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Friday, November 25, 2011

Home for the Holidays

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Gift wrapping tricks and tips The holidays are here and that means shoppers have started to stockpile gifts for those they love. Once the shopping rush is over, the time to wrap all of those great finds and treasures has come. Although some people are gift-wrap gurus, there are many others who feel that their wrapping skills are lacking. Regardless, anyone can create delightful wrapped gifts with a little know-how. Prepare The first step to wrapping is to have all of the supplies in one place. There are some people who have actually dedicated small rooms as gift-wrap stations. While you don't have to go this far, find a large table and keep your tape, tags, paper, ribbon, scissor, pen, and other accessories nearby. Also, sort out the gifts according to recipient and have any gift receipts handy to wrap up with the gift. Wrap at a time when there are no distractions and you can devote your attention to the task at hand, like after children have gone to bed or during the day when no one is home. Paper or Bags? When purchasing wrapping paper, it may be tempting to skimp on the

quality of the paper to save money. However, a thicker, higher quality paper will make wrapping go more smoothly. That's because it will be less likely to tear on boxes or when you're rolling out and cutting it. Thicker paper means you'll also be able to achieve more intricate folds and better creasing around boxes. It also may be more forgivable around oddly shaped items. Gift bags are the go-to wrapping medium when you're short on time or have items that are not easily wrapped with paper. Because they come in a variety of sizes -- and even giant plastic bags to contain large gifts -- they are often more convenient. Other Tips • Use ribbon to dress up a gift and direct the eye away from any imperfections. • Keep a stack of paper scraps and use it instead of tissue paper to fill in gift bags. • Keep scissors sharp for clean cuts. • Pack smaller items or oddly shaped things into a different container that is easier to wrap.

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Origins of a holiday staple The thick, spiced drink we know as eggnog has become synonymous with the holidays. It is so linked with the Christmas season that a person may be hardpressed to find it sold in the supermarket any other time of the year. But eggnog wasn’t always the holiday beverage it has become. Eggnog is believed to have originated in 17th century Europe, primarily as a drink for the elite, since the ingredients in the beverage were hard to come by and thusly relegated to the very rich. There are different theories on the origins of the word eggnog itself. Some believe it has gotten its name from the Old English word “nog,” which meant “strong beer.” The “egg” refers to one of the ingredients in the beverage, fresh eggs. Others surmise that it comes from the word “nog-

gin,” which was a vessel for serving drinks in taverns. The drink was called “egg in a noggin,” which was shortened to “eggnog.” Still, there are others who say its name is derived from the term “grog,” which was another term for booze. “Egg n’ grog” was eventually abbreviated to “eggnog.” Although there is little certainty to the origins of the name, the recipe for eggnog has essentially remained unchanged throughout the centuries. It consists of beaten eggs, cream or milk and sugar mixed with some sort of alcoholic spirit. The Old English were believed to mix it with wine, though once the drink was brought to the New World, colonists substituted rum for the wine. Rum was readily available through tradesman running between the Americas and the Caribbean and therefore

less expensive than another spirit. As America grew and eggnog was enjoyed in different parts of the country, the rum was replaced with regional spirits, including bourbon or grain alcohol. Other ingredients were also added to give it a customized flavor. However, the use of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves has become traditional flavors for the holiday brew. Although eggnog is widely enjoyed throughout the holiday season, in the past it was served at special events and social occasions. As a warmed beverage it can easily chase away winter’s chill. This is how it may have come to be enjoyed primarily during the holidays. Love it or hate it, eggnog is a drink that can evoke strong feelings of the holidays within minutes.

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Easy ways to reuse and recycle holiday gift wrap Now that the holidays have come and gone, it's time to pack away the decorations, take down the tree and haul large bags of trash to the curb. If much of that trash filling garbage bags is discarded wrapping paper, there may be better ways to put the paper to use. The gift wrap industry earns roughly $2.6 billion in retail sales each year. Tons of paper trash is generated from the gift wrap people use to conceal gifts for Christmas, Chanukah and other special occasions throughout the year. As much fun as all the different patterns of wrapping paper can be, gift wrap is a rela-

tively unnecessary bit of decor, purchased with the intent of being ripped away and discarded. There are many ways that wrapping paper can be reused or recycled. Here are a few to think about. 1. Save some scraps of paper to use for children's art project at school and home. 2. Use in scrapbooking or as an inexpensive matting for photos. 3. Wrap other presents in paper that has been preserved well. 4. Shred the paper and use it as filler in packing boxes or as a decorative filling for gift bags.

