Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our Foodie Resolutions

Most New Year's resolution revolve around quitting vices and improving our lives.One of the best is modifying our diets.The benefits are legion and unlike smoking or drinking. Is surprisingly easy to do.It does take a will.Yet it also takes a way too and that way is just being a smirk eater and shopper. One of the easiest ways of amending your diet is just reading labels.Be aware of what is put into your food.Check not only how much calories and fat but also the percentages of vitamins and minerals that are in it.Also be familiar with natural and man made ingredients.The more the company uses whole grains and less preservatives ,the better the product.Another way to healthier living is buying organic.Most super markets now have extensive organically grown fruits and veggies .Start buying these and freely incorporate them into your daily diet.Choose whole grains breads and even flour.Seven grain breads actually taste better than just plain old white bread.Switch to these for sandwiches and morning toast.The same for rice.Nix the white kind and start giving your family brown wild rice.Again it's more flavorful and you and your family will actually like the switch. One of the biggest New Year's resolutions is forgoing snacks,both sweet and salty.Unfortunately this is broken by mid January.You don't have to give up snacking if you eat healthy.You can still have nibbles ,not just rich ones.Instead of potato chips ,try whole grain pretzels.Another idea is baked potato chips ,made without all that grease and oil.For dips sub in plain Greek yogurt and onion flakes for a healthy dip.Hummus is another great snack.It's high in protein and Vitamin B.Serve it with crudités or fresh made pita chips.Sweets are always on the must give up list.Instead of candy ,then re discover fruit.Enjoy oranges and tangerines right now and berries when summer comes.This is the year to discover the monk fruit which creates a natural sugar.You can buy it at any grocery and use it to sweeten teas and coffees.As for that bane of any diet, soda, get rid of it and sub in flavored seltzers. You have the bubble and taste but without all that sugary badness. Resolve to eat better in the new year.It's easier than you think , especially when you rediscover all the good basics like fruit and veggies.You'll not only rejoice but your body will too!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Your Healthiest Party Ever

new Year's Eve parties are rarely known for their healthy and low calorie foods and drinks.Yet you can be a concerned host and actually serve nibbles and shots that are good for your guests.These are not only beneficial for the waistline but also for the psyche too.None will wake unfeeling either bloated or even hung over. As I've always stated a party is defined by its' foods.Party foods should be fun and full of flavor.They don't have to have empty calories and fat.One of the easiest dips to make is salsa.It's also chockfull of vitamins and minerals.Start with tomatoes and onions.You can add corn or scallions for some thing different.Some add mangoes too.Serve with whole wheat tortilla chips.Dips can also be healthier by subbing in plain Greek yogurt for sour cream.Kabobs ,always a party fave can be made with grilled chicken or shrimp. Add peppers and eggplant for variety. Asian style appetizers are always a good choice.Start with shredded chicken and fill with carrots,Ginger and carrots. Use regular lettuce for the exteriors .This can be served hot because it just takes five minutes to cook and create.A variation of lettuce cups which is just putting scoops of the chicken mix into whole lettuce leaves.Mini pizzas are also good.Try whole wheat pita as a base and fresh tomatoes instead of sauce. Drinking and toasting are a New Year's tradition.Yet too much can cause tremendous damage.What you can do is sub in the non alcoholic ciders and champagnes(yes they do exist). if not think about spritzers.This is taking any wine and combining it with seltzer. Red wine on it's own is chock full of antioxidants. You can make it less alcoholic by loading it with ice and letting the ice melt.Another idea is drink liquor.It's low in calories.Surprisingly most martinis are also low in calories as are gin and tonics.For safety ,add just a hint of gin and go heavy on the tonic.For beer drinkers have lite beers handy.However the healthiest and sanest drink for the New Year's is a flute of flavored seltzer with a twist of lemon. Also have black coffee ready for those driving home in the early hours. A New Year's party should have special food and special drink.Start it off right with healthy food and drink.It'll be a great way of starting the new year right.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Holiday Trip To Greece

Holiday fare is always special.There are always traditional foods and drinks to sample and savor.One of the oldest inEurope, and perhaps the world is Greece.It is millennia old and full of interesting ingredients as well as stories.Both Christmas and New Year's are no different. Christmas in the Greek Orthodoxy comes after a forty day fasting period.The dishes are well thought out and celebratory.Since eggs and dairy were forbidden during the fast Christmas Eve dishes are loaded with eggs and dairy.One is Sesame Baklava ,redolent with honey and sesame seeds.Meat include pork and the ever present lamb.The last has been used in feasts and dinners since antiquity.With it comes Christ's bread or Christopsomo.It's sort of like fruitcake with the added boost of red wine and brandy.Spice cookies or melomakarona share the spotlight too.This is an orange cinnamon cookies that are soaked in a honey based syrup after baking.The Northern Greeks have contributed stuffed cabbage to the dinner table as well. Christmas is surprisingly a minor holiday in the Greek calendar.New Year's Dayr or the Feast of St Basil is the star.Here young men dive into icy waters in his name to retrieve a gold crucifix that Orthodox priests have previously tossed into either bay ,ocean or river.There is the traditional cake with his name.A coin is baked into it and it brings good luck to the one who finds it.Greek shortbreads or kourapiedes are made too.Nuts and fresh fruit are also put out on the table too, symbolizing hope for a prosperous new year.Pork is also served ,usually roasted for the meal of the day. Greece is a country long on holiday traditions as well as foods.They celebrate with gusto as they create time honored dishes.They make both Christmas and New Year's memorable with aromas and flavors.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Holiday Party Treats

