Best Christmas Cookies

Actually, the best Christmas cookies I have ever came across were homemade Christmas cookies.  Many years ago, when I was growing up, my oldest brother’s wife’s mother made homemade Christmas cookies.  She was an excellent baker, and made delicious desserts.  Every year, she would make these Christmas cookies for her family. 

Margaret’s homemade Christmas cookies were delicious and very creatively decorated.  She would make the dough.  Then, she would have various cookie cutters with various Christmas time designs, such as Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, reindeer, Christmas trees, ornaments, candy canes, and many other shapes. 

Margaret would then roll out her dough with a rolling pin to the thickness desired.  Then, she would press the cookie cutters into the dough.  Neat looking Christmas cookie shapes would appear. 

Next, she would put her Christmas shaped cookies into the oven, and let them bake at 350 degrees until they were a golden brown color.  She would then take the baked cookies out of the oven, and let them cool.

When the cookies were cool enough, Margaret would put icing onto the cookies.  Each cookie would have the various colors of icing needed on it for whatever cookie design it was.  The various colors of icing would be put in the places needed for that special Christmas design.   That way, candy canes cookies had red and white icing on them, and in the proper places.  Santa Claus cookies had red icing, white icing, and even blue icing for the color of his eyes.   All of the cookies looked exactly like the Christmas design that they were – Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, snowman, ornaments, candy canes, reindeer, and many more.  She even had a Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer designed Christmas cookie.   

Then, Margaret would let the cookies sit for a while, until they were ready to be put into a wrapper.  She used Seran Wrap to wrap her cookies.  Each of her Christmas cookies would be wrapped in this clear wrapping, and fitted snugly around each cookie, individually. 

She would then attach stretchy white string to each of the Christmas cookies.  This stretchy white string would be at the top of each cookie, and in a loop.  With this loop of string, you could hang each Christmas cookie onto your Christmas tree.  These cookies would stay on the tree, remain delicious, and be ready to unwrap and eat on Christmas day (if you could wait that long). 

Margaret’s Christmas cookies were the best Christmas cookies if you ask me.  I haven’t came across any that were any better.  They were delicious.  They were cutely decorated for Christmas.  These cookies hung beautifully on Christmas cookies.  They tasted very good.  

Margaret has passed on now.   She is probably making Christmas cookies in heaven for the heavenly.   These are the best Christmas cookies ever – if you ask me.    

All you can Eat Buffet Early Bird Special Pre Theatre Discount Voucher Coupons Save Money

When finances are tight, cutting back on non-essential expenditure, such as eating out, is one of the first things that people do to save money. But eliminating all the pleasures from your daily life can actually have an adverse effect on your emotional well being and make you feel donwright miserable, so it’s important to retain some ‘treats’. With this in mind, here are a number of ways that you can save money at restaurants, meaning that you can still enjoy a meal out with family and friends without busting your budget.

Coupons and Vouchers

Many restaurants offer coupons or vouchers that will give you discounts of your meal. Check your local newspaper regularly for cut out coupons and vouchers. It’s not uncommon these days to find excellent offers, including coupons that will entitle the bearer to a free main course for every full price one purchased or discounts of up to 40% on the total cost of your bill (although this generally does not include drinks). The Internet is also a great place to find deals. By signing up to your favourite restaurants’ websites you will be emailed details of their latest offers. Then all you have to do is print out the coupon and present it with your bill.

Early Bird Specials

Also known as ‘pre-theatre’ specials in the UK, these are perfect if you like to eat early. These deals are offered outside of peak dining hours, usually between the hours of 5 and 7pm. You may have the choice of the full menu, or a limited selection of dishes, at a reduced price. Typically, diners taking advantage of early bird specials have to vacate their table by a specific time.

All you can eat

All you can eat buffets tend to be favoured by restaurant chains, rather than independent establishments. The concept is simple: you pay a set price and you eat all you can in a single meal. Pizza and Chinese are two cuisines that have embraced the all you can eat concept.

