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10 trends shaping the restaurant industry in 2014

Unique menu items and increased spending among older consumers are two trends that will impact the food service industry next year, according to a recent article from Nation’s Restaurant News, written by Ron Ruggless.

Menu innovation and older consumers’ increased spending are among the top 10 trends shaping the restaurant industry in 2014, according to The NPD Group.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm released its list of predictions for the industry in the year ahead and beyond, ranging from the impact of baby boomers and seniors to the effect of prepared meals at supermarkets on market share.

“If there is anything that’s a common theme here — maybe more so than in years past — it’s menu innovation, “ said NPD Group restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs.

New top-selling products of 2013, such as Wendy’s pretzel bun burger and Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos, were based on innovation, Riggs said.

“Those that came out with something really different and unique had big hits,” she said. “That’s what it is going to take to get especially the Millennials and younger folks out of the home and back into restaurants.”

However, operators should also closely watch the increased spending among baby boomers and seniors, as this group is “keeping the industry afloat,” Riggs added. “They are the ones that are increasing their usage of restaurants, while those younger — under 50 — have pulled back dramatically and are still pulling back,” Riggs said.

Baby boomers’ and seniors’ usage rate of restaurants is now heavier than younger generations, she said, and many of them continue to delay retirement. “They are the driver of any growth that the industry is achieving,” she added. “They tell us they want comfortable seating, less noisy restaurants [and] a menu that is easy to read. We need to pay attention to them.”

NPD’s top 10 trends it expects to influence the restaurant industry also included:

An improving economy. Real disposable income is forecast to grow, inflation will remain moderate, and unemployment will continue to inch down in the year ahead.

“While consumers’ mindset for cautious, controlled spending is expected to remain in place for some time, our forecast of traffic and dollar growth for 2014 shows improved performance compared to 2013,” NPD said.

Segment strengths. NPD forecasts indicate that traffic will build for fast-casual restaurants, sub shops and gourmet coffee/donut outlets.

“Additionally, convenience stores are likely to experience traffic growth as they take advantage of consumers’ current tendency to ‘trade down’ from more expensive options,” NPD said, adding that food retailers with convenient meal options would capture more visits from traditional restaurants.

“Those supermarket meal sales are growing at double-digit rates for lunch, and also growing for dinner at rates much higher than for the industry overall,” Riggs said, citing Whole Foods Market and Mariano’s Fresh Market.

Protein prices. An expected rise in beef prices and lower chicken prices will be reflected in menu offerings.

“You’ll see an increased focus on other proteins because of the high cost of beef,” Riggs said.

Population shifts and diversity impacts on menus. The influence of the growing U.S. Hispanic population is reflected in the increased popularity of fruits, juice drinks and more flavorful spices and seasonings, NPD said. And the growing Asian population carries its influence on menus, as well, with noodles, rice, specialty sauces, and other foods and flavors.

Strong baby boomer and senior spending. Boomers and their older counterparts have been less affected by prolonged high unemployment and the recession, NPD reported.

“These individuals have continued to visit restaurants at an ever-increasing rate,” NPD said. “While their food and beverage preferences may differ from those of the younger set, many older consumers are bringing their ‘younger’ preferences with them.”

Changing incentives. Paper coupons gave way years ago to tiered pricing strategies, combo meal offers, sweepstakes and value menu items. With greater online availability, coupons are again popular, NPD said, but loyalty rewards are also increasing.

“Going forward, rotating offers and creating new ways to entice consumers to visit must be a part of any operator’s marketing plan,” NPD said.

Mobile technology. Mobile devices continue to grow as important tools for consumers, who expect most of their needs to be met with the devices, NPD said. Consumers’ use of mobile devices for ordering and paying for meals and reporting on the meal experience will continue to grow.

