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Friday, 30 November 2007
Christmas is a special time in Scandinavia and Sweden in particular. Tradition and Heritage are extremely important to Swedish culture and there are many traditions which are widely upheld. In most traditional Swedish homes, the smell of home baked foods and desserts fill the air at Christmas time. The Swedes really love to cook and for many, the holiday season and the Christmas Eve celebration is the highlight of their year.
One recipe, which is very popular in Sweden, is for a cookie called the Pepparkakor.
Pepparkakor, literally translated, means "pepper cookies" but I've yet to see a recipe that included any pepper. They are similar to the American gingersnap cookie but they are generally thinner, crisper and smoother in texture.
Many refer to this cookie as a "ginger thin" and they are commonly called "gingernuts" in the United Kingdom. Besides their great taste, pepparkakor cookies are used as Christmas decorations as well. They are frequently shaped like little men or women, pigs, hearts or goats. If left round, they are decorated with frosting to give them more character.
Using a drinking straw, you can create a small hole in the pepparkakor cookie prior to baking. After the cookie has cooled, tie the cookie to the Christmas tree with a beautiful white or red colored ribbon.
Swedish Christmas Cookies or Pepparkakor
Makes 2-3 dozen cookies (depending on shape/size)
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
8 ounces butter
2/3 cup water
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon light (or dark) corn syrup
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
The dough should be well-chilled before baking. You can either start a day early and chill overnight, or start preparing 1-2 hours before the cookies will be needed.
In a heavy pot, combine the molasses, sugars, spices and water. Turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a boil while stirring frequently.
Add the butter to the mixture (in pads or chunks) and remove the pot from the heat. Continue stirring the mixture until the butter has melted and the mixture is uniform in consistency. Pour the hot mixture into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine the flour, corn syrup, egg and baking soda and whisk until well-blended. Combine with the hot mixture and stir until the dough has formed. Place the dough on a lightly floured board and knead for 1-2 minutes. Wrap the dough in waxed paper and chill until the dough is firm (1-2 hours or overnight).
On a lightly floured board, roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch in thickness (the thinner, the crisper) and either cut into shapes or make round cookies about 2 inches in diameter. Put the cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and bake for 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool.
About the only thing left to do is to enjoy these fabulous Swedish Christmas cookies with the ones you love... Enjoy!
Friday, 30 November 2007
The lobster is a delicacy that is enjoyed all year round and by people all over the world. Many people celebrate an important occasion either by cooking one at home or going out for a lobster dinner. Not only is it a delicacy, it is an expensive one at that.
Lobsters were not always considered a delicacy. The American-Indians used it as bait while fishing and also in their fields as fertilizer. In later Colonial times, they were the poor man's food. The rich man snubbed his nose at it. Ah how times change. Now there are fine dining restaurants that serve only the best and freshest of lobsters. Of course at a high price.
Whether you dine out or cook your own, you now pay a premium price for your delicious meal. Prices vary depending on whether the lobster was live when prepared or frozen. Since you are paying a lot of money it is best to know what you are getting.
If you are going out to a restaurant, call the restaurant ahead of time and ask them if the offering on the menu is fresh or frozen. Also ask them where they came from, when it was caught and when it was delivered to them.
If you decide to cook at home, make sure to get your lobster from a place that offers them live. Ask the person selling it how long he has had them? When picking one, look for the most active of the lot. Pick one that is moving around.
There is no place that sells live lobsters close to home? No problem.
There are plenty of places that sell them online all year round. Make sure to look up a few and compare prices. Find out what the rate per pound is, what the shipping charges are and how they package them. The packaging is very important since you want them to survive their journey to your doorstep. You do not want to pay for a live lobster and see that it is not so upon arrival. To that end make sure that you check if the company has any refund policy.
The shipping price that you pay for overnight delivery will be well worth it. Nothing tastes as succulent and as delicious as a live lobster.
The next step is to cook them the way you like them. Use either a classic recipe or a more modern one or one that you come up with yourself.
Thursday, 29 November 2007
On any birthday, holiday, anniversary, or other special event, a gift basket will please even the fussiest recipient. Many of us have a passion for foods, wines, and all things chocolate! With that in mind, wouldn't a wine and food gift basket be perfect for your gift giving needs?
Creating a wine basket over the Internet is not only time saving for you, but it is an excellent way to really personalize the basket. There are many unique spins that can be taken on a gift basket.
Some may feel that a gift chosen online is impersonal. This is not necessarily true. Prices and selections are vastly improved when shopping online, so it is far easier to find a gem of a product that may not be available in your area. Having a wider selection is actually better, as it virtually guarantees that your gift will be one of a kind.
Start by choosing a basket that will suit the taste of the gift recipient. If your friend or family member has a Mediterranean style kitchen, choose a basket in rich earth tones of brownish-red and aqua blues. For country kitchens, opt for a wicker basket. Modern kitchens with stainless steel appliances will look even better with a teak basket. The possibilities are endless.
The contents of the gift basket are also full of possibilities. If the wine connoisseur, you can choose one style of wine, say a Shiraz, and then select a number of Shiraz's from different vineyards. This is an appropriate gift for the wine lover who enjoys picking out the different tones and bouquets found in any variety of wine.
A beginning enthusiast will appreciate a basket with a few varieties of wines so that he or she can start narrowing down his or her favorite styles. You can add some wine glasses, wine charms, and a bottle stopper, as these are items a beginner may not already have on hand.
If you have a local vineyard, they often can put together a unique basket for you. Typical vineyards offer wines with personalized labels, locally produced jellies, handmade chocolate truffles, local cheeses, and even some area breads and crackers. A gift basket from local products can be a real kick for someone from out of town.
Wine is excellent with cheese and crackers. You can look into adding gourmet cheese products, some unique crackers, and other goodies. A great tip is to purchase things you know the gift recipient often refuses to purchase because he or she feels they are too extravagant. The items that a person most desires are always the ones he or she cannot afford.
No matter what a person's tastes may be, they will be thrilled with a wine and food basket. It's a thought that truly comes from the heart.
