Dec 272011
 

We all have those moments in our lives when we feel as if everything needs to be exactly right. It is these moments that we often refer to as special occasions. When it comes to cooking for special occasions, many of us find that we drop the ball in our anticipation and feel as though we have ruined the moment. While this is often far from the truth, it does serve to diminish the moment in many of our minds. For this reason, you need to work up a repertoire, if you will, of simple to make special occasion cooking recipes.

You will be shocked and amazed at all the sinfully rich and delicious meals and side dishes that are out there, that are amazingly quick and easy to prepare. This means that you will not run the all too common disaster scenarios that you hear about and will still manage to have a wonderful meal that is enjoyed by all.

The trick is in choosing a rather simple meat dish and dressing it up with the more decadent side dishes. Incredibly rich side dishes that are simple to prepare are greater in number than meat dishes that require little culinary effort. You should also keep in mind the audience for your special occasion. Sometimes a family favorite makes the occasion seem much more special than an all out effort for chicken cordon bleu or veal Marsala. There is no point in going to an extreme effort to create a culinary masterpiece if it is going to be riddled with picky children proclaiming that they do not like this or that about your meal.

Another great idea when it comes to cooking for special occasions is to prepare as much as possible ahead of time in order to alleviate the pressure during the event and to allow you more time to enjoy the event rather than dealing with the details of meal preparation. The greatest gift you can really give yourself when cooking for special occasions is the time necessary in order to enjoy these special occasions. This is not to say that there isn’t some cooking that will need to be done.

Foods that can be prepared ahead of time and reheated just prior to serving are often the best when it comes to cooking for special occasions. There are all kinds of appetizers, entrees, and desserts that will work perfectly in this particular instance. You can often find them by performing a simple Google search online or by sorting through many of your favorite cookbooks at home. The important thing is that you do not get so caught up in the idea of cooking for special occasions that you forget to actually enjoy the occasion.

If this is not the way you prefer to do things that is perfectly understandable. Some of us do thrive in high stress situations. The key for those who prefer to do all the meal preparation when cooking for special occasions at the time of cooking is planning properly and allowing plenty of time for possible hiccups in the process. Mistakes occur when people feel rushed and hurried in their culinary efforts.

Another common mistake that is made when cooking for special occasions is cooking outside of your comfort zone. When you are preparing a challenging recipe it is best if you do this during a time when you are not going through the stress of potential visitors or insuring the best possible of circumstances. In other words, it is best to challenge your culinary talents when you do not have a vested interest in success.

Special occasions are a great time for friends and family. The hope is that you will have many special occasions throughout your life. Do not waste too much time and energy fretting over cooking for special occasions. Instead, put all of your effort into enjoying those occasions. If you have children, they are a great way of double checking yourself. Does your family disappear when you are preparing for your guests? My daughter is an excellent check for me she says “Mom, you are stressing”. Not much point in “stressing” when the point is enjoying – so ENJOY!

 Posted by at 2:06 pm

3 Non-Traditional Ways to Prepare Your Holiday Turkey

 Christmas, Entertaining Ideas And Tips, Thanksgiving  Comments Off on 3 Non-Traditional Ways to Prepare Your Holiday Turkey
Dec 142011
 

Deep-Fried Turkey

3 gallons peanut oil for frying, or as needed
1 (12 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
1/4 cup Creole seasoning
1 white onion

In a large stockpot or turkey fryer, heat oil to 400 degrees F. Be sure to leave room for the turkey, or the oil will spill
over.

***** Side Note *****

How to determine the amount of oil you need:

The easiest way I’ve found to determine the amount of oil you need is to place the turkey into the fryer and fill with water until the turkey is just covered. Remove turkey and allow to drain, pat dry with paper towels as well. Make note of the level of water in the fryer. Discard water and dry thoroughly. Fill frying vessel with oil to the level as noted above. This should help in preventing hot oil spill overs.