Healthful menu offerings. Consumers’ interest in healthful meal options is tied to the health needs of boomers and older individuals, the growth in ethnic groups accustomed to fresh food preparation, and greater awareness of the need for and benefits of healthful eating among younger patrons. As an example, NPD found a growing number of consumers who prefer gluten-free foods, not because of required dietary restrictions, but because of the benefits of overall more healthful eating.

Fine-dining strength. “Fine dining, from our view, has fully recovered from the recession and is growing,” NPD said.

The segment will continue to offer more casual décor and accept casual attire.

New concepts. NPD said the industry can expect more innovation from new concepts, such as Houston-based My Fit Foods, with more than 60 units, and Chicago-based Lyfe Kitchen, with four units. Both address the interest in fresh and healthful food, as well as portion options.

“This plays into giving consumers more choices and healthier options,” Riggs said. “These concepts allow consumers to buy different sized portions: small-, medium- and large-sized. You can eat very healthy. There’s a lot of innovation and flavor profiles in those offerings.”

Staffing for the Holidays

In this article from Full-Service Restaurant Magazine, Heather Larson discusses the importance of planning ahead to meet staffing needs for the business holiday season.

Ultimately, you must plan to overstaff for each holiday your restaurant stays open. That’s the best way to keep your customers happy. Should the volume of diners dwindle, you can always send workers home early. Also, if you have more staff on hand, if one or two don’t show, you won’t be stranded.

Many restaurants close Christmas & new Years Day eliminating some of the anxiety surrounding which employees should get time off. But the evening before each of those holidays also seems to be a popular time for families to dine out.

Who Should Work?

Jason Chadwick, co-owner of Restaurant Rehab, a restaurant consulting business in Kansas City, recommends scheduling all your key employees on holidays. They effectively run the dining room and won’t make the same mistakes lesser-experienced staff might.

At the Wilshire Restaurant in Santa Monica, where modern California cuisine highlights the menu, workers can take time off around the holidays. Whoever asks earliest gets first consideration.

“Time off is also based on production,” says Clint Clausen, director of operations. “I will give a server with the highest sales days off over someone who has worked here for eight years, but has the lowest sales.”

Some establishments schedule workers for certain days throughout the year, so as an example Server A works every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If a holiday falls on one of those days, she knows she’ll be working. If she wants to trade, that’s okay.

The last alternative allows for no time off during the holidays. This is typically how hotel restaurants handle staffing.

Is More Pay an Incentive?

“Usually the majority of the staff want to work because it’s a good time to make money,” says Chadwick.

At the two restaurants at the Salish Lodge & Spa in Snoqualmie, Washington, if you work full time and you come in on a holiday then you earn eight hours paid time off (pto), says Shannon Galusha, culinary director for Seattle-based Columbia Hospitality, which oversees 15 properties throughout the West, including the Salish Lodge.

Even if the restaurant itself doesn’t pay extra for holidays, most diners feel the holiday spirit and in general tip better than normal.

Plan, Plan, and Plan

If you don’t know how many servers and hostesses you’ll need, do some research. Look at last year’s reservations to see which days and time slots consistently filled and which didn’t.

Tanya Chadwick, Jason’s wife and co-owner of Restaurant Rehab, says get in front of your scheduling for the end of the year now. Use all the avenues you can to let people know you’ll be open on Thanksgiving Eve, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas.

“Reach out to those who made reservations with you last year and ask them to come back,” says Tanya. “Tell them what you’ll be serving so they can inform their party. This personal touch is sure to get you repeat customers.”

If you’re going to need extra help for the holidays, hire them now and get them trained, Tanya says. Don’t wait until the last minute when there’s very little time to train. Also if you employ college students in the summer, now’s the time to ask them to work the holidays.

“Whatever you do, be consistent. Don’t close early,” says Galusha who has 14 years of restaurant experience. “Customers return to your restaurant based on past experiences.”

