A Tale of Two Thanksgivings

Thankgiving
Everyone across the United States celebrates Thanksgiving, however this holiday experience varies depending upon geographic location, climate, local customs, and food specialties.

Hawaii & New England
Sometimes it’s nice to see how other people celebrate. It gives you a chance to see the holiday from a fresh perspective. Below is a side-by-side comparison of two Thanksgiving celebrations: Hawaii is on the left and New England is on the right.

Sandy Shores Rocky Coast
Landscapes: Sandy Beaches versus Rugged Rocky Coastline

Rain on Petals Frosty Leaf
Weather: Warm Tropical Showers versus Cool Crisp Air & Snow

Pineapples Gourds
Decorations: Pineapples versus Pumpkins & Gourds

Plumeria & Chrysanthemums
Flowers: Wild Plumeria versus Potted Chrysanthemums

Torchlight & Candle Light
Lighting: Outdoor Torchlight versus Indoor Candlelight

Bird of Paradise & Cornucopia
Centerpieces: Exotic Flowers versus Harvest Cornucopia

Tropical Cocktail & Hot Beverage
Drinks: Cool Tropical Cocktails versus Hot Beverages

Fresh Fruit & Hot Soup
Appetizers: Tropical Fruit versus Hot Hearty Soups

Roast Pork & Roast Turkey
Entrées: Roast Pork versus Roast Turkey

Vegetables
Vegetables: Pacific Rim Blend versus Roast Sweet Potatoes

Chocolate Coffee Cheesecake Pumpkin Pie
Desserts: Chocolate Kona Coffee Cheesecake versus Pumpkin Pie

Fire Dance & Fireplace
After Dinner: Fire Dancing versus Relaxing by the Fire

I hope these celebrations will inspire and enrich your next family gathering. You might want to consider a change of venue or a change of décor to shake things up a bit. Whatever you decide, there are two constants you can always count on: Love and Gratitude shared with Family and Friends

Happy Thanksgiving & Happy Crafting!

Pumpkin – Baking with Seasonal Flavor

Pumpkins
After Halloween has come and gone, you might be wondering what to do with all those leftover pumpkins. Whether you prefer fresh or canned pumpkin, there are plenty of delicious ways to enjoy this seasonal favorite. There’s nothing like the mouth-watering aromas of homemade cookies and pastries, straight from the oven. It may be a cold fall and winter, but you can warm hearts and bellies with a lot of love and a few easy recipes.

Iced Pumpkin Donuts
Iced Donuts
To save you time and ensure success, the baking section of your local craft store has a large selection of pans, including bundt cake, cupcakes, muffins, jelly roll, etc. One of the more unusual pans is for baking donuts. Since no deep fryer is required, anyone can bake donuts at home, and the same pan can be used to make bagels too.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Vanilla Frosting
Bundt Cake
A fluted pan is the secret to the bundt cake. This photo shows the standard version of a bundt cake with icing drizzled over the top. If you really want to impress your guests, prepare an unexpected surprise by adding filling. To do this, pour half the batter into the pan. Spread the filling around the pan, ensuring it does not touch the inner or outer edges of the pan. Pour the remaining batter on top and bake. When the cake is sliced, the unusual profile of the slice will be enhanced by a colorful creamy center.

Homemade Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin bread needs to cool before slicing. By refrigerating the loaf, the bread becomes moist like a cake. Toasted pumpkin bread is delicious with melted peanut butter. Metal pans are fine, but for baking bread I prefer a ceramic loaf pan. I don’t know about you, but the sound of metal scraping makes my skin crawl. Ceramic cleans up easier too.

Spiced Pumpkin Roll with Orange Cream Cheese Icing
Pumpkin Roll
A spiral design is the hallmark of this impressive dessert, but it’s easy to make, and will melt in your mouth. Bake the cake in a jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper. After baking, lay the cake face down on a towel. If necessary, trim any ragged edges. Starting with a long side, roll the cake in the towel and cool completely on a wire rack. Unroll and remove the towel, and lay cake flat. Spread the filling over the top within 1/2” of the edges. Suggested fillings include whipped cream, pie filling, and pudding. Carefully roll the cake and place it with the seam side down on a platter. Garnish as desired.

Pumpkin Muffins
Pumpkin Muffins
Pumpkin muffins are delicious as is, or shake a little powdered sugar over the top. Sometimes the simplest version is the best.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Whipped Cream & Graham Cracker Crust
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Cheesecake is a dessert menu staple. The only bad thing about pumpkin cheesecake is that it’s only available from October through January, or February if you’re lucky. Beyond that you’ll have to wait until the next pumpkin season.

Walnut Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
Walnut Pumpkin Pie
A pastry bag and fresh whipped cream will dress up any baked goods, but it’s just as easy to use a can of whipped cream. For best results, practice a few floral shapes first before tackling the final product.

