Christmas Food Baskets Gourmet

For the ultimate chocolate lover, the coffee connoisseur, or simply the friend equipped with a sweet tooth, Christmas 2009 reserves several great gift ideas that will unwrap a smile like no other. Indeed, perhaps nothing may lure more than a luscious box of truffles, a tin of Danish cookies or a set of the trendiest gourmet coffee or tea collection.

Nothing really says Christmas more than edible gifts that will literally be ”candy for the eyes” for the fortunate receiver. Most food gifts indeed will come ”dressed up” in their flashiest clothing around Christmas time. Expect to see elegant chocolate boxes, colorful wraps, ribbons, artistic decorations, and much more. There is no such thing as a bland box around this time of the year.

Choosing the hottest food and gourmet gift ideas may be a challenge this year, not only because there is so much to choose from but also because the gift ideas may be so tempting that the giver may find himself or herself to be reluctant to give the gift away or worse, may end up buying one as well. Following are some of the trendiest and most tempting gourmet gift ideas for a lip smacking and mouth watery Christmas 2009.

-Box of Truffles

There are really not many people out there that can resist a box of truffles and wait for midnight to start popping some of these treasures in their mouths. For those really looking to impress, imported French truffles should be considered for that business gift, holiday party or for a chocoholic loved one. Expect to find elegant boxes, but do not worry too much of the exterior appearance, the contents will not last long!

– Grand Ghirardelli Gift Baskets

For those that cannot live without chocolate this gourmet basket is a real hit. Unless your friend is a poor soul that is allergic to chocolate you cannot go wrong with this scrumptious gift. The assortment of these premier chocolates is a winner featuring a variety of chocolates in different flavors, shapes and sizes along with the classic ad delicious hot cocoa to enjoy on a Christmas Eve while waiting for Santa!

-Jelly Belly Beans

This popular brand of jelly beans that has conquered the hearts and souls of both children and adults, dresses up in a special suit when Christmas is around the corner. Indeed, Jelly Belly features its famous Jelly Belly Christmas mix that has many asking for more. The mix includes the following favorite varieties: Very Cherry, Green Apple, Coconut, Candy Cane, Cream Soda, and Hawaiian Punch. Other best seller are Jelly Belly’s Reindeer Candy Corn in shades of white, red and green of course!

-Gourmet Coffees

Gone are the days when coffee drinks were all similar and was quite boring: today coffee has taken a big twist. Coffee indeed has become quite popular and trendy thanks to the creation of blends that are really a treat for the most sophisticated fans of the ”cup of joe”. Between cappuccino’s frapuccino’s and the highest quality mocha’s, the coffee connoisseur friend will surely enjoy a mix of their favorite Starbuck’s of Dunkin Donuts blends.

-Popcorn

Thin popcorn is just for the movies? Think again! Popcorn just as coffee, is now available in different gourmet varieties turning this crunchy favorite into a great holiday gift. Some sets may include twelve or more varieties of corn such as Wisconsin White Birch, Savana Gold, High Mountain Midnight, Red River Valley and much more! These sets may turn quite into a culinary adventure!

– Miscellaneous Food Baskets

For the ultimate food lover that likes quite everything a mix and match of the best classical Christmas foods may do. There are quite some extensive assortments featuring both sweet and salty favorites. Expect to find well stocked eye appealing baskets displaying the best of the best: French chocolate truffles, Premium smoked salmon, caviar, Swiss Cheese, pretzels and much more.

As seen, Christmas 2009 will really cater to the taste buds of food lovers across the globe keeping up with even the most sophisticated palates. The choices can be really endless but when it comes to unwrapping a box of chocolates or a tin of cookies, the smile and joy that will derive will ultimately be of course the most genuine and sincere!

Reference:
1. Amazon.com: Gourmet Gifts: Grocery & Gourmet Food
2. Christmas Gift Baskets – Gift Baskets by Gourmet Gift Baskets

Corned Beef Deli Sandwich

Growing up, I have always had and loved corned beef sandwiches. My mother would make me one when I was younger, but she never made it as well as when I made my own. The latest gadgets and technology really does help to make a great corned beef sandwich that is to die for.