6 Craft Beers For Thanksgiving

In this article from Food Republic by Jon Katz, get inspired with tasty craft beers, perfect for this classic holiday. Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays centered on food, and while the turkey may be the star of the show, all too often there’s a tendency to forget about proper pairings. While wine or liquor certainly have their benefits, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect complimentary flavor than the maltiness of beer with the iconic heartiness of Thanksgiving dishes — the sweetness of sweet potatoes with marshmallow, the tartness of cranberry sauce, the breadiness of the stuffing and of course, the juiciness of the turkey.

While beer is slowly earning its due as a perfect food pairing, especially with diverse spreads like a Thanksgiving feast, this is your chance to surprise everyone by matching each course with a different type of beer. It’s not an easy task (the shelves are flooded with winter and fall seasonals), but keep it simple and you’ll nail it. Here are the beers you should pair with Thanksgiving dinner.

1. Harpoon Brewery: Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale
There’s always that “waiting period” when the food isn’t quite ready — someone undoubtedly forgot to put the bird in on time — so you want something to help curb the guests’ appetite without diminishing it. This beer is a perfect way to welcome guests while getting your taste buds ready for turkey and fixins, with its sweet maltiness and hint of fresh cranberry tartness.

2. The Bruery: Autumn Maple
Yes, pumpkin beers are still hanging around, but try something a little more in-line with the meal. If you want some real Thanksgiving flavors, this beer has them all: yams, molasses, maple syrup and spices lend themselves to prepping your palate. It’s not overly sweet and would be delicious with the big meal, but I prefer it with candied nuts and other rich bites that are served pre-feast.

3. Brewery Ommegang: Scythe and Sickle
This is one of my favorite seasonal beers and it’s just perfect for Thanksgiving. The amber ale is packed with malty goodness from rye and oat flakes and tastes similar to a mashup of the bready maltiness of brown ale with the spiciness of a saison from Ommegang’s fantastic Belgian yeast. It’s perfect for hearty side dishes, but it also won’t overwhelm the succulent flavors of the turkey.

4. Brasserie Dupont: Saison Dupont
With so many incredible farmhouse ales coming out of the U.S., it’s easy to forget about the Belgians that inspired them. Many have high levels of wild yeast which won’t necessarily tickle every palate at the table, but here we have a truly pleasing Belgian classic: a rustic, spicy saison with a delicious citrus fruitiness. It’s dry with a beautiful, delicate champagne-like carbonation and enough bready malt to balance things out. This would pair well with any turkey, but at 6.5% ABV it would definitely cut the fat of crazier variations – turducken, I’m looking at you.

5. Founders Brewing Company: Breakfast Stout
Despite how much we battle against it, eating as much tryptophan-laced bird as one does on Turkey Day, it’s just really difficult to stay awake and digest after a massive meal. If you find yourself on the verge of nodding off, a little breakfast stout is what you need to push on through the dessert course. A variety of coffee and chocolate added to the brew results in something you could probably call dessert on its own, but is absolutely delicious with cake or pie! Serve this on the warmer side of cool and watch as even professed stout haters fall in love.

6. De Struise Brouwers: Pannepot Old Fisherman’s Ale
Beers from De Struise tend to be somewhat harder to locate but we’ve given you a few days’ head start – so here’s your assignment! Belgian quads are perfect as a digestif to help kick back from all the food you just ate. This one is huge at 10% ABV but it’s absolutely delicious – spicy and roasty with tons of dark fruits like raisins and figs, and just a touch of booziness. Complex and one of the best examples of a quad you can try – treat yourself for the holiday!

For more thanksgiving inspiration, check out our Pinterest page!

Thanksgiving Inspired Cocktails

Thanksgiving is full of delicious food, but don’t overlook the drink possibilities for this festive holiday! Check out this Mashable cocktail list from Brooklyn bartender and food blogger Mallory Lance of Mallory’s Kitchen to turn a turkey dinner into unique cocktails for your guests.

