Thanksgiving specials

Over the years, many of my family’s special recipes come back into play for Thanksgiving. Through handcrafted food, we create a home filled with love, care and tradition.

In about two weeks time, we’ll celebrate another Thanksgiving together. It is my family’s main event. It is the day when my husband and I roll up our sleeves to start cooking at 5am for a 1pm meal, with a ton of prep done in the days beforehand and all hands on deck from the kids. It doesn’t matter if we are feeding our family of six or our extended group of more than 30 in our home – our menu is typically made up of about 15 dishes, plus desserts and assorted appetizers. We love it and pace ourselves for one of the best days of the year.

As you begin your grocery-shopping plan and menu, let me share a few of my tried and true Thanksgiving menu items that you might claim as your own for this holiday and many more to come.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via milissweets.com

Let’s talk pie. It’s a mandatory part of our celebration. I always make no less than three. One has to be pumpkin, one has to be apple and the third has to be a berry pie.

Cherry Pie: gluten-free, with a flakey, butter crust. As you know, all of my recipes are completely free of peanuts and tree nuts. But more than likely, you will be attending Thanksgiving this year where at least one person has a food sensitivity or chooses not to eat gluten. Well, even if you don’t love the idea of cherry pie, (Could that be possible?) you’ll want to use this crust for other fillings.

cherry pie updated: gluten-free and all-butter crust. Recipe via milissweets.com

Another wonderful berry pie offering: Blueberry Pie.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via milissweets.com

The pie filling is the ultimate! If you aren’t sure about making a pie to bring or serve, let me suggest a very cool gift: just the pie filling. Make this incredible filling, as per my recipe, place the goodness in a sealed mason jar and offer it to the host/hostess as a thank you for the invite.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via milissweets.com

I’m a little obsessed with meringue. If I’m going to go there, I want to have a ton of it. It’s amazing on pumpkin pie. If lemon is your thing, try making a Lemon Meringue Pie. My recipe for fluffy vanilla meringue is on this same post.

lemon meringue pie, lemon curd and vanilla meringue - recipes via milissweets.comBy next week, I plan on sharing my recipe for Pumpkin Pie. If you’d like to try other pumpkin treats to offer for dessert, try my recipes for Pumpkin Flan (another great offering for your gluten-free family and friends) or Pumpkin Spice Churros.

Next, My favorite Cranberry Sauce. It’s not about having a lot of it, but it’s a must-have menu item for our Thanksgiving. Over the years, this is our favorite way to prepare it, with orange juice and zest, and bites of Granny Smith Apples.

sweet side: favorite cranberry sauce by Mili

Now, it’s really up to you, but in our family, Buttermilk Biscuits are a must-have on our Thanksgiving table. They are the very last item to go into our oven. The “crowd” goes wild for them!

how to make the best buttermilk biscuits by Mili

If rolls are more your style, then I say go for Trinity Rolls. We save these for our Christmas meal, but they are good for any special occasion.

Trinity Rolls - recipe on www.milissweets.com

Last but not least, you will want to have some special spreads for either your biscuits or rolls. Check out my recipes for Beautiful Butter. Orange Butter is my personal favorite and one I try to offer my family throughout the year.

butter trio, recipes by Mili

I hope you enjoy a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Please contact me if you have questions about any of my recipes. If you do try them out, let me know how it turned out!

xox, Mili

old fashioned caramel for apples & jars

Mili

Making caramel the old fashioned way is a labor of love. Deciding to make it happen depends on how badly you want it. There are plenty of short cut recipes for sauces and dips that taste similar, but they can’t compare. Once making caramel this way, it’s really hard to turn back to store bought versions, that tend to be thin, runny and lack real flavor. I like the thick texture and richness of the real thing.

MiliTo avoid running out, I typically make big batches and put the goodness into sealed glass jars. I’m going to share the recipe that was passed down to me for making caramel apples or to store in glass jars for later.

