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Recipe: Halloween truffles with candied walnut brains

Hands on: 20 minutes Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutesMakes: 12No need for expensive white chocolate, white chocolate chips will work fine. Store the truffles in the refrigerator before your party and serve at room temperature.1 cup (about 6 ounces) white chocolate chips2 tablespoons unsalted butter1 tablespoon heavy creamPinch of salt1 tablespoon liqueur, optional2 tablespoons powdered sugarRed food coloring12 whole walnutsIn a medium saucepan over low heat, warm chocolate, butter, cream and salt until chocolate is just melted. Remove from heat and be sure everything is well mixed. If you're using liqueur, stir it in now. Set aside 1/2 cup.Transfer remaining chocolate mixture to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until firm enough to scoop, about 1 hour.While chocolate is firming, stir food coloring into reserved chocolate mixture until you have the desired color. Arrange walnuts on a wire rack over a piece of parchment paper. Spoon colored chocolate over walnuts to cover. Allow chocolate to set. Put walnuts aside until ready to make truffles.Use a teaspoon or small cookie scoop to make 1-inch truffles. Roll each truffle in powdered sugar, then top each with a walnut brain. Store truffles in refrigerator for up to 1 week.Per serving: 160 calories (percent of calories from fat, 72), 4 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 13 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 9 milligrams cholesterol, 20 milligrams sodium.

Spooky and kooky ideas for Halloween

There are plenty of ideas on the Internet for disgusting Halloween food. We prefer a classier spread. And you don't have to spend days getting ready for your party. In an hour's time you can make Herbed Pumpkin Seeds, Spider Web Eggs and Truffles With Candied Walnut Brains. The Devilish Eggs and Ladies' Fingers take more fiddling, so if you're in a hurry, try the Quicker Ladies' Fingers and Spider Web Eggs.Halloween is all about disguises and things that are not what they seem.If you're hosting a party on Halloween, your guests will be expecting food that is creepy, spooky and maybe a little odd.They're also expecting you to stick to the traditional Halloween color scheme of orange and black, with a splash of blood red.You're likely to spend a bit more time fussing over the food and cocktails than you might for a run-of-the-mill party.After all, for most of us, serving body parts isn't part of our everyday dinner rotation.There's no doubt that Halloween celebrations have changed and that Halloween has become big business. The National Retail Federation estimates Americans will spend almost $6.86 billion this year on Halloween costumes, candy and decorations.And instead of being just a holiday for kids, it's become an event for all ages. The federation says one in three people is going to throw a Halloween party.It wasn't that long ago that a Halloween party meant bowls of cheese puffs and cheese curls, black olives, nacho-flavored corn chips and maybe an orange punch of some sort.I think it was the folks at Martha Stewart Living who really upped the game. Surely no one has more fun with the holiday than the Stewart elves who dream up new ways to decorate pumpkins, homes, ourselves and our menus.Its first stand-alone Halloween magazine came out in 2000.You're not likely to see special issues on celebrating the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving. The buzz is all around Halloween.Now every Food Network star and women's magazine has suggestions for creepy cakes and freaky party food.The beverage companies have gotten into the mix, and you can buy black vodka with which to make all kinds of dark and stormy cocktails.So throw that Halloween party. Invite your guests to enjoy your frightful but delicious finger food. Stock the bar and you're ready to enjoy this holiday that's not just for kids anymore.

Recipe: Devilish Eggs

Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 30 minutesMakes: 24Adjust the "devilishness" of these eggs by adding more or less cayenne.12 hard-cooked eggs, see method above3 roasted red peppers, finely chopped1/2 cup mayonnaise2 teaspoons Dijon mustard1 teaspoon hot sauce1/2 teaspoon black pepper1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika1/4 teaspoon cayenne1 small red bell pepper, cut into small triangles, for garnish1 green onion, dark green portion cut into small triangles, for garnish2 chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, for garnishCarefully peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Place whites in a plastic food storage bag and refrigerate.For the filling: In a medium bowl, mix yolks with roasted peppers, mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce, black pepper, paprika and cayenne. Stir until smooth. Adjust for seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to serve. May be made up to 2 days in advance.When ready to serve, spoon filling into white halves. Use red bell pepper triangles to make horns, green onion triangle to make a goatee and chive pieces for mustache.Adapted from www.marthastewart.comPer half-egg: 74 calories (percent of calories from fat, 77), 3 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 6 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 108 milligrams cholesterol, 72 milligrams sodium.