Turkey Rosemary Whiskey

Turkey

Ingredients:
Wild Turkey rye, muddled turkey bouillon, brown sugar cubes, bitters, lemon juice, rosemary simple syrup, thyme.
Directions:
Muddle 1/2 teaspoon of turkey bouillon and one brown sugar cube with a couple dashes of bitters. Add 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/2 oz. rosemary clove simple syrup*, and 2 oz. Wild Turkey Rye. Shake vigorously over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a sprig or two of thyme.
*Rosemary Clove Simple Syrup: Combine 1 cup white sugar, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 1/4 cups water in a saucepan. Add two to three sprigs of fresh rosemary and 1 tsp. whole cloves. Stir well, bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain out the rosemary and cloves and store in a glass bottle with a fresh sprig of rosemary.

Green Bean Gimlet
Green-beans
Ingredients:
Hendrick’s gin, haricot verts (French green beans), lime juice, simple syrup*, haricot vert, almond slivers.
Directions:
Muddle three raw haricot verts until nearly liquefied and add to a cocktail shaker. Add 1 oz. simple syrup, 1 oz. fresh lime juice and 2 oz. gin. Add ice, shake and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with two haricot verts and almond slivers.
*Simple Syrup: Combine equal parts water and white sugar in a small sauce pan, heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cool before using.

Buttery Potato Cocktail
Potato
Ingredients:
Potato vodka, puréed potatoes, unsalted butter, salt, dill, black pepper.
Directions: Peel and chop one baking potato into one-inch cubes. Place in a small pot and add enough water to submerge potatoes. Boil until tender.
Strain out most of the water, reserving about 1/4 cup and purée the potatoes completely in a blender or with an immersion blender. Add 2 tbsp. of butter and salt to taste. Allow to cool. In a cocktail shaker, add 2 oz. potato vodka and 2 heaping teaspoons of potato puree. Add ice and shake vigorously until the glass is frosty. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with dill and black pepper.

Spiced Butternut Squash Whiskey
Butternut-squash
Ingredients:
Whiskey, butternut squash purée, apple purée, rosemary clove simple syrup, lemon, rosemary.
Directions:
Peel and chop half of a small butternut squash and half an apple into one-inch cubes. Place squash in a small pot and add enough water to cover it. Boil until tender.
Strain out most of the water, reserving about 1/4 cup. purée the squash and apple completely using either a standing blender or an immersion blender. Stir in 2 tsp. brown sugar and allow to cool completely.
In a cocktail shaker, add 2 oz whiskey, one heaping teaspoon of butternut squash apple puree, 1 oz. rosemary clove simple syrup and 1 oz. lemon juice. Shake and strain into a saucer and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Cranberry Sauce Tequila
Cranberry-sauce
Ingredients:
Tequila, lime juice, simple syrup, Cointreau triple sec, cranberry juice, whole cranberries.
Directions:
If making cranberry juice from scratch: Add 2 cups fresh cranberries, 2 cups water, an orange peel and 1/2 cup sugar to a pot. Stir well and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Strain out cranberries and allow to cool completely.
In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 oz. tequila, 1 oz. lime juice, 1/2 oz. simple syrup, 1/2 oz. Cointreau and 1 oz. cranberry juice. Shake and strain into a saucer and garnish with cranberries. Feel free to add crushed ice if you’d like.

Pumpkin Pie Old Fashioned
Pumpkin-pie
Ingredients:
Bourbon, pumpkin spice syrup, bitters, orange peel.
Directions:
Add 2 oz. bourbon, 3/4 oz. pumpkin spice syrup and a few dashes of aromatic bitters to a Boston shaker. Stir with a bar spoon for one full minute, then strain over a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte (non-alcoholic)
Pumpkin-pie-spice-latte
Ingredients:
Freshly brewed espresso, pumpkin spice syrup, milk, cinnamon, whipped cream topping (optional).
Directions:
Brew the espresso, using a french press if possible. Use 4 tablespoons of ground espresso to 2/3 cups water for two lattes. Steam the milk. Pour the espresso and pumpkin spice syrup into the steamed milk and add a dash of cinnamon to the top.
Need help managing all these fabulous recipes? Try MenuMax and see why we’re the best in the industry! Call us today at 1-877-MENUMX or email us at Max@MenuMax.com


