Holiday Goodies

ImageFor as long as I can remember, Thumbprint Cookies have been my favorite holiday cookie treat. My paternal grandmother started the Thumbprint tradition. The cookies soon became a favorite of her little son Ronny (my dad.) So, of course, my mom had to learn how to make them and carry on the Thumbprint tradition. My mom’s been gone for many years, so the Thumbprint tradition was left to me. I’m certain the tradition will be carried on for generations. My daughter-in-law makes them now, too.

Our Thumbprint cookies are made of a rich, buttery dough that is rolled into a ball, coated with coconut and poked in the middle to make a bowl to hold creamy frosting — red and green, of course. Long ago, my grandma may have used her thumb to push a shallow indentation into each little ball of cookie dough, thus the name Thumbprints. Somewhere along the line, though, my mom began using the end of a wooden spoon for the job. It may have been because the thumb-pressing process doesn’t take place until the cookies have baked for 5 minutes. It makes for a very hot, steamy thumb. Ouch!  The end of a wooden spoon creates a space for frosting much too small for my taste. Over the years, I’ve started using the end of the handle on a small Swedish butter knife made of wood. It’s the only thing I ever do with that wooden tool. The rest of the year it stays tucked in a kitchen drawer. The end of that knife makes a large basin to hold lots of frosting. Perfect!

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greenbeans.jpgSince Thanksgiving is all about so many heavy dishes, such as mashed potatoes, gratin and gravies, it's always nice to have a little bit of green at the table.

These beans are the perfect palate-cleansing side, providing that clean, acidic sweetness, much like the cranberry sauce.  The citrus just pops and will refresh the senses in between spoonfuls of sweet potatoes and turkey.

Best part, serve them room temperature, which means you can make them up a few hours ahead and not worry about getting them to the table hot.  In fact, I'm betting these could be made the day before, refrigerated in the dressing, and re-tossed right before dinner is served.

They are outstanding and a recipe I will use all year.

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diet_plans.jpgJanuary is the traditional month for new diets. I get kind of amused reading this week's Time magazine which chose 3 of the new diet books to review. The first one disallows wine, salt, sugar and artificial sweetener. The second forbids carbonated drinks, coffee, gassy foods including cabbage. The third forbids dairy, white rice, and processed foods. And the last one forbids volume. Eat anything you want but just choose small portions.

Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Why does every new diet start off by telling you what you cannot eat?

People have had problems with excess weight ever since mankind began to grow food. The hunters and gatherers weren't fat. They spent a lot of time just searching for food and were grateful for what they could find. And the game and berries they found also spent time searching for nourishment and water and didn't store fat either.

But that was then. This is now. We are besotted with food, drink, choices, and chance. What on earth can we do?

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ImageI love dining at bistros not just for the comforting French dishes, but also the appealing appetizers. Many times I've shared an appetizer of liver pâté with a friend over a bottle of wine and lots of bread. It's a very filling and not to mention budget-friendly meal. Different forms of pâté can be found throughout Europe, mainly in France, Scandinavia, and eastern Europe. In markets, pâté can be found sold in sausage-like tubes, which is commonly known as liverwurst here in the States. I grew up eating many different types of kenőmájas, as it is known in Hungarian. I couldn't imagine not eating it, especially around the holiday time. It makes a very nice appetizer with pickled vegetables and bread, crostini, or crackers.

Pâté is one of those things that most people will only enjoy at a restaurant or buy in a meat market, but never actually attempt making at home. I've enjoyed many good chicken liver pâtés, but the ones I make myself are always just as good, if not better, than the ones I purchase.

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ImageWhat would the holiday season be without desserts? And booze? Fortunately, the sassy ladies behind the spirited cookbook Booze Cakes have got ya covered. Authors Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone have created the ultimate fun baking book with over 100 bodacious, boozy confections.

The book is divided into four sections:
1. Classic Booze Cakes such as English Trifle and Tipsy Tiramisu.
2. Cocktail Cakes such as Pumpkin Martini Cakes and Tequila Sunrise Cake.
3. Cake Shots including Rum & Coke and Screwdriver Shots.
4. Cakes with a Twist such as Black Jack Praline Cake and Rosemary Limoncello Cake.

Castella and Stone are girls who want to have fun, and they want you to have fun too. That's why they include helpful icons for special occasion cakes and a cheeky "Booze Meter" that rates cakes as "Lightweight," "Feeling It," or "Totally Tipsy." (In case you're wondering, I picked a "Totally Tipsy" cake.)

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