Daily Special

Many eateries today offer a ‘Daily Special’ whereby they will promote a specific dish on a given day, at a reduced cost. Of course this does limit your options somewhat, as to get a reduced meal you have to want to eat what’s on offer that day, but as these offers tend to be on the more expensive menu items, it can be a good way to try a dish that you perhaps wouldn’t normally choose because of the cost.

Set Menus

Set menu’s are a great way to get two, or even three, courses for a specific amount of money. You will generally be presented with two or three choices for each course, making it a good deal if you are feeling particularly hungry. If you are not a big eater a set-menu may not be the best option, however, as it may work out less expensive to just order a main course rather than paying for three courses that you are not going to eat.

So, it is perfectly possible to be able to eat out without paying full price for a meal, whatever your preference and budget. As with everything, however, make sure you do your research beforehand to make sure that you really are getting a good deal.

Add your own Touches to Bottled Sauce

Using a jar of spaghetti sauce to create a great meal saves a lot of time and money. While it would be great to be able to make a homemade sauce every time, it isn’t always possible. With the high quality and variety of sauces on the market however, it doesn’t take very much touch up a bottled sauce. When it’s done right, no one will even know that you didn’t do all the work yourself.

Add meat

You can take a basic jar of marinara sauce and add some meat to make it a great meal. Italian sausage can be sauteed and thrown into the sauce with some jarred roasted peppers.  This sauce is perfect to throw into the slow cooker in the morning when you leave for work and you will come home to a pot filled with sausage and peppers which can be served in a hoagie roll or over pasta. The only real work involved in this meal is sauteing the Italian sausage.  If you want to use pasta, you can even stick it right in the slow cooker with everything else and have a complete meal in a pot.  

If you prefer, you can add a pound of cooked ground beef, a bag of frozen meatball or sauteed chicken. Once the sauce has cooked for several hours with the other ingredients, no one is going to know that you used jar sauce.

Other additions

If you didn’t get your meal started and you are now home and need to come up with a homemade tasting meal using you jar sauce and you only have a few minutes, there are still some great things that you can do.

Cream

Take a jar of basic sauce,  add a good splash of heavy cream or half and half. This will turn the bright red sauce a pretty pinkish color. If you want a protein, chicken is a good choice with this sauce. Grab a jar of roasted red peppers and slice the peppers thinly and add to the sauce. Hopefully you have a jar of artichoke hearts on hand, chop the hearts into bite size pieces and add to the sauce. Dice a small one and add to olive oil and chopped garlic in a saute pan and saute with the chunks of chicken. Meanwhile, boil up a pound of pasta.  Add all the ingredients together and cook for about 15 minutes.

Parmesan

Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese over the top and serve with crusty Italian bread.

Just because you need to use a jar of spaghetti sauce it doesn’t mean that your meal can’t taste homemade. With a few of your own touches you can turn the pedestrian into something really special.

Benefits of Switching to Quorn Products


The Quorn range of products is getting bigger. Consumer demand for Quorn has dictated that the manufacturers produce more choice within their range. So what are the benefits to switching to Quorn products? These are many, since not only do they offer a viable and tasty alternative to meat for vegetarians, but they offer very good value and choice. The advantages don’t stop there. Looking at the benefits, these are broader than one may at first imagine.

*Price.

*Saving of energy.

*Taste.

*Health aspects.

*Vegetarian aspects.

*Choice and variety.

*Quickness of meal preparation.

Price.

When compared with the price of regular meat, quorn makes meals much cheaper to prepare. A packet of quorn chicken pieces for example can make up to four regular meals, meaning that it certainly is a cost effective alternative. The one packet costs almost the same as one chicken breast and that certainly cannot be sneezed at. Similarly, the beef pieces offer the same value for money and the Sunday roast can easily be replaced with their chicken roast rolls.

Saving of energy.

