How to Plan the Perfect Galentine’s Day Party

Mimi Valentine

Valentine’s Day is fun and all but this year I decided to celebrate with my lady pals! You know, the ones who are always there for ya, and will totally indulge your love for all things cookies, pink, and sparkly.

Instead of stressing out about making the perfect restaurant reservation, I like to opt for cooking a big, fun meal at home. In the past I’ve made prime rib with the bf, served up a spicy meal with all my friends and even made this Spicy Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. This year, I decided to celebrate with a group of my gals pals and focus on fun!

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Bourbon Braised Brisket with Cranberry Sauce


Happy December everyone! I absolutely LOVE the holidays. I really do, I love them all. Anytime there is a reason to celebrate, I am all in. I was so excited when Austin Woman asked me to create some fun Hanukkah recipes for them this year. I immediately turned to my friend Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat. She is the local (and probably national) Jewish food expert! So if you’re looking for tons of great Jewish food with a heavy dose of hilarity, be sure and check out her blog. I wanted to give these Hanukkah recipes a little twist so naturally, I went Texan with Amy’s recipe for Bourbon Braise Brisket with Cranberry Sauce! It’s sweet, tangy, delicious and it’s definitely the star of the holiday table! 

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Deep Fried Matzo Balls


A very Texas Hanukkah recipe! These matzo balls were life changing, seriously! This year, Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 24th, aka Christmas Eve, so no matter what you are celebrating this year, be sure these matzo balls are on your table. I made them as part of a Hanukkah menu for Austin Woman this month. Because don’t we all need something a little salty, crispy and fried sometimes? 

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Dulce de Leche Doughnuts


December is upon us and it really is the most wonderful time of the year! This month I was tasked with the delicious charge of creating Hanukkah recipes for Austin Woman. I was excited to delve into the meaty, fried and sweet traditions of eight crazy nights. I created three recipes and this was the sweet one! Typically lots of Hanukkah foods are fried to represent the oil that burned for eights nights but seeing as there is lots of indulging to do in December, I figured a sweet baked version of everyone’s favorite the donut would be a nice treat. Plus, they are easy to make ahead and you can eat them for dessert or breakfast!

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9 Last Minute Thanksgiving Recipes + Decorating Tips!


Happy almost Thanksgiving! If you’re anything like me you’ve left the planning until the very last minute. Like very last as in right now today! I rounded up some of my favorite recipes from holidays past that you can whip up today or tomorrow. Just be sure to swing by the store or get an Instacart order ASAP to get all your ingredients. And because y’all are so sweet and I am so thankful for you, I put dessert first. 

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Holiday Tablescapes with Gracious Garlands


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Too soon? Not for me! I’ve always wanted to do a gorgeous tablescape photo shoot for the holidays but could never quite get my ducks in a row. But this year, I teamed up with my friend Elle from Gracious Garlands to make the most dreamy holiday tables with her luscious greenery. We did four gorgeous looks and Elle gave me tips for decorating with real greenery! So excited for the holidays this year!

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Gingerbread Cake with Candied Cranberries and Cream Cheese Frosting

Soft Gingerbread Cake by Natalie Paramore 5

The holidays always have a way of getting me back in the kitchen. Something about this time of year has me wanting to bake up a storm and break out the fancy dishes. Ok maybe not the fancy dishes part but I’ve definitely been logging a few more hours in the kitchen lately. I’ve always loved gingerbread so I decided that this year it was about time to go all out and make a cake!

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Spicy Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Heyo! If you are anything like me, you totally waited too long for this whole Valentine’s Day thing. Oops! I mean let’s be honest gifts really aren’t my thing. In fact, giving gifts, gives yours truly major anxiety! There have definitely been times in my life when I should have given gifts, like it was expected (i.e. an ex-boyfriends Christmas gift, my sister’s 25th birthday), you know major times, but the stress got me and I just gave up. Seriously. I stress and stress and wonder if it’s the right thing? Is it too little? Too much? Am I too much? Ah! So then I usually just scratch the whole thing and decide to put myself in charge of making a cake, making a dinner reservation or hosting a get together. That is way more my style. Cooking, planning, making… all that I can handle. Giving an actual gift? Totally lose it. Creating an experience? That is something I love! That is something I like to do for my friends and family and those people near and dear to my little heart.


