Festive Food/Drink/Dresses – to ring in a New Year

 New Year’s Nibblies

Whether you’re hosting a New Year’s Eve party or attending one — you don’t want to spend what’s left of 2014 cooking in the kitchen.  Here are three perfect party solution appetizers with only 5 ingredients or less to make it easy for you.roasted-gnocchi-sundried-tomato-olive-stacks

They are taken from Justin Chapple, Food & Wines Test Kitchen senior editor.  Enjoy!

Roasted gnocchi, sundried tomato & olive stacks (photo above)

Ready made gnocchi make a perfect base for a bite-sized canapé that’s easy to make and perfect for a party platter or casual nibble with drinks.

Ingredients

500g pack of fresh gnocchi

4 tbsp olive oil

40 pitted green olives

40 sundried tomatoes

40 basil leaves

Heat oven to 350F. Tip the fresh gnocchi in a roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Thread the roasted gnocchi onto cocktail sticks with pitted green olives, sundried tomatoes and basil leaves. Serve while the gnocchi is still warm.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, November 2014

Smoked Salmon with Artichoke Hearts

Photo: Linda Pugliese/Food and Wine

Photo: Linda Pugliese/Food and Wine

Total time: 25 minutes

Servings: Makes 32 Hors D’Oeuvres

Ingredients:

16 small marinated artichoke hearts, drained, plus 1 teaspoon of the oil from the jar

1/2 cup packed celery leaves

1/2 pound thinly sliced smoked salmon, cut into thirty-two 4-inch-by-1-inch strips

1/2 small red onion, cut into thin 1-inch-long strips

Preheat the oven to 450°. Pat the artichoke hearts dry with paper towels and halve them lengthwise. Arrange the artichoke hearts cut side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast for 5 minutes, until sizzling. Carefully transfer the artichokes to a plate. Arrange the celery leaves on the baking sheet and coat with the reserved artichoke oil. Roast for 3 minutes, until the leaves are crisp.

Wrap each piece of the smoked salmon around an artichoke half and a few of the onion strips and transfer to a platter. Garnish with the crisp celery leaves and serve.

Bacon-Wrapped Cherry Peppers

Photo: Lucas Allen/Food and Wine Magazine

Photo: Lucas Allen/Food and Wine Magazine

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings 4 to 6

These genius hors d’oeuvres call for just three ingredients. The recipe can be made ahead of time, so it’s great for parties.

Ingredients:

6 jarred hot cherry peppers- halved through the stem, seeded, drained and patted dry

1/3 cup cream cheese, softened

12 thin bacon slices (6 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Stuff each cherry pepper half with a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese and wrap with a slice of bacon; secure with a toothpick.

Arrange the stuffed peppers in a large ovenproof skillet and cook over moderate heat, turning, until the bacon is browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the cream cheese is hot. Serve the stuffed cherry peppers warm.

 Other simple standard staples:

fig & stilton squares (on thawed out puff pastry that is baked in the oven) or even stilton spooned into hollowed out figs garnished with a halved walnut on top.

Photo: Tina Rupp/Food & Wine

Photo: Tina Rupp/Food & Wine

baked mushroom caps (stuffed with crab & cream cheese or your choice).

cheese platter (mix of soft & hard)

cut up veggies and dips (always a hit)

Party platters don’t have to be all too time consuming & crazy  making. Have fun putting them together.  They should be pleasing to the eye and the palate.  Your guests will enjoy your company and a good glass of bubbly.©LauraManske.CostaFavolosa.Prosecco1ac

Yes…..a bubbly person is always best!

DRINK:

champagne-sparkling-wine-food-pairings_612Champagne is the classic wine choice for parties and celebrations, it’s true. But if you ask people who’ve been in the wine business what their “desert island” wine would be—the wine they could see themselves drinking for the rest of their life—the answer is almost invariably

Champagne (and not just because it’s served cold). The reason is simple: Champagne and other sparkling wines—Cava, Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti, included—are not just great party wines, they’re also the most versatile wines for pairing with food.

What makes all these sparkling wines so food-friendly? Consider these factors: Most bottles are blended from different vintage wines, resulting in a cuvée that’s greater than the sum of its parts; they tend to showcase minerality, a characteristic that adds depth to fruity, savory, meaty, and gamy flavors; and these wines possess an unparalleled acidity that cuts through rich, fatty dishes and surmounts even high-acid ingredients such as tomatoes or vinegars. And of course, there’s the celebratory feel that sparkling wines add to any occasion. They’re playful enough for a casual weekend brunch and double as the go-to drink for more formal occasions.  Source: epicurious.com

WEAR:  when in doubt go for the classics like the never fail LBD.

Photo: Bazaar Magazine

Photo: Bazaar Magazine

It will never let you down, you can dress it up in so many ways (especially with something glittery) and you’ll wear it way after the midnight countdown.hbz-the-list-lbd-9-gareth-pugh-sm

 And if you’re planning to give someone the cold shoulder do it in a strapless LBD.

 

 

 

Lifestyle – the best is yet to come

best1With the new year almost here, we turn our sights to the months ahead and the promise of anticipated opportunities and a ton of new goals we set for ourselves.  We hope the “best is yet to come.” Maybe we should try to keep it simple.

