Good-Bye 2016 and a Surprise Ingredient for Hot Chocolate!

Many people are saying they can’t wait for 2016 to play the exit music and be gone.

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We had a good year with some happy surprises along the way.

After much discussion about having the centerpiece of our holiday meal be something other than ham — we ended up putting a honey baked ham on the menu for dinner after all.

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It’s tradition. Maybe we counted on our traditions a little bit more than usual this holiday season for stability and peace.

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We’ll see what kind of winter we will get in the new year. We got a snow storm last winter like we hadn’t seen in years with changing snow drifts until it ended.

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A big snowfall can be a chance to slow down, watch a movie or play a board game. As long as you are where you want to be, and have enough food and drink in the house, a winter storm can be fun.

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The effort you have to make with the shovel when the snow stops falling is when the work begins!

Try the recipe with a surprise ingredient that has adults enjoying a mug of hot chocolate in a whole new taste experience these days. Read all about it in my latest post over in the food section at Parade this week. Find the link below.

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http://communitytable.parade.com/557418/aliceknisleymatthias-2/make-the-best-winter-drink-with-hot-chocolate-a-surprise-ingredient/#addthis

You don’t have to wait for some snow outside to try this version of hot chocolate. It will make winter that much better all season long!

Happy New Year!

 

 

Teal is the New Orange Pumpkin for Halloween

Halloween is not a fun day for kids with food allergies. They have to either not take part in class parties and door-to-door fun with trick-or-treating in the  neighborhood or maybe sit out on all the fun as a way of avoiding any potential problems. Another option is for kids to head out with everyone else to ring doorbells in the neighborhood and then have most of the items in their bags removed when they get home.

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Who wants to do any of that? If you are a kid, none of these options sound entertaining at all.

There is a new alternative with the Teal Pumpkin Project. It is a great campaign to help kids with food allergies participate in the fun this Halloween.

Read all about it here and keep all the kids safe and enjoying themselves this Halloween. All the information is in my post at Parade.

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http://communitytable.parade.com/545333/aliceknisleymatthias-2/a-teal-pumpkin-helps-kids-with-food-allergies-enjoy-halloween/#addthis

Help all the ghosts and goblins in your neighborhood be able to make it an afternoon to remember!

 

 

A Tip for Summer Tomatoes

Summer tomatoes. This is the time of year to enjoy them. Ripe, juicy tomatoes from the farmer’s market or plucked from the vine in the garden is a seasonal pleasure.

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Look for different varieties that are available. Some tomatoes can have a darker hue leaning toward more of a brown color.

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One ingredient can help make your tomatoes taste even better. It will also help the slices of tomato as an ingredient in a dish.

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Sprinkle your tomatoes with some Kosher salt and allow to sit for a few minutes before preparing a salad or other dish. The salt will penetrate the tomato slices with flavor and it also acts to draw out moisture.

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Tomatoes are made up of mostly water. This is why if a tomato plant is dry and suddenly gets a rush of water cracks will appear in the surface of the skin as the tomato swells and takes on water.

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When you add Kosher salt to tomato slices it adds flavor. There will also be a pool of tomato water under the slices on the plate as the salt draws out the juices.

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If you are making a caprese salad of tomato paired with creamy fresh mozzarella you want to season the tomatoes and let them drain first in order to avoid a soggy salad.

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Tomatoes, mozzarella, and torn leaves of basil dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. This salad with a glass of wine is the perfect August dinner out on the patio.

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You can also use brightly-colored cherry tomatoes as a substitute or addition in the salad with the mozzarella.

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Remember to season tomatoes with salt before you prepare your dish and allow the extra water in the tomatoes to drain. It makes a difference.

The time for summer tomatoes is now – so have some for dinner tonight. It’s a brief season to enjoy the summer tomatoes.

You can see my latest post over at Parade here.

http://communitytable.parade.com/532057/aliceknisleymatthias-2/spice-up-your-next-roast-beef-sandwich-with-flavored-mayonnaise/

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Went Out to Starbucks and Came Back with a What?

Kids reach a certain age and they want a bit more independence. They want to be able to stay up later or go someplace with a buddy or a small group as a team. You give them a little bit of freedom and hope they act responsibly.

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This summer has been about someone walking with friends to a local Starbucks a number of blocks away. So far so good. Give him a little money and he and his friends return home again with some change for Mom.

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Until this week when he came home from the Starbucks run with no change and this guy.

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Not far from Starbucks is a 99-cent store. I guess I never thought to say, “By the way, don’t continue walking to another store and get a fish.”

