In honor of the holidays coming up, here's a verbal smorgasbord of tips, recipes, cookbooks and other items to help you prepare for entertaining or a family meal, or simply to share some Thanksgiving cheer.
Fixing a big dinner for family and friends at holiday time can be a daunting experience.
All those dishes, all those ingredients, all that time! To help all busy cooks, the Georgia Department of Agriculture has put together a collection of holiday recipes that each take six ingredients or less, which cuts down on both preparation time.
The recipes are for stuffed turkey breast, country ham souffle, apple- and pecan-filled squash and colorful spinach salad.
For free copies of the recipes, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to "Celebration Recipes," Georgia Department of Agriculture, 328 Agriculture Square, Atlanta, Ga. 30334.
Here's a sample:
Apple and pecan squash
2 medium acorn squash
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
1 cup chopped, unpeeled apple
1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans
Slice acorn squash in quarters. Remove seeds. Scoop a teaspoon of squash pulp out of each quarter to make extra space for apple mixture. Place in microwave-safe dish and add three tablespoons water.
Combine brown sugar, butter or margarine and chopped apple, and mix well. Spoon into squash shells. Cover, leaving a vent for steam to escape, and microwave at 50 percent power for 5 minutes. Turn dish 1/4 turn and microwave at full power for 7 minutes. Squash should be tender and moist. Sprinkle with pecans.
Note: To toast pecans, toss in a skillet over medium-high heat until toasted. This will happen quickly, so be careful not to let them burn.
Some holiday parties pack a real "punch" -- with calorie-laden lTC eggnog or "spirited" concoctions that can leave guests bleary-eyed in the morning. An alternative to alcoholic drinks might be a delicious fruit punch, such as red raspberry mulled cider, from the J. M. Smucker Co. Here's the recipe:
Red raspberry mulled cider
Makes 6 6-ounce servings
1 quart apple cider or apple juice
1/2 cup seedless red raspberry jam
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Combine cider and jam in a non-aluminum saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk to dissolve preserves, then simmer until cider is warm. Add lemon juice and pour into warm mugs.
The cider may be prepared in advance and reheated in a microwave oven in individual cups. Or, it can be kept warm in a decorative saucepan set over a chafing dish.
If you're new to the business of roasting a turkey, you may be baffled about what utensils to buy. Metro Marketing of Gardena, Calif., makes the answer easy with its new seven-piece roasting set. The set includes an oversized, non-stick roasting pan, a V-shaped rack, an oven thermometer, a bulb-type baster, a basting brush, turkey skewers and string.
The rack is designed to position the turkey for even roasting, and allows placing vegetables in the bottom of the pan to braise in the turkey's juices.
Suggested retail price for the kit is $19.99; it's available from Metro Marketing; call (800) 367-0845.
Tired of the same old dishes at Thanksgiving, the baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows, the overdone Brussels sprouts? Alternatives abound in the "Chuck Williams Thanksgiving and Christmas," a companion to the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library series from Time-Life Books. Author and store founder Chuck Williams offers six different menus for holiday dinners: traditional Thanksgiving; "light" Thanksgiving; cozy Thanksgiving; festive Christmas; casual Christmas; and Christmas for friends.
The book includes tips, a primer on equipment, and photos and instructions for techniques from carving a turkey to zesting a lemon.
The book is available at Williams-Sonoma stores nationwide ($17.95), and through the "Williams-Sonoma Catalog for Cooks" ($14.95). For a copy of the catalog, call (800) 541-1262.