Mili

Once you take the time to make the caramel, all of the hard work is behind you. Warming it up into a sauce once stored in a jar, takes only 30 seconds in the microwave!  Caramel is candy. It requires both work and precision for the right results. It’s amazing.

I’m giving the recipe and showing what it takes to get the candy to “Soft Ball,” or 240 degrees. This is the temperature and texture I use for canning and for setting onto caramel apples. One of the beautiful thing about this sweet concoction is, once it has reached the stage/temperature you wish and has been set and cooled, you can bring it back to a pot and cook it for not much longer, to achieve “Hard Ball” or “Soft Crack,” to be used as wrapped candies or to set other flavors to it. (I’ll share tricks for candy caramel in a future post.)

All right, let’s get to work!

Mili

Caramel Recipe for Canning and Caramel Apples

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups light corn syrup

4 cups granulated sugar

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 and 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup butter (2 sticks) salted butter, cut into pats

1 teaspoon vanilla (Reserve for after caramel has reached “Soft Ball” stage.)

Tools: one large pot (the taller, the better), long wooden spoon, clip-on candy thermometer

Mili

Before you get started, plan ahead with the understanding that you will have to tend to stirring the pot for approximately 3 hours! You might need a good helper or two to take over from time to time. Otherwise, you are guaranteed to have soar feet and possibly soar shoulders/arms if you aren’t used to constantly stirring in the kitchen. As I mentioned above, you have to really want caramel to make it! xox

Here’s a little math so that you can plan ahead, based on what you are hoping to use the caramel for. I tend to make at least two batches at a time, but what I’m sharing with you is a single batch. It will make about 64 oz of caramel, that can be placed in the size of glass jars that you see fit or can be used to dip apples as soon as it has reached the “Soft Ball” stage. When giving a gift, I pour it into pretty 4oz. glass jars. When keeping it in jars for my pantry, I tend to use 8 oz jars and there’s nothing fancy about them. It takes between 1.5oz. – 2 oz. of caramel to cover one standard sized apple for caramel apples so you should be able to dip about 32, if that’s what you are going for.

Here’s what you’ll do:

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the pure vanilla extract, into a large pot and place at medium heat. Clip on the candy thermometer. Cook and stir constantly until candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees, or “Soft Ball” stage. Seems simple and it is simple. It’s just that some good things come to those who wait and this project requires a lot of time and patience.

MiliHere’s what to expect:

Making caramel this way takes planning ahead and some serious time-dedication. It can actually be a really fun tradition and around this time of year, it’s a family-activity. Be prepared for a lot of stirring.

When the butter melts and all of the ingredients are starting to heat, the thermometer will read 200 almost right away. The mixture will be a creamy white color. You’ll notice a warming of color when the mixture reaches 220. However, it will stay at 220 for what seems like an eternity! All the while, you need to stir with the wooden spoon. It can overheat and come over the top of your pot if it is not large enough, so make sure that there is ample room in the pot when you first pour in your ingredients. You don’t want a messy or dangerous accident. You can’t leave the caramel cooking by itself, so make sure you have a caramel-buddy to hang out with, in case you need to leave the room.

When the caramel finally starts to reach above 220 degrees, you’re in the home-stretch. It will take about 30 minutes more to reach “Soft Ball.” You are going to think to yourself two hours into it, ‘It must be ready . . . it looks like caramel!’ But trust me, the thermometer is your friend and without it, this job is almost impossible. If you shut it off too soon, you won’t have the result you were hoping for.

You will feel thrilled and accomplished when you see it has reached 240 degrees. Remove from the heat right away. Allow it to stop bubbling and to cool for a few minutes. Add the teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Use the wooden spoon to combine.

Mili

FOR CANNING:

If you are placing the caramel into glass jars, do so when the caramel is hot. Line up the cans and use a ladle to pour in the caramel. Cover tightly with a metal lid. Within moments, the heat will create a seal that you can hear. It will only work if you are using new lids that are not punctured and are meant to fit perfectly with the jar. You can use either a mason-jar type lid or other metal lid. You will know it’s sealed because you can hear it close and there is no air to pop the lid. You will only hear the lid after the seal has been broken or it has been opened.