5. Use bits of paper to make gift tags. 6. Employ origami and use leftover gift wrap as your paper of choice. 7. Line shelves or drawers with the paper to protect surfaces. 8. Make decoupage holiday decorations for next year. 9. Crumple up the paper and use it to stuff into tall boots so they keep their shape. 10. Trace the pattern of an envelope on the paper and cut out your own envelopes for little notes or holiday greetings for next year. 11. Buy a reusable coffee cup that enables you to

change the insert. Use a piece of gift wrap to change the design. 12. Cover a holey bulletin board with a piece of gift wrap for a festive look. 13. Find out which types of paper can be collected by curbside recycling and wrap it up with your newspapers. 14. Add some wrapping paper that's free of harmful dyes to your compost heap. 15. Use paper to line a bird cage. 16. Give paper to the kids to play with. Chances are they can come up with many other great ideas.

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Celebrating the season of Epiphany Celebrants of the Christian faith and Eastern orthodox Christian religion may want to wait a few days after Christmas to start packing away their decorations and cease celebrating the holiday season. That’s because it is customary to commemorate the Epiphany, which marks the day that Jesus Christ was revealed as the Son of God. Epiphany is known by a few different names. In addition to Epiphany, the holiday is sometimes called Little Christmas and the Feast of the Three Kings. Spanish-speaking individuals refer to it as El Dia de Los Tres Reyes, which essentially

translates to Day of the Three Kings. In Western faiths, Epiphany takes place on January 6th. However, in Catholic dioceses in the U.S., it is observed on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8. Eastern Christians follow the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, Epiphany occurs a few days later for them, on January 19. According to Christian tradition, Epiphany marks the day the traveling magi arrived from afar to bid welcome to the Baby Jesus. They presented three different gifts: gold, frankincense

and myrrh. “And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11 Although the Bible doesn’t specifically mention that there were three wise men, biblical historians interpret that there were only three due to the number of gifts that were presented. The names of the magi were Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, but this is something learned post-Bible as well.

Gold represented a gift worthy of a king. Frankincense was an expensive gift valued for its wonderful fragrance and medicinal values and worship. It is thought Frankincense spoke to the worship of God. Myrrh was used as an anesthetic and in burial embalming. It is also used to anoint one in faith. The meaning of the word “epiphany” is a revealing or an opening of one’s eyes. Although Epiphany is much known for the three wise men, the significance of the day is that God revealed Himself to everyone through the human person who was His Son, Jesus. God reveals

that the true God is Jesus, the Messiah, and Savior of the world, who was sent to the people for this express purpose. The day of the Epiphany actually marks the first day of the Epiphany season, which lasts until the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday. Through the Epiphany season, God reveals many intricacies of His Word through scripture in the Bible. Although many Christians celebrate the better-known holiday of Christmas, Epiphany may have even more spiritual meaning during this holiday season.

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Ready to Sing? Here are some more holiday favorites!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Home for the Holidays

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Home for the Holidays

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Friday, November 25, 2011

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Friday, November 25, 2011

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Prevent home break-ins any time of the year The joys of the holidays are many: Sharing eggnog, exchanging presents, trimming the tree, contacting the police to report a robbery. The last one certainly isn’t a joy, but it’s an all-too common reality of the season. But the holidays aren’t the only times that home break-ins take place. There’s no telling what goes through the minds of thieves, and preparing for any situation is the way to avoid loss due to theft. In the U.S., a home is robbed every 14.6 seconds, and the average dollar loss per burglary is $2,119, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Statistics Canada offers that break-ins are not only the most serious type of property crime committed in

Canada, but they are also one of the most common. In 2009, there were more than 205,000 break-ins reported to the police, accounting for 15 percent of all property crimes. Despite burglaries being down overall in numbers in both the U.S. and Canada, homeowners can still be diligent in their efforts to prevent break-ins and property loss. Here are some strategies for thwarting would-be thieves. ✶ Break down cardboard boxes. There’s no better way to tell thieves about all the new presents you received than by advertising them at the curbside. Burglars will see that empty television box or other expensive gadget boxes put out for pickup and have a

Friday, November 25, 2011 Keeping lights on and shrubbery trimmed around entryways helps dissuade burglars from attempting a break-in.