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Easy Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade Marshmallows by Natalie Paramore

Christmas is coming, Christmas is coming! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, no? Last year I was a bit of grinch during the holiday season and this year I was determined to not letting anything get in the way of my holiday spirit, but alas I still don’t even have a tree up! I did help my mom put hers up while I was at home during Thanksgiving, but still no tree at my own place. Sadly, I am not sure if there will be a tree this year. There are lots of coming and goings at my house this year. One of my roomies and dearest friends is moving away, bah humbug! I am so excited for her because it is such a great move and hello! to one of my favorite cities, San Francisco! While I am secretly shedding tears of sadness and excitement, I am also planning to take full advantage of some couch surfing in the coming months. You know, somebody’s gotta be there to help ease the transition, right?

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Spiced Apple Cider Old Fashioned

Apple Cider Old Fashioned by Natalie Paramore

Happy almost Thanksgiving! It’s the most dysfunctional time of year! Hahah we have a sign that says that in the restaurant that I work at and it couldn’t be more fitting. It literally made me laugh out loud the first time I saw it, so I had to share. Between the travel, good tasting but not necessarily good for you food and crazy families, I think it is about time for a cocktail, what do you say? Earlier this fall I had the opportunity to go attend a whiskey and moonshine tasting from an old local Austinite turned Asheville, NC resident Troy Ball. She is as interesting as she is beautiful and has such a captivating story. She went from being a full-time mom for two special needs sons to being a whiskey maker, how cool is that? I love that her story is all about family making sacrifices but still going after her dreams of doing something creative and special in her life. Plus, it just goes to show that it is never too late to follow your dreams and she did it all and had a family too. So inspiring for many young people who are trying to figure it all out and find some balance in between.

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Mini Eggnog Pies

Today I whipped a few mini eggnog pies for holiday entertaining! They are so easy, only a few ingredients. I shared my tips today with Keri Bellacosa on Good Day Austin. You can see the link here. The full recipe and how to is below.
Be sure to check out Keri’s blog, It’s Showtime, where she shares all sorts of helpful (and cute!) entertaining tips!


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Pumpkin French Toast Waffles

Pumpkin French Toast Waffles _Natalie Paramore 1

Who is as excited as I am about Thanksgiving next weekend? I mean hello my entire existence revolves around food! This is my mecca of day if you know what I mean. I am kicking off my celebration on Sunday with 5o or so of my closest friends for a Friendsgiving Fiasco! Have y’all gotten into the Friendsgiving thing? I’m telling it is where it’s at. I love seeing all the different traditions and family recipes come together. Lots of fellowship, lots of wine, oh and I got a fire pit this year. Hello pumpkin pie smores! This girl is comin’ atcha so you better watch out (better not cry… ok ok too soon)

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King’s Hawaiian Christmas Bread Balls

Doesn’t everyone love a cake ball? I mean seriously, they are everywhere! But cake balls can be a little labor intensive if you ask me. Remember the Snicker’s Cake balls? I decided to make these super easy, not too sweet, no-bake sweet bread balls with the help of my friends at King’s Hawaiian!


Aren’t they cute? I think these would be especially fun to make with little kids. They are easy (no baking!) and fun to decorate. Plus, they are ready fast, so no impatient little ones.

You’ll need:

1 King’s Hawaiian Original  Round Sweet Bread

1 package of melting white chocolate

Sprinkles and icing to decorate!

Peel off pieces of bread and roll into golf ball sized balls. Roll them as tight as you can. The bread is so moist that this is really easy.

Melt the white chocolate according to the directions on the package. Using a spoon, dip each King Hawaiian Bread ball into the chocolate. Place on parchment paper or wax paper to harden.

Before the white chocolate hardens, sprinkle or decorate with fun sprinkle and icing!