It’s not that hard to slap bread, corned beef, and mustard together, but I go a bit farther than that. For the perfect corned beef sandwich, you need, 2 slices of rye bread, corned beef, swiss cheese, and honey Dijon mustard. You ask why honey Dijon instead of regular mustard and my answer would be that honey Dijon if you pick out the right one, it gives you a bit of a kick and it tastes great on this great sandwich.

When I went away to college, I learned to come up with some great combinations. The one other thing that you need besides the ingredients is a George forman grill to make it perfect because right after you put everything together, you will be grilling this in there. This grill is great for gilling sandwhiches too.

Now for the steps:

1) Put onto a plate the two slices of rye bread.

2) Take the Honey Dijon mustard and squirt on both sides of the bread the mustard on there, but don’t overdo it. Just give it enough to give it its kick. Nothing is as bad as having too much mustard.

3) Place your corn beef on both sides to the perfect amount that you love. You also can just put the corned beef only on one side if you choose to do so.

4) Put the swiss cheese in. If you have the corned beef on one side, just put it on top or if you have it on both, just put it in the middle. Put as much cheese as you like.

5) Grill it. You remember me mentioning that you needed a George Forman grill. This is where you actually will grill your sandwich. You want to grill it till the cheese starts melting. Be careful, don’t burn it. You will be upset if you do.

Now you should have the perfect corned beef sandwich. The first time may not be perfect, but as you make more of them, they will come out better and better to your perfection. You can now sit down and enjoy your sandwich.

Don’t expect the first time to be the best, as you will find the right amount of everything that makes the perfect corned beef sandwich for you. My perfect corned beef sandwich may be different than yours. Everyone has different tastes. Some people like a lot of corned beef and others like a little. You will find what you like the best. It’s just the matter of preference.

Reference:
1. Corned beef sandwich
2. Deli-Style Corned Beef Sandwich – Our Best Bites

The Benefits of Pizza Hut Gift Cards

Pepperoni. Supreme. Green Peppers. Taco. Canadian Bacon. Mushrooms. It doesn’t matter what your favorite toppings are, with a gift card from Pizza Hut all of these things and many others will be available. Picking out your favorite won’t cost you a thing.

Good meals are getting more expensive every day. With a gift card in hand, you can Hit the Hut whenever the urge strikes, and the cash register will not hit back. Then your belly won’t be the only thing that’s full when you leave the restaurant.

Having a gift card from Pizza Hut means you get to experience one of those rare times in life when you can pick what you want whenever you want it, and there won’t be someone standing by with their hand out when you are done enjoying yourself.

In addition to the benefits these cards can have for your empty stomach, they can come in quite handy when you need to find a gift. It’s a great time for you to let someone else have that same slice of excitement you know so well.

Any college student will agree with the statement that free food is the best kind. Instead of having to cook up another bowl full of Ramen noodles to take care of supper, they could take their gift card to Pizza Hut and enjoy.

The opportunity to scarf up some breadsticks or indulge in a Supreme Pan Pizza would be a true delight. Plus, the food would be warm, moist and full of flavor none of which is guaranteed in a dorm room or fraternity house. Considering that a gift card provides all of these things for free and does not involve any work in the kitchen, students will find all sorts of benefits.

Office Christmas parties usually present some awkward situations when it comes time to exchange names and buy gifts. For some reason, the name of the most annoying person in your department or that of someone you barely know always seem to be on the slip of paper you draw during the exchange.

Since everyone needs to eat, everyone likes getting something for nothing and all kinds of people like to eat pizza, why not head to Pizza Hut and buy a gift card. It takes the stress of deciding on the “perfect” gift away, and your co-worker who receives the card can make his/her own choice off the menu; there’s no guessing on your part. (Don’t forget that when the annoying person has some food to put in his/her mouth for a while, that will quiet things down!)