Meat takes a lot longer to cook and consumes more energy. To cook a meal made with quorn is extremely quick without risk, although undercook meat, and you undermine health risks.

Taste.

The taste of quorn is comparable with real meat. The chicken pieces taste like chicken. Similarly the range provided now includes mushroom pies, toad in the hole, beef and chicken pieces, though has been expanded to include spiced steaks and escalopes.

Health aspects.

Quorn is less calorific than meat, and will certainly cut down on the fat consumed. This means great news for meat lovers who don’t want to risk having too much fat.

Vegetarian aspects.

Compared with other products such as SosMix and BurgerMix, the taste is better. The range supplied by quorn means that vegetarian food no longer has to be boring and bland, and that the range of meals made is only limited by the imagination of the cook.

Choice and variety.

With the new range of Quorn products, this gives a consumer much choice. Unfortunately, Quorn is not available in every country, though it offers a great choice of types, meaning that instead of being stuck with boring alternatives, the chef can produce quality meals with a lot of taste, sufficient to keep the enthusiast fed with different types of food. The taste factor has also be dealt with by the addition of spices in many of the dishes supplied.

Quickness of meal preparation.

Unlike traditional meat, quorn takes minutes to defrost and can be cooked straight away. This means that the average meal can be produced in the time it takes to prepare the vegetables. Unlike traditional meat dishes, the time involved is considerably cut down, making ease of preparation one of the best aspects of the product.

If you haven’t tried quorn, it’s a worthy example of what can be done to make vegetarian meat substitutes tastier. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and make this a viable product for those thinking of their health, wealth and energy consumption.

Butter Replacements for Baking

There are many reasons to replace butter in baking, and its not just to reduce fat grams. Butter is loaded with cholesterol, and additionally, many people are concerned about hormones in their dairy products, but buying organic butter can be a serious financial investment. In order to decide how you will replace butter in your recipe, you need to understand the purpose of butter in your baked goods.

In cookies and cakes, butter is typically creamed with sugar to add air to the recipe. This air adds structure to the recipe and also helps prevent all of the moisture from being lost in the baking process. As the flour is mixed in, the fat in butter coats many of the grains and helps to prevent gluten from developing as you mix the batter. Gluten is the substance in flour that makes breads chewy, and too much gluten development in your recipe makes baked goods tough. Pie crusts and crumble toppings use butter to promote a flaky, crisp texture by literally frying the flour and also creating little spaces in the layers as the butter melts.

Generally you can use shortening as a one-to-one replacement for butter, but it adds unhealthy transfat. Another option would be to use a transfat-free, but still full fat margarine, like Earth Balance or Canoleo. However, these options are still all high in fat.

Picking a lower fat or healthier option to replace butter in your recipe should depend on the purpose of butter in your baked good. For example, crumble toppings need a certain amount of fat to “crisp” up. Without fat, crumble topping turns into an unappetizing granola. Using a reduced fat margarine will work as a one-to-one replacement in this case. This should allow you to cut the fat in your crumble by 1/3 or 1/2.

Most cookie recipes that involve creaming butter and sugar need some amount of fat to retain their original texture. All-natural, no-sugar-added peanut butter is a good option for replacing butter in chocolate chip cookies, but will change the flavor. Using 1/2 butter or margarine and then adding soymilk to get the right consistency after adding the other wet ingredients works well, but sometimes can make cookies a little chewier than usual.
Oil can replace butter as well, but expect your cookies not to rise as well, and they may cook faster than usual, creating crispy edges.

Muffin and cake recipes are much easier to replace butter in. The more liquid in a recipe, the less vital butter is to the recipe. You might want to try a smaller batch of the recipe the first time you use a substitute. I’ve generally found that the following replacements work really well, particularly if you measure them just shy of the 1-for-1 replacement and add a teaspoon of oil. Also, don’t over mix your recipe. The more you stir while adding the dry ingredients, the greater potential for over development of the gluten in the flour.

