Thinking about Thanksgiving treats

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thoughts are turning to the Thanksgiving holiday very quickly. In our family, we have been planning the day's menu for a couple of weeks now, which is so much fun. The blessing of family and our time together is so special and dear. Now that our son is away at college, our time together when he is home is very precious, and I find myself guarding that time maybe just a bit too closely.

Whatever your family traditions include, I hope each of you have a very blessed Thanksgiving Day filled with much joy, happiness, family and food.

Butternut Squash Mac ‘N Cheese with Bacon, Caramelized Onions and Apples

Who doesn't like macaroni and cheese? And when you kick it up several notches like this recipe, who can resist? I thought this would be fabulous with leftover turkey sandwiches.

1/2 box whole grain elbow macaroni (about 2 1/2 cups dry)

1 cup canned butternut squash puree

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons evaporated milk

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 ounce low fat cream cheese

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup onions, sliced thinly

1 large crispy apple, chopped or grated

4 tablespoons crumbled bacon

Heat butter in a skillet over low heat. When melted, add onions and let caramelize for at least 30 minutes for the best flavor. Keep heat on low/low-medium.

Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and return to pan over low heat. Add butternut squash, chicken broth, evaporated milk, and cream cheese.

When combined, add in salt.

Add onions and apples to the pasta. Stir to combine and add a tablespoon more broth or milk if needed.

Just before serving, mix in cheese and stir until melted. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon bacon.

Note: Because there's very little butter, it can "dry out" quickly, especially once off the heat. Add a tablespoon of water, milk or broth if you need to get it back to its original creaminess.

Harvest Pumpkin Brownies

Here is another great recipe for your jellyroll pan. I usually cut back on the cinnamon, but you can adjust to your own taste.

1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin, not pie filling mix

4 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

In mixing bowl, beat pumpkin, eggs, oil and vanilla until well mixed. Combine dry ingredients well. Stir into pumpkin mixture and mix well. Pour into a 15x10 jellyroll baking pan that has been sprayed well with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until brownies test done with wooden pick.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 to 2 cups confectioners sugar

In small bowl beat the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, milk and salt until smooth. Add confectioner's sugar until well blended, add milk gradually if needed to make spreadable. Frost brownies, store in refrigerator.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats

Oh my goodness! You have never had crispy rice treat like these. Over the top and rich with chocolate and peanut butter; you will never think the same way about simple crispy rice treats again. These are great to cut into small squares and leave out all afternoon for the kids to graze on; well, if you can keep the adults out of them, that is.

First layer: Cereal

3 cups crispy rice cereal

1/2 of a 10-ounce bag of marshmallows

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/3 cup peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Second layer: Peanut Butter Fudge

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 1/4 cup mini peanut butter cups

Third layer: Cereal

3 cups crispy rice cereal

1/2 of a 10-ounce bag of marshmallows

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/3 cup peanut butter (optional)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fourth layer: Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

2 cups chocolate chips

Prepare a 9-by-13-inch pan, or something close to that, by greasing the bottom and sides with butter or a butter spray.

First layer: Measure out your three cups rice cereal and set aside. In a large, microwave-safe bowl, put in marshmallows, butter, peanut butter and vanilla. Melt in the microwave for around 45 seconds, take out, stir and put back in for a few more seconds. Do this until the mixture is smooth. Stir in your rice cereal and pour into pan. Spread it out evenly and press firmly.

Second layer: Measure out powdered sugar and set aside. On the stovetop (or microwave) melt butter and peanut butter until smooth. Remove from heat, add powdered sugar and vanilla and stir until smooth. Pour over 1st layer of cereal and spread evenly. Spread out your mini peanut butter cups (Reese's Pieces would work too) and gently press into the fudge. Let the fudge set for a few minutes before you add the next layer of cereal. Place pan into the freezer for a few minutes.

Third layer: Prepare this layer as you did the first. Only add the peanut butter if you really want a strong peanut butter flavor; pour over the fudge and spread it evenly and press firmly. Make sure you try to cover up all the peanut butter cups, so that the next layer doesn't hit the fudge.

Fourth layer: On the stovetop, melt peanut butter and chocolate chips until smooth. Stir constantly to avoid the chocolate from burning. Let cool for a few minutes, the pour evenly over the cereal layer and gently shake pan to evenly distribute chocolate.

Carefully cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer or refrigerator to firm. Cut into bars and enjoy death by chocolate and peanut butter!

Have a wonderful week and a very blessed holiday. Until next time, happy cooking with your family making many rich tradition memories.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by Southeast Missourian staff.

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