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clue about the new goodies inside the home. Instead, cut up the boxes and bundle them with newspapers so they are inconspicuous. ✶ Lock every door and window all the time — including the garage. Many people fail to realize that the garage presents a great point of entry to the house, one that is private and away from the eyes of concerned neighbors. Once inside the garage, a thief can use tools in the garage to pick at the lock on an inside door to the home. ✶ Forget about hiding keys. Thieves know about all the places homeowners hide spare keys. You’re not fooling anyone with faux rocks or a key taped over the door. If you’re prone to forgetting

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your keys, leave a spare pair with a trusted neighbor instead. ✶ Don’t advertise your status on social network sites. You may be excited to share your vacation adventures with friends, but posting pictures of your vacation or telling others about when you’re planning to leave the house can be dangerous. Even if you have your security settings locked down to only friends, the fewer people who know about your whereabouts the better. Your list of 200 friends may not be the closest friends anymore. ✶ Trim bushes and fix lighting. Darkness and camouflage are a thief’s best friends. Being able to hide behind shrubs to jimmy a

window or lock hides him or her from others who may witness suspicious activity. Keep landscaping neat around doorways and windows, and promptly replenish any burned-out bulbs. ✶ Don’t give burglars easy access. Leaving ladders or items that can turn into stepping stools enables thieves to reach any window or door of the house — even upstairs windows that may be unlocked. ✶ Keep things out of easy view. Close the blinds after dark. Some people love the open look of drape-free windows. However, giving outsiders a clear view of the interior of your home can set you up for trouble, as it gives thieves a view of your valuables.

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Little known facts about Chanukah... Chanukah is a Jewish holiday that occurs around the same time as Christmas, making it one of the betterknown holidays of Judaism. Although Chanukah is now much about flickering candles and eight days of celebration, there are many lesser known traditions and facts about the holiday. To non-celebrants, Chanukah is commonly considered the “Jewish Christmas.” However, the holiday actually predates

Christmas by several years and has a very different origin than what Christians celebrate at Christmas. Also, even though Chanukah is more talked about than other holidays, including Rosh Hashannah or Yom Kippur, it is considered by some religious scholars to be of less religious significance than other holy days. In fact, for most of its history, Chanukah was a very minor holiday. However, from the late 1800s on, its popularity

grew. Eventually Chanukah became one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays. The story of Chanukah isn’t even mentioned in the Torah. The events that led to the holiday occurred after the Torah period in 164 BCE. Here are some other lesser-known facts about Chanukkah. ✡ Although many people refer to the Chanukah candelabra as a “menorah,” a true menorah has seven branches to hold candles

and is associated with the Temple. The nine-branched candelabra that holds Chanukah candles is known as a “Hanukkiah.” ✡ Chanukah can be spelled in many different ways, including Hanukah, Hanukkah, Chanukah and Chanukkah. ✡ Chanukah is a communal holiday. It is best to light the Hannukiah where others can see it and hear you recite blessings. ✡ Chanukah is based on

the struggle led by the Maccabees, a Jewish tribe family, against the Hellenistic overseers of the Land of Israel. Hellenized Jews, including King Antiochus Epiphanes, had decreed that local religions, including Judaism, cease practice and that their traditions be outlawed on penalty of death. Hellenistic rituals and sacrifices defiled the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which eventually had to be cleaned and rebuilt.

Friday, November 25, 2011

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✡ Jewish tradition concerning Chanukah isn’t cut and dry. As said, it’s not included in the Torah, and much of the history of Maccabean events survived into modern times only through texts written in Greek. For the classic Jewish view of Chanukah origins, individuals must turn to the Talmud, a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philoso-

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phy, customs and history. What can be found is this: “On the 25th day of Kislev [begin] the eight days of Hanukkah, on which lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils in it, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed over them and defeated them, they searched and found only one bottle of oil

sealed by the High Priest. It contained only enough for one day’s lighting. Yet a miracle was brought about with it, and they lit [with that oil] for eight days. The following year they were established as a festival, with Hallel (prayers of praise) and Thanksgiving.” ✡ It has been said that the Maccabean war was the first war of ideology. The Maccabees weren’t warriors by nature. They were pious men stirred to action by beliefs. ✡ There are actually two miracles associated with Chanukah. First is that a flask of oil was found at all. The second is that the scant amount of oil found was enough to light the temple for eight days. ✡ Chanukah is celebrated on the same day each year according to the Hebrew calendar. But because the Hebrew calendar doesn’t correspond to our modern calendar, the day seems to fluctuate. ✡ Gift-giving was not traditionally associated with Chanukah, but rather a few sweets or money were exchanged. Eventually it grew into a gift-giving holiday.

