The first Thanksgiving I ever hosted was a cooking obstacle course, except the stress had nothing to with the actual cooking task at hand. It was the fact that I knowingly tossed my family’s traditions out the window, in an effort to create new ones for my own growing family — I was four months pregnant with my first daughter.
The list of what I changed goes on and on (including the stuffing and cranberry sauce). Therein lies my biggest mistake that very first Thanksgiving: I changed too much, too fast. Rather than create the picture-perfect memory of a blissful family Thanksgiving, I was left feeling under-appreciated for all my hard work.
What does any of this have to do with your Thanksgiving plans this year, you may be wondering? It’s pretty simple, actually. Learn from my mistakes. Thanksgiving is first and foremost supposed to be about family and being grateful. People hold tight to their traditions, though, and making drastic changes to beloved family recipes is an invitation for disaster. This doesn’t mean you can’t chart your own course. It just means you should stick with familiar favorites, but give them your own twist.
Twists on the classic apple pie
I believe everyone should have one cookie recipe that they know by heart — one that can be easily whipped together to welcome new babies, offer up at potlucks and make on a whim when you need a touch of sweet homemade comfort.
For some people, that cookie is a basic chocolate chip. For others, it’s a rough and tumble mix of oats, nuts and dried fruit. And I know other folks who can make peanut butter or sugar cookies with their eyes closed.
The basic requirements of this type of cookie are that the ingredients can be kept in the kitchen cupboard, that you need only a bowl or two to make it, that it drops from spoon to baking sheet with ease (no roll-out cookies need apply) and that it tastes good. Being sturdy enough to withstand the U.S. Postal Service is not required, but it’s a plus.
Before you start baking, read these tips
Pumpkin pies and apple pies are a must on the Thanksgiving table — and, yes, people are starting to plan for Thanksgiving already. But sometimes it’s the unexpected dish that sparks the conversation and becomes the favorite of the night. Enter in this week’s Most Popular Pin of the Week, Anne Burrell’s Sticky Toffee Pudding. After Anne bakes the cake for this decadent and sweet dessert, she pokes holes on top so her toffee sauce can seep in throughout. Round out the dessert with a hearty scoop of vanilla ice cream or a heaping mound of whipped cream. Expect lots of requests for seconds.
For more of Anne’s recipes, visit Food Network’s Let’s Cook With: Chef Anne Burrell board on Pinterest.
Get the recipe: Sticky Toffee Pudding
Even if you won’t be trick-or-treating this year, your sweet tooth will likely start acting up a bit more than usual as Halloween nears. After all, kids and kids at heart would surely agree that this spooky holiday means but one thing: sugar. Instead of resorting to store-bought chocolates or caramel-filled, peanut-topped candies to curb your cravings, however, make your own ghostly goodies at home in the form of decadent Halloween desserts that both little goblins and grownups will enjoy. Check out Food Network’s top-five treats below to find sweet tooth-satisfying recipes ideal for family-friendly indulgences and fright night bashes alike.
5. Chocolate Candy Pie — Save time in the kitchen by starting with a prepared pie crust, then fill it with a rich chocolate pudding and finish with fluffy whipped cream and your favorite crushed chocolate candies. It’s important that this pie freeze for a few hours so the flavors and textures can set, so it’s best to plan ahead before making and serving.
4. Caramel, Chocolate and Candy Apples — Perhaps the ultimate autumn indulgence, Giada’s triple-coated apples feature a first layer of gooey caramel, then a drizzle of melted dark chocolate, and finally a sprinkle of crunchy nuts, sprinkles and candies. Set up a DIY decorating bar, and let everyone create his or her preferred apples.
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I have a sweet tooth, so my favorite part of a meal is dessert. In addition to being sweet and fabulous, though, dessert can be a great strategic player in helping picky eaters becoming more adventurous. And I don’t mean in the old-school “clean your plate so you can eat dessert” sort of way.
Here are five dessert strategies that I use in our household to combat picky eating:
1. Encourage an adventurous palate.
Most kids love dessert. So if you serve a child who loves cookies a new kind of cookie (say, an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie instead of her normal favorite gingersnap), she will probably dig it. And then you can have a conversation about how fun it was to try something new. (If she doesn’t go for the swap, no big deal, because dessert is an optional course; there’s no risk of you caving in and becoming a short-order cook.)
