The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 17, 2013

A fun Thanksgiving centerpiece can be the talk of the holiday meal

A fun Thanksgiving centerpiece can be the talk of the holiday meal

By Amanda Dyslin

---- — My family has never been one to spend a lot of time around a holiday table enjoying a meal.

My mother will spend hours in the kitchen on Thanksgiving preparing all of our favorites — turkey and stuffing, of course, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy from scratch, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, rolls, pies … the list is as long as the nap I take afterward.

But the minute we sit down to eat, talking ceases and we eat like starving pilgrims for a grand total of 10 minutes before we start to clear. Which is why I don't really have a whole lot of memories of holiday meals past; they're over too quickly to remember much of anything.

I do, however, remember holiday gatherings from my childhood, and many have to do with the centerpieces on the table. My grandmother and mother liked to do creative things with food items.

Palm trees were fashioned from a carrot and half of a green pepper. Christmas trees were created using a Styrofoam cone, with green and red Maraschino cherries and cocktail shrimp tooth-picked to its surface. Boats were created from watermelon rinds.

So in the spirit of adding a little something extra to the Thanksgiving table this year — and maybe finally adding an adulthood holiday-meal memory to the bank — here are several DIY centerpieces I'm thinking of trying out.

Turkey tiers

Six words: Three tiers of chocolately, turkey cupcakes.

1. Take a smaller cake stand and place it on top of a larger cake stand in the center of your Thanksgiving Day table.

2. Bake up two dozen chocolate cupcakes (a box mix is fine).

3. Spread a layer of chocolate frosting over each. At the back of each cupcake, insert a row or two of candy corn (about 12), with the pointy ends facing out. The candy corn acts as the turkey's feathers.

4. At the front of each cupcake, insert a Nutter Butter, which acts as the turkey's head. Use red frosting to draw on the turkey waddle and black frosting to dot on the eyes.

5. Lastly, draw a line of frosting on an almond to act as glue, and place it on the side of the Nutter Butter to serve as the turkey beak directly above the red waddle.

6. Place the two dozen decorated turkey cupcakes on the surfaces of the two cake stands, as well as on the table around the base of the larger, bottom cake stand.

Elegant and easy

Take any large, clear glass bowl and fill it halfway with water. Place about five or six white floating tea light candles on the surface, and surround them with leftover bright red cranberries.

Light the candles, dim the lighting, and you have a classy centerpiece that didn't cost a cent.

You can also use several smaller glass containers, with one tea light surrounded by cranberries in each.

Turkey talker

Although not edible, this turkey centerpiece will be a talker.

1. Take a small ball of light brown yarn (about two inches in diameter) and fasten it on top of a larger ball of dark brown yarn (about five inches in diameter) using wire or toothpicks. The dark brown ball acts as the body of the turkey, and the light brown acts as the head.

2. Use four tooth picks on the bottom of the dark brown ball to act as legs to stabilize the bird and allow it to “stand up” on the table.

3. Use red felt to cut out the turkey waddle and hot-glue it to the front of the turkey's head. Use white felt to cut out and glue on eyes, and yellow felt to cut out and glue on a beak.

4. Use multi-colored pieces of construction paper to cut out a dozen feather-shaped pieces, about three inches long. On the pieces of paper, have family members write things that they are thankful for.

5. Tape or hot-glue the ends of the “feathers” to tooth picks, and insert the tooth picks into the back of the turkey's body.

Your turkey centerpiece is completed!

After dinner, pass around your centerpiece and have family members pluck feathers and read aloud the notes of thanks.