Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Changing gears for Turkey Day

After much lobbying by the 9-year-old, and with even more nagging from the 6-year-old sous chef, there will be a stuffed turkey at Chez Tutor tomorrow. I've never stuffed the turkey, being raised in the tradition that dressing baked in its own goodness was the proper way to do things.

However, a recent episode of The Barefoot Contessa featured a stuffed, trussed and roasted bird, and the two main turkey eaters in the house decided that's what we needed.

I'll still be putting the bird in to brine this afternoon. I'm going to use the savory stuffing recipe we ran in last Wendesday's Your Table for the filling. With any luck, the moisture from the brine and some oven love will turn out a fabulous holiday centerpiece.

Other things that the younguns decided we'll have: homemade cranberry sauce, peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, gravy and cornbread.

I won't have to cook for a week.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Smucker's for more than jelly

While holiday temperatures can reach into the seventies or eighties as they do in Texas, you can still whip up a cool holiday treat without having to turn on the oven! Try one of The J.M. Smucker Company’s two limited edition ice cream toppings flavors – Smucker’s Pumpkin Spice and Smucker’s Magic Shell Cherry toppings. Whether poured over ice cream or as a topping for your favorite no-bake cheesecake, these limited flavors are sure to be crowd pleasers this holiday season.

Try the Pumpkin Spice or Magic Shell Cherry toppings over this easy no-bake cheesecake made with Sweetened Condensed Milk.

No-bake cheesecake
1 (8-ounce) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can Eagle BrandSweetened Condensed Milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8- or 9-inch) prepared graham cracker or baked pie crust
1 container Smucker’s Pumpkin Spice or Smucker’s Magic Shell® Cherry toppings

In large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla.
Pour into crust; chill 4 hours or until set. Top with desired amount of Smucker’s Pumpkin Spice and Smucker’s Magic Shell Cherry toppings.
Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

If you happen upon some serrano ham....

I haven't seen serrano ham locally, but it's truly one of the culinary jewels of the porcine world. From the Consorcio de Jamon Serrano Espanol, here are some quick recipes for the holiday season.

Because of their richer and fuller flavor, these all natural air-dried cured ham prepared with centuries old artisan traditions and techniques require less to deliver more delicious flavor. Making a holiday party a sensation couldn't be easier with tasty tapas made with Serrano ham. It's no wonder the Serrano trend is rising, with more and more restaurants and home cooks serving them.

Here are three simple tapas recipes made with Serrano hams from Spain that can be made in less than 5 to 20 minutes each.
Serrano Stuffed Mushrooms

Preparation time: 20 minutes (Serves 4)

8 large mushrooms
2 Spanish onions
2 thick slices of Serrano ham (Jamón Serrano del Consorcio)
Virgin olive oil, salt and pepper

Remove the stem from the mushrooms, clean them and set aside.
In a frying pan with a bit of olive oil, lightly saute the Welsh onions and mushroom stems previously sliced. Once browned,
add small chunks of Jamón Serrano del Consorcio and stir in the pan.
Use this mixture to stuff the mushroom heads and place them in a baking dish. Add salt and pepper and pour olive oil over them. Place them in the oven for 10 minutes at 170º C.

Chef's Suggestions:
Other vegetables can be substituted, such as green or red peppers, zucchini, asparagus, etc.

Serrano and Cream Cheese Wraps
Preparation time: 15 minutes (Serves 4)

8 slices of Serrano ham (Jamón Consorcio-Serrano)
5 1/2 oz. of cream cheese
2 oz. of pine nuts

Smash the pine nuts and brown them in a frying pan.
Clean and cut the chives. Mix it all with the fresh cheese.
Spread the mixture on the ham slices and roll up.
Chef's Suggestions:
For a more intense flavour, it can be browned in the oven for 2 minutes.

The Consorcio's Serrano, Zucchini & Pepper "Tapa"

Preparation time: 5 minutes (Serves 4)

4 slices of rustic style bread
4 piquillo peppers
1 zucchini
4 slices of Consorcio Serrano ham (Jamón Serrano del Consorcio)
Olive oil and salt

Mash the piquillo peppers with a bit of oil and salt.
Clean and cut the zucchini in slices. Grill them.
Arrange the dish: Spread the piquillo pepper cream on the bread, then add the zucchini and a slice of Jamón Consorcio-Serrano.

Chef's Suggestions:
The tapas can be seasoned with a dressing of olive oil and diced black olives. For creams, Eggplant caviar, artichoke cream, tapenade (olive relish), tomato, etc.

Picky Preschoolers? Here's help.

I confess this isn't an area of expertise for me. My children are food freaks and will pretty much give anything a go.

However.... I realize that, well, they're freaks and some children aren't as easy to please. The USDA has come out with some tips for getting children to open up to more than chicken fingers and fish sticks:

Audrey and her sister Valerie, both preschoolers, have drawn a line in the sand -- Audrey doesn’t eat vegetables and Valerie only eats foods that are white. However, with Thanksgiving and the holiday season just around the corner, Audrey and Valerie will be introduced to many new foods that will challenge their taste buds (and their parents’ patience) -- turkey gravy, cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing, candied yams, spiced crabapples, acorn squash, and pumpkin pie. So the question is, will they eat it? And, what can parents do to introduce their picky eaters to new foods and tastes to avoid a meltdown at the Thanksgiving table?

The Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) has come to the rescue with its new website MyPyramid for Preschoolers designed specifically for parents and caregivers. This new, interactive website, found at, provides unique, individualized nutrition guidance to meet the needs of preschoolers 2 to 5 years of age.

CNPP Executive Director Brian Wansink said, “Since we launched MyPyramid for Preschoolers less than a month ago, we have had a tremendously positive response to it from both the public and nutrition professionals. This a great tool for all parents of preschoolers but particularly those of finicky eaters. It’s loaded with great ideas and suggestions for families so they can help their kids eat a more varied and nutritious diet. What I find most useful is how to talk with kids about what to eat and tips on how to have fun with food around the dinner table.”

Common Sense Tips to Help the Finicky Eater:
· Set reasonable limits for the start and end of a meal. When you see that your child is no longer interested in the meal, excuse him or her from the table.
· Encourage your child to try new foods. But, don’t lecture or force your child to eat.
· Talk about fun and happy things. Try to make meal-time a stress-free time.
· Cook together. Encourage your preschooler to help you prepare meals and snacks

Other key topic areas of MyPyramid for Preschoolers include:

· MyPyramid Plan where users can create a customized eating plan.
· Growth During the Preschool Years answers the question -- Is my child growing the way he or she should be?
· Developing Healthy Eating Habits provides parents and caregivers with what they can do to help children develop healthy eating habits.
· Physical Activity provides answers to questions about physical activity for preschoolers and provides tips to help them be more active.
· Food Safety provides information on keeping foods safe to eat.
· Sample Meal and Snack Patterns help translate the “MyPyramid Plan” into individual meals and snacks.

Research shows that parents and caregivers want to know more about nutrition for their preschool children. In addition to the broad spectrum of topic areas covered on this site, are the interactive components including a customized “MyPyramid Plan” that can be printed and posted on the refrigerator door. Wansink concluded, “We are offering a variety of unique, cutting edge, online tools to help the American public make more healthful food choices.”

Developed by CNPP in collaboration with Team Nutrition of the Food and Nutrition Service, this new website provides nutrition guidance consistent with current scientific research and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The subject areas and content were identified and developed with assistance from a wide array of experts from the USDA, Health and Human Services, academia and related research fields.

The interactive components can be found in the MyPyramid Plan and Growth sections of the website. They include a customized MyPyramid Plan, Body Mass Index (BMI), and Height-for-Age charts. The personalized MyPyramid Plan provides a general guide for what and how much to offer daily from each of the food groups. The BMI and Height-for-Age results are calculated and displayed on a printable, user-friendly graph.

A strata you oughta try

The Old Farmer's Almanac Everyday Cookbook is a trove of practical everyday recipes. They're good this time of year for their hearty simplicity.

This dish can be made with crumbled bacon or shrimp, sautéed mushrooms or leeks, and just about any kind of bread, including raisin or a mixture of white and whole wheat or rye. Prepare it a night ahead. To feed a crowd, double this recipe and prepare it in a large baking dish.