A gift card from Pizza Hut has far-reaching benefits for those who give it and those who receive it. You’ll find that this piece of plastic draws lots of interest, but no one is complaining.

Reference:
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Attraction Fast Food Obesity

What is the big attraction to fast food? Isn’t it obvious? How else can you get a delicious and cheap meal in under 4 minutes. No one (especially in America) wants to wait for anything and food is no exception. The only down side to fast food is that it is unhealthy for you but when some child looks around and half of his classmates are as fat or fatter than he is healthy doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

The world is filled with impatient people who want everything right now and don’t care about the consequences for doing so. The signs are obvious in a world filled with credit cards and short term loans. Just this week I went to my bank to make a withdrawal and saw an ad for vacation loans. That has got to be one of the most disgusting things I had ever seen. Who in their right mind would borrow money just so they could leave work and stop making money. That individual just couldn’t wait any longer to try and save money better to just pay a little extra and do it now. This is the attitude that fast food preys upon and the reason it is so successful. With more women continuing to work after having children no one is home cooking up that roast for the family dinner. Instead mother just stops by here local fast food restaurant and picks up the family meal in no time at all. 

The speed and low cost of fast food greatly overpowers the minor down side of health. While there are some fast food restaurants now emerging as more healthier stops (subway) the consumers continue to push for faster, cheaper, and more convenient ways to find their next meal. As children and the rest of the world quickly put on more weight it seems that fast food is driving a disastrous cause, obesity. While fast food may be the reason that Americans are getting fatter it is still up the the people to choose where and when to eat. Your favorite restaurant may now be open until 2 am but that surely doesn’t mean that now you need to enjoy that midnight snack there. It is up to the people to push for more healthy options on the menu and possibly even turn to making a home cooked meal once in a while.

The consumers have the power over the product and therefore have the power over the problem of obesity.

Reference:
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Civil War Recipe Green Corn Pudding

A recipe from the 1860s is as much a vocabulary lesson as it is a nostalgic side dish of deliciousness.  Many modern versions of corn pudding exist today, and yet perhaps the most fanciest part of Green Pudding is its name.  Although the words ‘green pudding’ tend to make one reminisce of Dr. Seuss’ popular story ‘Green Eggs & Ham’, the reference to green has nothing to do with color.  Corn that is referred to as green is the same as what we denote today as being ripe.  The best-kept secret of this recipe is the sweet milky substance that is juiced from perfectly ripened kernels as they are scrapped from the cob.  Adding texture and flavor, every delectable drop should be spared. Commonly used as a side dish, it serves as the perfect compliment to every table, both then and now.

8 ears of ‘green’ corn; sweet would be best

6 large eggs, separated; yolksin one bowl, whites in another

4 tablespoons salted butter, melted

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups milk

2 cups light cream

Cinnamon; optional

1. Preheat the oven at 350

2. Using a sharp knife, scrape the kernels from each cob; equaling about 3 ½ cups of corn

3. Beat egg yolks till thick and creamy

4.  Mix in corn kernels, butter, and salt

5. Slowly whisk together cream and milk; add to corn mixture

6. Beat together the egg whites until stiff; fold into corn mixture until well blended.

7. Sprinkle with a little bit of cinnamon just before baking; optional

8. Bake in a lightly greased 9×13 glass or stoneware-baking pan at for 1 ½ hours.

Be sure to have the pudding centered in the oven. While baking, check on the pudding after 45 minutes and then every fifteen minutes afterwards. Remove from the oven once a butter knife can be inserted and removed without pudding residue. Allow dish to stand for five minutes before serving.  Serves 10 – 12

This recipe is an adaptation from The Economical Cook-Book by Elizabeth Nicholson, published in 1865. A similar recipe can be found in The White House Cookbook of 1887. 

Time saver: Husk and scrape corn while it is in season, then store bags of the freshly grated corn in your freezer.

Serving Tip: Pudding can also be baked and served in small oven-safe custard cups. Baking time will need to be adjusted.

