THE NIBBLE BLOGProducts, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
Also visit our main website, TheNibble.com.



Archive for Entertaining

TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry “Mistletoe” Kissing Ball

You don’t need to buy mistletoe to encourage people at holiday get-togethers to kiss. Instead, substitute this “holiday kissing ball” from Ocean Spray.

First head to the crafts store, then pick up fresh whole cranberries. You can pick up an extra bag or two for a Valentine Kissing Ball (and if you prefer, a foam heart instead of a ball).

DIY CRANBERRY KISSING BALL

Ingredients

  • 5” styrofoam ball
  • Red acrylic craft paint
  • 24-gauge beading wire
  • Hot glue gun/glue sticks -or- wooden toothpicks
  • 1-2 12-ounce bag(s) Ocean Spray fresh cranberries
  • Optional: shellac spray
  • Trim of choice: ribbon, mistletoe, holly, ivy, bells
  •  
    Preparation

     

    Cranberry Kissing Ball

    A kissing ball, mistletoe optional. Photo courtesy Ocean Spray.

     
    1. PAINT the foam ball with red craft paint. Set aside to dry.

    2. CUT an 18″ piece of wire and fold it in half. Push the folded wire all the way through the center of the ball, leaving a 1″ wire loop extending at bottom of ball and 3″ of wire extending at top.

    3. ATTACH the cranberries to ball with a hot glue gun or toothpicks, covering the ball completely. Spray with shellac for longevity (otherwise, the berries soften after 5 days or so, and the appearance will diminish). NOTE: The glue gun is a better choice. If you don’t have one, you can pick one up when you buy the foam ball at the crafts store.

    4. TWIST the two wires at top of ball into a simple hook for hanging. Use ribbon to tie the desired holiday trim to wire above and below ball, and hang with a hook.

    5. FIND someone to kiss and guide him/her underneath the ball.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Freeze Your Hot Appetizers

    Cheese Straws

    Stuffed Mushrooms

    TOP PHOTO: Homemade cheese straws, made in advance, frozen and heated in the oven. Photo courtesy Cabot Cheese. BOTTOM PHOTO: Stuffed mushrooms. Photo courtesy GoodCook.com.

     

    If you want to serve hot hors d’oeuvre on Christmas, New Year’s Eve or other party times, here’s a tip we learned years ago from our friend Carol’s mother, a hostess whose board was almost groaning under the weight of her lavish spreads:

    Make fancy appetizers in advance, freeze them and simply heat them when guests arrive.

    Just about every hot hors d’oeuvre can be made up to six weeks in advance and popped into the freezer. Then when the first guests arrive, just pop a baking sheet in the oven.

    What can you make? For starters, these 10 crowd favorites:

  • Cheese straws
  • Chicken or beef skewers/brochettes
  • Chinese dumplings
  • Crab cakes
  • Mini quiches
  • Party meatballs
  • Pigs in blankets
  • Savory cheesecakes
  • Spanakopita or anything in phyllo or other pastry
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  •  
    Another time saver: These frozen bites can generally be heated at the same oven temperature for about the same amount of time, so you don’t have to babysit the oven.
     
    HOW TO FREEZE YOUR HORS D’OEUVRE

    As with anything you stick in the freezer, use airtight containers or heavy-duty resealable plastic bags.

  • Place a piece of parchment or wax paper between layers to keep the frozen hors d’oeuvre from sticking to each other.
  • Prevent freezer burn by pushing all the air from plastic bags before sealing, then double-bag them. Green tip: You can wash the bags, turn them upside down to dry (e.g., over a bottle) and reuse them.
  • If you’re only using some of the pieces in the bag or container, quickly return the others to the freezer. Partial thawing and refreezing can turn them mushy.
  •  
    WHAT DOES “HORS D’OEUVRE” MEAN?

    Hors d’oeuvre (pronounced or-DERV and spelled without an “s” at the end in French, whether singular or plural) are one- or two-bite tidbits served with cocktails. They can be placed on a table for self-service, or passed on trays by the host or a server.