Good Fat Replacements For Baking:
* unsweetened applesauce – adds no flavor, but can make your baked goods chewier
* pureed prunes – prunes have a distinctive flavor, so unless you love the taste of prunes, only use them in recipes that have a lot of strong flavor, like chocolate or spice cake.
* fat-free yogurt (regular, greek, or soy) – adds protein to your recipe and can sometimes make recipes a little too moist.
* you can also mix these together to create a custom butter replacement

There are many ways to replace the butter in your recipes, but the most important thing is to experiment and decide the best combinations of butter replacers for your favorite recipe!

Business dining etiquette

Of all the different types of dining situations, business dining, and the proper etiquette for it, are perhaps the most difficult to maneuver. This is because it depends very much on the relationship between the people who are dining together.

The main aspect of business dining etiquette that makes it so difficult to navigate is the fact that there is almost always a hierarchical nature to it. Bosses dine with underlings, salespeople dine with prospective clients, prospective hires dine with prospective hirers, and on and on. It’s this lopsided power structure that makes knowing how to behave and what to say more difficult than other types of dining experiences.

General rules

But, regardless of context, there are some general rules of etiquette that should be followed in any business lunch.

The first is that you should be polite to the point of being extreme. This is especially true if you don’t know the person you are eating with. Say please and thank you, and this includes when you speak with the wait staff. Don’t sit down first unless you are the one that did the inviting, and don’t sit down before any women that are in the group. If you’re paying for the other person’s meal, order first, if not, order second. If you are dining with someone of the opposite sex, it’s polite to compliment them on how they look if they’ve obviously dressed for the occasion.

Unwritten rules

The next thing is to follow certain unwritten rules, such as putting your napkin in your lap, whether it’s cloth or not. Also, don’t eat with your elbows on the table, and set your knife down between cutting bites to eat. Don’t dominate the conversation, but do contribute, and be sure to wipe any food that gets on your mouth, lips or face. And never, ever talk with food in your mouth.

If you were the one doing the inviting, it’s your job to lead the conversation; on the other hand if you were the one that was invited, it’s your job to dole out the information the inviter is looking for, and to do so without the other having to work on you to get it out.

As for how to dress for a business meal, it depends very heavily on the type of business you’re in, the event, whether you’re coming from work, and what you are after besides the food. For the most part, dinner etiquette requires that you wear a suit if you are meeting someone else. For lunch, you would wear what you normally wear to work, unless it’s a special appointment, in which case you would likely wear a suit.

Broccoli Touted as Fountain of Youth

So we know veggies are good for us, because they contain vitamins and other factors that keep us healthy and on the go.  But could it be that a vegetable can do more than just keep us healthy?  Aging is inevitable, but a recent study suggests that broccoli can actually slow down the aging process.

Frequently, when the healing properties and benefits of broccoli are discussed, people solely focus on sulforaphane, which increases cell detoxification. This is one of the amazing properties of broccoli, but unfortunately, the other nutrients that come from broccoli are too often overlooked. So, let’s talk about all the other properties that benefit our body – especially the anti-aging factor.

Supposedly, there is a compound found in broccoli that’s created when it’s digested. This compound goes by the name of Diindolylmethane (DIM), and has been found to increase the molecular pathways and structures that can actually slow down the aging process, and make your life last longer. Broccoli also contains key antioxidants that prevent cell damage – which contribute to aging – and in turn prevent and slow aging. Another way that broccoli can slow the aging process, is by increasing metabolism. When broccoli is consumed, energy generators in cells called mitochondria – which become less efficient with age – had a more improved performance. 