Thursday, 29 November 2007
A good bottle of wine can sometimes make all the difference between a successful get together or just another average event. There are now many different wine clubs available that you can join that will deliver excellent wines right to your door on a monthly or quarterly basis. This is an excellent way to get not only your favorite whites,reds and Chardonnays delivered to your door, but also to be able to try all of the most recent vintages.
There are some of these wine clubs that are very expensive to join, costing as much as several hundred dollars per month for individual membership. Other wine clubs, such as 4SeasonsWine club or Wines Across America, for example, are much less expensive than others and can fit in practically anyone's budget, with membership costs as low as $20.00 per month, respectively.
Fine wine is an excellent compliment to most holiday get togethers also. A great tasting wine can practically set a festive mood all by itself. Providing these fine wines to your friends and family at holiday events can also make you the hit of the party. You'll have people coming up and asking you "where did you get this wonderful wine?"
If you are a connoisseur of good wine, then joining a wine club just may be a good idea for you. You'll not only have a good supply that you can sample from yourself when feel like it, you'll also always have an ample supply on hand for those special (and unexpected) events. Why not take a look and see what kind of wine clubs are available today?
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
There are many ways to show someone that you care about them. Giving a holiday food wine gift basket can be exactly what you need. There are many ways that you can give a basket, and you will also find that there are several types and prices of baskets that you can give.
The most common kind of food wine gift basket that you can find is ones that are pre made. Online and offline, you will be able to find many places that will offer you a great selection of gifts, like a basket. With these baskets, you will be able to choose the food and wine, and you will be able to send them to your friends and family quite easily.
Make Your Own
Another way that you can give a basket as a gift is to make your own. You will easily be able to find the basket, and then you can choose a bottle of wine as well as an assortment of snacks or other foods that go with the wine. The best part about making your own food wine gift basket is that you can have complete control over what you do, and you will be able to choose foods and wines that work perfectly with the person that you want to give the gift to.
Reasons For Giving
There are lots of reasons that you might want to give a basket. Many people feel that it is a much more personal gift because they can have a say in the types of foods and wines that are offered. People also like the fact that they are giving a gift that people will actually use and that they will be able to talk about for a long time to come. Often, people give a food wine gift basket because they want the person to enjoy the food and wine, and also to give a little bit of culture as well.
No matter what, you will find that there is always an occasion to give a basket. You might be surprised to know that they are given for all kinds of reasons. Perhaps it is a birthday or you would like to give a holiday gift. Also, people send a basket for congratulations, encouragement, or just about any other reason. Simply put, there is no reason not to send a food wine gift basket.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
Its Christmas time again! This is the time to celebrate, time of get togethers and time to mingle! It is also that time of the year when maximum number of gifts is exchanged. Obviously, its booming time for the markets as well. Not just the markets on the high street, but online shops too witness an upsurge in the number of sales they register. They gear up real well for this time of the year and expect maximum revenue and gain.
On Christmas, gift exchange is a custom. It's a tradition long followed and is still continuing. No wonder then that the markets and their parking spaces get jam packed on this time of the year. Same goes for the online shopping sites. The customers visit them in electronic droves, thereby bringing in a flux of traffic on these sites.
Flowers, Christmas cards, gift baskets and certificates, cakes, wines, decorations, seasons greeting hampers, jewelry...you name it and it's available on the web space. For unique Christmas gift ideas too you can count on the various comparison and cashback shopping sites which feature a dedicated section for the same.
Some unique and exclusive Christmas gifts which are being immensely liked by the online shoppers include the California wine set, Persian and Oriental rugs, beautiful shawls and scarves, unique artifacts, design it yourself gift baskets, furnishing items, personal care items, perfume and cologne for both men and women, massage and facial packages et al.
For exclusive Christmas gifts likes of which are mentioned above, you can visit comparison and cashback sites on the World Wide Web that have already started the Christmas promotion by offering some great deals and bargains on them. At discounted rates and cashback offers galore, you would definitely end up buying everything for your loved ones without having to move a step out of your comfort zone.
Monday, 26 November 2007
For welcoming new neighbors or clients for Christmas or for get-well wishes, a wine gift basket can offer a distinctive offering far different from traditional fruit baskets or bouquets of flowers. They can be purchased through may outlets, even online, or they can be made up by the giver to include the favorite wine of the recipient along with their favorite snacks to complement the wine being offered.
Most commonly, a wine gift basket can be purchased from specific vineyards if the person receiving it is a wine enthusiast and will be welcome addition to their collection. Most recipients of a wine gift basket will enjoy the thought as much as the included beverage and it will provide a long-lasting memory of the giver. Including two types of wine in the basket, along with snacks such as mustard pretzels roasted garlic crackers can provide an evening of entertainment for most couples.
Many companies use a wine gift basket to welcome new clients or offer them as a gift in place of traditional holiday cards. Sending a wine gift basket to top customers or clients is a sophisticated way of saying thanks for your business during the past year as well as offering hope for a continued business relationship.
Pay Attention When Creating Your Own Basket
One of the important aspects of creating your own wine gift basket is to pay attention to the likes and dislikes of the recipient. If the person has an aversion to white wines, do not include it in the gift. They may take this faux pas as an intended slur or view you as a person who does not take the time to know them well enough to provide a truly thoughtful gift.
Many times when a person is hospitalized, when they are discharged they are under no diet restrictions. Being welcomed home with a wine gift basket can provide some much-needed refreshment and goods they were forced to forego while laid up in bed. It can also be used for an icebreaker, to someone with whom a disagreement may have strained a relationship.
Regardless of the reason behind choosing to send a wine gift basket, finding the right wine can be tricky and if you know their favorite type and label you can make their day special by offering a gift they will be sure to enjoy. Making sure the snacks will go with the taste of the chosen wine is also important as they are meant to go together for a pleasing wine gift basket presentation.
Sunday, 25 November 2007
Christmas is such a wonderful time of year. Children especially love the season and begin to get excited from the beginning of December, waiting for that special day.