     

    The ancient Greeks and Romans served bits of fish, seasoned vegetables, cheese and olives before the main meal. By the time of Renaissance Italy, the hors d’oeuvre had become more elaborate. Which brings up the meaning of the term:

    Hors d’oeuvre is French for “outside the [main] work,” referring to foods served outside of the main meal. From the late 17th century through the mid-19th century, popular hors d’oeuvre for the affluent French included clams and oysters on the half shell, stuffed eggs, slices of beef tongue and quail tidbits. [Source]

    Talk about excess: In the 19th century, extending into the 20th century, salted nuts, olives, and crudités—the “relish tray” of raw carrots, celery, radishes and the like–would be on the table throughout the meal so people could fill in between courses.

    Technically, the term hors d’oeuvre refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook. Thus, a cheese plate is not an hors d’oeuvre, nor is a crudité tray with dip, even though someone has cut the vegetables and made the dip.

    Canapés—small crustless pieces of bread† or pastry with a savory topping—arose in France in the 18th century, with Britain adopting the practice in the 19th century.

    Canapés have been joined in modern times by hot options such as baby lamb chops, brochettes (skewers), cheese puffs, crab cakes, mini quiches and many other options. A more modern approach is the mixed appetizer plate, several pieces plated and served as an appetizer (first course). [Source]

     

    Canape Tray

    Canape Tray

    Classic French canapé trays. TOP PHOTO: Caviar Russe serves them on a silver tray. BOTTOM PHOTO: Payard sells canapeés that you serve on your own fancy tray.

    _________________________________________

    *A 17th century English idiom, “groaning board” refers to a dining table laden or buffet with a large amount of food. In old literature, we see it referred to regularly by characters staying or supping at a tavern. The “groan” refers to the purported creaking and groaning noises produced by the wood of the table under the weight of the food. At the time, “board” was another word for “table” (and is the genesis of “room and board” and “boarding house”). At major feasts, the large table required was often a long board held up by trestles—think sawhorse held up by wooden legs.

    †Stale bread was often used as a base for the toppings, as it had hardened into the consistency of toast. The crusts were always removed to make them more elegant.

      

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Cheese Balls

    Holiday Cream Cheese Balls

    Vegetable Cheese Ball

    TOP PHOTO: Cheese balls decorated like
    ornaments for holiday festivals. Photo
    courtesy Kraft. BOTTOM PHOTO: What’s
    inside the cheese ball? Here it’s red and
    green bell peppers. Photo by Claire
    Freierman | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Turn cheese balls into holiday ornaments with the right coatings. This recipe from Philadelphia Cream Cheese uses only cream cheese, but you can use your favorite cheese ball recipe.

    Instead of one big cheese ball, you make mini cheese balls with different coatings.

    We prefer to take the recipe one step further and flavor the cream cheese. We like bell pepper cream cheese, jalapeño cream cheese, olive cream cheese and scallion cream cheese; and for a splurge, smoked salmon cream cheese rolled in fresh dill.
     
    DESSERT CHEESE BALLS

    You can also make a dessert version to serve with cookies, like chocolate cream cheese (with cocoa powder and sugar), chocolate chip cream cheese (or other chip flavor), berry cream cheese (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry) and peanut butter cream cheese, rolled in cocoa powder, coconut or mini chocolate chips. But back to the savory:

    RECIPE: HOLIDAY CHEESE BALLS

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 packages cream cheese (total 12 ounces), softened
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
  •  
    Plus

  • Cream cheese mix-ins: green and red jalapeños, green and red bell peppers, olives, pimentos, scallions or other fillings
  •  
    Serve With

  • Bagel Chips
  • Crackers
  • Other chips and crisps
  • Preparation

    1. CUT the cream cheese brick into 6 two-ounce pieces; roll each into ball. If you’re flavoring the cream cheese, finely chop and blend in the mix-ins before shaping the balls.

    2. COMBINE the sesame seeds, poppy seeds and half the garlic in small bowl. Mix the herbs and remaining garlic in a separate small bowl. Combine the cranberries and nuts in third bowl.

    3. ROLL 2 cheese balls in the sesame seed mixture, 2 cheese balls in the herb mixture and the remaining 2 cheese balls in the nut mixture.

    4. WRAP each ball in plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve. Alternatively, you can place them in an airtight food storage container, lightly covered with plastic before you close the lid.

     

    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS GOAT CHEESE LOGS

    The glamorous goat cheese log in the photo couldn’t be easier. If you’d rather turn it into round “tree ornaments. See Step 2.