Diindolylmethane has also been found to have several biologic attributes, which shouldn’t be ignored. Apparently, several forms of cancer, and even Alzheimer’s could possibly be avoided, and even cured by this compound found in broccoli. The National Cancer Institute has started several studies to test the possibilities with cancer and Diindolylmethane. Women showed a 40% decrease in the risk of developing breast cancer, and men showed a 52% decrease in the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Broccoli has also shown to boost the immune system, thus making you less likely to become sick. This is because it’s your immune system’s job to fight off viruses and other bacteria, so if your immune system is strong, it will be able to kill unwanted viruses. Also, broccoli has some essential vitamins, and other components that are great – and in some cases necessary – for our bodies and our health, like lowering our cholesterol, detoxification, antioxidants, and anti-inflammation. Broccoli can also provide digestive support and cardiovascular support. Research that involves broccoli improving the risks associated with cardiovascular disease and heart attacks is still in the early stages, but scientists believe that Sulforaphane might actually be able to improve (or even reverse) the damage to the blood vessel linings that high blood sugar problems can cause. 

With all that said, broccoli is among the super foods category, and yes, can also promote a long, healthy life and does slow down the aging process. But not only does broccoli improve aging – it has so many other benefits that shouldn’t be ignored, and could definitely improve anyone’s health!

British Pub Food

While hungry regulars in the Rovers Return in ‘Coronation Street’ can only choose between Betty Turpin’s famous hotpot or a packet of crisps, most pubs these days  serve a varied menu. It’s a case of having to, really, as in the current economic climate, few pubs can survive on beer sales alone – particularly since the smoking ban came into force in 2007.

Since the introduction of extended opening hours, some pubs, especially chains like Wetherspoons, now offer breakfasts, either at set times or as an ‘all day’ menu choice.  And there is usually a good choice of hot drinks, as well as cakes, biscuits and muffins. In effect, the pub is competing with the local cafe for the breakfast trade these days.

Wetherspoons has brought about something of a revolution in pub food in the United Kingdom. There are ‘theme’ nights, such as Curry Night, Steak Night or the Sunday Roast Club, where you can order a meal and a drink for a really special price, and various meal deals throughout the day. Wetherspoons always keep the kitchen open till quite late – about 10.00pm – and other pubs are having to come in line, or lose business. I can remember, several years ago, trying – and failing – to get a pub meal at 8.00pm on a midweek night. Those days are gone now, thank goodness.

So what sort of pub food can you expect to find these days in the British boozer? You may be surprised at the quality and variety of the food on offer. One pub near my son’s home in Shropshire offers venison, kangaroo steaks and ostrich steaks to the more discerning pub diner. It comes at a price, of course, but that price is considerably lower than you would expect to pay for the same meal in a restaurant.

Most pubs offer a staple menu of meals such as fish and chips, pies, curry, chilli, cottage pie, lasagne, steaks, mixed grill, and ham egg and chips, with various ‘specials’ to ring the changes. Pub food tends to come with chips as a rule, although in these health conscious days you can probably ask for a jacket potato or a salad instead of chips, without getting funny looks from the bar staff.

As pubs become more family friendly in the effort to attract customers, you’ll often find a children’s menu on offer as well, along with starters and desserts for those who want to really push the boat out without sinking under the weight of the bill. In essence, it’s possible to eat a restaurant meal in your local. You won’t get silver service and a table for two in a secluded corner, but you will get good food at a reasonable price.

In short, British pub food has moved on considerably since the days when ‘something to eat with your pint’  meant a packet of crisps or a stale sausage roll. Enjoy!

Brisket is not just about corned beef

Brisket is one of the toughest and most flavorful cuts of beef. It lends itself well to corning, which we all know, and goes great with cabbage. In order to do a beef brisket in the oven it has be cooked slowly to allow the connective tissues in the meat to break down. This cut should have plenty of fat to baste the roast as it is cooking.

4 pounds of brisket
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion sliced thin
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoon salt
2 cups beef stock
2 cloves of garlic whole
5 red potatoes cut into 4 pieces
4 large carrots cut in 4 pieces each
2 small purple turnips cut into chunks
2 parsnips cut in chunks
1 sweet potato cut in pieces

Place the roasting pan on the burner at medium heat. Add the olive oil and meat and brown the brisket on both sides. Add the next five ingredients into the pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place in a 325 degree oven for 2 hours.