14 slices bread, crusts removed
1 cup of diced cooked ham
2 cups shredded Swiss or cheddar cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley
6 large eggs
3-1/2 cups milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the bread into cubes. Generously grease a 13x9-inch baking dish. Make a layer with half of the bread cubes, arranging them so that they cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with ham, cheese, shallots and basil over the bread. Cover with the remaining bread cubes. Beat the eggs and milk together in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Slowly pour the mixture over the top bread layer, saturating it evenly. Cover and refrigerate overnight; the bread will soak up the liquid as the mixture stands.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Uncover the strata and bake for 1 hour, or until puffed and lightly browned. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Soups from Symon

Michael Symon is probably my favorite Iron Chef to watch, which is why it irritates me that he gets to compete so infrequently. I think his personality is a hoot, and he just looks as though he's having such fun out there.

Here are some hearty winter soups that hopped across my radar this a.m. from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board . Chef Symon's creations are always sophisticated twists on old favorites, and this collection is no different.

According to Mintel Menu Insights, sales of soup in the U.S. will reach an estimated $5.4 billion in 2008, a 26 percent increase since 2002.


Number of Servings: 4

2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
12 ounces (about 5) carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste*
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tub (8 ounces) Wisconsin Mascarpone cheese, at room temperature*

Place shallots and garlic in olive oil in deep sauce pan, and lightly salt. Cover and cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes, covered, until limp but now brown. Add carrots and continue to cook, covered, for 10 minutes over medium low heat. Add curry paste and chicken stock and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Remove soup from heat and pour into blender beaker or food processor bowl; blend until smooth. Return to heat and bring to simmer. Whisk in Mascarpone cheese. Serve immediately in soup bowls.


Number of Servings: 4
1/2 pound leeks
4 Vidalia onions, peeled, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, lightly salted
1 1/2 cups Amber Beer (Ale)
5 cups chicken stock
8 slices sourdough bread, dried, crispy thin, cut into crouton shape
3/4 cup (3 ounces) Wisconsin Pepato cheese, shaved
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Trim the leeks and cut off the leaves and save. Slice the leek bulbs and add to the sliced onions.In a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the butter and wait until the butter foams and begins to turn nutty brown. Add the sliced onions and leeks. Cook over a high heat to brown the onions nicely. Add the beer and reduce by half. Add the stock and simmer 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Ladle half the soup, a little at a time, into blender and puree. Combine the pureed soup with the simmered soup.Cut the wild leek leaves into thin chiffonade and stir into the soup. Ladle into bowls, top with sour dough croutons and generously lay the shaved Pepato over the soup.


Number of Servings: 4

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, washed, diced
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk, warm
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin Gouda cheese, shredded
White pepper, ground, to taste
5 drops hot sauce
1/2 cup ham, diced
1 tablespoon chives, minced
Over medium heat, in a heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat butter until melted. Stir in onion and celery, cover. Cook 3 minutes or until translucent. Stir often to prevent browning. Stir in flour to thicken. Cook until it bubbles. Slowly stir in warm milk, mixing until thickened and smooth. Bring to a simmer (do not boil) and continue stirring. Reduce to very low heat and add Wisconsin Cheddar and Wisconsin Gouda cheeses, white pepper and hot sauce. Stir until well blended. Add ham and chives. Substitutions: Beer or non-alcoholic beer could be used instead of milk.

Monday, November 24, 2008

An exploration of chili

It's gray out there today, people. Forget the runup to Thanksgiving. I need chili.

Many of you are familiar with our food fixation here at The Star. Over the years, I've kept a list of our chili recipes that have been deemed a hit. I've also squirreled away an ode or to to chili, that great chameleon of the culinary world. Although I've never had it with chameleon.....

This was originally published in 2007 as one of my food columns:

The door slides shut on the van, trapping the scent of seasonings wafting from the hot pot tucked away to the rear. By the time we reach the end of the drive, the smell is stronger. Its unmistakable warmth slips to the front and wraps around and under the seats. "Oh," he says, sniffing. "That's Nana's chili."

A deep breath. "We having that for dinner?"

This particular pot of chili is bound for the office, but its recognition to my boy carried the imprint of my childhood home. It reminds us of the classic flavors of our childhood that stay with us, always.

Take my son, for instance. He's spent almost all of his eight years eating the tomatoey, spicy, peppery chili of the South. Its smell is generic to him, and it resembles chili made in most parts of the United States. Good stuff, and I know when he's older, the "chili" trigger of his olfactory senses will likely default to tomatoes and cayenne.

Give him 10 seconds in a car, though, and his mind flips to winters past and cold nights bundled under a blanket on his grandmother's couch. The "chili" label is refined to "Nana's Chili," an elixir of cinnamon and cloves, nutmeg and ginger usually found only in the lee of the Ohio River Valley.
For me, it triggers memories of PTA chili suppers, tobacco festivals and a cramped concessions stand at the football game on Friday nights. He reacts to it the same way his sister can detect bread pudding or slow-baked sweet potatoes.

It's home, and home should smell good.

Scientists have known for years that the memory of smell is a powerful thing. We build up a storehouse of memories from an early age and pull from them the rest of our days. Some scents are utilitarian - bacon, coffee, coconut. Others, like Nana's chili, are specific to one place, one person, one point in time.

The past few years have brought an emphasis on foods cooked at home. This section each Wednesday is devoted to the art and craft of home cooking.

I'm not pushing the Rockwellian example of the family table as savior to all of society's ills. Indeed, most family dinner times reveal themselves as more Keystone Cops goofiness than Leave it to Beaver Americana. However, I know it costs less to eat at home. I know that when I make something, I have a pretty good idea of what's in it. When my husband makes something (usually a mean bowl of oatmeal), our children learn that cooks come in all shapes and sizes and sounds.

Most important, they make connections that, some day, will be precious. I've trolled some families' recipe files to find those scents that stay with us. Clip'em. Save 'em. And add them to the list of things to pass on to others.

Cincinnati Chili
This is a great recipe to clear out the spice rack. It cooks a long time, so the flavor changes, and that's also why it takes dried spices and herbs. Adjust any seasonings and spices about an hour before serving.
2 slices of bacon
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion (at least 1 1/2 cups when finely chopped)
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 can kidney beans, undrained
2 (about 24 ounces each) large cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons chili powder (not smoked, not flavored; plain chili powder)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed (not dill seed)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon summer savory
1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
about 2 teaspoons salt
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 pound dried spaghetti
In a large skillet, cook the bacon and the chopped onion and bell pepper until the onion is clear, about 5 minutes. Put the onion and pepper into a 7-quart Crock-pot; save the bacon and drippings in the skillet. Break up the ground beef and put it in the skillet with the bacon. Brown it; drain it. Toss the bacon in the trash (or snack on it), then add the ground beef and remaining ingredients (except the spaghetti) to the Crock-pot, along with one tomato can full of water.
Put the lid on, turn it on low for about 8-10 hours. An hour before serving, turn the Crock-pot to high and taste the chili to see what it needs. Break the spaghetti in half and stir, without breaking, the noodles into the chili. Leave it on high, and they'll cook in time to serve. Stir gently to make sure the noodles don't stick together.
(Note: People who make this a lot mix all the herbs and spices together to make their own bulk chili blend and keep it in a pint jar. Then they just add at will when it's time to cook a batch. Make sure you shake well, however, because some of the spices might settle to the bottom of the jar.)

Reading that column brought to mind all the other chili variations we’ve had here at The Star over the years. Among our hit list of oft-repeated offerings:

Plain Ol’ Beef Chili
3-4 quarts beef broth
1 medium onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 minced, fresh green chili peppers
2 minced fresh red chili peppers
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground mustard
2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
5 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 can black beans, pureed
1 12-ounce can of regular beer
1 14-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup masa flour
Put everything except the masa flour and tomato paste into a slow-cooker and turn to high; cook for 3 hours, then reduce to low and cook overnight. (This can cook on low anywhere from 12-14 hours.)
Just before you get ready to go to work, or about four hours before serving, turn your cooker to high. Allow heat to build for at least 30-40 minutes, then take the masa flour and mix with COLD water to make a paste that has the thickness of molasses. Whisk the paste quickly, directly into the hot chili; stir well. Add the tomato paste and mix well.
When you get to work, turn the pot on low for a bit, give it a stir, and wait for lunch.

Andy's Lazyman's Adobe Chili
Two pounds of ground beef
1 vegetable bullion cube
1 bag of rice
1 can (14 ounce) Bush's Chili Beans
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes
1 can (14 ounce) black beans
1 can (14 ounce) great northern beans
1 can (14 ounce) tomato sauce
Onion powder
Chili powder
Hot sauce
Brown ground beef and drain grease.
Pour beef, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili beans and bullion cube into slow cooker.
Drain black beans and great northern beans. Pour all of black beans and half of northern beans into cooker. Pour about 6-10 drops of hot sauce into mixture. Stir.
Season with spice powders to taste.
Allow to cook on low for about six to eight hours, stirring periodically. About one hour prior to serving, boil rice and mix two-thirds of the rice into the cooker.
Serve with cheese and crackers.