Traditional Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Crust
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie typically has a delicious flaky crust. This baker created a pretty undulating pattern with the crust and garnished the top with a leaf cut from the same pastry crust. There are some really cool baking tools, such as fluted piecrust cutters for edging, and spring-loaded piecrust cutters to create cutouts or appliqués, like the leaf shown in the photo above.

Chocolate Drizzled Pumpkin Pie with Chocolate Crust
Pumpkin Tart
This contemporary pumpkin pie has a chocolate graham cracker bottom crust, and a pumpkin cream cheese filling. For a no-bake version, buy a ready-to-use crust.

Savory Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin Soup
Like butternut squash, pumpkin soup gets its savory flavor from rich heavy cream and just the right amount of seasoning from ginger, cinnamon, onion and celery.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Pumpkin Pancakes
Do you love pancakes but are bored with the same old taste? Boost the flavor and your taste buds by adding 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin for every 2 cups of batter.

Homemade Pumpkin Pudding
Pumpkin Pudding
Deep-dish pumpkin pudding tastes delicious while still warm from the oven, or chilled and served with fresh whipped cream. If you’ve never had it, the top and edges have a cake-like texture, but the rest is creamy pudding with that awesome pumpkin flavor. If your favorite part of a pumpkin pie is the filling, this pudding will be your new go-to dessert.

Baking is a fun and rewarding activity to be shared with the whole family. Enjoy the process and remember you can always eat your mistakes.

Happy Crafting!

Save Room for Dessert

Assorted Desserts
There’s a reason they say: “Life is short. Eat dessert first.” It really is the best part of the meal. Now that spring has arrived, there will be plenty of entertaining opportunities. Why not offer to bring dessert? Many people don’t realize that craft stores have large baking departments with specialty pans, cake decorating tools, glassware, cake plates, fondant and many other useful tricks of the trade to make your desserts the hit of the party.

Apple Pie
Apple Pie – Hot apple pie a la mode is a favorite any time of year. Layering the apple slices across the top in a creative spiral design adds to the visual appeal.

Birds Nests
Chocolate Birds Nests – Kids and adults love the taste of Rice Krispie Treats but these have a wonderful springtime chocolate twist. Simply follow the recipe using chocolate rice cereal.  Drop spoonfuls into cupcake wrappers and shape into nests. For the finishing touch, place a few malted milk eggs or jellybeans on top as eggs.

Brownie
Brownies with Heart – Everyone has a recipe for brownies. To make them extra special, bake them in a specialty pan with individual compartments. Cut out a paper heart and set in on top, and then sprinkle with powdered sugar. It’s so much more impressive than the usual square cut brownie.

Caramel Flan
Caramel Flan – This delicious egg custard has a caramel glaze poured over the top.

Raspberry Cheesecake
Raspberry Cheesecake – Any flavor of cheesecake is a delicious choice year round.

Chocolate Fudge Cake
Chocolate Fudge Cake – This chocolate lover’s dream has a thick layer of chocolate fudge icing, chocolate filling and a chocolate graham cracker crust. Yummy!

Chocolate Roll
Red Velvet Roll – Moist rich chocolate cake filled with vanilla cream and topped with chocolate shavings, coffee beans and a dusting of chocolate powder – Who could resist?

Chocolate Truffles
Chocolate Truffles – To make these decadent truffles, you will need to fill the candy mold one layer at a time. Form the outer shell by coating the mold with chocolate. Next add the filling. Popular favorites are hazelnuts, butter cream, peanut butter, caramels, chocolate liqueurs and cream fillings. A piping bag can be used to make filling easier. Refrigerate the mold to allow the filling and chocolate to solidify. The last step is adding another layer of chocolate to fill any remaining voids and seal the top of the mold. Refrigerate and carefully un-mold. If you want a more colorful treat, dip each truffle in melted chocolate and then dip in candy sprinkles.  Your candy making skills will be the envy of all your guests.

Cookies
Assorted Cookies – Dress up your next batch of cookies by using fanciful cookie cutters, and embellishing with icing, sprinkles, nuts or dipping chocolate.

Cupcakes
Cupcakes – These are easy to make party favorites and kids love to help with decorating.

Fruit Tart
Fruit Tart – This is a beautiful, eye-catching dessert. It’s all about the pattern and colors. The brightly colored plate creates the perfect frame for this artistic piece.

Fruit Yogurt
Yogurt Parfaits – What could be easier than mixing yogurt and fresh fruit?

Muffins
Muffins – Decorative paper wraps add pizzazz to simple muffins and cupcakes. Use a piping bag to apply whipped cream icing and top with a few berries and a sprig of mint.