As Liz Taylor would say…. I think I’ll just pour myself a drink, put on some listick and pull myself together.best3And get ready for what may come….

words…of change

 Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use. – Charles M. Schulzwords1

But sometimes we don’t want to invite change:

Remember Linus from the Peanut Gallery who used to carry his blanket everywhere?

In one comic strip Lucy has buried Linus’ blanket.
Charlie Brown to Linus: Why don’t you let me try to find some sort of substitute for your blanket? Maybe I could get you a dishtowel or something.
Linus: Would you give a starving dog a rubber bone?.

.words2I guess we can have a bit of both – some things should stay the same but we should always welcome change.

What do you resolve to change in 2015?

 

December 26th – Boxing Day

 boxingday4

Boxing Day always falls on the day after Christmas here in Canada.  The same goes for the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago & Jamaica.  Now it’s almost the equivalent of “Black Friday” in the U.S.

boxingday1

Sadly what was once a day of relaxation and family time has turned into a crazy shopping day.  Sales used to start in January post-New Year but the desire to grab a bargain and for shops to off-load stock means many now start on Boxing Day.  Actually there are sales all year long now as many have turned to shopping online.  Boxing Day is also a day of Christmas present returns/exchanges and some purchases for the following year.boxingday3boxingday2

Traditionally it was when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box” from their bosses or employers the following day right after Christmas.

However you choose to spend this day, make it worthwhile.

Things to do on Christmas Eve

christmaseve2

Take a spin on the ice (even at an indoor rink), do some last-minute shopping, make one final trip to see Santa – there’s still plenty of festive fun to be had on the night before Christmas.  Enjoy a quiet dinner with loved ones and sip on mulled wine or eggnog and drink hot chocolate.  Think about the upcoming year. christmaseveAnd above all…..be nice.

Food: serious heat

What to do when you don’t have the right chile.chile1

You know the drill. You’ve clipped or printed out a recipe that’s supposed to be tonight’s dinner. Except, the grocery store betrays you—not having those few essential items you need – specifically a certain CHILE.  The people at Chile Pepper magazine have substitutes for recipes calling for chili peppers that may be difficult to find. For example, in certain regions, some chiles like cayenne are impossible to find fresh.

The key to finding an adequate chile replacement is knowing its heat level, sweetness, and smokiness. We pooled our resources to come up with a substitution guide for whole chiles. While it focuses on whole fresh or dried chiles, you can always use a hot sauce in lieu of ground chile.

Anaheim: A mild green chile named after the California city, this pepper also goes by the name “California chile” and is often used for chile rellenos; the red strain is called Chile Colorado. Substitution: Canned green chiles or fresh Poblano chiles.

Banana Pepper: The sweet pepper, shaped like its namesake fruit, is also called yellow wax pepper. Substitution: Any mild chile like Anaheim or even bell peppers.

Bhut Jolokia: Also known as Naga Jolokia or ghost chile, this is the world’s hottest chile. Substitution: Red Savina Habanero (lots of them).

Cayenne: A bright red, hot pepper, usually sold dried. Substitution: Chile de Arbol or Guajillo. Crushed red pepper flakes are from cayenne, so it would be the easiest substitute, along with ground cayenne powder.

Chipotle chiles in adobo: The smoked incarnation of the jalapeno that’s mixed with adobo sauce. Substitution: One tablespoon ketchup + 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke + 1 jalapeno.

Habanero: A small, lantern-shaped chile that’s intensely hot. Substitution: Scotch Bonnets or double the dose of jalapenos.

Jalapenos: Smooth, dark green chiles that can vary from medium-hot to hot. Substitution: Half the amount of Serrano chiles.

Pasilla chile: The dried, medium-hot chile also goes by chile negro. Substitution: Ancho chile (sweeter) or Mulato chile (earthier flavor).

Scotch Bonnets: They belong to the same chile variety as the habanero.  Used for jerk chicken in Jamaica. Substitution: Habaneros.

Serrano chiles: A hot, slightly-pointed chile available in various colors. Substitution: Habanero or jalapeno chiles.

Thai chiles: A thin-skinned chile typically found in red and green, popular in numerous Asian dishes. (Bird chile is the name of the dried form; drying the chile gives it the hook shape, similar to a bird’s beak.) Substitution: Fresh or dried cayenne peppers or serrano chiles.

Also, Gourmet Sleuth has a magical solution: just plug in the missing ingredient and the website will spit out a substitution.

Source: Andrea Lynn, senior editor of Chile Pepper magazine.

 

 

 

Health MATTERS: a few noteworthy facts

Here are six interesting research-backed food facts – some that might seem a bit shocking.  Something to talk about at your next cocktail party – it’s amazing to find out how much food and nutrition info. we don’t know.

fact6

Source: Purdue, Tafts

Source: Purdue, Tafts

Source: NY Times,  Journal of Pain.

Source: NY Times, Journal of Pain.

Source: Cinnabon, Coca-Cola

Source: Cinnabon, Coca-Cola

Source: Starbucks

Source: Starbucks

So watch out for this

So watch out for this.  I used to drink vodka & soda.

Some thoughts…

If I had to choose I would much rather put extra calories into a big gooey cinnamon bun than a soft drink.

Know your ingredients. Unless you look up the ingredients how in the world would you know that Starbucks was colouring their frappuccinos with ground up bugs? I used to drink those too.

Invest in a black light.

Your thoughts?