A New Year

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Fizz and Food

Although dry sparklers are the perfect aperitifs enjoyed on their own (it's all because of the crisp acidity, light flavours and clean-tasting bubbles), they do go well with some dishes, especially:
Salmon and other fish mousse
Smoked salmon
Crispy fried vegetarian dishes, such as tempura
Fresh prawns
Small filo parcels and creamy vol-au-vents
Spicy canapés, like tiny satay sticks
White fish dishes, such as grilled sole or plaice
Chicken in creamy sauces

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Citrus Topiary

Citrus Topiaries are the hot trend for next Christmas, 2008. A festive twist on the traditional decor that will look fresh for the entire winter season.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Trees Present Day

Today – Approximately 25-30 million Real Christmas Trees are sold each year in the United States. Almost all of these come from Christmas Tree plantations.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


A dish indigenous to parts of Switzerland. The Raclette cheese round is heated, either in front of a fire or by a special machine, then scraped onto diners' plates.Traditionally, it is accompanied by small firm potatoes, gherkins, pickled onions, dried meats (such as prosciutto), sliced peppers, tomato, onion, mushrooms, pears, and dusted with paprika and fresh-ground black pepper. It is normally accompanied by a white wine, such as a Riesling or a Pinot Gris.

Christmas Trees and the White House

1966 – The National Christmas Tree Association began its time-honored tradition of having the Grand Champion grower present a Christmas Tree to the First Lady for display in the Blue Room of the White House. That year, Howard Pierce of Black River Falls, Wisconsin, presented a tree to President Lyndon Johnson and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mistletoe Mojito

1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. superfine sugar
8 fresh mint leaves
2 oz. white rum
2 tsp. pomegranate seeds
4 oz. Pomegranate 7UP
1 mint sprig and 1 lime wedge for garnish
In a highball glass, muddle lime juice, sugar and mint leaves until sugar is dissolved.
Add rum and pomegranate seeds.
Fill glass with ice and top with Pomegranate 7UP.

Garnish with mint sprig and lime wedge. Enjoy.
Makes 1 mojito.

Christmas Trees 1901

1901 – The first Christmas Tree farm was started in 1901 when W.V. McGalliard planted 25,000 Norway spruce on his farm in New Jersey. Also in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt tried to stop the practice of having Christmas Trees out of concern about the destruction of forests. His two sons didn’t agree and enlisted the help of conservationist Gifford Pinchot to persuade the president that, done properly, the practice was not harmful to the forests.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Trees 1900

1900s – Due to overharvesting, the natural supply of evergreens began to be decimated. Conservationists became alarmed, and many magazines began to encourage people to substitute an artificial feather covered tree, consisting of a branch of a deciduous tree wrapped in cotton floss and dyed feathers.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Trees in the Late 1800's

Late 1800s – The first glass ornaments were introduced into the United States, again from Germany. The first ones were mostly balls, but later chains of balls, toys and figures became more common

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


[ICE-vyn]A German term meaning "ice wine," referring to a rich, flavorful dessrt wine. Eiswein is made by picking grapes that are frozen on the vine and then pressing them before they thaw. Because much of the water in the grapes is frozen, the resulting juice is concentrated-rich in flavor and high in sugar and acid. The resulting wines, extraordinarily sweet, yet balanced by high acidity.

Christmas Tree 1800's

1800s – The Christmas Tree was introduced in the United States by German settlers. It rapidly grew from tabletop size to floor-to-ceiling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

18th Century Christmas Trees

1700s – In parts of Austria and Germany, evergreen tips were brought into the home and hung top down from the ceiling. They were often decorated with apples, gilded nuts and red paper strips. Edible ornaments became so popular on Christmas Trees that they were often called “sugartrees.” The first accounts of using lighted candles as decorations on Christmas Trees come from France in the 18th century.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Use for Antique Ornaments

Antique Christmas ornaments can add an Old World or vintage touch to your holiday décor. Begin a collection of antique ornaments and look for pieces throughout the year. If you have treasured antique Christmas ornaments and are wary of placing them on the tree, you may want to showcase them on tiered glass cake plates and other glass containers and candlesticks.

17th Century Christmas Trees

1600s – By the 17th century, it was common in Germany to decorate Christmas Trees with apples. This practice was a holdover from the 14th and 15th centuries when evergreen boughs hung with apples were the only prop used in the “miracle plays” that were performed at the churches on December 24. December 24 was Adam & Eve’s Day in the early Christian calendar, and the plays were used as ways of teaching the Bible to a largely illiterate population.

Holiday Plant Safety Tips for Pets

A number of Christmas season plants are poisonous to pets if nibbled or eaten:
Ivy - moderate to very toxic, all parts
Holly - moderate to very toxic, especially the berries and leaves
Mistletoe - very toxic, all parts, especially the berries
Christmas greens such as balsam, juniper, cedar, pine and fir - all parts have a low level of toxicity
Hibiscus - may cause vomiting or bloody diarrhea if ingested
Poinsettias - leaves and stems low in toxicity.
It's wise to keep plants out of your pets' and children's reach.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


[MEED]A beverage made by fermenting honey, water, and yeast with flavorings such as herbs, spices, or flowers. Mead dates back to Biblical times and was popular in early England. Although not widely distributed today, it is still bottled. Mulled mead is a popular winter holiday drink, where mead is flavored with spices (and sometimes various fruits) and warmed, traditionally by having a hot poker plunged into it.