Whether it’s because of an A+ spelling test, a hat trick on the soccer field or a pristinely cleaned bedroom, every child — and grownup — deserves to be treated to something special once in a while, and for many kids, that surprise may come in the form of dessert. Instead of resorting to store-bought goodies to save time in the kitchen, stick with from-scratch treats, like these homemade desserts, ready to eat in mere minutes.
A single-serving indulgence that demands no baking at all, Food Network Magazine’s Instant Chocolate Cake (pictured above) is a family-friendly pick that takes just 10 minutes to make. This rich, moist cake is prepped with traditional pastry ingredients, like cocoa, flour and vanilla extract, but it’s cooked quickly in the microwave instead of the oven. Perhaps the best part about this go-to recipe is that all of the ingredients are simply stirred — without the help of a mixer — in the same oversize mug in which it’s served.
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Wrapped in paper and featuring the deliciously classic combination of a chocolate cookie exterior and cool vanilla center, store-bought ice cream sandwiches are a timeless summer treat. But there are indeed more ways to celebrate ice cream sandwiches than the original, especially when you think way beyond those chocolate and vanilla bars and commit to making your own signature creations at home.
The key to making successful ice cream sandwiches is combining flavors that you know work well together, like peanut butter and jelly or chocolate and bananas. Start with your favorite ice cream flavor — no need to make it from scratch, as any grocery store brand will do. Then look to complement it with two shells; cookies are a traditional pick, but other treats like doughnuts, crackers and sweet breads transform the sandwich into something extra special.
Food Network Magazine created a collection of frozen concoctions — Super Cool: Ice Cream Sandwiches — that features inventive sandwich-inspired twists, like Cherry-Almond Croissants (pictured right), Coffee and Doughnuts and Chocolate-Banana Bread. Check out these photos to learn how to craft these desserts and more at home. No matter what ingredients you choose to use, Food Network Magazine notes that it’s important to “freeze your base before assembling” and to “freeze sandwiches at least 1 hour before serving.” This will give the ice cream a chance to solidify, so that it doesn’t turn into a melted mess when you eat it.
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A ripe peach is one of the true joys of late summer. When they’re in season, I buy at least five pounds at a time from my Saturday morning farmers market. Through the course of the week, I slice them over yogurt for breakfast. Come lunchtime, I heap them on toast with a little fresh ricotta and mint. When I’m on my own for dinner, I tumble them into a bowl of greens with crumbled feta (my husband doesn’t dig fruit in salads). Just before bed, I’ll grab one as a snack and eat it messily over the sink.
However, despite my best efforts, there are sometimes a few stray peaches left at the end of the week that are starting to get slightly too soft to be eaten raw. That’s when I turn to baked goods. There are all sorts of transcendent peach-based quick breads, tarts and scones out there, but there’s a particular cake that’s claimed my heart this summer: Ina Garten’s Fresh Peach Cake.
Before you start baking, read these tips
Some of my must-have travel items include three types of flour, two types of sugar and a collection of ground spices. Not your average vacation packing list, I know, but essential for me when hunkering down at the beach for two weeks. As my Instagram feed filled with photos of sugo, breakfast bread puddings and homemade pies, someone commented “don’t forget you’re on vacation.” But here’s the catch: I love cooking, and it never feels like a chore or something I want to take an extended break from doing.
My life as a recipe developer is driven by two goals. First and foremost is flavor, but a close second is creating recipes with easy techniques, so that people can see just how enjoyable cooking can be. Vacation inspires a lot of creativity in the kitchen, too. I found myself surrounded with super-sweet berries out on the North Fork of Long Island, and suddenly my mind was filled with thoughts of homemade pie. My go-to recipe is made using a food processor, as well as cornmeal and vinegar — three things I didn’t have at the house I was renting. Necessity being the mother of invention, I gave some more thought to my original recipe.
Keep reading for the recipe
Whether you’re still looking for a last-minute Father’s Day dessert recipe or want to liven up a weeknight meal with a quick and easy recipe, this week’s Most Popular Pin of the Week is perfect for kids and adults. Guy tops store-bought pizza dough with marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers.
For more celebration-worthy recipes, visit Food Network’s Let’s Celebrate board on Pinterest.
Get the recipe: Guy’s S’more Pizza