With New Year's beckoning and holiday open houses happening ,it's time to look into fun party nibbles.These are the kind that everyone loves (or will love).After all nothing defines a party more than its'food.Keep guests sated with hors d'ouevres that rock the house and satisfy your guests. There are two great recipes to try , thanks to the Christmas issue of the New York Times Dining section.Melissa Clark offers a Southern classic grits while David Tanis gives us a spin on blinis.Ms. Clark gets her recipe from chef Kyle Knall at New York's Mayville Restaurant.This is a supremely easy recipe.The only labor intensive step is cooking the grits for an hour to an hour and a half.Afterwards fry them in grape seed oil.The golden squares are topped with shredded ham slices and bourbon mayo.The mayo is a quick recipe,with homemade mayo.Dijon mustard and lemon juice is added for more flavor.To continue the theme, you could serve bourbon shots with the squares. David Tanis of the City Kitchen column offers a more traditional fare in the shape of blinis.Inspired by ano D Eartha Kitt song "Mink Schmink" that has a line about chicken blintzes.Mr.Tanis fills them with roasted chicken along with rich Chanterelle mushrooms.Along with the golden fungi,leeks are also used to impart more flavor.Creme fraiche is also added.On it's own this filler would be elegant over toasted brioche as a kind of luxe chicken ala king.The blinis can be made in advance but you could also make them with crepe batter too.Mr.Tanis adds a dollop of more creme fraiche and mushrooms on top of the blinis.He recommends them with a glass of celebratory champagne but a good white wine will do too. Good food means a good party.Have an update of a Southern classic or a Russian favorite for your holiday party.If you're a busy host or hostess ,serve both.They are delicious treats your guests will truly love.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Le Saison Pour Chocolat

This is the week for sweets.No matter where you are in the world right now candies rule .France ,the center of good food and good wine is no different.The French delight in all things chocolate and The Christmas season is no exception. Elaine Sciolino got the chance to write about this in yesterday's special Christmas New York Times Dining edition.She sampled some of France's best cocoas.The all time best is from a town outside of Grenoble inVoiron.Chocolatier,Stephane Bonnat has created premium chocolates by checking the beans first for insects and then mold.They are then cleaned and roasted on an toque roasting machine.There are several other processes before the beans are turned into edible silk.Since the area is also known for the acid green liqueur chartreuse, there are chocolates filled with them.There are also bars such as le Madagascar which has a sublet flavor and the Cote d'Ivoire,which has a perfumed light flavor in the mouth.There is also one that celebrates Peru's contribution to the industry. Monsieur Bonnat has competition in the unlikely famed chef, Alain Ducasse. Chef Ducasse is known more his famed restaurant.As he does with his signature dishes he goes overboard with his chocolate making.He does it from scratch,much the same way chocolatiers did a century ago?Unfortunately the reviews have not been favorable.The best and actually most affordable is Vahlrona.It comes from Lyons in the south of France.It is smooth and silky ,perfect for eating on it's own or added as a luxe ingredient.Surprisingly the family who owned it sold it to French industrial giant Groupe Soparind Bongrain. Anything chocolate is a staple right now.The French have taken this holiday classic and turned it into a high art.Vive le chocolate!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Food Filled Christmas

Have a very merry Christmas filled with good food and tasty treats. Remember to give to those less fortunate than you. Most of all celebrate with those Eat well eat wisely

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Very Foodie Christmas

For all my readers around the world have a very merry Christmas. This is the time to indulge not only in your favorite recipes but also in old family ones as well.This is the night of the thirteen fish if you're from Naples and if you come from Germany ,springele cookies.If you're in England. Leave ale and mince pies out for Father Christmas.In America Santa Claus will get stuffed tonight on all sorts of yummy home baked cookies. For all my foodie's out there enjoy this night with your family. celebrate the birth of Jesus with a special meal and a special prayer.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Your Christmas Dinner List

The big holiday meal is only less than two days away.By now you should have everything.Or do you?Here is acheck list of what you should have.If you run short,the stores are open tomorrow which allows you to fill any gaps. Yes ,you probably have the roast and hopefully you have the sides too.If you're making stuffing then check to see how much bread you have.You don't want to run short with it.Another thing to check is alternativesides.Thanks to the host of allergies people have these days.Another idea is to make sure your most finicky eaters also have a good variety to choose from.Keep extra cans of green beans ,beets and even potatoes on the side.Flour may be in short supply too, thanks to holiday baking.You'll need it to thicken gravies and make roux.Check to see if you have enough butter and olive oil too.These figure heavily in food prep and you certainly don't want to run out of them during crucial cooking time.Aluminium foil and Saran wrap should also be on hand for storing leftovers or making doggie bags. The little things count too.If you're planning on a hot hors d'ouevres ,make sure there's enough for everyone.Figure two tidbits per person.Antepastos should also be plentiful.Favorites such as salame and olives will go quick.Have a back up supply on the ready to support that need.The end of the meal should be just as planned.Have different teas in the background to suit your guests' tastes.There should also be caf and decaf coffee too as well as honey and stevia for those who prefer more natural sweeteners.Liquor cabinets should also be filled and make sure you have enough wine for everyone. For the kids you can have soda but also have fruit juice and sparkling water too.Dinner should end with mints and toothpicks.Have a dish of both with extras waiting on the side. Don't let your masterpiece of a holiday dinner be ruined by shortages.Take stock of what yup have.If you've forgotten or don't have enough you have time to run out and get it.Be prepared.Be well stocked for your Christmas meal.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tangerine Time