Friday, November 25, 2011

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Significance of Midnight Mass Christmas is one of the most celebrated dates on the Christian calendar. Commemorating the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ is only surpassed in importance by the celebration of Easter, a time when Christians remember Christ’s sacrifice of life for His people. Christmas is often celebrated with much joy and fervor all around the world, with exchanges of gifts and special acts of charity all month long. One component of the Christmas celebration that has long been tradition and holds special meaning to celebrants is the Midnight Mass. Churches all around the

world hold four different Christmas celebrations, including three masses and a Christmas vigil. The Midnight Mass is perhaps the most cherished. Mass, a Christian liturgical rite that often involves the sacrament of the Eucharist, may begin prior to midnight and include Biblical readings that focus on the story of Christ’s birth depending on the church. At midnight on December 24, carols may be sung and the ringing of church bells to signify the birth of Christ as December 25 arrives. In Israel, a procession takes place from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. In the

Catholic Pope’s home of Vatican City, the Pope himself heads the Midnight Mass and people in large numbers pray for peace among mankind. Many theologians say that the Midnight Mass evolved from individuals making pilgrimages to Israel and the actual birthplace of Christ. Because the Bible states that Jesus was born at night and in a manger, to fully immerse oneself in the story and the liturgical significance of the moment, a Midnight Mass seems the best place to achieve these goals. The darkness and the gentle hush that nighttime provides helps set the scene and enhance the spiritual component of Christmas. The Nativity of Jesus takes place in two Gospels of the Bible: the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew. The version of Luke goes much more deeply into the story of Mary’s virgin conception through the time of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. Here is Christ’s birth according to the Gospel of Luke: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be

Friday, November 25, 2011 enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were shepherds in that region living

in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the

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city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ Later, the Gospel continues, “He was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the

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womb.” Midnight Mass has become an important component in the celebration of Christmas for the faithful. While secular celebrations may focus on the arrival of Santa Claus at the midnight hour, religious celebrations often involve filling churches at midnight to spread the word of Christ’s arrival.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Breakfast

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Start Christmas morning with traditional holiday breads or this rich breakfast casserole.

Baked Brunch Omelet Ingredients * 1/2 (1 pound) loaf white bread, cut into cubes * 1 1/2 pounds Cheddar cheese, shredded * 1 cup cubed cooked ham * 8 eggs * 2 cups milk * 1 pinch salt * 1 dash hot pepper sauce, or to taste * 1/4 cup chopped green onion

Prep Time: 15 Min *** Cook Time: 1 Hr *** Ready In: 1 Hr 15 Min

SERVES: 12

Directions 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. 2. Place half of the bread cubes on bottom of baking pan. Sprinkle with half of the ham and then half of the cheese; repeat. 3. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, salt, hot sauce and green onions. Pour egg mixture into pan. 4. Place pan on top of a baking sheet with a rim and place in oven. Pour water into baking sheet and bake for 60 minutes, or until eggs have set.

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Baking Fruitcakes Time is of the Essence The key to decadent fruitcakes is allowing enough time for the flavors to blend, or “ripen”--both before and after baking. Some bakers in the Caribbean begin soaking fruit in rum for many months in advance. ☛ For most recipes, a full month of ripening is a necessity. You can always store it longer than a recipe requires, but don't shorten the aging time. ☛ Ideally, take several days to make your cake or cakes. Chop the nuts and fruits, cover with liquor and/or fruit juice, and let the mixture stand, covered, for two or three days. Then make the batter and bake your cakes.

☛ Cool cakes thoroughly after baking. Use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes in the cake, and sprinkle with brandy or rum if desired. Wrap in liquor-dampened cheesecloth, and store in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. The fridge is fine, but don't transfer cakes to the freezer until the flavors have ripened and mellowed. ☛ Check the cakes once a we e k . Brush the cakes with more liquor, if necessary, and then rewrap them in the damp cloth. As You Like It A recipe is only a guide. Feel free to substitute other types of candied or dried fruit and nuts; just be sure that the weight of the fruit and nuts you choose equals that of the original

