New Year’s Eve is almost upon us, and you’re having a party. So why does
the thought of celebrating in your own home with your own family and
friends make you nervous? The whole world is throwing confetti, and
you’re already saying to yourself, “What was I thinking?”
“Special occasions and special recipes do not have to be difficult or
fussy,” says Sheila Lukins in “Celebrate!” (Workman $19.95), a cookbook
I turn to again and again for menus and party ideas for every holiday
Beautiful color photos leap off the page as Lukins invites you to
celebrate not just Thanksgiving and Christmas, but a housewarming, a
bridal shower, a new job, glorious summer… 43 holidays and celebrations
The book begins as the year does, with New Year’s, and offers recipes
for a casual New Year’s Day celebration that won’t leave you harried.
Keep it low-key, she suggests, with an open house buffet and food that
will stay delicious throughout the day as friends drop in and out.
“I believe the most memorable celebrations take place at home,” Lukins
writes. “In mine, all celebrations begin in the kitchen, and part of the
fun is deciding what to prepare, creating a menu with appeal, start to
You’ll find a tempting array of dishes to serve 24 as you ring in the
New Year. This sumptuous buffet includes the foolproof, doable, yet
impressive dishes we’ve come to expect from the coauthor of the “Silver
Party pork tenderloins are the centerpiece with a trio of sauces: Pebre,
a fresh salsa verde with herbs, onions, and garlic (similar to
Argentinean chimichurri); Lemon-Garlic Aїoli and Romesco
mayonnaise, a Catalan tomato- and bell pepper-based sauce that Lukins
combines with mayonnaise for body and a splash of orange juice.
I'm making minis this year for our Hanukkah tapas party! Different latkes with different sauces - one can't have too many! See my blog.
While Jews of Eastern European descent celebrate Hanukkah with mountains of latkes, Sephardic Jews fry sufganiyot. But for everyone – and every holiday – there’s always…chocolate?
Yes, just about everyone’s favorite ingredient never goes out of season, claims award-winning author Alice Medrich, whose book “Chocolate Holidays: Unforgettable Desserts for Every Season” (Artisan) offers 50 luscious, decadent recipes to crown every holiday and celebration.
“I wanted to do a season-to-season book,” said Medrich by phone from her Berkley, California, home. “Other ingredients we like to cook with change with the seasons. The constant is chocolate.”
Jewish cooks know that Hanukkah is all about the oil. The symbolism goes back to ancient times, when Judah Maccabee and his tiny army defeated the Syrian-Greeks and recaptured Jerusalem. In attempting to rededicate the Temple, they found only enough oil to burn for one day. Miraculously it lasted eight days, and we've been celebrating with a frying frenzy ever since! But who says traditional potato latkes are the only fritter fit to fry?
“Chocolate Banana Blintzes are fried, and Hanukkah is a great excuse to serve them,” noted Medrich. “They are just so delicious, a fancy party dessert that’s easy to do.” Restraint, she said, is sometimes the secret ingredient. “A little burst of chocolate sauce in a hot crepe with bananas is more seductive than a chocolate blintz with chocolate filling,” she writes.
Another lesser-known Hanukkah tradition involves the story of Judith, a beautiful Jewish widow, who dined with the enemy general Holofernes. She plied him with cheese to make him thirsty for wine, and when he fell into a drunken stupor, she beheaded him with his own sword. Because her bravery is said to have inspired the Maccabees, some communities remember Judith by eating cheese during this holiday.
Weather a little brisk for you these days? My story in today's Orange County Register extolls the virtues of - you guessed it - soup! Enjoy the recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup. For a kosher version, use nondairy sour cream. Read the story.
You know those packages that say, “Do not open until Christmas”? If you tend to avoid resolutions until the actual first of the year, then eat, drink and be merry tonight, and save this column for tomorrow.
It’s New Year’s resolution time again, and I’m making the same one I make every year (sigh), to lose those extra pounds. And how I would love to implement my resolve at, say, the world-renowned Golden Door spa, pampered in the epitome of luxury with world-class chefs lavishing me with nutritious, satisfying, and glorious meals.
Ain’t gonna happen.
With the tight economy affecting travel plans, more and more Americans are choosing a staycation instead of a vacation – you know, donning bathing suit, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat for a luxurious loll in the backyard.
I’m spending my staycation at home with the help of the new “Golden Door Cooks at Home” cookbook (Clarkson Potter, $40) by executive chef Dean Rucker with food writer Marah Stets.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Golden Door with resort spas in Escondido, California, as well as throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.
“It used to be that the term ‘spa food’ evoked images of unadorned dishes without flavor or flair, created to contain as few calories and as little fat as possible without regard for how enjoyable it was to actually eat them,” writes chef Rucker.
