Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Quick Reference Guide for Buying, Storing and Serving Cheese

Cheese is more than just peeling back the wrapper on a slice of American cheese. There are proper buying, storage and serving procedures that will help maintain freshness and ensure enhanced flavor and texture. When buying cheese consider these three items.

1) Where to Shop - Choose a reliable source such as a specialty market or gourmet grocery store. - Find a cheese only market or a cheese restaurant. Many large metropolitan areas have restaurants that serve only cheese and wine. - Shop at a gourmet food store that specializes in cheese.

2) Amount to Purchase - Buy only what will be consumed with in a few days. Flavors and aroma of fine cheeses change over time in a home refrigerator.

3) Characteristics of Cheese - Cheese should present the characteristics of that particular style. The interior should not have cracks, mold or discoloration in any form.

- Natural rind cheeses have a rustic appearance. The rind on the outside of these cheeses is a side product of production. Blue or Roquefort styles will have some mold and cracks; this is a normal characteristic of these types of cheeses.

- Taste and sample. Follow your pallet and choose flavors that appeal to you. Storage Guide

When you fist bring cheese home remove it from the plastic wrap or plastic bag it has come in. This type of storage is only good for transporting the cheese from shop to home. Re-wrap the cheese in waxed paper or parchment paper. This will allow the air and moisture to circulate around the cheese. Air and moisture are integral to keeping the cheese in the best possible condition.

Serving Guide When serving cheese serve no more than 5 varieties at a time. Vary the size, shape, flavor and texture to add interest. Choose a wooden board or marble slab to serve on. If you have a silver tray with a wood insert this is an elegant way to add a special touch.

Remember to never crowd the serving tray and place bread or fancy crackers on a separate tray. If the cheeses served have strong distinctive flavors use separate trays and serving utensils. Mild flavors will pick up aromas and tastes from stronger flavored cheese.

Cheese can be accompanied by fresh ripe fruit such as apples, pears, grapes, strawberries, fresh figs, or melon. Even thin sliced onions are a delightful accompaniment. Remember to slice all the fruit, onions and bread thin and in bite size pieces. As a desert, cheese can be very elegant, or as a light course after the entree and before desert. When serving as an appetizer cheese should be coupled with a light dinner due to the filling nature of most cheeses.

Serving cheese chilled or at room temperature is a matter of personal preference. Room temperature cheese has more flavor and distinctive characteristics than chilled cheese. Room temperature can be achieved by leaving the cheese out for 30 minutes before serving. Remember to keep watch that the cheese does not get to warm and begin to sweat.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Stress Managment: Eight Tips for Busy Moms

Moms are some of the busiest people on the planet. From working a 9-5 job to getting the kids off the school or from attending soccer games to chaperoning a slumber party, a mom's feet never seem to stay still. Some moms are responsible for taking care of their aging parents as well.

With this almost frantic pace, increased stress levels can be a natural result. Stress can impact many areas of life such as work, family, and other relationships. Stress can cause one to experience irritability, impatience, and distractibility. For busy moms, stress management is a necessity. Here are eight tips to assist in living a more stress free life.

1. Determine, no matter what, to create time for self. For some busy moms, maybe it's a soothing bubble bath at the end of the day. For others, it could be a quick trip to the local Nail Salon. The activity really doesn't matter as long as busy moms take some time for themselves.

2. Listen to calm, soothing music on the way to work, while at work, and while going to sleep. Music has a way of calming and soothing the mind body.

3. Practice deep abdominal breathing periodically throughout the day. Breath in deeply through the nose pulling the belly button toward the spine, hold for a few seconds, and then slowly release. Busy moms will be pleasantly surprised at how this simple technique can result in a more relaxed body and mind. This can be done in any environment.

4. Take time to exercise. Exercise helps to increase self-esteem, decrease depression, increase concentration and energy, and gives one a greater sense of control over stress. Hitting the local gym is not always necessary. Taking a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood, taking walks on lunch breaks, taking the steps instead of an elevator, and parking farther away when shopping are examples of how busy moms can squeeze in exercise during the day.

5. Eat Healthy. There are foods that promote calmness and foods that increase stress levels. Busy moms can ask themselves if they are eating too much sugar and caffeine, and if they are getting enough protein. They can also evaluate if they are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and staying away from refined and processed foods. Healthy eating is very important for any busy mom. Taking a look at diets and making the necessary changes can result in increased optimal health.