And there you have it! Super easy and fun bread balls!

Yum! Have fun and Merry Christmas!

Grilled Chicken and Pomegranate Salad

In spite of the holiday hustle and bustle, I’ve been trying to keep it healthy. This seasonal salad is full of protein and lots of fresh greens and fruit to keep you going. The Gorgonzola and pomegranate go really well together. Grilling up the thinly sliced chicken breasts doesn’t take much time and adds a ton of flavor.

For this holiday inspired salad, you’ll need:
1lb of fresh arugula
1 1/2lbs thinly sliced chicken breasts
1/2 cup of Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

Freshly sliced pomegranate. So gorgeous! Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Set aside.

Drizzle the chicken breasts with one tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of garlic sea salt. Grill over medium fire until completely cooked. About five minutes each side.

Slice into strips.

Toss together sliced grilled chicken, pomegranate seeds, lemon juice, remaining garlic sea salt and olive oil. Place over a heaping bed of fresh arugula. Sprinkle with Gorgonzola and add salt and pepper to taste.


What healthy recipes are you incorporating this season?

10 Tips for Staying Skinny during the Holidays

The holidays are in full swing! One thing I struggle with every year is attempting to not pack on those extra five pounds in a six-week long indulgence spree from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. This year I’ve been a lot better, and considering I’ve been able to keep up some of these habits the past few weeks, I thought I would share!

photo from My Geek Opinions
1. Drink tons of water!

It helps you stay full and the extra hydration is great for your hair and skin with all the dry, cold air.

Photo from Between Naps on the Porch
2. Get out of the kitchen!

I know, I’m a total foodie, I shouldn’t be saying this buuuuut, stay away from the food table or kitchen during holiday gatherings. Standing next to those tempting little morsels makes it all the harder to resist.

photo from Bon Appetit
3. Skip the second serving

Don’t do it! Just say no. Load up your plate with your favorites, then call it quits. It’s tough I know, but eating second servings all season will really add up.

photo from Better Recipes
4. Taste your dessert

One thing I’ve always done, is to only take little bites of all the desserts. Don’t grab three pieces of pie and five cookies. Instead serve yourself a little bite size taste of each dessert. That way you can try everything without over indulging.

Taste your dessert

photo from Daily Makeover
5. Pick your Poison

Those alcohol drinks are calorie packed! Lots of sugary syrups and extra shots have tons of extra calories. Indulge in one or two favorites this season then go with a lower calorie option the rest of the time. You’ll thank yourself later.

photo from Cooking Light
6. Bring a healthy option

Be the change you want to see! Bring a healthy side or low-calorie dessert to your holiday parties.

photo from Localism
7. Plan active holiday outings

Get out and go ice skating, snow skiing or play football with the family. Instead of driving around to look at holiday lights, park the car and walk around the neighborhood.

If you’re in Austin, go ice skating at Whole Foods or walk around the Trail of Lights!

photo from Confections of a Foodie Bride
8. Start your day off healthy

Make sure to eat healthy at breakfast and lunch. Save calories and ward off hunger with protein packed smoothies and snacks. Also, just say no to holiday treats around the office.

photo from Health Magazine
9. Schedule extra workouts

I know, I know you’re sooo busy. I am too. So my workouts have been scheduled at 6am multiple days a week for the past month or so. It’s tough getting up at 5:30am, but it is worth it. I feel great afterwards and now my evenings are free to attend lots of fun holiday parties! And guess what? No guilt over skipping the gym. Plus, I need that extra calorie burn for…

photo from Pinch of Yum
1. Indulge… A little.

It is the holidays after all! Still have your holiday favorites! Try these Mini Thumbprint Cookies fromPinch of Yum. You won’t feel nearly as guilty or pay the price in extra pounds if you’ve been keeping up some healthy activities during this season.

What are you doing to stay fit this holiday season?

Hershey’s Kisses Candy Cane Cookies

I bought a bag of Candy Cane Hershey’s Kisses on a Christmas shopping spree at the grocery store last week. I also bought a bunch of other candy cane paraphernalia along with a few boxes of White Fudge Covered Oreos. Those are a holiday family tradition I’ll have you know.


