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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Holiday Guide 2 0 0 9 N o v e m b e r 1 9, 2009


THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Two

Maintain Traditions With Planning

F

A Welcoming Wagon Charles McGovern/Cheshire Herald

Young visitors (from left to right) Ella Nocera, Nicholas Shaker, and Mia Shaker joined the scarecrows, cornstalks, pumpkins, and chrysanthemums on a festively decorated hay wagon display at Ives Farm on a recent autumn afternoon.

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Cheshire Junior Women’s Club members will once again serve as Santa’s “agents” this year. Any child writing a letter to Santa is encouraged to send it to the Cheshire Junior Women’s Club, P.O. Box 81, Cheshire CT 06410. Upon receipt, CJW will route the letter directly to Santa. All letter-writers will receive a reply from Santa himself ! To ensure a response, be sure that the letter is postmarked no later than Dec. 7.

or many families, the holidays are all about tradition. Traditions can include annual trips to Grandma’s house, where a family shares something as simple as the holiday meal. With the nation’s economy in flux, however, some family traditions could be facing cutbacks. For example, due to higher transportation costs, fewer families are likely to hit the road this holiday season, which could make it harder to keep longstanding travel traditions alive. But even families who are tightening the purse strings can keep the spirit of these traditions alive. It just takes some improvisation and a little planning. •Make your own meal: For many families, breaking bread at a favorite restaurant is a holiday tradition, but, as most adults know, the cost of nearly everything has been on the rise this year, making it more expensive to dine out, especially on a holiday when meals typically cost extra regardless of the state of the economy. However, there is a way to keep your culinary tradition alive, and save some money in the process. Rather than dining out this holiday season, dine in and recreate the meal you typically enjoy while dining out. If your family feasts on turkey at your favorite restaurant, you can save money by cooking a turkey yourself. For those who aren’t the cream of the culinary crop, there are a host of cookbooks or online recipes that

offer easy and step-by-step directions to cooking a host of holiday meal favorites. Once you’ve cooked your own family meal, you might be surprised at how easy it was and how much money you saved. •Change your schedule: Lots of families find the chance to gather with extended family and friends the true joy of the holiday season. However, with fuel costs still high, driving or flying to see relatives might fall by the wayside as families look to save some money. One way to counter the costs of holiday traveling is to travel on days that aren’t traditional travel days. This can prove especially prudent when flying, as airlines often charge far less if travelers are more flexible and willing to fly on off-peak dates. While you might not be able to spend the holiday itself with family and friends, you should still be able to spend some time around the holidays with them, and save lots of money in the process. Another way changing your schedule can save you money is if you get together with family and friends and choose to meet in a neutral setting that’s more amenable to everyone. Rather than one family traveling hundreds of miles to visit relatives, ease the burden by meeting at a halfway point where you can enjoy a good meal, spend the day together, and share the expense of traveling. •Be flexible: Because kids often get at least a week off from school See FLEXIBILITY, page 15

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Three

To Stuff Or Not? Food Safety Questions Answered

T

urkey and stuffing: Are there two foods more synonymous with the Thanksgiving holiday? According to the University of Illinois Extension, 97 percent of Americans enjoy turkey on Thanksgiving — a total of 675 million pounds. Millions of pounds of stuffing are likely enjoyed across America during Thanksgiving as well. The traditional turkey and stuffing can bring smiles to the faces of friends and family this holiday. However, if improperly prepared, popular combination can also bring something else to the table: food-borne illnesses. That is why it is important to maintain some safety precautions when handling and preparing the Thanksgiving feast.

Q: Should I stuff the turkey before cooking it? A: One of the first safety issues concerns stuffing a raw turkey and then cooking the stuffing and turkey together in the oven. Health officials advise against stuffing an uncooked turkey, primarily because salmonella and other microscopic pathogens may enter the stuffing from the raw juices of the turkey and then not be adequately eradicated during the cooking process. The recommended method is to cook the stuffing and turkey separately. If a traditional presentation is desired, add the stuffing to the bird’s cavity towards the end of the roasting time when the turkey is nearly cooked through. The flavors will meld while the turkey finishes roasting.

