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Thursday, 20 December 2007
Baking cookies is a favorite activity during the holiday season. The smell of the cookies baking, the warmth of the oven, the joy when you see the results, and of course, the taste! Here are some tips for saving and storing your cookies:
Make sure your cookies are completely cool before preparing them for storage or freezing. Any frosting or icing should also be fully set and firm.
Cookies should be stored in an airtight container or bag. Some cookies will keep better if individually wrapped, such as very large gourmet type cookies, large cutout and frosted cookies and very thick cookies. Plastic wrap, foil or waxed paper works well for individually wrapping the cookies.
Just about any type of cookie will freeze well and can last for up to 1 year from when you baked them. Make sure the cookies are wrapped well in waxed paper, plastic wrap or foil. Wrap them individually to make them last longer, hold their shape better and preserve their taste and texture. Then put them in an airtight container like a Tupperware or other container. You can also use a Ziploc freezer bag, just make sure you have sealed it tightly. Cookies that have been frosted will only keep for a few months in the freezer.
Using Frozen Cookies
Unwrap the cookies carefully and let them thaw completely and come to room temperature before serving. You can also microwave them on high for about 20-30 seconds.
Freezing Cookie Dough
Many people don't realize that you can freeze the actual cookie dough for up to 1 month. Then thaw it out completely before preparing to bake. This can save alot of time during the holiday season and give you the same fresh from the oven taste as fresh baked cookies. Cookie dough that is very, very soft should not be frozen. Any dough that is firm will freeze very well. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container or freezer bag.
When storing or freezing dough or baked cookies, don't forget to write the date and type of cookies on the package.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
Wine and cheese may be a classic pairing, but the the perfect wine for a special occasion is is the ultimate pairing. Can you think of an occasion where wine won't make for better enjoyment? Neither can I.
The holiday season may as well be called the party season because of all the festivities that take place. Unplanned get togethers and unexpected guests are a common occurrence. In situations like these you don't want to be seen as a poor host. It's best to stock up so that won't happen.
Merchants expect large orders at this time of year and offer special deals on large shipments. Some employers like to include a bottle of wine as part of the employee Christmas bonus. For those employees that don't drink, non alcoholic versions are available as well.
If you're a guest to a holiday party, a bottle of wine is always a tasteful token of appreciation to offer your host. It shows you appreciate their efforts and builds good will. In fact, good wine shared over a good meal on special occasions makes for lasting memories.
If you're entertaining clients near the holidays, consider having a wine gift basket waiting in their room on arrival. Wine gift baskets are available for every special occasion, but imagine your client finding a beautiful basket waiting in their hotel room. It will get things off on the right foot. The ingredients of these baskets are gourmet quality and are picked to go expressly with the chosen wine--great pairings like truffles and champagne.
Not to worry if your dealing with a beer lover. Imported beer baskets are thoughtfully conceived to include great pub beers with goodies like pistachios and pretzels in the basket. Your beer lover can enjoy them while watching a football game--whether that's the NFL or UEFA variety. Cheers!
Monday, 10 December 2007
My Mother-in-Law has a wonderful potato sausage made up at a sausage company nearby where she lives. Lucky her! I know of none where I live that would do this for me. She serves this very Scandinavian Sausage with cranberry sauce. Also on her Christmas holiday table are some other wonderfully flavored items. Presulta, which is a recipe for meat loaf essentially. (That recipe is also posted, find it on my article list on this ezine) Presulta is served cold with white vinegar making it 'very' unique. Traditional Swedish Rice Pudding that is served hot. Swedish Corn Pudding, often a children's favorite, mine when I was growing up anyway. Twenty Four Fruit Salad, which I really cannot say how Scandinavian that is but it sure is yummy. She has alternatives to that salad as well, one is called Easy Twenty Four Hour Salad and the other one is called Easier Twenty Four Hour Salad. Too cutie huh?!
I grew up with different things and served my children those things but many of those Christmas traditions to start withe children have fallen to the wayside.
