A Taste of Thanksgiving: Dessert

Pass the plates, it doesn't get any sweeter than Thanksgiving desserts!

Are you a 'fill the buffet with desserts' family? Or are you more modest with just one or two pies? Our desserts used to actually outnumber our dinnertime side dishes on Thanksgiving! As we all got older, especially the kids, we began to make a more concerted effort to flip the numbers. We have been successful and are able to enjoy full-bellies after our feast, without the sugar overload!

In today's re-share I offer up a recipe for "Turkey Cookies" which, I sadly announced just yesterday, we will no longer be making... at least until I have grand-kids to make them for/with!! My (now grown) kids seemed to understand since, as much as they love them, their work schedules won't allow them to help make and their non-youthful bodies cannot consume the lot before Christmas arrives anymore! However, it is a sad passing of this tradition.

As we have sought to better balance our Turkey-day meals, we also were able to trim the access by considering WHAT we wanted represented on our dessert buffet. Usually, by this point in the year, we have had apple crisp and/or pie and dumplings multiple times through the fall for other weekday desserts. So, our offerings have become more of tradition + rare AND a slight taste of Christmas, since we usually close out the evening by watching The Santa Clause (1) and plotting a weekend full of decorating.

Whatever suits your budget and family hankerings, do that! Life is always sweeter with a little extra dessert!

Ready to explore our last installment in the series?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Today we top off our week with some fun tid-bits.  The first week we looked at Thanksgiving Appetizers, because we were just starting out.  Last week we dove into the Main Meal, because we had been getting into the meat and potatoes of the mont!  This week is like the cherry on top... what is sweeter than dessert?!

Perfect Pie Crust

I'm not going to bore you with ANOTHER pumpkin pie recipe.  There are tons.  I do the standard.  I can share our favorite pie crust recipe though.  Something which stands out among all the others and begs people to ask how you did it... while you simply smile and assure them in their unbelief that it was so easy you didn't even break a sweat!

For a 2 crust pie You need:
2 cups flour (I use regular white or all purpose, almond flour works good too)
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup lard or shortening
7 Tbsp cold water

Wooden (or other) spoon
pastry blender or a large fork
rolling pin
additional flour for dusting surface to roll on
Medium-large metal or glass bowl

I use a large metal bowl because I am messy and my mix will get EVERYWHERE if I don't!  In  your bowl, combine flour and salt.  Cut in the lard/shortening until mixture resembles crumbs.  Add water and stir with spoon.  Set spoon aside and use hands to lightly kneed in the remaining crumbs in the bowl (this does not need to be a technical kneed... just simply making sure all ingredients are combined)

Divide dough in half.  Form dough halves into a disk.  From here you can either wrap in wax paper and Ziploc to store in the fridge or freezer for later use... or... roll disks according to needed crust for pie recipes.  For extra flavor you can put a quick dash of nutmeg into the flour mixture before cutting in the lard OR a small splash of vanilla into the water before adding it in. This recipe is pretty forgiving, so don't stress!  Even when I need a single crust I will make a two-crust batch and freeze the extra.  (Interestingly, this is the same recipe I use in Pot Pie!) 

*Pie Crust baking tips

  • When possible, pre-bake pie crust about 5 minutes, it helps avoid soggy bottoms!
  • To avoid burnt pie crust edges, tear off thin strips of foil (1-2" wide) and cover the pie crust edges before baking.

Cranberry Apple Crisp

While we are on the subject of pie, I have to share a phenomenal recipe I found online at the Family Fun website a few years ago.  I'm glad I printed it then because I can't find it's duplicate now!  I have, of course, made a few modifications to fit us. Just in case you are snubbing your nose at "cranberry" in the title,  I also have to confess that I do NOT rush to the cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving buffet... ever.  However, I have found that I love whole cranberries in Cranberry Bread, Festive Cranberry Pineapple Salad (which appeared in every other magazine I purchased back in the early 2000s) and Cranberry Scones... along with this recipe.  It is reminiscent of a rhubarb pie but not as tart, much softer on the pallet.

What you need:
1 Pie crust
2 cups apples, peeled, cored, chopped to desired pie size (I make approx 1"x1/8" slices)
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (whole berries like you get in produce section)
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp flour

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 Tbsp cold butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 400.  Roll out pie crust and place in your pie pan so it comes to the lip of the pie pan.  You can do a decorative edge if you like.

Combine all pie ingredients and pour into crust filled pie pan..  Bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients of the crumb topping and cut in the butter using a large fork or pastry blender (I usually do this in the same bowl I used for the pie fillings).

Remove pie from oven, reduce temperature to 375 and sprinkle the crumb topping over top.  Bake for another 25-30 minutes, until top is golden and the juice seem to be thickening and bubbling around edges. 

The pie is best when it has sat for a couple hours before serving.  You might want to make 2.... it will go fast!