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At its best, fruitcake is simply a mixture of fruits, nuts, and just enough rich batter to hold them together. recipe. Dried fruits cooked in juice or wine until they're plump can take the place of candied fruits; home-candied fruits are far more flavorful than the store-bought variety. A Long Day's Bake Always bake fruitcakes slowly, at a low temperature-between 275 to 325 degrees F (135 to 165 degrees C). The cakes are dense with fruit that will release liquid during baking. Prepare your pans by greasing and flouring them or by lining them with greased parchment paper. When the cake batter is ready, spoon it into the prepared pans, and tap the pans on the work surface to pop any air bubbles. Arrange pecan halves, whole almonds,

candied cherries, or other fruit decoratively on the cake. ☛ Place cake pans on center oven rack; pans should not be touching each other. You may wish to cover fruitcakes with aluminum foil for the last half hour of baking. ☛ With such a long baking time and with so many varieties of fruitcake, color alone won't indicate when the cake is done. Test for doneness by poking a skewer or a toothpick near the center of the cake. It should come out clean. Storage & Serving Tips When wrapped in cloth and foil, a fruitcake may be kept for months or even years. Liquorbased cakes may be stored several months in a cool place. Cakes made without liquor may

be kept in the refrigerator for short-term storage or freezer for longer storage. ☛ A classic technique fo r storing fru i t c a kes for a long time without losing quality is to wrap the aged cakes in a thin layer of marzipan, coated with royal icing. The icing forms a firm, protective seal that will keep the cake moist. Store at room temperature. ☛ Fru i t c a kes freeze ve ry well; h oweve r, they must be aged for at least few weeks before freezing, as they do not mellow and ripen while they are frozen. ☛ When ready to serve, cut the cake into thin slices using a sawing motion. To avoid crumbling, use a serrated knife or other sharp knife.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Cookies

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Raspberry and Almond Shortbread Thumbprints Ingredients * 1 cup butter, softened * 2/3 cup white sugar * 1/2 teaspoon almond extract * 2 cups all-purpose flour * 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam * 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar * 3/4 teaspoon almond extract * 1 teaspoon milk

Prep Time: 30 Min *** Cook Time: 18 Min *** Ready In: 1 Hr 15 Min

MAKES: 36

Directions 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 2. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and white sugar until smooth. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Mix in flour until dough comes together. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Make a small hole in the center of each ball, using your thumb and finger, and fill the hole with preserves. 3. Bake for 14 to 18 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Let cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet. 4. In a medium bowl, mix together the confectioners' sugar, 3/4 teaspoon almond extract, and milk until smooth. Drizzle lightly over warm cookies.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Treats

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Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread Ingredients * 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree * 4 eggs * 1 cup vegetable oil * 2/3 cup water * 3 cups white sugar * 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour * 2 teaspoons baking soda * 1 1/2 teaspoons salt * 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon * 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg * 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves * 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

This is a great old Maine recipe, moist and spicy. The bread actually tastes even better the day after it is baked. Great for holiday gift giving!"

Prep Time: 15 Min *** Bake Time: 50 Min *** Ready In: 1 Hr 5 Min

MAKES: 3 LOAVES

Directions 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans. 2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans. 3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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Make the holiday season sparkle even more (MS) — The holidays are a festive time of year when people come together to socialize and recall good times shared through the years. At the heart of the holidays are moments for endless entertaining. Delicious food and cocktails are prime components of the fetes and festivities come the holiday season. Food and drink is so important it can take a little creative thinking on the part of holiday hosts and hostesses to devise unique food, beverages and favors that will garner rave reviews from guests. With some easy ideas from Verdi Spumante, party throwers can put a lit-

tle sparkle into any social ice. Tiny tacos? Why not? event of the season.

Good things come in small packages The bikini, the compact sports car, the miniskirt — despite their small stature, these things pack a big punch. When creating menu ideas, consider all of the foods you love to eat and then shrink them down to miniature. The fun factor of snacking on bite-sized burgers or diminutive doughnuts is hard to beat. Many stores sell decorative serving spoons, small ramekins and other inexpensive bowls geared toward miniature food serv-

Favors are fantastic It’s the holiday season, which means there’s even more reason to send partygoers home with a trinket or treat they can unwrap and enjoy. Though it seems everyone is downsizing these days, upsize party favors so guests can really indulge. The good news is upsizing doesn’t have to cost a fortune. For an intimate soiree, purchase some keepsake ornaments and attach to a bottle of Verdi Spumante, a sweet and satisfying sparkling beverage from Italy. Give one to all your guests, and chances are they’ll think you went overboard, but only you will know just how budgetfriendly this beverage can be. Boxes of chocolate, small gift baskets full of cheeses, or even packages of wrapping paper and gift tags make ideal favors this time of year.