One of the best things about December is that it's tangerine season.There's nothing that beats this sweet citrus and it's" sweet tangy taste.It's also versatile too - adding a new spin to traditional winter dishes. Tangerines are one of the oldest fruits in the world.They originated from China and Japan around three thousand years ago ,a deviation from the Mandarin orange.The name actually comes from the North Africa,Tangiers Morroco.They were first shipped there in 1841 to Europe .First called tangiera they were then known as tangerines.The fruit is the perfect cold weather deterrent to colds and flus.They are rich in Vitamin C but also beta carotene and Vitamin A. tangerines should only be stored in the fridge for seven days.A ripe one will feel heavy and have a loose skin. Tangerines are not only good on their own but also in dishes.The juice is an excellent addition to a homemade vinaigrette.You can also add the wedges to any salad.A refreshing spin is a grilled chicken salad with tangerine wedges and almonds.It's also yummy in a spicy shrimp jambalaya.You could also use the juice for wok fried Chinese beef.It's a wonderful marinade for pork chops and even pork roast.Ofcourse it can be used in desserts.Tangerines can be used to make refreshing sorbets.If you're ambitious you could also try making tangerine marmalade ,perfect for family brunches or breakfasts.Tangerines also lend some exoticism to cookies and scones too. This is tangerine season .Pick up a few and enjoy them as a sweet ,healthy snack or in a tasty dish.They are not just good but good for you.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ice Cream For Dessert

Ice cream is not one of those desserts that goes with Christmas or even in winter.Yet it's a nice change from the traditional baked goods.A simple scoop can offset an elegant roast dinner while a sundae can be a treat at the children's table.There's also a bigger choice of ice creams and even sorbets to choose from than there are with cakes and cookies. Ice cream can be made elegant simply by how it's served. A single serving is truly something served in a elegant glass bowl.One idea that is a perfect foil for after Goose or hams vanilla is ice cream served with a drizzle of brandy.For a refreshing change try peppermint, which is sold right now or a simple chocolate chip mint.You can also try a Neapolitan ,strawberry,vanilla and chocolate ice-cream molded into a stria effect.Tortone ,a Southern Italian treat, ice cream with a chocolate shell .This can be bought at any supermarket or can be made at home.Take scoops of your favorite then pour hard shell chocolate sauce over it.Affogato is another hip frozen dessert.Roll ice cream balls in ground almonds and cocoa powder.Serve in a cup of steaming espresso.If you feel that any ice cream maybe too heavy after an elaborate meal, then go for lighter fare.Try gelato or a refreshing lemon or orange sorbet to cleanse your palate. Frozen desserts are also a fun departure from the usual cookies and cakes.Friendly's ,the king of ice cream treats , have their famed Jubilee roll.This is type of buche de Noel.A cylinder of chocolate ice cream is covered with chocolate chip ice cream covered in fudge along with almonds and candy chips.You can make something similar at home.One looks like a giant ice cream sandwich ,made with ice cream and those famed chocolate wafers as a base.For a fun family party.You can take any pre made crust and fill it with ice cream and then a layer of whipped cream.One treat is a chocolate crust filled with a coffee ice-cream.Cover first with a layer of fudge sauce and decorative spritzes of ReddiWhip.You could also fill the crust with the kinds that have crushed candy in them.Top with more of the same crushed candy.Another neat idea is having the kids make their own ice cream sandwiches,using crushed candy canes and ribbon candy as decoration. Ice cream for Christmas? Why not? It's a refreshing departure from the tradition Holiday desserts.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dynasty Of Duck

If you want an elegant spin on your holiday meals then try duck.It is a notch up from chicken and turkey and makes for an elegant platter.It may be more labor intensive but the result is a tasty ,tender meal with a burnished,crispy skin.It will be the dinner family and friends will talk about all year long. David Tanis had decided to tackle the bird in yesterday's New York Times Dining section.His A City kitchen gives a primer on how to cook stand what sections are the juiciest.Many people are daunted by duck.After all it's the most complicated of poultry to roast.Some people slow spit roast it.This takes five hours but does give a bird a crackling skin with tender meat.The problem is staying outdoors with it during this weather.Forget Chinese style.Yes it gives you a magazine worthy bird but the cooking process involves everything from air drying ,steaming and then work frying. The best way is using an oven.French chefs and home cooks twice roast it.This means initially cooked until the breast is medium rare.It's then carved from the body and set aside.The duck is then returned to the oven so that legs are crisped before eating.Mr.Tanis prefers just oven roasting the whole bird.Sinced the bird has a high fat content ,it will smoke.Mr.Tanis also recommends dismantling any smoke alarms because they will go off.Also keep the oven fan on too.This draws the smoke out of the kitchen.Roast it for only two hours at about 350 degrees .he seasons his with orange zest and Ginger ,a more sophisticated spin on duck a l' orange.You could also just season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper too.Serve with simple dishes like mashed squash or Brussels sprouts. Try a roasted duck for an eye catching holiday meal.It is more elegant than the usual chicken or turkey.Duck is a tasty change that ' s also memorable too.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Spin On A Neapolitan Feast

