Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

You are currently browsing the resources category.

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

by Danica Waters / butternut squash image courtesy of www.cookinglight.com

 

This, dear readers,  is a recipe for Butternut Squash soup excellence.  Clipped from an issue of the Rocky Mountain News years ago, this recipe qualifies as one of my personal all-time favorites for the following reasons:

 

It is definitely “comforting”, which makes it a great bet for weekend soup-and-sandwich fare (think grilled Havarti cheese with caramelized onions on French  – or better yet, homemade – bread);

 

It is also extremely sophisticated, which makes it an outstanding choice for a formal, multiple-course meal;

 

But the best part of all is that this is not your ordinary comforting cream soup.  It is far more exciting; the addition of cayenne pepper creates a sensory surprise and leaves a delicious tingle on your tongue; go sparingly at first and add to suit your preference.

 

Enjoy!

 

Creamy Squash Soup

(as seen in the Rocky Mountain News)

 

1/3 C diced white onion (don’t substitute – the white onion is more delicate than its yellow cousins!)

3 Tbsp dry white wine

1/8 tsp marjoram

2 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks*

4 C rich chicken stock

1-1/2 C heavy cream or half and half

4 Tbsp butter, divided

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

Garnish:  sour cream, freshly snipped chives or fresh rosemary sprig; toasted pumpkin seeds or toasted chopped walnuts

 

Saute the onion in one tablespoon of the butter until soft and transparent.  Add the wine, marjoram, squash and stock and bring to a boil over high heat.

 

Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes or so, or until the squash is very tender.

 

Carefully puree the mixture in a blender, a little at a time.  Pour it back into the pan over medium heat and add cream and butter.  Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.  Heat the soup, stirring constantly, until heated through (do not allow to boil).  Taste and add more seasonings, if desired.  If the soup is too thick, thin it with more stock or cream.

 

Keep the soup warm over low heat or over a double-boiler.  Be careful not to scorch it.  Serve the soup in mugs or wide, flat bowls with your choice of garnishes.

 

Serves 4

 

*Note from author:  Figuring out how to cut and peel a butternut squash safely and efficiently is a bit of a challenge due to their hard, thick skins.  Here’s some tips:

 

1)  Use a large, very sharp Chef’s knife or Santoku.

2)  Use a thick cutting board with a non-skid bottom.  Wood is great!

3)  Turn the squash on its side, and, cutting from the widest end first, cut the squash into rings approximately 1-1/2” thick.

4)  Remove the seeds and fibers from the inside of the rings and discard.

5)  Cut the rings into quarters.

6)  Using a paring knife, peel the hard skins off the squash and discard.

7)  Cut the squash into smaller pieces if desired.

 

Voila!  You have conquered a butternut squash!  (And you get to keep your fingers!)

Posted November 17th, 2011.

Add a comment

Cranberry Nut Bread

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

 

I will never forget the day I first tried my hand at making cranberry bread.  I’d discovered this fantastic heirloom recipe in a fall issue of Taste of Home Magazine, and I was particularly excited because I happened to be experiencing one of those rare, breathtaking moments when the house was gleaming, the laundry was done, the kids were clean and contentedly immersed in their paper dolls upstairs, and the groceries were in-house – all before it started to snow.

I put some CD’s on shuffle, pulled out all the ingredients, and prepared for a fun afternoon of baking.  All was going swimmingly well until I actually pondered the recipe.

 

It said to put the fresh cranberries with the sugar and orange peel in a pot, and bring it to a boil.

 

No water.

 

No butter.

 

Just cranberries, orange peel, and sugar.

 

Something had to be wrong.

 

Call me crazy, but fresh cranberries look like little red leather balls.  They don’t squirt when you pinch them.  Having never worked with fresh cranberries before, I cut one open just to see if I was missing something.

 

Nope.

 

It was still the equivalent of a little red leather ball.

 

I’ll admit I am a person who tends to over-think things.  I also will reluctantly admit to having a few trust issues, which I personally prefer to label “Critical Thinking”. And my Critical Thinking Cap was spinning with visions of little red leather balls coated in a goopy sugar-brittle mess that would take weeks to clean.  Heaven knows there was nothing to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan!

 

I called my mom to see if she had any insight into the world of cranberries, certain that the recipe was missing a step or some ingredients or something.  Mom told me I had trust issues, and I should just do what the recipe said to do.

 

I told her I would enlist her assistance in cleaning up the mess if it didn’t work.

 

She said to bring her a loaf when it did.

 

It did.