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Q: What is the best way to thaw a turkey? A: Turkeys come both fresh and frozen. A fresh turkey should be purchased no more than a day or two before it will be cooked. This is why many people opt for frozen turkeys, so that they can get the best deal and buy ahead. Frozen turkeys need to be thawed before cooking. It is not safe to thaw a turkey on the countertop as it may promote the proliferation of harmful bacteria at room temperature. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends three methods

of thawing a frozen turkey: in the refrigerator, in the microwave, or by submerging it in cold water. Depending upon its size, it could take a day or more for the turkey to adequately thaw. Q: How do I know the turkey is done? A: Turkey should be cooked until the internal temperature reads at least 165°F on a meat thermometer when the thickest part of the breast is checked. If you need to cook the turkey longer to achieve this, tent the parts which may burn or dry out — such as

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Four

Make Your Holiday Traditions More Eco-Friendly

W

hen it comes to colors, red and green are synonymous with the holiday season. The green of Christmas trees and the red of Santa Claus become more and more prevalent once the holiday season begins. But, this holiday season, more and more people are involving green in an entirely different way than expected. That’s because more people are going green this year to make their holiday as ecofriendly as possible. Anyone who is looking to make their holiday greener than ever should consider the following tips: •Embrace the e-vite. Holiday parties are a big part of the season. Be it the office holiday party, a gathering with friends, or the

traditional family gathering during the holidays, social calendars are especially busy this time of year. Unfortunately, many people still mail paper invitations to such gatherings. Those hosting a holiday party this year can positively impact the environment by choosing e-vites, which aren’t put to paper and, instead of traditional invitations, e-mailed out to friends and family. In addition to their environmental benefit, evites also make it easier for guests to RSVP, as it’s just a mouse click away instead of mailing the RSVP back to the host. •Make e-cards. E-cards are similar to e-vites in that they help reduce the reliance on paper, but still convey the same message to family and friends. E-cards can also help families save money

(some Web sites even provide free e-cards), and allow them to personalize cards depending on the recipient. •Use energy efficient lighting when decorating. Though one of the most eco-friendly ideas around the holidays is to forgo holiday lighting entirely, many families find this tradition too much fun and too enjoyable to abandon completely. That said, for families who want to positively impact the environment, while still enjoying holiday lighting this season, energy-efficient LED lighting can save substantial amounts of energy while helping save some money as well. LED lights can be used both indoors and outdoors, and are just as bright and aesthetically appealing as traditional lighting.

LED lighting is a more energyefficient, eco-friendly alternative for holiday decorating.

•Shop locally. Shopping locally when looking for holiday gifts is not only a good way to boost the local economy, but it also helps reduce packaging and transportation, which can prove taxing on the environment. •Wrap gifts in old newspapers. Many communities mandate that

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citizens recycle old newspapers and magazines. But, before shipping off newspapers to the nearby recycling center, use those old newspapers to wrap the family gifts. This can help save money on wrapping paper and the newspaper will still be able to be recycled, even after it’s already served dual purposes. •Get crafty. Ornaments to hang on the tree or around the house are a tradition many families enjoy each holiday season. But. every mom would tell you the most valuable ornaments are the ones her children made. Families can still make their own ornaments even if the kids are grown. Make ornaments out of recycled materials. Making ornaments from such materials helps save on packaging and make the most out of those old materials around the house. •Replant the holiday tree. The “artificial versus living tree” debate will continue forever. While there’s an argument to be made for both living and artificial Christmas trees, including how each can be eco-friendly, families fond of a living tree can help the environment by simply re-planting it once the holidays are over. Plant it in a pot and place it outside the house. Everyone still gets their living tree, but that tree can live on to see another day, once the holiday season has passed.

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Five

Shoppers Gear Up To Grab Black Friday Bargains

I

n an image reminiscent of marathoners lining up at the start of the race, each year stores across the country play host to scores of shoppers the day after Thanksgiving. Many of those shoppers arrive long before a store even opens, finding themselves elbow-to-elbow with similar deal seekers. Known as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving appears to be bulletproof. Even last year, when the national economy had already started to struggle, shoppers spent more than $10 billion on Black Friday. This year could prove difficult to forecast, as the economy has recovered somewhat, though many families continue to struggle through layoffs. Adding to that are the differing points of view with respect to Black Friday. For every success story of a hi-def TV purchased for 50 percent off, there seem to be a dozen more about individuals who wait outside a store in the cold, only to find a popular item

is sold out by the time they get in the doors. In other words, predicting the success of Black Friday for retailers is just as difficult as predicting the success of Black Friday for shoppers: sometimes both get what they want; sometimes neither does. But, if 2008 was any proof, shoppers are still going to hit the stores this Black Friday, and they’re probably going to do so in droves. For those braving the mayhem that often characterizes Black Friday, consider the following survival tips. * Do your research. Perhaps no items are more steeply marked down in price come Black Friday than big ticket electronics, most notably plasma, LCD or DLP televisions. Unfortunately, not all such appliances are equal. Getting a good price is not necessarily the same thing as getting a good deal. This is where research needs to play a role. Research big ticket items, including televisions. Retailer Web sites often have