Classroom Halloween party tips & tricks

Reprinted with permission from

 

Your child's Halloween class party is one of the most exciting days of the new school year. Whether you’re the room mom, teacher, or the parent who volunteered to help with the party, a little planning makes for a fun, memorable, and stress-free event.

3 Steps to Halloween Party Fun

1. Plan it

Organize the class party into 'stations' with small groups of kids rotating through activities to keep the pace moving for the kids and the group-size manageable for parent volunteers. Everyone comes together for the final station, story time.

Simple, fun crafts include cardboardtube mummiescrayon resist fall leaves, decorating mini pumpkins, thumb print witches and spiders, and face painting.  

Consider space limitations when choosing party games. Four Halloween favorites:

  • Mummy-wrapping races: teams of 3 wrap a ‘mummy’ (child) with toilet paper, first to finish their rolls, win.
  • Apple or mini-pumpkin relay: teams compete to pass an apple or mini pumpkin under their chins kid-to-kid without using any hands. If it drops, start over.
  • Pin the nose on the pumpkin 
  • Halloween BINGO

Tip: Check out our Classroom Party Guide with 10 fun craft and game ideas for Halloween and Fall celebrations.

Stories about pumpkins, spiders and witches are sure to please.  Ask your children's librarian to recommend spooky tales that are age-appropriate. 

For snacks, consider sliced apples dipped in caramel sauce, pumpkin muffins with cream cheese, popcorn monster hands, and warm apple cider.

Tip: Ask the teacher if any kids have food allergies and if the school has policies limiting sugary treats.

2. Get Help

Ask class parents (and grandparents) to pitch in and volunteer either during the party or by contributing supplies and food. Remember to plan for craft and game supplies, snacks,  paper ware, and simple decorations (think plastic table cloths and mini pumpkins).

Tip: Free online signup sheets from VolunteerSpot.com make it easy to coordinate parent helpers. With the click of a mouse or a tap on a smartphone, parents can quickly choose when to help and what to bring. Automated reminders keep everyone on track.

3. Have Fun!

Be ready for joyful chaos! When things don't go exactly as planned, don't stress. Instead, put on a big smile and know that the kids will have a great time no matter what. Be sure to take lots of pictures, party day is a very special day at school!

Tip: Bring a child's wagon to help carry supplies from your car to the classroom

Happy Halloween!

***

About the Author

 

Karen Bantuveris is the founder and CEO of VolunteerSpot -- free online signup sheets save time and make it easy to organize parents to help for just about anything: classroom helpers, snack schedules, carnivals, library volunteers, parent-teacher conferences and more. Karen lives in Austin, TX with her husband and daughter.

When you lose weight, this is where the fat goes

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In what seems too good to be true, a new study says the key to losing weight is something you already do every day. In fact, you're doing it right now.

All it takes is a little of this inhale, exhale action. Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia say breathing is how you can shed those extra pounds. (Video via Animated Biomedical

They set out to answer the question, when you lose weight, where does it go? (Video via YouTube / davidlloydleisure

You see, scientists have known for some time that the excess carbs and proteins you consume are converted into a fat called triglycerides. It's a mix of three kinds of atoms — carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

What they didn't know is what happens to that fat when it's burned off during activity. The common assumption was that it converts to heat or energy. But these researchers say that's not the case. (Video via BiProUSA

Instead, 84 percent of that fat turns into carbon dioxide and escapes the body through the lungs. The other 16 percent turns into water that leaves the body through urine, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids. 

But don't cancel that gym membership just yet — the more you exercise, the more carbon dioxide you'll lose. 

In case you weren't convinced, the study found a 154-pound person who is just sitting around exhales about 8.9 mg of carbon with every breath. But if that same person is exercising, he or she can lose an extra 40 g of carbon from the body. 

So really, this study only confirms what we already knew. If you want to lose weight, eat less, move more. As the authors of the study put it: "None of this biochemistry is new, but for unknown reasons it seems nobody has thought of performing these calculations before."

The researchers are clear on one thing: Simply breathing really fast will only cause you to hyperventilate. For more on what not to do, check out the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal.