The Neapolitans have a very set and traditional Christmas Eve meal.It is a centuries old fish dinner featuring twelve different kinds of seafood.Anyone can recreate this on Christmas Eve.In fact a few new twists can be thrown in to liven it up. Melissa Clark covered this in her A Good Appetite in today's New York Times Wednesday Dining section.She uses traditional squid, but instead of it being the breaded calamari ,it is a fried squid with a tangy Thai sauce.instead of serving it with tomato sauce ,Ms Clark has it with Asian fish sauce and fiery bits of jalapeno peppers. Some families do serve an entire fish but it's usually cod or as it's called baccala. She also suggests aa big fish because it's easier to debone.Choices include sea bass or Atlantic char.Mussels are also usua Ly served and Ms Clark gives them a more Provencale spin with garlic and butter. For different twists Ms Clark whips up drool worthy potato chips topped with a lemon infused sour cream and caviar. this would male an excellent appetizer, even for a holiday party.Another good horsd'ouevre is a hot crab and oyster dip on bruschetta.This is a tasty meld of the two seafoods mixed with jalapeño and a variety of cheeses.The fish can even be served as a side dish with an anchovy mustard vinaigrette over arugula and radicchio.Anchovies are blended with Dijon mustard and garlic to create a unique and savory dressing. Nothing is more traditional than the feast of fishes.There can be centuries old recipes but there can also be new ones.It's a great way of preserving one's culture while showcasing some awesome seafood.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Healthy Holiday Treats

This is the season to indulge in all sorts of goodies. There's plates of cookies to munch on and candies to nibble.They may taste good but they are  lethal. A steady diet of sugar , white flour and refined sugar is not healthy. Instead, treat yourself and your family to healthier sweets. They're not only delicious but good for you. Best of all you can eat as much as you like and not worry about the side effects.

Who doesn't love holiday cookies this time of year? The problem is that they taste so yummy that anybody can over eat. Meringues cookies are light and are made with a minimum of sugar and flour. Egg whites power these, creating a sweet indulgence without the many calories. Another baked treat is a fig and flax thumbprint cookie(this from the Eating Well site)/It is made with the healthier  and less processed brown sugar and always good for you flax seeds.Another good idea is nixing the white flour and subbing in whole wheat  flour for your recipes. You can still make chocolate chips or sugar cookies with it. Another healthy choice is the simple but traditional oatmeal cookie,Use whole oats for more chewiness along with raisins or dried cranberries for added flavor..

Homemade candy is always a fun Christmas or New Year's treat.Fudge heads the list however it's a fat bomb waiting to happen. Try a lighter version made with almond butter, cocoa and honey,This is an easy no cook kind that can be made in minutes. It just takes some mixing and then a quick stay in the fridge to harden. You can also make peanut butter cups using all natural peanut butter and dark chocolate along with coconut flour and stevia, a natural sugar substitute.Truffles, the perfect indulgence for anytime can also be turned from decadent to healthy.Start with coconut milk and coconut powder.From there you can add mashed banana, apple sauce or pumpkin along with cocoa powder and stevia. Put into th e freezer until solid and that's it. You can dust them with extra cocoa powder for more flavor.

It's the holidays. Treat yourself with homemade goodies. They're not only tasty but made with healthy ingredients. You can eat well on all levels thanks to these good for you treats!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Your Holiday Roast Guide

Roasts are the crown jewels of any holiday feast. They are not only delicious if cooked right but also picture perfect.They add a combination of grace and coziness to any table. The best part is that they're not as scary to make as some people think. Any  roast from goose to ham is pretty easy to cook, starting from prep time to carving..

The New York Times Sunday magazine devoted their entire cooking section  yesterday to these culinary diamonds.The Sunday Times Food editor, Sam Sifton gives his advice and recommendations on the classics. There is the traditional ham , turkey and goose along with the lesser known choices of beef rib roast and crown roast of pork. .These are great suggestions not only for Christmas but for also New Year's Day and especially for an open house. There will be enough meat to go around for that  and the leftovers can easily be made into sandwiches.Another plus are nuggets of useful information that appear in sidebars all over the article.One in particular is what sort of drink to serve with the meat you're serving.

What is great about this guide is that the details are meticulously laid out. If some prep, such as preparing a crown rib roast is too difficult, then , Mr Sifton suggests go to the butcher and have it done there.Two other suggestions are to  get a good meat thermometer and also heavily season the different meats for  optimum flavor. His recommendations for hams calls for a sweet -savory crust of brown sugar and mustard to offset the meat's saltiness. The beef rib roast has a simple rub of just salt , pepper and surprisingly flour/ he also provides the sides that go well with each dish too. Goose should have roasted potatoes and caramelized onions while turkey should have cornbread stuffing and hashed Brussels sprouts.