EVERY single Christmas Eve of my whole like I have had Oyster Stew. I always made sure my daughters had just a taste as well to continue on with the tradition. There have been many Christmas' since that we have not been together so since they always hated oyster stew that tradition for them is long gone. Oh well, new ones arise for new days and outlooks.
Here is my Mother-in-Laws recipe for Potato Sausage:
USE EQUAL PORTIONS:
Have meat ground together at the butchers. season with salt (1 tsp.) per pound of ingredients) add pepper to taste.
Pack in casings. ( Eww, I know, lets just not go there OK?)
Boil 1/2 hour.
If you can't find casings, ( or simply refuse to go there) you can go ahead and make them into patties and fry them over low heat.
Serve this sausage ( or patties for the squeamish ) hot with cranberry sauce. It is the cranberry sauce that makes the difference here so that is a total must!
These dishes mentioned are obviously not just meant for holidays of course so do try Potato Sausage, I think you will love it.
Am I still eating Oyster Stew every Christmas Eve? Yes indeed I am
Friday, 07 December 2007
The weeks leading up to Christmas are so busy. You want to bake a variety of Christmas cookies, squares and goodies, but where do you find the time? The answer may be in organizing a small Christmas cookie exchange. Here is how it works - Having a variety of holiday treats on hand means baking at least 6 or 8 recipes. Instead, gather together a group of 4 to 6 people who are each willing to make a large batch of 1 or 2 recipes.
If 4 people each make a large batch of 2 recipes and share them with the other 3 bakers, each person will have a variety of 8 different holiday treats for family and friends. It works best if each person ends up with at least a dozen pieces of each recipe. Getting together to divide up the treats can be a fun time too. Here are three large batch recipes that are perfect for sharing with members of your Christmas cookie exchange group.
1 1/3 cups whipping cream
Heat cream, sugar, salt, rum and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is hot.
Remove from heat. Add chocolates, stirring until melted (return pan to low heat if necessary). Pour into a shallow dish.
Cover and refrigerate until just firm, about 1 hour. Shape the mixture into 1 1/4" balls. Rolls balls in nuts, sprinkles or cocoa powder to cover. Refrigerate truffles until firm, about 1 hour.
Note: If your kitchen is very warm, keep a portion of the truffle mixture chilled as you shape and roll balls.
Makes 6 dozen truffles
Sugar Cookie Wreathes
1 package Sugar Cookie Mix
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Combine cookie mix, egg, oil and water in a large bowl. Stir until thoroughly blended. Tint dough with green good coloring. Stir until desired color.
Form into balls the size of miniature marshmallows. For each wreathe, arrange 9 or 10 balls with sides touching into a ring and place 2" apart, on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten slightly with fingers. Place small pieces of candied cherry on the center of each ball.
Bake for 5-7 minutes or until set but not browned. Cool 1 minute on baking sheets, then remove to cooling racks. Cool completely. Store in airtight container.
Makes 4 dozen cookies.
Chunky Butter Christmas Cookies
1 1/4 cups butter, softened
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Beat butter and brown sugar together in large bowl until light and fluffy. Blend in sour cream, egg and vanilla.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix well. Stir in oats, vanilla milk chips, coconut and nuts.
Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough, 2" apart, onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute then remove to cooling rack and cool completely.
Makes 5 dozen cookies
If you would like to have a variety of holiday cookies and treats on hand, but are short of time, consider the benefits of a Christmas cookie exchange for a more relaxed, and tasty, holiday season.
Thursday, 06 December 2007
December is the time for baking in the kitchen, insulated against the cold weather by a festive fug of spices, brandy and rich dried fruit: cookies, mince pies, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake. The Christmas cake should be prepared well ahead of time so it has time to develop moistness and flavour. Usually I procrastinate and bake it only a week before Christmas but this year I was determined to do it right. So yesterday the kitchen exuded a gentle spicy aroma as the cake cooked extremely slowly for four and a half hours. Just one whiff is enough to conjure up Christmas.