This video includes images from Patrick J. Lynch / CC BY 2.5U.S. Air Force and Iain Watson / CC BY 2.0.

Residents reenact nativity scene after its removal in Dallas

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A community is outraged that their nativity scene is no longer allowed on the steps of the Dallas courthouse.Residents tell Channel 9 they have no plans to stop protesting until the scene is returned to the courthouse.

Town of Dallas forced to move nativity displayProtesters waved as drivers passed by Monday night in Dallas, getting more energy with each honk of the horn.“I love hearing the honks! It makes me feel good,” said Brandi Rote. Rote said she’s proud to hold a sign in support of a nativity scene that was recently moved away from the courthouse square. Someone spotted the display and called the Freedom from Religion Foundation.The group sent letters warning the town board that it’s against the law to have religious displays on public property. For the first time in 40 years, the nativity has  been moved to private property.Rote said she and her church members want it back. “I was here for six and a half hours yesterday. My church had church our here, like we called all of our members and said ‘hey, we’re going to have church outside today. You know, today we’re going to have it out in Dallas,’” Rote said.People dressed up Monday night to reenact the scene that was on display in an effort to persuade the town to bring the nativity scene back. Until then, they’ll continue their fight.“My plan is just to stay here and hold the sign and just listen to what’s going on,” Rote said.A rally event is planned for Wednesday, click here to learn more.

Officers surprise four families with early Christmas

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Some of Santa's elves must be in law enforcement. Police in San Diego delivered gifts for the man in red to four very deserving families. 

"The kids were nominated by their schools, students who are doing well, despite the hardships that they face at home," KGTV reporter Marie Coronel says.

"It means a lot, we've been through a lot of stuff, and yeah, we're really happy,"recipient Nancy Mejia says.

The police officers gave the families presents, food and money, which was collected by the Filipino-American Law Enforcement Officers Association, whose members are both active and retired law enforcement personnel. 

"Definitely brings our spirits up," recipient Randy Goldberg says.

This is the second year in a row Santa has asked the officers to help out San Diego-area families. 

And ol' Saint Nick has been hitting up the men and women in blue this year. Last week, a police officer pulled people over at a routine traffic stop and surprised them with gifts from their wish lists.

"This just turned my bad day into a good one,"one woman says.

"What? Are you joking?" another woman asks.

"No, it just fell off the back of a truck, you didn't see the guy in the red sleigh? Sorry the wrap job isn't perfect, it's a little windy out,"Officer Scot VanSolkema says.

"How did you do this?" the woman asks. 

And after a thief stole gifts from under a Minnesota family's Christmas tree, officers again stepped up.

"Hopkins police had a plan of their own, surprising the Hills by replacing almost all of the $600 worth of gifts that were stolen," KMSP reporter Leah Beno says.

"Thank you so much," mother Maritha Hill says.

This video includes footage from the City of Lowell. 

Entire California neighborhood lights up sky with synced light display

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An entire neighborhood in Yucaipa, California, managed to set all of their Christmas lights to sync with a Trans-Siberian Orchestra song.

The video, which is just over three minutes, was apparently shot from a drone at dusk and shows the various Christmas lights flash in time with the music.

According to The Daily Mail, 16 neighbors spent months preparing the display. Jeff Maxey uploaded the video to his YouTube channel as well as a display synced with Maria Carey's "All I Want for Christmas."

Read more here

For Thanksgiving: Conquering fear of pie crusts

I've suffered from it for years, and I'll bet you have, too. It gets especially bad around Thanksgiving time.

You know the drill. The best cooks of the family load up the sideboard with their deep-dish apple wonders, dreamy sweet-potato custard pies and decadent chocolate-and-pecan confections. You slink in with your pitiful little pumpkin pie. Everyone knows your dirty little secret: You got the recipe off the side of the pumpkin can and dumped the filling into a store-bought frozen crust. (To be honest, you didn't really know there was any other kind of crust.)

Folks, I hear your pain! Over the years, I have hidden my baking deficiencies by excelling at savories. "Please!" I beg. "I'll cook everything but dessert! Turkey and dressing and all the fixings! But please, don't make me do the pie!"

Recently, however, I decided to stop this foolishness. I decided to conquer my fear of crusts. I decided to call Shirley O. Corriher, the Atlanta food scientist and James Beard Award-winning cookbook writer. Shirley said she would teach me her no-fail recipe for Simple Flaky Crust (from her indispensable first book, "CookWise") on one condition: She would sit, and I would roll.