Label the container and be sure to add the expiration date. You can give the caramel a one month shelf life if they have set and sealed properly. Once they are opened, or the seal is broken, the jars must be refrigerated. To be safe, you can give as a gift, and write “keep refrigerated.” Add the expiration date as one month after the made-date. If always refrigerated, it should last up to six weeks, but that is assuming that it doesn’t disappear after the first taste.

Mili

FOR APPLES:

If you are making caramel apples, you’ll want to have your apples ready to go as soon as the caramel stops boiling and has reached the 240 degrees. I recruited some little hands to help clean and dry Granny Smith apples. To be safe, we made the skewering a team-effort. These were the only jobs my 7 year old son wanted to do, or could do without getting hurt.

I use prepared, 5.5″ wooden skewers but you can use any wooden dowel, as long as they are cut to size and there there is one end with a sharper side. The easiest way to create the point is with an electric pencil sharpener. As long as the sharper side is not totally blunt, it will work. It’s not a good idea to make it too sharp, so be careful.

If you are using the entire batch of caramel for dipping caramel apples, you’ll be able to make about 32, depending on the size of each apple and how much you want to dip them. I like to go toward the top and if I’m not completely dipping the apple, I always make sure the center, where it was skewered, is covered with caramel. Doing so keeps the apple sealed and fresh and the extra little collection of caramel at the top is an extra special treat. Caramel apples are swooped up and enjoyed right away with this caramel, but I like to be sure that they they are enjoyed within two days of making them. You can go up to 4-5 days, if wrapped and kept at room temperature. Of course, they would last longer in the refrigerator.

MiliHere’s what to do if you are making caramel apples with canned caramel:

Use a spatula to remove the caramel from the glass jars, and place into a pot, with a candy thermometer attached. Place at medium heat. It will only take 10 minutes for the caramel to return to reaching the “Soft Ball” stage of 240 degrees. (As promised, all the hard work from making caramel the old fashioned way is behind you!)

Dip the apples right away. If you want to remove some of the access caramel, use a metal spatula or butter knife to take it from the bottom and then place onto a matt of some sort. A waxy or parchment-type of bottom would be best if serving open or wrapping in cellophane. Although the doilies were very pretty, the ones I used didn’t have a waxy finish, so the caramel had a hard time separating from the paper. If you aren’t packing them to share and want to eat them right away, you can allow them to cool onto aluminum foil before serving or placing directly onto a plate.

MiliI loved giving my little nephew his first caramel apple! He loved it too!

Real caramel can take any dessert over the top, and to another level of awesomeness. It’s a staple in my pantry, as I use it for a bunch of different treats: cupcakes, frostings, cakes, breads, fillings and to drizzle onto vanilla ice cream. If you’ve made my banana caramel cake before, this is the caramel you should use for drizzling. To create a sauce from the caramel that has been canned, simply place it in the microwave for 30 seconds first and then an additional 10 seconds at time. A 4 oz will become a sauce in 30 seconds.

If you are bold enough to make caramel with the notes and recipe I posted, please let me know how it goes! Thanks for being here!

Take care and big hugs,

Mili

 

banana-caramel cake » Mili's Sweets - November 6, 2014 - 7:20 am

[…] make and jar my own caramel. If you’d like the recipe, please see my post for old fashioned caramel for apples and jars. It’s a time consuming and tedious process and I’m completely crazy for doing it. If […]

a happy halloween

happy halloween, dessert table via www.milissweets.comAt my home, we love celebrating Halloween in a fun and happy way: with kids, candy corn, popcorn balls and caramel apples. There is never anything scary going on, except for maybe a possible sugar overload. When we throw a party, sugar is welcome. Besides, to tell you the truth, Halloween candy from trick-or-treating is collected but not really eaten.