Set the mood with music and lighting There’s something magical about the holidays. Maybe it’s the chill in the air or the possibility for an awe-inspiring spectacle just around the corner. Turn your home into a holiday wonderland full of twinkling lights, scented candles and mantles full of evergreen boughs as festive carols set the scene in the background. Even if the weather is brisk, tell guests to dress accordingly

Friday, November 25, 2011 and gather outside around a fire pit or outdoor fireplace for hot chocolate and warm cookies. Create dazzling cocktails Most holiday hosts and hostesses like to serve a signature cocktail at their parties to set the mood of the event. When thinking creatively, there are scores of great cocktails to try. Available in four varieties, including Classic Verdi Spumante, Raspberry Sparkletini, Green Apple Sparkletini, and Peach Sparkletini, Verdi makes an ideal starter cocktail guests can enjoy. For a green drink that’s tasty and festive, try an AppleVerdimosa. Mix 3-

1/2 ounces Green Apple Sparkletini by Verdi with 1/2 ounce kiwi puree and a dash of cherry juice. To enhance the green color of the drink, add a drop or two of green food coloring for some festive fun! Place the ingredients in a shaker and shake. And when New Year’s Eve arrives, ring in the new year with a champagne flute of Verdi in place of your usual champagne. The holiday season is often brimming with parties, informal gatherings with friends and many other chances to socialize and celebrate. Ensure the festivities are full of sparkling fun this year. More cocktail recipes are available at www.verdispumante.com.

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Holiday Eggnog (Spirited) 1 dozen eggs 1 lb powdered sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup vanilla 8 cups evaporated milk 3 cups water 1 quart spiced rum Nutmeg, to garnish Beat eggs until light in color, gradually add sugar, salt and vanilla. Then add milk and water. Stir in rum (brandy, bourbon or rye may also be used). Cover the nog and ripen for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Stir again and serve sprinkled with nutmeg.

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ways to create new holiday traditions

Much of what makes the holiday season so special is the traditions that people hold dear. While families have traditions that stretch back decades, there is plenty of opportunity to embrace new means of celebration to breathe new life into Christmas, Chanukkah or the season's other holidays. Chances are you're already hanging stockings or going caroling this year. You can add some of these and modify as they fit for your family. 1. Feed the wildlife. During the cold days of winter, birds and small animals that don't hibernate may find it difficult to forage for food. By trimming an outdoor pine tree in edible snacks you'll have a beautiful tree and one that benefits the wildlife as well. String peanuts and other nuts for the squirrels. Make little ornaments out of suet and string for the birds. Berries and corn can be enjoyed by

all. Be sure to choose a tree that is far enough away from the home, so you don't have too many scavengers hunting and pecking around the house. 2. Create a photo Advent calendar. Make your own Advent calendar that has small doors that open up to photos of different family members. Or use a collection of children's pictures that showcase how they've

changed as they've grown older. 3. "Adopt" a child for holiday gifts. Each year you can bring a smile to a child in need by purchasing a present for an underprivileged kid. Some post offices sponsor "Letters from Santa" events where participants can respond to one of the thousands of letters mailed to The North Pole. Or work with a local charity that organizes events

Friday, November 25, 2011 to bring gifts to children in hospitals or in foster care. 4. Holiday story countdown. Every night in December watch a movie or read a story that tells an uplifting holiday tale. Use this as a method of counting down until Christmas. On the night prior, reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" should suffice. 5. Remember someone who has passed on. The holiday season is one made beautiful by lit candles and twinkling lights. Remember a loved one or a friend who has passed away by lighting a remembrance candle in his or her honor. It's a way this person can still

be part of the festivities. 6. Have a holiday sing-a-long. Sure it may be tradition to go around the neighborhood singing carols, but it's just as fun indoors. Have a singing party where guests are given lyrics to popular tunes they can sing around the piano or karaoke machine. 7. Bring some joy to a public servant. Police officers, firefighters, military personnel ... many of these workers do not get off for the holidays. There are a certain number of public servants who must remain on call in the event of an emergency. Treat these people to something enjoyable when they may be missing their own festivities. Cook or cater a meal for

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Home for the Holidays

a fire house, deliver cookies to the police station or put together care packages for people living on a military base. 8. Banish the holiday blues. When the holidays are set to go for another year, many

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people find they become a little down. After all, a home that was once filled with merry trinkets may now go back to the bare essentials. Create a tradition where everyone in the family receives one more gift -- a personalized ornament that

can be packed away for use next year -- that's given in January before the decorations are packed away. It's another opportunity to open a present, and it symbolizes looking forward to the joy of next year.