Before Shirley arrived one recent day, I decided to go it alone. The results were tragic. To begin with, I couldn't even find a rolling pin. When I did find my mama's old wooden beauties, cowering in the farthest corner of my cabinet, I had no idea what to do with them. I ended up pressing the crust into a pan with my thumbs. Play-Doh flashback. Shirley told me it looked great. But I could tell she was lying. I could see the vague look of horror in her eyes.

So we started over.

And in her inimitable way, Shirley gave me a scientific explanation of pie-crust technique: tender vs. flaky and the fickle nature of fat. "Tender is one characteristic and flaky is another characteristic," she said. For a flaky crust, "you need big slabs of cold fat." The fat acts as a spacer in the dough; when it melts, it releases steam that puffs the dough apart. For tender crusts, you want to grease the flour with fat so that it can't soak up water to form tough gluten. (You may have tried this technique before, using a pastry cutter or food processor to mix the flour and fat into pebble-like lumps.)

Well, pretty soon, I started to get the hang of it. I lost my fear of the pin and learned that flour was my friend. I rolled out two crusts, folded them up and gently pressed them into the pan. "Way to go," Shirley said.

By the end of the day, I had a Spicy Peanut and Chocolate Pie, a variation on the classic pecan pie that anyone would be proud to put on a Thanksgiving dessert table, and a wonderful Quiche of Gruyere and Mushrooms, an elegant pie for a holiday brunch.

Shirley had introduced me to the joys of making beautiful hand-made crusts. That's a gift I will always be thankful for.

Pie recipes and a step-by-step guide to making crust

Quiche of Gruyere and Mushrooms

Inspired by Julia Child, this savory pie is rich and voluptuous.

Hand on: 35 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Serves: 4-6

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons minced shallots

1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 eggs

2 cups whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, divided

1 single 9-1/2-inch pie crust, pre-baked

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a heavy skillet or sauté; pan over medium heat, melt butter, add shallots and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, salt and lemon juice and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Raise the heat to medium, and cook down all the liquid, about 10 more minutes. (A couple of pointers: don't over-stir, or you will break up the mushrooms; do reduce as much liquid as possible to avoid a soggy quiche.)

Crack eggs into a medium bowl. Add whipping cream, black pepper and nutmeg. Beat well with a fork or whisk. Gently stir in 3/4 cup of the Gruyere and the mushrooms.

Pour into pre-baked pie crust. Sprinkle remaining Gruyere on top. (If you have extra cheese, feel free to sprinkle a bit more on top.) Bake in the upper part of oven until puffed and brown, about 30-45 minutes.

Per serving, based on 4: 870 calories (percent of calories from fat, 76), 21 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 75 grams fat (41 grams saturated), 423 milligrams cholesterol, 1,235 milligrams sodium.

Spicy Peanut and Chocolate Pie

Hands on: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Serves: 8

This pie is from Nancie McDermott's "Southern Pies" (Chronicle, $23). McDermott attributes it to Barry Maiden, a Virginia native who runs Hungry Mother restaurant in Cambridge, Mass. I served the pie dolloped with bourbon-spiked whipped cream. If you like, reserve about a tablespoon of chopped peanuts for garnish or make a few extra.

For the spicy peanuts

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts

For the filling

4 eggs

1 cup sorghum, molasses, pure cane syrup or dark corn syrup

1/2 cup dark or light brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled

3 tablespoons bourbon (optional)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 9-inch single pie crust, pre-baked

Whipped cream (optional)

To make the spicy peanuts:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper.

In a small sauce pan, make a simple syrup by combining the granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a vigorous boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar thoroughly, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour syrup into a medium bowl. Add salt and cayenne and mix well. Add peanuts and toss to coat evenly. Spread peanuts in a single layer and bake until fairly dry, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Chop coarsely and set aside.

To make the filling:

In a medium bowl, stir eggs lightly with a whisk or fork. Add the syrup and granulated sugar, stirring well to combine. Add the butter, bourbon (if using) and vanilla extract. Mix evenly. Stir in the flour; then fold in chopped peanuts.