The insides of those little red leather balls melted like butter once I turned on the heat; the internal pressure made the skins “pop”, and my terror visions of singed sugar-brittle turned into a ruby-colored mash that made the whole house smell like Christmas.  I was ecstatic.

 

So now we know.  And I have pictures to prove it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This recipe is an annual favorite.   It is a rich, moist, dark bread with the perfect balance of sweet-tart and savory, and it is equally delicious with a smear of cream cheese on top as it is served all by itself.  Best of all, it takes mere minutes to make, and it freezes ahead like a charm.

 

Enjoy!

 

Cranberry Nut Bread

(Taste of Home Magazine, December/January 1995 issue)

 

2-1/2 C halved fresh or frozen cranberries, divided (note:  over the years, I’ve taken to leaving my cranberries whole – it gives a chunkier, jewel-studded texture to the bread)

2/3 C sugar

2 tsp grated orange peel

2-1/4 C all-purpose flour

¾ C light brown sugar

1 Tbsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¾ C sour cream

¼ C butter or margarine, melted

1 C chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans preferred)

 

In a saucepan, combine 1-1/2 cups cranberries, sugar, and orange peel.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the cranberries are soft.  Remove from the heat; stir in the remaining berries and set aside.

In a bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves.  Combine eggs, sour cream and melted butter; stir into dry ingredients until blended.  Fold in cranberries and pecans.  Pour into two greased 8-1/2 in x 4-1/2 in x 2-1/2 in loaf pans (mini loaf pans and muffin tins work, too – just adjust your baking time accordingly!).

Bake at 350 degrees F for 55-60 minutes or until the bread tests done.

 

Photo Credits:

Cranberry photo courtesy www.vegetarian-nutrition.info via Google images

All other graphics by the Allspice Chronicles

 

Posted November 16th, 2011.

Add a comment

Lentil Soup, Chateau Vegas

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

This is one of my all-time favorite winter soups, the recipe for which hailed from the old Chateau Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada.  This is going to sound weird, but this soup tastes glamorous.  And powerful, too, in a Sinatra sort of way.   Try it – you’ll see what I mean.  It is hearty, with a delicious tang and terrific texture.  It’s also incredibly easy to make, which comes in very handy when you have a million holiday-related things to do on top of the million other normal everyday things you have to do.

 

While the original recipe calls for the addition of bacon and frankfurters.  I’ve found that substituting a bit of diced turkey ham and a few drops of liquid smoke flavoring substitutes for the bacon just fine.  With respect to the frankfurters, I use Foster Farms turkey franks.  Rated #1 in taste tests for best flavor and best overall texture (no tough skins – could easily double as a regular hot dog), Foster Farms guarantees no added hormones or steroids. (source: http://www.seattlepi.com)

 

Serve it with a thick slice of Chipotle Cornbread (recipe to follow tomorrow!) and a crisp salad.  It’ll warm you up…

 

Enjoy!

Lentil Soup

(Chateau Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada; as seen in Bon Appetit’s Favorite Restaurant Recipes)

 

Serves 6

 

2 slices bacon, finely chopped

1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil (optional)

1 celery stalk, diced

1 carrot, diced

¼ medium onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 quarts water (8 cups)

1 pound lentils (brown lentils preferred for texture)

¼ C diced canned tomatoes

1 bay leaf

 

6 frankfurters, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp steak sauce

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp Kosher salt, or to taste

 

Fry bacon (or diced turkey ham) in Dutch oven until almost crisp, adding oil if necessary.  Add celery, carrot, onion, and garlic, and sauté until onion is translucent, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir in water, lentils, tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.

 

Stir in remaining ingredients and continue cooking until frankfurter slices are heated, about 10 minutes.

 

Photo Credits:

Bowl of lentil soup courtesy of  www. chicgalleria.com

Raw lentils image courtesy of www.slowcarbfoodie.com

Foster Farms Turkey Franks image courtesy of www.fosterfarms.com


 

Posted November 10th, 2011.

Add a comment

Alabama Yams With Oranges

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of www.unwinnable.com

Traditionally, any yam served in my childhood home during the month of November was baked, mashed with butter, cream, a wee bit of salt and brown sugar, and covered with mounds of fluffy marshmallows that were subsequently broiled until nearly black and gooey on top.  Come to think of it, the only time we actually ate yams back then was during the month of November.