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Now we have a new member of the family happily swimming in what was formerly a Pyrex bowl used for cooking in the kitchen. It is now this guy’s water world with two cobalt-blue feathery trees to swim around.

Here’s hoping the fish from the discount store is a hearty specimen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July is Flying By

It’s the end of July and summer is slowly slipping by. The Shasta daisies have stood tall and are now getting ready to give way to the August showing of flowers.

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Grilling time is turning out the burgers and hot dogs that are a symbol of the summer dining experience. There is nothing like the air filled with what is sizzling on the grill during the warm-weather season.

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We planted some leftover plants from extra trays that we got this spring and they are doing so well in their space at the edge of the dining patio where we are enjoying our summer meals. The buds and flowers are bright and plentiful around our dining area.

 

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The flowers are in bloom and create a lovely border where we sit and have meals.

If you want some tips on how to grill the best hamburgers for your family check out my post at Parade about turning out the most delicious hamburgers for your summer dinner.

http://communitytable.parade.com/524975/aliceknisleymatthias-2/grill-like-an-expert-on-national-hamburger-day/

It’s Time for Summer Flavor

The backpacks brought home what was left in the desks at school. Crumpled papers, books with ragged covers and markers that haven’t seen their tops in some time.

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The basil we grew on the counter in the kitchen is now living happily outside. Basil thrives in summer heat and is an ingredient that pairs well with summer meals. The leaves can be chopped and added to pasta dishes or as a last-minute finish to pizza made on the grill.

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Pizza on the grill is a summer favorite around here. It’s easy to make and a fast way to get dinner on the table.

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You can find pizza dough in the refrigerator section of your market. The key is to lightly coat the dough with olive oil before starting to shape it. This will make it easier to work with by making the dough less sticky to the touch.

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Place dough on the grill and watch for bubbles to start to form on the surface. When the bubbles appear, turn the dough to the other side so that both sides are grilled. After a minute or so add sauce and cheese and slide pizza to the cool side of the grill to allow the cheese to melt into the sauce. Finish with a shower of chopped basil.

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Summer is the time for tomatoes and basil is a delicious partner on the plate with some milky mozzarella and a good quality extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can also mix the ingredients in a blender along with toasted pignoli nuts and serve tomatoes and cheese with a pesto.

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A caprese salad is a summer favorite served with a crusty loaf of bread and a glass of wine. Be sure to add salt to the slices of tomato as it brings out the flavor of the tomato. Place the tomatoes on paper towels before adding salt because the salt draws out the juices of the tomato. This simple step will help avoid a soggy salad.

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The Shasta daisies are starting to bloom just in time for the Fourth of July weekend. It’s time to switch to summer schedule and menu ideas!

 

 

The Outdoor Dining Season is Officially Here!

Have you been taking advantage of the strawberries in the market? They are bursting with flavor and ready to use in recipes like a light salad with goat cheese, or as a dessert, with a simple syrup and a few torn mint leaves.

You can take a look here in my post at Parade and get ideas for dining at the table outside now that al fresco dining is here.

http://communitytable.parade.com/503590/aliceknisleymatthias-2/bright-breakfast-and-dinner-ideas-for-strawberry-season/

Don’t wash strawberries in advance and store in the refrigerator. This creates an environment for bacteria and will result in moldy fruit.

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Wait until you’re ready to use the strawberries for a recipe and give them a soak in a water and vinegar mixture for about two minutes. Remove the berries with a strainer and allow to dry on paper towels. Read more about this method over at NPR.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14540742

Get your grill ready for making meals with a few easy steps. The best time to scrape down the grates of the grill is right before you put food on the grill when the surface is super-hot. Scrape again when the last piece of food comes off the grill.

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Meat and vegetables can be enhanced with flavor from a marinade or barbecue sauce. There are jars of these available at the store but they are generally high in sugar content. You can easily make your own barbecue sauce to brush on the food on the grill. Take a look at my post at Parade on the topic and you can make delicious meals all season long.

http://communitytable.parade.com/507507/aliceknisleymatthias-2/up-your-grilling-game-with-homemade-bbq-sauce/

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Read the following post to get your grill ready for outdoor cooking or get started choosing a grill if it is your first purchase. There are tips to help you make a selection for the kind of grill that would suit your lifestyle.

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http://communitytable.parade.com/506608/aliceknisleymatthias-2/the-simple-trick-to-getting-the-best-grilling-flavor-this-season/

Get to the farmers’ market or plant some fruits and vegetables that you can use in recipes as the summer season starts to bring relaxed days of outdoor dining our way.

Every Blooming Thing!

