back if you purchase using these links. This just helps me keep things going! 

This carving board was the winner of America’s Test Kitchen’s Carving Board equipment test, and it’s totally worth the $70. One side is flat, and the other has a poultry-shaped well. The trench is nice and deep to catch juices. I had plenty of messes over the years, that a deep trench became a must when I was ready to make this purchase.


Polder Digital In-Oven Thermometer

America’s Test Kitchen’s best-buy choice has worked pretty well for us so far. A thermometer like this is an absolute must for anyone interested in smoking meats.



Trudeau Gravy Separator

The shape of this fat separator is perfect for pouring liquids into it from a pot. I use it so much, especially when making homemade stocks, I can’t believe I’ve only had to purchase one so far!


Williams-Sonoma Brining Bags


After several years of realizing at the last minute, I didn’t have anything big enough to brine my 25-lb turkey in the refrigerator, I bit the bullet and started purchasing these amazing heavy duty brining bags from Williams Sonoma. They come in a set of 3-sizes. I always use the biggest one for the turkey.


Williams-Sonoma Autumn Fruit Spice Brine

On the off years that we don’t do the grilled turkey recipe, I often use this beautiful Autumn Fruit and Spice brine blend from Williams-Sonoma.




I’m not usually in charge of dessert as I generally prefer cooking over baking and no one else in my family really likes being in charge of the meat if they don’t have to. That being said, there are a couple of favorites I love making during this season.


Christmas Albums

One of my personal Christmas traditions is to purchase one or two new Christmas albums each year. For some reason, Christmas is one of those times when I don’t want to let Pandora randomly choose the music I listen to on the “Christmas station.” I like having specific albums I listen to each December. I think a lot of it has to do with the nostalgia of listening to the same albums each season.

Some years I don’t purchase any, and on one occasion I remember wanting several albums, so I listened to previews of the tracks and downloaded a handful of the best tracks from multiple albums rather than one whole album.

I usually just Google “Best Christmas Albums of 2016” or something of the sort to research what’s out there.

My comfortable yearly spending limit sits around $15-30. I can’t say exactly what year I purchased some of these albums, so I’m just going to list them in order from the (most likely) oldest to my most recent purchase.


Gloria Estefan – Christmas Through Your Eyes


George Winston – December


Lonestar – This Christmas Time


Harry Connick Jr. – When My Heart Finds Christmas


Celtic Women – A Christmas Celebration


Frank Sinatra – The Christmas Collection


Third Day – Christmas Offerings


Chris Botti – December


Harry Connick Jr. – Harry for the Holidays


Michael Buble – Let it Snow


Josh Groban – Noel


Diana Krall – Christmas Songs


Straight No Chaser – Holiday Spirits


Frank Sinatra – Seasons Greetings


Richard Marx – Christmas Spirit


James Taylor – James Taylor at Christmas


Pink Martini – Joy to the World


She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas


Solveig Slettahjell – Natt i Betlehem


Pentatonix – A Pentatonix Christmas


Joey + Rory – A Farmhouse Christmas


This last CD has a story to it. Country music isn’t usually my first choice. I don’t hate it; I just don’t like it as much as other styles. However, in March 2016, Joey Martin Feek passed away from cervical cancer. She grew up in the same hometown as my husband, Alexandria, Indiana. She was four years ahead of him in school. With a small-town population of just over 5,000, she became a source of local pride.

In September, select movie theaters played the movie To Joey With Love which told her story. Her husband, Rory, took lots of video footage the last year or two she was alive. From what I heard, it was for no particular reason -he just felt for some reason like he should be filming their lives more. *insert tears!*

I cried

It will be available in December.


Share your favorite holiday grub and tunes in the comments – I can’t wait to hear what you love to eat and listen to over during this season

For more inspiration follow my Fall-Thanksgiving ideas Pinterest board or my Winter-Christmas ideas Pinterest board.

Happy Holidays!



  • Yummy recipes, great CD suggestions and your short hair cut is dynamite. Not that your long hair looked bad but wow, it completely changed and updated your look. I had Pentatonix and Botti on my list. Time to go get them. Thanks for sharing!

    • Totally agree about my hair, Leila! LOL. I actually had really short hair in high school – even shorter than I have now. When we moved to Australia, it was so expensive to get a haircut, I decided to just let it grow out then I cut it off for locks of love when we returned home several years later. I took a few years to work my way back to short but I agree it was made for me. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *