The tradition of cutting down an evergreen, placing it in a stand, lighting it up and garnishing it with ornaments began in the early 1600s. The evergreen symbolized life when every other tree had shed its leaves -- the evergreen remained green and lush. The very first holiday lights were candles, and they often symbolized loved ones, friends and family. Many of these first trees were decorated with fresh garlands of berries and baked cookies. Electricity introduced the first electrified strings of lights, and homemade ornaments of fruits and cookies were replaced with glass balls and molded plastic figurines. Many of these ornaments have been lovingly collected over the years, with each having a special meaning of a specific place or time in our lives.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner--are you ready? We at Beanilla are so excited for the holiday season! Not only is it our busiest time of the year, but also our favorite. Cookies, pies, candies or just about any baked good or pastry you can create is our forte. The addition of our high quality vanilla beans, extracts, vanilla sugar and vanilla salt can bring your desserts to a whole new level of deliciousness!
Speaking of delicious, who doesn’t love pumpkin pie?! Although this pie only seems to hang around for a brief time during the holiday season, it is almost always a staple on the holiday dinner table. Traditionally baked in a flaky rolled pie crust and garnished with a dollop of creamy whipped cream, the creamy custard-like texture is unique and quintessentially Thanksgiving!
What is your favorite holiday tradition? Is it the perfect pumpkin pie, a deliciously mastered parker roll recipe, lump free gravy or maybe a wonderfully moist turkey!? Whatever your traditions may include, one item almost always is included in holiday celebrations -- Pie! Apple, pumpkin and pecan are just a few of the traditional holiday pies that often grace our tables.
Pecan pie is southern in its origins. Recipes for the pie appeared in southern cookbooks as early as the late 1800’s. Corn syrup, but most notably Karo syrup, is ultimately responsible for what is considered a traditional pecan pie. Flaky pie crust, a creamy layer of caramelized syrup and a crunchy layer of toasted pecans is traditional, but there are many variations that include chocolate, peanut butter and bourbon. Our version adds fresh cranberries to the pie to cut the sweetness and adds a tart fruitiness to the dessert. The pie itself contains a relatively short list of ingredients, making it crucial that each ingredient is high quality. Vanilla is one of the key ingredients in pecan pie. The flavor of the beans enhances the filling and adds a bold vanilla flavor to the entire pie.
The leaves are beginning to fall, the air is crisp, and autumn has arrived. My thoughts drift to hot apple cider, crisp fresh picked apples and everything pumpkin I can create. Pumpkin is a unique flavor reserved exclusively for the fall season. Rarely do you see a pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread gracing the table in the heat of the summer.
Grocery shopping when you're a kid can be downright monotonous. Walking behind one of your parents while they decide which macaroni and cheese was a better buy was never my idea of fun; except when we were bribed to be on our best behavior. This meant that my brother's and I would break off from our macaroni and cheese indecisive parents and beeline for the Brach's candy bins. Brightly colored hard candies sat next to soft and chewy fruit slices. Ultimately I would choose the wrapped chocolate creams. Raspberry, vanilla, maple and orange were just a few of the flavors they had to offer. More often than not my perfectly measured bag of treats would consist of a few raspberry, perhaps a vanilla, but mostly orange creams. I loved how the orange flavoring played beautifully with the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate. I haven't been to the candy bins in years but the allure of dark chocolate and orange cream still calls my name from time to time.
(For a Delicious 1st Birthday)
As parents we spend the first year of our children's lives celebrating all the momentous milestones: The first smile, rolling over, crawling, the first tooth, the first word and finally the first attempt at walking. Many sleepless nights are spent in those first few weeks as well as numerous trips to the drugstore for infant Tylenol for a cranky teething baby and wandering through the aisles of what seems like endless cabinet safety latches and toilet safety clips. Through all the sleepless nights, mounds of diaper changes and endless feedings we endure, sweet innocence prevails. Sweet moments of first words, softly read lullabies and clean, baby soft skin linger with us as parents as they grow and become more independent and less dependent on us.
There is a distinct difference in both flavor and texture between a macaroon and a macaron! One little "o" separates the cookies in the dictionary, but the two confections are worlds apart in flavor, texture and appearance. The macaron is an utterly French creation; crisp on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside. Butter cream graces the center of one of the two cookies. One bite and your mind wanders to quaint Parisian patisseries. I have made it known that French macarons are one of my favorite desserts, but macaroons are a close second. Macaroons are a classic American creation, vastly different from the French macaron. The macaroon is essentially a coconut cookie, reminiscent of the center of a Mounds candy bar, but lighter and more airy. The addition of dark chocolate pushes this simple and delicious treat over the edge of decadence.
Did you know that chocolate meringues are low in fat? They also can be easily converted into a sugar-free treat perfect for those on a low sugar lifestyle or concerned about refined sugars. They are also an exceptional gluten-free treat (even with the Nutella)!
Molasses ginger cookies have always been one of my favorite cookies. I love the crispy edges, soft center and intense flavor. The rich intense flavor of molasses is the perfect complement to ground ginger and our natural ginger flavor. You can find molasses cookies in abundance during the holiday season. It seems as though everyone has their own version for this spicy and flavorful cookie. They tend to disappear, much like the elusive Peep or chocolate covered cherry, until the same time next year. Why not make them all year round? One type of this cookie I have consumed over the years is the classic boxed ginger cookie, hard and, well... hard! These are useful for making crusts on cheesecakes and that’s about it. The second type I have had is the cake cookie...puffy and light, but yet not quite there in the texture category for me. I prefer my molasses ginger cookies to be crunchy on the edges, but soft and chewy in the center. The addition of coarse sugar adds that crunch and texture every cookie needs! If you’re like me, this is the perfect cookie recipe for you!
Many people have special recipes that are passed down from generation to generation. They are coveted for their sentimental value, ties to family tradition and heritage. I have been blessed to have a few of these, in addition to family keepsakes from my husband’s side of the family.
My husband’s mother has made pecan pie for special occasions for as long as he can remember. When he was grown and out on his own he asked for the recipe to carry on a family tradition…. The conversation went something like this…. "Mom, can I have the Herman recipe for pecan pie?" Her response… "Go get a pen and paper, and I will read it to you. Are you ready? Go to the store, pick up the Karo syrup and turn it around. The recipe is on the back!" I have never laughed so hard! Over the years I have come to realize why she used that recipe. It works! Actually, it works really well! I continue to use a variation of the recipe to this day, for both pies and bars.