Chocolate Chili Con Carne
3 pounds beef chuck
Freshly ground black pepper
Gray salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus 2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons chili powder, plus 2 tablespoons
Masa harina (Mexican corn flour)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lard
4 red onions, peeled and minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 jalapeno peppers, sliced thin with seeds, stems removed
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 to 3 bottles (12 ounce) beer
1 can (12 ounce) diced tomato in juices
1 quart chicken stock
3 cans (12 ounce) black beans
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into large chunks
Cut the chuck into 3/4-inch pieces, or, to save time, have your butcher do this for you. Place the chuck in a large bowl. Season liberally with pepper (about 20 turns of the pepper grinder) and grey salt to taste- remember half of this will come off in the pan. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of the cumin and 2 tablespoons of the chili powder. Mix this well and coat the meat with the masa harina (this is a ground hominy flour common to Mexican cuisine and easily found in the Mexican food sections of many grocery stores). The flour will thicken the sauce and give it a specific, Mexican taste.
Preheat a cast iron Dutch oven on the stove over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and then the coated meat, spreading it evenly so it covers the bottom of the Dutch oven in 1 layer. Leave it alone, without turning it, so the meat will brown and caramelize. Meanwhile, add the lard. The meat has a lot of moisture in it, so a good amount of steam will come from the pan before it is caramelized. As it browns, slowly turn each piece with tongs. Once all sides are caramelized, remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a cookie sheet to cool, leaving juices in the Dutch oven to saute vegetables. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat until they start to caramelize and get soft. Add the jalapenos and allow to cook for 2 more minutes until soft. Add the tomato paste. Some of the same spices as were used on the meat will be used in the sauce. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of the cumin, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, the oregano, and 2 heaping tablespoons of the chili powder. Add beer. Stir to incorporate everything. Add diced tomatoes, and stir. Then add the reserved meat. Add chicken stock. Simmer for 11/2 hours until meat is wonderfully tender. Strain juice from the black beans, add the beans to the chili pot and bring up to simmer. Then add chunks of bittersweet chocolate. Stir until it melts. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

Ben's Chili con Carne

1 pound sirloin tips or stew meat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounce) diced tomatoes
4 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons red chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper (to taste)
Dash of Tabasco sauce (to taste)
Heat the oil over medium heat in large saucepan. Brown the meat in the oil, then drain excess oil. Return meat to saucepan over medium heat and add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Simmer for 5-7 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Place meat and vegetables in large slow cooker pot and add remaining ingredients, stirring well. Cook over low heat for 8-10 hours, or high heat for 4-5 hours. Serves about four people. Recommend double batch for large gatherings.

White Chicken Chili
2/3 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cans (15 ounces each) northern beans
1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth with roasted garlic
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
1 1/2 cups grated pepperjack cheese
In large soup pot, saute the onion in the olive oil until tender but not browned. Add chilies, cumin, and oregano. Continue cooking over low heat for about a minute, stirring constantly. Add beans, chicken broth, chicken and cheese. Cook over medium-low heat until cheese melts.

Three-Step Chili
2 pounds ground beef
1 can (8-ounce) tomato sauce
2 cups water
3 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
salt, to taste
2 tablespoons dry minced onions
8 to 10 bay leaves
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Brown the ground beef and drain well. Add remaining ingredients except cornstarch. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Skim off excess grease; remove bay leaves. Add enough water to cornstarch to make paste that will pour. Add to chili; allow to thicken.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Work on raising your glass

Here's some advice for having a good Thanksgiving toast, if you're from a family of toasters:

According to Chris Witt, an executive speech coach with more than 25 years of experience, the first thing to remember is the intent of a toast onThanksgiving, which is something like the intent of the meal itself - to bring everyone together in a spirit of gratitude.

"A toast is meant to be warm, welcoming and gracious," said Witt, author of the newly released book, Real Leaders Don't Do Powerpoint. He recommendsthe following tips so your readers don't come off sounding like a turkey:

1) Get everyone's attention
2) Make sure people's glasses are full
3) Make a general statement that sums up the group's experience of the past year
4) Make a toast, which is something like a wish or a (secular) prayer
5) Raise your glass

"The basic things to avoid when making a holiday toast are these: Don't go too long, don't try to be humorous and don't make anyone feel excluded."

A frugal cookbook from The Almanac

Tough economic times and cold winter weather sparks a desire for traditional, easy-to-prepare comfort food for many American families. Created by the food editors of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the Everyday Cookbook is packed with delicious recipes that are all family favorites for generations. This collection contains 425 recipes that call for a short list of inexpensive ingredients.

The Everyday Cookbook is a hardbound edition, with more than 350 pages of recipes in 15 big sections, and 180 time- and money-saving tips! Here are a few samples for your readers:

Comforting Gingerbread
Serve this warm with applesauce or whipped cream, or dusted with confectioners' sugar.

1/2 cup corn oil
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup dark molasses
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease an 8-or 9-inch square baking pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil and brown sugar. In another bowl, sift the flours together, then add to the brown sugar mixture and stir until well blended. Add the milk, eggs, and molasses and stir to blend. Fold in the ginger. Pour into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a tooth-pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes 9 servings.

A Hungry Man's Quiche

Recipe for leftover holiday ham:

1 unbaked (9 1/2-inch) deep-dish pie shell
3 small potatoes, mashed
1/4 cup cubed cooked ham
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
5 large eggs
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Prick the bottom of the pie shell with a fork in several places and prebake for 15 minutes; remove from the oven, then increase the oven temperature to 375°F. Layer the potatoes, ham and then cheese into the shell. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk together, and pour the mixture into the shell. Bake for 30 minutes at 375°F. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Cookbook is available for $24.95 in retail outlets and the food section of bookstores, and at

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In case you didn't get enough in The Star....

More Thanksgiving sides, this time with a touch of smoke:

Rick Browne, internationally known BBQ chef; author of The Best Barbecue on Earth and half a dozen other cookbooks; restaurant critic; and host of public television's Barbecue America has the recipe for some great Thanksgiving sides- each with a unique international twist.

Cheesy Grilled Vegetables--from Argentina
Serves 4 to 6
(Recipe adapted from The Best Barbecue on Earth, pg 14)
6 firm plum tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and quartered
1 large onion, quartered lengthwise
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup shredded sardo or Gruyere cheese
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling (it is not necessary to use a drip pan with this recipe). Preheat to 350 degrees F. Make sure the grill rack is clean and oil it thoroughly with a nonstick cooking spray. Spray a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with cooking spray and set aside.
Lightly brush the tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, and zucchini with olive oil. Place the vegetable on the grill rack and cook over direct heat, turning several times, until vegetables start to brown on the edges but are still firm. Keep vegetables separate on the grill as the zucchini will be finished first, then the tomatoes, then the bell peppers, then the onions. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the skins from the tomatoes and peppers, and cut all the vegetables into 1/2-inch pieces. Drain the tomatoes on paper towels.

Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl. Add the basil, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper, stirring to combine.

In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, stir in the sardo cheese, and add the mixture to the vegetables, stirring to combine. Pour into the prepared skillet. Sprinkle the top evenly with bread crumbs and the Parmesan.
Transfer the skillet to the barbecue and cook over indirect heat until the edges of the mixture are browned and the center is set, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, cut into wedges, and serve.

Sweet Potato-Tofu Rice--from Korea
Serves 4 to 6
(Recipe adapted from The Best Barbecue on Earth, pg 122)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sweetened rice vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
2 yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch think rounds
3 cups water
4 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
3 cups hot cooked rice
freshly ground black pepper

Soak 12 - 16 bamboo skewers in water to cover for 30 minutes.

In a large shallow dish, combine the soy sauce, ginger, rice, vinegar, and oil, and set aside.
Transfer the sweet potato slices to a small saucepan and add the water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the slices are just starting to become tender. Remove and pat dry.

Add the onion, potato, and tofu slices to the soy sauce mixture, carefully tossing to coat. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the vegetables and reserve the marinade.
Run 2 soaked skewers, 1 inch apart, through each slice of onion to hold the onion together on the grill. Set aside.

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to 375 degrees F. Make sure the grill rack is clean and oil if thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray.

Transfer the onion, potato, and tofu to the prepared grill rack and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, generously basting with the reserved marinade, until they are grill-marked and beginning to brown.