Turkey Cookies

Back in the early 2000s I was addicted to magazines on homemaking and family. (Like, seriously, a.d.d.i.c.t.e.d... I once used an accumulated 30,000 points I had accumulated at the grocery store to buy a stack of magazines rather than receive a HUGE discount on my groceries!!) I think Kraft was trying to boost marketing when they started sending out FREE cooking magazines to avid readers every few months with awesome recipes which were quick, budget friendly, and easy to follow.  One recipe we latched onto was called Chocolate Holiday Bears and turned out to be a substitute for Gingerbread boys... I can't have gingerbread, I have an allergy to the smell and consumption... seriously (I'm weird like that).  I saw the cute bears and instead thought "Turkeys!"  The rest, as they say, is history!  We make these every year now, share them with friends and neighbors and I even make extra dough for the freezer so I am ready for 'Gingerbread' boys at Christmas!  I only regret I don't have a finished product picture to show you.

What you need:
3/4 cup butter, softened (I use margarine)
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 pkg (4 serving size) chocolate dry instant pudding mix
1 egg
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For decorating:
3 sq Semi Sweet Baking Chocolate (I use chocolate chips when I don't have it)
Decorations such as small candies, sprinkles, candy corn, coconut, slivered almonds, etc. (we tried marshmallows one year but they hardened and weren't very good)

Preheat oven to 350. 

Beat butter, sugar, pudding mix and egg in large bowl with electric mixer on medium until well blended.  Combine remaining dry ingredients and gradually add to the wet ingredients.  Form into a disk and refrigerate for up to an hour. 

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to about 1/4" thick and cut with cookie cutters.  We use turkeys, leaves, acorns and sometimes even pumpkins when little ones are in charge!  Place on greased baking sheet.  Bake for 10-14 minutes or until slightly firm.  When done, remove from pan and cool on rack.

Melt chocolate in microwave dish or double broiler (Micro on medium for 2 min).  Spread chocolate over desired area of cookie. We usually spread it on the "feathers" at the back end of our turkeys, the "tops" of our acorns or over the entirety of our leaves.  I like to use a toothpick to trace the 'veins' of the leaves in the chocolate, giving them a more three-dimensional look. After spreading the chocolate, add decorations such as candies, sprinkles, etc. Chocolate will harden as they sit and decorations will be affixed. You can also forgo the melted chocolate and simply serve plain. 

This recipe will make quite a bit as you roll, combine scraps, and re-roll.  Don't double unless you expect to share with A LOT of people or freeze half the dough for Christmastime.

Our craft this week was inspired by an old, long-ago, public school project my oldest [now 29] did in early elementary.  We have done it every year now as a family for as long as I can remember and no matter how old my kids get, they still look forward to it... as do hubby and I!

Turkey in Disguise

(also known as SAVE THE TURKEYS!)

What you need:
Turkey template (below) printed on card stock
Whatever arts and crafts odds and ends you have on hand
Construction paper
Glue (school glue for bigger objects, glue stick for paper-to-paper)
Imagination (did I mention that yet?)

(Click on image to access FREE PDF printable)

ANYTHING goes with this project, as you will see below.  The only rule is that you have to use the turkey and design around him. We usually cut him out and the proceed with decorating. The idea is to help the turkey put on a disguise so he won't be recognized and, therefore, eaten at Thanksgiving! One year, I cut a wagon wheel out of construction paper and glued it on my turkey as though he were holding it and trying to hide, hubby used an old iPad cover over the top of his printed turkey and turned him into an iPad.  Brenden once made his a trash can using construction paper for the can and actual wrappers and "garbage" glued on!  The sky is the limit....

(last year's [2014] disguises)

Brenden disguised his turkey as Dustfinger having been inspired by reading Inkheart at the time.

Ashley was reading (and then watching) Left Behind (with Kirk Cameron).  Surely no one will cook good ole Buck?!

Brooke was thoroughly inspired after just attending her first live concert and meeting Brandon Heath.  No Turning Back on this one!  (one hand holds a ticket, the other a pen for signing with - he had signed her ticket for her)

Hubby has quite the eye for detail (and disguise) as well.  His theory: if you think it's skunk surely you won't hunt it for Thanksgiving dinner!!

For mine I used some extra Dollar Store silk leaves and cut out some wood looking contact paper we had in our miscellaneous craft supply bin! Just in case anyone wondered, I had to make it clear: NO turkeys here, try looking elsewhere!!

Sometimes we decorate our turkeys early in November. Other years, we did them the weekend before Thanksgiving. They make a fun addition to the seasonal decor as we prepare for the big dinner day! Usually we displayed our disguised foul on a door or wall in a central area of the house.  One year I set up an entire scape along an elongated bulletin board we had in the hallway to our central bathroom.  (one of the turkeys was dressed as Santa that year and one was a bush!!)  I don't recommend hanging on the window if you live in colder climates.  The moister that gathers on windows may ruin the paper.

**As you look at our turkeys pictured above, DO keep in mind, my kids were 6th - 10th grade at the time we made them AND they had been doing this for at least 8 years at that point so their skill and planning was more advanced. It is OK if your child only colors the turkey or slaps random pieces of construction paper on top. The point isn't perfection - it is to have fun!

I hope this post inspired you to have some sweet fun and tasty treats as we head into Thanksgiving week!

What are your favorite Thanksgiving desserts? Do you have any quirky crafts or games you enjoy as a family?


Grab your FREE Thanksgiving planner here, it isn't too late! These worksheets can help this next week go much more smoothly:

And our post from earlier this month, "Preparing Heart and Home: Week 1" for some tips on using the planner.

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