Upon having children of my own and deciding early on there was no way I was going to feed my babies processed baby nasty-food,  I did some research into the nutritional merits of these terrific tubers.  It seems they have a far lower glycemic index than regular potatoes.  They also happen to be packed with potassium, manganese, vitamin C and vitamin B3 while registering low on the sodium counter.  Best of all, kids actually like to eat them with little or no negotiation, marshmallows or no marshmallows.   I started serving them regularly to the whole family as a tasty side that could double as homemade baby food.  Two birds with one stone?  That’s how I roll!  Baked in their skins with a dash of butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, or cut up and oven-roasted, yams are delicious and appear on my household menus at least once a week.

However tasty the good old fashioned yam might happen to be all by itself, the holidays call for something a bit more elegant, more celebratory.  This is it.  From the Heritage of Southern Cooking, author (and southern cooking guru) Camille Glenn has this to say:

 

” This is the Deep South way with yams or sweet potatoes.  It seems to always show up with the Thanksgiving turkey, but it is just as compatible with a good ham or chicken.  Do not peel either the potatoes or the orange.  If you don’t have a luscious rich sauce, you have been too cautious with the butter.”

 

Amen.  Be sure to slice the oranges as thin as possible – if you have a mandoline slicer, use it, but if not, just be sure to cut the slices super-thin.  Use real butter, and for heaven’s sake, listen to Ms. Glenn!  Don’t be shy!  It’s the holidays, after all.  This dish is excellent served with Green Beans Sauteed With Olive Oil; the citrus overtones keep the palate fresh and thoroughly entertained.

Enjoy!

 

Alabama Yams With Oranges

(Heritage of Southern Cooking, by Camille Glenn)

6 yams or sweet potatoes, fully cooked and cooled (I bake mine for approximately 30 minutes at 400 degrees – the yam shouldn’t be too mushy, but it should be cooked to the point that it can be easily sliced)

3 navel oranges, thinly sliced

1/2 to 3/4 C (1 to –1/2 sticks) butter

3/4 C sugar

1 C fresh orange juice

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Peel and slice the cooked sweet potatoes very thin and place one layer in a shallow buttered baking dish.  Top with a layer of orange slices.  Dot generously with butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Continue layering.  You should have 3 layers, ending with a layer of potatoes, butter, and topping it off with sugar.

Mix the orange juice with the lemon juice and pour it over the potatoes.

Bake until a pleasant syrup has formed and the top is tinged with brown.

Serves 6 – 8

 

 

Posted November 9th, 2011.

Add a comment

Jam-Filled Walnut Scones

by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of wowhowsnacktastic.wordpress.com

While on the subject of tea and scones, this is an awesome little recipe you’ll want to have in your teatime repertoire.  These scones are easy to make and fill the house with a delightful smell; they’re just the thing for those stay-in-your-jammies, wintery weekend mornings when you want to treat the family (and yourself!) to something special.

 

They look as divine as they taste; the little wedges with their jewel-toned centers add visual richness and texture to serving platters at teatime.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Jam Filled Walnut Scones

(Simply Scones)

 

2 c all-purpose flour

½ C finely chopped walnuts

¼ C granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled

2/3 C buttermilk (or 2/3 C milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ C strawberry or other preserves

 

Preheat oven to 400? F.  Lightly butter a baking sheet.

 

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, walnuts sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture.  With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla and stir to combine.

 

With lightly floured hands, divide the dough into two equal-sized pieces and put each portion into a 5-inch circle on a lightly floured cutting board.  Cut each circle into 6 wedges.  Transfer the 12 pieces to the prepared baking sheet.  Dip the point of a sharp knife in flour and make a slit in the top of each scone, dipping the knife in flour as needed.  Carefully spoon 1 teaspoon of strawberry preserves into the sit in the top of each scone.  Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.

 

Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes.  Using a spatula, transfer the scones to the wire rack to cool.  Serve warm, or cool completely and store in a single layer in an airtight container.  These scones freeze well.

 

Makes 12 scones.

Posted November 4th, 2011.

Add a comment

How To Make A Perfect Cup Of Tea

by Danica Waters /photo credits at bottom of post


Having published the recipe for what I think are the Best Traditional Scones In The World, it’s high time to get into how to make the perfect cup of tea to accompany them. Take a look:

 

 

There’s a lot of speculation as to whether it’s best to add milk to the cup before or after the tea is poured.  According to Margot Cooper, a tea specialist at London’s Fortnum & Mason, milk was originally added to the cup before pouring the tea to keep the teacups from breaking.  However, as finer materials were introduced, such as bone china, the English took to pouring the milk after the tea was served to demonstrate that they were serving on china of the finest quality.  She also advised that the advantage to adding milk afterwards is that you have the ability to gauge the strength of your tea prior to diluting it with milk.  While this train of thought made certain sense, it went against everything I’d ever been taught by my mother-in-law about making tea, so I decided to look into it a bit further.