6. Call a friend. For any busy mom, it is always important in life to have at least one relationship where they can just vent and know that a listening ear and unconditional acceptance will be given.

7. Practice Thinking Calmly. Everyone has a favorite place that is peaceful, soothing, and calm. When stress levels increase, busy moms can take a mental break and visualize that special place. They can take note of the sights, sounds, and smells. It is important to continue to do this until relaxation is felt. Busy moms will notice that the stress they are experiencing will be less and more manageable.

8. Have a sense of humor. We all are familiar with the saying, "Laughter is the best medicine." This is so true. Be willing to laugh at personal mistakes. Watch a funny movie. Share a joke with a friend. In other words, lighten up. It will make such a difference.

Busy moms can follow the above eight tips for a more stress free life!

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Fortunate Lemon Chicken

Italian Recipes - How About A Dinner In Rome?

The Secrets To Successful Cooking

Amazing Chili Recipe Turned Into Nightmare!

Types of Coffee Machines

Best Recipes: Yogurt

Catalan Cuisine - A Guide

Buy Fine Wine at Great Prices- A Strategy

Use Spices To Cook Like A Connoisseur On A Paupers Budget!

The Cuisine Of Madrid - A Guide

Andalucian Cuisine A Guide

The Habanero Chile

Amazing Appetizer Recipes Make Parties Memorable!

Supporting Local Flavors

The Successful Dessert Party

How Wine is Made

Raspberries and Cream Salad

Does The Sloppy Joe Have An Origin?

The Art Of Coffee Roasting

Culinary Traditions Of France

Regional Cuisine Of China: Szechuan Style

British Cuisine

Easy Dinner Recipes: Roast Chicken and Roasted Root Vegetables

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Article Index

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Article Index

Italian Sweets

Regional Cuisine Down Home Southern Cooking

Regional Cuisines Of China

Puerto Rican Cuisine


Middle Eastern Cuisine

16 Quick Tips for Eating at Restaurants or Work

Comfort Food Trends Bring Us Back to our Roots

Brazilian Cuisine

Cooking Tips

How Coffee is Decaffeinated

Enjoy the Fall Harvest with Delicious Squash Recipes

Japanese Cuisine

Regional Cuisine Hunan Cuisine

United States Regional Cuisine: Soul Food

The Evolution Of Pizza

Szechwan Cuisine

What Is Corked Wine?

Garam Masala - The Spices of India

An Introduction To Thai Food

Kitchen Pantry - A Cook's Secret Weapon

Best Recipes: Banana Split Brownies

Kid Recipe

Unique Gift Basket Ideas

The Olive History and Production

Best Recipes: Chocolate Goody Bars

Blue Lobsters Are Real!

A Special Christmas Gift

Best Recipes: Pumpkin Pie Bars

Best Recipes: White Chocolate Brownies

Always Hungry, But Don't Know What To Make?

Make Your Own Halloween Decorations

Summer Basil Pasta Salad

Hire a Personal Chef for A Dinner Party?

Guide To Buying Wine Glasses

Kid Friendly Pizza Party Recipe

Au Gratin Potatoes Crockpot Recipe

Olive Oil Real or Fake Who Decides?

Fire Cracker Italian Sausage Pasta

Streetwise Beer Making Secrets!

Gourmet: A Defining Moment

Christmas Recipes: Main Dishes. No.9 of 12 - Duck with Cardamom Sauce

The Maligned Potato: Respect At Last?

Chicken with White Wine

Planning for those Holiday Meals

Choosing The Best Ice Cream Maker

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The Well-Stocked Pantry -- A Cook's Secret Weapon

Doing any job is easier when you have the right tools on hand. One of a cook's best tools -- and secret weapons -- is having a well-stocked pantry.

Cooking is much simpler if you know that you've already got what you need on hand, and aren't going to have to run to the corner market every time you want to fix a meal.

Having a well-stocked pantry is also the secret weapon of every "Hostess with the Mostest" especially when unexpected guests drop by.

You'll be able to make every guest feel special and welcome because, whether it is appetizers for four or dinner for ten, you can handle it with style and panache. In fact, your reputation -- and your sanity -- will be assured, because with these things in your pantry, you can put together beautiful and tasty food that is beautifully presented in just minutes, simply and easily.

Here is a list of basic ingredients that should be in any well-stocked pantry. (One great way to stock your pantry is to buy one or two things on the list each time you go shopping, rather than trying to get it all at once. If you watch the sales and take advantage of seasonal buys, you'll be able to save money as well!)