You can add to that excitement by letting your kids make special treats for the holiday season. They will be so excited about taking part in getting ready for that special time of year and it will help to teach them more about their food, where it comes from and how to create magic from a few ingredients. Even small children can help. Just determine ahead what level of involvement is appropriate for your child. If they are too young to be around knives, try a recipe that doesn't involve a lot of chopping, or do that part yourself, then let the kids measure and mix.
Here are two recipes that are perfect for the young holiday cooks in your family.
2 cups sugar
Boil sugar, milk and butter for 2 minutes. Add vanilla, coconut, cocoa, salt and oatmeal. Drop on to a waxed paper lined square baking dish. Place in the refrigerator to cool. Cut into squares to serve.
How easy is that?
Peanut Butter Surprise Squares
3 cups Graham cracker crumbs
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Line a 9"x13" baking dish with aluminum foil, making sure to cover the sides of the dish.
Blend cracker crumbs with butter. Press into the bottom of the prepared dish. Bake for 8 minutes. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs with the sugar, corn syrup and cornstarch until well combined. Reserve.
Drop spoonfuls of peanut butter randomly over the prepared crust then scatter the marshmallows, chocolate and peanuts evenly over the base. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the other ingredients in the crust.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and set.
Tip: When using liquid eggs, you may need to increase the baking time to 40 minutes.
Makes 30 servings
Saturday, 24 November 2007
It seems to come round sooner every year. The time many of us dread - and we can't put it off any longer. The time we have to decide what Christmas gifts to get for our family and friends. Some people are a lot harder to shop for than others, aren't they? Sometimes it seems the only answer is to fight your way through crowded stores and malls hoping for inspiration.
But there is an easier way. Have you thought of wine as a Christmas gift? Christmas gift wine is becoming increasingly popular. As long as you know the recipient likes wine, you really can't go wrong. Can you?
Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, of course. It's no good filling a cart with cheap bottles of plonk under $10 and distributing them at random to your family and friends. That just gives the message that you are too lazy to make a special effort.
Christmas gift wine first and foremost needs to be chosen carefully to fit the tastes of people you want to give it to. And it does need to be a decent wine. Most of us aren't able to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a single bottle of Christmas gift wine. So you need to know how to find wines costing between $15 and $30 per bottle, that deliver really superb value.
Red wine seems more popular than white these days - possibly because of recent health recommendations. Red Bordeaux makes a great Christmas gift, partly because it ages so well. In fact, many claim that red Bordeaux is THE supreme wine gift. In a lower price bracket, Beaujolais, for example from Trenel, is a red wine that pairs really well with Christmas foods and costs between $12 and $25. Another red wine that provides great value for money is Merlot in the $15-$20 range.
Fortunately there are still people who prefer white wine! By far the best for pairing with holiday foods is Riesling. A good Riesling at $19-$60 - for example from Baxter - is hard to beat for Christmas gift wine. Also superb would be a Chardonnay such as those from David Ramey, for their distinctive taste.
Of course bubbly is seldom wide of the mark. There are many California sparkling wines that are quite outstanding. The Mumm Napa Valley Dux comes in a gift pack that includes two beautiful champagne flutes - a sensational gift if you can afford $81. If not, there are many less pricey ones from the Napa Valley that would make highly acceptable gifts.
Whatever you choose for your Christmas gift wine, it's a good idea to put something else in the gift package - a wine accessory, chocolates or a wine book, for example. You don't want it to look as if you just stopped off at the store for a last minute purchase!
Above all, don't forget that quality is supreme for Christmas gift wine. If price is an issue for you, the trick is to find wines that give the best value. That way they look and taste more expensive than they actually are. These are some suggestions that will make you a really popular giver this Christmas.
Friday, 23 November 2007
These chistmas cookies recipes are quick, easy and delicious. Just check these out and I'm sure you'll be amazingly surprised.
So here we go for some chistmas cookies recipes:
>> Cookies And Cream Cake
Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 round cake pans. In large bowl, combine all cake ingredients except cookies. Mix at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at high speed. Stir in crushed cookies. Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes or until it tests done. Cool layers.
Frosting: in small bowl combine 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, shortening, vanilla and egg whites. Blend well. Beat in remaining sugar until frosting is smooth. Fill and frost cake. Arrange whole cookies on end and on top of frosted cake.
Another christmas cookie recipe that you can prepare is:
>> My Favorite Cookies
Cream shortening, add sugar, mix well. Add egg, beat thoroughly. Sift together flour, spices, soda, baking powder and salt, add alternately with buttermilk to first mixture.
Mix well and drop by teaspoon on well greased pans or cookie sheet. Oven 375 f. Soak raisins and drain well. More flour may be needed. Nuts are good instead of raisins.
That's it for today! If you want more chistmas cookies recipes, be sure to visit us today at:
Thursday, 22 November 2007
Just so that we are all on the same page, lets us collectively agree that the holiday turkey is wonderful on its first and second time around on the menu but, as time wears on and you have run out of recipes to deal with the leftovers, the idea of feeding the neighbors cat becomes more and more appealing. Running into this issue holiday upon holiday, it is apparent that the average American chef needs to consolidate ideas for those tired of leftovers. Soups, sandwiches, and casserole ideas can be found in many different sources.
The wisest cook you will ever meet is your grandmother or any elderly person that has years upon years of experience in dealing with the leftover fiasco. Not to mention that they have already rustled and discarded all of the not so great recipes, saving you time and waste. So, if you haven’t already, tap into this wealth of information.
Another opportunity for the discouraged chef is to get creative… lets be honest and admit that we don’t always try to think outside of the turkey pan. Turkey sandwiches can be made better through some added sub garnishing such as lettuce tomatoes, pickles, spicy mustard, or peppers. Likewise, the bread we use for the sandwich will make a difference to our taste buds as well.
If you are simply turkey-sandwiched out, try a casserole. Any familiar casserole that you put beef or tuna or chicken into will usually taste just fine with turkey as well. One consideration might be to replace other types of broth with chicken or, if you have it, turkey broth to allow for a consistency in taste with the meat you are using.
