Thanksgiving Gifts

I wanted to give my friends a little gift for Thanksgiving, showing them that I value our friendship and that I’m thankful to have them in my life.

I came up with these cute little potpourri bags (free printable tags found here).

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Photo credit: Lauren Kolodziej

When shopping at Michael’s one day, I saw the linen bags that say “Give Thanks” on them. I bought 2 packs of 3, knowing I’d find a way to use them, whether it was to wrap a small gift or to hold silverware at a place setting. I put them in a bin and forgot about them for a little bit.

Cut to a few weeks earlier when I went on a quest with one of my friends to find some pumpkin scented potpourri. I found it on a late night run to Walmart. It’s the Better Homes & gardens brand, Spiced Pumpkin Pie Scent. I put it out in a couple places of the house, and it smells like fall every time I walk in those rooms.

The day before Thanksgiving, I decided to put the bags and the potpourri together and make little scented satchels for my friends.

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Photo credit: Lauren Kolodziej

I figured they could use the gift as it was, by putting it in a bedroom or bathroom, or, they could out the potpourri into a small bowl.

The day after I gave these out, one of my friends texted me telling me how much she loved the gift and that I had inspired her to make these for some ladies on her husband’s side of the family. I couldn’t have been happier to hear it!

If you can’t find holiday-specific linen bags, try to find blank bags, get a festive rubber stamp and some ink, and stamp your own bags. I promise it’s easy, and you’ll feel extra crafty.

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Boozy Apple Cider Spice

My husband has a super power. He can whip up a tasty cocktail, using only what we have at the house, in a nano- second. Must be his creative mind.

In any case, I had to share his latest creation. Especially if you’re in need of a festive cocktail to serve for Thanksgiving next week. I call it a Boozy Apple Cider Spice.

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Ingredients:

2 parts white whiskey (or apple moonshine, if you have some)

4 parts apple cider

1 part maple syrup

Pour all ingredients into a shaker over ice. Shake and pour into glass.

Garnish with apple slices to make pretty.

Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints

It seems this blog has become dessert central during the holidays. I’m not really surprised, as I’m the baker in our group of friends, but I’ll try to change it up next time to keep things interesting.

We had some friends come over yesterday to watch the Bears game. We had a simple spread of chili simmering in the crockpot and cornbread to eat throughout the game. I tried something new for dessert – these thumbprint cookies.

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I had a jar of pumpkin butter sitting around that I wanted to use. I had some pecans from the pecan pie bars. I immediately thought of thumbprint cookies.

This recipe became my base. I had forgotten how good cookies are with a cream cheese base. Yum.

These cookies are a great dessert if you want just a hint of sweetness. The cookies themselves have a more muted flavor with the star being the pumpkin butter. Pumpkin butter isn’t super sweet, certainly not as sweet as jelly, which is traditionally used in thumbprint cookies.

The pecans added a nice crunch and texture. You could skip them, but I wouldn’t. They really helped make the cookie. I love the way they look too.

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Well, if you were wondering what to make for Thanksgiving dessert, I think you have some pretty worth contenders in the recipes I’ve shared over the past week. If you do try a recipe, definitely let me know how you like it.

Apple Pie Bars

Need a way to use up the rest of the salted caramel sauce you made from the pecan pie bars? I did, simply so I didn’t eat it out of the jar with a spoon.

I made apple pie bars.

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These are tasty, but they are kind of a pain to make. I’ll start at the beginning.

I found this recipe and decided to try it out for our group Friendsgiving. I liked that it was semi-homemade, using a mix as a base for the crust bottom of the bar. It was a time saver, which was really helpful when I knew I was baking multiple desserts. I also had some of the homemade caramel sauce around, so I used that instead of the caramel apple dip.

Problem #1: Getting the crust mixture onto the baking pan. The crust dough is super sticky and would not spread evenly. I used a spatula, I used my fingers, I used flour for my fingers, and I even sprayed cooking spray on my fingers. Nothing helped. Eventually, I got an even layer of crust, but it was a pain in the butt.

Problem #2: The baking time seemed way off to me. After 25 minutes, the middle was still jiggly. I continued baking for 5 minute increments for at least 15 minutes longer. Maybe it was the swap of caramel sauce to blame, but I was getting worried that the crust would burn while the top was still uncooked. Eventually, I took the pan out and hoped when cool the bars would firm up. Luckily, they did.

Problem #3: The icing was too thick to drizzle. I used more water than called for in the ingredients. You need to.

I would make these again, because they were so good, but I’d prepare myself for an epic battle with the crust.

Salted Caramel Pecan Pie Bars

These bars pack all the taste of a pie into a small bar. I’ve made them twice now, and I’m sure I’ll make them again this Thanksgiving season.