Thanksgiving Soups: Roasted Carrot Soup

A toasty warm version of a traditional style carrot soup, perfect for the thanksgiving holiday. Try this recipe from Food52.com for a flavorful soup.
Ingredients
  • 6 to 8large carrots (about 1 3/4 pounds)
  • 1/4cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • 6cups vegetable stock (good quality, not too high in sodium)
  • 1piece ginger, an inch long, peeled
  • 1sprig thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2large sweet onion, chopped
  • 2large garlic cloves, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Peel and cut the carrots into 1/2-inch rounds. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Set an oven rack 6 to 8 inches from the heat source and turn on the broiler. Broil the carrots until they brown and soften, turning them over with a spatula every 5 minutes or so; this should take 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil, add the ginger and the sprig of thyme and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  3. Put the onion in a medium stock pot with the remaining olive oil. Brown the onion over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, and then add the carrots.
  4. Remove the ginger and thyme from the stock and add the stock to the pot with the onions and carrots. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the carrots are soft enough to puree.
  5. Use an immersion or a standard blender to puree the mixture until smooth. If the soup seems too thick, add more stock or water and reheat gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, garnish with chopped fresh thyme.

Check out our Pinterest page for more Thanksgiving inspiration and soup ideas.

Thanksgiving: Roast Turkey Soup

This fun twist on the classic turkey staple is perfect for this holiday season! If you’re looking for something different this year, try this recipe for Roast Turkey Soup from SeriousEats.com
Ingredients
  • 2 quarts low sodium store-bought or home-made chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 leftover roast turkey carcass, cut into rough chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/2- buy 1/2- by 1/4-inch batons (optional)
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 ribs celery, sliced at a bias (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 pound leftover roast turkey meat, roughly torn into bite-sized pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

  1. Combine stock, turkey parts, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook for 1 hour. Strain broth into a medium saucepan and discard solids.
  2. Add bacon, onions, carrots, and celery. Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in turkey pieces and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley and serve.


Thanksgiving Soups: Puréed Sweet Potato Soup

This unique blend of tastes is bound to be a hit for your holiday menu. Check out this recipe for from Saveur Magazine.

Ingredients

5 medium orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
Salt
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 large leek, white part only, trimmed, cleaned, and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and chopped
1 rib celery, trimmed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup dry white wine
10 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup Cranberry Oil, optional

Directions

1. Put sweet potatoes into a large pot and cover with cold water. Add 2 large pinches salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until soft when pierced with the tip of a knife, 30–40 minutes. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel and quarter sweet potatoes, then set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add wine, scraping any browned bits stuck to bottom of pot, and cook until alcohol has evaporated, about 2 minutes.

3. Add stock and reserved sweet potatoes to pot, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are very soft, about 30 minutes.

4. Working in batches, put vegetables and stock into a food processor or blender and purée until smooth, then return soup to pot. Stir in cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Drizzle some of the cranberry oil, if using, over each serving.

For more great soup recipes, check our Pinterest board!

Thanksgiving Soups: Acorn Squash Soup

Start your dinner off right with this great recipe for Acorn Squash Soup from the Food Network.

Ingredients
3 whole acorn squash, approximately 8 cups when cooked
6 shallots, 1 cup diced, 3 left whole and peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper, freshly cracked, plus more for seasoning
1 stick unsalted butter, in all
4 cups chicken stock, low-sodium
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sage, dry
1 teaspoon savory
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the squash in half on the equator and remove the seeds with a spoon. Cut a flat spot on each end so the squash will sit flat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange the squash, cut side up. To 3 of the squash halves, add a peeled shallot and to the other 3 add 2 garlic cloves on each. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with 1 tablespoon each of the salt and freshly cracked pepper. Roast in the hot oven until very tender and starting to caramelize and collapse, approximately 1 hour. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, remove the squash from the skin. Reserve the roasted shallots and garlic with the squash. Can be done ahead.