The favorite soups, such as chicken dumpling, chicken noodle and yes, even vegetable beef, can easily be converted and taste lovely as turkey based recipes. Two very popular choices still remain, you can freeze the leftovers to keep them for a not so turkey-tired day or better yet, send some home with your guests. Anyway you decide to go with your decisions with these tips in mind are sure to get rid of your turkey leftover blues.
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Giving really is what the holiday season is all about. However, with the level of commercialism to which Christmas has been taken, it's becoming harder every year to find the true meaning.
Getting together with family and friends to enjoy the spirit of the holidays is one way to celebrate. Another of course is to partake in the abundance of festive food and desserts that the season brings. How can you combine the two to create a memorable event where everyone takes home some of the joy? By throwing a holiday baking day of course!
Get your friends and family together and have each person bring a specific recipe, ingredient or ingredients, and then bake, bake, bake. When the day is done, everyone can take home yummy desserts to give as special little gifts at work, for teachers, church members etc. The following are some easy and delicious holiday treats that make the perfect gift.
Mom's Butter Christmas Cookies
2 sticks of butter
Preheat oven to 350F. Blend ingredients until the dough ceases to be sticky. Roll into teaspoon size balls. Bake on lightly greased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes. Be creative! Roll dough balls in crushed nuts or sprinkles. Insert a half pecan or walnut on top or place a red cherry on top. This is a great recipe to get the little kids involved in the holiday baking.
Quick and Tasty Chocolate Fudge
12 oz milk chocolate chips
Melt chocolate chips in top of of double boiler over very low heat. Stir until melted then remove from heat. Stir in condensed milk, butter and vanilla. Blend until butter and chocolate are well mixed. Stir in nuts. Spread mixture immediately into a lightly greased eight inch square pan. Cool at room temperature. Cut into squares.
Before your baking day event, purchase some holiday gift bags or boxes, along with festive tissue paper and ribbon. Fill the bags and boxes with your baked gifts and deliver to the recipients. Kids love to get into the fun and can even decorate their own plain craft paper gift bags with holiday stickers or recycle old Christmas cards and decorate with them. Making gifts in the kitchen for friends and neighbors is a holiday tradition in many families and can be in yours as well. Although it is a small gesture, it's a special way of saying you care during the season of goodwill. By bringing your loved ones together to bake special gifts and holiday treats, you'll create fun memories too!
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Sending the perfect Christmas business gift baskets isn't rocket science. Of course, you want to do your best and try and please everyone, so what do you do? Here's 5 easy steps to ensuring your holiday food gift baskets are a huge success. The best way to approach corporate Christmas gift baskets is to take a few minutes and write down the answers to the following questions.
Friday, 16 November 2007
The holiday ham ham is the traditional centerpiece for Easter, Christmas, holidays, and other special gatherings. Almost any meal is made special with a ham. Many options are available in choosing a mail order ham online in the quest to make the choice your ham centerpiece a success. You can not judge the value of your mail order ham online by the price per pound; you need to look beyond the price for differences in hams that are available.
Nutrition labels are a great place to start your comparisons of the ham. The nutrifacts gives information about the calories, fat, cholesterol, protein, and sodium contents of the ham. Generally, nutrifacts for ham are healthy since ham is a relatively lean cut of meat before anything is added. When comparing hams, be certain that you note the serving size that has been used to establish the nutritional statistics of the ham.
Although nutrition information is very similar from one ham manufacturer to another, there are several factors that will present distinguishable differences in hams. These factors may represent differences in flavor and texture profile from one brand of ham to another. These factors are bone-in ham versus boneless, slow curing of ham versus efficient curing, water levels added to the ham, different methods of smoking the ham, cooking duration, and, of course, the ingredients included the cure or marinade of the ham.
Bone-in hams provide 2-3 servings per pound and tend to highlight the added ingredients. The natural fats of the ham help to enhance the ingredients that are added to the cure (marinade). Although you may want to trim the fat away when consuming the ham, cooking the ham with its natural fat will bring out the unique differences in many spices and sweeteners used to make the ham. Boneless hams provide 4-5 servings per pound. Boneless hams usually have all visible fats removed when preparing the ham for smoking and cooking. Boneless hams are extremely simple, however if you do not mind trimming away a little fat, you will probably enjoy the flavor profile of the bone-in ham more than the boneless ham. If carving is a concern, try a pre-sliced spiral sliced ham with the bone-in.
Another factor that presents definitive differences in hams from one brand to another is the method of curing the ham. Ham is made with a flavorful cure, a marinade of water and brine that gives the ham its typical taste and appearance. Technology advancements have helped the ham curing process (adding ingredients through moisture enhancements) to become a much more efficient process than the early days of ham processing. Equipment has helped the process of getting the ingredients into the ham quickly to get the ham to the store quicker. Although the efficiency factor helps reduce the costs of production of some hams, it is not always effective in maximizing the flavor enhancement factor. Whether using new technology or traditional methods, slowing the curing process will bring out the unique differences from the added ingredients. Getting the ingredients into the meat is only half of the process, giving them a chance to work before cooking is the second half.
Water is the medium in which ham makers use to get different ingredients into the meat. Over the years, some ham makers have improved their methods to get more and more moisture into the meat. Labels will read ham, ham with natural juices, water-added ham, and ham with X% added water. Obviously, ham and ham with natural juices will have the least amount of water diluting the natural taste of ham and its added spices. Adding more and more water will help drive down the cost of the ham, but generally does little to enhance the flavor and texture of the ham itself.
The method of smoking the ham will be yet another factor that creates differences from one brand of ham to another. The traditional method of smoking ham was to use specially selected logs of hard woods that would enhance the sweeteners and spices that the ham maker chose. Soon, processors found that their ham tasted better with hickory wood, applewood, or even dried corn cobs. One of the newest technologies is a processed natural smoke that is converted to a liquid form and is applied to the hams during the cooking process. This process has helped to shorten the processing cycle of the ham. Many specialty processors still choose to stay with the natural wood of their choice to enhance the special blend of spices that gives their ham its unique flavor properties.