Palace Stirs Up Holiday Spirit

On Sunday, Nov. 29, at 4 p.m., “The Spirit of Christmas” will take you on a magical journey to a winter wonderland of fun and festive cheer. Enjoy all your favorite Christmas songs and meet Santa Claus and his merry helpers, tap-dancing penguins, singing mice, elephants in pink tutus, naughty elves, and the highest kicking chorus girls this side of the North Pole! Tickets are $55, $45 and $35. On Saturday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m., The Waterbury Chorale and musical director Joseph Jacovino, Jr. present their annual “Christmas at the Palace” concert. This year, classical American vocalists Daniel and Heather Narducci join the Chorale’s talented singers, accompanied by the Waterbury Chorale Festival Orchestra.Tickets are $40 and $25. For tickets and information, visit palacetheaterct.org or call (203) 346-2000.

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customer ratings sections where customers can rate specific appliances. If ratings are consistently poor or commenters routinely cite problems, then steer clear of those items, no matter how low the price might be. • Get up early. Some deals are exactly what they seem. While it can be difficult to get out of bed in the middle of the night to go holiday shopping, it will be easy to go back to sleep when arriving home with exactly what you wanted and knowing you got the best deal possible. Many stores open at 4 or 5 a.m. on Black Fri-

day. While waking up that early seems like a tall order, particularly after eating so much turkey the day before, there’s no law against napping on Black Friday, and if you get what you came for, you could be back in bed in a couple of hours. • Don’t stress out. Black Friday isn’t easy for anyone (just ask the nation’s retail employees). Chances are, even the most veteran Black Friday shopper is going to feel stressed out at one point or another. If the stress becomes too much, simply go home. This year figures to have lots of good deals

throughout the holiday season, as retailers plan on families spending less thanks to the economy. That means the deals on Black Friday, while they might be the best of the season, probably won’t be significantly better than something you might find a few weeks later. • Buy a newspaper on Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving Day paper is packed with coupons offering Black Friday discounts. Peruse the paper for such coupons while watching football on Thanksgiving and you’re likely to be glad you did.

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Six

Some Of The Best Gifts Come From The Kitchen

I

f the best gifts come from the heart, certainly the next-best gifts come from the kitchen. Culinary treats can be perfect presents for your foodie friends or just about anyone on your list. Food gifts are especially perfect for friends, neighbors, teachers, and others for whom more elaborate presents are neither expected nor required. What’s more, the possibilities are endless and can be adjusted for varying palates, allergies, and preferences. Here are several suggestions for serving up delicious holiday gifts this season. Sugar… Just about everyone looks forward to seasonal sweets, from Christmas cookies to jelly doughnuts for Chanukah to benne cakes or sweet potato pie for the

final feast of Kwanzaa. •Rethink your cookies. When it comes to culinary delights, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the basics. But, if you want to put a twist on tradition, consider some alternatives to the holiday cookie sampler, such as decorating greeting-card-sized cookies with personalized messages, filling decorative jars with all of the dry ingredients needed for your favorite cookie recipe or giving the gift of dough — three different kinds of cookie dough rolled into logs, wrapped in wax paper and tied at the ends with festive ribbons. Or bake up a batch of Kitchen Sink Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe on page 13). •Take a dip. Dipping storebought confections such as peppermint sticks, candy canes,

candied orange peel, shortbread cookies, or even fresh figs in good-quality chocolate (a mix of dark, milk and white chocolate is even better!) will transform these everyday items into holiday-worthy gifts. •Think drinks. Nothing takes the chill out of a cold December morning like hot chocolate -- especially when it’s homemade. Make your own mix with ground chocolate and sugar or package a high-quality store brand in a festively decorated jar, then add some peppermint sticks, chocolate-coated spoons or homemade marshmallows to the mix. •Have a jam session. Handmade jams, preserves and fruit compotes are always appreciated. Your creation can be accompanied by the recipe, some scones or