    Ingredients

  • Log(s) of goat cheese, straight from the fridge
  • Dried cranberries and pistachios -or-
  • The coating of your choice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX roughly-chopped dried cranberries and pistachio nuts and place them on wax paper on a work surface.

    2. ROLL the log of goat cheese in the mixture, pressing down lightly so the mixture adheres. If you’d rather have round balls of goat cheese, let the cheese soften, form it into balls, and return it to the fridge until it hardens enough to roll easily.

    3. WRAP the finished log tightly in plastic and refrigerate until serving.
     
    TIP: See if you can score some honey goat cheese logs (we get ours at Trader Vic’s). They’re a revelation.
     
    MORE HOLIDAY CHEESE BALL IDEAS

  • Christmas Tree Cheese Ball Recipe #2
  • Pine Cone Cheese Ball Recipe(#1 is in the photo caption)
  • Pine Cone Cheese Ball Recipe #2
  • Snowman Cheese Ball Recipe
  • Snowman Cheese Ball Recipe #2
  •  

    Christmas Goat Cheese Log

    Christmas Tree Cheese Ball

    TOP PHOTO: Goat cheese log from More Than Hungry. BOTTOM PHOTO: We love this Christmas tree cheese “ball.” Here’s the recipe from Betty Crocker.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Tree & Star Of David Napkin Folds

    Star Fold Christmas Napkin

    Star Of David Napkin Fold

    TOP PHOTO: Dress your holiday table with a Christmas tree napkin fold. Photo courtesy BHG.com. BOTTOM PHOTO: A Star Of David napkin fold for Chanukah. Photo courtesy Expert Village.

     

    Some people go all out decorating the holiday table: bowls of ornaments, candelabra, flowers, holly, miniature rosemary trees, pine boughs, pine cones, pomanders, reindeer, ribbons, the works.

    We always have so much food on the table that we need to keep things simple. We do it with a special tablecloth and napkins.

    And napkin folds.

    Last year we folded the dinner napkins in the shape of a traditional Christmas tree. This year, it’s a more abstract tree with a star.

    We found the top napkin fold on BHG.com, the website of Better Homes & Gardens.

    BHG has topped it with a star-shaped napkin ring. We don’t have star-shaped rings, but have jeweled gold-tone rings that will do the trick…unless we can pick up star rings on sale a day or two before Christmas.

    See how to fold the napkin, including a video, at BHG.com.
     
    MORE HOLIDAY NAPKIN FOLDS

    If you don’t want a tree, FabArtDIY.com has collected 20 different holiday folds.

    Chinet has a nice collection, including a poinsettia and a double star. There are also year-round designs.

    We like how NancyCreative.com folds napkins into festive bows.

    Elf hats, anyone? Here’s a video from Good Housekeeping.
     
    CHANUKAH NAPKIN FOLD

    Celebrating Chanukah? Here’s a Star of David. Star of David napkin fold (photo above).

    If you think you can do it, try this Star Of David, based on origami techniques.

     

    WHO ORIGINATED NAPKIN FOLDING?

    The art of napkin folding is called napery. The word comes from the Old French naperie, tablecloth.

    Not surprisingly, it started with royalty. According to one source, the art dates back to the around 1400, a time when warm napkins or even perfumed napkins graced the tables of the elite. Another source credits the reign of Louis XIV, 1643-1715.

    The craft trickled down to the homes of the wealthy and almost-wealthy (the upper middle class). At fine tables in the 19th century, starched napkins were artfully folded nightly.
     
    What About The Napkin Ring?

    The use of napkin rings began in Europe during the Napoleonic era, 1799 to 1815. They were developed not for royalty, but for the bourgeoisie (middle class).

    The wealthy could afford freshly-laundered napkins at every meal; but the bourgeoisie lacked the servant bandwidth to make that happen. As a result, one cloth napkin would be used for all the meals in one day, or even for an entire week. Monogrammed napkin rings identified whom each napkin belonged to.

    In modern times, napkin rings have become decorative, and using them is much quicker than napery.

    Interested in the craft? Get a book on napkin folding and go to town! Gearing up for Valentine’s Day, the cover photo of the linked book is a pink napkin in a heart-shape fold.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: A Flavored Shots Party

    Pinnacle Peppermint Bark Vodka

    Plastic Shot Glasses

    TOP PHOTO: Pinnacle Vodka has 40 flavors, including holiday flavors like Peppermint Bark and Pumpkin Pie. BOTTOM PHOTO: One-ounce, colored shot glasses are the way to go. Photo courtesy Party Essentials.

