Tiny but mighty morsels give you a taste of several Thanksgiving recipes

These tiny but mighty morsels give you a taste of several Thanksgiving-worthy recipes

  • Pumpkin cheesecake cups are best served in small bowls or glasses.

    Pumpkin cheesecake cups are best served in small bowls or glasses. Courtesy of Leslie Meredith

 
 
Updated 11/18/2022 7:00 AM

Have you noticed? Small things are having a big moment. From tiny houses to fairy gardens, miniaturism is on the rise. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the food realm.

Makers of muffins, cookies, crackers and candy have been rolling out mini versions of their products. PepsiCo sees "huge growth [in] small-format" snacks and mini cans, according to CEO Ramon Laguarta.*

 

The idea is that increasingly health-conscious consumers can indulge in junk foods while controlling the amount of fat, sugar, salt and calories they ingest. I suspect this doesn't really help anybody. To borrow another tagline, "no one can eat just one."

Sugar and spice make these mini-pies extra nice.
Sugar and spice make these mini-pies extra nice. - Courtesy of Leslie Meredith

Over on TikTok, Tiny Kitchen has 2.2 million followers and counting (@TinyKitchenTM). The videos show the creation of edible morsels like tiny Philly cheesesteaks, tater tots and Key lime pies, all made in a teensy-weensy kitchen.

There's also a YouTube show called Big Tiny Food Faceoff, a cooking competition for adolescent chefs, complete with hamster diners.

Bite-size herby buttermilk biscuits are delicious right out of the oven.
Bite-size herby buttermilk biscuits are delicious right out of the oven. - Courtesy of Leslie Meredith
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If you've ever visited the Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago or read "The Borrowers," you recognize the appeal. Children are especially enamored with tiny things. Playing with little toys helps them feel in control, and eating tiny food is less overwhelming than a full plate of new food.

It's why most kids try all the samples at Costco. I have doll-sized spoons I got at the Dollar Store to use as scoops for cupcake decorations in baking classes. I've recently discovered how useful they are in getting picky eaters to try a bite of something -- even the kids who happily use regular cutlery clamor for a tiny spoon.

Think about going mini if you struggle to get your kiddos to eat a range of foods. Cookie cutters can help make small pizzas or sandwiches. Even regular-sized dishes served in little bowls or muffin cups will be magically more enticing.

These three seasonal recipes can get you started, and the kids can help prepare them for your Thanksgiving feast.

We used a 3.5-inch cookie cutter for the apple pie bites, but that didn't give us quite enough dough to stretch over the apple mixture. They tasted marvelous but looked a little "rustic."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If you have one, I recommend you use a 5-inch cutter or search for a suitable glass or canister with a large upper diameter.

Crushing the gingersnaps needn't be a mess if you use a sealed plastic bag.
Crushing the gingersnaps needn't be a mess if you use a sealed plastic bag. - Courtesy of Leslie Meredith

For chopping nuts, placing them in a sealed bag and crushing them with a rolling pin means no rogue nuts flying all over the kitchen. Plus, kids love bashing things. Just remind them we want small pieces, as they can get carried away and completely pulverize the nuts.

The pumpkin cheesecake recipe uses the same technique to crush the ginger snaps. The final texture should resemble coarse sand, not dust. Those no-bake treats look good in small, clear juice glasses. But you can also use ramekins or small bowls.

I recommend two tools for making the biscuits. People, young and old, enjoy using a mezzaluna herb cutter. It makes fast work of an otherwise tedious task and keeps fingers clear of the sharp blade.

I also started using my tea infusers as makeshift flour wands. They can be a nifty way to dust a work surface or add more flour to the dough without sticking gloopy hands into the flour canister.

Apple Pie Bites are ready to go into the oven.
Apple Pie Bites are ready to go into the oven. - Courtesy of Leslie Meredith

If your biscuit cutters are as old as mine, you may need to twist as you cut to separate the dough in the apple pie bites and the biscuits. Twisting is generally frowned upon, as it seals the edges and can inhibit rising. It can lead to a dance party, however. When I asked preschoolers to shimmy the cutter, I meant to wriggle the tool back and forth to cut through the dough. One little girl did a full-body twist that would make Charo proud.

Cooking with kids should be fun!

• Leslie Meredith is the winner of the 2019 Cook of the Week Challenge and teaches people how to grow and cook "real" food. She runs Farmhouse School on a historic homestead in Campton Hills. See the school's Facebook or Instagram pages @FarmhouseSchool or contact Leslie at food@dailyherald.com.

Source: PepsiCo Q2 earnings call

• • •

Apple Pie Bites

1 refrigerated 9-inch pie crust

1/3 cup walnuts

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

3 tablespoons melted butter

1 firm, tart apple

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or use a silicone mat.

Unroll pie crust. Using a 4- or 5-inch cookie cutter, cut out 6 circles. Reroll scraps as needed.

Toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until starting to brown and become fragrant. Allow to cool.

Combine brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon in a small bowl.

Place cooled walnuts inside sealed plastic bag and tap with a rolling pin to "chop" the nuts.

Spread butter on each dough circle. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar and nuts on top.

Core and cut apple into 8 slices. Place one slice on each circle (eat the two that are leftover.) Fold circle in half and pinch closed. Arrange folded pies on the prepared cookie sheet and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon and granulated sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes or until browned. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 pies

• • •

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cups

cup pepitas

1 tablespoon + cup packed brown sugar, divided

teaspoon + 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, divided

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

teaspoon salt

20 gingersnap cookies, crushed (may substitute with graham crackers)

Whipped cream, to serve

Toss pepitas with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl.

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir pepita mixture for a few minutes, just until fragrant but before they scorch. Spread onto waxed paper to cool.

Mix cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl with a hand mixer on high until smooth.

Spread crushed gingersnaps in the bottom of each glass or ramekin. Top with cup of the pumpkin mixture, then top with whipped cream and candied pepitas.

Makes 8

Leslie Meredith

• • •

Bite-size Herby Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

teaspoon black pepper

cup cold, unsalted butter cut into small dice, plus 2 tablespoons, melted, for brushing.

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

cup cold buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and pepper.

Using a pastry cutter or the backs of two forks, work in the butter pieces until the dough is crumbly and looks like peas. Add the herbs then gradually add buttermilk, stirring just until you no longer see any dry bits.

Turn out the shaggy dough onto a clean work surface dusted with flour. Gently knead 3-4 times and pat dough into a 1-inch thickness. Dip a 1-inch biscuit cutter into flour and cut out dough. Try to minimize scraps, which can be rerolled and cut. The more the dough is worked, the tougher the biscuits will be.

Place the biscuits on the baking sheet with their sides just touching and brush with melted butter. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.

Makes 20 small biscuits

Leslie Meredith

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