Holiday meals should have great roasts as their centerpieces.These gems are surprisingly easy to make and heavenly to eat. Choose from these classics and create a memorable meal both for Christmas and the New Year!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snow Day Bake Day

A snow days stops everything, including school and work. Even though kids now have X-Boxes and Wii they can still become bored. For parents there's only so much telecommuting they can do too. A day off is a great way to reconnect especially over baking. It's a good time to try new recipes and put in some holiday cookie baking as well.

Your baking pantry should  already have flour (brown or whole wheat is preferred however you can use white) sugar or honey and various extras. If you're making your annual batch for Christmas, also have confectioner's sugar and extra butter or margarine for icing along with sprinkles, natural dyes, nuts  , raisins and chocolate chips. Of course of the kids (and you ) want easy and instant gratification then buy the logs of cookie dough. These slice and bakes are easy to make and decorate. They're also fun to eat and you can make a ton of them without sweating. A snow day  also a great time to make cupcakes and cakes,perfect rewards for shoveling the driveway.

A snow day can also mean a bread day. One of the easiest to make is a simple French or Italian bread. Unlike regular white bread , it just requires yeast ,flour water and a pinch of salt, Of course a homemade sandwich loaf won't go amiss either , This is made with butter and honey to give it volume and texture. Fresh bread is a great accompaniment to  any soup or stew and makes excellent toast for breakfast.Batter breads are another easy and fun choice with good results.Try a banana bread or walnut loaf to bring around smiles.Another fun option is making pizza. Kids will love making it especially when they can get creative with toppings.

A snow day means the family will be together. To combat those snowy day blahs, try baking. The process is always fun and the results are always tasty.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Nothing beats any kind ofretzel ,especially during this time of year.They're a holiday party staple as well as being a chill chaser ,eaten hot on the street.everyone thinks New York City owns this salty treat think again as competitor from Philly arrives on the foodie scene. It was the subject of an article in Wednesday's New York Daily News Now Foxus,Regular contributor,Jeannette Settembre wrote about Peltzer's Pretzels a new Brooklyn must go.Owner Leon Pelzer Kirkland and his wife,Barella, bring their version of the German classic to New York.This ISA different kind ,one that's twisted in to a knot with less salt.Philly pretzels are more about flavor than they are about size.Also they are free of those large sodium chunks everyone in the Metro area loves. what's sort of sad is that this city institution is losing some of its'street cred.City bakers are putting different spins on this centuries old recipe(the first pretzels were made in Bavarian monasteries by Priests.They were given to good children as a reward for learning their prayers)Baker Maury Ruben has created an equal Ly buttery and salty Croisszel ,a hybrid of the treat and a croissant.The average vendor sold pretzel is made en masse by J and J Snack Foods and given out to the 400 street carts.the only he comes from Pelzer's .They can bring this classic street food back to its'former glory. Is New York ready for some Philly style pretzels?Hopefully yes.If they take off ,New Yorkers may be seeing more of them on Manhattan's streets.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Your Holiday Drink Guide

This is the time of year to indulge in fancy drinks.Nothing beats them , especially at festive parties and dinners. Any beverage can run from the traditional to the novel. The ingredients can be as typical as rum nad whiskey or unusual as  sweet potatoes and apple slices.

Yesterday's New York Times Dining section ran its' annual holiday drinks issue.This is a keeper because it can inspire  those at home bartenders to try new. Cocktails as well as understanding old ones.Some of America's best mixologists contributed their best and most popular recipes.Not only that but Dining regulars Jennifer Steinhauer and Helene Cooper give us their fave mixed drink recipes.Theirs are actually fun and fruity.Try the slushie like Red Rooster from Ms.Steinhauser.Freeze a blend of vodka ,cranberry and tangerine juices the day before.The result is a cool on so many levels semi frozen treat with a kick.There is a classic Campari drink ,the ultimate in drinking chic.There's also a Christmas spritz made with Prosecco and pomegranate juice.Another version is one with Prosecco and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. America's bartenders also have weighed in.Chicago's famed Blackbird restaurant gives us Sweet Potato Dream.Bartender Lynn House bases this unusual drink on her mother's holiday pie recipe.It is a mix of sweet potatoes ,rum and egg with a dash of maple syrup.The result is a custard like heady dessert.Another Chi-town eatery,Sable Kitchen And Bar gives us their version of traditional mulled wine.Mixologists ,Mike Ryan uses his mother's Bavarian heritage to create a perfect mix of Drambuie, red wine and whiskey along with bitters .It is called The Giving Tree and would be the perfect mate to a Christmas roast pork or ham.New York City gives us the Mott and Mulberry.NY bartender,Leo Robitschek of NoMad whips together Honey crisp apples, rye whiskey and the cinnamon laced liqueur Luxardo Amaro Albano.It 's a kicky version of a hot cider drink. The holidays call for fun drinks.Some are traditional,reminiscent of centuries old punches ,others are new with unusual ingredients.Save the Times Dining drinks issue and make them.They're sure toe the life of your party!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Party Nibbles