 

It appears that my mother-in-law was right; scientists at the Royal Society of Chemists in England had something else to say about the “milk matter “entirely.  It seems that at high temperatures, milk proteins unfold and clump together in a process called “denaturation”.  Essentially, adding a thin stream of cold milk to a cup of hot tea causes your milk to go “bad”.  The RSC advises that to maintain the freshest flavor possible, “It is better to have the chilled milk massed at the bottom of the cup, awaiting the stream of hot tea.  This allows the milk to cool the tea, rather than the tea ruinously raise the temperature of the milk.”  (source:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/3016342.stm)

 

So now we know.

 

And according to my mother-in-law, there’s one more essential step to making the perfect pot of tea:   Pour a bit off the top.  That’s right.  Before your serve anyone, pour a little tea off the top of the pot down the sink.  It is said to improve the flavor by removing any bitterness.  While I haven’t been able to find any scientific information to support this, I’m not going to question it.  Her tea is perfect every time.

 

To Loose-Leaf or Bag It:

Regarding whether or not it’s best to use tea bags or loose-leaf tea, either will work.  However,  loose leaf tea is allowed to freely circulate in the water, allowing for maximum oil extraction and renders a richer, more flavorful cup of tea.  When using loose-leaf tea, figure on using one teaspoon per cup, plus one teaspoon for the pot, if desired.

 

Steeping Times and Temperatures:

Courtesy of www.seattleteacup.com, following is a handy reference chart for temperature and steeping times for different types of tea:

Tea type Water Temperature Steeping Time
White tea 160° 1.5 to 2 minutes
Green tea 170° 2 minutes
Oolong tea (greener) 170° 2-3 minutes
Oolong tea (darker) 190-212° 2-4 minutes
Black tea 212°(rolling boil) 3 minutes
Herbal tea 212°(rolling boil) 3-5 minutes

 

What to do with all those loose tea leaves?

Read them, of course!  Do you see birds?  Triangles?  Courtesy of www.teausa.com, here’s a list of some of the more commonly seen symbols and their meanings:

 

ACORN—Continued health—improved health.

ANCHOR—Lucky symbol. Success in business or in love. If blurred or indistinct just the reverse.

HEART—A lover. If close to a ring, marriage to the present lover. If indistinct, the lover is fickle.

HEAVENLY BODIES—(Sun, Moon, Star)—Good luck—great happiness and success.

OWL—Indicates sickness or poverty. Warning against starting a new venture.

PALM TREE —Good omen. Success in any undertaking. Single people learn of marriage. MOON (crescent)—Prosperity, fame. If cloudy, difficulties will be solved.

ELEPHANT—Good Luck—good health—happiness.

TRIANGLES—Unexpected good fortune.

BIRDS—Good Luck. If flying, good news from the direction it comes. If at rest a fortunate journey.” (www.teausa.com)

 

For a complete, step-by-step guide on tasseography, or the art of reading tea leaves, check out their website.  It makes for loads of fun on chilly afternoons.

Enjoy!

 

Photo Credits:

(Tea Service photo courtesy of http://en0910.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/assessment-of-your-projects/)

(Milk pouring into teacup – photo courtesy of Caters News Agency / Mail Online)

(Smiling tea leaves in cup  – photo courtesy of mosangels.ning.com)

(Tea reading photo courtesy of www.teausa.org)

 

 

Posted November 3rd, 2011.

1 comment

The Best Traditional Scones In The World

by Danica Waters

Right.  I know I’ve already published a really fine recipe for scones.  But I’ve gotta’ be honest and recommend that you scratch it, because THIS IS THE BEST RECIPE FOR TRADITIONAL SCONES.  Like, EVER. 

Surprises like this are what keep me fascinated with cooking:  just about the time you think you know what it’s all about, something new comes along that’s even better.  Here’s the back story:  the day before yesterday, we stopped in to my in-laws’ home for afternoon tea.  My mother-in-law, who always sets out a beautiful selection of homemade cakes and sweets to accompany the tea, was particularly excited about a new recipe she’d discovered.  Given that my mother-in-law is a fabulous Scottish cook, when she gets excited about a recipe (especially for something like scones), I pay close attention.

