Better Homes and Gardens Cooking Experience (Part Three!)

My Better Homes and Gardens Cooking Experience was a delicious adventure packed with amazing demonstrations, celebrity chefs, helpful tips and tricks, plenty of great food and the unique opportunity to tour the Test Garden and the Test Kitchens!

If you haven’t read how it all began, grab a cup of coffee and catch up with the two previous posts. It’s ok. I’ll wait!

Better Homes and Gardens Cooking Experience – Day One

Better Homes and Gardens Cooking Experience – Day Two (Breakfast through Lunch)

Welcome back! Are you ready for the conclusion? Let’s do this!

Yesterday, I left you with a tease about our afternoon being “Magically Delicious!” Let me show you why!

Meringue Trees Gesine Bullock-Prado


Renowned Pastry Chef Gesine Bullock-Prado, was the first guest speaker after lunch. Gesine is a master baker, cookbook author and all-around awesome lady! I have her memoir, “My Life from Scratch” and it’s a delightful read. Gesine is a regular contributor to Better Homes and Gardens and she promised not to stalk us for using store-bought puff pastry instead of making our own. She was there to share her “Magically Delicious Desserts!”

She showed us how to frost a cake smoothly (using tools from Home Depot!), make those gorgeous Pink Meringue Trees and create several different Holiday Cookies! These are her Reindeer Palmiers, made with Puff Pastry!

Reindeer Palmiers

Gesine showed us how easy it is to make these Cherry Coconut Angel Rolls too!

Cherry Coconut Angel Rolls

She also shared delightful stories and tips for not being afraid in the kitchen! Gesine is a woman after my own heart! Not only is her love language baking delicious treats, she wants you to experience new things in the kitchen! You hear this from me all the time. Don’t be afraid to try something new, or learn a new technique! It might end up being delicious, perhaps even “Magically Delicious!” ;-)

When Gesine was finished, we went back upstairs for more hands-on sessions in the Test Kitchens! We frosted cookies, built holiday gifts in Mason Jars and learned more Knife Skills from Chef Jeffery Elliot!

Cookies in a jar

I love gifts in jars! Especially when they result in cookies!

Hanging Stocking Cookies

Hanging Stocking Cookies with Candy Canes

Aren’t these hanging cookies adorable? One of my fellow attendees said it would be fun to pipe guests names on the stockings and use them as place holders for a party! What a great idea!

While both the morning and afternoon hands-on sessions were happening in the Test Kitchens, we were invited to explore the artful displays set up by “The Friends of Better Homes and Gardens.” These companies very thoughtfully provided items in our Gift Bags and other goodies for the event!

Much appreciation and many thanks to: Wilton, Betty Crocker, Melissa’s Produce, Equip My Kitchen, Anolon, Crabtree & Evelyn, FarmHouse Fresh, Hamilton Beach, Hamptons Wine Club, Kerrygold, OXO, Staub, Sur La Table,Walmart, Whole Foods, Wusthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels!!

All these wonderful things and we weren’t done! The final session was about slow cookers and utilizing them for holiday parties. This session was my favorite! It was one of the reasons I signed up for this event! I love my slow cooker, but don’t have a lot of recipes. I was looking forward to learning! The premise of this session, was a Holiday “Ugly Sweater” party. The editors showed us that while slow cookers might not be the prettiest thing on our holiday sideboard, they can still be fun and produce dishes full of flavor!