     

    Looking to do something different for a holiday get-together with friends? While there’s always a holiday drinks menu, here’s an idea that requires no mixing: flavored shots.

    The flavored spirits category is “on fire,” according to Liquor.com. a website for industry professionals. You can now find flavored bourbons and ryes*, in addition to the pioneer category of flavored vodka and the flavored tequilas† that followed vodka’s success.

    Now before the angry comments begin, let us emphasize that this is not a lets-get-loaded shots party. It’s a responsible let’s-taste-some-flavored-spirits-straight opportunity. The novelty for many people is tasting flavored spirits outside of a mixed drink.

    In fact, sipping from a shot glass is our favorite way to enjoy flavored spirits. And for planning purposes, four different flavors are about as much as people should have in an evening, even with designated drivers. While a standard shot is 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) for 80 proof distilled spirits, take it down to 1 ounce.

    What if people want more than four ounces? Flavored club soda or spritzers.
     
    WHERE DO YOU GET THE SHOT GLASSES?

    You can buy clear one-ounce plastic shot glasses or two-ounce shot glasses. They can be washed and reused for another occasion.

    But if you’re serving vodka or tequila, since the sprits are clear, we think colored shot glasses are all-around better. Not only are they festive, but you can color-code the pours.

     
    WHAT FLAVORS SHOULD YOU PICK?

    Your options are based on what spirit you choose. Pinnacle, for example, has more than 40 flavors of vodka. There are large numbers of flavored tequilas, and the numbers get smaller with whiskey.

    For vodka, you can choose four different fruits from the many options, or make the party more holiday-focused with specialty flavors like Pinnacle’s Caramel Apple, Peppermint Bark, Salted Caramel, Whipped Cream and Chocolate Whipped Cream.

     
    But wait: There’s also Cookie Dough, Pecan Pie Vodka and Pumpkin Pie.

    Pinnacle doesn’t make a cranberry vodka, but other distillers do, including Bear Hug, Deep Eddy, Smirnoff and Sobieski.

    And then there’s what your local liquor stores carry—or don’t.
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHOTS AND SHOOTERS

    Both shooters and shots are served in shot glasses. Shots are 100% spirits; shooters are mini-cocktails, combining spirits and/or liqueurs with non-alcoholic mixers.

    Traditionally, both are consumed in one gulp, but we recommend breaking with the tradition of chugging. Chugging is for people who want to make a certain statement; sipping is for people who want to taste what they drink.

    As always, plan ahead for designated drivers and don’t forget the plain or flavored club soda for in-between.
     
    _______________________________________
    *Flavored bourbons include Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon and; Red Stag Black Cherry, Hardcore Cider, Honey Tea and Spiced; and Wild Turkey Spiced Bourbon. Flavored ryes include Pow-Wow Botanical Rye (saffron and orange peel), Even Dewar’s has Highland Honey Scotch. And Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn produces the makes chocolate whiskey. Also look for Bird Dog Maple, a best-seller, and Canadian Mist Peach, among others.

    †There are numerous flavored tequilas: almond, banana, chile, chocolate, coconut, coffee, lime, mandarin, mango, pear, pomegranate, strawberry and watermelon. Check out these.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Pinwheel Sandwiches

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/pinwheel hiddenvalley 230

    Cranberry Pinwheel Sandwiches

    TOP PHOTO: Pretty pinwheel sandwiches
    from Hidden Valley. BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Cranberry-feta pinwheels in tomato tortillas.
    Here’s the recipe from Food.com.

     

    When we were in grade school (do people still use that term?), pinwheel sandwiches were a special party food. The bread needed to be specially baked, thin enough to roll into pinwheels.

    We delighted in them, and were even happier when the bread was baked in red and green loaves for Christmas, pink and blue for baby showers.

    Fast forward 30 years: Tortilla wraps have taken over; and since they are made in different colors/flavors, there’s no need to tint dough and bake bread. Pinwheels are as easy to make as any wrap sandwich, so we now enjoy them regularly.

    (We used up our Thanksgiving leftovers in pinwheel sandwiches. The combination of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce can’t be beat!)

