Wednesday, November 27, 2013

TUTORIAL: Heirloom Pumpkin Flower Centerpieces

A friend of mine is hosting Thanksgiving for the first time tomorrow.  She has gone ALL OUT and planned for months.  I offered to help her with the centerpieces for her big event and we had a great time making it happen last night.  Many of you have probably seen pumpkin centerpieces online but I thought I'd jot down the steps we took to make these come to life.

To make heirloom pumpkin centerpieces you will need:

-Heirloom pumpkins (hers are from Whole Foods)
-Flowers (we used 3 large hydrangea, about 8 roses and a small mixed bouquet to fill each pumpkin)
-Floral foam

Start by soaking your floral foam in water.  While it's soaking, hollow out your pumpkins.  (We learned last night that carving heirloom pumpkins is like attending a Crossfit workout.  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.)

Stuff each pumpkin with floral foam.

Use the hydrangea as the anchor since it's the largest flower.  Cut to your desired height and insert into the foam.  (You may need to make a hole with a pen first and then insert the stems.)

Side note: That's my mom drinking her Chardonnay and enjoying the production.  She's not as in to the "crafting scene" as I am, but she' always willing to cheer me on...and got an arm workout carving one of the pumpkins. Go mom!

Next we inserted the roses in-between the hydrangea.  (My friend's mom who is a florist taught me this trick when I helped her with the flowers at my friend's wedding a few years ago and it is now my go-to.)

Then we filled in the sides with the mixed bouquets.

Both moms nervously looking on...

No need for nerves was all coming together!

Add a bow to cover any exposed floral foam....

And voila!  

I think it's safe to say my friend is going to ROCK hosting her first Thanksgiving.

I mean really...who even cares about turkey after seeing the atmosphere she created? :)

Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy.

TUTORIAL: Turkey Cake Pops

Cake pops make me nervous. Sure, I can hold my own in the cookie department but something about cake on a stick puts me out of my comfort zone. So when a friend's son declared that he wanted to make turkey cake pops for Thanksgiving and wanted my help, I was nervous I was going to disappoint. But the nerves were for not and the process was easy thanks to the great tutorial he found and the wonder of the Nordic Cake Pop Pan. Gone are the days of mixing frosting and cake for me. This pan saved the day and the end results tasted great.

My friend made the cake balls in the pan before I arrived for assembly assistance. Here is a good tutorial on using that pan.

To make turkey cake pops you will need:
-Cake balls
-Candy melts (we used 2 bags for 28 pops)
-Ritz crackers
-Lollipop sticks
-Candy corn
-Heart sprinkles
-Candy eyes
-Wax paper
-Stand or tray for drying
-Colored sprinkles (optional)

We used candy melts from the craft store for our project.  I started by melting them in the microwave per the directions on the bag.  We then dipped one side of the cracker in the melted chocolate, attached the candy corn feathers and let them dry on waxed paper.

Tip: Do not overheat the candy melts.  If they seem to thick, thin them out with a little vegetable oil until they are smooth.  Allow them to cool a bit before dipping.

Dip one end of the lollipop stick into the melted chocolate and insert it into the cake ball.  Allow to dry for a few minutes.  (This will make the pops much more secure to dip.)

(Shout out to Mr. Preppy Cookie for the homemade cake pop stand!)

At this point things were going well and my helper was a happy camper.  I still had nerves with the dipping part ahead but thankfully it all had a happy ending.

We dipped the pops in the chocolate and laid them on a cracker to dry.  Then my helper went to down adding the faces and sprinkle topping.  (Be sure to cut the candy cane beaks in half.)

At first I was unsure if these would ever be able to stand up without falling apart because they were really heavy.  We had devised a plan for them to just be served on a tray on turkey day but after an hour they were able to stand tall on their own.

Closeup of my helper's hard work!


And if this reaction to our efforts doesn't make you happy, what will really???


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Recipe: Butter Brickle Bars

One of my favorite things is receiving handwritten recipes, especially from family members. It's not just about the actual recipe for me but also the memory of the person through their handwriting. Over the years, my great aunt has sent me several of recipes and I have been working my way through them.

Sometimes I remember to post them here and sometimes I don't. Thankfully on round two of Great Aunt Josie's "Butter Brickle Bars" I remembered to take a (lackluster) photo.

This batch was shared with coworkers last week and several of them came in to personally thank me for them or ask me more about them. The plastic plate I brought them in on even had a "Thank you for sharing!" handwritten note taped to it once they were gone. That means someone took the time to walk back to their desk, write out the note and walk back to the kitchen to leave it there. I consider that quite the compliment and hope you all enjoy these as much as they did.

Butter Brickle Bars


Cake Layer:
1 box yellow cake mix (or whatever your homemade equivalent is)
1/3 cup melted margarine
1 egg

1 egg
1 package Heath bits
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped pecans (optional - I forgot them this time and no one seemed to care!)


Preheat oven to 350. Mix cake mix, melted margarine and 1 egg together. Press the thick mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. Mix together 1 egg, package of Heath bits, pecans and can of sweetened condensed milk. Drop on top of cake mixture. It spreads hard but will melt together as it bakes. Bake 30 minutes.