Nothing defines a party better than the food served at it.If you have good food then you'll have a good get together.The problem is that most holiday party fare is the same old same old.Now is the time to try new recipes to ensure you have satisfied guests as well as a reputation for being a hip host or hostess. Both Melissa Clark and David Tanis addressed this in their individual columns in today's New York Times Dining section.Ms Clark explores a new twist on cheese and crackers in her A Good Appetite column.She reconfigured the classic duo as a savory tart, sweetened by apples.The crust is chewy ,similar to a pizza crust ,thanks to the blend of whole wheat and corn flours.The topping is a vibrant blue cheese but you can sub another stinky cheese like Liederkrantz fromGermany or Tuma from Northern Italy (personally I'd rather have a Brie).Add on sliced apples of any variety and bake.This is best made a couple of hours before the party begins so that the pie is warm for guests. David Tanis of A City Kitchen goes another route.He offers sandwiches made from fresh from the oven biscuits and ham.This is a Southern spin on the traditional party sandwich.He makes buttermilk biscuits from a mentor's recipe,Jo Rooney.She advised Mr.Tanis not to double the recipe but to make two separate batches .That way there's a constant flow of biscuits and if you're making them for the party, they will always be fresh.As for ham, Mr.Tanis recommends curing pork tenderloins in a home made brine. However you can also buy the Spanish jambon or prosciutto.A dab of spiced mustard is recommended for more flavor.I would also make pulled pork and spread it on the biscuits in little smears too or make a ham salad ,using minced ham, celery and mayonnaise. Parties are always judged by their food.Be innovative and creative. With these two different and diverse recipes you will have a memorable one.They will be instant classics and much clamored for at the next big do.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Low Cal Holidays

Can anyone lose weight during this time of year? Surprisingly yes.Best of all you don;t have to compromise taste. There are still goodies that are both good and well as tasty. Not only that they provided much needed boosts of both vitamins and minerals.

Holiday eating means tasty nibbles. One good one is kale chips. This dark leafy veggie is rich in
 Vitamins A, C, and K along with being heart healthy.It's also easy to make. After washing tear off  the leaves and arrange on an oiled cooking sheet.  Sprinkle with more olive oil and sea salt. Bake for ten minutes at 350 degree Farenheit. You can do the same for vitamin rich Brussels sprouts too. Another yummy and low cal treat is bruschetta made from pita bread and fresh crushed tomatoes. if you or your guests are big on dips, don't despair You can create one using Greek yogurt  and various herbs such as rosemary  and oregano. Another delicious fat free party dish  are whole wheat tortilla chips with a fresh made salsa. Make it colorful by adding minced red and green peppers.

Holiday meals can be equally lower in fat too. Buy leaner cuts pork and beef For the last , instead of a flour and fat rich gravy  think about au jus. This tastes just as good as a richer one but its better for you.Fish is both low calorie and delicious. Try  grilled salmon with lime instead of the traditional ham or turkey with stuffing (Turkey on its' own is a healthy choice).  Plain baked potatoes are also less calories than scalloped style ones. Wilted spinach with olive oil and pine nuts makes an interesting and heart healthy side. You can still have sweet potatoes but nix the brown sugar and marshmallows' Instead just roast them and serve with either soft spread margarine or olive oil.

You don't have to gain weight during this holiday season. Make it a healthier low calorie one with heart healthy and low fat dishes. You'll still eat well but without all those added pounds.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Grogs And Nogs

Holiday parties call for hearty ,traditional drinks .Nothing fills the bill than both grogs and egg nogs. These crowd pleasers will satisfy any body, and go great with nibbles and even desserts. These are also simple to make up and can be whipped up as the gathering is just starting.

Grog is an old traditional beverage, going back to 1740 when British  sailors mixed weak beer and rum. it later evolved into a punch that can be served both hot or cold and made with  lemon juice, lime juice and cinnamon and sugar. Rum is the main ingredient. A modern recipe can be made with dark rum, brown sugar and orange along with lime juice to cut the sweetness. Hot water is added to heat the drink up. This may not be to everyone's taste so think about making a cold , punch like one. This is when club soda is subbed in for the water and grapefruit juice for lime. Three different rums are added to the mix to liven it up and give the grog a richer, more layered taste.

Egg nog is about one of  the most traditional Christmas drinks that can be served.It's a descendant of posset, a medieval drink made from hot milk.It hit its' stride in the 1700s  when it was called Egg flip so named because the drink was tossed from cup to cup to be mixed. The modern name comes from egg grog which got mangled into egg nog.It is an easy recipe, made with rum, cream  along with raw eggs and nut megs. Many people have qualms about using uncooked eggs and if you feel that way then cook them.Cook  them in a small saucepan with sugar   and a of slat over the  lowest possible heat . Slowly whisk in the milk . This should take 25 to 30 minutes and then strain through a cheese cloth to get rid of any cooked egg bits. Add the rum and cream.of course you could also get the store bought version (which is pasteurized) and add your own rum for any easy party drink.It can be served with savory foods but is best with plain butter cookies or cake.