I wasn’t quite sure what kind of cookies I wanted to make with the Candy Cane Hershey’s Kisses. I thought about making some chocolate thumbprint cookies but the recipe on the back of the bag caught my eye. I have previously made recipes on the back of Hershey’s boxes with great success, so I thought what the heck. They looked cute and a-baking I went!

20121126-221426.jpg I took this recipe right off the bag of Candy Cane Hershey’s Kisses. You can find it online here.

The official name of this recipe is KISSES Candy Cane Blossoms.

You’ll need: 1 bag HERSHEY’S KISSES Brand Candy Cane Mint Candies 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened 1 cup granulated sugar 1 egg 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons milk Red or green sugar crystals, granulated sugar or powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt.

20121126-221509.jpg Beat butter, granulated sugar, egg and vanilla in large bowl until well blended.

20121126-221550.jpg Add in milk.

20121126-221615.jpg Stir everything together until well blended. I called my friend Yurko to come over and help me make these. We mixed everything by hand because it seems every time I use my mixer, I get all excited and mix the cookie dough too long. This only happens with cookies though.

20121126-221726.jpg Roll the cookie dough in colored granulated sugar. Make the balls small, 1 inch. This is really hard for me. I have a heavy hand when it comes to cookies.

20121126-221816.jpg Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. I used parchment paper to keep the cookies from sticking.

20121126-221901.jpg Let the cookies cool for 2-3 minutes then gently press the Hershey’s Kisses into the center of the cookies.

20121126-222003.jpg Ready to show off your gorgeous Christmas cookies!

20121126-222125.jpg They are pretty delicious.

20121126-222212.jpg And really not too hard to make. You could easily make these on a week night after work. Yurko and I also thought this would be a fun holiday activity for the kiddos.

20121126-222311.jpg I’m feeling the holiday spirit!

This is definitely on my top 10 favorite holiday commercials! Thought I would share with all of you!


How to Roast Chestnuts: A Quick Tutorial

 Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… Sing with me!

Ahhh perfect crisp morning here at my mom’s house, and perfect for roasting chestnuts! I’ve never tried roasted chestnuts before. So this was definitely a little treat. I mean, it couldn’t be that hard, right? Nope. Pretty easy actually. They smell delightful and have a light, sweet, nutty taste. We roasted these and ate them warm, yum!


First things first, pick up some chestnuts at the grocery store or farmer’s market. I used about a half a pound because there were only a few of us. According to Martha Stewart, chestnut season runs October through late December. For ripe chestnuts, you will want to find ones that are firm and shiny. The chestnuts should feel heavy in your hand and have no space between the skin and meat inside.

I gave mine a quick rinse and patted them dry. I am not sure if this completely necessary but I did it anyway. Preheat oven to about 425 degrees or turn on the broiler to high.

Using a sharp knife, slice x’s on the round tops of the chestnuts. Leave the flat side on the bottom. When slicing, be sure to slice way down into the nut until you’ve sliced into the yellow flesh.

Lay the sliced chestnuts onto a roasting pan and put into the oven for 25 minutes. This is what worked for me. I did a little research and times ranged from 15- 45 minutes… this probably has to do with each oven and how many chestnuts you are roasting at a time. Start by setting the timer for 15 minutes and keep an eye on the chestnuts until they are ready.

The chestnuts will be dark brown and the sliced edges will be curled up.

Begin to peel the chestnuts as soon as they are cool enough to handle. The skins and fuzz will peel away easier while the chestnuts are still warm. If they begin to cool too fast and become difficult to peel, pop them back in the oven for a minute or two to warm back up. Then finish peeling.

They were surprisingly easy to peel. Only a few of the nuts has some difficult parts, I used a knife to help me get those parts off.

After you remove all the shells, place the chestnuts in a bowl and serve. Or if you’re like my mom and me, we nibbled a few bites as we peeled. The nuts are sweet and best served warm in my opinion!