    For the holidays, serve them with cocktails, or bring them as your contribution to a party. Make a double or triple recipe. They go fast, and you can freeze any leftovers. BONUS: They can be made the night before.

    The following recipe from Hidden Valley has bits of red and green accents for the holidays, but you go whole hog with the variation below.

    RECIPE: PINWHEEL SANDWICHES

    Ingredients

  • 1 packet (1 ounce) Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
  • 2 green onions, minced (substitute bell pepper, parsley and/or dill)
  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 2¼ ounces sliced ripe olives, drained*
  • 4 12-inch flour tortillas in colors, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces diced chiles rinsed, drained
  • 4 ounces diced pimentos rinsed, drained
  • Optional tray garnish
  • Optional dip
  •  

    *The 2¼ ounces equals about 4 tablespoons. We prefer the flavor of loose olives to many canned slices, which can be bland. We buy quality pitted olives from our market’s olive bar and slice them ourselves.
     
    Preparation

    1. MIX the cream cheese, dressing mix and onions until blended. Spread on the tortillas. (If the tortillas are not room temperature or not pliable, warm them briefly in the microwave to prevent tearing when you roll them.)

    2. BLOT dry the pimientos, chiles and olives on paper towels. Sprinkle equal amounts of over the cream cheese mixture.

    3. ROLL up the tortillas tightly, and cover them in plastic wrap or foil to hold their shape. Chill at least 2 hours.

    4. CUT the rolls into 1-inch slices. Discard the ends (we discarded them right into our mouth). Plate with the spirals facing up. Garnish the plate as desired and serve.

    You can further provide a dip: guacamole, onion or ranch dip, salsa, etc.

    If you need a video, here.

     

    VARIATIONS

    Start by considering your favorite ingredients (ours: smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers), then an accent or two (dill, salmon caviar). Fresh herbs (dill, for our sandwich) really bring up the flavor.

    Alternatively, think of your favorite cuisine: French, Greek, Italian, Mexican? Assemble your ingredients on that theme.

    Another option: Take a look at all the varieties in Google Images, until you find the combination of ingredients that you like.

    Here’s a generic starter list:

    Main Fillings

  • Cold cuts
  • Curried egg salad or tuna salad
  • Fresh vegetables (“salad roll”)
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Shrimp or crab salad
  • Smoked salmon
  •  
    Spreads

  • Dijon mustard, grainy mustard
  • Flavored mayonnaise
  • Boursin, fromage blanc, soft goat cheese
  • Hummus
  •  
    Accents

  • Fresh herbs
  • Gherkin slices
  • Grated cheese
  • Pickled jalapeño slices
  • Salmon or trout caviar
  • Sliced black or pimento-stuffed olives
  •  
    For Kids

  • Cream cheese and jelly
  • Egg salad or tuna salad
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Whatever your kids like
  •  
    Have fun with pinwheel sandwiches, and make them often!

     

    Christmas Pinwheel Sandwiches

    Pinwheel Sandwiches

    Pinwheel Sandwiches Tray

    TOP PHOTO: Ham and cheese pinwheel sandwiches with holiday colors. Here’s the recipe from Lynda’s Recipe Box. MIDDLE PHOTO: Five different flavors and colors from The Pioneer Woman. BOTTOM PHOTO: Think of how you want to present your pinwheels. Maybe form a Christmas tree? Photo courtesy Nancys.com.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: A Brownie Sandwich Party

    For a party dessert, offer several spreads and let guests fill their own brownie layers at the “brownie bar.” You can ask others who want to pitch in to bake different types of brownies. In addition to the original chocolate brownie, consider blondies, butterscotch brownies and peanut butter brownies. Guests on gluten-free diets can bring gluten-free brownies.

    Multiple brownie flavors allow for mix-and-match: a blondie top with a brownie bottom, for example.

    Bake the brownies using one of these techniques:

  • Make a pan of brownies and slice them in half.
  • Make dropped brownie cookies, no slicing involved.
  • Divide the brownie batter into two pans, so each layer will be half the height.
  •  
    For special occasions, you can use a cookie cutter to make shapes—for example, hearts for Valentine’s Day. Stick the leftover scraps in a freezer and use them on sundaes or for snacking.
     