Transfer the tofu and vegetables to a serving plate, removing the skewers from the onions. Serve over the steamed rice and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Get off your can

When Peter Durand patented the first metal can for the British Navy in 1810, he overlooked one important point - how to get the can open once it was sealed.

"The first cans were made of solid iron and they were heavier than the food inside the can," explains Elizabeth Pearce, senior curator, Southern Food and Beverage Museum. "To get the food out, one literally had to use a hammer and chisel."

Pearce says that it was only when thinner cans were created in the 1860s - nearly 50 years later - that a can opener could be invented.

"The first can opener was created by Ezra Warner of Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1858," she says. "It looked somewhat like a bent bayonet and you had to jam it into the can and then forcibly rotate around the edge of the can. It was difficult."

This wasn't the only problem. "People did not have this type of can opener in their homes," says Pearce. "It was only in stores, so the cans were opened by clerks in the store before the customer left."

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum faces a similar situation as the British Navy - it has thousands of cans but no can openers.

"We have an exhibition titled 'Canstruction,'" says Pearce. "Every year, architecture firms throughout the country participate in a competition in which they create sculptures out of canned goods. The sculptures are disassembled and donated to a local food bank. We have a can sculpture on exhibit in the museum. We are creating a companion exhibition of historic can openers to compliment the can exhibition. We are seeking vintage can openers to put into the display and into our collection."

The museum is looking for can openers that are both historic and commonplace examples of the past.
· Old can openers that are wall mounted.
· Openers that consist of one piece or of multiple pieces.
· Openers that feature the classic wheel design.
· Openers that have unique features and advertising slogans.
· Examples of old electrical can openers - the first electrical version was created in 1931 though it reached mass market in 1957.
· Old cans, such as the original heavy examples made of iron.

"The use of can openers didn't really become widespread until roughly 1930," says Pearce. "But there are older versions that deserve to be placed into a museum collection. For example, during the Civil War, Union troops received Warner's can opener along with their rations of canned food. In 1866, a man named J. Osterhoudt patented the tin can with a key opener that we see with sardine cans."

Pearce says that can openers are important artifacts that document the culinary history of man.

"At the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, we get excited about things like can openers," laughs Pearce. "They are valuable in that they provide a picture of where we have been and where we are going."

Those who make donations will be recognized in Southern Food and Beverage Museum publications and on its website/email newsletters. In some cases, donations as well as shipping costs may be eligible for tax deductions when donors get the appropriate appraisals from independent sources.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The pre-Thanksgiving blowout on Your Table

If this was a 1980s sitcom, the Wednesday edition of The Star's food section would be billed as A Very Special Your Table.

To put it mildly, we're bringin' it for the Super Bowl of Cooking next week, Thanksgiving.

Our theme is The Simple Feast. We've got a wide selection of recipes -- from bird to bread and all ports in between -- that will make Wednesday's food section the only thing you'll need to get an easy repast. (Really. Some of y'all have hassled me when I've called stuff "easy" and apparently it wasn't; this time I mean it.) We've got a budget party for folks who don't want a big spread, but we've also got a checklist for people who are having all manner of kith and kin to the table and need to organize entertainment, seating .... and whatnot.

How simple is some of this stuff? Our own staff members brought some of their favorites to the office Friday for a taste test, and, as the columnists would say, "A good time was had by all." Prudence Hilburn kicks in a few of her classics, and Pat Kettles and Ben Cunningham tell you what to drink to make all of these flavors of fall come alive.

Enjoy. Life's too short to eat bad food.

Cake rules, and other peachy things

We're fortunate enough to be plugged in to the Old Farmer's Almanac and their trove of cool recipes that really bring homemade goodness to the table. Here's a sweet treat.

Peachy Almond Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup (7-ounce package) almond paste
2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 cup peach preserves, softened in microwave oven or stirred, divided

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, or to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or to taste
caramel sauce (optional)
peach slices (optional)
mint sprigs (optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

For Cake:In a large bowl and with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating briefly after each and then until the mixture is as light as whipped cream. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
In a small bowl, blend the milk and extracts. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the butter mixture, stirring to blend after each. Spread the batter equally in the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool them on wire racks.

For Filling:Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Divide the almond paste in half and roll each portion into a 9-inch round (roll the paste between two layers of waxed paper or plastic wrap). Place one sheet of almond paste over the first cake layer. In a small bowl, mix the peach slices with 3/4 cup of the peach preserves and spread over the almond paste. Add the second cake layer and brush with the remaining 1/4 cup of peach preserves. Top with the second round of almond paste.

For Frosting:Whip the cream until stiff, then add the sugar and extracts to taste, stirring to blend. Frost the cake with the whipped cream and refrigerate until serving time. If desired, drizzle a little caramel sauce on the dessert plates before putting the cake on them and garnish each serving with a few peach slices and a sprig of fresh mint. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Velveeta and casseroles. Bring it on.

The makers of velveeta are inviting America to rediscover the casserole – the delicious and versatile one-dish wonder that won’t break the bank. In the South, casseroles have NEVER gone out of style, and no church supper or potluck would be complete without a slew of them.

Five top bloggers are taking the VELVEETA Casserole Challenge – creating an original casserole recipe using VELVEETA that can serve four for under $10 with second helpings for the following day. Visi by Nov. 23 to vote and to see a contest that offers great prizes for consumers’ best tips to deliver delicious dinners to the family on a budget.

Twenty first-prize winners will receive VELVEETA Casserole Kits and the creator of the top tip will be awarded a set of stainless steel cookware.

"We know families are looking for ways to bring dinner to the table on a budget. The VELVEETA Casserole Challenge is a fun way to highlight easy, affordable meals, and remind families how much they love these cheesy, all-in-one dishes,” says VELVEETA brand manager Sherina Smith.
Casseroles are an ideal way to stretch your dollar and feed the family for a reasonable price – taking the guesswork out of dinnertime. Plus, with simple variations in spices and ingredients, one recipe can become a whole recipe box full of meals. Log on to for new recipes and variations of current favorites using VELVEETA pasteurized prepared cheese product.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holiday cooking contest, Kosher style

The Manischewitz Company announces the launch of the Third Annual Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off, a cooking contest designed to encourage home cooks to prepare a simple, yet delicious kosher entrée using any of the many wonderful Manischewitz products.

The Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off invites U.S. residents 18 or older to submit an original, easy-to-make entrée. All recipes must be original, must be kosher and must include at least one Manischewitz product, have no more than a total of eight ingredients and be prepared and cooked in one hour or less. For official contest details and to register, log onto and complete the official entry form online and submit a recipe or enter by mail: Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off, c/o BHGPR, 546 Valley Road Upper Montclair, NJ 07043. Recipes entered online must be received by December 31, 2008. Mailed entries must be received by December 31, 2008.

All of the contest submissions are selected by a judging panel which includes chefs and culinary experts. Judging is based on the following criteria:

taste, 50%
ease of preparation, 20%
appearance, 15%
originality, 15%.

Six finalists will be selected from among all entries to compete live in New York City on February 13, 2009 at the Marriott Marquis hotel. The Grand Prize Winner will be selected on site by a panel of prestigious panel of food experts.

The judging panel includes: Todd Coleman, Food Editor Saveur magazine; Melissa Roberts, Food Editor Gourmet magazine, Emily Kaiser, Food Associate Editor, Food & Wine magazine; Michael Park, and Achilles Poliviou, executive chef at the Marriott Marquis.

“Over the past two years we have had more than 10,000 entries from people across the country that spanned all ethnic backgrounds," said David Rossi, VP, Marketing, The Manischewitz Company. “As the leader in the kosher market, we pride ourselves on our wide range of specialty products that inspire cooks of all types to create exciting recipes.”

“I was so honored to be the grand prize winner last year,” said Joy Devor of Far Rockaway, New York. “I simply love to cook for my family and thanks to The Manischewitz Company I was able to update my kitchen which makes it so much easier to cook for my six children. Additionally the endless supply of Manischewitz products has enabled me to continue to be creative with recipes.” The first Cook-Off winner, Candace McMenamin from Lexington, SC says, “This event gave me the chance to show off my cooking skills in a kosher cooking competition and even though I don’t keep kosher, I’ve been exposed to a whole new category of recipes.”

