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Archive for December, 2009

I think most people make at least one or two feeble attempts at New Year’s resolutions to greet yet another year. I know I’ve got my 2010 resolution ready to go: I will try to glam up more in this coming year. I’ve become too comfortable in black sweat pants and black turtlenecks, and it’s got to stop!

So I’m starting 2010 out right by donning a festive (and not black) outfit as I prepare to ring in the new year with friends and neighbors. Yes, that includes a little coat of mascara, maybe a little blush, curled hair and shoes that are not rubber-soled! I’m committed to reinventing myself with a little touch of glam!

My friend is hosting a lovely get-together with festive (and may I say glam) food that includes beef tenderloin and crab-legs, good wines and lots of laughter.  And me in high heels! The hostess (who is a phenomenal game organizer) is armed with couple-related questions (taped to the bottom of each wine glass) that test how well we really know each other as married people. “What is the one thing you wish you knew about your in-laws before you married your spouse?” or “What is the best date you’ve ever had with your spouse?” These questions serve as great fodder for conversation, stirs laughter and trips down memory lane.

After dinner, we open gifts. Each couple is bringing a gift that is date-related (for example movie tickets, restaurant visits, couple’s massage, salsa lessons, etc.) and upon taking a number from one to six (we’re six couples), each couple gets to open a present when their number is called. Each couple can either steal another couple’s gift, or decide to keep the one they opened.

This promises to be a fun New Year’s celebration, but I know that I’ll be ready a little after midnight to go home, peel the high heels off my sore feet and clear my face of makeup and lipstick. But I look forward to an evening of glam and fun to ring in the new year.

Come January, I’ll need to go shopping for sensible (but hip) shoes along with fun and funky clothes that will take me through 2010 in style!

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I love New Year’s Eve.  It’s a time when I reflect on the year behind and set goals for the year ahead.  It’s a moment to foster my inner gratitude and focus on hopes for the future.  I love celebrating this moment in the year with friends and family—amidst delicious food, of course!  This year we’re all bringing appetizers, and I’m debating what to make.

One meatball appetizer that my husband loves is tasty and easy. You combine one bag of frozen Simek’s meatballs with one jar of plain shrimp sauce and a jar of seedless raspberry jam.  Heat and serve.

Pizza lovers will devour “Torri’s Pepperoni Loaf.”

  • Thaw a loaf of frozen bread dough for about 2-hours and roll it out to cookie-sheet size
  • Mix 2 beaten eggs, 1 tsp oregano and 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Brush more than 1/2 of the egg mixture over the dough
  • Layer 6 ounces small sliced pepperoni and 1/2 lb grated mozzarella over the dough
  • Roll it up jelly-roll fashion (short end rolled to the middle, the other short end rolled to the middle so they meet)
  • Brush the top with remaining egg mixture
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees
  • Serve with spaghetti sauce

If you search for recipes on line, you’ll find a plethora of chili and cheese, artichoke, sun-dried tomato, and crab dips—all popular choices at parties.  My favorite artichoke dip is a breeze to make:

  • Combine the following ingredients and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes
  • 1 box frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed dry)
  • 1 can chopped artichoke hearts
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 package cream cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/8 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

My friend Barb likes to buy refrigerated croissants and fill them with a ham and cheddar or roast beef and cream cheese mixture.  You roll up the croissants, slice them, and bake per the instructions on the container.

If you want to bring a healthy option, you could make a fruit salad, assemble fruit skewers, or bring mixed nuts or trail mix.  Hummus with raw vegetables and pita bread, veggie pizza, quinoa salad, and edamame (soy beans) are tasty, nutritious options.

If your party will include children, think of kid-friendly favorites like chicken fingers, celery with peanut butter and raisins, sweet potato fries, and mini pizzas.

For more ideas, visit Coburnsdelivers.com and click on “Easy Eats” to find great appetizer recipes.  Have a wonderful, delicious New Year’s celebration!

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Post-Holiday Diet: It’s Time for Healthy Eating Without Wheat

Chocolate-covered nuts, caramel, peanut butter brittle, marzipan (my personal favorite) and marshmallow-riddled hot chocolate are just a few favorite treats that I’ve been indulging in this holiday season. Of course, a girl can’t live on sweets alone, so after the clock strikes noon, I’ve started in on the holiday meal leftovers (everything from the standing rib roast I made Christmas Day to mashed potatoes, gravy and side dishes). Needless to say, I’m stuffed, bloated and scared to try on anything that doesn’t have an elastic waistband. And unfortunately, my bathroom scale agrees – it’s time to face the music!

So what will I do? I’ve had a plan in place for a while – just waiting to execute post-holiday season. So here goes:

Starting today, I’m adopting a gluten-free diet. My husband has had celiac disease (a gluten-intolerance) for three years, and he lost 10 pounds by eliminating wheat, oats and barley from his diet. In reality, this means to stay away from pizza, beer, bread, anything breaded (and deep-fried) and the good ol’ staple: pasta. Sounds like a life sentence? Not really (well, at least I hope not).

It is becoming increasingly popular to live gluten-free, and stores are responding with an abundance of substitute products. Just go to CobornsDelivers Web site and do a search for gluten-free products – I bet you’ll be surprised at the vast selection of products available. This morning (since this is my first day without gluten), I made homemade gluten-free bread (from a package where all I had to do was add yeast and water) and it tasted delicious.

In addition (and to make sure that I will lose these extra few pounds that I’ve accumulated over the month of December) I am also planning to eat an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal to ensure that I feel full (without adding fatty foods and meats).

Happy New Year to everyone! And may I add, good riddance to beer, pasta, pizza and bread.