In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat and when the butter is starting to foam, add the raw diced shallots and saute until they are starting to caramelize, about 5 to 6 minutes. Deglaze with 1/2 cup of the chicken stock and stir to remove any fond. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the reserved squash, roasted shallots and garlic and then the remaining chicken stock. Stir to combine, then puree with a stick blender. The mixture will be very thick. Add in the cayenne, white pepper and the herbs. Stir in the cream and Worcestershire sauce and heat slowly over medium-low heat. When the mixture comes to a slow simmer, mix again with the stick blender and stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and turn heat to low. Serve with a fresh crack of black pepper, a nice drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a light sprinkle of remaining Parmesan. Ladle into soup bowls and serve.

For more great soups, check out our Pinterest board!

Thanksgiving Soups: Smoky Butternut Squash Soup

Thanksgiving soups are a great way to start off the holiday meal. This creamy soup from FoodandWine.com gets a little smoky heat from canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, but then gets cooled down with a swirl of crème fraîche.
Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
One 3-pound butternut squash, peeled and diced (8 cups)
1 small canned chipotle in adobo, chopped
7 cups chicken or turkey stock or low-sodium broth
2 tablespoons honey
Salt
1 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup finely chopped chives, plus more for garnish

Directions

  1. In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened. Stir in the squash and chipotle and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and honey and bring to a boil. Simmer until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Puree the soup until smooth; season with salt.
  3. In a small microwave-safe bowl, stir the crème fraîche with the 1/4 cup of chives. Microwave until just melted, 30 seconds. Serve the soup with a swirl of chive cream and a sprinkling of chives.

For more delicious recipes, follow us on Facebook and get inspired for the Thanksgiving holiday!

Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato-Pecan Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting

Looking for a simple, unique dessert for your restaurant guests? Try these delicious cupcakes from Southern Living. Mashed sweet potatoes give the cupcakes extra moistness, while a myriad of spices including cinnamon and nutmeg spice up the traditionally sweet dessert. A simple cream cheese frosting and sprinkle of chopped pecans is all that is needed to top of the dessert with perfection.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (16-oz.) can mashed sweet potatoes
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Garnish: coarsely chopped pecans

Preparation

  1. Place pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan.
  2. Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted, stirring once after 4 minutes.
  3. Beat sugar and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
  4. Whisk together mashed sweet potatoes, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sweet potato mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Fold in toasted pecans. Place foil baking cups in muffin pans, and coat with vegetable cooking spray; spoon batter into cups, filling two-thirds full.
  5. Bake at 350° for 28 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove immediately from pans, and cool 50 minutes to 1 hour or until completely cool. Spread cupcakes evenly with Cream Cheese Frosting. Garnish, if desired.

Looking for more Thanksgiving inspiration? Check out our Pinterest page for some ideas!

Thanksgiving: Maple Gingerbread with Pumpkin Ice Cream

Rich and creamy pumpkin ice cream makes this ginger-spiced cake even more irresistible. Made with Earl Grey tea and maple flavors baked right in, this Thanksgiving dessert from Better Homes & Gardens is a delicious combination of favorite fall flavors!

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups pure maple syrup
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 4 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea leaves, ground
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 recipe Pumpkin Ice Cream
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl stir together eggs, maple syrup, sour cream, and melted butter. In a large bowl stir together flour, ground tea, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir until well combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly.

3. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm with Pumpkin Ice Cream.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
Ingredients

  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur or orange juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Directions1. In a large mixing bowl combine vanilla ice cream, slightly softened, canned pumpkin, orange liqueur, and pumpkin pie spice. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Transfer ice cream to a freezer container; cover tightly and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

Did you try this recipe? Let us know how it turned out! Share on our Facebook or Twitter page!


Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Layer Cake

Pumpkin is the perfect fall flavor to give your guests this Thanksgiving! This spiced pumpkin cake from Martha Stewart is enhanced by layers of a delectably rich frosting that features cream cheese and goat cheese. Quince, available in the fall, has a fragrant, apple-like flavor. If you can’t find fresh ones, use pears or apples instead.

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans and parchment
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for parchment
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups solid-pack pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • Goat Cheese Frosting
  • Quince-Ginger Compote (optional)

*Note: Make Ahead! Unfrosted cakes can be stored, wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush two 8-inch round cake pans with butter; line with parchment rounds. Butter parchment; dust with flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl.

  2. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in pumpkin; add vanilla and ginger. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of buttermilk; beat until just combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

  3. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake until cakes are golden brown, edges pull away from sides of pans, and a cake tester comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks to cool 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks to cool completely.

  4. Place bottom layer on a cake stand or platter, and spread evenly with half the frosting. Top with second layer, and spread remaining frosting over top. Top cake with some quince-ginger compote, and serve remainder on the side.

Do you have a Thanksgiving dessert recipe you would like to share? Email it to us at max@menumax.com!

Thanksgiving: Crustless Cheesecake with Cranberry Sauce

Check out this delicious dessert recipe from Better Home & Garden magazine for a unique twist on a Thanksgiving classic.
Makes: 10 servings
Prep 25 minsBake 275°F1 hr 10 minsCool 1 hrChill 4 hrs to 24 hrs
Ingredients
  • 48  ounce package  cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup  sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon  vanilla
  • 1 Cranberry Sauce (optional)
  • Sugared cranberries (optional)
  • Fresh mint leaves (optional)
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Wrap outside of an 8-inch springform pan with heavy foil. Grease the bottom and sides inside the pan; set pan aside.

2. In a very large mixing bowl beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture is smooth and sugar is dissolved, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add eggs and vanilla, beating just until combined. Spoon batter into the prepared pan.

3. Place springform pan in a shallow roasting pan. Place roasting pan on the oven rack. Carefully pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the side of the springform pan. Bake for 70 to 75 minutes or until center appears nearly set when gently shaken.

4. Carefully remove springform pan from water. Remove foil from pan. Let cheesecake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Using a thin metal spatula, loosen the edge of the cheesecake from sides of pan; cool for 45 minutes more. Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours.

5. To serve, remove sides of the pan and cut cheesecake into wedges. If desired, top with Cranberry Sauce, sugared cranberries, and/or mint leaves.

Cranberry Sauce:

  • Place 1 cup of whole cranberry sauce in a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until combined.


Thanksgiving: Side Dishes Galore

The turkey might be the main event, but offering a variety of side dishes–from sweet potatoes to green bean casserole–will keep your guests full and happy this holiday. We’ve pulled some of our favorites for this post, but you can see all 74 side dish recipes at CountryLiving.com.

Potato and Celery-Root Gratin

Celery root lends unique flavor and freshness to this variation on a classic potato gratin.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup(s) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup(s) whole milk
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 2 clove(s) (large) garlic, smashed
  • Butter, for casserole dish
  • 1 pound(s) celery root
  • 1 1/2 pound(s) Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 ounce(s) (about 1/2 cup) aged Gouda cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring heavy cream, milk, onion halves, and garlic to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, peel, halve, and thinly slice celery root; cut slices in half. Peel and thinly slice potatoes. In a buttered 8-inch casserole dish, arrange a layer of celery-root slices followed by a layer of potato slices. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat.
  3. Remove onion and garlic from cream mixture and discard. Pour mixture over casserole. Cover dish with a piece of buttered aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
  4. Remove foil and sprinkle casserole with Gouda. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer casserole to a wire rack and allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Cheese Bread

There’s nothing like a piece of soft, home-baked bread, and this recipe—which combines the sweet flavor of pumpkin with sharp, savory Cheddar cheese—is perfect for fall.