Remember to rotate everything in your pantry on a regular basis, and adjust the items on this list to suit your family's likes and dislikes.

Herbs, Spices, Extracts and Sauces:
- Salt (Sea and Iodized)
- Pepper (Whole Peppercorns, Black, White and Red)
- Nutmeg (Ground and Fresh)
- Cinnamon (Ground and Sticks)
- Pumpkin Pie Spice (Ground)
- Allspice (Ground)
- Cardamom (Whole and Ground)
- Ginger (Whole and Ground)
- Curry (Ground)
- Garlic (Fresh and Ground for Emergencies)
- Mustard (Ground)
- Bay Leaves (Dried)
- Rosemary (Fresh and Bottled)
- Thyme (Fresh and Bottled)
- Sage (Fresh and Dried)
- Sweet Basil (Fresh and Dried)
- Parsley (Fresh and Dried for Emergencies)
- Cumin (Ground)
- Oregano (Dried)
- Onions (Flakes for Emergencies)
- Vanilla Extract
- Maple Extract
- Almond Extract
- Lemon Extract
- Orange Extract
- Soy Sauce
- Cooking Wine or Cooking Sherry
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Sesame Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Red Wine Vinegar
- Citrus Vinegar
- Teriyaki Sauce
- Barbecue Sauce
- Sweet and Sour Sauce
- Tabasco or Other Hot Sauce
- Chili Sauce
- Steak Sauce
- Packages of Salad Dressing Mix
- Packages of Dried Onion Soup Mix (Or Other Flavors)
- Soup for Sauces (Cream of Chicken, Mushroom, Celery and Cheese)

For Baking:
- All Purpose Flour
- Self-Rising Flour
- Whole Wheat Flour
- Pancake Mix
- Yeast
- Sugar
- Confectioner's Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Sugar Cubes
- Molasses
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
- Yeast
- Cornstarch
- Honey
- Cocoa Powder
- Unsweetened or Semi-Sweet Chocolate
- Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
- Butterscotch, Caramel and other flavored "chips"
- Nuts (Walnuts, Pecans, Almonds, Hazelnuts and Cashews)
- Marshmallow Cream
- Vegetable Shortening (Regular and Butter-Flavored)
- Sunflower Oil
- Maraschino Cherries

For Appetizers or Adding "Something Special" to Meals:
- Peanuts in the Shell
- Salted Peanuts
- Mixed Nuts
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- A Variety of Crackers
- Black and Green Olives
- Canned Mushrooms
- Palm Tree Hearts
- Bottled Asparagus
- Sun-dried Tomatoes
- Bottled Salsa
- A Variety of Chips and Dips
- Cheeses (Traditionally, 3 to 5 are served, from hard to soft, mild to strong. Find flavors that mix well together, and serve cheeses from different animals and different countries)

For Everyday Meals:
- Bullion Cubes and Powders (Chicken, Beef and Vegetable)
- White Rice
- Long Grain and Wild Rice
- Brown Rice
- A Variety of Pastas
- Barley
- Bread Crumbs
- Croutons
- Tomato Sauce
- Tomato Paste
- A Variety of Canned Tomatoes
- A Variety of Canned Beans (Black, Red, Kidney and Garbanzo)
- Dried Beans (Pinto, Chili and Kidney)
- Canned Tuna, Chicken, Crab and Clams

For Desserts:
- Canned Pineapple (Chunks and Slices)
- A Variety of Canned Fruits
- A Variety of Jams or Jellies
- A Variety of Cake Mixes, Brownies and Frostings
- A Variety of Packaged Puddings
- All the fixings for Ice Cream Sundaes or Banana Splits
- Applesauce

In the Refrigerator:
- Milk
- Eggs (Or Egg Substitutes)
- Cream (A staple for many Mediterranean Dishes)
- Butter or Margarine
- Yellow Mustard
- Brown Mustard
- Dijon Mustard
- Ketchup
- Mayonnaise or Salad Dressing
- Cheeses (Cheddar, Swiss, Feta, Parmesan and Jack)
- Cottage Cheese
- Sour Cream
- Green Onions
- Tomatoes
- Cilantro
- Salad Fixings

In the Freezer:
- Whole Chicken
- Steaks
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
- Beef or Pork Roast
- Stew Meat
- Hamburger
- Pork Chops
- Pieces of yellow, red and green peppers (Chop up any leftovers each time you use them and throw them into a bag in the freezer. They will add color and flavor to bland dishes)
- Frozen Bread Dough (Make your own or store bought)
- Frozen Rolls (Make your own or store bought)
- Frozen Pizza Dough (Make your own or store bought)
- Frozen Baguette
- Broccoli
- Spinach

With these ingredients in your kitchen, the only thing you'll have to worry about when it's time to cook is which recipe you want to try!