Raspberry Vanilla Pudding
Raspberry Vanilla Pudding – While this may appear fancy, it’s easy to make. You’ll need an empty egg carton to hold the glass dishes at an angle. Mix the pudding, pour it into the tilted dishes and refrigerate. Puree raspberries and pour onto the firm pudding. A little whipped cream, a few chocolate pieces, a fresh raspberry and a mint leaf complete this visually intriguing dessert.

Strawberry Cream Puffs
Cream Puffs – Two dessert favorites in one: cream puffs and strawberry shortcake.

So many delicious choices! What’s your favorite? The only challenge in making dessert is preventing your family from devouring it before the guests arrive. Oh well, you can always make extra just in case.

Happy Crafting!

Baking for the Holidays

Cookie Cutters & Dough
As the weather turns colder, my thoughts turn to baking. The scent of home baked cookies wafting through the air is sure to be followed by the thumping footfalls of my family as they bound down the stairs in search of something sweet from the oven. I have to admit I love it too and have sampled more than a few of my own creations.

In addition to satisfying your family, baked goods make great gifts for guests, neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Below are several ideas for inspiration.

Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread Cookies
These charming gingerbread cookies are served on an equally adorable pinwheel candy plate. They’re easy to make, or you can buy plain ones and apply your own colorful candy and icing decorations.

Gingerbread Houses
Gingerbread Houses
Everyone loves home baked goods. How about baked goods that require no baking at all (at least on your part)? Gingerbread kits come in a number of varieties, such as cookies, houses, and villages, and include all the necessary candies, icing, and yes the baked gingerbread too. The whole family will enjoy building and eating their creations.

Traditional Christmas Cookies
Decorated Christmas Cookies
Decked out in green, red and white icing, these cookies celebrate Christmas in the sweetest possible way.  If you have a long list of people to bake for, get the whole family involved with the decorating to speed up the process in this fun activity.

Assorted Butter Cookies
Gourmet Butter Cookies
Butter cookies are finger licking good. If you are pressed for time, many bakeries offer ready-made cookie platters to share with your friends and family or give as gifts.

Fancy Cookie Cut Outs
Fancy Jelly Filled Cookie
This elegant cookie looks professionally made, but it’s actually quite easy to make yourself. All you need are two cookie cutters – one large round with scalloped edges, and the second in the shape of a swan or any design you prefer. Layer two large cookies on top of each other, with strawberry or raspberry filling, to make this sandwich cookie. The bottom cookie is solid, while the top cookie has a swan cut out in the center. Shake powdered sugar on top for a beautiful bakery finish.

Iced Snowman Cookies
Iced Snowman Cookies
Snowmen are seasonal favorites. These individually wrapped cookies would make great party favors for your guests. If you have extra, they’re popular items at the school bake sales. Of course that assumes your family doesn’t finish them off first. (lol)

Holiday Cookie & Candy Platter
Holiday Cookie & Candy Platter
Homemade cookies & candy go hand in hand. This creative assortment tantalizes the taste buds. Should I have a cookie first or dive into the chocolates? There are plenty of candy mold designs suitable for any occasion, and new flavors in candy melts will please the most adventuresome candy aficionados.

Assorted Homemade Breads
Assorted Homemade Breads
Breads are delicious any time of year. With so many recipes and the ease of baking, anyone can make homemade bread in less than an hour. Crafter Tip: Many types of bread need to be fully cooled, and sometimes refrigerated before slicing. To prevent crumbling, be sure to follow the recipe instructions.

Christmas Petits Fours
Christmas Petit Fours
Petits Fours are the perfect marriage of cake and candy. Fondant icing is actually candy used to cover bite size cubes of yellow, sponge or pound cake. While the fondant is still wet, decorations can be applied using piped icing, or a sprinkling of either candy or nuts. As an added burst of flavor, jelly or butter cream can be spread over the cake prior to applying the fondant.

Snowman Cupcakes
Snowman Cupcakes
These snowman and snowlady cupcakes are almost too cute to eat. The bodies are standard size cupcakes, and the heads are mini cupcakes. Coconut is the perfect substitute for snow. Oreos become top hats for the gentlemen, and piped icing details create all the smiling faces and earmuffs for the ladies.

Hanukkah Donuts
Hanukkah Donuts
It wouldn’t be Hanukkah without deep-fried jelly donuts sprinkled with granulated sugar.

Cranberry Rhubarb Pie
Cranberry Rhubarb Pie
Cranberries play a large part in many holidays. There’s cranberry sauce as a side item with your meal, cranberry garlands and sprigs as decorative touches, and cranberry muffins and pies.

Whether you bake everything from scratch, or supplement your desserts with store-bought items, the holidays are a time of sharing, especially at mealtime. Enjoying the seasonal flavors with loved ones is something we all have in common. Please read “Holiday Food Presentation” for ideas on displaying your culinary creations.

Happy Holidays & Happy Crafting!