Roasting chestnuts was a fun and easy little activity to do with my mom.

This is my favorite version of Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire… enjoy!

Last Minute Thanksgiving Side Ideas

Are you all running around like a chicken with your head cut off too? Ok good. Glad I’m not alone there. Yesterday, I spent a lot of time perusing Pinterest for ideas about sides for tonight’s Friendsgiving I’m hosting. Then I spent all of last night grocery shopping and helping friends assemble dishes and casseroles for tonight’s feast. I’m making Granny’s Broccoli and Cheese Casserole! I can not wait to share that recipe with you all.

Luckily, I was able to pull off tonight’s Friendsgiving, mainly because its BYOB and everyone is bringing a side dish or dessert. But I still haven’t the faintest clue what I am going to make for my family on the big day. Although, I’m still not really allowed to cook for family yet. It’s Granny’s kitchen and I’m not supposed to get in the way! My Granny is a very sweet lady, but she still thinks I’m going to burn myself if I attempt to fry bacon or lose a finger if I dice an onion. Yes, I’m a 27 year old child in her eyes. So, my main job, is to taste test and clean up behind her. I still want to make something though, and I’m considering making one these yummy side dishes!

1. Heavenly Mashed Potatoes by Spoon Fork Bacon

2. Sautéed Acorn Squash by Cooking Planit

3. Creamy Fried Confetti Corn from Southern Living

4. White Cheddar Ancho Chile Grits adapted by me, originally from Bijouxs

5. Creamy Polenta from Cooking Planit

6. Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Pine Nuts from Cooking Planit

7. Green Beans with Creamy Mushrooms from Cooking Planit

8. Butternut Squash Gratin from Southern Living

9. Sweet Potato Bisque from Cooking Planit

10. White Cheddar Mac n Cheese from moi!

Let’s be real, it isn’t really Thanksgiving without loads of cheese and carbs! My two personal favorite food groups. What are you planning on making this year?

Vegan Pumpkin Bread made with Whole Wheat Flour

I have a guilty pleasure. Poundcakes and breads and more poundcakes. I just love them. Dense, moist and just the right balance of sweetness and vegetable. I eat them for breakfast, dessert… snack, really anytime I can find a reason to eat them. I give them away all the time. It’s great because most of these bread type recipes make two loaves. One for me, one for you. I took one over to my friend’s birthday party last night. The first loaf turned out pretty well. But I only have one bread pan (I should really cave and get another one). So after I made the first batch, I quickly took out that loaf and put the rest of the mixture in so it could bake. In true Natalie fashion, I was running late on a Friday night. Typical. The second loaf didn’t have time to finish baking, but I was already running late for the party, so I took it out, covered the pan in foil and stuck it in the toaster oven. This morning I woke up and the whole loaf had sunk. This makes for a sad Natalie. I thought, what the heck, I’m going to put this back in the oven and hope for the best. I figured it would just burn, but I didn’t have much to lose with a sunken loaf of pumpkin bread. Well, guess what!?! It started rise a little! Victory! The top got a little too brown and crunchy, but the middle rose up and the inside was still moist and delicious. I don’t recommend it as a first option, but it is in fact possible to revive a sunken loaf of bread. Holla atcha girl.

The whole wheat flour really gives this pumpkin bread a nice grit texture that you would not get with regular all-purpose flour. I adapted the recipe and didn’t make it quite as sweet. I love using pumpkin purée in recipes because it adds so much moisture. There is no need for butter or eggs. It also keeps the bread from drying out so quickly, so you have a few extra days of moist deliciousness.

This recipe is adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes 2 loaves

You’ll need:

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups brown sugar

1 1/3 vegetable oil

1 150z can of pure pumpkin purée

1/3 cup water

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoon allspice

OPTIONAL: 1 tablespoon powdered sugar for sprinkling

20121117-120525.jpg Whisk all of the dry ingredients together.

20121117-120559.jpg Whisk the pumpkin, oil and water together.