Much like the lengthened curing process of the ham, many ham processors feel that slow cooking ham at a lower temperature maintains the natural meat texture and cooks the spice flavors into the ham. Again, technology has been introduced to shorten the cooking cycles and reach the safe internal temperatures quicker. Some argue that the quick process changes the ham texture too much, and doe not allow the flavors of the ham and ingredients to blend during the cooking process.
Probably the one area that each ham maker will argue that his is the best is in the ingredients he chooses for the cure or marinade of the ham. Each cure has one or two prominent ingredients that help to give unique taste and aroma properties to a ham. Maple syrup, honey, and brown sugar are three primary ingredients that specialty ham processors may choose to build their cure recipe. In addition to the base ingredient, many other spices may be added to further enhance a unique recipe preference to cure a ham.
As you can see, a good centerpiece holiday ham for your Easter, Christmas, or special celebration meal goes well beyond the price per pound or an attractive package. There are many ways to make a ham less expensive, but like any good recipe, if you short cut the cycle and ingredients it may not taste as good and bring pleasure to you and your guests that you may expect. Choose your ham wisely, and enjoy one of the best tasting meal traditions.
Tuesday, 13 November 2007
Thanksgiving would never be complete without turkey on the dining table. Currently, most homemakers cook their turkeys in the oven, but deep frying the turkey is faster and a lot more tasty. If you expect that the turkey would taste greasy, you're in for a surprise. The taste is moist and delicious and not greasy at all.
You will also be surprised at how much time you save when you decide to deep fry. For most birds, it only takes about 30-45 minutes or so. Plan on about 3 minutes per pound of turkey and try and keep turkey size between 10-15 lbs. The procedure is easy to do and reasonably safe. As long as you keep safety considerations in mind, frying your bird doesn't need to be a hazardous undertaking.
This is most important. Due to the enormous amount of oil used to deep fry turkeys, you should only ever do this outside in a cleared area. Also, before undertaking your dinner preparations, be sure to get yourself a really good pair of outdoor cooking gloves. You don't want to get burned or scalded by spitting oil, fat and steam. Your kitchen gloves will likely be inadequate so invest in a sturdier pair. Safety glasses are also a good idea and it is best to have a fire extinguisher and/or a bucket of sand nearby in case of accidents.
Now you'll just need to:
1. Determine the amount of oil needed by putting the turkey in a deep fry basket and dipping it into a 40-60 quart pot for frying. You can buy specially made turkey fryers just for the occasion and I would highly recommend it, since you are likely buying a pot anyway. Add water until about two inches on top of the bird. Remove the basket with turkey and measure the amount of water. You'll need the same quantity of oil.
2. Marinade the turkey with flavors and seasonings before deep frying. You can also inject it with seasonings and marinades to increase the flavor. Alton Brown suggests brining the turkey, so that's another way to go as well.
3. Use a candy thermometer and heat the oil in the pot to about 325 degree Fahrenheit. After about 20 minutes, the temperature should be reached and you can start slowly dipping the turkey into the fry basket.
4. It takes around 3 minutes for each pound of turkey. Do a little math and calculate how much it would take based on the total weight in pounds of the bird. The turkey's temperature should be at least 170 degrees in the breast meat and at least 180 degrees in the thigh of the bird. Be sure to use a thermometer to get an accurate temperature. Don't guess.
In 30-45 minutes for most birds, you would have your deep fried turkey ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Eat the turkey right away and make sure any leftovers go into the fridge within about two hours of cooking it.
Monday, 12 November 2007
When the holidays roll around, one thing is sure; you will be eating holiday desserts. The thing about the holidays is that there are so many delicious desserts to try many people often end up overeating and gaining weight. The trick is to try all of the desserts, but only a bite at a time.
For example, if you want to try three desserts at Thanksgiving, just take a small bite sized portion of each one. This will allow you to get the flavor that you want from all three desserts without having to actually down the calories of all three if you were to eat them at full sized.
Some of the best holiday desserts are pies. Some families stick with pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving while others like to mix it up with fruit pies. Often times there will be several different pies to choose from at a holiday meal.
During the Christmas season, candy is one of the greatest desserts to choose from. You can often find fudge, cookies, and more on the Christmas dinner table. Some families will make peanut brittle or peppermint fudge as well, which are always delicious and fun. So, if you love the richness of desserts, be sure to indulge in these rich Christmas treats.
Just remember that if you are planning to indulge in holiday desserts that you should do so in moderation. Otherwise you will be spending the entire Spring trying to work off the extra pounds you put on from eating all of the yummy treats!
Monday, 12 November 2007
Traditionally pies have been the dessert of choice for a Thanksgiving meal with the pumpkin pie being the gold standard for any meal. However there are several types of cakes that will go well with a Thanksgiving meal, many that incorporate the flavors and ingredients of similar pies.
Here are 3 great Thanksgiving cake ideas that will please your guests and your palate this holiday.
Four Layer Pumpkin Cake - This cake will be the centerpiece of your dessert table and can serve as a replacement for the pumpkin pie. This cake is semi-homemade as it does take the time saving step of using a packaged mix and other ingredients readily available.
This cake uses a yellow cake batter with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices added as well as a cream cheese/whipped topping frosting. Using 2 9" rounds, each cake layer is baked in a 350 degree oven 28-30 minutes, then cooled. After cooling, the layers are cut in two lengthwise then each layer is iced with the cream cheese filling with a generous sprinkling of pecans on each layer. Easy to prepare and not as time consuming as making a pie from scratch, this cake will be a crowd-pleaser for sure.
Orange Cranberry Upside Down Cake - This cake takes the cranberry to a whole new level. Forget the cranberry sauce this year and serve this cake! This cake is a spin on the pineapple upside down cake with cranberries and oranges taking the place of the pineapple.
A yellow cake batter, made from scratch, is baked over a layer of the fruit that is combined with brown sugar and butter (375 degrees for 35-40 minutes). This cake does call for fresh whole cranberries to be halved and this can be time consuming during the preparation of the ingredients but is well worth the effort when you taste this treat.