Today in Tree History

1530 – There is record from Alsace, France (then Germany territory) that trees were sold in the marketplace and brought home and set up undecorated. Laws limited the size to “8 shoe lengths” (slightly over 4 feet).

Saturday, December 8, 2007

1st Christmas Tree

1510 – The first written record of a decorated Christmas Tree comes from Riga, Latvia. Men of the local merchants’ guild decorated a tree with artificial roses, danced around it in the marketplace and then set fire to it. The rose was used for many year and is considered to be a symbol for the Virgin Mary.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Reducing Stress During the Holidays

We all dream of stress-free Holidays. Yes, some stress is natural and even invigorating, it gets the adrenaline flowing, quickens the mind, and energises the body. On the assumption that stress is inevitable, all you can do is learn to live with it, follow a few techniques for relaxation and hope the worst effects are brought under some sort of control. This is fine in its way and there are many suitable techniques you can follow: massage, aromatherapy, and meditation. These are gentle, non-invasive therapies, deeply relaxing and restorative - a great way to reduce excess tension.

White House Christmas

The tradition of a placing a decorated tree in the White House began in 1889 on Christmas morning during the Presidency of Benjamin Harrison. What began as a family gathering has become a national tradition. Over the years, the White House Christmas tree has reflected both the times and the tastes of the First Family.

Christmas with the Kennedys, 1961

Christmas with the Carters, 1978

Christmas with the Clintons, 1995

Atomic Age Christmas

Sea Bass

Sea bass is best in the winter months and can be bought whole, as steaks or as fillets. A whole bass is perfect for a special meal and is a favorite of many a restaurant chef. You may have to pay a little more for sea bass but its tender, soft flesh and its delicate milky flavor is worth the expense. It can be poached, steamed, baked or grilled but, whichever way you choose, take care not to overcook the delicate flesh. Use herbal flavors such as fennel, garlic, mint, tarragon, and rosemary to complement it.

Sea Bass roasted with Rosemary and Lemon
1 Sea Bass fillet
Fresh rosemary
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Sea salt
1 Lemon, sliced

Slash the skin side of the sea bass diagonally so that the flesh is exposed. Put a generous amount of the rosemary into the pockets. Rub the rest of the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Sear in a pan skin side down, and transfer into a hot oven for five minutes. Serve with a drizzle of fresh lemon and good olive oil.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hanukkah Gelt

Hanukkah gelt (Yiddish for "money") is often distributed to children to enhance their enjoyment of the holiday. Twentieth-century American chocolatiers picked up on the gift/coin concept by creating chocolate gelt, or chocolate shaped and stamped like coins and wrapped in gold or silver foil. Chocolate gelt is often used in place of money in dreidel games.

Glamorous Table Settings for Hanukkah

Could latkes possibly taste better than when served at this festive Hanukkah table featuring a dreidel, gelt (gold-covered chocolate coins) and a menorah?

Trees for the Troops

At this time of year, please remember all our brave men and women overseas who can't be with their loved ones during the Holidays.

For the Boys during WWII

Ginger Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail

1 cup Pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon superfine sugar

1 1/2 inch-thick slice fresh ginger

Fresh orange juice

Orange liqueur like Contreau or Grand Marnier

1 750-ml bottle brut Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled

Pomegranate jewels for garnish
Combine pomegranate juice, sugar and ginger in a pan over high heat stirring constantly until mixture is reduced to 1/3 of a cup. Remove ginger and set aside until cool. Pour 4 teaspoons of pomegranate syrup, 1 tablespoon orange juice, and 1 jigger orange liqueur into each of four Champagne flutes. Top off with champagne or sparkling wine. Garnish with a few pomegranate jewels.
Serves: 4

Vintage Carolers


Originating in Asia, the pomegranate tree is mentioned in the Old Testament and has been a symbol of religious significance for centuries in many countries. Now cultivated in the warm climates of South America, the Middle East, the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean, the fruit is available from early to mid-winter. About the size of a large orange, it has a leathery skin with a blush of yellow and red. Inside there is spongy pith filled with seeds, which are, in turn, surrounded by a juicy, ruby red pulp. Eating a pomegranate can be a lengthy process as each pip has to be individually extracted, the juicy pulp eaten and the pips discarded. The easiest way to extract the juice is by crushing the seeds through a sieve with the back of a ladle. This can be used to flavor mousse, ice cream or sorbet.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Latkes for the First Night of Hanukkah