20121117-120639.jpg Combine and wet and dry ingredients. Make sure to scrape the bowl down and stir until there are no remaining flour bits.

Divide the mixture evenly between two bread pans. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Let cool then sprinkle with powdered sugar.

This smells incredible while baking!

I think it goes great with a cup of coffee for breakfast. Just sayin’.


Gevalia Holiday Coffee Giveaway

This past weekend was my birthday and I was busy playing and eating with friends. More on that in a later post though. What I am most excited to share with you is a holiday coffee giveaway from Gevalia.


A while back the good people over at Gevalia contacted me about trying out their coffee after stumbling across my Pumpkin Spice Frappucino  recipe. I thought about it for a while, and decided what better way to share about Gevalia than to give you fine folks some too!

 Who is ready for some delicious holiday coffee? This dark roast blend was originally only offered by Gevalia during the holidays. But now you can get it anytime! This roast isn’t as dark as some dark roasts, so I think it is perfect for sharing with house guests this season or great as a gift as well.

 Here is how the Gevalia coffee giveaway is going to work. Leave a comment below this post telling me your favorite holiday treat! It can be anything! A tradition, a dessert, a cocktail, a party… anything! I want to hear from you. Be sure to enter a valid email address so that I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I promise to not spam or sell your email address. It’s safe with me. Enter your comment on this post before midnight CST Saturday November 17th, 2012 to enter to win!

 You will win a bag of whole bean Gevalia Royal Vinter coffee sponsored by Gevalia. If you don’t have a coffee bean grinder, I can grind it for you if you like. And because I think you’re all so wonderful I am going to give you all the ingredients for this holiday coffee drink as well! See the recipe below. If you’re local, I’ll throw in the whip cream, otherwise, I won’t be able to ship it without the whipped cream spoiling. But you’ll still get an amazing bag of holiday coffee and all the goodies!

I had thought of making something super swanky and elaborate but after trying the coffee black, I thought it didn’t need much help. The beans are really great on their own so I only did a little holiday sprucing.

For two cups of coffee:
Add 1/8 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder into the coffee before brewing.

If you like sweet coffee, add 1/2 teaspoon sugar or sweetener of your choice.

Instead of cream or milk, top with heavy whip cream and sprinkle with cinnamon. Garnish with a cinnamon stick if you want to get really fancy.


Thank you Gevalia for giving me a bag of Royal Vinter to share!

Roasted Butternut Squash Waffles

Good Morning everyone! This heat has me dreaming of cool, fall weather. Or more importantly, fall recipes! Fall is absolutely, 100% my favorite time of year. So no surprise that I am ready to dive into fall recipes!

I’ve been dreaming up this idea for roasted butternut squash waffles for a while now. The sweet smell of baking cinnamon will bring the whole house into your kitchen to see what you’re making. I’m pretty proud of this recipe, it’s my 2nd time to make a baking recipe on my own !

For these waffles, you’ll need:
1 cup cake or pastry flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 tablespoon of vanilla
3/4 cup butternut squash purée
1 egg

This yields about 6 large waffles.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.

For the butternut squash purée, you’ll need to roast the squash in the oven as shown here. After you roast the squash in the oven, remove the seeds and guts. Place the chunks of soft butternut squash into a food processor with the vanilla extract. Pulse until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of water if needed to help blend.

Once smooth, mix egg and butternut squash purée together on medium speed for about 45 seconds.

Then add the dry mixture and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Add the dry mixture about half at a time to avoid a powdery mess. Scrape down sides of bowl.

Coat your waffle iron with non-stick spray. Then pour the mixture in and let it do it’s thing!

Whoopsies! Had a little spillage! Be sure not to pour too much batter in!

Meanwhile, Emily whipped us up some awesome eggs to add a little protein to our breakfast! Thanks Emily!

I dusted the roasted butternut squash waffles with powdered sugar. The usual culprits, butter and syrup, go deliciously well with these waffles too!

This batter will keep for a few days in the fridge. This would be the perfect 1st day of school breakfast! Or a perfect weekend breakfast with friends as well.