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When I was young, every year at Christmas my Mom made over 100 pans of Christmas fudge.  The refrigerator in the basement almost always had pans stacked up waiting to be given out as a thank you – to teachers, neighbors, friends, family – or to anyone who happened to stop by during the holidays.

I waited in anticipation for fudge season to arrive, because then maybe I’d get a turn to lick the spoon or be on-hand for the pan scrapings that Mom would put on a plate for us to eat.  But most every drop of “real” fudge was poured, while still hot, into the disposable aluminum pans that lined the chopping block awaiting their steamy, chocolaty contents.

And they were all to be given away – much to my dismay.

I have carried on the fudge making and giving tradition with my own kids and they too can’t wait for fudge season.  Last Sunday, I was making the season’s first batch, and they were standing around the stove waiting with bated breath for the finished product and the scrapings.  But just like when I was young, my kids only get the scrapings.  The rest of the pans we give away.

Our family fudge tradition reminds me of Christmases past, from my own childhood, but I’m so happy that my kids see the true meaning of this particular tradition: the best gifts are given, not received.

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Cookie Alternatives

Oh, those holiday cookies—sweet, savory, and delectable.  My sister-in-law makes the best peanut blossoms around.  They stay permanently soft and the Hershey’s Kisses remain kind of melted, even long after the cookies have cooled (it’s magic, I tell you).  I don’t want to know the amount of calories I consume in cookie form throughout the month of December!

For those of us looking to eat healthy, holiday cookies can be a big challenge.  People trying to resist high-calorie desserts may want to bring their own sweet treats to holiday parties.  Choose treats that are lower in calories or have a bigger nutritional punch, yet satisfy your sweet tooth.  Following are some examples:

  • Dried fruit pieces or trail mix
  • Dark chocolate (which is high in antioxidants) – eat only a limited amount!
  • Cookies made with whole wheat flour or oatmeal (and have more fiber)
  • Fruit sorbet
  • Broiled mango or pineapple slices with lime juice
  • Fruit pizza
  • Popcorn with Craisins

You can search online for a plethora of healthy recipes.  Mayoclinic.com has a recipe section that includes sweets such as cheesecake, chocolate pudding pies, strawberry shortcake, and yogurt-almond ice cream.

Once you’ve had your healthy dessert, you may want to drink some warm tea.  If you choose a sweeter herbed tea, your sweet tooth will be happy, and carrying a mug of tea around will keep your hands busy—and away from the cookie plate!  Happy Healthy Holidays!

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A Toast to the Holiday Season

‘Tis the season to drink festively!  Whether it’s hot or cold, kid or adult, alcohol or non-alcoholic, everyone wants to have something special in hand to toast or celebrate while with dear friends and family at the holidays.

I try to keep certain things on hand over the holidays so that everyone feels special when they’re at our house.  A few simple purchases will prepare you in no time for the coming weeks’ celebrations.

1. Cider: Pull the jug out and warm by the cup when a friend stops by to bring a gift.

2.  Cranberry or Cranapple Juice:  Goes well in just about anything!  But try a dash in a sparkling water (la croix) with a cranberry for a festive last minute treat, or mix with vodka for adult guests!  You can also add the slightest amount to a sparkling cider for a special children’s holiday toast.

3.  Cocoa mix and spray whipping cream:  Who doesn’t love a warm cup of cocoa?  And be sure to make with milk…nothing’s better after a good play in the snow or long day finishing the shopping!

4. Egg Nog:  Serve in any clear glass or mug with a hint of nutmeg sprinkled on top, or add a dash of brandy as a nightcap.

5. Ginger Ale:  This works great for that little (or big!) “too much candy” tummy, but you can also use it to make “Christmas punch” in a flash with this special recipe:

½ can lemonade concentrate

½ bottle of Cranapple

1-2 liters of Ginger Ale, Sprite or 7-Up.

So stock up (CobornsDelivers) on these essential holiday drink ingredients and you’ll be prepared at a moment’s notice with beverages at the ready!

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‘Tis the season of merriment, presents, joy, and tipping. Tipping, you say?  Yep—you know, tipping your hair stylist, newspaper delivery person, trash collectors, and just about every other service person with whom you come in regular contact throughout the year.

So what is the deal with tipping?  Do I have to tip everyone equally?  For example, I love my weekend newspaper deliveryman.  He must have a strong arm—the paper makes it up the driveway, practically to my front door.

Etiquette deems that there are a number of service people who should receive tips this time of year.  From babysitters to cleaning help, massage therapists to gardeners, tipping is a “should do” over the holidays.  Personally, I don’t have a butler, cook, or doorman to tip.  But I do need to get gifts for my babysitter (a gift or cash equal to one evening’s pay), children’s teachers (small gifts), and hair stylist (either cash or a gift that’s equal in value to one visit).

Here are other service people you may need to thank this year, according to Emily Post:

  • Day care provider:  cash or gift for each person who works with your children, worth about $25-$75 each
  • Housekeeper or cleaning staff:  Cash or gift equal to (up to) one week’s pay
  • Massage therapist:  cash or gift equal in value to one session
  • Personal trainer:  cash or gift equal to one session
  • Pet groomer:  cash or gift equal in value to one session
  • Newspaper deliverer:  cash or small gift equal to between $10 and $30
  • Trash or recycling collectors:  cash or small gift equal to between $10 and $30
  • Mail carriers:  are not allowed to accept cash, checks, or gift cards.  They can accept, however, snacks or beverages (that are not part of a meal) or small gifts worth less than $20.

All tips should be given with a short note of thanks, according to Ms. Post.  If your budget is tight this year, handmade gifts are acceptable.  Of course, the quality of work, how long they have helped you, how important the service is to you, and how close you are to your service provider will influence what type of tip you decide to give.

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