It is just the sort of rich, damp, heavy fruit cake that Captain Hook put out to poison the Lost Boys in the original Peter Pan story. That detail seems to have been omitted in the updated versions, maybe these days it seems too old-fashioned to believe that rich cake is death to young stomachs! My kids aren’t really into the cake itself anyway, but they love the marzipan and icing, so will nibble meagrely at the cake in order to justify feasting on their icing and that of the adults as well, who Jack Sprat-like tend to prefer the cake and leave the excess sweet icing to the children.
Just before Christmas I usually get out the reliable old Delia Smith cook book to check out the cake recipe and quantities for the marzipan. Her recipes almost always work and are accurate if not always inspired. Now she is long supplanted by the younger, sexier Nigella, but her books are still at the back of my shelf for when I need to check details of some ordinary but useful dish.
Rich Fruit Cake Recipe
The night before you want to make the cake, soak all the dried fruit and peel with the brandy. Leave it in a covered bowl over night or at least twelve hours.
Grease and line a 20cm/8 inch round cake tin or a 18cm/ 7 inch square one.
Sift together the flour, salt and spices. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy (make sure you do this thoroughly). Beat eggs and add them a little at a time to the creamed mixture, beating well each time. Next fold in the flour and spices gently. Stir in the dried fruit and peel, treacle and the grated lemon and orange rind. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and spread it out evenly. Tie a band of brown paper round the outside of the tin and cover the top of the cake with a double layer of greaseproof paper (with a hole cut in the middle of it) Bake the cake at 140C/275F on the lower shelf of the oven for 4 ¼ - 4 ¾ hours. Don’t open the door to check until at least 4 hours have passed. Once the cake has cooled wrap it in a layer of greaseproof paper then foil. Delia recommends feeding it with brandy every week or so, by poking a couple of holes with a skewer then letting a few teaspoons of brandy soak in.
Our cake is now well wrapped in grease-proof paper and foil and stored on a shelf in the larder to steep in its own flavours. A week before Christmas I’ll make the marzipan to go on it. I’ll have a lot of help with that as the children vie to gather up any scraps that fall or are trimmed off. We’ve even converted marzipan haters in the family to our variety of almond paste, just by leaving out the almond essence, which gives the strong almost metallic taste to shop marzipan. Without it the real almond flavour gets a chance to shine through, more mellow and delicately nutty. (I’ll write up my recipe for the marzipan and royal icing in my next article.)
On top of the marzipan goes the top layer of royal icing, made with icing sugar and egg white, put on rough to resemble a snowy scene. When I was growing up we had a set of figures for a Nativity scene that always decorated the cake and it was my favourite job to arrange them with a few tiny pine trees for added effect. You can be creative with your decoration, go for elegant with a single artificial poinsettia flower or fun with plastic animals – a donkey and ox, or as I often do being in Africa, a zebra, elephant and giraffe - standing around in the snow. Silver balls could make a star or you could find a tiny angel decoration to stand atop the cake heralding Christmas.
Thursday, 06 December 2007
Mix up a delicious beginning to the Christmas holiday with our Christmas Cheese Balls and Christmas Punch recipes. These recipes take only minutes to prepare. Keep the ingredients on stock to whip up something special for those unexpected holiday drop-in guests.
Christmas Cheese Ball
1 large pkg. Philly cream cheese
Set your cream cheese out to soften. Chop the green tops of 8-10 green onions and pitch it in with the cream cheese. Now cut up the dried beef into small pieces and add to the cream cheese mixture. Add a tablespoon of garlic powder and 3-4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (add little more if it is too stiff to mix). Mix it all together well, then form it into a large ball. Roll it in the crushed cracker crumbs to coat the outside of the cheese ball. Refrigerate overnight and serve it with your favorite crackers.
3 pkgs. Black Cherry Kool-Aid
Combine the Kool-Aid, pineapple juice, lemon juice and sugar in a large pitcher. Stir until all ingredients are blended and sugar fully dissolved. Pour the punch base into a punch bowl and slowly add the ginger ale.