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Family Meals - Better for Children, Easier for You

Another day, another dinner to prepare. Are you having a difficult time finding easy to prepare meals that can satisfy your growing family?

You want to give your family the best, but time is in short supply and preparing a healthy meal has become a chore. Too often take out or frozen dinners have to do. Is there a way to combine healthy eating with convenience?

Yes! New methods of cooking and easy to prepare staples can change your eating habits and lead to a better eating style for your family. According to the 'Kid's Health' Program created by the Nemours Foundation, family meals are an important part of developing healthy habits in your kids. Eating as a family will encourage your kids to eat healthy foods like whole grains and vegetables. It will discourage unhealthy snacking and even make them less likely to try smoking, alcohol or marijuana.

But how do you plan healthy family meals on a tight schedule? Here are some ideas to start:

Does your family love lasagna? Maybe you thought that it was a labor intensive dish that just doesn't fit your lifestyle. Cheesy and full of fat, perhaps it's not even a wise choice. However, lasagna is actually one of the most versatile meals to prepare - and with instant (no boil) noodles, it doesn't even have to be a big job.

There are lasagna recipes for vegetarians, low-carb, low-fat and even diabetic diets. Lasagna noodles now come in instant, no-cook preparations that cut time and energy when making this hearty dish.

For lasagna or other pasta dishes, try using whole wheat pasta and shredding carrots or zucchini into the meat sauce for an easy way to up the nutritional value. Using lean ground beef or even substituting with ground turkey or chicken can make for a surprising, yet nourishing result. Buy bottled pasta sauces for even faster preparation - many grocers carry a wide assortment that will add variety to your dishes.

Looking for an elegant chicken dinner? Don't forget about frozen skinless chicken breasts. Baked in the oven with a dollop of salsa and shredded cheddar on top makes for a healthy alternative to frying or heavy sauces.

Need ideas for a side dish? Why are you wasting time cutting and washing lettuce when you can pick up a prepackaged bag at the grocers? Not to say it's the cheapest method, but it definitely helps busy families put nutrition ahead of convenience when planning a meal.

Have you ever tried steaming vegetables in the microwave? Fresh or frozen veggies make for another easy side dish when they're popped into the microwave for a few minutes. Add a couple tablespoons of water and cover with a paper towel, an easy AND healthy alternative to frying or boiling.

We're all concerned about our children eating healthier foods. Regular family meals will encourage kids to develop healthy eating habits - an important key to good health later in life. By making meal time less stressful you can focus on the joys of spending time together instead of the hassles of preparing meals.

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Hosting a Dinner Party? Hire a Personal Chef!

Think only the rich and famous have the privilege of having a personal chef wait on their every craving or gourmet pleasure? Think again.

Personal chefs are now helping couples and families to present fabulous home cooked dinners to their guests. And it's not as expensive as you think!

Why hire a personal chef?

A personal chef will bring the food, create a nutritious and balanced meal, figure out the servings needed (so you don't need to deal with leftovers) and most of all give you the freedom to focus on other aspects of entertaining while still providing the best food for your guests.

Are you hosting a business lunch? An intimate wedding reception? Or even an intimate dinner for two that just HAS to be the best? A personal chef can handle any order. You can usually choose from a selection of courses they provide or arrange for a customized menu.

How much does it cost?

Prices will vary but you can expect a weeks worth of meals (containers, food and cooking included) to be about $350 for a family of 4 (20 meals of entrees and side dishes) or $175 for a couple (10 meals of entrees and side dishes).

Some services will prepare all the meals at once while others will deliver or prepare the meal in your home throughout the week.

How do I find a personal chef?

Finding a chef is easy by using the USPCA (United States Personal Chef Association - www.uspca.com) or the CPCA (Canadian Personal Chef Alliance - www.cpcalliance.com). Here you will find information on personal chefs as well as a directory of members in your area.

Will they do meals just for my family?