Sprinkle half the chocolate chips over the bottom of the pre-baked pie crust, and pour in the filling. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips into the pie. Bake at 350 degrees, or until the edges puff up and the center is fairly firm, wiggling only a little when you nudge the pan, 25 to 35 minutes.

Serve pie at room temperature with optional whipped cream.

-- Adapted from "Southern Pies" by Nancie McDermott (Chronicle, $23).

Per serving: 470 calories (percent of calories from fat, 42), 9 grams protein, 62 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 22 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 118 milligrams cholesterol, 501 milligrams sodium.

A step-by-step guide to making Shirley Corriher's Simple Flaky Crust

1. Mix 2 cups bleached all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup instant flour (Wondra or Shake & Blend) and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

2. Cut 1/2 pound (2 sticks) of butter Corriher's way. Slice each stick into quarters with a sharp knife, cutting lengthwise into long slabs; then slice each slab into thirds. Toss the butter in the flour mixture, coating the butter well. (It's OK to use your hands.) Place in freezer for 10 minutes.

3. Dump the mixture onto the counter, and roll with a large rolling pin to flatten lumps. If you have never done this, it may take a moment to get the hang of it. Press down on the rolling pin with your fingers or palms to flatten the lumps, and slowly begin to roll. Using a spatula, scrape the flour mixture into a pile and roll again. Repeat one more time. Return the mixture to the bowl, making sure to scrape the dough off the rolling pin, and place back in freezer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, repeat process above: dump on the counter, and roll and scrape together three times. Return to freezer for 10 minutes.

4. Remove from freezer, and gently fold in eight ounces of sour cream. The dough should be moist enough to hold together in a ball. If needed, you may add 1 to 3 tablespoons of water or milk. Nifty hint from Corriher: you can mix a little milk or water into the sour cream container and use the liquid.

5. Divide the ball in half. Flatten into two discs and dust with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight. This will make two single crusts (enough for the pie recipes here) or one double 9-inch crust.

6. When ready to roll crust, place one disc on the counter. (Keep a small bowl of flour handy, and dust the counter and dough liberally with the flour so the crust won't stick to the counter surface.) Gently press the rolling pin down at the center. Roll away from you toward the edge of the disc -- but not all the way to the edge. Repeat, rolling from center toward you. Rotate the crust slightly and continue the process, flattening it into a circle.

7. When the crust is big enough to place into a pie pan, fold it in half. Then fold it again. This will help you ease it into the pan with out breaking it.

8. Place the crust in the pan with pointed edge at the center, and gently unfold it, adjusting it evenly.

9. Tuck the crust into the pan as snugly as possible. This is important, because the crust will shrink during baking, so every surface of bottom and side of the pan must be covered. Trim crust, leaving about a half-inch margin of crust around the edge. You may leave the border plain, or decorate by pressing with a fork or crimping with fingers. Check your recipe; if it calls for a pre-baked or partially baked crust, bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Be sure to weigh down the crust with a layer of parchment or waxed paper, then a layer of rice or dried beans.

10. Cookbook author Shirley O. Corriher describes the secret of a making a flaky crust. "For flakiness, you need big slabs of cold fat. … If you work it in too fine, there's no way on earth you are ever going to have a flake. That's why rolling the butter out in big slaps like this gives you such a flaky crust!"

-- Adapted from "CookWise" by Shirley O. Corriher (Morrow, $35).

Desserts you can fix ahead and freeze for Thanksgiving

Not all of us are like my friend Shawn. Her Christmas shopping for this year, bought during January’s after-Christmas sales, is wrapped, tagged and stored in her attic. Her freezer is already lined with color-coordinated Tupperware housing Thanksgiving jewels waiting to debut on the fourth Thursday of November.

While Shawn’s foresight is unthinkable for most of us (and drives even her closest friends a little crazy), some plan-ahead strategy does much to lower holiday stress. Take Thanksgiving dessert, for instance. With a little freezer space and a few hours before the big day, delicious pies and cakes can be made ahead and frozen, leaving our ovens free for that big ol’ bird and all the fixings to go with it.

Dessert has a special meaning on Thanksgiving. No matter how stuffed we are, there is always room for a piece … or two … or maybe three (but that’s definitely it) of dessert —- and since we’re making room, just a little ice cream or whipped cream to keep them company. These autumnal desserts acknowledge our appreciation of the harvest. Crisp apples, succulent pears and crunchy nuts are baked in buttery crusts. Vibrant pumpkin and cranberry pies mirror the vivid colors of the leaves as they change to orange, then crimson.