This holiday season, liven up any party with nog ,grog or both. They are traditional drinks that fit in well with any modern get together. Try them for some serious good fun and flavor.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Tasty Tree Trimming Party

Tree trimming parties are always fun get togethers.It's a chance to not only spread some joy decorating your Douglas fir , it's also a time to set out some tasty party food. Since this is not a formal Christmas party, you can easily make comfort food that everyone can enjoy.Even some of the decorations can be a part of the party fare too!

One of the best tree trimming get together dishes is chili.It's easily made and easily eaten. You can  make all sorts of varieties  from vegan to beef.Also the heat can be varied from a pleasantly mild one that's more tomato sauce based to a fiery jalapeno one. Serve with either squares of fresh made or store bought cornbread or with rice or polenta. Individual meat loaves are another good choice. These can be made in muffin tins and served with Tater Tots, or mashed potatoes. Have plenty of gravy on hand  too. Many tree trimming parties have pizza as the main course. Try mini homemade ones with different toppings that your helpers can pick out for their own pies .

If this is too much, then go the nibble route.Even the popcorn that will be strung on the branches can be a part of the munching. Make a good amount for garlands and a good amount for everyone else too. Sprinkle on Parmesan or hot pepper flakes along with the usual butter and sea salt. For something more substantial think chicken wings or nuggets.If you feel ambitious then you can easily make baked  fried chicken for everyone . Have dipping sauces such as a tangy teriyaki to a creamy ranch to suit everyone's tastes.Of course, finish up with mugs of  hot cocoa or flavored coffee and some holiday cookies and treats. If you feel up to it bake them, if not any store or bakery has very pretty trays you can buy.,

Nothing beats a tree trimming party.It's a chance to have fun and catch up with friends and family. Make it even more so with tasty savory and sweet dishes. These will keep your helpers happy and as festive as a string of lights !

Friday, December 6, 2013

Elegant Holiday Plating

Nothing offsets a meal more than how it's plated. It elevates the dish, giving it a rarefied status. Even the most ordinary of foods looks like pure gold whenthey're presented in an elegant fashion.Plating is a great idea for holiday parties and dinners,giving guests a special "wow" factor.

It was the subject and also a pictorial in Wednesday's New York Times Dining section.Dining regular , Jeff Gordnier ,  had presented an interesting representation from various New York and its' boroughs restaurants. Perhaps the classiest is Elm in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Chef Paul Liebrandt makes squab lollipops surrounded by small dabs of greens.It's refreshing and puts diners in mind of Spring and Summer. This is a great idea for holiday hors d' oeuvres with  maybe lamb pops surrounded by thimblefuls of collard greens or salsa verde.WD-50 chef, the famed Wylie Dufresne layers literally curds and whey over duck slices to create a unique dish.

Any home chef could copy these ideas. Instead of just a heap of mashed potatoes think three small rounded teaspoons with a drizzle of gravy  accompanying slices of beef. Filet mignon can be made even more elegant with a line of anchovy paste or caviar drawn on top. Salad can be served  as a decoration with a halved grape tomato surrounded by a small wreath of baby greens. Of course you can also go old school with plating as Chef Joey Campanero of The Little Owl did . He serves a pork chop upon a bed of dandelion greens It's  given a homey feel with a pool of gravy underneath and a heaping side of whipped spuds. Doing this showcases the pork chop but also gives it a more homey , inviting feel to it.

Not only must holiday dishes be tasty ,they should also be presented in an interesting and elegant fashion.Plating can do this. Create a beautiful meal . Use your  food as the colorful ingredients to make a masterpiece .

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Treats With Zing

The holidays bring out the the candy maker in all of us. Nothing beats homemade truffles or bark. What's neat now is that candy makers have a whole range of ingredients to use, both classic and novel.Hand wrought goodies now take on a special zing and zest which makes them memorable!

Melissa Clark explored this in her A Good Appetite column in yesterday's New York Times Wednesday Dining section. However these aren't her recipes but readers' ones that have been sent.They're both unusual and tasty perfect presents for any foodie.One reader, Tom Flagon contributes  his chocolate bark. It's a sophisticated turn on the tradition which has either nuts, crushed peppermint candy or pretzels.His has a bursts of color with pomegranate seeds while buried within the dark chocolate is the zing of candied ginger. Ms. Clark recommends eating it right after giving because the seeds will"weep" causing moisture to come in and ruin the chocolate. if you want you can sub in more traditional raisins or even sour cherries for bite.

There is a spin on the classic but oh so sweet praline recipe. This one comes from Elizabeth Choinski from the heart of praline country, Oxford Mississippi, Hers has the usual butter and pecan but also the smokier spices of  ginger,cinnamon and cloves.They still have a creaminess but also an aromatic quality too. I would also vary it by nixing the spices and adding freshly ground white or black pepper for some flavor burst . Cory Balazowich of North Canton, Ohio gives is his cranberry cordial recipe. This is a take on the cherry cordial.The cranberries give it a nice tartness which works well with its' other ingredients of vodka and the lemon or orange zest. Serve it with vanilla ice cream  for a lush holiday dessert.

Nothing beats homemade holiday candies and sweets . Amp them up a bit by combining unusual and classic ingredients to create one of a kind treats. It's an exciting and fun departure from traditional fare.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Times Holiday Gift Guide

Gift giving for your favorite foodie (or yourself) can either be an easy or a hard ordeal.Today's New York Times Dining sectron solves that. Their gift giving guide is extensive with some really neat and practical ideas for everyone. Luckily there are so many different gadgets and treats out there that any foodie can be easily pleased on Christmas Day.