Sweet Potato Cake - this cake takes your "yams" to higher ground. Common in the South, Sweet Potato Cake is typically a yellow cake with sweet potatoes added in the batter as well as the appropriate spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. This cake is always served with a coconut pecan icing that is a great addition to the overall flavor of this cake. Easy to bake (25-30 minutes, 350 degrees in 2 8" rounds) and prepare, this will be another prize in your dessert arsenal.
There are many more variations on the traditional desserts and flavors of Thanksgiving but these Thanksgiving cake ideas will take your ho-hum desserts and turn them into a new sensation with all your guests asking for the recipes. The main thing is not to be afraid to get away from the mundane and try one of these variations on classic desserts.
Saturday, 10 November 2007
When you prepare a large meal that includes turkey, beef or ham, where do the leftovers usually end up? For many folks the quick answer is 'sandwiches for the week', but if you'd like to find a way to make two meals at once then this may be just what you're looking for.
All it takes is a bit of planning, and your family won't even know you've used leftover meat to create a second meal. Meal planning of this type is quickly becoming more and more popular as busy families look for ways to get a good dinner on the table and still not spend hours in the kitchen. You'll save time by using meat that you've already cooked to make a wonderful, week-night meal for your family.
What type of first recipe should you look for that will lend itself to a second dish? Select an entrée that isn't spicy or highly seasoned. This will prevent the meat from competing with the taste of the second recipe. Turkey or chicken are ideal first entrees because the flavor lends itself easily with many seasonings. Casseroles are also a quick and easy way to make use of leftover pork, poultry or beef, but you can surely use your imagination to find other creative ways to incorporate leftover meats into second meals. Add leftover meats to salads, soups and pasta salads for very simple and easy week day ideas.
The following recipes are delicious ideas for using roasted turkey in two family dinners. Keep in mind that if you aren't able to prepare the second dish within a few days, just freeze the meat for later.
First Meal - Easy Roasted Turkey
1 - 12lb turkey
Salt and pepper
1 apple, halved
1 small onion, halved
4 celery tops
1 clove garlic, halved
Remove giblets and neck from turkey. Rinse turkey with gold water and pat dry. Sprinkle cavity and outside of turkey with salt and pepper. Place the apple, onion, celery tops, and garlic into cavity. Brush turkey all over with melted butter; place on roasting pan, breast side up. Place meat thermometer in meatiest part of turkey, make sure not to touch bone. Bake at 325F until thermometer reaches 185F or about 3-3 ½ hours. If turkey gets too brown before done, cover loosely with aluminum foil. When turkey reaches doneness remove to serving platter and let stand for 20 minutes before carving.
Second Meal - Weeknight Turkey Stroganoff
8 oz uncooked egg noodles
2 c cubed cooked turkey
1 - 4.5 oz jar sliced mushrooms, drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 c sour cream
1 - 2oz jar diced pimientos, drained
Cook noodles and drain. In a big skillet, combine turkey, mushrooms and soup, mix well. Cook over medium heat until bubbly, stir often. Stir in sour cream and pimientos. Cook until heated through making sure not to boil. Serve turkey mixture over noodles.
Friday, 09 November 2007
“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:12)
Thanksgiving is a time of sharing, giving and offering thanks. It is also a time of planning delicious meals in cheerful anticipation of dining with family and friends. But imagine in the midst of all the preparations, a large crowd of people showed up unexpectedly hoping to partake in the festivities with you. How would you feed everyone?
This is exactly the dilemma the Pilgrims faced in the fall of 1621 when Squanto and Chief Massasoit showed up a day early before the pre-arranged Thanksgiving feast with 90 additional members of the Wampnoag tribe. The Pilgrims had not planned on feeding such a large number of guests, and to do so would cut deeply into the food supply they had stored for the hard winter months ahead.
The Pilgrims had always placed their trust in God and by His grace, they were able to endure many hardships on the long voyage across the Atlantic and during the year’s time it took to establish their settlement. God had repaid their steadfast love and faith by blessing them with a bountiful harvest. So they knew immediately who to turn to in their despair while desperately praying for an answer, which was soon forthcoming. As it turned out, the Wampnoags did not show up empty handed. They brought many provisions that were combined with the Pilgrims’ feast preparations and made for a wonderful banquet that lasted three days.
About a month later, 35 new colonists arrived in Plymouth out of the blue and the Pilgrims were again faced with the problem of how to feed and shelter the newcomers. As before, they turned to God for guidance and were given the wisdom on how to divide and ration their supplies in the months ahead. At the end of a cold, bleak winter, not one person had died of starvation! The following year, the Pilgrims planned, planted and reaped a bountiful harvest and once again celebrated in thanks with the Wampnoags, who brought even more tribe members to the festivities.
Now as this time of Thanksgiving draws near, let us do as the Pilgrims did so long ago – trust in God….always. And let us be thankful for His bountiful blessings. Amen!
ORIGINAL PLYMOUTH SUCCOTASH
I adapted the following recipe from the 1939 edition of “The New England Yankee Cookbook.” According to the two ladies who contributed the recipe, “This dish was made by the Pilgrims and handed down through succeeding generations.” Although easy to make, this old-world cuisine requires about a half-day of preparation and cooking time. This dish will feed approximately 8-10 people, keeps well and improves each time it is warmed over, making leftovers a real treat.
4 lbs. corned beef
Wash and pick over dried beans and put in a pot. Add enough cold water to cover, place a lid on the pot and let beans soak overnight. In the morning drain well and add 2 quarts fresh water to beans. Cover and cook on medium heat for approximately 2 hours or until beans are tender enough to mash. (Note: You can use a crockpot and cook beans on low for 10-12 hours, or high for 6-8 hours.)
Place the corned beef and poultry together in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil before covering pot with a lid and letting simmer on medium heat for a couple of hours. Check water level periodically to make sure the broth doesn’t cook too far down; add 1-2 cups of water if necessary. Remove beef and poultry, and place on a warming platter.
Add sliced turnips and potatoes to broth and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until tender. During the last 5 minutes, add the mashed beans and frozen corn. Stir frequently to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve in a large tureen as a side dish for the corned beef and poultry.