I mix up the concentrate and refrigerate it then add the ginger ale just before serving so it has a lot of fizz. Be careful when stirring as it will foam up and overflow your container if you stir it to fast or add the ginger ale too quickly - just like any soda. If you want to mix it up per glass it is 1/3 concentrate and 2/3 ginger ale to a single serving. Warning: Black Cherry Kool-Aid can leave a mean stain so don't let small children carry it around the house.
Wednesday, 05 December 2007
If you know someone organizing an event or a holiday for family and friends, there are a multitude of details that must be noted in order to make the event a success. There will be a lot of trying times and surprises, even for the experienced host or hostess. You can help, however, by bringing a basket gift wine to add sparkle to any holiday. This is especially great for giving to new neighbors as a welcome gift, or even sending off well-wishes to guests.
You can also add sweet desserts or after dinner chocolates. The type of wine will depend on the event that is being celebrated as well as the food that is being served.
Lighthearted wine is perfect for an informal gathering such as Father's day. One can choose White Zinfandel, which is recommended by most people to go with pizza or roast chicken for a special dinner.
Champagne is also perfect for the really special events such as Christmas eve. Party stuff such as whistles, confetti, glassware and party hats can be added to the basket gift wine.
On Thanksgiving Day, candy corn, candles as well as miniature pumpkins can be added to give sparkle to the occasion. On the other hand, sweet candies and small toys are added to the basket gift wine. There are a lot of choices for the gifts to be added to the wine. Occasions that are specific to certain people are very much applicable to this. These holidays include weddings, birthdays, graduations, career promotions, and other milestones.
You can start looking for the wine, basket, as well as the items to be added in the local food and wine magazine. Go online on the internet and find a lot of useful sites to aid in the search. Wine enthusiasts can offer much-needed advice as well as they can trade or sell their collections. Anyone is sure to find these things in the local wine shop as well.
Just remember to take note of the personality as well as the particular likes of the person that you are giving the basket gift wine to. This makes the gift personalized and more special. For example, if the person likes champagne, you can choose to include it in your gift. If he doesn't, then don't. There is a risk that you can offend the person by bringing that gift. The most thought-of and personalized gifts are the best ones you can give to your loved ones on a special holiday.
A lot of ideas as well as gift selections can be chosen for the basket gift wine, but one has to remember the reason why these presents are given. One should also give time to think about what to give, since the person would surely appreciate the gesture if they love your presents. One shouldn't have to spend a lot of money to give their loved ones or friends something special, but the gift would have to suit them perfectly
Wednesday, 05 December 2007
The holidays are a time of high stress for almost everyone, your clients included. People are busy trying to do their jobs at work, and thinking about all that needs to be done at home to prepare for the festivities. There's so much shopping to do. Trying to find the right gift for everyone on their list, preparing the perfect meal...all of this adds up to a lot of stress!
Your clients need chocolate.
Chocolate corporate gift baskets are huge this year. They're on the top of many a corporation's gift giving list. And for good reason. Chocolate is healthy. It makes your clients happy and it relieves stress. Gourmet chocolate is even better.
Chocolate is healthy.
Did you know that it is good for a healthy heart? Flavonols in cocoa stop fat-like substances in your blood from oxidizing and clogging up your arteries, and they make your blood less likely to clot. It is also high in magnesium.
Chocolate makes your clients happy.
Did you know that eating cocoa products raises serotonin levels and releases endorphins in the brain? These are our bodies "feel-good" chemicals. Who knows, your clients could be dancing around the office.
Chocolate relieves stress.
Did you know that endorphins naturally flow from physical exercise, like a "runner's high"? For busy people during the holidays that don't have time to workout, chocolate is the answer. Add some luscious premium fruit to a corporate gift basket, and you'll make them even more happy!
Find out how these gift baskets made the Oprah Magazine O List!
Tuesday, 04 December 2007
Many people enjoy a good glass of wine either with their dinner or just as a means to relax in the evening after a long day's work. For some, drinking a glass of wine is a recreational hobby. They enjoy trying various types of wines and are willing to search for the very best wines within their budget. What better gift to give a person who is a true fan of wine than a membership to a wine club?
