Opinion: Peppermint Trail of Treats offers fun holiday treats and encourages local shopping

The city of Knoxville is hosting an event called the Peppermint Trail of Treats, which began on Nov. 25 and will end on Jan. 8.

The purpose of the Peppermint Trail of Treats is to encourage people to shop at the unique shops in Market Square, while enjoying peppermint flavored treats.

In order to know where each business is located, there are giant peppermints placed in front of the local businesses.

Of course getting your dose of peppermint flavored hot chocolate and coffee or a peppermint and lavender facial is great; but, the trail of lights right across from the square are something to enjoy while visiting these local businesses.

The peppermint hot chocolate from Coffee and Chocolate tastes wonderful and their variety chocolate is good too.

Bluetique saw some business on Black Friday that they believe was encouraged by the Peppermint Trail of Treats.

“Black Friday especially, people would come in with their kids and would stay and shop to take advantage of the deals,” Quinlyn Zandi, an employee at Bluetique, said.

On the other hand, one business said that they have not seen much business just yet from the Peppermint Trail of Treats. “It hasn’t picked up yet, but as it gets closer to the holiday season and kids getting out of school we will see a pick up on the peppermint trail,” Lindsey West, an Earth To Old City employee, said.

The Peppermint Trail of Treats is a fun way to visit some local businesses and get those fun Christmas gifts. The trail of treats is also a fun way to get out and see a bit more of this interesting city.

Featured Image by Emily Haskew

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

Mess or Success: Easter Eggs-travaganza

[title_box title=”Mess or Success: Easter Eggs-travaganza”]

In celebration of the upcoming Easter holiday, this week’s Mess or Success is going to be an eggs-travaganza (pun SO intended).

When spring rolls around, grocery store shelves become filled with chocolate-covered egg-shaped everything, and it’s quite possibly the most wonderful time of the year. Two of the most popular of these Easter treats are the ever-so-tasty Reese’s Eggs and the classic Cadbury Crème Eggs.

With a wonderful world wide web full of homemade recipes for these holiday treats, why should we only be able to enjoy them for four months out of the year? With the help of Pinterest, let’s see if we can make our own!

For each candy, you’ll actually be using the same ingredients except for a special different one for each recipe, so it’s not only festive, but cost effective.

First up: let’s see if this recipe for Reese’s Eggs matches up to the real thing.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 oz. chocolate chips

Start off by melting the butter and peanut butter in the microwave, and then stir it all together. Then, add the powdered sugar and vanilla and stir it all up until it forms Reese’s-like filling.

Divide it up into however many eggs you’re wanting to make, and then shape them into the Reese’s Egg shape with your hands. Stick them in the freezer for about half an hour so they will be easier to dip in the chocolate afterwards.

The homemade Reese's Eggs are simple, quick and tasty.//Photo by Alley Loope
The homemade Reese’s Eggs are simple, quick and tasty.//Photo by Alley Loope

When your eggs are ready, melt the chocolate and stir it up until it’s smooth and then get to dip! The recipe says to use a fork, but when I tried that it just pulled my peanut butter mixture apart, so I dipped them by hand.

Stick them in the refrigerator and once the chocolate is hardened, you’ve got homemade Reese’s Eggs! Simple, quick and tasty.

Now, for the challenger: Cadbury Crème Eggs.

I have to admit, I’d never actually had a Cadbury Egg before this, but I made sure to try one before I got started since they’re so popular. I wasn’t that impressed, but hey, if Cadbury is what the people want, then Cadbury is what the people will get (hopefully).

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup softened Butter
  • 3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 12 oz chocolate chips

Now this recipe started off pretty simple. The first direction are just to just cream the corn syrup, butter and vanilla together. But after that…say bye-bye to simple and easy.

Next, you’re supposed to add in three cups of powdered sugar and beat the mixture together. If your mixer is anything like mine (which was definitely a $6.99 bargain brand hand mixer from Wal-Mart), it might not be able to even mix up this stuff without smelling like it’s going to burst into flames. After the second cup of powdered sugar, my mixer wouldn’t even move the ingredients around anymore because it was so thick. So, I tried to add as much as I could, but I don’t think I quite made it all the way to three cups, which was probably my first mistake.