Personal chefs are more than just a catering service. For busy professionals who are looking for quality meals and more time with their family, a personal chef will prepare several entrees and side dishes, store them and clean the kitchen. For the rest of the week all you have to do is take them out of the fridge or freezer and reheat to enjoy gourmet meals all week. For families who turn to fast foods and restaurants the cost may actually be less than what they are currently paying.

Some personal chefs also can be booked for private or group cooking lessons. Invite a group of your friends to learn the art of creating delectable pasties or sumptuous seafood from an expert!

While not everyone needs the daily services of a personal chef you may wish to treat yourself to the luxury of a fabulous dinner at home - no cooking, cleaning or experience necessary!

Feeding a Family on $300 a Month

If you only had $300 a month to spend on groceries for a family of four, could you do it? What sort of food would make the list and what would stay tauntingly on the store's shelves?

Whatever your reason for having a tight budget, the truth is that going to the grocery store without a plan is a BIG budget breaker. And sadly all that cash ends up vanishing into our stomachs and then...let's stop there.

Could you save $25 a month on groceries? How about $50 or $100? Possibly you could cut your bill by almost 50% if you consider some of the following suggestions:

First you must divide the budget you have into three categories; weekly, bi-weekly and monthly. Once you have the totals fixed, try to find a way to make it work. If you budgeted too tight, only then consider how much more you really need to spend.

Second, identify your WEEKLY needs; milk, bread, fruits. These will be your saving graces when the troops are hungry. You can load up every week and always have a healthy snack available. Think about $15/week.

Third, identify your BI-WEEKLY needs; eggs, cheese, vegetables, meat and cheese for sandwiches etc. These items have a slightly longer shelf life but you will watch how much you use when you know there's still four days until your next purchase. Try $20 every two weeks.

Fourth, get the remainder of your groceries in one place. Use cash to pay (to avoid temptation of over spending) and work out your shopping list ahead of time. You only need to do this once as many of the items (Cereal, meat etc.) will need to be repurchased each time. Other items (sugar, flour etc.) may be substituted every other month. In this example you have $200 left.

Fifth, have a schedule of meals that you can rotate. Cheap, healthy meals like stir fry can be inexpensive as they use less meat than full pieces of chicken or beef for dinner. Plan to have a meat meal offset by a simpler dish like pasta every other night. This way your family will not go through 'feast-and-famine' when they eat like kings the first week and are eating canned chili every night for the last week.

Always determine your meals based on what you really plan to cook. If you have easy weeknight staples, try to find the cheapest method of preparing them, or make do with less pre- packaged affair on other nights when you have more time. Using items like frozen vegetables can make eating cheap also healthy and convenient.

Clearly the $300 suggestion will depend on your family, the age of your children and how much your budget really allows. Whatever your budget, taking the time to draw up a plan and think about your choices will guarantee that you keep more cash in your wallet for other important things.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Buy Fine Wine at Great Prices- A Strategy

Some years ago in a book by Lee Iacocca, who was President of Ford Motor Co. prior to taking over Chrysler Corp. and leading them out of bankruptcy, I read that Mr. Iacocca’s boss, Henry Ford II, drank two bottles of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild every day. Two bottles per day is an awful lot and wouldn‘t be advisable, but I did like the thought of drinking fine wine every day. Today, depending on the vintage, two bottles of Chateau Lafite can cost upwards of $1,000 or even more. If your name is Henry Ford you can no doubt afford this, but most of us have to settle for something a little less prestigious for our nightly dinner pairing.

The point of this article is simple: One can drink good, sometimes even excellent wines, at very reasonable prices.

The easiest way to do this is to wait for your local liquor store to have their periodic sales. For example, about once a month a large liquor store nearby our home, which carries a reasonably good selection of wines from around the world, has a sale for 15% off for those on their “family plan”. So that’s obviously the time to stock up.

The next question is what wines to choose. Unless you already know some good producers and have your favorites, the best guides are the little tags which give wine ratings by wine critics such as Robert Parker of “The Wine Advocate“, the “Wine Spectator“, and “The Wine Enthusiast“, among others. Most good liquor stores make a point to display these tags for the wines that the critics have tasted. As an example of wine ratings, here are the criteria used by Robert Parker, considered by many to be the foremost of wine critics:

“96-100 An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume.

