Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Playing With Thanksgiving Food

(this is my monthly food column for Heartland Women)
Note: some of these items have appeared as separate  entries
on Cora Cooks throughout November - they were just too 
good to wait! - but this is the entire column, as published in HW)

November 2010

It has been a very busy week around here! Well, make that a very busy summer and fall, now that I think about it. We’ve had so many visitors and guests – two big family birthday dinners, five of my book club friends from North Carolina, the annual reunion with my best friend’s whole family and mine too, my brother and nephew here from San Diego, more friends from North Carolina, and two months of weekly reunion committee dinner meetings -- that we wore out the front door. Seriously!

The good news … we have chosen a beautiful new door to graciously welcome all who enter here. The bad news … it takes several weeks for the door of my dreams to be delivered. Of course! Until it arrives, we have installed a temporary front door. I know it sounds crazy, but what were we going do? More house guests arrive next week and then Thanksgiving is our big blended family holiday and we’re all booked up for that long weekend too. A boarded up front door just doesn’t say “welcome, we’re so happy to see you” like one that actually opens to let you inside.

A gobblers gaggle of turkey goodies!

As soon as the door was back in working order, my thoughts immediately turned to planning Thanksgiving. After five years of gathering all of our siblings, nieces, nephews, my parents, new in-laws and assorted friends, we have a rather large blended family gathered around our table every year. I have tried to make sure that everyone has a favorite holiday tradition represented at our huge buffet feast. For us that means at least four different cranberry dishes, three savory dressings, two big turkeys – and a partridge in a pair tree. Well, let’s just say that we are blessed with an abundance of savory and sweet dishes and there is simply no need to find one more cranberry recipe or another never-fail method for roasting the juiciest turkey ever. Enough already!

So this year, Thanksgiving is for the kids! No cooking required – no recipes necessary! With a quick trip to the cookie and candy aisle at my local grocery and a dash to the fabric store, I was able to find everything I needed for all of the projects you see here. Most of these were inspired from the holiday craft section of the Disney Family Fun website. I’ve rewritten the instructions here to reflect my own versions shown in the pictures.

The cantaloupe turkey obviously requires some knife work, so is best done with close adult supervision. Everyone can enjoy stuffing the turkey with feather skewers and then snacking on them while waiting for the main meal event.

Most of the cookie turkey projects are easy enough for kids to assemble, with maybe just a little help with cutting and piping the icing – another good project for the family to enjoy. And what cute favors or place card holders they make! Just don’t be surprised if the little turkeys are missing some of the yummy parts before dinner is served! They are simply irresistible!

The chair covers require a little more cutting, sewing two straight seams and some careful gluing. I made two covers in just about three hours – from drawing the pattern to clean up. It was an easy project for an experienced crafter, but set up an assembly line with crafters of varying skill levels and watch those feathers fly. What a cute idea for anyone exiled to the kids table for dinner. Or maybe one to honor the turkey carver in your family. Or even one for everyone at your Thanksgiving table. Yikes! I’d better get busy!

Happy cooking! Happy crafting! Happy Thanksgiving!

Gobble 'em up!
1 cantaloupe (body)
1 red pepper (feet and snood)
1 yellow pepper (head)
1 orange pepper (wings)
2 raisins (eyes)
red seedless grapes (skewers*)
cheese cubes (skewers*)
short bamboo skewers

Wash and dry the cantaloupe, peppers and grapes. Cut a small slice on the bottom of the cantaloupe. Place the cut side down on a serving plate or tray. Wash the peppers and grapes. Cut each of the peppers into the turkey parts and cut the remaining pieces to use for the skewers. Secure each of the turkey parts to the cantaloupe with toothpicks or skewers. Use raisins secured with toothpicks for eyes. Thread red grapes, cheese cubes and pepper pieces onto skewers. Cover and refrigerate skewers and assembled turkey body separately until ready to serve. Place fruit, pepper and cheese skewers around back of cantaloupe for feathers just before serving.
*Note: choose tidbits of food for skewers based on what your guests would like - grapes, cheese, marshmallows, cantaloupe, celery, grape tomatoes, apples, cantaloupe, pineapple, etc. Remember that some cut fruits may need to be dipped in a lemon juice and water mixture to prevent browning.