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great toasting bread, or even a decorative serving jam jar. •Bark that’s as good as its bite. Chocolate bark is a delicious nobake gift that’s so easy to make you’ll wonder why you’ve waited so long to try it. Recipes are everywhere and you can customize the bark with your recipients’ favorite nuts, dried fruits and other tasty tidbits

…And Spice For people who love to cook, great ingredients make exquisite gifts. Think about giving your favorite foodie the gift of flavor in the form of spices, either from the bulk aisle at your favorite upscale grocery chain or a well-loved specialty retailer. Since spices don’t stay fresh forever, your culinary connoisseur is sure to appreciate a new assortment. For the more adventurous cooks on your list, consider purchasing a few special spices, such as saffron or vanilla —either the bean or a highquality extract. Spices can be purchased in small amounts and then presented in decorative airtight jars with handwritten labels. Other options include making and giving your own spice blends and purchasing whole spices, such as nutmeg or allspice, and

presenting them along with the appropriate tool for grinding or grating them. And Everything Nice Themed baskets of food will generate big smiles from everyone on your holiday list. Putting together an assortment of items for a particular meal or kind of cooking is as much fun for the giver as it is for the receiver. Here are some ideas that are both simple and special. •Breakfast basket. Fill a basket with homemade pancake and waffle mix and a bottle of real maple syrup, or go continental with a batch of freshly baked scones and a jar of lemon curd. For the cafSee GIVE, page 11

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Seven

RESTAURANT GUIDE

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Eight

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Manor Inn RESTAURANT AND CATERING

136 Meriden-Wtby Tpke., Milldale

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Michael’s Trattoria

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Nine

Protect Pets From Holiday Hazards And Hubbub

P

ets that aren’t used to a lot of foot traffic or noise could become anxious when guests arrive and holiday fun ensues. Further stress could be added by lack of attention on the part of pet owners and the changes to the home environment through the addition of decorations and a Christmas tree.

The holidays can present a host of hazards to pets. Be aware of these dangers to keep pets safe: •Don’t use poisonous plants in your holiday decor. Holly, ivy, mistletoe, and poinsettias can be deadly if consumed by most animals. Go with faux plants instead, if you desire the look. •Resist the urge to feed pets

leftovers from holiday dinner. Abrupt changes in your dog’s or cat’s diet can cause stomach distress, vomiting, and diarrhea. •Set aside a quiet space for pets to retreat to when there’s just too much commotion in the house. However, putting a dog in the backyard if it is extremely cold is simply off limits. A dark bedroom

away from the activity is best. •Cat-proof the tree. Cats love to climb and may take to your Christmas tree. Safeguard against the tree tipping over by securing it to the wall or ceiling with a piece of fishing line. Also, don’t put lit candles or breakables on areas where cats like to pounce. •Involve pets in the festivities

with a special treat. A new chew or chase toy is a nice idea. •Use a travel crate or a special seat belt to keep pets in place while traveling. Make sure your pets are safely secured in the car and not allowed to roam freely. With some planning and care, pets will be comfortable and content during the holiday season.

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Ten

Set The Holiday Table With Festive Harvest Decor

S

etting the scene for your holiday event doesn’t have to take a lot of money or effort. All it really needs is a little imagination and some items you probably have around the house. Get started by picking a theme. For Thanksgiving, a harvest concept is one that often comes to mind and it can perfectly complement the scope of the holiday. Make a running list of items that will fit with the harvest theme: Gourds, acorns, pine cones, corn cobs, and other outdoor finds are appropriate. They can also probably be found right in your yard. Purchase a tablecloth or look for alternative materials to serve as one. An inexpensive piece of cut burlap, leaving the fraying ends, can impart an earthy feel to the table. Gather thin twigs that can be attached together with cord to make inexpensive placemats. For an eye-catching centerpiece, purchase two vases, one larger than the other so that the

smaller vase can fit inside the larger one. Fill the smaller vase with water and fresh flowers that fit your color scheme. Add interesting texture with a few more twigs, berry sprigs, or pine cones attached with floral wire. Place the smaller vase inside of the larger one. Fill the void between the two vases with something small and colorful, such as coffee beans, berries, acorns, or dried leaves. For a simpler, seasonal centerpiece, place a small bowl or vase inside a hollowed-out pumpkin and add an arrangement of chrysanthemums, cattails, twigs, and berry sprigs. Many hosts or hostesses fret that their table will look mismatched if they do not have enough matching china or flatware for the dinner service. Don’t worry: eclectic tablesettings are all the rage. As long as you keep to the color scheme, you can pull off just about anything. Think about visiting discount stores that sell dishes singularly and pull together a