Yield: 4 to 6 servings (12 to 14 pancakes)
6 green onions, light green and white part only, thinly sliced
2 large eggs
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons matzo meal (see note)
Canola oil
Sour cream
Purée green onions with eggs in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until smooth. Add potatoes; pulse until finely chopped (mixture should retain some texture). Add salt, pepper and matzo meal; quickly pulse to combine. Do not overprocess. Pour batter into a medium mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap to prevent discoloration and let sit for 15 minutes. Heat 3/4 inch oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Pour a tablespoon of batter into skillet. If oil is hot enough, pancake will begin to sizzle and brown. Taste pancake and check seasoning. If necessary, add salt and pepper to batter.Spoon tablespoons of batter into skillet, leaving a little room between each pancake. Flatten pancakes with the back of a spoon; use the spatula to round out the sides if necessary. Fry pancakes until they are golden brown on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes, then turn them and brown the other side, about 2 minutes more. Transfer pancakes to a cookie sheet lined with 2 layers of paper towels. Allow excess oil to drain. If necessary, keep pancakes warm in a 275-degree oven. Remove the paper towels before putting them in the oven. To make ahead and freeze: Lay pancakes on a double sheet of aluminum foil. When completely cook, enclose pancakes tightly in the foil. Place on a flat surface in the freezer. When ready to serve, preheat oven to 425 degrees; place foil packets on a baking sheet. Open the packets, exposing the top of the pancakes. Bake the frozen pancakes about 7 minutes, until they are brown and crispy.
Note: If you cannot find matzo meal, substitute about 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Deco Christmas

Environmental Benefits of Live Christmas Trees

While they're growing, Live Christmas Trees support life by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases and emitting fresh oxygen. Every acre of Christmas Trees grown produces the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people. In the United States, there are approximately 500,000 acres of Christmas Trees, which means that 9 million people a day are supplied with oxygen thanks to these trees.
The farms that grow Christmas Trees stabilize soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife while creating scenic green belts. Often, Christmas Trees are grown on soil that doesn't support other crops. As a renewable resource, Live Christmas Trees are grown on farms just like any other crop. To ensure a constant supply, Christmas Tree growers plant one to three new seedlings for every tree they harvest.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Origins of Artificial Christmas Trees

Towards the end of the 1800's, a variation of the traditional Christmas tree appeared in Germany: the artificial Christmas tree. Metal wire trees were covered with goose, turkey, ostrich or swan feathers. The feathers were often died green to imitate pine needles.

In the 1930's, the Addis Brush Company created the first artificial-brush trees, using the same machinery that made their toilet brushes! The Addis 'Silver Pine' tree was patented in 1950. The Christmas tree was designed to have a revolving light source under it, colored gels allowed the light to shine in different shades as it revolved under the tree.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Colleen's Cookies

Looking for just the right gift for that special person on your list. There is no better way to spread holiday cheer than with a present of delicious and beautiful cookies from Colleen's Cookies. Whether sent to say “Thank you” to a hostess for a wonderful party or“Happy Holidays" to a best friend or co-worker, Colleen's Cookies are sure to leave a sweet impression. You can find the site under Favorite Things to the right. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Secrets for a Low-Stress Holiday

Pick one piece as the focal point, then decorate around it.

Choose one dish you do well.

Host one big open house instead of lots of smaller events.

Shop online, when it’s convenient for you.

Select seasonal items for can’t-miss gifts.


The fig is considered to be one of the most sensual of fruits with its tempting, luscious flesh that is at its best when it has been left to ripen in the sunshine. The ancient Greeks recognised the health benefits of figs and included them in the diet of the athletes for the first Olympic Games. Some prefer to peel the fig before eating but the whole fruit is edible and should be eaten at room temperature, as chilling suppresses the flavor.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Eau de Vie

[oh duh VEE]French for "water of life." This term describes any colorless, potent Brandy or other spirit distilled from fermented fruit juice. Among the grape-based eaux de vie are: eau de vie de marc, eau de vie de lie, and eau de vie de vin (from wine). Probably the two most popular eaux de vie in the world are Kirsch (from cherries) and Framboise (from raspberries).


Parsnips are a much-loved root vegetable. They actually improve with a frost because the effect of freezing the living root converts some of the starch into sugar. Parsnips are very versatile and can be cooked in much the same way as potatoes. They are delicious parboiled then roasted until they caramelise golden-brown, mashed with cream, braised, steamed or deep-fried in thin slices to make parnsip crisps, a contemporary garnish or snack. They also make wonderful, creamy soups and partner well with apples, spices, ginger and cheese. They often have a tough core which many cooks prefer to discard. They should be scrubbed, not peeled, as most of the flavor lies directly below the skin.

Selecting Wine for Your Holiday Meal

Even avid wine lovers can be struck with a temporary case of oenophobia — fear of wine — this time of year. The prospect of choosing a bottle that will please all of your guests and complement all of your dishes can perplex the most confident holiday host.
Here are a few helpful ideas:
Begin with bubbles. Offering guests champagne flutes along with hors d'oeuvres helps get everyone in a festive spirit.

Pick fruity wines for the table. Fruit-forward reds — such as Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel and unoaked whites provide the most food-pairing flexibility. Among whites, look to Riesling. Serve a white and a red. Some guests invariably drink only one or the other.

Plan a happy ending. Pour a memorable dessert wine: Tawny Port would shine with a chocolate dessert, which has such a delightful, lingering finish that it just might accompany your guests all the way home.