    BROWNIE SANDWICH PARTY

    Guests fill the “sandwich” with their spread(s) of choice. We have more than 30 suggestions; all can be homemade or purchased. Unless you want to go crazy, select six or so options.

  • Bacon jam
  • Biscoff spread/cookie spread
  • Buttercream (chocolate coffee, strawberry, vanilla, anything)
  • Cannoli filling
  • Caramel/salted caramel
  • Cheesecake spread
  • Chestnut spread
  • Chocolate spread
  • Cinnamon honey butter
  • Clotted cream/double Devon cream
  • Coconut spread
  • Creme honey
  • Custard/pastry cream
  • Date spread
  • Dulce de leche
  • Flavored cream cheese
  • Fruit curd/preserves/spread
  •    

    pistachio-brownie-sandwich-sprinkleofcinnamon-230

    Brownie Sandwich With Peanut Butter Filling

    TOP PHOTO: Brownie sandwich with pistachio filling. Get the recipe at SprinkleOf Cinnamon.com. BOTTOM PHOTO: Peanut butter-filled brownie sandwich. Here’s the recipe from SallysBakingAddiction.com.

     

    Peanut Butter & Jelly Brownie Sandwich

    How about a Peanut Butter and Jelly Brownie Sandwich? Get the recipe from Betty Crocker.

     
  • Ginger spread
  • Halvah spread
  • Holiday fillings (pumpkin, peppermint, etc.)
  • Ice cream (though it can get messy in a party setting)
  • Maple cream
  • Mascarpone
  • Marshmallow cream
  • Nutella/hazelnut spread
  • Maple cream
  • Peanut butter/other nut butter
  • Pecan honey spread (like pecan pie filling)
  • Pistachio spread
  • Toffee spread
  • Whipped topping
  •  
    We’d suggest decorations—crushed nuts, mini-chips, sprinkles, etc. But frankly, it’s overkill (and guaranteed to create a mess).
     
    Are you having fun just thinking about a brownie party?

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Table Decorations

    Thanksgiving Table Decorations

    Use grocery store items to decorate your Thanksgiving table. Photo courtesy Foragers Market | Brooklyn.

     

    Some people like a flower centerpiece for their table. Others take out the silver candelabra.

    We’ve done both, but realized that they can interfere with sight lines across the table. They’re also very 20th (and 19th) century.

    So in recent years we’ve tried:

  • A glass vase or clear salad bowl filled with pomegranates, lady apples, clementines, fresh green leaves and metallic-sprayed pine cones.
  • A short glass vase layered with different whole nuts, with florists’ moss between the layers.
  • A stack of three flat winter squash—like flatter pumpkins— in different colors (look in farmers markets for the Bonbon Buttercup, Flat Boer Pumpkin, some Hubbard and Kabocha, and other heirloom varieties).
  •  

  • Flat winter squash covered with silver and gold metallic paints.
  • A three-pound chocolate turkey, which was hammered into pieces at the end, and the pieces sent home with guests as party favors.
  • Indian corn and autumn leaves, which lasts a long time as household decor.
  •  
    While the first idea is our favorite, our guests deserve variety from year to year.

    So this year, we’re adapting an idea from Foragers Market, to scatter the table with miniature pumpkins, decorative gourds and rosemary sprigs.

    After dinner, the gourds go into a glass bowl or basket to decorate the foyer; the rosemary sprigs go into the freezer to use again on the Christmas table or to garnish cocktails, mineral water or soft drinks; or in recipes.

    You can use the same concept for Halloween.

    Need more ideas?

    Here are 45 Thanksgiving centerpieces from HGTV.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mulling Spice Sachets

    Mulling Spice Sachets

    drawstring-tea-bags-amazon-niceshop-230

    TOP PHOTO: Individual sachets are best if only one or two people want a cup. Larger sachets are used to make a 6- or 8-cup pot. Photo courtesy McCormick. BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Empty tea bag “sachets,” used to fill with loose tea, are easier to make although less festive than muslin or netting. You can get them at specialty tea shops or online. Photo courtesy NiceShop. Put leftover mulled beverages in the fridge to enjoy chilled.

     

    In our last article, we suggested a cider party with a pumpkin layer cake. Here’s a related tip:

    Make mulling spice sachets for mulled cider or wine. They layer the flavors found in spiced tea on top of the base beverage, which is typically warmed cider or wine.