Reference:
1. Scotch Plains Public Library : Civil War Recipes–Baked Hominy
2. Green Corn Pudding | Revolutionary Pie

Are Subway Foods as Good as the Advertising

Does Subway’s food live up to their advertising? In some ways the answer is yes, but in other ways, no. Sorry if that does not definitively answer the question with more than a definite maybe. That answer lies with individuals eating there. However, for myself, while the flavors are good the proportions are not, if you go by the ads.

Watch the ads and you see a generously proportioned sandwich with lots of meat, cheese and veggies. The ad makes the sandwich look so appetizing that you want to just run out and get that behemoth of a sandwich. Once you get there, however, the sandwich is nothing like the ad.

You stand there, almost drooling in anticipation for that sandwich seen on TV and then see the almost skimpy portions, that are the reality and it is a real letdown. No wonder they advertise such small caloric amounts for their sandwiches when you can make your own at home, with the generous proportions you want. This is all for a similar price as the restaurant, if you want, or know how, to cook.

The biggest thing one must look at, because it is not the sandwich, is the time factor involved. At home, you must take the time to prepare all the components of your sandwich, chopping the veggies, cooking and slicing the meats, and slicing the cheese, along with either buying or baking the bread. Then you have to put it all together and this takes time. At the restaurant, someone else assembles the sandwich for you, from previously prepared ingredients, wraps it and hands you a cup and bag of chips. All you have to do is eat the thing and get on with your day.

Therefore, for the time savings it may be worth the price to buy the sandwich. There are other choices around town as well however, that I will not name here. Is their advertising false and misleading? Well, that is up to you. Don’t expect the same portions you see in any ads, for any restaurant, unless you have a chance to check them out first because advertising is designed to make you want to go there and eat. The food looks great, as does the service on TV, but the reality can be very different.

Television advertising is rather like buying shoes online. You cannot try them on to see if they fit and feel good, just like you cannot taste and smell the food on the TV. Rather like the difference between riding a stick horse and the real thing. You have to be the judge for yourself.

Reference:
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Recipes Hotdog Delicious

Of all the activities my Mom had to do when she kept house, cooking was not her favorite. Now with that in mind, I wouldn’t dare call her an inspired chef. At the same time, she did well with the recipes she followed. God help me if I wanted one of her recipes. She always recited them by memory, and always conveniently left out an ingredient or two. After making her ‘crumb’ cookies, I asked her why mine were so much harder than her’s were. “Did you put butter in them?” Of course not. The recipe she gave me didn’t have butter. The recipe she gave me for chop suey didn’t include bead molasses until after I ruined a batch, and nor did my pepper steak contain the proper spices to make it taste like her’s. 

There was one recipe she made that I loved, that my kids loved, and that I could reproduce without a recipe. It’s called stuffed hot dogs. Very simply it is a matter of boiling the hot dogs, slitting them lengthwise, and ladling mashed potatoes into the slit and covering that with American cheese. We then broil them long enough to melt and brown the cheese. That takes only a few short minutes, so it is best to check them often. It is easier to pull them before the cheese burns then it is to pull the hot cheese off the potatoes and replacing it. They are to be eaten with a knife and fork rather than on any type of bun or bread.

Of course in those days my Mom always made fresh mashed potatoes by boiling real potatoes until they were soft, and then beating in butter, milk and salt and pepper. When I found myself traveling to Downtown Chicago where I worked daily,and dealing with a two hour commute, I found it easier to replace homemade mashed with boxed. When original instant mashed became such a hit, several brands came out with varieties. I found onion and sour cream, garlic, four cheese and Swiss and bacon, to name just a few. And just because I enjoy cooking, and I enjoy trying new things, it wasn’t long before I tried different flavors of potatoes, and different types of cheeses. My kids particularly liked garlic flavored potatoes with cheddar, where as I like any flavor mashed with mozzarella. The neighborhood kids decided that Swiss and bacon flavored potatoes paired with any kind of cheese was great. 