***** End Side Note *****

Layer a large platter with food-safe paper bags. Rinse turkey, and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Rub Creole seasoning over turkey inside and out. Make sure the hole at the neck is open at least 2 inches so the oil can flow freely through the bird. Place the whole onion and turkey in drain basket. The turkey should be placed in basket neck end first. Slowly lower basket into hot oil to completely cover turkey. Maintain the temperature of the oil at 350 degrees F, and cook turkey for 3 1/2 minutes per pound, about 45 minutes. Carefully remove basket from oil, and drain turkey. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh; the internal temperature must be 180 degrees F.

Finish draining turkey on the prepared platter.

Grilled Whole Turkey

12 pounds whole turkey
2 cups water
3 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon paprika

Prepare an outdoor grill for indirect medium heat, and lightly oil grate. Rinse turkey, and pat dry. Place turkey breast side down on the prepared grill. Sear turkey on both sides until skin is golden to dark brown. In a large roasting pan, mix together the water, bouillon powder, garlic powder, onion powder, poultry seasoning, parsley, and paprika. Place turkey breast side down in the roasting pan. Scoop the pan mixture over the turkey. Cover tightly with foil and place on grill. Grill 3 to 4 hours, until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 180F. Remove turkey from grill and let stand 15 minutes before carving.

Smoked Turkey

1 turkey 8 to 22 lbs., fresh or completely thawed
Sweet Pickle Brine (recipe to follow)
Maple syrup

Sweet Pickle Brine:

1 gal. water
2 1/2 cups salt, rock, pickling or canning salts are recommend
1/3 cup of light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Liquid garlic
1 oz. pickling spices

Mix well. You may need to adjust the amounts depending on the size of your bird. This recipe should suit you fine for an 8 to 12 lb. turkey.

Rinse turkey thoroughly with cold water, drain and pat dry. Prepare sweet pickle brine. Brine turkey according to the following schedule, 8 to 12 lb. bird 3 days, 13 to 16 lb. bird 4 days, 17 to 22 lb. bird 5 days. Remove from brine; rinse thoroughly in cold water and pat dry. Allow to dry in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Lock wings behind back and tie legs and tail together. Baste turkey with maple syrup before putting in smoker and every 2 hours while smoking. Position turkey on cooking grill. Smoke cook until done.

The best way to determine whether or not is done is to insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey (the breast) the internal temperature should read 180 degrees F.

Smoking food is more an art than a science; this recipe is not intended for the novice. Allot of factors go into determining the cooking time for a particular food when smoking.

Cool turkey in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving to enhance the smoked flavor. You may serve the turkey right away if you wish.

Dec 122011
 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many different ways people celebrate Christmas. Below are just a small sample of the variety of traditions:

From: Santas.net

 

 

Christmas in Germany

 

Christmas preparations often begin on the eve of December 6th. People often set aside special evenings for baking spiced cakes and cookies, and making gifts and decorations. Little dolls of fruit are traditional Christmas toys.

Children leave letters on their windowsills for Christkind, a winged figure dressed in white robes and a golden crown who distributes gifts. Sometimes the letters are decorated with glue and sprinkled with sugar to make them sparkle.

Germans make beautiful gingerbread houses and cookies. The German Christmas tree pastry, Christbaumgeback, is a white dough that can be molded into shapes and baked for tree decorations.

In parts of Germany, people believe that the Christ Child sends a messenger in Christmas Eve. He appears as an angel in a white robe and crown, bearing gifts. The angel is called Christkind. There is also a Christmas Eve figure called Weihnachtsmann or Christmas Man, he looks like Santa Claus and also brings gifts.

Some homes in Germany have several Christmas trees, and in all towns across Germany, they can be seen glittering and glowing.

In Germany they hang up advent wreaths of Holly with four red candles in the center. They light one candle each Sunday and last on Christmas Eve. Children count the days until Christmas using an Advent calendar. They open one window each day and find a Christmas picture inside.

In Germany the traditional visitor is the Christkindl who is the Christ Child’s messenger. She is a beautiful fair-haired girl with a shining crown of candles who visits each house with a basket of presents.

In some homes a room is locked up before Christmas. On Christmas Eve the children go to bed but are woken up at midnight by their parents and taken down to the locked room. The door is opened and they see the tree all lit up, with piles of parcels on little tables.

In Germany boys dress up as kings and carry a star round the village, singing carols.