A few years ago, I threw a little Halloween party for my kids, my niece and my friend’s daughter. It was a blast and super easy to put together.

happy halloween, dessert table via www.milissweets.com

Each child each received a small trick-or-treat bucket for the “big day” that would be later on in the week. I bought cute sodas and some candies to go along with my theme colors of orange, green and black. I made caramel apples and some assorted treats for the kids and parents to enjoy.

My favorite part was how excited the children were about the little custom cupcakes I made, to go along with their costume character.

happy halloween, dessert table via www.milissweets.com

Our little Snow White had a red apple, Cleopatra had a pretty bracelet, Darth Vader had a lightsaber and Dorothy had ruby red slippers. The kids were so darling and to see their little faces light up was a moment I love to look back on and remember.

happy halloween, dessert table via www.milissweets.com

I wanted a clean and simple look and the glass apothecary jars and white or black plating did the trick. The black ribbon was a simple detail to make the little things seem more special.

happy halloween, candycorn popcorn balls, dessert table via www.milissweets.com

My husband and kids love candy corn, so I always make a point to have some in the house around fall. I couldn’t resist adding them into the desserts. One of their favorite treats at the dessert table were the candy corn popcorn balls.

If you’d like to make popcorn balls, please see my post with the recipe for caramel popcorn, and simply add candy corn into the mix. They stick together and are easy to pull apart, so the little tower held up nicely.

happy halloween, caramel apples, dessert table via www.milissweets.com

For the caramel apple centerpiece, I made a pedestal by using scrapbook paper and covering styrofoam circles, with the use of a hot glue gun. This was actually really easy to do and I wanted to highlight the apples and create hight at the center of the table.

In my next post, I’ll share my recipe for making caramel the old fashioned way, so that you can enjoy making caramel apples too!

happy halloween, dessert table via www.milissweets.comHope you have a fun, safe and sweet Halloween!

xox

one minute smoothie: orange-berry bliss

one-minute smoothie: orange-berry bliss, recipe via milissweets.comOrange Berry Bliss is my go-to smoothie. It only takes a minute to make. It tastes amazing and is an awesome pick-me-up at breakfast or at snack time.

Years ago, there was a smoothie shop that made “orange berry blitz.” It was my favorite smoothie. Then they took it off their menu! I knew I could figure out how to make my own version. I’ve decided I love my version more. My whole family loves it. It might be even be a better nutrition-choice than the shop-version, since there is no added sugar or dairy, (which tend to hurt my stomach). Another ‘best-part’ is, it passes the straw-stand up test: you know a smoothie has a good consistency and has the right thickness, when a straw holds up in the cup.

one-minute smoothie: orange-berry bliss, recipe via milissweets.com

You won’t need many ingredients to make this smoothie, but you will need a blender. Let’s do this!

one-minute smoothie: orange-berry bliss, recipe via milissweets.com

Mili’s Sweets Orange Berry Bliss Smoothie Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

a blender

4 cups frozen berries (I use a mix of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.)

1 and 1/2 cups orange juice (Of course, fresh-squeezed is awesome, but I typically have store-bought in my fridge.)

1 cup filtered water (See my note below for an option with the water, making it a “Vitamin-Blast” smoothie.)

one-minute smoothie: orange-berry bliss, recipe via milissweets.com

Here’s what you’ll do:

In a blender, add the 4 cups berries. Add the orange juice and water.

Put the top on the blender. Select “on” and “high” and blend for about 5 seconds. Turn off the machine.

one-minute smoothie: orange-berry bliss, recipe via milissweets.com

Take the top off and with a spoon, move some of the crushed fruit to the side, allowing the majority of the liquid to move to the bottom of the blender.

You’re almost there.

Put the top back on, select the high setting, and watch for the smoothie-vortex.

one-minute smoothie: orange-berry bliss, recipe via milissweets.comIt will take just under a minute for the smoothie-vortex (hole in the center) to form. Once you see it, your smoothie blending is complete. Stop the machine when you see it. The vortex will end with air coming upward, making a “plop” sound at the top.

