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Archive for 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Healthy Cooking Classes

Regardless of how much cooking experience they have, many cooks don’t know the basics of cooking healthy meals. On the other hand, some people can’t cook at all, so rely on prepared foods packed with salt, sugar and bad fats.

That’s why our final pre-Christmas tip is to give yourself or your loved ones healthy cooking classes. It’s smart to include adolescents, teens and young adults: Most eating habits are learned at home.

That’s why we love the gift of understanding how to make nutritious and calorie-wise foods:

  • How to make the bounty of fresh vegetables extremely appealing—not just the basic veggies but chard, collards, fennel, kale, leeks and more
  • Appealing ways to serve fruit for dessert
  • How to select lean meats and poultry
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    Vegetables can be as exciting as any other foods. Photo courtesy KamalKapoor.com.

  • How to choose tastier grains and starches
  • How to add nuts and seeds for flavor, texture and nutrition
  • How the right herbs and spices make everything more appealing
  • Easy cooking techniques that save calories without sacrificing flavor
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    And it’s a great last minute gift: You need only a holiday card. Just write, “This card entitles you to a gift of healthy cooking classes at the school of your choice.”

    WHERE TO FIND HEALTHY COOKING CLASSES

    You’ll find healthy cooking classes at local cooking schools, Ys, community colleges, adult education centers and natural foods stores such as Whole Foods Market.

    Just search “healthy cooking classes” and your town.

      

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    GIFT: Change The Life Of A Needy Family

    The best gift of all: a cow, goat, sheep or
    chickens to a very needy family. Photo
    courtesy Heifer International.

     

    If you’re finished with shopping for nice-but-not-life-changing gifts for the people you care about, how about helping a family you don’t know, who will be grateful to you forever?

    Perhaps the most important gift catalog is from Heifer International, which provides indigent families with a cow or other livestock: a reliable source of food for the children and also a reliable source of income. Extra milk from a cow, goat or sheep, or eggs from a poultry gift, can be sold at the local market.

    You can give the gift in the name of someone else: a double gift, as it were, giving the person who has everything the donation of a food animal to a family that has nothing. This truly meaningful gift will change the lives of a third-world family in need.

     

    Income from the milk or eggs, coupled with the training in sustainable practices that the family receives, allows them to clothe their families, obtain medical care and send the children to school.

    It’s not just cows: You can give a goat or sheep, a beehive, chickens, ducks or geese. The cost of a gift is as little as $20…or less:

    You can buy a “share” in a cow or sheep for just $10. Take a look at the options.

    Your cousin may not need those extra iTunes, but a needy family sure could use that flock of chickens ($20).

    Check out the options.

      

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    RECIPE: Candy Cane Fudge Brownies

    Candy cane fudge brownies? How can you resist this delicious recipe from Lauryn Cohen of BellaBaker.com.

    The recipe becomes “Peppermint Brownies” any time of the year: Just crush hard peppermint candies instead of candy canes.

    CANDY CANE FUDGE BROWNIES RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1-1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 cups crushed candy canes

  • For The Ganache

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
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    A minty, chocolaty Christmas treat: Candy Cane Fudge Brownies. Photo courtesy BellaBaker.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. CENTER a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Generously butter a 9×13 glass baking pan.

    2. PLACE butter in a microwave safe bowl; top with the chopped chocolate. Microwave for 45 seconds, then remove and stir vigorously with a whisk until the ingredients are just melted (you don’t want them to get so hot that the butter separates). Microwave for another 30 seconds if needed to melt the chocolate completely.

    3. WHISK in the sugar. Whisk in the eggs one by one. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts and whisk vigorously to bring the batter together and give it a shine before gently stirring in the salt and flour; stir only until incorporated. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in 2 cups of the candy cane pieces. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.

    4. BAKE the brownies for 30 to 33 minutes, or until the top is dull and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (The tip of the knife may be a touch streaky.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature.

    5. MAKE the ganache while the cookies are cooling. Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring heavy cream to a boil. Once heavy cream has reached boiling, pour half the heavy cream over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for 30 seconds, then gently stir chocolate and cream together with a rubber spatula in a figure eight motion. Pour remaining heavy cream over chocolate and continue to gently stir. Add butter, one piece at a time, until ingredients are fully incorporated and ganache is smooth and glossy.

    6. POUR ganache over brownies and smooth with rubber spatula to completely cover top of brownies. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of crushed candy canes on top of ganache.

    7. REFRIGERATE brownies for one hour until ganache has set before cutting into squares.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Candy Cane Martini

    Turn your Martini into a Candy Cane Martini. Photo courtesy Bagatelle Restaurant | NYC.

     

    You can turn any Martini into a Candy Cane Martini by adding a half ounce peppermint schnaps (or more to taste).

    At Bagatelle, a bistro with locations in Los Angeles and New York, they’ve turned the concept into what they call the Père Noël (Father Christmas):

    CANDY CANE MARTINI RECIPE

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • .75 ounce (4.5 teaspoons) prickly pear purée or grenadine
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1 ounce peppermint schnapps
  • 1 ounce crème de cacao
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla-infused sugar (buy it or make it—recipe below)
  • Garnish: small candy cane and candy cane “crumbles”
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    Preparation

    1. RIM glass with crushed candy canes.

    2. LAYER puree/grenadine on the bottom of a Martini glass.

    3. COMBINE, shake and layer the vodka, peppermint schnapps and crème de cacao.

    4. COMBINE, shake and layer the cream and sugar.

    5. TOP with candy cane crumbles and garnish with a candy cane.

     

    VANILLA SUGAR RECIPE

    Ingredients

    You can buy vanilla sugar or make it by placing a vanilla bean in an airtight container of sugar. It’s a great way to use a vanilla bean that’s already been scraped for a prior recipe. Use vanilla sugar anywhere you’d use plain table sugar, for some added flavor. You can also make it for gifting.

  • 1 vanilla bean, whole or scraped
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
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    Preparation

    1. PLACE sugar into an airtight container.

    2. SLICE a whole bean down the side with the back of a knife and scrape the seeds into the container.

    3. SUBMERGE the bean itself in the middle of the sugar.

     

    You can buy vanilla sugar if you don’t have time to make it. Photo courtesy Bakto Flavors.

    4. SEAL tightly with lid and let the flavors infuse for 1-2 weeks.
     
    Cheers!

      

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    GIFT: Grand Marnier Cherry

    A limited-edition treat: grab a bottle or two.
    Photo courtesy Grand Marnier.

     

    Grab a bottle of the limited release Grand Marnier Cherry, the new, elegant, complex expression from Grand Marnier.

    In fact, grab several: one for yourself and others for gifts.

    Grand Marnier’s famous flavor of wild tropical oranges and fine Cognac is enhanced with European griotte cherries. The result is a treat that stirs up the holiday spirit.

    Grand Marnier Cherry is available in limited quantities, a USA release only…and a guaranteed treat for anyone who enjoys fine spirit.

    Enjoy it neat, over ice, with club soda or in a signature cocktail (there are recipes on the Grand Marnier website).

    We loved it poured over sorbet (cherry, lemon, mango, peach) and drizzled over pudding, pound cake or angel food cake.
     
    Find more of our favorite spirits in our Cocktails & Spirits section.

     

      

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