It seems that the author of this particular recipe took all the best elements of her Scottish grandmother’s scones and combined them with all the best elements of the official scone recipe of London’s world-renowned Savoy Hotel.  She nailed it.  These traditional scones are perfect in flavor, body and texture.  They are also beautiful to look at.

While you can easily substitute raisins for dried currants, I highly recommend using the latter if you can find them.  With the holidays coming, keep in mind that these scones would serve as a welcome accompaniment to a gift box filled with an assortment of fine teas, coffees, or even hot chocolate.  They are easily reheated and go equally well  served with butter and jam as they do served with a mild cheese (such as Havarti) and a bit of turkey or ham.

 

Enjoy!

 

The Best Traditional Scones In The World

(by FRIENDLYFOOD, as seen on www.allrecipes.com)

 

1-1/4 C all purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder

1/4 C white sugar

1/8 tsp salt

5 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 C dried currants or raisins

1/2 C milk

1/4 C sour cream

1 egg

1 Tbsp milk

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl.  Cut in butter using a pastry blender or rubbing between your fingers until it is in pea-sized lumps.  Stir in the currants.  Mix together 1/2 C milk and sour cream in a measuring cup.  Pour all at once into the dry ingredients; stir gently until blended.  Note:  overworking the dough results in terribly tough scones!!!

With floured hands, pat scone dough into balls 2-3 inches across, depending on what size you prefer.  Place onto a greased baking sheet, and flatten slightly.  Let the scones barely touch each other.  Whisk together the egg and 1 Tbsp milk; brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash.  Let them rest about 10 minutes.

Bake for 10-15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the tops are golden brown (not deep brown).  Break each scone apart, or slice in half.  Serve with butter or clotted cream and a selection of jams – or even plain.

Note:  Scones can be reheated if not eaten promptly by wrapping in aluminum foil and heated through in the oven, or by simply cutting in half and placing in the toaster.

 

Posted November 2nd, 2011.

Add a comment

Savory Mediterranean Cheesecake

by Danica Waters

 

Who says cheesecake is only for dessert?  This savory Mediterranean Cheesecake is undoubtedly as addictive as its sweeter cousin.  Not too rich, but substantial enough to satisfy, the rich flavor of Parmesan mingles with the mild tang of feta to hit all the right spots for all kinds of partygoers.  Unbeatable as an hors d oeuvre or as an accompaniment to soup or salad, it is also a visual showstopper, guaranteed to rock any buffet table it’s invited to.

 

This recipe is for 1 – 9 inch cheesecake, which will feed a rather large crowd.  Because it freezes extremely well, try making two smaller cheesecakes out of one batch.  Homemade Cracker Bread is a perfect accompaniment, and is also easily made ahead of time so you have one less thing to worry about on party-day.

 

Enjoy!

 

Savory Mediterranean Cheesecake

(Fine Cooking Magazine)

 

1-1/2 C Panko Breadcrumbs

6 Tbsp butter, melted

 

3/4 C butter

¼ C minced green onion

¼ C chopped fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (10-oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, or enough fresh spinach that has been chopped well and wilted to render approximately 1-1/2 C.

3 – 8 oz packages cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, softened

¼ C heavy whipping cream

4 large eggs

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

2 – 2.5 oz cans sliced black olives, drained

1 C grated good-quality Parmesan cheese

1 C crumbled feta cheese

 

Sour cream

Fresh chopped herbs

*

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

 

In a small bowl, combine panko and melted butter.  Press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (or use two 5-inch springform pans).  Bake 8 minutes.

 

In a medium skillet, melt ¾ C butter over medium high heat.  Add onion, parsley, and garlic.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender.  Add spinach, and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and set aside.

 

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, cream, and eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Beat in oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  Divide mixture evenly into two medium bowls.  Stir spinach mixture into one-half of cream cheese mixture.  Pour into prepared pan.  Sprinkle evenly with sliced olives.

 

Stir Parmesan cheese and feta cheese into other half of cream cheese mixture.  Spread cheese mixture evenly over olives.  Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes (for 9-inch springform;  if using smaller pans, adjust time accordingly).  Let cool completely in pan.  Gently run a knife around edges of pan to release sides.  Cover, and chill.

 

Prior to serving, remove cake from springform ring.  Top with a light spread of dairy sour cream, and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

 

Serve cheesecake at room temperature with assorted crackers (try homemade Cracker Bread)

 

Note:  Cheesecake can be made up to one month ahead!  Wrap tightly in heavy-duty plastic wrap, and freeze.  Simply let come to room temperature before serving.