There are many versions of the seven-layer salad, but this is the one I like to use. Layer the following ingredients in a large bowl:
2 heads of lettuce, chopped
For the last layer, blend together the following two ingredients pour over the other layers and refrigerate until ready to serve:
2 cups of mayonnaise
My cousin makes this recipe every year for Thanksgiving dinner. She prepares hers by dumping (not layering) all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Then just before serving, she tosses the salad with the mayonnaise and sugar until everything is covered with the dressing. That way people don’t have to dig and root around trying to get all the layers on their plate and generally make mess of the salad. I have been preparing the salad that way ever since!
SOUTHERN PEANUT PIE
This is a very easy dessert to make and is guaranteed to be a favorite! And it’s a nice change from the traditional pecan and pumpkin pies served during the holidays.
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
Beat together the cream cheese, peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar, and milk until well blended. Fold in the whipped topping and mix contents thoroughly together; pour into pie shell. Garnish with crushed peanuts and/or shaved chocolate and refrigerate (or freeze) until ready to serve.
Thursday, 08 November 2007
Every summer my Dear Old Dad would go down to Buddies hardware and buy a charcoal grill. This was a flimsy bit of business made out of stamped aluminum one grade stronger than Reynolds Wrap. It was balanced precariously on three pencil thin hollow tubes made out of the same wimpy metal as the body of the grill.
On top was a little wire mess that you placed about two inches over the coals so that the hamburgers would soak up all the flavor of the half gallon of lighter fluid DOD would use to get the festivities going. Ah, good times.
Once I was out on my own, I bought the old standby Weber Kettle One Touch. I cooked many meals with the bright red and shiny flying saucer where you could do Direct or In Direct Cooking. It came with a little booklet that explained all the neato things you can do with a Weber Kettle. About that same time I ran across a cookbook written by Rich Davis, of KC Masterpiece fame. This book talked about how to barbecue and how barbecue was not grilling. This book was full of advice, such as never put cold meat on the grill, let it heat up to room temperature first. He advised using rubs, and there were several recipes for rub. A simple one that I like:
* 3/4 cup paprika
Mix everything together. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Lasts for about 4 to 5 months. Then rub on whatever you are going to barbecue-it is good on brisket, ribs, chicken, or bologna, if you like a bit of bbq bologna now and then.
1 turkey ready to put on the grill. Butterball's Top 10 Questions will help with that front.
Rinse turkey and pat dry. Turn wings back to hold neck skin in place. Return legs to tucked position. Brush turkey with oil. Season with Rub, inside and out.
Weber Kettle-Style Charcoal Grill Preparation:
* Open all vents on the bottom section and the cover of the grill.
* Prepare charcoal by stacking 40 to 60 briquets and ignite (use 40 to 44 for smaller grills, 44 to 50 for medium grills and 50 to 60 for larger grills).
* When greyish-white in color, coals should be ready for cooking at a medium heat. If your hand can be held 5 inches above the top grill grate for 3 to 4 seconds, coals are providing medium heat temperatures.
* Divide the briquets evenly, banking one row of briquets along each side of a disposable aluminum or metal drip pan positioned on the lower grill rack below the upper rack holding the turkey, so heat flows up and around turkey. The turkey can also be placed directly in the pan. If that is the desired method, align the coals in the same manner enabling heat to move up and around the turkey.
* Replenish each row with 7, 8 or 9 briquets (depending on grill size), every 45 to 60 minutes to keep heat around 325ºF to 340ºF. Keep grill lid closed as much as possible to prevent heat loss so temperature can be kept around 325ºF.
Grill approximately 13 to 15 minutes per pound if cooking on a charcoal grill or 20 minutes per pound for a gas grill. Cook until meat thermometer inserted into the thick part of the thigh reads 180ºF or 170ºF when inserted into the breast.
I never fully mastered the art of the Texas Brisket, which can take upwards to fifteen hours to cook to perfection, or as little as four or five hours. I was always lost somewhere in the middle. But I still ate the results, which often tasted perfect, but were a bit on the chewy side, as shoe leather is a bit chewy. So I turned my attention to something I could cook. Turkeys. Hmm, if you don't want to bother cooking one yourself, Rudy's has some awesome bbqed turkey. It is hard to image that there are too many people in America that have not had some kind of turkey cooking experience, most of them having to do with parents slaving over the odd, large carcass as it slowly thaws into something that be cooked. Leaving the many odd bits wrapped in paper inside the bird as it cooks is the stuff of Sitsom legends. In MASH Winchester famously said You can't have prunes and walnuts dressing without the prunes. That would be walnut and walnut dressing!
I'm having a hard time staying focused here. Too many memories of birds gone bad are racing through my mind. Not to mention the once a year encounter with the odd relative that we never saw any other time and looked at us like we were the Clammets. I need to watch a football game now.
Wednesday, 07 November 2007
Thanksgiving is coming soon, and most folks will prepare and sit down to a huge traditional turkey day meal. A few days ago my oldest son, now twenty-three, made me stop and think about how necessary all of that food really is. I mean really, do we need to roast a twenty pound bird every year? My son commented on how ridiculous it all can be at times when the true meaning of the holiday is to show gratitude for what we have. Right?
For those among us who aren't interested in cooking a massive dinner, or for those small families who just want to have a 'taste' of the holiday, there is an alternative. Of course you can always just order pizza and let everyone take turns saying what they're thankful for, but there are some die-hard 'Thanksgiving-ites' who, although they don't want all the mess and excess, still would appreciate the 'essence' of the traditional holiday fare. So, what's the compromise in this situation? The following is a quick and easy turkey dinner idea along with easy trimmings that will leave you feeling comfy and grateful, yet not about to pop or anxious about the mess in the kitchen.
Quick and Easy Thanksgiving Turkey and Dressing to Really Be Thankful for
4-6 turkey breast slices
Spray large skillet with cooking spray. Add turkey and season as you prefer. Cook 4 minutes or until turkey is golden brown and not pink in center. Turn once and remove from skillet. In same skillet, add bell pepper and water, cook for 2 minutes. Take out ¼ cup of gravy from jar or can and add the remaining gravy and broth to skillet; mix well. Bring to boil and remove skillet from heat. Add the stuffing and fruit pieces and stir until moist. Return your turkey to skillet and add the rest of the gravy. Cover and let stand about 5 minutes before serving.