At this point, the Pinterest recipe tells you to add in this fancy ingredient called Invertase that you have to order special online, which is apparently responsible for making the centers of the eggs liquify. I don’t know about you, but I’m not about that science life, and it says it’s optional, so I passed on that part.

It then says to separate the filling into two parts so you can dye one part yellow and make it look like egg yolks and whites, but in the words of Sweet Brown, “ain’t nobody got time for that.” So, I’m passing on that step too because it only serves aesthetic purposes.

Next, it says to put the mixture in the refrigerator so it can firm up. You’re supposed to roll it into egg shapes and freeze them. Well, I kept my bowl of filling in the freezer for about four hours, and it still just melted in my hands. There was no way I could shape them like at all. Like no hope. So, I just dropped some of the mixture on wax paper, and hoped I could shape it up later.

Well….I kept those in the freezer for three days and they still never hardened. It was a huge sticky, runny mess, which makes absolutely no sense to me. Unfortunately I didn’t even make it to the dipping them in chocolate phase. So, you win this round Pinterest wizards.

//Photo by Alley Loope
The filling for the Cadbury Creme Eggs never solidified enough to get covered in chocolate. //Photo by Alley Loope

So after one tasty success and one absolutely horrible mess, hopefully this Reese’s Egg recipe can bring some peanut butter joy to your Easter holiday. As for the Cadbury Eggs… good luck on that one, my friends. If you wish to give either one of them a try, you can find the recipes on my Mess or Success Pinterest board here, and feel free to let me know how they turn out!

That’s all for this week! Have an eggs-ellent Easter holiday weekend!

Photos by Alley Loope

Edited by Taylor Owens

Holiday Canstruction display combines creativity and charity

Almost 2,000 cans were used in creating "A CANtastic Peanuts Christmas".
Almost 2,000 cans were used in creating “A CANtastic Peanuts Christmas.”
Laurel Cooper/TNJN

Giant sculptures sit on display in the Knoxville Convention Center, all made out of cans.

The sculptures are there as part of Holiday Canstruction, an international event where large sculptures are made out of cans, put on display and then taken down and donated to charity. The event, which is sponsored by Messer Construction Co. benefits Second Harvest Food Bank, combines architecture, engineering and creativity in a contest to construct the best sculpture.

Seven different teams met on Nov. 22 to build the holiday themed giants using only cans, non-perishables and a few thin pieces of plywood and Plexiglas to help support their structures.

The fact that all of the sculptures are handmade and all of the different foods go to the local charities was something University of Tennessee student Kendall Bard appreciated.

“I really appreciate the whole concept surrounding Canstruction,” said Bard. “The sculptures are really striking and fun, but the fact that the exhibit supports charity embodies the giving nature of the holidays, and I love that.”

"A Slice of PeCAN Pie" comes with a fork made of sardines. Laurel Cooper/TNJN
“A Slice of PeCAN Pie” comes with a fork made of sardines.
Laurel Cooper/TNJN

Many of the sculptures are inspired by Christmas movies or songs.  Popular figures like Santa, the Grinch and the “fragile” leg lamp from the movie “A Christmas Story are on display. There’s even “A Slice of PeCAN Pie”.

Each team planned their designs beforehand and used 900-3,500 cans of different colors over a build period of 12-hours to create their sculptures.  The results are impressive in their creativity as well as size and structure; some of them seem to defy gravity and all of them showcase creativity.

Perhaps most impressive is the amount of cans that are donated to charity through the event.  Nearly 20,000 pounds of food will be donated to the food bank.

The "fragile" leg lamp from helps in "Getting a Leg Up on Hunger" Laurel Cooper/TNJN
A leg lamp can display was built from “A Christmas Story.”
Laurel Cooper/TNJN

The judging takes the charity into account as well. One of the categories was for “best meal,” meaning every team tried to use a variety of nutritious foods to build both their structures and a balanced dinner.

Sculptures are also judged on structural integrity, best use of labels and the juror’s favorite.  There is a Kid’s Choice award where kids under 17 can vote while visiting the exhibit and a People’s Choice award where visitors can vote for their favorite on the Holiday Canstruction’s Facebook page.

The exhibit will be on display on the 3rd floor of the Knoxville Convention Center until Dec. 2 and will be taken down on Tuesday Dec. 2, after the judges announce their decisions.

Edited by Alyssa White