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Holiday Entertaining Simplified: Time- and Money-Saving Tips for Holiday Gatherings The holidays are a season for savoring moments with loved ones shared over delicious foods. Whether you prefer buffet get-togethers or intimate dinners, simplifying the details by planning and prepping as much as possible in advance are surefire ways to save time and money. Here are a few helpful tips to take the stress out of holiday entertaining by keeping it simple and budget-friendly.

Creative Casseroles Make-ahead casseroles are perfect side dishes for the holiday season. They can save home cooks time and money by providing numerous ways to transform inexpensive ingredients into fla-

vorful dishes. Italian Pasta Gratin, for example, combines basic items such as pasta, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, mozzarella cheese and basil pesto to create an easy-to-make, satisfying dish. To streamline prep work, select three of your favorite casserole recipes and assemble one of each to have on hand before your busiest holiday entertaining week. (Store in refrigerator or freeze and thaw, if planning further ahead.) Or borrow a technique from meal assembly store chains by labeling and freezing all ingredients in separate zip-top plastic bags, so you have everything ready to assemble a

tasty casserole that can be cake-like cookies sandwichbaked as needed. ing a fluffy creme filling — are topping sweet trends Baking Family this year. Add a holiday flaTraditions Tempting holiday sweets vor by making them from and savories are a staple of gingerbread or adding a the season, but can be time dash of peppermint extract consuming to make if you to the filling. Save time by tackle all your recipes at baking and freezing the once. To gain efficiency and whoopie pies in advance, so keep cool in the kitchen, it’s you can add the filling as a good idea to spread out needed. the prep steps, buy ingredients in bulk (which can save a bundle), and make and freeze dough and pie fillings up to two weeks in advance. These steps can help you stagger baking times to avoid stress and keep you in a cheerful holiday mood. Whoopie Pies — essentially made from two round

One-Dish Meals When you’re looking to serve holiday guests a hearty and warming meal without toiling in the kitchen, soups, stews, chili, and braises are tasty one-pot meal solutions. Large batches of soup can be prepared (and frozen) from a variety of ingredients for nearly end-

Friday, November 25, 2011 less flavor variations. You can transform humble leftovers like a roast chicken and inexpensive frozen vegetables into a delicious dish by slowly simmering these ingredients with flavorful stock, hearty grains like quinoa and aromatic spices. If your holiday traditions include serving seafood, take advantage of today’s trend in Mediterranean cuisine and wow guests with paella, a one-pan dish that makes a colorful table presentation right in the pan. Your home will be filled with tempting aromas, and everyone will enjoy digging in to this traditional Spanish medley of saffron-infused rice, spicy chorizo, plump shrimp, and other delectable ingredients. For more intimate dinners with fewer guests, chicken fricassee and other robust, braised dishes can be made ahead and warmed up when the door-

bell rings.

Simply Breakfast When friends and family members are staying overnight, simplify the task of serving breakfast the next morning by arranging most of the setup the night before. A help-yourself brunch buffet with well-chosen options will stay fresh and delicious, regardless of when everyone wakes up. Breakfast isn’t complete without eggs, instead of feeling like a short order cook scrambling eggs and making omelets, try a breakfast strata, which is a layered egg dish that often includes bacon or ham and cheese, all flavors most guests love. The strata can be cooked in advance, placed in the fridge, then reheated and served straight from the

Home for the Holidays

oven to the table.

Tasting Fete To save on your holiday entertaining food budget while letting guests sample a wide variety of delectable dishes, consider a small plates-style soiree, instead of a full sit-down meal. Inspired by restaurants where appetizer-portion dishes let diners sample the chef’s best creations, a tasting spread laid out on your cocktail, kitchen or dining room table can incorporate mini servings of soups, casseroles, and desserts with easy prep and some menu creativity. When your small plates menu includes one or more dips and spreads, it’s a good idea to pair them with fresh vegetables that are blanched to give them a