Posted October 27th, 2011.

Add a comment

The Five-Week Manners Makeover

by Danica Waters (photo credits at end of post)

Aahhhh…. Autumn.  Blustery late-October winds send the last leaves scattering and Christmas holiday merchandise creeps steadily onto Store-Shelves-Near-You.

This is an exciting time of year; with the onset of winter holiday festivities, you find yourself considering travel plans and gift lists, mulling over menu options and guest lists. And then, at the dinner table one night, the chilly mists of anxiety waft over you as you realize that the family table etiquette you thought you’d whipped into shape long ago has not even remotely recovered from the long, lazy, finger-licking days of summer.

 

Finger-licking indeed.

You watch for a minute or two with a bit of a sickening feeling accompanying your current state of disbelief.  Yes, you really did see Johnny lick his fingers after using them to pick up a long green bean and nibble it from the bottom up.  And yes, you really are watching little Katy blow air in and out of a limp macaroni noodle that has had all the cheese sucked off of it.   Eeesh.


The Five-Week Manners Makeover

There’s just enough time from now until Thanksgiving to give the whole family a manners makeover.  Since most major holiday celebrations involve lots and lots of time around a table, practicing basic table manners is the best place to start.

Week 1:  Focus on Table Settings and Basic Table Etiquette

Explain the placement of table settings and let them practice setting the table properly at mealtimes.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly they’ll learn with a little practice!  To brush up on the correct way to set a table, feel free to visit the following videos, compliments of The Emily Post Institute and Howcast:

 

Basic Table Setting

 

Formal Table Setting


 

Review the Other Behavior Basics:

1.  Wash your hands before coming to the table.

2.  Put your napkin in your lap.

3.  Don’t start eating until everyone at the table has been served, or until the hostess eats.

4.  Hold and use your utensils properly.

5.  Say “please” and “thank you” when food, seasonings, or condiments are passed.

6.  Food is usually passed from right to left to avoid confusion; however, observe what’s happening and act accordingly.

7.  If you happen to be overlooked for something, no reaching across someone else’s plate; quietly ask for something to be passed.

8.  Chew with your mouth closed; don’t talk with your mouth full.

9.  Wait to be excused from the table; offer to help clear dishes from the table.

10.  Always remember to thank the cook!

 

It’s their party, too. 

Kids learn better when they are involved and treated as an integral part of the big picture.  Rather than teaching manners as “Rules-That-Must-Be-Followed”, explain that using good manners helps make everything more special.  Then get them involved in the creative and planning stages of the event.  Entrusting them with responsibilities, such as folding fancy napkins or making personalized place cards for all the guests, gives them a personal stake in the overall success of the event.

Practice makes perfect.

Every mealtime presents another opportunity to make something good even better.  Use the extra time afforded on weekends to practice something a bit more formal.

And remember: kids aren’t the only ones who need reminders and repetition. (Just sayin’.)

 

 

 

 

 Photo Credits:

table image:  www.photoshopessentials.com

girl licking fingers:  www.chocolates-made-easy.com

boy scratching head:   www.mombuzz.com

boy eating spaghetti: www.parentsconnect.com

man eating spaghetti: www.deathandtaxesmag.com

 

 


 

Posted October 18th, 2011.

Add a comment

Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

by Danica Waters

When simple ingredients can be combined in a manner that inspires not just the palate, but excites the soul, this is the true magic of good cooking.  This salad is just that magical.  It is one of the crown jewels of my personal recipe collection.  The vertical presentation is visually breathtaking; the flavors and textures are nothing short of inspired.

 

While this simple salad is intended to be a first course, beware:  it is incredibly filling.   Be sure to judge your pear size according to the way you intend to serve this little culinary gem.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

(serves 4)

 

4 perfectly ripe, smooth-skinned (not overripe, not underripe) pears

2 C watercress

2 Tbsp toasted pecan pieces

1 Tbsp dried cranberries (optional)

2 oz crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Raspberry or red wine vinaigrette salad dressing

Lemon juice

Honey

 

Gently wash pears with a natural fruit and vegetable wash; set aside.

Toss watercress with pecans, cranberries and gorgonzola; drizzle with salad dressing and gently toss to combine.

Core pears from bottom, leaving the stem intact.  Slice each pear in four horizontal slices; brush all sides generously with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

On individual salad plates, reassemble pears with salad mix in the middle and between each pear layer.  Drizzle with honey.

Posted October 14th, 2011.

Add a comment