Raise the temperature of the oven to 400 degrees, place the vegetables in the pan and replace the aluminum foil back on tight. Cook for an additional half hour and then remove the foil. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the meat rest for five minutes.

Take the brisket out and slice at an angle. Put the meat on a large platter and arrange the vegetables around the meat. Pour any juice that is left over top and serve.

With long slow cooking the beef brisket should be literally falling apart. This is a meal that is perfect for a fall or winter dinner with it long cooked flavor and all the nutrients supplied by the vegetables. It is as comforting as it is delicious.

Best Coffee to Serve at a Party

Coffee lovers can unite, during a good party, over aromatic blends and unique flavor combinations. Good food and even better coffees can turn even the most dull party into a bonanza. This might sound a little far-fetched, however most coffee drinkers tend to be more sociable when they have a cup of coffee in hand. 

Specialty coffee grounds

There are flavored coffees available for purchase at most grocery stores and coffee shops. You do not need to do anything special to these coffees, just brew and serve.

Kona

This full bodied coffee is grown in Hawaii and is prized for its sweet and slightly fruity notes. Kona coffee can be rather expensive, however some people feel it is well worth the price. When shopping for Kona coffee, be sure to check the label. Many companies will claim to be Kona, but in reality are only a Kona blend. 

French vanilla

This flavor of ground coffee really needs no introduction. Most coffee drinkers are well aware of this creamy flavor, even if they do not drink it themselves. Some people like French vanilla and drink it all the time, and some reserve it for holidays and special occasions. 

Raspberry Danish

This flavor is offered by the Gevalia Cafe company. This light roast coffee used to only be available for purchase during the summer, but it is now available year round. 

Irish cream

This is a beloved favorite of many coffee drinkers. This is not a reference to the famed “Irish Coffee,” but rather the flavored coffee grounds. This is indeed a party coffee with its rich flavor and wonderful aroma.

Create your own flavors

You can create your own party coffees easily by adding flavor agents to the grounds before brewing. By adding things like spices and dried fruit, you can come up with unique flavored coffees that are sure to be a hit at your next get together. The really fun thing about making your own flavors is that you can give your guests a one of a kind coffee experience. The other cool part is you can name your special brews. 

One suggestion is to come up with your own special coffees for holidays, birthdays and any other events during the year when you will be serving coffee. Who knows, your specialty coffees could become something people look forward to each month/year.

Spices

The trick to using ground spices is to experiment before the party. Always keep in mind that a little goes a long way. Some examples of spices you can try include: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and for a holiday treat you could add a little pumpkin pie spice. A good starting point is to add a 1/8 teaspoon of the desired spice, directly to the grounds before brewing. You can adjust the amounts to your liking. 

Hot cocoa mix

This addition to your grounds can result in a semi-sweet chocolaty delight. There are a couple of ways you can make this coffee. The first is to add equal amounts of hot cocoa mix and coffee grounds and then brew. The second is to simply add a little bit of the cocoa mix to your normal amount of grounds. This coffee is a nice warm treat on a cold winter’s day.  

Stir in ideas

These additives can go into the pot after brewing, or into a personal mug. Some people are really fond of experimenting with different flavor combinations, so be sure to have plenty on hand.

Extracts

These baking and cooking essentials can be added to a pot of brewed coffee. As with the spices, a little (usually a teaspoon) will do just fine. You do want to be careful not to use too much of an extract. You don’t want the flavor to be overwhelming to your guests. 

As you can see, there are many ways to create a party coffee, all it takes is an adventurous spirit! Please remember to experiment with flavor combinations before your scheduled party, this way you have time to perfect the desired flavor. 

Also, don’t forget the little extras like sprinkles, flavored stir sticks and colorful mugs. These little extras can make your party coffee even more fun.