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more pliant texture. Blanching is an easy technique where vegetables are quickly boiled and then placed in an ice bath to keep them crisp and tender while preserving their color and flavor. Go for a range of colors, tastes and textures when selecting vegetables to serve and pair them with an assortment of dips like roasted red pepper hummus or a simple garlic aioli. For a satisfying mini bite, it’s hard to beat sliders, which no one can resist and any host can personalize to make even more fun and festive. Serve sliders on mini brioche buns and offer a range of toppings, from thinly sliced cheeses and veggies, to thick spreads and spicy ketchups. Storebought or homemade

spreads and condiments look more appealing and sophisticated when they’re served in pretty bowls and dishes. Top off your fete with a no-fuss “interactive” dessert that’s also low-cost without skimping on sophistication and flavor. Cut up assorted fresh fruit, along with pound cake or loaf bread (baked in advance, or store bought). Place the sliced fruit on one side and cubed cake on the other side. Have bamboo skewers on hand and offer a selection of dessert dips, such as warm chocolate sauce, butterscotch, and marshmallow. For more information on time-saving favorites for stress-free holiday entertaining from please visit www.potsandpans.com.

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What to do with all those holiday leftovers

With a few creative ideas, anyone can turn leftover holiday foods into new meals.

The food cooked during the holidays is often enough to feed an army. Too often, hosts and hostesses prepare and serve much too much food, only to find themselves left with a refrigerator full of leftovers when guests don’t eat as much as hosts had suspected. In order to avoid wasting food, many people attempt to create new meals from their excess holiday ingredients. Putting leftovers to good use can take a little ingenuity to disguise the reality that you’re eating turkey or ham for the third consecutive night. All it may take is a little inspiration to create delicious meals with

repurposed holiday foods. The first thing to keep in mind when using leftovers is food safety. Any food remaining after the holiday meal should be packed into storage containers and refrigerated or frozen no more than 2 hours after the meal has ended. This ensures that bacteria are not able to proliferate in the food and cause foodborne illnesses. Choose shallow containers, which will enable the food to chill more uniformly and not create warmer spots that take longer to reach a safe storage temperature. Do not save any foods that have remained at room tempera-

MORE Christmastime Trivia 16. Why country has a tradition of a witch dropping gifts for children through the chimney at Christmas? 17. Which of the following is not the name of one of Santa's reindeer – Dasher, Donner, Doppler and Dancer? 18. What is Santa Claus called in France? 19. Which country is the largest exporter of Christmas trees? 20. Which American President banned Christmas trees in The White House? 21. How many days do we have between Christmas and the Epiphany? 22. We all know about the tradition of hanging stockings for gifts. Which country uses shoes instead of socks for the same purpose? 23. Where did the Nativity take place? 24. Which of these was not a gift given by the Wise Men to the Baby Jesus – gold, silver, myrrh and frankincense? 25. Which company made the concept of Santa Claus popular in America?

Friday, November 25, 2011 ture for too long or seem questionable, especially dairy products. It is adviseable to discard leftovers (even if refrigerated) after 4 days. Use it or lose it! Now that leftovers are properly stored, you can think up some creative menu ideas for using them in the next few days. ☛ Turn stuffing into croquettes or burgers by mixing chopped turkey with stuffing or adding a new meat to the equation, like sausage. ☛ Dice ham and potatoes and add to the morning

helping of eggs for a country-style omelette. ☛ Promptly boil the turkey carcass to make homemade stock for soups and stews. ☛ Turn leftover mashed potatoes into a creamy potato soup, with the addition of cream, bacon and scallions. ☛ Use cranberry sauce in place of butter on bagels or toast. ☛ Mash up leftover sweet potatoes and bake into a moist and delicious sweet potato loaf bread.

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☛ Create open-faced sandwiches for lunch by layering ham or turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy on top of a thick slice of bread. ☛ Diced meats, vegetables and onion can be added to a batter of pancake mix and turned into an easy quiche. ☛ Host Mexican night and use leftover turkey meat to make spicy fajitas, complete with sour cream and salsa. ☛ Use stale bread to make homemade croutons

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for salad or use in a bread pudding recipe. ☛ Add cranberry sauce to boxed muffin mixes for a tart treat. ☛ Turn leftover holiday meats into an Asian stir-fry with the addition of water chestnuts, bean sprouts, soy sauce, and mixed vegetables. ☛ Grind meats to make a hearty meat loaf. ☛ Make leftover potatoes into hash browns. ☛ Cube leftover cake and serve on skewers and fruit for dipping into chocolate

fondue. ☛ Use pie crust and small ramekins to turn turkey or ham into savory pot pies. There are so many ideas for using leftover holiday foods this season. Experiment with flavors your family will enjoy.

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Home for the Holidays November 25, 2011