Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I LOVE Thanksgiving because it is all about is Giving Thanks and simply that! So, be grateful, enjoy your family, eat a wonderful dinner and appreciate the freedom we all have here in America. God Bless Us Every One! Thanks be to God!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Punch? Here's 3 to make for the holidays!

When I was growing up, almost every gathering included some kind of punch. I am not sure why it's gone out of style -- maybe it's because you have to make it as opposed to buying it? I don't know, but I do know that if you want to entertain with style and stay on budget, punch is a great way to go!

My MIL entertained beautifully, as did my mother and grandmother. These southern ladies almost always served punch when they partied. So, party like it's 1965 and serve punch next time you host a gathering!
Here are 3 to try during the holiday season. All of them include alcohol in the recipe, but give options to serve them with or without. You can add or subtract the alcohol, according to your taste and preference. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Cranberry Punch
1/2 gallon cranberry juice
2 750ml bottles champagne or other fizzy wine, such as prosecco OR ginger ale
1/4 c. triple sec or Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)
Sliced oranges
Chill your ingredients and pour it them into a punch bowl.
This is nice if you freeze an ice ring made from cranberry juice with a splash of orange juice. Put some sliced oranges and a few maraschino cherries in the ring before freezing, and it will look pretty while it keeps the punch cold! Use a plastic ring mold, like you'd make jello salad in or a bundt cake pan. We served this last Christmas -- with the champagne -- and it was a BIG hit!

Hot Spiced Apple Cider

1/2 gallon apple cider
2 c. orange juice
2 tsp. whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg
2 - 3 whole cinnamon sticks OR 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 pint apple brandy (optional)
1 orange, sliced
Combine cider and sugar in a large pot. Add the spices to the pot. If you like, you can tie the spices up into a little pouch, like a bouquet garni. (**see cooks note). Bring the punch up to a boil and add the orange juice, lemon juice and brandy, if using. Turn it down to low and allow to simmer about 15 minutes. Serve warm.
** You can purchase cheesecloth specifically for this purpose at most fabric stores or kitchen supply stores (like Bed Beth and Beyond). I don't tie my spices up. Instead, I stud some orange slices with the cloves and let the oranges, nutmeg and cinnamon sticks float around in the punch.  I pour the finished punch into a crock pot set on low heat and let it simmer on the counter or the table. That way frees up your stove and lets people serve themselves. Lovely hot drink to serve at Thanksgiving or on New Years Day!

Pink Lady Punch
1 quart cranberry juice cocktail
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 quart pineapple juice
1/2 quart grape juice
2 quarts ginger ale OR 2 bottles club soda OR 2 bottles brut champagne
Chill all the juices and ginger ale or champagne. Dissolve sugar in the juices. Add the ginger ale or champagne. Makes approx. 32 1/2 c. servings. A ring mold made from grape or cranberry juice would be nice in this punch, maybe with some maraschino cherries in it. Even ice cubes made from the juices with one cherry in each would be cute! This is CLASSIC Lady Punch!
Break out that punch bowl and PARTY!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quick and Easy, Healthy Marinara Sauce

When we say spaghetti at our house, we mean meat sauce. That's what spaghetti meant to my family when I was growing up and that's what it means when my kids ask for spaghetti. My mom was a pretty good cook, but there were a few dishes she really made well. One of them was meat sauce. She simmered it all afternoon and made enough to freeze so that we could have it again. I've tinkered around with her original method over the years, but it's still pretty close to what she made and what her mother made.

All that being said, over the years I've added different sauces to my cooking rotation (here's one). Lately, I've been making a super healthy marinara sauce. I got my inspiration from Giada on the Food Network, but have tweaked it just a little but, like I almost always do. For one thing, since it's just me and the hub around the house most of the time these days, I only make enough sauce to feed the 2 of us. It's a quick and easy sauce and full of veggies, so you can feel very virtuous when wolfing down your pasta. I found some delicious chicken meatballs by Sabatini at my local big box store, and often add 2 or 3 per person. Couldn't be easier! Whether you are vegetarian, trying to cook a little healthier of just need something good and quick to get on the table, you are going to love this recipe, I promise! If you are serving more than two, just double it. (This picture shows the sauce with the chicken meatballs added, but it's super good without them, too.)
Vegetarian Marinara Sauce with Chicken Meatballs
Vegetarian Marinara Sauce
2 T. olive oil
1 small onion
2 - 3 garlic cloves
4 baby carrots or 1 regular carrot
1 stalk celery
1  14.5 oz. can organic diced tomatoes
1/4 c. dry red wine
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
a pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil or 1 T. minced fresh basil
1/4 tsp. sugar
Put the onion, garlic, carrots and celery into a mini food chopper and pulse until they are of uniform size and well chopped. If you don't have a mini food chopper, chop them all together until they are finely diced. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed, deep skillet over low heat. Add the veggies and saute' them until they are soft and fragrant. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil and sugar. Bring the sauce to a boil. Cover the skillet, turn the heat down to low and cook for 30 minutes. Serve over your favorite pasta. If you are adding meatballs, simmer them for at least 20 minutes along with the sauce. This is a thick and chunky marinara, so stir it often and keep the heat low. Serves 2.