Ugly Sweaters Better Homes and Gardens

Each Editor brought one or two holiday recipes to the party (and bravely wore an ugly Christmas Sweater.) All the recipes were created in slow cookers. Some of the slow cookers were from the Editors own home kitchens, while others were brand new models! We learned the Top Ten Commandments of Slow Cooking, two of which are to use a slow cooker with “heat that hugs” and to turn your crock halfway through the baking process for more even cooking. The recipes shared ranged from Hazelnut-Pumpkin Spice Lattes, to Caramelized Onion-and-Cranberry Cheese Toasts, Meatball Sliders, Rustic Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Herb and Garlic Bread, Rosemary, Cherry and Ham Stuffing, Pasta Alfredo with Bacon and Peas and even a Pumpkin-Pomegranate Cheesecake! The cheesecake portion of the demonstration was a perfect “Imperfect” Kitchen moment. The cake stuck, both in the crock and then again on the plate when they were trying to invert it. It was an honest, real experience and we enjoyed how gracefully the editors handled things. We’ve all had things go wrong in our kitchen! It was good to know it even happens to the very best of us!

Along with the recipes, were tips and ideas for how to dress up your slow cooker by wrapping the Crock its own little sweater or covering it with magnets decorated for the season!

Dressing up your slow cooker

Cute, right? And very easy to do!

Some other slow cooker recipes were a Mushroom and Spinach Quiche, a caramel-Banana-Pecan Bread Casserole and a recipe for Cherry-Chocolate Clusters with Salted Almonds.

Slow Cooker Bread Casserole

You can make candy in your slow cooker?? Who knew!!

Slow Cooker Candy

A final surprise for this event, we each got brand-new Crock Pot! WOW!! Happy Holidays to us! Thank you Hamilton Beach!

Crock Pot Gifts From Hamilton Beach

For most of the attendees, after the slow cooker session, the day ended with a Holiday Happy Hour! There was wassail (which I’ve never had before!) and an assortment of Kerrygold Cheeses. YUM!


Kerrygold USA

It was the perfect wrap-up to a wonderful day! I will cherish the friends I made in Iowa. I sincerely hope Better Homes and Gardens will do this again!

For a few of us though, the delicious weekend wasn’t quite finished. After the Holiday Happy Hour, there was a Signature Seasonal Dinner (for an additional price) hosted by BHG Editor-in-Chief Gayle Butler, Chef Scott Peacock, Chef Gesine Bullock-Prado. Dinner was served in the beautiful Meredith Show Kitchen. The menu included an Herb-and-Garlic Crusted Pork Roast served with a Plum Compote, Scott Peacocks famous Double Cheddar Holiday Biscuits, Scalloped Russet and Sweet Potatoes and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Lemon!

Seasonal Dinner Table
Seasonal Dinner Table Setting

There was great conversation, great food and fabulous wines were served with every course! The place settings even had Crab Apples. (Ok, California Girl is back. I’ve never seen Crab Apples before and figured it would be rude to try something used as a table decoration, though I really wanted a taste. Imagine my joy when one of my table mates, who’d also never tried a Crab Apple, took a nibble! I didn’t feel so bad about trying them then! They are very tart and now I know what a Crab Apple tastes like! Thanks Marilyn!)

It was a fantastic dinner (Crab Apples included!) and I was blessed to share a table with eight lovely ladies, Chef Gesine Bullock-Prado and Meredith Test Kitchen Director, Lynn Blanchard. There were Editors at each of the other tables too.

For dessert, Gesine made Pinecone Cakes (A spice cake covered with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and decorated with overlapping rows of toasted almonds so it looked like a Pine Cone! It was a stunning presentation!) paired with a gorgeous Moscato from Australia!


(Yes, I rotated the crab apple so you wouldn’t see the nibble I took from it. :-) ) It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend!

Wow… what else can I tell you about this event? If you are ever in Des Moines on a Friday in the spring or summer, take the tour of the Test Gardens. It’s worth it! If Better Homes and Gardens does this next year, TAKE THE CHANCE!! Buy a ticket to the event, fly to Iowa, meet great people, get new recipes and have a wonderful time with the BHG Editors, who will treat you like family and share the long-standing Better Homes and Gardens traditions of hospitality and genuine joy for cooking!!

Red Plaid Cookbooks

And don’t forget to be a total geek and take a selfie in front of all the previous editions of Red Plaid Cookbooks, you know, because you can!

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