Pour and enjoy!

Option during cold-season: “VITAMIN BLAST” your smoothie!

It’s cold season and I like to pump up the family with a little extra vitamin C. If you’d like to do this too, simply add one or two Vitamin C “fizzy drink supplements” into the water. I buy Emergen-C brand in the Super Orange flavor. You can’t taste it in the smoothie and you can’t go wrong with 1,ooo mg per packet! Anything your body can’t use or doesn’t absorb, gets flushed out so there’s no such thing as having too much.

one-minute smoothie: orange-berry bliss, recipe via milissweets.com

My kids are old enough to use glasses instead of plastic cups, so I took down some cute cups that they think are special. Straws are a must too.

I love the way little ones hold onto the stems of glasses. It’s fun to watch the details that come naturally to kids, without us boring grown ups telling them the proper way. The proper way can take all the fun out of it! Besides, we’re at home! We’ll save the proper way for restaurants and visits. For today, the kid-way is the proper way.

xox

color and cupcakes

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via www.milissweets.com

I have always loved to cater weddings. It’s even more wonderful when the client is a decisive bride who has a really good idea of the look and feel of her reception. I set, styled and catered this dessert table, for a wonderful bride and groom who didn’t want the every-day dessert table, but something colorful and fun surrounding their main color of peach and lots of cupcakes.

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via www.milissweets.com

She handmade a “love is sweet” sign for the dessert table, with lace and ribbon streamers. She left doilies and small floral arrangements for me to include.

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via www.milissweets.com

At the center of the table was the cutting-cake. The bride chose ruffles in a peach-ombre pattern. I made sugar-succulents as decorations.

I rented much of the pedestal plating from a friend who no longer rents her dessert table pieces. She had a lot of beautiful items, with different colors that all worked really nicely together. On the left, I used warm tones of plating of yellows. On the right, there were cool tones of blue. In the center, I used plating in tones of green.

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via www.milissweets.com

I made custom labeling to match the look, feel and design of their wedding invitations.

The cupcake menu included Mexican Hot Cocoa, Gluten-Free Coconut Dream, Red Velvet, Lemonade, Vanilla Velvet and Churro.

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via www.milissweets.com

The outdoor reception was held at the lovely Keys Creek Lavender Farm, located in Valley Center, California.

It was an incredible event and I felt very honored to have been chosen as a vendor, but there were some challenges. First, it was 115 degrees outside. Then, there was the wedding coordinator. She was extremely rude to me and extremely unorganized. I wasn’t thrilled about the situation, especially considering how hard I had worked before even arriving. I was on-time and confirmed to set the dessert table in a specific window of time.  She told me I had to wait, and that I could not set the table. She didn’t tell me when I could finish the job I was hired to accomplish.

After I unloaded my packed SUV, I tried to find a shady spot. There is no refrigeration or indoor-space on the premises where I was told to step aside. I was nervous for how well the cake and cupcakes would hold up in the heat. After standing and stressing in the background for 40 minutes or so, I was given the go to start setting the table.

It was a bit awkward for me to work, since I had to take all of my bulky bins of desserts and plating onto the reception area where guests had already been invited to celebrate. With all of this plating and 100 cupcakes or so, I needed a little elbow room. I didn’t have much.  With that much pressure and that much heat, I was perspiring with a full-blown audience of guests that watched me work. I worked hard and as quickly as possible.

in color and outdoor wedding dessert table via www.milissweets.com

Fortunately, the table was placed under some trees, that kept the cupcakes and cake shaded.

If it were up to me (and almost every other wedding plan I had catered in the past years) the table would have been set before the guests arrived to the reception.  It’s all right. Sometimes you have to roll with whatever happens. I was just happy that the bride and groom entered the reception to a completed dessert table. That’s what matters most.

xox