After helping my daughter with research on a college term paper, we discovered together just how unhealthy prepared food can be. I’ve decided to cook real food again. I now have the time, and I have the know how. And I’ve discovered real mashed potatoes are worth the effort. Stuffed hot dogs with homemade garlic potatoes, chives and sour cream, or even just plain old fashioned mash potatoes are phenomenal. So much so my son calls me when he’s on the road to ask me that when he’s home next to please make them for him. Oh, and could his best friend come to dinner, too?

I usually serve stuffed hot dogs with a fruit and veggie just because of the high content of carbohydrates in potatoes. Corn on the cob, baked beams, applesauce or fruit salad are all good sides. Once in a while, though, it’s hard to resist a fruit flavored muffin or good old fashioned banana bread, too. Although when my son made them at his new home, a visitor who had never tried them before loaded one into a bun and bit into it. She’s hooked, too. 

Reference:
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Christmas Cake Valentine Cake Cranberries Sauce Currant Jelly Buttermilk Buscuit Mix

At Christmas time, in addition to making cookies by the dozens to distribute to friends, family, and also to have at home, you might want to add a Christmas cake to your repertoire.  I wager that most families have a favorite Christmas cake recipe.  I am going to tell you about mine which is called “Cranberry Jewel Cake”.  It is not only delicious, it is beautiful when turned out, and, easy to make!

The required ingredients:

4 tbs. butter

½ cup sugar

1 cup red currant jelly

2 cups fresh cranberries, washed

3 cups buttermilk biscuit mix

1 cup sugar

¼ cup shortening

1 cup milk

2 eggs

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla

Fluffy Sauce, below

Directions:

–          Preheat oven to 350F

–          Spray 10” tube pan with cooking spray

–          In small saucepan combine butter, ½ cup sugar, and jelly

–          Heat, stirring constantly, until jelly is melted and mixture comes to boiling

–          Pour into prepared pan; layer cranberries over jelly mixture

–          Place biscuit mix, sugar, shortening, milk, eggs, nutmeg, and vanilla in large bowl

–          With electric mixer at low speed, beat 30 seconds to blend; then beat at medium speed 4 minutes

–          Spoon batter carefully over cranberries in pan

–          Bake 40-45 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean

–          Cool cake in pan on wire rack 1 minute.

–          Loosen around edge; place serving plate on top; invert; shake gently; lift off pan

–          Serve warm with Fluffy Sauce.

–          8-10 servings

–          May be baked ahead of time and reheated just before serving.

While your cake is baking, you can be making the Fluffy Sauce:

–          ¼ cup butter

–          1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

–          1 egg

–          Vanilla

Beat all ingredients with an electric mixer. (May be doubled).  Keep refrigerated.

To serve, as instructed above, turn out your cake onto your most beautiful Christmas plate. The Fluffy Sauce can be placed in a container that fits in the empty center of the cake, spooned carefully around the base of the cake, or served in a separate container equally as beautiful as your cake plate.

Serve it with flare and your guests will be intrigued by the appearance of the cake and then be raving over the fabulous taste!  This one is definitely a keeper!  Keep in mind that it can also be served as a Valentine Cake or anytime you wish to impress your guests with your culinary abilities.

Reference:
1. Cake Recipes & Videos – Joyofbaking.com *Video Recipes*
2. A Cake Bakes in Brooklyn: Buttermilk Griddlecakes

Why you should Learn to Cook

Learning to cook is an ability that no one should be without, especially if one wants to be able to eat. It is a skill that sticks with you for a lifetime. It’s a basic survival skill not only for single people living in the city, but college students and even soldiers in the middle of nowhere. And, learning to cook saves you money, too.

Some people claim that boiling water is a challenge. Really, it’s not. I got lucky. I can remember standing by my grandmother’s side, and my mother’s as well, at a very young age, learning to cook different foods. The lessons they taught me were invaluable.

I will talk about six methods of cooking: boiling, simmering, sauteing, grilling, roasting, broiling, baking. Hopefully these will be of some help to you. And, I hope you will be inspired to try to cook. Please remember to practice kitchen safety.