And to inspire you, try this original creation by Grand Prize Winner - Candace McMenamin:

Sweet Potato Encrusted Chicken

1 item Manischewitz Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cooking Spray
1 box (6oz) Manischewitz Sweet Potato Pancakes
1 tsp Manischewitz Poultry Seasoning
6 piece Boneless, skinless chicken breast
1.5 cup Manischewitz apricot preserves
3 tbsp Manischewitz Premium Niagara White Grape Juice
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 item Jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

Preheat oven to 350º. Prepare a 13-inch by 9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.
Combine sweet potato pancake mix and poultry seasoning in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken breasts through mixture, turning to coat thoroughly. Place in prepared baking dish. Place in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until internal temperature is 175 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine apricot preserves, grape juice, garlic, and pepper. Cook over low heat until mixture is heated through. To serve: Place chicken breasts on serving platter. Drizzle ¼ cup sauce over breasts and serve remaining sauce on the side for dipping.

Chef cooks up a good cause

The few occasions I've had to interview her, Virginia Willis has come across as a charming, practical soul with a rich understanding of Southern food heritage. It's fun to note that she's got a cause cooking in Atlanta, and Emory's sustainability project will be worth watching:

Emory University is proud of its mission to serve sustainable, delicious food to its diners; acclaimed chef and author Virginia Willis prides herself on cooking with only the finest, local ingredients.

The coupling of Emory’s mission and Virginia’s expertise is exemplified in the Heritage Harvest Feast — a Thanksgiving menu comprised of recipes from Virginia Willis’s best-selling cookbook Bon Appétit, Y’all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking (Ten Speed Press, May 2008, $32.50) which will be served throughout all of Emory University’s dining facilities today. To celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and in the spirit of friendship, family, and fellowship, Virginia Willis and Emory’s talented culinary team will cook soul-satisfying Southern favorites, using local produce and heritage turkeys.

The daughter and granddaughter of consummate Southern cooks, Virginia Willis inherited their love of fresh, home-cooked food and unconditional hospitality before going on to become a classically trained French chef. These divergent influences inform Bon Appétit, Y’all, Virginia’s passionate homage to her culinary roots. Brimming with recipes meant for the family home kitchen, displaced Southerners yearning for a taste of home, aspiring cooks, and anyone who appreciates good food, and enhanced with stories, photos, tips, and techniques, Bon Appétit, Y’all seamlessly blends Virginia’s Southern and French roots into a memorable and thoroughly modern cookbook.

Emory University's sustainability vision sets an ambitious goal of 75 percent local or sustainably grown food in the hospitals and cafeterias by 2015. A Sustainable Food Committee was named by the President in the spring of 2007 to lead Emory’s Sustainable Food Initiative. The group includes a dozen members — faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students — from all across the University and has accomplished a number of projects including establishing food purchasing guidelines and defining “sustainable” and “local” food.

Kids and food. Make it an adventure.

I'm not the biggest fan of Rachael Ray, but she had an excellent commentary on a recent show. She was talking about preparing fast family meals and addressed a lament many parents have: Their children will eat only one or two things. As in chicken and corn. Or chicken and french fries.

Her point: The children weren't born that way, so how'd their tastes get so narrow and dictatorial? Look in the mirror, mom and dad. Children eat what they do because it's what we serve them from their earliest meals. Period. It's that simple. Tell yourselves otherwise, and you're kidding yourself.

Ms. Ray recalled when she was doing a cooking demonstration at a grocery and how parents would come by, see what she was cooking and answer a child's request with, 'No, you won't like that.' And these would be the same parents who'd complain that their children eat only chicken fingers. They say that if they held the line and broadened a child's menu offerings, they'd starve.

Trust me. They won't starve. Once they see you're serious at taking their boilerplate dinner and adding to it, they'll get with the program. Hold the line.

Sure, there are some flavors and foods people don't like. I cannot stand flaked coconut; hate the taste, hate the texture even more. I've got a friend who hates curry. There is a difference in having a few personal preferences (coconut, curry, raw tomatoes?) and being a wholesale nullifier of anything that isn't a boneless piece of chicken breast breaded and fried.

Anyway, Rachael Ray's advice on how to get children to eat more than two things was an interesting discussion in how and what we eat. It's a discussion worth having, and it's truly a case of putting your money where your mouth is.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vegan Thanksgiving sides... it can be done

For this Thanksgiving, Kopali Organics’ has created a couple vegan stuffing recipes incorporating Goldenberries to add a healthy flavorful spin on classic holiday faves. Regular stuffing can be 800 calories or more, and, speaking as a carnivore, we're thankful for every calorie.

However, folks who'll be hosting vegetarians or vegans for the holiday need to spread around some culinary love. The Goldenberries are available at Whole Foods or online. Yes, that means you have to go to Mountain Brook and shop at Whole Foods, but, trust me, if you're hosting a vegan Thanksgiving blowout, you're going to end up there anyway.

Wild Rice Stuffing

2 quarts vegetable stock
3 cups wild rice, rinsed
Pinch sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 large shallots, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup Kopali Golden Berries
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 quarts vegetable stock
1/3 cup chopped fresh sage

Bring the stock to a boil. Add the rice and salt to the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 35-45 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat.
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the shallots and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, or until golden. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their juices.
Add the soy or tamari, thyme, and pepper. Continue to cook until the liquid evaporates. Transfer to a bowl with the rice. Add the golden berries, parsley and sage and toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more pepper, if necessary.

Kopali Organics Goldenberry Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing
5 cups whole grain bread, toasted & crumbled
4-1.8 oz packages Kopali Organics organic dried Goldenberries
2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 bunches of scallions, minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley and/or sage (to taste)
1 1/2 cups celery, diced
1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup peeled, diced, cored apple
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 stick vegan margarine
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
salt & pepper to taste (approx 1 tsp/ea)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet, sautee the onion, scallions, celery, mushrooms, and vegan margarine. When browned, add the apple, parsley/sage, and salt/pepper. In a mixing bowl, combine the contents of the skillet with all remaining ingredients, stirring well.Bake for approx 25 minutes, stirring once, until crust is browned but still moist. Serves 6-8. Enjoy!

News from NOLA

From the Southern Food & Beverage Museum Newsletter:

When visitors come to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum , they often leave a food memory on our memory wall. Some are funny and some are sad, but all of them reflect the enormous emotional effect food has on us from the time we are young. It seems appropriate, during a season that celebrates community around the table, to share some of these memories that have been left on our wall.

When all of the communing around the dinner table is over, join us for a special after-Thanksgiving program at SoFAB, our first ever comedy show. Nationally known comics Mark Normand and Dan Faucheux will perform food-oriented stand-up comedy, complete with beer (cash only) provided by The Store, and New Orleans traditional Turkey Gumbo (gratis). I

If you would like to reserve a seat, please email is a great time to support the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. We are offering special discounts during until the end of the year on gift memberships to the museum.

We would also like to announce our GREAT COOKBOOK SWEEPSTAKES. Each time you donate $10 online to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for 2 cookbooks. We will draw weekly and the winners will be announced in this newsletter. Your donation is tax-deductible. You may enter as many times as you like. The contest ends at the end of the year.

Green & Black’s is excited to introduce a new flavor to its family of organic chocolate bars. Toffee, now available to confection lovers in the U.S. , is a delectable blend of 34% milk chocolate with crisp, crunchy pieces of organic toffee.

Made with the very best organically-grown cocoa beans, specifically Criollo and Trinitario varieties, Green & Black’s Toffee is crafted with masterful precision, with every step from bean to bar given equal importance. The result, an intense flavor the brand is known for and toffee pieces, prepared at just the right temperature so they please the palate without sticking. Green & Black’s Toffee shares the deep, fruity and full flavor found in all Green & Black’s chocolate while proving that the best things in the world can actually be good for it too.

Green & Black’s Toffee joins the popular collection of organic chocolate flavors already available in 3.5 oz bars: Almond, Caramel, Cherry, Dark 70%, Dark 85%, Espresso, Ginger, Hazelnut & Currant, Maya Gold, Milk, Mint, and White.

In addition, Green & Black’s has recently introduced special bags featuring 23 individually wrapped bite-size pieces of delicious organic chocolate. The bags are available in the popular Milk and Dark 70% flavors and are available at retailers such as CVS, Target and Rite Aid across the country. For more information, log on to

Now, what to do else to do with chocolate? How about

Iced Mocha
Preparation time: 15-20 minutes
"Marinating" time for cheeries: 8 hours minimum, or up to 1 week
Chilling time: 2 hours
Makes: 6 tall glasses

7 ounces (about 1 cup) fresh cherries
1 ¼ cups brandy or port
4 cups strong, freshly ground, brewed coffee
½ cup good-quality hot chocolate powder
6 tablespoons demerara (raw) sugar
2 ¼ cups dark chocolate ice cream
2 ¼ cups vanilla ice cream
1 cup heavy cream
Cocoa powder or dark chocolate for sprinkling

Marinate the cherries in the brandy or port overnight, or preferably for up to 1 week, in the refrigerator.
Make the coffee and while it is still hot stir in the hot chocolate and the sugar to taste. Remember not to make the mocha too sweet as the ice cream will be an additional sweetener.
Chill the mocha in the refrigerator until very cold. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and let soften for 10 minutes. Pour the mocha into 6 glasses, only three-quarters full, to allow enough room for 2 balls of ice cream.