Ingredients

  • 3 3/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and bowl
  • 1 tablespoon(s) light-brown sugar
  • 1 package(s) rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon(s) cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup(s) pumpkin puree
  • 4 ounce(s) shredded sharp Cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter, softened, for buttering pan
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together 3 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, yeast, salt, and cayenne. Add 1 cup water, pumpkin, and cheese; stir to combine. (Dough will be slightly sticky.)
  2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it forms a smooth ball. (Add up to 1/4 cup more flour if needed.) Sprinkle a large bowl with flour and add ball of dough, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Butter a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and use hands to flatten to a rectangle, about 9 by 10 inches. Roll dough into a log and place seam-side down in loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, slash loaf down center. Brush loaf with egg wash. Bake until loaf sounds hollow when tapped, 40 to 50 minutes. Turn out of pan onto a wire rack to cool.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

To keep mashed potatoes warm until the meal is served, place them in a heat-proof bowl and cover with foil. Set that bowl in a pot of barely simmering water that reaches halfway up the side of the bowl

Ingredients

  • 2 pound(s) Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoon(s) kosher salt
  • 1 cup(s) milk
  • 4 tablespoon(s) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) fresh-ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Cook the potatoes: Heat oven to 250 degrees F. Place the potatoes in a pot and fill with enough water to cover. Add the salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender — 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, transfer to a baking pan, and place in the oven until thoroughly dried out — 7 to 8 minutes. (Shake the pan occasionally to ensure all excess water evaporates.)
  3. Puree the potatoes: Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it simmers. Mash the potatoes until smooth, taking care not to overwork them. Alternately add the butter and milk in thirds — gently folding with a rubber spatula. Stir in the pepper.

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Thanksgiving: Meatless Main Dishes

We know what you’re thinking: how can you celebrate Thanksgiving without turkey?! While his staple item is essential for most diners on this traditional holiday, there are others who would opt for a vegetarian option.

According to this article from the NY Times, many vegetarian diners are happy to fill their plates with delicious sides and salads, but if you want to make these diners feel special, consider one of these main course vegetarian dishes from Martha Rose Shulman. All of them are inspired by Greek cooking, which has a rich tradition of vegetarian meals.

“I know that Greek food is not exactly what comes to mind when you hear the word “Thanksgiving,” yet why not consider this cuisine if you’re searching for a meatless main dish that will please a crowd? It’s certainly a better idea, in my mind, than Tofurky and all of the other overprocessed attempts at making a vegan turkey. If you want to serve something that will be somewhat reminiscent of a turkey, make the stuffed acorn squashes in this week’s selection, and once they’re out of the oven, stick some feathers in the “rump,” as I did for the first vegetarian Thanksgiving I ever cooked: I stuffed and baked a huge crookneck squash, then decorated it with turkey feathers. The filling wasn’t nearly as good as the one you’ll get this week, but the creation was fun,” said Martha Rose Shulman.

Here are five new vegetarian recipes for your Thanksgiving table — or any time.

Giant Beans With Spinach, Tomatoes and Feta: This delicious, dill-infused dish is inspired by a northern Greek recipe from Diane Kochilas’s wonderful new cookbook, “The Country Cooking of Greece.”

Northern Greek Mushroom and Onion Pie: Meaty portobello mushrooms make this a very substantial dish.

Roasted Eggplant and Chickpeas With Cinnamon-Tinged Tomato Sauce and Feta: This fragrant and comforting dish can easily be modified for vegans.

Coiled Greek Winter Squash Pie: The extra time this beautiful vegetable pie takes to assemble is worth it for a holiday dinner.

Baked Acorn Squash Stuffed With Wild Rice and Kale Risotto: Serve one squash to each person at your Thanksgiving meal: They’ll be like miniature vegetarian (or vegan) turkeys.