 

Christmas in Italy

The Christmas season in Italy goes for three weeks, starting 8 days before Christmas known as the Novena. During this period, children go from house to house reciting Christmas poems and singing.

In some parts shepherds bring musical instruments into the villages, play and sing Christmas songs.

In the week before Christmas children go from house to house dressed as shepherds, playing pipes, singing and reciting Christmas poems. They are given money to buy presents.

A strict feast is observed for 24 hours before Christmas Eve, and is followed by a celebration meal, in which a light Milanese cake called panettone features as well as chocolate.

Presents and empty boxes, are drawn from the Urn of Fate – lucky dip, which always contains one gift per person. By twilight, candles are lighted around the family crib known as the Presepio, prayers are said, and children recite poems.

At noon on Christmas Day the pope gives his blessing to crowds gathered in the huge Vatican square.

In Italy the children wait until Epiphany, January 6, for their presents. According to tradition, the presents are delivered by a kind ugly witch called Befana on a broomstick. It was said that she was told by the three kings that the baby Jesus was born, she was busy and delayed visiting the baby.

She missed the Star lost her way and has been flying around ever since, leaving presents at every house with children in case he is there. She slides down chimneys, and fills stockings and shoes with good things for good children and it is said leaves coal for children who are not so good.

 

Christmas in Japan

Only 1 per cent of Japanese people believe in Christ. Even so, most Japanese people decorate their stores and homes with evergreens during Christmas.

They enjoy giving each other gifts, and this is the part they celebrate.

They have a Buddhist monk called Hotei-osho who acts like Santa Claus. He brings presents to each house and leaves them for the children. Some think he has eyes in the back of his head, so children try to behave like he is nearby.

Among the Christian Japanese Christmas is not a day for the family. They do not have turkey or plum pudding, rather than that the day is spent doing nice things for others especially those who are sick in hospitals.

Christmas for those in Sunday schools is the happiest day of the year. On Christmas Eve or Christmas night, the children put on programs that last for hours, they sing, they recite and they put on a drama of the day Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Most children may not like Hotei-osho so they may receive their presents from Santa who goes around with a red-nosed reindeer.

 

 

Christmas in Mexico

 

Mexicans share many traditions with the Spanish. Their main Christmas celebration is called La Posada, which is a religious procession that reenacts the search for shelter by Joseph and Mary before the birth of Jesus. During the procession, the celebrants go from house to house carrying the images of Mary and Joseph looking for shelter.

Santa Claus is not predominant, but the bright red suit is represented in the traditional flower of the season. This flower is the poinsettia, which has a brilliant red star-shaped bloom. It is believed that a young boy walking to the church to see the nativity scene showing the birth of Jesus had realized on the way that he had no gift to offer the Christ child so he gathered up some plain green branches as he walked in he was laughed at but upon placing the branches near the manger they started to bloom a bright red poinsettia flower on each branch.

The Mexican children receive gifts. On Christmas day they are blindfolded and taken to try and break a decorated clay piñata that dangles and swings at the end of a rope. Once the piñata has been broken, the children clamber to recover the candy that was inside the piñata. Those children who have been good also on January 6th receive a gift from the Three Wise Men.

Mexicans attend a midnight mass service which is called la Misa Del Gallo or “the rooster’s mass,” and at the mass they sing lullabies to Jesus.

 

Christmas in France

 

On Christmas Eve, children leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Pere Noel. In the morning they also find that sweets, fruit, nuts and small toys have been hung on the tree.

In cathedral squares, the story of Christ’s birth is re-enacted by both players and puppets.

Nearly every French home at Christmastime displays a Nativity scene or crèche, which serves as the focus for the Christmas celebration. The crèche is often peopled with little clay figures called santons or “little saints.” In addition to the usual Holy Family, shepherds, and Magi, the craftsmen also produce figures in the form of local dignitaries and characters. The craftsmanship involved in creating the gaily colored santons is quite astounding and the molds have been passed from generation to generation since the seventeenth century. Throughout December the figures are sold at annual Christmas fairs in Marseille and Aix.