April has certainly played with us as far as feeling like spring has arrived. We had some warm sunshine mid-month and even had a day that flirted with 80 degrees. But this week, which ironically was spring break for public school kids, had us digging out warm jackets again and long-sleeve thermal shirts to wear under baseball uniforms for the Friday night game.

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Yet the flowering trees and riot of blooms from daffodils and colorful tulips is a reminder that we are headed in the right direction. Perennial herbs are bursting forth to get us thinking of ways to use them in recipes that will be enjoyed outside on the patio this season.

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The potted indoor herbs help us during the stretch of time from when the leaves drop from the trees to when they begin to produce white and bubble-gum pink flowers and sprout green leaves once again.

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The chives are back and are being chopped and sprinkled over weekend eggs for breakfast and added to mayonnaise for fresh flavor to spread on crunchy baguette slices for the kind of lunch that the guys enjoy. It also adds an herbal note to salad dressing.

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An easy go-to dinner during the warmer months is grilling a flank steak and grabbing a handful of herbs to mix with extra-virgin olive oil. The herb and olive oil mixture is poured over warm slices of steak from the grill and there is usually just about nothing left after hungry guys are served after a day of summer activities.

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Rosemary is not a plant that can remain outside through the cold months in our planting zone. It gets dug up and planted in a pot to join some other herbs inside to allow our kitchen to make dishes with fresh herb taste during the winter season.

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Rosemary sprigs are tossed in hearty stews and soups and the leaves just fall off into whatever is cooking in the pot. It lends a woodsy background flavor and the stems can simply be removed after cooking time.

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Rosemary mixed with olive oil, a bit of honey, and Dijon mustard is a favorite with slices of pork tenderloin.

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That pot of rosemary is heading outside next weekend since Mother’s Day is the safe-from-frost date in our planting zone. We also picked up some basil for the season to get started making warm-weather dishes.

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So we begin to spend more time cooking and dining outside. A hot grill and an icy-cold Mike’s Hard lemonade and all is well for al fresco dining and conversation.

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We are ready!

Get Some Ideas for Easter Dinner Like an Easy Baked Ham and More

Easter arrives early this year in the month of March. The daffodils are exploding to celebrate the arrival of the season.

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Many people serve a baked ham for Easter dinner. You can get an easy-to-make recipe from Tricia Yearwood that she shared recently on an episode of her show Tricia’s Southern Kitchen. Read about it in my post at Parade from this week.

http://communitytable.parade.com/490270/aliceknisleymatthias-2/hands-down-the-easiest-baked-ham-youll-ever-make/

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Asparagus has arrived at the farmers’ markets and you can get inspired to make some for Easter dinner and other side dishes in my post about side dishes in another post at Parade. There are recipe ideas for a bread pudding with chives and a cheese rosti that uses sharp cheddar cheese.

http://communitytable.parade.com/489902/aliceknisleymatthias-2/4-fresh-ideas-for-your-easter-feast-side-dishes/

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You can also get some ideas for after the meal with some sophisticated cupcake variations that the whole family can enjoy in another post from Parade that appeared on the site this week.

http://communitytable.parade.com/490559/aliceknisleymatthias-2/easy-to-make-dessert-ideas-for-easter-dinner/

We will have an early Easter egg hunt and sit down to a brunch of Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce, grilled asparagus, hash potatoes, and a sparkling punch with bright yellow slices of lemon.

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The table next to the reading chair in the den is filled with garden catalogues that arrive the entire month of March. Reading through them brings thoughts about the upcoming growing season.

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The herbs will slowly return in the garden and all the buds on the hydrangeas are the promise of future puffy blooms. Remember to never underestimate the power of a single bloom of any flower in a glass.

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This hyacinth for the Easter dinner table welcomes with the perfume from the flowers as soon as you walk through the front door.

Happy Easter!

 

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4 Ways to Eat Green for St. Patrick’s Day

Corned beef and cabbage not your meal of choice for St. Patrick’s Day? That’s fine. You can get your green into gear with some dishes that use spinach and herbs from my post over at Parade.

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There are recipe ideas that are easy, healthy, and green. Spring is just about here and any one of these dishes will get you ready for the growing season ahead. Easter is early this year and one of these recipes would also work for the holiday table.

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Head over to Parade and take a look at the recipe ideas from the blog Healthy Seasonal Recipes, BlogHer, Better Homes and Garden, and Food Network’s Ina Garten.

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Visit the post here.

http://communitytable.parade.com/488181/aliceknisleymatthias-2/4-unusual-and-healthy-ways-to-eat-green-for-st-patricks-day/

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!