few different colors or shapes that will look cohesive together. Tie things together with the same colored napkin or another consistent element. Create unique place cards that can also serve as take-home favors for guests. Push whole cloves into small pumpkins to spell out the initials of guests. The setting will not only look festive, but smell good, too. Resist the temptation to over-do your tablesetting. Food and conversation should flow, so keep scale in mind for your centerpiece and limit table adornments so that guests can easily chat with one another and pass food. Tablesettings can be ornate or casual depending upon your mood. They’re also a great way to get kids involved with holiday preparations. Put them in charge of designing interesting centerpieces or seat and table accoutrements. You may be surprised at what they create.

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Eleven

Tips For Holiday Travel Can Ease Common Stress

Give A Basket Full Of Treats

in the early morning hours can significantly reduce travel time, as there are fewer cars on the road and possibly less accidents, leading to less rubber necking and less closed lanes. •Don’t ignore regulations or new rules. Ignoring regulations or newly adopted rules will only lead to unnecessary stress and nothing else. For example, in lieu of the poor economy, many airlines now charge passengers for checked and possibly even carry-on luggage. Travelers should be aware of this when booking their flight, or at least the night before when getting ready to travel. By ignoring regulations and rules, travelers are only setting themselves up for an argument at their check-in gate. It’s a stressful argument a traveler won’t win. •Plan for the worst. Travelers can do themselves a favor by expecting the worst when traveling. This includes heavily trafficked highways, airline delays, and even lost luggage. To prepare for lost

luggage, pack all valuables (i.e., medications, credit cards, etc.) in carry-on luggage. In addition, include reading material in carryon luggage to help combat boredom if a flight is delayed. And pack along portable video games or even a portable DVD player for kids, in case of long layovers or delays. When driving, be sure to pack food and beverages. If stuck in the almost inevitable holiday gridlock, extra food and beverages can help maintain energy and avoid hunger when there seems to be no rest area in sight. Also, drivers should always begin a trip with a full tank of gas. Running out of gas is never good, but can set a bad tone for a trip when it happens at the onset. •Return home a day early. Whenever possible, it can be especially beneficial to return home, via flight or vehicle, a day early. For instance, after the Thanksgiving holiday many people must return to work the follow-

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continued from page 6

halfway and take all the time necessary. For those who find holiday travel especially stressful, having that extra day at home to relax and unwind can make all the difference.

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feine lover, two mugs, one filled with a favorite gourmet coffee or tea and the other packed with some homemade pastries or a jar of jam. •Pasta basket. The centerpiece of this gift could be a jar of your famous spaghetti sauce, which is surrounded by a package of fresh pasta, a bulb of garlic and a wedge of Parmesan cheese. •Pizza basket. Start with a package of homemade pizza dough, add a jar of pizza sauce or pesto made from the basil in your garden, then decorate the basket with a merry mix of cheeses and popular pizza add-ons, such as pepperoni, olives, olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and small packets of spices, such as oregano or red pepper flakes. To ensure that your gifts don’t go to waste, be sure to include instructions for serving, storing, and handling the food — especially those items that need to be refrigerated.

ing Monday. That often results in overcrowded roads and highways on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. Avoid that stress by choosing to start the voyage home on Saturday. If driving, go

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hough the holiday season is welcomed by many as a chance to reconnect with family and friends, families are more geographically diverse than ever before and the amount of travel necessary for such reunions has taken away some of the joy. Long lines at airports, busy highways, and mass transit delays are common at this time of year, when it seems everyone has somewhere to go, and every way to get there is delayed. These tips may help make this travel season less stressful. •Be early. Nearly everyone is pressed for time around the holiday season. Increased days off from work unfortunately do not lead to less work to be done, as deadlines still need to be met and tasks must still be performed. In addition to that time constraint, the busy social schedule many people have during the holidays only further decreases what free time might be left. That said, being early when traveling is a great way to reduce holiday travel stress. If flying, arrive at the airport no later than 90 minutes before departure. Security at airports is especially stringent during the holiday season. And more and more people fly to see friends and families during the season, too. Both of those things emphasize the need to get to the airport as early as possible, no matter how pressed for time an individual may be. When driving to a holiday destination, set the alarm clock early and beat the crowds to the highways. Traffic is heavy and accidents are common during the holiday season. However, driving

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Twelve

THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Non-Traditional Gatherings Reduce Holiday Stress

G

athering with friends, neighbors and family is one of the great joys of the holiday season. But for many of us who are time-strapped, on a tight budget and racing against the clock to decorate, shop and cook, just feeding the family can seem daunting, let alone planning a holiday party. To keep spirits and energy levels high, consider inviting guests to a more relaxed and less-traditional holiday gathering that lets you have as much fun as everyone else.