The Christmas tree has never been particularly popular in France, and though the use of the Yule log has faded, the French make a traditional Yule log-shaped cake called the buche de Nol, which means “Christmas Log.” The cake, among other food in great abundance is served at the grand feast of the season, which is called le reveillon. Le reveillon is a very late supper held after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The menu for the meal varies according to regional culinary tradition. In Alsace, goose is the main course, in Burgundy it is turkey with chestnuts, and the Parisians feast upon oysters and pat de foie gras. Le Revellion may consist of poultry, ham, salads, cake, fruit and wine.

In Southern France, a log is burned in people’s homes from Christmas Eve until New Years Day. A long time ago, part of the log was used to make the wedge for the plough as good luck for the coming harvest.

The traditional Christmas is a chocolate log.

In France families once had a Three Kings Cake with a bean hidden in it. Whoever found the bean in their slice was made King, or Queen, for the day.

In France the children go out to look for the Kings, taking gifts of hay for the camels.

Another name for this day is Twelfth Day. It is the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which used to be one long holiday. It was the last night of the Feast of Fools before the Lord of Misrule had to give up his crown and become themselves once again.

In France it is a time for the whole family to come together at Christmas time to holiday and worship. On the eve of Christmas beautifully lit churches and cathedrals, ring out Christmas carols with the church bells.

Once dinner is over and the family has retired to bed, they leave a fire burning and food and drink on the table in case the Virgin Mary calls in. Children leave their shoes or wooden clogs called sabots in the hearth for the Christ Child or Pere Noel to fill. In the north of France, children are given gifts on December 6, which is St. Nicholas’ Day, instead of Christmas Day. The adults give each others presents on New Year’s Day.

French children set out their shoes in hopes that le petit Jesus will fill them during the night with small gifts.

 

Dec 092011
 

 These truffles make a beautiful recipe to serve during any special occasion. They also make a wonderful gift (think teachers!). These truffles are so quick and easy yet they look like you had to take a culinary class to learn to make them. Truffles are a chocolate lovers delight!

Creme de menthe cookie truffles

 

Ingredients:

15 creme-filled chocolate-mint sandwich cookies
2 oz cream cheese, softened
1 pkg crème de menthe chocolate candies, unwrapped (about 28 candies total)
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

 

Directions:

  1. Break cookies in half and place into Manual Food Processor; cover and pump handle to form very fine crumbs. Add cream cheese; process until dough forms. Using level Small Scoop, scoop cookie mixture onto Medium Sheet Pan lined with Parchment Paper; roll into balls.
  2. In Small Micro-Cooker®, microwave chocolate candies, uncovered, on HIGH 1-1 1/2 minutes or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Cool slightly. Dip truffles into chocolate; place onto pan. Let stand 5 minutes or until chocolate is set.
  3. In (1-cup/250-mL) Prep Bowl, microwave chocolate morsels, uncovered, on HIGH 30-60 seconds or until melted, stirring every 15 seconds. Spoon chocolate into small resealable plastic bag; trim corner of bag and drizzle chocolate over truffles. Let stand 10 minutes or until chocolate is set. Store truffles in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Dec 052011
 

 

The holidays are here.  It’s such an exciting time of year, a time to reunite with friends and family, a time for gift exchange and a time for festive dining.

 

 

 

There are a number of great gifts to consider for your loved ones:

 

Ador-a-bowl Gift Ideas

bowl set

Batter bowls make a great gift when grouped with complementary products! Or, fill prep bowls with favorite candies or batter bowls with homemade holiday treats, add a little flair and you’ve got a gift that keeps giving—even after it’s gobbled up.

 

 

 

Exclusive Holiday Gift Sets

holiday plate

 

Put this set on the invite list to all your holiday get-togethers! Includes our Holiday Dots Square Bowl, Beaded Spreader and, exclusive to this set, Cranberry Orange Sauce.

 

 

 

 Pizza Party Set 

pizza set

Get the holiday party started! Features our Large Round Stone with Handles, Pizza Cutter, Microplane® Zester and Pizza Crust Mix with Rosemary, exclusively available in this set.

 

 

 Decadent Dessert Sauces 

dessert sauces

Imagine your chocolate-lover unwrapping this exclusive set — Chocolate Peppermint, Chocolate Caramel and Chocolate Peanut Butter Sauces!

 

 

More choices for the perfect gift