Wine clubs allow wine lovers to taste various types of wines each month. Wine clubs send out two or more bottles of wine, depending on the plan that is purchased, to their members so that members can try them at home. If you know a wine lover who is getting married or celebrating other large scale events such as a housewarming or an anniversary, purchasing a wine club membership for that person is a wonderful option for giving him or her months of enjoyment.
One of the best aspects involved with having a wine of the month club membership is the ability that members have to try various types of wines at no obligation to continue purchasing the wine. They can experience new and interesting wines and have the opportunity to develop a liking for a wine that they otherwise would not have purchased on their own.
For those with a taste for the exotic, a membership to a wine club that offers international wines may be a good option. The cost may be more, but the wines that are offered by clubs that provide international selections are generally among the best wines from around the world. Wine lovers get to experience how wine lovers from around the world like their wine. Some of the wine clubs that offer international memberships also include gourmet foods from around the world as well.
Monday, 03 December 2007
Christmas - Sea Bream (Dorado) with Saffron and Sherry
Dorado, from the Cantabrian and Galician coasts, is a quite expensive (especially at Christmas time). The fish is grilled and served on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes and onion rings, garnished with parsley, garlic and saffron. It is served with a sauce made from a mixture of Sherry and peppers. In the Basque country, a few cloves of garlic, thinly sliced and sautéed in oil, are also added.
One dorado, about 1.5 kg (3 lb. 5 oz)
Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F). After cleaning the fish, sprinkle it with lemon juice, inside and out.
In a mortar, grind together the coarse salt, garlic cloves, saffron and parsley.
Add 4 tbsp olive oil and 3 tbsp water. Mix well and set aside.
Carefully oil the baking dish in which the fish will be cooked and served. Arrange the sliced potatoes and onion rings in the bottom and pour the mixture from the mortar over top.
Cover tightly and let cook about 20 minutes.
Place the dorado on top of the potatoes, drizzle it with 2 or 3 tbsp. of oil and place into a 200° C (400° F) oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Baste from time to time.
Whisk the sherry vinegar together with some ground pepper and a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid from the fish.
Remove the dorado from the oven and garnish with a bunch of parsley.
Drizzle with the vinegar mixture and a very fine julienne of lemon peel and the red chili peppers.
Christmas - Red cabbage with Ribera del Duero wine
A traditional Christmas Catalan dish
Red cabbage, 1 kg (2.2 lb)
Soak the raisins in the red wine.
Cut the red cabbage into thin strips and wash.
Heat the oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven and sauté the pinenuts for a few seconds.
Add the red cabbage and sauté for 30 seconds.
Pour the red wine and raisins over the cabbage.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cover the Dutch oven tightly and let cook over low heat for 1 hour.
Happy cooking and merry Christmas!
Monday, 03 December 2007
Are you looking for a gift for someone who has everything? Consider gourmet chocolate gifts as birthday or Christmas presents for these hard to shop for friends and relatives. With the wide variety of gourmet chocolate gifts available there is sure to be something for everyone.
Gourmet chocolate gifts come in many different sizes and styles. They often contain a variety of different gourmet chocolate items. Some of the most common gourmet chocolate gifts include candy bars, truffles, boxes of candy, and hot chocolate mixes.
Many gourmet chocolate suppliers have websites that allow you to purchase gourmet chocolate gift sets directly online. Many will also give you the option of having the gift mailed directed to the recipient, which is a nice feature for friends and relatives who live far away.
Many gourmet chocolate gifts are sold in sets, often packaged in a nice basket. Items can also be purchased separately and combined together anyway you want. Sometimes non-chocolate accessories are included in gift sets as well. For example, many gourmet hot chocolate gift sets come with a variety of cocoa mixes as well as mugs, spoons, and marshmallows. Christmas gift sets are especially nice, often including holiday decorations such as ornaments or stockings along with the delicious gourmet chocolate.
If the person you are buying gourmet chocolate gifts for happens to be a diabetic, there is a wide selection of sugar free gourmet chocolate gifts as well. This makes it possible to truly allow everyone to enjoy gourmet chocolate gifts.
