Friday, November 6, 2015

A Taste of Thanksgiving: Week 1

Wow, our first week of How to be Thankful study is done already!  How did you do?  I would love to hear back from anyone who is following along (even if not every day)!

Today we wrap up our week with some fun tid-bits.  Remember when I told you earlier this week I actually love tradition?  I was also explaining how we simply need to be careful we are not worshiping tradition and we leave room for change (when necessary) and put God's plans first and foremost in all things.  I will have to remember to share with you about the Thanksgiving we had Deer Stew instead of Roast Turkey!  We had a lot of changes that year in order to keep God's plan and will for our lives first.

Each week I share A Taste of Thanksgiving this month I want to post one or two tried and true recipes we enjoy each season as well as a craft idea for the family to enjoy.

This week's recipes: appetizers... since we are just getting started with our study!

Pine cone Cheese'ball'

Everyone LOVES this delicious treat... mostly for its appearance!  Hubby and I will feast on the nutty exterior for days surrounding Thanksgiving.  It looks complicated, but it is super easy.  The only hitch is how time consuming it can be.  I usually pop in a good movie and take my time.

For a crowd pleaser sized 'ball' you need:

2 packages (8oz ea.) cream cheese, softened to room temp.
4 cups shredded cheddar or Monterrey Jack Cheese
3-4 Tbsp Dijon or regular mustard
1/2 - 1 cup sliced almonds

waked paper

( You can easily halve this recipe for a more intimate gathering)

In a mixer (I use my kneading blades) mix cream cheese, shredded cheese, and mustard until combined. I place an approximate 6x6 square of wax paper on a dessert plate and, using my hands to form a ball with the cheese mixture in the bowl, I set the ball on the wax paper covered plate and begin to form a pine cone shape.  Once I have it how I like it, refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.  Slightly firm is most helpful in the next step.

This is where I put in a good movie and kick back... this part is tedious!  But don't worry, you will finish before your movie!  Starting from the top of your cheesy pine cone, begin inserting sliced almonds into the 'ball', wide end first and at an angle.  Don't worry about making a straight line, think actual pine cone which has an alternating pattern.  Continue until you reach the bottom and then stick back in fridge until ready to serve.  (If you start from the bottom you will break pieces of almonds off as you try inserting slices above.  Top-down gives the best form and least breakage)

Why the wax paper?  Well, when you are ready to serve, simply slide the pine cone by the wax paper and place on your serving platter.  You can either remove the wax paper all together or trim it so it is unseen.  Serve with crackers and summer sausage and I guarantee it will be a crowd pleaser!  Be sure to have a small butter knife for slicing into this 'ball' it isn't super soft and you will have cracker crumbs everywhere if you are trying to use a cracker to slice some off!

P.S. this is versatile: I made it one year for a Christmas Eve get-together and made an actual ball, rolled it in the almonds and cut a little cheddar cheese topper like an ornament, stuck the crook of a pretzel in the cheese to look like a hook and we had a tasty ornament on the cracker tray!!!

Cornucopia Bread

I saw this idea in a magazine once and have managed to perfect the style with my own flare.  I use to make a LARGE one, the size of your average cornucopia.  However, there were many structural headaches which often required toothpicks and cover-ups to conceal on my Thanksgiving hors devours table!  The last few years I have tried smaller versions with much greater success and, through trial and error, I even pulled it off with no tearing  last year!  This one always gets eaten after Thanksgiving, we all enjoy how pretty it is on the table but once the show is over... it is gobbled as quickly as the Thanksgiving turkey!

What you need:
Bread dough recipe of choice (you can also use pre-made bread dough or bread stick dough from you local grocery cooler)
Egg white + 1 Tbsp water

Aluminium foil (NOT dollar store foil) preferably heavy duty but regular will work
Oil or lard
Baking sheet
Basting brush (and dish)

Start by forming a cornucopia shape with the foil.  I will tear a peace and make it a ball, then tear more and make 'ropes' to form around the ball.  Last year I figured out to do one final cover with a solid sheet of paper so my bread doesn't rise into the cracks of the coil (making it nearly impossible to remove after baking).

