Go Big or Go Home? I’ll Go Home!

Some people obsess about having the biggest, thinking it’s the best.  I went in a different direction for Thanksgiving this year.  We did have one big long table; with 17 people you kind of need that.  We also had one big turkey, about 19 pounds or so.  But for desserts…we went small and smaller, all the way.

I got an idea in my head about making individual pies.  My Grumpy, and our son PJ, love those nasty little pies that come in a box.  The ones that taste like they were shipped in from another continent.  Seeing them eat those things is just insulting.  I decided to make some of those things, but make them right.  I would make a big dessert table, where all the desserts were single serving sized.  It would be a “serve yourself” dessert buffet.

First I made a trip to the local “Savers” store, kind of like a giant thrift store.  I picked up dozens of little second-hand dishes for baking pies.  I had already canned a few pie fillings (apple, peach and green-tomato-mincemeat) as well as some canned pumpkin chunks.  I found a recipe for Banana-Caramel-Vanilla-Cream pie.  It looked amazing- and it was worth the effort.  It was about a week before Thanksgiving, and  I had some extra cream in the fridge. I made a batch of  sea-salt caramel and cooked it just a bit less than usual (recipe here).  I cooked it to the soft ball stage, then put it into jars to save for the desserts.  If you do this, trust me, don’t put “caramel” on the jars.  Label them as “prune sauce” and no one will touch them.  Anyway…the big easy on this thing is that the fillings were little or no effort, and you can do it all in advance of the big day.

The day before turkey day I made 3 separate batches of pie dough.  I used my favorite recipe (here) for dough.  After chilling, I rolled it out and cut it with an empty oatmeal box.  Apple and mincemeat were scooped straight from the jar, covered and baked.

These are the apple pies here….see those little things scattered around? Extra pie dough.  I cut it into “leaves” for fun.

 
And here are some of the

“green-tomato-mincemeat” pies.

This mincemeat is really different: green tomatoes, apples, oranges, lemons, dried cranberries, brown sugar and spices.  Yum!

 

Then, I whipped up some pumpkin chunks in the food processor.  I have to admit, I don’t know exactly what I added.  I think there was brown sugar, cinnamon, ground allspice and a pinch of nutmeg.  I added eggs, poured it all into a saucepan and I cooked it for about 5 minutes until it was shiny.  I added cream and butter, brought it almost to a boil. Then I added vanilla, poured it into the shells and baked it at 375f until it looked done.   This was the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had.

The “banana” pie was simple. I prebaked the crust, placed sliced bananas on that.  Then, I poured a layer of the sea-salt caramel over the bananas.  I made a nice vanilla pudding that I found on here on “Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures”.  That was layered over the caramel, then the whole thing was topped by whipped cream. You can see a couple of them in the upper right corner of this photo- that was before the whipped cream.  This was a real surprise dessert- much better than I expected.

For the cheesecake loving crowd I made individual NY cheesecakes in muffin papers, and covered each one with a layer of pureed strawberries.  These were a huge hit with the Schmidt’s.

 

 

Finally, with all that extra caramel left over, I decided to make some caramel apples for all the kids.

 

Then, I decided I’d better make enough so the “big kids” would have one too.  Kids like Grumpy, as well as the little-uns.

There were some for those people who actually prefer not to eat nuts (I just don’t get it…)

 

 

So…that was the best Thanksgiving ever, and the dessert table was what made it fun for me.  I’ll definitely be making individual desserts again at Christmas.  I’m not sure what I’ll make yet, but I’m already looking forward to the planning!

I LOVE everything about Fall; from Apples to Oatmeal!

I love fall. It’s apple picking, hayrides (okay- not my favorite part), fresh cold cider and hot cider donuts. It’s pumpkins and Mums. It’s clear blue skies.  Leaves turning, fires burning.  I love the smells.  And did I mention apple picking?  We’re going to go apple picking in about 4 weeks, and bring home a huge haul of apples.  I can’t wait. This time I’ll be ready.  Apple pies.  Apple sauce.  Apple butter.  Even…dried apples? 

Back in the hot days of July my Aunt Jo came to visit.  I brought home a half bushel of peaches and she helped me “find a happy place” for all those peaches.  We talked about preserving, and how my other Aunt (that would be you, Kay Diane Johnson!)  was so inspiring in the way she was able to hunt/forage/grow and preserve her family table all these years.  I’d also mentioned that I was  curious about dehydrating, as my dear SIL Theresa pretty much dehydrates anything that won’t run away (AND she had already sent me an amazing 4 Qt supply of freshly dehydrated corn on the cob!).  I wasn’t planning to buy one yet as  didn’t know if I’d use it enough to justify the expense. About a month later, I received a box in the mail.  Aunt Jo had a dehydrator at home, and she decided that as she hadn’t used it in years, she’d forward it to me!  WooHOO!  Thank you Aunt Jo!!!

The dehydrator is many years old, but looks like new. 

I tried it out, to make sure it works and gauge how long a batch of apples will take.  The first load was with locally grown apples from the market.  They are on sale for $.79 a pound, which is not bad for our area. These are fairly big Cortland’s.  I peeled, cored and sliced them, then dipped them in a solution of citric acid and water (1 tsp per gallon).  This is to keep them from turning too brown.  You can also use lemon juice or vinegar, or just let them brown.  There are about 5 pounds of apples in here.  It said they would take about 6-10 hours.  I think I sliced them a bit too thick.  And maybe I might have lifted the lid a few times to taste feel the apples.  About 12 hours later they were almost done.  I decided to shut it off and check in the morning.  Next morning, I ran it again for about 3 more hours.  NOW they are dry.  No doubt about it! Lots of apples. 

You know what else I like to make with apples in the fall?  Oatmeal.  My kids used to hate oatmeal.  Now they love it.  I make special oatmeal,  Instead of cooking it in water, I cook it in apple juice.  With a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon and diced apples.  I usually do it overnight in a low crockpot with slow cooking oats.  With these apples…I decided to try making my own oatmeal mix.

I used 1/2 cup quick cooking oats, with 1 big teaspoon of brown sugar (kind of heaping…I love to indulge them sometimes), 1/4 tsp cinnamon, tiny bit of salt (optional) and 3 dried apple slices.  Each packet contains this, and each makes one bowl.  You sprinkle it into the bowl, add 1 cup apple juice and microwave on high for one minute.  My PJ gave it 2 thumbs up- ate the whole bowl and will happily have it again for breakfast.