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I used this recipe, and followed it to the letter. I decided to make my own caramel sauce, using this recipe. In the case of caramel, homemade really is better than storebought. I will caution that in the first batch, I used the whole teaspoon of salt, and thought it was a bit much. My second batch only used half a teaspoon, and I think it needed more. Go figure. Do use the good vanilla though – it really comes through in the complex flavors. I used some bourbon infused vanilla that I picked up at Woodford Reserve while there on a distillery tour last summer, and you could taste it.

You should probably make the bars and drizzle the caramel sauce the night before you plan on needing them. The first time I made them, we brought them to a party that evening, and the caramel sauce got everywhere. It could have used some time to harden up. Still tasty, just a bigger mess.

 

They are quite rich, so I cut them into teeny squares. Perhaps that was just because i love bite sized desserts, but I think they really are better in bite sized pieces.

I’ll be sharing one more dessert post with you (hopefully this week) to help you choose some great Thanksgiving night desserts. Stay tuned!

 

Ree’s Friendsgiving Chocolate Pie

I love Ms. P-Dubs. Note: She gave herself that nickname. That’s part of why I love her.

Of course, I’m talking about Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman. When I saw her recipe for chocolate pie, I thought of a few chocolate-lovers in my life that I’m sure would really enjoy having  a piece.

Luckily, most of them were at a Friendsgiving gathering that my dear friends, Lauren and Kyle, hosted yesterday.

I followed the recipe exactly. There is no way to improve it. It’s just that good.

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That is the one piece that was left. Mind you, there were  nine adults there, and I made another dessert too (which I’ll share with you later in the week).

Ree didn’t specify what kind of crust was best to make with this (she suggests store-bought graham cracker or oreo). I decided to use the homemade graham cracker crust my mother-in-law uses with her banana cream pie.

Graham Cracker Crust:

1 3/4 graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup white sugar

8 tbsp melted butter

Combine all ingredients well and press into a 9 inch pie pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 6 minutes.

I poured the chocolate pudding into the crust before the crust was completely cooled and it was fine. Then, I refrigerated the pie uncovered overnight, so it would really firm up.

For the topping, I just took a hand mixer to 4 ounces of whipping cream (which is the amount that was left in the half pint carton of whipping cream after I made the pudding), and spread it on top of the cooled, already had been in the fridge overnight, pie.

The night of Friendsgiving, after I went home, I received 2 “the pie is delicious” texts, and my husband ate the last piece of pie shortly after the above photo was taken.

Conclusion: Make this pie.

Fall Harvest Caramel Apple Mini Pies

I baked these a while ago, but I want to make more. I just can’t get enough of these mini caramel apple pies.

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I find myself making these kind of “mini” desserts often. I think it’s because I find people are more willing to take a two bite mini pie than cut themselves a whole piece. Maybe it seems like less of a commitment? Trust me, if you make these, you won’t be taking any home at the end of the party.

Ingredients:

1 package store bought pie crust (2 crusts)

3 chopped granny smith apples (you can use any baking apple)

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp flour

cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, and nutmeg to taste

1 egg (used to make egg wash)

turbinado sugar (to sprinkle on top)

caramel sauce (storebought or homemade is fine)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Start by taking a circle shaped cookie cutter (or a glass, like I used) and cut out the mini pie crusts. Put each circle into a mini muffin pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

In a big bowl, gently stir together the apples, sugars, flour, and spices. you want everything mixed, but you don’t want the apples to turn to mush. Spoon the apple mixture into the pie crusts, being careful to keep the juice you take along with the apples to the minimum.

Now, it’s time to do the top of the pies. I did half my pies in a lattice and the other half in a vented whole top. My feedback told me that there was a slight preference for the lattice top. I think the ratio of filling to crust is better with a minimal time. I’d recommend doing a lattice or a cut out shape (apple, leaf, etc) on top.

Once your pies are assembled, beat the egg with just a little bit of water to make an egg wash. Brush the tops of each pie with the wash. This will make the tops golden toasty and delicious. Finish each pie off with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar.

Now, I was nervous that the filling would become so hot that it would bubble over the top of each pie, making an ugly mess. To combat this, I wrapped the mini cupcake pan in foil, and baked it for 10 minutes. Take the foil off, turn the pan, and bake for another 10 minutes.

While the mini pies are still hot, drizzle the caramel over the top of each one. This gave the pies just  a hint of caramel flavor. If you want a stronger flavor, I’d suggest adding the caramel to the apple mixture before putting the filling in each pie. Still add caramel on top at the end, for a pretty effect.

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I’m hoping to post some of the other fall desserts I’ll be making over the weekend, so check back soon for more sweet treats.