Boiling water is simple: Put the water in the pan, place the pan on the stove with the handle towards the center of the stove for safety, and turn the burner on. Do not stand and watch the water, as it always takes longer to boil. Get busy doing other things that are needed for your recipe while you wait. Every once in a while, look over at the water. Bubbles will start to form, slowly at first, and then more and more rapidly. The water is boiling when it looks like a rolling wave that isn’t stopping.

Simmering is similar to boiling. As a matter of fact, a lot of recipes will have you bring your liquid to a boil, add ingredients, and then bring it back to a simmer. This means that you are bringing the liquid to something of a very slow boil. You will still see individual bubbles popping on the top of the liquid, but they will not be like the rolling waves of the boil. Simmering is used over a longer length of time to help develop the flavor of a dish, like a stew.

Sauteing is a method of cooking that is used to keep the moisture, flavor and color of a food in a little bit of fat over high heat in skillets. It is used on meats and vegetables, and it does cook the food all the way through. The two most important things are that all of the food is laid out in one layer to do this properly and that the pan is very hot.

Grilling is simple, but not a no-brainer. Of course, turning the grill on is simple. But it is imperative that you practice grill safety. Know how to light your grill properly. If it’s gas, or electric, keep it properly maintained. Make sure the screen is clean. Cooking things like pineapple and fruit on the grill are easy, as long as you pay attention to them. Follow the recipe directions and don’t wander too far away.

Roasting changes the flavor of meat, vegetables, coffee or even chocolate by caramelizing the food itself. Dry, even heat is used to produce the caramelization effect. The heat source can be an oven, or an open flame. Based on the recipe, either low or high temperature can be used. Moisture is retained by basting with a small amount of liquid during roasting.

Broiling, though it rhymes with boiling, is nothing like it. Broiling is done with a radiant heat source. It sears the outside of the food, much like grilling. Typically, a broiler is found in an oven. However, a salamander, another piece of kitchen equipment is also used to broil food.

Baking, my all-time favorite activity, is to cook food by dry heat. The process used to accomplish it is called conduction. Normally one thinks of using only an oven to do this, however, other things can be used. Grills, skillets, hot ashes or even hot stones come to mind.

I hope that a new cook will find this list helpful. This was just a quick description of cooking. I actually really enjoy it. For me, cooking is therapeutic. If you don’t want to eat take-out every night, you have to learn to cook!

Reference:
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Chowder

This is an easy recipe to make and this New England chowder has a surprising taste and creamy texture. You’ll enjoy this sweet and chunky potato crab chowder. With only about 250 calories in each serving and about 7 grams of fat it makes a nice hearty meal. It serves six people.

You will need the following ingredient to begin:

two tablespoons of butter

one cup of chopped onions

one cup of chopped celery

one minced garlic clove

three and a half cups of cubed red potatoes, cut into one inch cubes

three tablespoons of all purpose flour

two and a half cups of reduced fat milk, preferably two percent milk but you can use skim and save a few extra calories and fat

two teaspoons of chopped up fresh thyme

one half teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

one quarter teaspoon of grated whole nutmeg

one can of cream style corn about 14 ounces

one can of fat free chicken broth, low sodium again about 14 ounces

eight ounces of crab meat, no shells please

three tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley

one teaspoon of salt

Start by melting the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add in your onions, celery, and garlic and then saute for about four minutes. Then add your potato and cook another minute. Sprinkle your flour in and cook one more minute stirring constantly. Then add the milk, thyme, pepper, nutmeg, corn and chicken broth.

Bring mixture to a simmer still over a medium heat and stir frequently. Cover the pan reduce your heat and simmer for about twenty more minutes,stir occasionally. Your potato should be tender by now. Stir in the crab, parsley, and salt cooking for five more minutes, stirring to keep from sticking to the pan. Then serve it up!

Reference:
1. Chowder (TV series)
2. Chowder Games | Play Free Online Games | Cartoon Network