Cookbooks and cooking magazines are always appreciated gifts. One cool cookbook is Balaboosta(which means perfect housewife in Yiddish) and is from the restaurant of the same name.It has recipes for sufganiyot,Israeli doughnuts and shakshuka, eggs poached in tomato sauce and chili peppers. A subscription to the biannual Gather Journal and the quadri annual Modern Farmer can show cooks how to cook field to table  for more natural eating. Foodies  can rejoice at the gifts of food such as Sicilian Anchovy and Caper spread from nudo italia. This is perfect for spreading on filet mignon or roasted peppers. Chocolate buffs will go made for Chocolate Treasures that are filled with everything from Sichuan peppers to raspberry and passionfruit.

Practical kitchen gear and gadgets are also mentioned in this extensive gift guide. Open classic and beautiful gift is a wooden salad bowl from Holland Bowl Mill of Holland , Michigan. This simple bowl comes in  red oak, cherry  walnut and beech woods.Miyako Cereamics kitchen knives are perfect for those home cooks who love to  dice and pare. For true luxury, think about giving your favorite chef or even yourself the French made Atelier de Cuivre cookware.These are copper pots with silver plated interiors and cast iron handles. Gadget lovers will swoon over Quirky's Pluck  a truly innovative kitchen gizmo that helps separate yolks from whites.Crate and Barrel's cocktail spoons are the perfect present for those hosts with the mosts.

The New York Times Dining section gift giving guide is an excellent map for navigating shopping  for your favorite foodie. You can find anything , form food to cookbooks, from gagets to classic cookware in it. Have it  it with you whether you're in the mall or at your laptop.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Your Holiday Liquor Cabinet

Even though it's early December it's never too soon to stock up on holiday libations. We tend to focus on the foods of the season as opposed to the drinks which means it's a quick run to the local liquor store on the night of any holiday celebration . Be ready and fully stocked for your gatherings .

By now most hosts and hostesses have a good idea of what type of get together they'll be having. If
it's a formal sit down dinner with the boss and coworkers then think about getting a case of good wine.It's always impressive to have a bottle of one of the best to offset  a good roast or capon. Think about buying the organic kind whether it be white or red. They're made with grapes that haven't been sprayed with any pesticides or chemicals. They also contain no allergy causing sulphides either.If you're serving one particular meat such as beef or pork, you may want to have a variety of different reds to suit your guests tastes.

Of course nothing beats an at home  cocktail party, complete with a variety of different mixed drinks. . Go out and buy the staples  the usual, whiskey, ryes  and gins along with some of the flavored vodkas. For this last you can try a taste test to see what  vodka flavor works (there are so many of them these days with flavors running from cotton candy to blueberry). If you're planning on making punch or egg nog then stock up on a few bottles of rum. Also if you have a few wine drinkers in the crowd then buy  a mix of Cabernets and Merlots . If there's any toasting to be done then get that crate of champagne. Also some people may just prefer it or a sparkling wine as opposed to any mixed cocktail so have a few extra single bottles somewhere so that you don't run out.,

It's time to start shopping - for alcohol. Before the parties and dinners start make sure your wine cellar orliquor cabinet is fully stocked. Nothing ruins a gathering more than running out of the bubbly or closing the bar.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Add Spice To A Cold Night

There's a nip in the air nowadays. It leaves us shivering and wanting something hot.Why not bring heat to the dinner table in the form of different spicy dishes?They could be classics revved up or exotic fare peppered with different blends of spices. It makes for an interesting and delicious chill chaser.

One of the most classic spicy dishes is chili. This can be tailored to everyone's tastes. You can create a mild one with just some cumin and cayenne pepper. For more fire , add spicy sausages and jalapeno chilis.Ancho chilis can also spike it to another level.  Another way of creating a tongue toasting dish is  creating the chili the night before and letting the fire from all the spices kick in.Make a huge batch  and then freeze some for easy future meals during the busy Christmas season. Another spicy dish that can be made in huge amounts and frozen is arrabiata or translated "angry" sauce. This is a classic Southern Italian one that goes great with any kind of pasta from penne to angel hair. Its'  heat comes from the addition of crushed red pepper flakes to any tomato sauce. You can also add the pepper to meatballs too for more bite.

Indian food is know for its' variety of spices and dinners.Curry is always a crowd pleaser and can be made with traditional blends  of cayenne, curry spice itself along with cinnamon and paprika.For true flavor try dahl. This is a mixture of fresh ginger, jalapeno and lentils mixed with tomatoes and served with naan bread.Another cuisine known for its' heat is the Chinese Sichuan. Located in the center of the country, the region is famous for its' varieties of fiery peppercorns. Try making spicy dumplings spiked with them or better yet a peppery chicken or beef dish.The cuisine is big in chilis too and these figure prominently in a boiled beef with hot sauce.This last is so hot that the recipe does come with a warning.

As the temps drop ,it's time to create dishes that warm the heart and body. Try a fiery chili or a spicy Sichuan dumpling to shake off that cold. It's and fun and tasty way to get toasty.