    Make them for family, guests and gifting. Individual sachets are better for gifting; large sachets are better for a pot of cider.

    For gifting and party favors, you can package the sachets in a holiday tin or a Mason jar with a red ribbon. Be sure to add the mulling instructions (below) on the gift tag or insert them into the package.

    To give two individual sachets as small party favors, find a small, colored cellophane bag, a clear or vellum envelope or other gift bag. Include the instructions.

    Prep time is 5 minutes to make an individual sachet, 15 minutes to steep the cider or wine. If you have nimble fingers and have organized your ingredients, you can make three individual sachets or two large ones in 5 minutes.

    Thanks to McCormick for the recipe.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE MULLING SPICE SACHETS

    Ingredients For 1 Bag/2 Servings

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice
  • Optional: 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 cups apple cider, hard cider or wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Cheesecloth*, cut into 4″ squares
  • Kitchen string
  •  
    *The easiest option is to purchase drawstring filter bags, used for loose tea (photo at left). Another option: If you can find fine, flexible netting, it makes a prettier sachet but you need to wash it first, to soften it and eliminate any dust it’s picked up along the way.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the spices in the center of a piece of cheesecloth. Tie tightly with long piece of string. Store in an airtight container. That’s it, until you’re ready to mull your beverage. Then…

    2. PLACE the spice sachet in small saucepan. Add the apple cider or wine. Simmer over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes or until fragrant.

    3. DISCARD the spice sachet. Stir in the vanilla. Serve warm or hot.
     

    Ingredients For A Party-Size Mulling Spice Sachet

    1. INCREASE the cinnamon sticks to 4, whole cloves to 2 teaspoons, whole allspice to 1 teaspoon and vanilla to 2 teaspoons.

    2. WRAP in cheesecloth and warm in a pot with 2 quarts (8 cups) of apple cider or wine. You can also use apple juice. The difference is that apple cider is a fresh-squeezed product that needs to be refrigerated; apple juice is processed and homogenized to be shelf stable (no refrigeration needed until after the package has been opened).

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: “Pumpkin Custard” & The First Thanksgiving

    We’ll soon celebrate Thanksgiving, a remembrance of a harvest feast that took place 394 years ago. Pumpkin may have been served at the Pilgrims’ first harvest feast, but it wasn’t pumpkin pie. The pumpkin pie we know and love first appears in cookbooks in the early 19th century.

    After a horrific first winter that saw their community reduced by half, the settlers had yet to construct ovens for baking. Even if there had been butter and shortening to spare, pie crusts wouldn’t have cooked evenly over an open fire.

    But there may have been a pumpkin custard, which could be cooked in its own vessel—the pumpkin shell. Our tip today is: See if you can fit it into your Thanksgiving menu; and if not, enjoy it in advance of the big day.

    Before we go on to the recipe, here are some tidbits from Scholastic.com.

    The website has a terrific account on the Pilgrims and the first “Thanksgiving” (it wasn’t called that until much later). It expands on snippets taught in school and follows the dual stories of both the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag natives who helped them. The re-enactment videos and photography bring the story to life in a fresh new way.

    If some family and guests have an hour to kill on Thanksgiving Day, send everyone to the site. It will make the feast so much more meaningful.

    THE FIRST THANKSGIVING

    The Pilgrims, 102 adults and children, set sail for Virginia on September 6, 1620. The Mayflower was thrown off course by storms, and landed at Cape Cod 56 days later, on November 11th. The party made their way to the settlement they called Plimouth as winter set in, arriving on Christmas Day. Already weakened by their travel voyage, half of the passengers failed to survive the first few months of a bitter winter.

     

    Custard-Filled-Pumpkin-soufflebombay-230

    sugarpumpkin-artofthehome-230

    TOP PHOTO: Pumpkin custard baked in a pumpkin. Photo courtesy Souffle Bombay. BOTTOM PHOTO: A sugar pumpkin, the best size and shape for this recipe. Photo courtesy Art Of The Home.

     

    During those winter months, it was very difficult to find food and build shelter. Fortunately, the local native people, called Wampanoag, shared their knowledge and helped the colonists survive.

    Ten months after they arrived the settlers had constructed seven cottages, a common meeting house and three storehouses for the food from their first harvest. The Wampanoag Squanto taught the settlers how to plant native crops like corn and squash.