Sunday, 02 December 2007
If you are a wine lover, it is an affordable luxury for you to join a wine club and receive from it a specially featured wine of the month. The benefits of receiving a wine of the month from a wine club are numerous.
People who receive a wine of the month from a wine club have an expert choose wines for them so that they can learn more about good wines. Wine of the month recipients have the opportunity to taste a wide variety of wines from wineries around the world without the risk of buying a bad wine that is an inherent risk when buying wines from local stores. When people purchase wines through a wine of the month club, they get discounts on wine that make even luxury wines affordable for them.
Experts at wine of the month clubs have various criteria for choosing wines. First, they taste the wine of the month candidates and allow their trained palates to guide them. Second, they take into consideration the tastes of others, such as wine competition judges and professional wine publications. These and other criteria are used to select a wine of the month.
Wine club members especially enjoy wines of the month that come from wineries from around the world that are not always available to them locally. Wine of the month club members also enjoy small boutique wineries that make small quantities of luxury wines that are usually exclusive to locals of the winery region. These are rare wines that wine of the month club members have the privilege to enjoy.
Saturday, 01 December 2007
Cookie baking is one of the Christmas holiday season's most fun traditions. To get the most out of your cookie baking, here's a few tips:
You'll need some basic supplies to bake cookies. Make sure that you have the following on hand:
* Cookie sheets - You'll want to have at least 2 so you can be baking one batch while you are preparing another batch on another sheet.
* Measuring devices - You'll want a Pyrex glass cup for wet ingredients such as oil and water. You'll also want to have a set of plastic measuring cups for dry ingredients such as flour, sugar and chocolate chips and a set of measuring spoons ranging for things like baking soda, baking powder, salt and vanilla.
* Mixing bowls - You'll want a set of sturdy mixing bowls. Metal or plastic will work fine. Have at least one small, one medium and a couple larger sized bowls.
* Mixing devices - Make sure you have several sizes of spoons on hand. You'll want a couple large wood spoons as well as some smaller mixing spoons.
* Cookie cutters - You should have a set of Christmas themed cookie cutters. Made of metal or plastic, you can find them at any grocery store or even dollar stores.
* Spatula - To remove the cookies from the sheet, you'll need a spatula. A plastic one will work best and won't scratch your nonstick surface like a metal spatula would.
* Cooling rack - To cool your cookies properly, you'll need a cookie rack. Usually made of metal, you might need several depending on how many batches of cookies you will be making.
* Frosting tools - If you will be decorating your cookies, you might want to pick up a pastry bag as well as several pastry tips so you can make great looking designs with your frosting.
Some basic ingredients you should have:
* Flour - Pick up a bag of all purpose flour.
* Sugars - You'll want to have at least 1 bag each of white sugar, brown sugar and powdered sugar.
* Eggs & Butter - A dozen large eggs and a pound or two of salted butter.
* Oils - Some recipes call for vegetable oil, canola oil works great.
* Flavorings & Colorings - Many cookie recipes use vanilla extract, get the real kind, not artificially flavored for best taste. For coloring, you'll want this to color your frosting too. You can usually get a set of coloring bottles around the holidays on sale.
* Decorations - Sprinkles, nonpareils, candies, kisses, hard candies, cinnamon candies etc. Whatever your recipe calls for or whatever you like, get a bag or two.
Cookie Baking Tips
Always preheat your oven, it should be one of the first things you do. Also, doublecheck that you have set the right temperature. When placing the dough on the cookie sheets, try to make every cookie a uniform size. You can even use a measuring cup, spoon or ice cream scoop so you can get the same size cookie, this is important for proper and even baking. Keep a close eye on the first batch to test the doneness and adjust the temperature and baking time if needed, as every oven tends to be different. During baking, try and rotate the cookie sheets, turn them around and switch racks for more even cooking. Once one batch of cookies is done and you have removed the cookies from it, let the cookie sheet cool for a minute or two before placing the next batch of dough on it, this keeps the dough from spreading too much due to the heat from the last batch. You'll want to leave the cookies on the baking sheet for a minute or so before removing them to lessen the chance of breakage when you remove them.
Lastly, store your cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.