While many classic desserts lend themselves to make-ahead status, some do not. Many fruit pies and moisture-rich custard pies are best frozen before baking or prepared shortly before serving. But just as many desserts easily make the transition from freezer to table.

So unwedge that rolling pin from its perch as a safety lock for the porch sliding doors, reclaim those measuring cups from the basket of baby toys, wipe the cobwebs off that electric mixer and start baking. But don’t despair if time gets the better of your good intentions. These desserts will still be winners made the day before or on Thanksgiving Day.

THE RECIPES

Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Cake: This deliciously moist cake is filled with aromatic spices, crystallized ginger, pecans and a hint of rum. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and ginger-flavored whipped cream. Don’t be put off by the lengthy ingredient list; most things are in your cupboard.

Apricot, Cranberry and Walnut Pie:  Loaded with the colors of fall foliage, this pie has the sweetness of a pecan pie, with the toothsome addition of dried apricots and cranberries. Lightly toasting the walnuts before baking brings out their flavor and ensures crispness. Mix the ingredients gently to avoid a mottled appearance. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is the perfect complement.

Maple Apple Walnut Crunch Pie: Unlike a traditional apple pie, which should be frozen before being baked, this one, made with grated apples and crunchy oatmeal and walnuts, can be baked ahead of time and warmed before serving. Good baking apples include Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Cortland, Rome, Baldwin and Winesap.

Pumpkin Cheesecake: Cheesecake is a great make-ahead dessert, especially for those with limited freezer space. This scrumptious version is baked in a gingersnap crust and is flavored with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. You can make it on Sunday or Monday and hold it in the fridge until Thursday.

Apple Ginger Bundt Cake: Talk about convenience; this autumnal cake skips the work of peeling and chopping apples by using applesauce. Add some crystallized ginger and raisins and you’ve got a dessert to be reckoned with. Serve with cinnamon or vanilla ice cream for an extra treat.

 

A FEW WAYS TO ASSURE SWEET SUCCESS  BAKING HINTS

 • Always read through the recipe completely to make sure you have everything you need. Have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go before beginning the recipe. Measure accurately, and do not substitute ingredients.

 • Choose high-quality ingredients. Unless noted, use large eggs, unsalted butter and all-purpose flour.

• If using a premade pie crust, choose a refrigerated version that fits into your own pie plate, not one frozen in an aluminum pan. If you must use that variety, choose the deep-dish version.

 • Make sure there are no cracks or breaks in the pie crust before baking. If necessary, patch any weak areas with excess dough.

• Keep pie crusts chilled in their pans while preparing fillings. If cooking a filling, cool it completely before putting it in the crust.

 • Bake pies in the middle or bottom of the oven. Always check a pie during baking to make sure the filling and/or crust aren’t overbrowning and that the filling isn’t bubbling over. If necessary, shield with foil and/or slip a foil-covered baking sheet under the pie.

 • When baking a cake, have all ingredients at room temperature for better blending. Take out refrigerated items an hour or two before they are to be used. > When using an electric mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically to fully incorporate all ingredients.

 FREEZING HINTS

 • Choose pie fillings that do not have excess amounts of liquid. As Elinor Klivens explains in “Bake and Freeze Desserts, ” as food freezes, its moisture forms ice crystals. Small crystals preserve a smooth, fine texture, while large crystals can rupture the cell walls of food and cause moisture to flow out of the food as it defrosts, leaving desserts unpleasantly mushy.

• Make sure that the dessert is thoroughly cooled before freezing, or condensation will cause it to get soggy. 

• Use good-quality packaging materials: heavy-duty aluminum foil, plastic wrap zip-top bags specifically for the freezer. Force out extra air before sealing the bag.

• Label desserts with date and contents. Freeze pies up to one month, cakes up to three months.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

• Nearly all Thanksgiving desserts taste great with a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream or freshly made whipped cream.

• Sprinkle cakes with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

• Flavor whipped cream to complement your dessert. Sweeten to taste with confectioners’ sugar and add a dash of ginger or cinnamon, 1 tablespoon rum or maple syrup, 1 teaspoon instant coffee or 1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest.

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