You can see it isn't super big, maybe slightly longer than my hand.  Once your shape is formed, grease it and your baking sheet with oil or lard.  You CAN use cooking spray on your baking sheet, but I recommend actual oil or lard on your form for easier removal once baked.

Take bread dough and make ropes.  Working over your baking sheet (so you can set the cornucopia down as you work) begin wrapping your foil form with the ropes, try not to press the dough too hard onto the form (it will rise and get stuck in the cracks).  Instead, try to press the dough into itself by placing each rope snugly against the next as you wrap.  Don't worry if you have multiple ropes, simply press the ends together well and attempt to have them meet on the underside and no one will ever know!

Baste your finished cornucopia with egg white and water mixture.

You CAN let this rise but I often just start it baking right away.  I don't have an exact time, I sort of wing this based on other roll recipes.  Approximately 350 degrees for 10-20 minutes.  Keep an eye on it the first time you do this and make a note of how long it took for next time!

You may have noticed muffin tins in the background of that last shot... I used the same dough and make bread rolls for dinner at the same time I work on the cornucopia.... two birds, one stone?  Pun intended! 

Serve on dish with mixed raw veggies and dip of choice.

Speaking of dip.... my family threatens revolt if I don't make my special dip for EVERY single holiday and occasion demanding it:

Amanda's French Onion Dip:

What you need:
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese softened to room temp (on budget tight years, I omit the cream cheese)
1 container (16 oz) sour cream
1 pkg onion soup mix*

Plop all ingredients in mixer and blend!  Viola!

Is that easy or what?  If you like extra oniony taste, add diced green onions.  *I use a homemade onion soup mix and season to taste. If it has dried onions in it, make this dip ahead of time and refrigerate all day or over night otherwise the onion flakes will still be crunchy when serving and not as appetizing (resting in the fridge a while softens the onion flakes).  Need to make this in a pinch?  Use a wire sifter and sift the soup mix into your wet ingredients and save the dried onion flakes for another dish.  Your dip will be ready the second you turn your mixer off!

Our craft this week is something I have mentioned in some of the posts this week:

Thankful Leaves

Does this printable look familiar by now?!
Click on image to open PDF

We have made this in variations over the years but always using construction paper cut outs I did myself.  You can print and cut out and color the leaves above if you prefer.

Some variations on HOW we have done leaves:

- Everyone gets a color or style and writes one "Thankful for..." each day.
- We have a family night the week before Thanksgiving and everyone writes their "Thankful for...."
- To break the chain of plain-old thankfuls, we began having scripture readings a few times a week and then based our gratitude on a response to the scripture
- One year we even did turkeys and wrote thankfuls on construction paper 'feathers', traced our hands for the body and stuck the feathers on... this is an awesome keepsake when the kids are young!

Variations on display:
- Turkey, as mentioned above, which we hung on our kitchen/outside door
- Cut out a tree with no leaves from construction paper, taped to kitchen/outside door, taped leaves around as they accumulated
- hung leaves on a twine line in our dining room as they accumulated
- hung leaves from chandelier and ceiling
- had large clay pot with florist foam in the bottom, stuck sticks/branches we gathered in the foam and covered the foam with moss.  Hung thankful leaves from the branches using hole punch and twine
- hung leaves on window.... which didn't work well because condensation from the changing weather and cooking inside made the paper wet and ultimately ruined our leaves!!!!!

In a time when so many kids are tempted to think of themselves or their wants above others (especially pre-Christmas season), we never seem to grow tiered of doing gratitude activities.  Our kids, and even my husband (!!!) look forward to this activity every year and welcome the variations as a mix-up on this fun tradition.  I like to challenge them, too, with thinking of others, how God works in their life, and how other people impact them so they can be grateful.

With pre-k kids, be their scribe!  They will love this activity too.  One year we even played at guessing what the baby would be grateful for game and we each wrote something applicable on our baby's behalf!

What sort of gratitude activities and appetizer recipes are favorites in your family?


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