Drop 3 or 4 marinated cherries into each glass and then, using an ice cream scoop, carefully drop 1 ball of vanilla ice cream into the mocha, then 1 ball of chocolate ice cream on top. Try not to disturb the ice cream too much as it will cloud the lovely dark mocha coffee. Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream over the top of the ice cream and then sprinkle some cocoa or dark chocolate flakes over it. Serve immediately.
Recipe and photo:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Grilling year-round? Oh, yeah.

With an increasing number of Americans firing up their barbecue grills year round, outdoor grill usage is currently at an all-time high – nearly double what it was 20 years ago, according to NPD’s 22nd annual "Eating Patterns in America" report. “At-home grillmasters” now have the opportunity to put their skills to the test and win a $5,000 backyard makeover.

The Crisco Sprays Grilling Hall of Fame contest is inviting grillmasters to share their favorite recipe for a chance to be one of the first inductees into the new Hall of Fame and win a backyard makeover. Recipes can be submitted until Dec. 15, 2008, at

Share an original grilling recipe that incorporates a Crisco Cooking Spray (Original, Butter or Olive Oil)

Take a picture and send it in.

Include a brief essay, 250 words or less, explaining why you created the recipe and why it should be inducted into the Crisco Grilling Hall of Fame

And this from the fans of olive oil

The Ins and Outs of Olive Oil

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), olive oil is beneficial to the heart. It contains monounsaturated fat, which can help lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that consuming just two tablespoons of olive oil per day may reduce the risk of heart disease. With all the health benefits to using olive oil, there’s just one thing left for consumers to figure out – which one to use.

“When you stand there in the store, looking at the rows of olive oil, people are not sure what to buy and what to expect,” explains Enzo Febbraro, co-owner and executive chef of Washington D.C.-based D’Acqua Ristorante. “Olive oil is a wonderful ingredient to use when cooking and baking, but different flavors will alter the tastes.”

While olive oil comes in a variety of types, the most popular are light and extra virgin. All of them have the same fat content but, depending on the type, the acid level varies, and that changes the flavor. Here’s what to expect from the two most popular types of olive oil, and where they are best used:

· Light. This is ideal for baking and cooking when you don’t want a strong flavor but still want all the health benefits. Light olive oil has undergone a filtration process that leaves it with a lighter appearance and flavor, although the calorie count remains the same.

· Extra virgin. If you only plan to have one olive oil on hand to use as an all-purpose type, this would be the one. It’s low in acid and has a fruity flavor and aroma. It provides a lot of flavor, even when only using a minimum amount. This type of oil works well for sauces, frying, marinades, meat, fish, pasta, vegetables, and baking. It’s also the variety most commonly used when consumed cold, with salads or for dipping bread.

When it comes to storing olive oil, it’s best to keep it either in the refrigerator or in a cool, dry place. If it’s being stored in the refrigerator, it may thicken and it will need to sit out for a few minutes before being used, so that it can liquefy again. Olive oil is sensitive to heat and light; exposure to them can speed up the process of turning it rancid, so it’s important to store it in a dark area that is temperature-controlled.

Shelf life once it is opened varies, but most manufacturers recommend three to six months. Olive oil can be used as a substitute in most recipes that call for vegetable oil, shortening, or butter.

“When choosing an olive oil, the main thing to keep in mind is flavor. Some have a more pronounced flavor, and you have to determine whether you want that in your dish,” adds Febbraro. “The best olive oils come from Italy. Using a good one will go a long way toward adding flavor to what you cook, as well as providing many health benefits.”

Take with a grain of salt ... and apparently cayenne

In preparation for the annual holiday eating spree, which kicks off pretty darned soon, the folks from Metabolife have passed on some dietary tips that they say help keeps your metabolism stoked:

Nutrition experts have long suggested that a combination of the right foods with exercise keep the metabolism high. Obesity expert and researcher on the Metabolife Break Through clinical trials, Dr. Soren Toubro, suggests the following tips for keeping metabolism high during the holidays:

· Eat 4-5 small meals during the day.
· Choose spicy foods.
· Eat whole foods, over processed ones.
· Avoid simple sugars and processed flour.
· Nosh on a nutritious and filling small meal before you leave for a holiday party.
· Drink at least 12 ounces of pure, fresh water before each meal (your stomach won’t know the difference between fullness created from water or food!).
· Scan the buffet table first before making food choices.
· Choose the high protein foods first, things like fish and meats. Eat that plate first, then return for carbohydrate foods such as potatoes and stuffing.
· Skip the bread.

Coming toYour Table

We've got a pumpkin explosion going on in Wednesday's Anniston Star. We're rescuing pumpkins from the prison that has become the Halloween-Jack-o-lantern-Thanksgiving centerpiece triangle. We're actually turning them into real -- REAL -- food.

I often rant about under-appreciated vegetables, and pumpkins are up there. They're loaded with vitamins and minerals, and they're super simple to prepare. Our recipes are a little more elaborate, but Monday night, I pureed some pumpkin with a little butter, a pinch of salt, a good dusting of pumpkin pie spice and whipped it with my hand blender. No finer sauce could have accompanied the fried pork chops I served.

Here's a taste of what's in Wednesday's paper, along with Prudence Hilburn's Gourmet Touch and Pat Kettles's wine picks of the week. Enjoy. Life's too short to eat bad food.

Makes 8 servings
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
4 large eggs
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt (or more for taste)
1 (2-pound loaf) egg bread, cut into 3/4-inch slices (about 20 slices)
1/4 cup brown sugar
Whipped cream and raw sugar or confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Butter a 10-inch springform pan and wrap the outside with aluminum foil.
Combine the milk, cream and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until warm but do not boil; remove from the heat and let mixture sit about 20 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and pour mixture into a large bowl. With a knife, carefully slit open the bean and scrape in the seeds. (Save the pod for future use. Barden pats it dry and puts it in superfine granulated sugar and uses that to flavor coffee.)
In a separate mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs and yolks until light and frothy. Add the granulated sugar and whisk eggs until pale and fluffy. Slowly stir a small amount of egg mixture into the cooled milk mixture; do not rush the process or the eggs will curdle. Whisk in the pumpkin, ginger and salt.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Dunk each slice of bread into the egg custard and then, slice by slice, arrange slices in the springform pan, overlapping the layers. Slowly pour the remainder of the mixture into pan. You should have at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the egg mixture left. Let sit30 minutes.
Place the springform pan inside a roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with hot tap water until it reaches about halfway up pan sides. Bake about 90 minutes until the center is firm but not hard. During the last 10 or 15 minutes, sprinkle about 1/4 cup of brown sugar on the top and raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. The finished product should have a consistency similar to a quiche. Use a toothpick to check for doneness. Allow the French toast to cool about 20 minutes before sliding a knife around the edge of the pan to unmold. Garnish with whipped cream and a sprinkle of raw sugar or dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Makes 18 large ravioli
3 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 (15-ounce) container whole ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups mozzarella
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Brown sugar to taste
20 small wonton wrappers, at room temperature
Sage butter:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
16 small fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup chicken stock or reduced salt broth
Salt and pepper to taste
For the ravioli: In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, parsley, sage, nutmeg, salt, garlic powder, white pepper and brown sugar and mix well. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling between two wonton wrappers, dampen edges by moistening fingers with water and running along the edges and seal well. Drop ravioli into salted, simmering water; remove when ravioli floats to top, about 3 minutes.
For the sage butter: Melt butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add sage leaves and minced garlic; saute for about 30 seconds. Slowly add chicken stock. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle sage butter over ravioli and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan.

Makes 6 servings
12 chicken legs
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon allspice
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 red onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 to 3 cups chicken stock or reduced salt broth
1/2 cup honey
2 (15-ounce) cans pumpkin puree
24 pitted dates
4 large beets, peeled and quartered
6 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
6 cups prepared couscous
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves, salt and pepper together and rub chicken legs with spice mixture.
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat until oil starts to shimmer, then sear chicken in two or three batches about 10 minutes on each side or until the skins are well browned. Remove chicken and place in an oiled, 8-quart covered casserole dish. Add the garlic and onion to the pan used for cooking chicken and saute until soft. Add the chicken stock, honey, pumpkin, dates, beets, parsnips and bay leaves to pan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, pour over the chicken legs. Cover the dish and braise in the oven 45 minutes or until chicken and root vegetables are tender. Season to taste and serve over the couscous.