No longer. The emphasis now is on a healthy diet and portion control. “And this is made far easier when the food is both delicious and filling,” he says.
Chicken and Scallion Potstickers with Chili Lime Sauce. Pan Roasted Lobster with Basil Potato Puree. Moroccan Spice-Rubbed Lamb Loin with Chickpeas, Feta, and Olives. Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake with Orange Sauce.
Spa food? Hardly.
It’s resolution time again! According to USA.gov, the most popular New Year’s resolution is (drum roll please) lose weight! What a surprise.
If, like me, you make this same resolution every year, two new books may turn things around, and then maybe next year we can all resolve to reduce carbon emissions and promote world peace.
In The Portion Plan: How to Eat the Foods You Love & Still Lose Weight (DK, $17.95) TV and radio personality Linda Gassenheimer says the key to losing weight and keeping it off may lie in the palm of your hand. Love that burger? A healthy portion is palm sized. Your baked potato should be the size of your fist. And you don’t have to give up French fries if you eat what will fit in two cupped hands (about 20).
“The portions of foods we are eating have ballooned,” writes Gassenheimer. “Restaurants serve extra-large amounts of food, yet we still clean our plates, just as we were told to do when we were children.” This “portion distortion” has completely perverted our sense of normalcy.
Take the bagel, for instance. “Originally the size of a hockey puck, bagels now have the circumference of a CD,” she says. Stick to a palm-size portion and use reduced-fat cream cheese and save 382 calories.
Seeing is believing, and “The Portion Plan” offers dozens of life-size food photos of ideal and not-so-ideal portions of common foods so we can make wise food choices. And learning to distinguish between what Gassenheimer calls “the good, the bad, and the ugly” (choices to savor, choices to watch and choices to avoid) will assure we’re not only losing weight, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well.
The book also includes a seven-day eating plan with recipes, an eating-out guide and oodles of tips for delicious alternatives to calorie-laden foods.
My Christmas story for The Orange County Register contains a recipe for a Swedish pastry called Lussikatter. It's a wonderful eggy sweet bread reminiscent of a saffron-scented challah. Read the whole story.
I’m scared. I’ve been toying with the idea of making all new dishes for Thanksgiving this year, but I keep hearing that old mantra in my head: “You don’t mess with Thanksgiving!” Why fix something that’s not broken?
Former long-time Fullerton resident, Linda Gomberg, seconds the notion. The five Gomberg children and their four spouses, plus 12 grandchildren, will gather in the Gomberg home, as they do every year, to enjoy a menu that seldom varies.
“One time I switched out and bought a different kind of squash for my apple stuffed squash, and they went crazy,” she recalled. “I have so many people, and they all know what to expect.”
Daughter-in-law Glenda will bring the mashed potatoes. Daughter-in-law Carolyn will make her fat-free, sugar-free pumpkin pie. Linda will serve two kinds of stuffing with homemade croutons.
“I stuff the bird with giblet stuffing and make an extra vegetable stuffing with no drippings for my vegetarian granddaughter,” she added.
“(Husband) Ray likes candied sweet potatoes, and I love turkey, especially the wings. I buy extra wings and legs and have been making it the same way for forty years.” Green beans with almonds rounds out the menu.
“We’ve got one diabetic, one fat-watcher, various weight-conscious people and a vegetarian,” Linda noted.
The weight-conscious will need all their will power to resist the desserts: “I’ll make a chocolate fudge pie, pecan pie, key lime pie, and I always do a chocolate chip bundt cake. I buy a sugar-free apple or cherry pie.”
But Thanksgiving dinner is just the beginning of the Gomberg celebration. On Friday the whole gang (all 23 of them) will take off for Desert Springs, leftovers in coolers, as they have been doing for years, for a weekend of family fun. Full story with recipe
Okay I lied. I did make one new dish and it is in the freezer as we speak. I didn't add the pistachios - I will do that last minute.
The original recipe was from Julie Sahni, but I combined it with a bunch of things I saw in other recipes. Julie called for a whole teaspoon of cayenne. I used 1/4 teaspoon and it still has quite a kick, so I'm suggesting you start with 1/8. I added the lemon juice, honey, pomegranate molasses, preserves and cumin and substituted apricots for the raisins. Sahni has you cook the pistachios in the chutney but I like the crunch of adding them last minute. Also, it was my idea to saute the shallots first. That little bit of margarine gives a nice flavor. Anyway, I thought it was delicious!
Here's the recipe:
Cranberry-Fig Chutney with Cinnamon and Pistachios
makes about 7 cups