Place card holders or yummy treats?
1 pkg. Double Stuff Oreos
1 bag candy corn
1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
1 box Whoppers
1 can white icing
1 can chocolate icing
1 tube Betty Crocker White Decorating Icing
1 tube Betty Crocker Red Decorating Icing
1 tube Betty Crocker Yellow Decorating Icing
1 tube Betty Crocker Black Decorating Gel
small writing tips for icing tubes
2 Ziploc sandwich bags

Gently pull apart one Oreo – do not break! Place some of the White Icing into a Ziploc bag Spread a generous amount of White Icing on one side of the cookie and replace second side. Carefully press the tips of 6 pieces of candy corn into the icing between the cookies. Place a large amount of the Chocolate Icing in the Ziploc sandwich bag; squeeze the icing into one corner of the bag and cut off the corner of the bag. Squeeze some of the chocolate icing on top of a second Oreo, near the edge. Stand the Oreo with Candy Corn on top of the icing on the second cookie and hold firmly – use more icing if it won’t stand up on its own. Cut a small slice from one side of the Peanut Butter Cup; squeeze some chocolate icing on the top side and the place it cut side down against the standing Oreo to form the body. Squeeze some chocolate icing onto the Whopper and place it on top of the Peanut Butter Cup to make the head. Place one piece of Candy Corn on each side of the body for the wings, using a bit of icing to secure. Cut the tip of one piece of Candy Corn, squeeze icing onto the flat side and place it on the face for a beak. Use the Decorating Icing tubes to pipe on two white eyes with black decorating gel dots in the center. Use the red icing to pipe a snood over the Candy Corn beak. Use the yellow icing to pipe two feet at the base of the body on top of the Oreo. Use toothpicks to shape icing, if necessary. Allow turkeys to dry for and hour or so before moving. Double-Stuffed Turkeys can be used for place card holders or decorative and edible favors at each place at the table.

Who's a butter ball?
several large sugar cookies (body)
1 can chocolate icing
1 bag candy corn (feathers)
1 tube Betty Crocker Yellow, Orange or Red Decorating Icing with writing tip (feet and beak)
1 tube Betty Crocker Black Decorating Gel with writing tip
1 bag M&M’s or chocolate chips
1 Ziploc sandwich bag

Place some Chocolate Icing in the sandwich bag and cut one corner of the bag for a tip. Squeeze some icing on top of the cookie around the edge. Place about 7 pieces into the icing to form feathers. Choose two matching M&M’s for eyes and attach them to the cookie with icing and pipe two black dots in the center of each M&M – or use chocolate chips. Pipe the beak beneath the eyes and the feet at the bottom of the cookie with your choice of yellow, orange or red icing. Allow cookies to dry for about an hour for the icing to set.

Save a turkey - eat more ham!
large sugar cookies - homemade or purchased, softer is better
1 pkg. Nabisco Mallomars or Pinwheels
1 can chocolate frosting
1 tube Betty Crocker Yellow Decorating Icing
1 tube Betty Crocker Red Decorating Icing
1 tube Betty Crocker Yellow Decorating Icing
1 tube Betty Crocker White Decorating Icing
1 tube Betty Crocker Black Decorating Gel
1 Ziploc bag

Cut off about ½-inch piece from one side of a sugar cookie. Place some of the chocolate icing into the Ziploc bag and cut the corner. Pipe some chocolate to the trimmed cookie and stand it up on the edge of a second sugar cookie. Next, cut one Mallomar cookie in half with a sharp knife. Pipe some icing on the cut side and back of the Mallomar and place it against the front of the top cookie. Using a generous amount of chocolate icing, squeeze a mound of icing in front of the Mallomar body to form the head. Allow the icing to dry a bit before continuing. Place cookie on its back and pipe the outline of feathers on the sugar cookie above the body with red and/or yellow icing. With yellow icing, pipe a small beak on face and yellow feet on either side of the head. Using the white icing, pipe two eyes above the beak and then dot the center with black gel. Finally, pipe red icing over the top of the beak and down one side to form the snood.

Oh goodie! I get to sit at the kid table!
Felt – white, brown, red, yellow, orange and black
Spray Fabric Glue
Straight Pins
Sewing Machine
White Thread

The Disney Family Fun website has templates to print out for the Turkey Chair Cover pattern, if you don’t want to draw your own. Print out the pattern to determine how much colored felt you need, based on the measurements for your chairs.

First, decide how many chairs you want to cover and measure them for size before calculating how much white felt will be needed. Determine how far down the chair you want the cover to hang – to the arms, or to the seat for chairs without arms.

Measure up, over and down to determine the length of the chair back. Next, measure all the way around the chair back at its widest point to get the total for the width and depth of the back, then add 1 inch for the seams – ½-inch on each side.

After you cut the first chair cover, drape it over the chair with the wrong side out, and pin the sides to be sure it fits. Make adjustments before cutting any additional chair covers. Sew the ½-inch side seams on the wrong side of the fabric and turn to the right side when finished.

Cut the pattern pieces from the computer printout templates. Pin the pieces to the felt and cut carefully, keeping the edges smooth. Lay out all the pieces on the right side of the white cover to make sure of the proper placement. Gently lift the edges of each piece and use a pencil to mark small dots on the white cover for exact placement.

Beginning with the feathers, spray glue on the wrong side of each piece and layer according to the pencil dots. Next add the body, followed by the head, face and feet.

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