Makes 10 to 12 servings
For the cake:
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (6-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan and line with wax paper. Grease and flour the paper and set pan aside.
For the cake: In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs on high speed with a hand mixer 5 minutes. Gradually beat in granulated sugar until batter is thick and lemon-colored. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice.
In another bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Gently fold dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture. Spread batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with walnuts. Bake 15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Immediately turn sponge cake out onto linen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Peel off wax paper and roll cake up in a clean kitchen towel, starting at the short end; allow to cool.
For the filling: In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, butter and vanilla on medium speed until fluffy. When cake is cooled, carefully unroll cake and spread filling to within 1 inch of the edges. Roll up again. Cover and chill until serving. Slice and dust with confectioners’ sugar to serve.

By Steve Petusevsky
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Pumpkins should be our national fruit. After all, they were served at our first communal dinner enjoyed by the American Indians and Pilgrims. Or maybe it was the second; history is a bit unclear.
There is something about pumpkins that is distinctly American. After all, Indians were eating pumpkins in a variety of ways years before the Pilgrims landed.
The original pumpkin pie was created by colonists when they cut the top off, removed the seeds for other purposes, and filled the pumpkin shell with honey, milk and spices before roasting it over an open fire. This, by the way, sounds fabulous and someday I will try it.

Chef Steve’s tip: You can use pumpkin, butternut squash or any favorite hard squash for this recipe. If you like a richer flavor, add a pat of butter while mashing.
6 cups pumpkin or hard squash, peeled and cut into chunks
2 granny smith, fuji or gala apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 / 4 cup water
1 / 2 cup 2 percent milk or soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 / 2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 / 2 cup maple syrup
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the squash, apples and olive oil in a large mixing bowl; toss to coat. Place in a baking dish. Add water, cover with foil and bake 45 minutes until tender.
In the meantime, combine the milk, vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup in a saucepan. Heat over low and bring to a simmer; set aside.
Transfer the baked squash and apples to a mixing bowl. Slowly add the warm milk mixture as you mash with a potato masher or a fork. Mash until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

By Linda Cicero
McClatchy Newspapers
Dress these up if you wish with vanilla or cream cheese frosting or serve with whipped cream or ice cream. This recipe produces a cake-like texture. If you prefer a chewier bar, reduce eggs to 2.
2 cups (or a 15-ounce can) pumpkin puree
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Beat the pumpkin, eggs, oil, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture, stirring just enough to combine evenly. Fold in the raisins and pecans. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm or cool. Makes 32 squares.
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups Arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
3 cups pumpkin puree
About 1/2 cup half-and-half
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Nutmeg, sage or adobo (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a 2-quart or larger saucepan with a lid, saute onion in butter until just golden. Add rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring to keep it from sticking. Stir in 1 cup of the stock.
Stir in the pumpkin puree and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, simmering and stirring, until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in the half and half (the consistency should be creamy but not soupy) and season to taste with salt and pepper and any optional seasonings. Just before serving, stir in the chives and Parmesan. Makes 8 servings.

Friday, November 7, 2008

In a stew? Find a bird near you.

While beef is considered the King of Stews, chicken-based stews come together fast and offer a nice change of pace.
A method of cooking by which meat and vegetable combinations are barely covered with liquid, stewing produces deep flavors because the foods simmer slowly in a tightly covered pot. Stewing tenderizes meat and allows the flavors of the individual ingredients to meld deliciously.

From the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, here are two chicken stew recipes to add to your winter meal list, during the holidays or anytime for casual family dining.
Spicy Chicken and Chickpea Stew combines rich chicken thigh meat with carrots, scallions, tomatoes and chickpeas. Chicken stock and orange juice provide the juices for the stew, with additional flavor layers provided by garlic, coriander and paprika. To make this tasty, easy dish, start by slicing chicken thigh meat into bite-sized chunks. Brown the chicken on the stovetop, and then boil chicken stock and orange juice together in the same pan. Add the vegetables and cook until crisp-tender. Put the chicken back into the pan and let the stew simmer to meld the flavors. A dollop of herbed yogurt is cooling, tasty finish to this dish. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread for a complete meal.

Spicy Chicken and Chickpea Stew

Serves 6

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces

Herbed Yogurt:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 TBLS chopped basil
1 TBLS chopped mint
1 TBLS chopped parsley
1 TBLS lemon zest
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

¼ cup flour
4 TBLS olive oil
1 bunch scallions, cut into ¼ inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tsps ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
½ cup orange juice
2 ½ cups chicken stock
2 cans (15 oz) chickpeas, drained
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes and juices

In small bowl, combine all ingredients for Herbed Yogurt. Refrigerate to allow flavors to blend. Place flour in plastic bag with zipper top. Add chicken; toss to coat. In large pan with lid, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sauté until browned, about 5 – 7 minutes. Remove chicken to a bowl and set aside.

In same pan, pour orange juice and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, scraping up any brown pieces from the bottom of the pan. Add scallions, carrots, garlic, coriander, paprika and salt. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are crisp tender, about 10 – 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and chicken, return to a simmer and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes longer.

Remove from heat. To serve, spoon into bowls and top with dollop of Herbed Yogurt.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
650 calories; 29 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 44 g carbohydrate; 53 g protein

Chicken, Squash and Pasta Stew is an easy one-dish meal, perfect for a busy night. Slice chicken cutlets into bite-size pieces and cook on top of the stove with diced onion. Add thyme, oregano, basil and a bay leaf for flavoring, along with chopped butternut squash, canned diced tomatoes, small elbow pasta and bagged spinach leaves. Cook into a stew with red wine and orange juice. Serve in soup bowls topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Chicken, Squash and Pasta Stew

Serves 6

2 pounds chicken cutlets, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 TBLS olive oil
1 onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 ½ TBLS flour
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 TBLS tomato paste
½ cup red wine
1 pound butternut squash, cut into chunks
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
½ cup orange juice
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ cups uncooked elbow or other small pasta
1 bag (1 pound) spinach leaves
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

In large frypan with lid or stockpot, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. While onion is cooking, place chicken pieces in colander over sink, sprinkle with flour and toss to coat.

Add chicken to the pan and brown, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add thyme, oregano, basil, bay leaf and tomato paste; cook one minute, stirring constantly. Raise heat to high, add wine and scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan, cooking another minute. Add squash, tomatoes, orange juice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until squash is beginning to soften, about 7 – 9 minutes. Add pasta, stir, cover and simmer an additional 10 minutes.

Add spinach a handful at a time and continue to simmer another 3 – 4 minutes, until greens are beginning to wilt and stew is cooked through thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper and stir well.

To serve, ladle into soup bowls and top with sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
450 calories; 13 g fat; 3.5 g saturated fat; 40 g carbohydrate; 41 g protein

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Healthier holiday recipes

The folks from Smart Balance are helping us whittle some fat from Thanksgiving favorites:

New-Fashioned Mashed Potatoes & Onions
2 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup Smart Balance Fat-Free Milk*
1/2 cup Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

In a 4-quart saucepan, bring 2 quarts hot tap water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and onions, return to a boil, reduce heat, cover tightly and simmer 14 minutes or until potatoes and onions are tender.

Drain well in colander. Add the potato mixture, plus the other ingredients to the saucepan and use a potato masher or electric mixer to mash until smooth.
Makes 6 cups total
Serves 8; 3/4 cup per serving
Per serving: 140 calories, 3 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 2 grams monounsaturated fat, 1.4 grams polyunsaturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg. cholesterol, 390 mg. sodium, 3 grams fiber

Asparagus with Lemon-Butter Crumb Topping
1 medium lemon
2 tablespoons Smart Balance Butter Blend Stick
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs*
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed (12 ounces total after trimming)
1/2 cup water
Grate 2 teaspoons rind from the lemon, cut the lemon into wedges.

Melt Smart Balance Butter Blend Stick over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and cook 2-3 minutes, or until just golden, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add lemon zest and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir gently, using the back of a spoon, incorporate lemon zest into the breadcrumb mixture, set aside on separate plate.

To the skillet, add the water and asparagus, bring to a boil over medium high heat, cover and boil 2 minutes or until tender crisp. Drain well.