You can double this entire recipe if you have more folks to serve. Another thought I had about making this even easier for larger groups-give this recipe to a few members of your family and let them prepare and bring their own dish to the occasion. This will travel well in a casserole dish and makes a wonderful Thanksgiving Potluck idea.
What quick and easy trimmings go well with this delicious recipe? How about some dinner rolls, cranberry jelly, butternut squash and green beans? Simple and yummy too. Serve a ready made apple or pumpkin pie with whipped topping and it's a hit all round.
Tuesday, 06 November 2007
Whenever you decide to add a truly elegant cheesecake as your dessert, make certain its look on the plate is as elegant as the as the sweet morsel, itself. A meal, particularly at the end, should appeal to the visual sense too. Here are some tips, but, of course, you may add your own individual touches.
The appearance of the plate impacts the presentation as much as what you place on it. Of course, your everyday dishes will do the job. But the expanded storage areas in modern pantries permit many of us to keep specialty plates. Many people have unique salsa and chip servers, as opposed to the typical bowls. Why not choose plates that you use for the spectacular dessert celebrations?
Berry Cheesecakes come in a variety of berry alternatives. My favorite is actually the rather little known Marionberry, found only in Oregon but available in cheesecakes at EliteCheesecakes.com. The most clear choice for adding beauty to the plate would be to add fresh berries matching the flavor of the cake. But I prefer to add a variety of my favorite berries--raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.
Pumpkin Cheesecake: This is a favorite of the holiday time and other times. Shake a dusting of nutmeg around the platter--but not on the dessert, itself. Alternatively, consider shaking a little cinnamon on both the serving dish and the cake.
New York Cheesecake: This is what most people would think of as the plain or "unflavored" cheesecake. Frankly, it is anything but unflavored! However, the taste is one that will adapt well to almost all additions. Well, maybe not asparagus! I suggest that you consider picking up on the richness of this versatile cheesecake by drizzling a generous amount of hot fudge around the serving plate.
Key Lime Cheesecake: We want to compliment the hue of the dessert. Sprinkle mint leaves atop the cheesecake and serving plate. I often place approximately six or seven leaves per serving.
Sugar Free Cheesecakes--no sugar added: No matter what the flavor of the cake, a mint sprig atop the widest part of the dessert, will dress it up wonderfully without adding any additional, unwanted sugar.
There are oodles of possibilities ranging from matching, plain, white, square plates to purposely mismatched antiques that can be enjoyable to both locate and collect. Another option to think about is to serve dessert on planks made of a well grained hardwood. Despite what you might think, wood can actually be sanitized very easily, although, if that concerns you, simply place a doily under the dessert for simpler clean up. A friend of mine collected old license plates from various states, sanitized them, and sometimes serves dessert on the well travelled plates. It brings an unusual and carefree ambience to any occasion!
A gourmet cheesecake is certainly worth the expense, even though it may not be an everyday part of your diet. Times when you are about to splurge, celebrate with your vision as well as your sense of taste
Monday, 05 November 2007
Good gifts to send your loved ones during that special fall holiday are Thanksgiving gift baskets filled with lots of seasonal fall items. These are easy baskets to pick out or if you like, to put together for yourself. Your relatives will certainly feel pleased that you thought of them on Thanksgiving whether you were able to make it for the holiday or not. They will also, hopefully, enjoy the treats and gift items in the basket too.
Premade gift baskets are easier to pick out and there is often a wider variety of treats in these gift baskets for the gift receiver. Holiday baskets vary in size, assortment and shape. The standard red holiday gift basket is filled with lots of food goodies. Its got small cheese wheels and chocolate bars, packages of oatmeal raisin cookies and crackers. While the gold bow gift basket contains hot cocoa mix, chocolates, sausages, and snack mixes. Both of these will also provide a nice wicker basket that can be reused over and over by the gift receiver. The baskets make wonderful holders for bread, goodies or even magazines.
It is easy to make your own thanksgiving gift basket or box by filling it with seasonal treats. Pick out a nice thanksgiving centerpiece to serve as the main focus of the basket. Centerpieces are good gift basket items because the gift receiver can just take the centerpiece and place it on the table to display it for Thanksgiving. A large thanksgiving candle can also be a good addition to your thanksgiving gift basket. Candles really work to set the appropriate mood and it can be light while your family is sitting down to eat. More practical items are good to include because they can be used over and over again, so the gift lasts. These items can be thanksgiving tablecloths and even thanksgiving themed kitchen towels.
Thursday, 01 November 2007
Enjoy the cool and creamy flavor of this all-time favorite pie.
1 (10-inch) pie crust, baked and cooled
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (3.5 oz.) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
In a large bowl, combine the lime zest and condensed milk; mix well. Whisk in the vanilla pudding mix. Let sit for up to 5 minutes.
Fold in the whipped topping. Pour filling mixture into pie crust. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving.
Garnish with lime slices and whipped cream, if desired.
Easy Key Lime Pie Recipe: World’s Greatest Easy Key Lime Pie
Key lime pie doesn’t get any easier than this. Surprisingly great flavor comes out of very little effort.
4 egg yolks, beaten
2 (14 oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup key lime juice
1 (9-inch) prepared graham cracker crust
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and the key lime juice; mix well. Pour into an unbaked graham cracker pie crust.
Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool. Garnish with whipped topping and lime slices if desired.
Original Key Lime Pie Recipe: No Bake Key Lime Pie
No baking at all for this tasty key lime pie. Just whip it up and pop it in the refrigerator.
1 (12 oz.) can frozen limeade concentrate
1/2 cup water
1 (3 oz.) package lime flavored gelatin
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (9-inch) prepared graham cracker pie crust
In a pot, add the limeade and water; bring to a boil. Stir in the lime gelatin and the cream cheese. Mix thoroughly.
Fold in the whipped topping.
Pour filling into the graham cracker pie crust. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and lime slices.