90-95 An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines.
80-89 A barely above average to very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character with no noticeable flaws.
70-79 An average wine with little distinction except that it is soundly made. In essence, a straightforward, innocuous wine.
60-69 A below average wine containing noticeable deficiencies, such as excessive acidity and/or tannin, an absence of flavor or possibly dirty aromas or flavors.
50-59 A wine deemed to be unacceptable.”

To be sure, you will not find fine wines rated at 96 or above on the cheap, 15% off or not! However, it is entirely possible to find wines rated in the upper 80’s (very good) or even low 90’s (low outstanding range) for good prices, often $10 or less on sale! If your wine or liquor store does not display the ratings tags, suggest that they do so, or if necessary find another store that does.

The main advantage of the above strategy is that you are basing your purchases on some opinion. If you simply choose a wine without knowing anything about it, you might still find a pleasurable bottle, but the chances of success are considerably diminished.

Another resource for choosing fine wines is a good local wine specialty shop. In our town we have a shop run by a young man who is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of wine, from vineyard practices to production to tasting, and he is truly passionate about the subject. I have learned to trust his judgment, and when he recommends a wine, I can count on it being a good choice. Of course he needs to charge more than the large volume liquor stores for his wines, but his knowledgeable inputs more than make up for the extra cost. So I routinely make a point to pick up some bottles at this shop in addition to stocking up as described above.

If you can afford to purchase and cellar great fine wines, then by all means go for it. But if your wine budget is a little more down to earth, try the procedure outlined above. I have found the wines recommended by the critics are almost always good, (nothing is foolproof, however, as evidenced by a solidly mediocre Tuscan wine we tried last week), but you’ll be pleased most of the time. Personally I like the choices of Robert Parker as well as those of The Wine Spectator.

Also, I like to learn what I can about the wine, the grapes used, and also production methods used such as oak aging, malolactic fermentation, etc. This is easily accomplished using the LaRousse Encyclopedia of Wine or other reference books. The more you learn about wine the more you will enjoy the experience, and you‘ll also learn more about how fine wines make food taste better. And as the old adage goes, “life is too short to drink bad wine”.

Walt Ballenberger is founder of Beaux Voyages Inc, which provides active tours in France including bike tours, wine tours, and Tour de France bike tours. He has lived and worked in France and speaks the language fluently.
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Planning for those Holiday Meals

It is that time of year again when everyone begins to think and prepare for the large family dinner parties.

If this is the year that you have been chosen to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for the entire family you may be feeling overwhelmed. But, as long as you prepare and have everything ready beforehand, your dinner could be that special wonderful meal and will turn out to be a joyous time to remember for you and your family.

Start planning your Thanksgiving dinner around Halloween. Yes, that is correct about one month in advance. You will need to choose what recipes you plan on serving. You will have plenty of time to scout for new recipes and maybe try a few on your family. You may wish to order either a turkey or ham that has already been prepared or you may prefer a fresh turkey to a frozen one. A fresh turkey does have a better taste than those frozen ones and they are easier to prepare, so go with this option if you can.

Go through your pantry and see what you have in the way of spices and flavorings that you may need to prepare some of your favorite dishes including all of those unique dessert and cookies that everyone loves. If you do not have everything that is in the recipes, write a list and begin to shop. Yes, it is fine to shop for your holiday meal three weeks before it is time to cook. If you wait until the last minute to find out that you are out of brown sugar, you may get to the grocery store and find out they out also sold out. So, plan ahead and have all the ingredients you need ahead of time, except for the items that can perish like the turkey. You can even order your fresh turkey from the grocery store and tell them the day you will pick it up. If you buy frozen, it will need to thaw in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours before roasting.

About two weeks before Thanksgiving, check to see that you have your china ready and any other eating utensils and serving trays, cleaned and ready for use. At this time you can also decorate your home with all the colorful and unique holiday decorations. This is also the best time to get out the card table or add a leaf to your dining room table. You do not want to wait until Thanksgiving Day to prepare your home for your family. If you need to, you can even rearrange your furniture to accommodate the guests.

A couple of days before the dinner party, you can begin to prepare things like the vegetable tray, the cheese balls, or other appetizers that will be able to last a couple of days. The day before Thanksgiving, you can bake all of your pies, cakes, cookies, and other yummy treats. Now, on the big day you can roast your turkey or bake your ham. And begin to set things out such as appetizers.

Now, all you have left to do is wait for your family to arrive and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner.

Teresa Ruddock Is editor of a number of websites including http://www.247cookware.com and http://www.greenteahealth.info.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

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