    Our national holiday commemorates the feast held in the autumn of 1621 to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest. It was considered a harvest celebration, and was not called Thanksgiving. The “thanksgiving” concept was applied in the 19th century by scholars studying that period; and the Thanksgiving holiday, setting the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise,” was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
     
    WHAT DID THE PILGRIMS EAT AT THE “FIRST THANKSGIVING?”

    What did they eat? There’s only one surviving written account of the feast, which mentions neither turkey nor pumpkin, although we know both were plentiful locally. There were no cranberries† and no potatoes, mashed or sweet. Here’s what we do know:

  • Waterfowl were plentiful in the Massachusetts Bay area. Men could go out and shoot as much duck and geese as they liked. The women would pluck them and roast them over the fireplaces in their cottages.
  • Children would grind corn into cornmeal which was then made into porridge called samp (think oatmeal made from corn).
  • For their first harvest feast, the Wampanoag leader, Massasoit, sent 5 warriors to hunt five deer as a gift to the colonists. Venison was a favorite Wampanoag food.
  • The duck and venison were likely accompanied by cabbage, corn, onions, squash (including pumpkin) and seafood. Mussels clung to the rocks along the shore—easy pickings.
  • The 1621 feast lasted about a week, spanning several meals and games for both children and adults. Sometimes the Wampanoag and Pilgrims dined together, sometimes apart.
  •  
    *The Native Americans probably couldn’t sweeten them enough to be tasty. Instead, they used cranberries for red dye.

     

    pumpkin-apple-pies-leaf-decor-ws-230

    mini-pumpkins-for-creme-brulee-spoonforkbacon-230

    TOP PHOTO: A traditional pumpkin pie, made
    in a pie plate with a crust, didn’t appear until
    the early 19th century. TOP PHOTO: A
    traditional pumpkin pie decorated with small cookies in seasonal shapes. The cookie cutters are available at William-Sonoma.
    Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: You can also bake the custard in small individual pumpkins. Photo courtesy SpoonForkBacon.com.

     

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN CUSTARD, BAKED IN A PUMPKIN

    According to some accounts, the English settlers hollowed out pumpkins and filled the shells with milk, honey and spices to make a custard. They baked the filled pumpkin in the hot ashes of the fireplace. You, fortunately, have an oven.

    This recipe creates an impressive dessert that happens to be gluten free. You can also make a savory custard version to serve as a side. Here’s an assortment of savory custard recipes.

    Note that this isn’t “pumpkin custard” but a conventional custard baked inside a pumpkin. You can make a pumpkin custard by adding pumpkin purée to the custard recipe. Here’s one pumpkin custard recipe; there are many others online.
     
    Ingredients For 4-5 Servings

  • 1 small pumpkin*
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs plus 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  •  
    *The pumpkin should be 4-5 inches in height and 18 inches in diameter. Sugar pumpkins are ideal, but if you can’t find a small pumpkin, look for other winter squash in this size range (Hubbard, for example).
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Prepare the pumpkin as if preparing a jack-o-lantern: Cut off the top leaving the stem intact and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Scoop out enough pulp (pumpkin flesh) for the custard, while leaving a border of pulp to serve along with the finished custard. Place the large bottom portion on a baking sheet. Reserve the top (stem end) for later.

    2. COMBINE the sugar, eggs and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whisk until combined. Add the heavy cream, cornstarch and salt and whisk until fully combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pumpkin, leaving a 3/4-inch space between the filling and the top of the pumpkin. Bake for 15 minutes; then cover the top of the pumpkin loosely with foil and bake another 15 minutes.

     
    3. LOWER the oven temperature to 375°F, place the top of the pumpkin on the tray and continue to bake for another 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the custard comes out almost clean.

    4. TURN off the oven, allow the pumpkin to cool for an hour, then place it a refrigerator or in your cold garage, loosely covered with plastic wrap or foil. Allow the custard to set 6 hours or overnight. This is a good recipe to assign to a guest, since if you’re making the rest of the dinner, you (a) have your hands full and (b) your fridge is packed.

    5. TO SERVE: Scoop the custard into dessert bowls, scraping the sides to include some of the baked pumpkin.

      

    Comments



    © Copyright 2005-2016 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.