Fondue It! Another low-stress, affordable party theme for the season is gathering friends and family at the table for retro-fun, yet chic, fondue. You can make it a complete meal by starting with a rich

cheese and white wine fondue, paired with slices of fresh apples and pears, crusty bread, boiled small potatoes, and fresh vegetables, such as carrot and celery sticks. For dessert, return to the table for a decadent dark or milk chocolate fondue spiked with brandy or cognac, and simply accompanied with cubes of storebought or homemade pound cake. Holiday Brunch A morning gathering is a great setting for showcasing your favorite homemade recipes while keeping the occasion casual and stress-free. Many breakfast foods are easy to make, economical and perfect for entertaining, since most dishes can be prepped or prepared completely in advance. Hearty egg dishes — oven-

baked vegetable, ham and cheese quiches, egg-rich casseroles and stratas — are the cornerstone of a filling breakfast. Prep dishes the night before in bakeware that allows you to and take them straight from the fridge to the oven and table. Homemade waffles, pancakes and crepes are favorite treats for morning gatherings, and guests — especially kids — can join in the fun of mixing the batter. Add a seasonal touch to recipes with pureed pumpkin and a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. Using fresh, seasonal ingredients, quick breads like cranberry-orange or sweet potato and cheddar cheese make welcomed additions to a holiday breakfast. For a holiday brunch that’s more savory and heartier in fla-

vors, lasagna is a classic crowdpleaser that can be prepped days in advance, then baked on the day of your gathering. Top off your delicious main course with a simple dessert of homemade pear cobbler, or fragrant apple crisp prepared in individual ramekins.

Dessert Buffet Not a morning person? Consider a post-dinner get-together that makes dessert the main attraction. Invite friends over for a delectable spread of homemade holiday treats, complimented with a tray of freshly brewed coffee or tea, mulled wine and assorted liqueurs. Present this sweet feast, buffet-style, in the kitchen or dining room, and encourage guests to get cozy and comfortable with their goodies in the family room or den. Classic seasonal desserts like rustic apple, pecan, and sweet potato pies always get raves from

holiday revelers. And no holiday celebration would be complete without batches of home-baked cookies. Encourage your guests to sample widely from your dessert buffet by offering smaller portion treats. Bake up some mini pumpkin cupcakes with a delectable orange cream cheese frosting, or use the mini muffin pan to make mini apple and walnut tarts.

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Kitchen-Sink Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 3 dozen)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 6 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 large egg 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips 1 cup pecan halves 1 cup walnut halves or large pieces 1 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted and chopped in half Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until smoothly blended, about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until blended, about 1 minute. Mixture may look slightly curdled. On low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing just until it is incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts until evenly distributed. Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough (about 2 tablespoons each) onto prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time until cookie edges are lightly browned, about 14 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to four days. Variations: Add 1 cup of raisins, dried cranberries, or chopped dried apricots to the dough with the chips and nuts. White, bittersweet, or milk chocolate chips, or a combination, can be substituted for the semisweet chips. from Elinor Klivans’ The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook (Chronicle Books)

Thirteen

Savor Nutritious Sweet Potato

M

other Nature’s perfect food comes in the form of the sweet potato. These unassuming tubers pack quite the nutritional punch, including a treasure trove of vitamins and minerals. One of their best-known assets is beta carotene, which gives the spuds their orange hue. Beta carotene and vitamin A promote healthy skin, hair, and eyesight. Sweet potatoes also contain a high amount of vitamin C and fair amounts of vitamin E. These are essential antioxidants that play important roles in the body, fending off diseases. Sweet potatoes are also chock full of dietary fiber, which can help you to feel full faster and keep your digestive system moving smoothly. In fact, sweet potatoes contain more dietary fiber than oatmeal, when eaten with the skin. Naturally fat- and cholesterol-free, with only about 120 calories per serving, sweet potatoes offer many benefits. Sweet potatoes aren’t just holiday fare. They can be served with most meats and poultry, added to soups and batters, mashed, grilled or baked. Here’s a tasty and healthy recipe to accompany any main dish.