Place asparagus on serving platter. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and top with the breadcrumbs. Serve with lemon wedges.

Makes about 16-20 spears plus about 1/2 cup crumbs total
Serves 4; 4-5 spears plus 2 tablespoons crumbs per serving (recipe may easily be doubled)
Per serving: 162 calories, 5.1 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fat, 2.9 grams saturated fat, 1.7 grams monounsaturated fat, 0.7 gram polyunsaturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 8 mg. cholesterol, 62 mg. sodium, 3.8 grams fiber
* Panko bread crumbs are Japanese bread crumbs found in the ethnic section of most major supermarkets. May substitute with 1 1/2 ounces multigrain bread torn in small pieces, placed in blender and pulsed to a fine crumb texture.

Festive Cranberry Nut Bars
First Layer
3 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Smart Balance Butter Blend Stick Regular with Omega-32 eggs, beaten (or egg substitute)2 teaspoons vanilla
Second Layer
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
Third Layer
1/2 cup Smart Balance Butter Blend Stick Unsalted with Omega-3
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts)

First Layer: Stir together dry ingredients. With pastry blender, cut in Smart Balance® Butter Blend Stick until pieces are size of peas. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well. Press dough onto bottom and sides of ungreased 10 ½ x 15 ½-inch jelly roll pan.Second Layer: Bring water and sugar to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool. Mixture will thicken as it cools.

Spread over first layer. Bake 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool.Third Layer: Melt Smart Balance Butter Blend Stick and cool. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and milk to make it spreadable. Spread on cooled cookie layers and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Cut into squares. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.Makes 40 squaresServes 40; 1 cookie per serving

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cooking, with care

Taste of Home is one of my favorite sources for practical, family-friendly recipes. They've got a project going next week that's worth looking at:

At Taste of Home, getting into the holiday spirit begins in the kitchen and continues in the community with acts of kindness. Against the backdrop of our country’s tough economic conditions, the editors at Taste of Home are declaring the second week in November National Cooks Who Care Week -- to celebrate the generosity of those who are giving back through food-related efforts.

“We know many will be struggling this season, and through National Cooks Who Care Week, we can show that it doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone else’s life,” said Taste of Home’s Editor-in-Chief Catherine Cassidy. “By focusing our attention on heartwarming charitable efforts our readers have shared with us, we hope to motivate others to bake cookies, donate canned goods or prepare and serve food to those in need.”

The 1st Annual National Cooks Who Care Week will be marked through a variety of Taste of Home avenues from Nov. 10 – 16. will serve as the hub for the weeklong celebration, highlighting stories of people giving back and offering ideas and tips on how to get involved in a food-based volunteer effort.

Taste of Home Cooking Schools throughout the country will host canned goods drives benefiting area food banks. Taste of Home staff and field editors will engage in multiple community efforts such as serving hot meals to needy families, organizing bake sales to raise money for charities and donating to food banks.

Cooks Who Care is a pro-social effort created by Taste of Home to celebrate acts of caring by home cooks and communities across the country. Introduced as a magazine feature in October 2006, Cooks Who Care unites compassionate real people across the country, who give back through food, and shares their stories of kindness in print and on-line

By establishing the 1st Annual National Cooks Who Care Week, Taste of Home is reaching out beyond its reader base and inviting others to join in this unique outreach opportunity.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Puttin' the stuff in da Puff

Puff pastry can save the day -- and turn simple recipes into five-star fare:

Berries & Cream Cornucopias
•6 sugar ice cream cones
•½ of a 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)
•Nonstick cooking spray
•2 tablespoons granulated sugar
•1 can ready-whipped cream (e.g., Redi-Wip, original or chocolate)
•2 cups mixed berries (or assorted diced fruit)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Tightly wrap sugar cones in squares of foil,
covering completely, tucking excess up into the cone cavity. Unfold
pastry sheet on lightly floured surface. Cut along the fold lines to form
three rectangles. Cut each rectangle lengthwise into 4 equal strips (12
strips total).
Press the ends of two strips together and, starting at the top of one
cone, wind around, overlapping the pastry (it will not reach bottom of
cone). Lightly spray with nonstick spray and sprinkle with sugar. Lay
seam side down on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cones and
Bake 16-18 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool
completely on tray. Carefully remove cones from pastry. Pipe the
whipped cream into cooled cones and place on plates. Spoon fruit
near opening. Makes 6 desserts.
Note to test kitchen:
The filling and fruit can be varied in multiple ways; I chose the ready-
whipped cream because it is so simple. However, a mousse or
flavored whipped cream could also be used. This could also be taken
in a savory direction.

Wrapped Pears with Vanilla Bean Sauce

Prep: 30 minutes Makes: 4 servings
Chill: 1 hour
Thaw: 40 minutes
Bake: 25 minutes
•3 cups water
•¾ cup sugar
•½ vanilla bean, split
•4 Bartlett orBosc pears, cored and peeled*
•½ cup heavy cream
•½ package (17.5 ounces) Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)
•Cold water
•Granulated sugar
•Fresh raspberries

Heat the water, sugar, and vanilla bean in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring
occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the pears and cook for 10 minutes or until the pears are tender, turning occasionally.
Remove the pears from the sugar mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until the pears
are cold.
Stir the cream into the sugar mixture. Cook and stir for 20 minutes or until the mixture boils and is
reduced to about 3/4 cup. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce.
Thaw the pastry sheet at room temperature for 40 minutes or until it’s easy to handle. Heat the oven to
400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Cut the pastry sheet crosswise into 8 (3/4-inch wide)
strips. Brush the strips with the water and sprinkle with the sugar. For each pear, join 2 pastry strips by
pressing the ends together. Wind 1 strip of pastry around eachpear, tucking the end under the
bottom of the pear. Place the wrapped pears onto the baking sheet. Loosely cover the wrapped
pears with aluminum foil
Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastries are golden. Spoon thevanilla sauce onto 4 plates. Top each
with 1 pear and garnish with raspberries.
*Use a melon baler to core the pears from the bottom and remove the seeds. Peel the pears, leaving
the stem intact. Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each pear so that it will stand upright.

Apple Turnovers with Gingered Cranberry-Caramel Sauce

Prep: 15 minutes Makes: 4 servings
Bake: 20 minutes
•2 tablespoons sugar
•1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
•1 package (12.5 ounces) Pepperidge Farm®

Apple Turnovers
•2 tablespoons butter, melted
•1 cup prepared caramel sauce
•¼ cup finely chopped crystallized (candied) ginger
•¼ cup finely chopped dried cranberries
•Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Stir the sugar and pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl. Brush the
turnovers with the butter and sprinkle with the sugar mixture. Bake
and cool the turnovers according to the package directions
Heat the caramel sauce, ginger and cranberries in a 1-quart
saucepan over low heat until the mixture is hot. Serve the
turnovers with the sauce. Top with the whipped cream, if desired.

Truffle Cups

Prep: 35 minutes Makes: 24 pieces
Bake: 1 minute
•1 package (9.5 ounces) Pepperidge Farm® Mini Puff Pastry Shells
•12 small (1-inch) assorted chocolate truffle candies, cut in half
•1 cup thawed frozen whipped topping

Bake, cool and remove the "top" of the shells according to the
package directions. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
Place 1 piece candy into each shell. Place the filled shells on a
baking sheet.
Bake for 1 minute or until the candy melts.
Divide the topping among the shells. Serve immediately.

Petite Pain au Chocolat

Thaw: 40 minutes Makes: 8 pieces
Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 15 minutes
•1 package (17.3 ounces) Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (2 sheets)
•1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
•1 egg, beaten
•2 tablespoons butter
•1 cup confectioners' sugar
•2 tablespoons hot water

Thaw the pastry sheets at room temperature for 40 minutes or until they're easy
to handle. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unfold 1 pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 10-
inch square. Cut the pastry sheet into 4 (5-inch) squares. Repeat with the
remaining pastry sheet.
Place 2 tablespoons chocolate chips in the center of each pastrysquare. Brush
the edges of the pastry squares with the egg. Fold each pastry in half over the
chocolate chips and press the edges to seal. Place the filled pastries onto the
baking sheets. Brush the tops of the pastries with the egg.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden. Let cool on the baking
sheets for 2 minutes. Remove the pastries to a wire rack and letcool.
Place the remaining chocolate chips and the butter into a small microwave-
safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds or until the chocolate is starting
to melt. Stir until the chocolate mixture is smooth. Stir in theconfectioners' sugar.
Stir in the water, adding additional water, if necessary, until the icing is the
desired consistency. Drizzle the icing over the pastries.