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Fourteen

A Guide To Avoiding Online Shopping Headaches

S

hopping online, especially during the height of the holiday season, can save time, money, and a lot of headaches. The fact that you can pur-

chase gifts for everyone on your list at any time of the day or night, in the comfort of your own home, and stay far away from the mall is enough of an incentive for many.

A 2009 study by the Carnegie Mellon Green Design Institute showed that shopping via the Internet is not only more energy efficient, but its carbon footprint

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•Pay with a credit card or online payment service. When you make online purchases using a credit or charge card, the transaction is protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act, which gives consumers the right to challenge and dispute unauthorized charges. Some online retailers also guarantee that cardholders will not be responsible for unauthorized charges made on the Internet. •Print and save your order confirmation and receipts. For returns or to dispute charges, it always pays to have a paper trail. •Compare online prices. In most cases, multiple online retailers sell the same item, so check around for the lowest price. An easy way to comparison shop is by visiting one of several reputable online price-comparison sites. •Look for free shipping deals. If you’re making multiple purchases, look for Web sites that offer free shipping for larger orders. DON’T: •Submit any financial information other than your credit card number. If a message asking for financial information such as your Social Security or bank account number pops up while you are shopping or checking out, cancel the transaction immediately and leave the site. Reputable online retailers will never request that kind of information. •Pay with a debit card, cash, or wire transfer. These types of transactions can be difficult — even impossible — to refute or reverse. When shopping online, stick to credit or charge cards. •Buy from spammers. Never purchase in response to tempting e-mails offers that seem too good to be true. Most likely, they are. •Buy from a Web site that doesn’t “feel” legitimate. Go with your gut. If the site doesn’t feel right, don’t go through with the transaction. For more information on online shopping safety, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Web site at www.ftc.gov.

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THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

Fifteen

Top Off The Turkey With Classic Cranberry Sauce

C

ranberries are one of only three commercially grown fruits native to North America. Major production areas are located in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Quebec. Cranberries are a unique fruit and require very specific conditions in order to produce, according to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association. The fruit grows on low-lying vines in bogs layered with sand, gravel, peat, and clay. Cranberries are a wetland fruit, and water plays an integral role in the growth and cultivation of cranberries. Water is often flooded over cranberry plants to protect them from frost

and damage during the winter season. Harvesting of cranberries takes place in the autumn during a period from mid-September to early November. Harvesting can be done either as a dry harvest or a wet harvest. During dry harvest, a walk-behind machine rakes the ground to collect the cranberries. In a wet harvest, the bog is flooded and a machine churns the water to facilitate the release of cranberries from the plants. Then the cranberries float to the top of the water. The berries are rounded up and collected. It is estimated that nearly 85 percent of the crop is wet harvested. This year skip the canned cranberry jelly and go for fresh sauce. It’s very easy to make.

Classic Cranberry Sauce 1 cup water 1 cup sugar 4 cups fresh cranberries Wash off the cranberries and look for any that may be past their prime and discard. Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar completely. Add the cranberries and allow the water to return to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to cook until the cranberries burst. Stir until the mixture resembles a thick sauce with chunks of fruit. Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator. The sauce will thicken as it cools further.

Joseph A. Conte

Flexibility Key To Economizing continued from page 2

during the holiday season, many families choose to take mini vacations at this time of year. But the state of the economy might be making that tradition harder to keep this holiday season. It helps to be as flexible as possible. For instance, if a tradition involves a week or weekend at your favorite ski resort, you don’t nec-

essarily need to squash that tradition entirely. Rather, consider scaling it down. Choose a closer resort if possible, and instead of spending the night, make it a day trip. If you’re used to spending an entire week, save money by scaling it back to just a couple of days, and choose days in the middle of the week when resorts typically lower rates to attract more customers.

Jewelers, Inc. 39 Years of Jewelry Manufacturing Specializing in engagement rings, wedding rings and settings. Set while you watch by Joseph A. Conte personally. www.josephacontejewelers.com

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Sixteen

THE CHESHIRE HERALD, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

fraction of mall prices!

Wednesday/Thursday 10-6 Saturday 10-12


2009 Holiday Guide I Special Section