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The Times
  • Food for Thought: Easy meals for entertaining

  • GateHouse News Service's weekly Food for Thought, with tips on easy meals for parties, Champagne and safe cooking temperatures.

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  • While holiday meals often take on a special significance because of the season, every meal is an opportunity to show those you care for what they mean to you. Instead of stressing about each meal throughout the holiday season (and all year long), why not create a few "go-to" meals that are not only special for those who will enjoy them, but are also no muss, no fuss for you - and simply delicious? Let's take a look at four meal occasions that occur throughout the year - especially during the holiday season - and help you create the perfect meal to enhance the occasion and win you rave reviews at the same time.
    Meal 1 - The perfect intimate dinner for four. Admit it. Sometimes it's fun sitting down with another couple and sharing life's experiences over a sumptuous, relaxing meal. The chefs of Kansas City Steak Company have developed a wonderful line of Bake & Serve Gourmet foods that will help you get that special meal on the table faster, giving you more time for wine and conversation. How about Beef Wellington as the star of the meal? Add in a favorite appetizer, like caramelized onion-and-feta kisses and a show-stopping dessert like chocolate velvet boule. And don't forget a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon to round out your intimate dinner. If you're looking for a can't-fail intimate meal, this one is always a hit.
    Meal 2 - Open house? No worries! Planning a dinner party can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. First, go with a buffet. It's easier for you and more efficient in serving many guests. Then, select your meat. Deciding how much meat you need per person is sometimes a good way to decide what kind of meat you'd like to serve. If you're serving steak or pork, with just a couple of sides, it's best to consider about 8 ounces per person. If you have multiple appetizers and desserts, you could probably drop that down to 5 to 6 ounces/person. Some great options might be a large prime rib, sliced thin on crusty rolls or beef tenderloin tip kabobs (easy to eat and oh-so delicious). Add in a variety of sides (or ask your guests to bring their favorite appetizers). Offer a variety of desserts (cheesecakes, sponge cakes, cupcakes, etc.) and you have yourself a great party. 
    Meal 3 - Did someone say, "brunch?" As we try to plan more togetherness time throughout the busy holiday season, many are turning to brunch as the perfect way to start the day. Be sure to keep some great appetizers in the freezer. These bite-size nuggets are perfect complements to your brunch menu. How about a hickory-smoked boneless ham that's already sliced and the perfect choice for any egg dish you might choose? Some choose to add special desserts, while others go with a selection of warm pastries or bagels and toppings. Add a variety of fruit juices, mimosas and freshly ground coffee and you're good to go.
    Page 2 of 3 - Meal 4 - Put some scrumptious supper in your football celebration. How about giving your guests a choice of sandwich steaks, steakburgers and chicken breasts? These combo packages from Kansas City Steaks are perfect for game day get-togethers; they're packaged and ready to cook. Add some buns, toppings, chips of choice, and maybe some crab cakes or shrimp, or whatever your crowd enjoys to start the party. Finger food is the way to go with sports-themed parties, so be sure to end the meal with cookies, brownies or something sweet. And don't forget the beverages. -- Brandpoint
    Tip of the Week: Vary your protein sources with eggs
    "One egg a day, on average, doesn't increase risk for heart disease. Only the egg yolk contains cholesterol and saturated fat, so have as many egg whites as you want."
    -- ChooseMyPlate.gov
    Fancy Recipe: Lobster Salad with Asparagus Herb Mayonnaise 1/2 pound thin asparagus, tough stems removed 1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as chervil, parsley, tarragon or chives 1/3 cup mayonnaise 2 T champagne or sherry vinegar 2 T Dijon mustard 2 T walnut or hazelnut oil 2 one-and-a-quarter-pound lobsters, steamed, tail and claw meat removed from shell 4 cups mixed baby lettuce Juice of 1 lemon, divided Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper    Prepare large bowl of ice water, and set aside. Bring shallow pan of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and blanch until bright green and just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove and plunge into ice water bath to stop cooking, reserving asparagus water. Once asparagus is chilled, remove from ice water bath, pat dry and set aside.    Place herbs into blender and puree with 2 to 3 tablespoons reserved asparagus water until smooth. Whisk mayonnaise with pureed herbs and 1/2 the lemon juice. Then season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.   Whisk vinegar, mustard and remaining half of lemon juice together in large bowl. Slowly whisk in walnut or hazelnut oil until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.    Slice lobster tail into 1-inch pieces. Cut asparagus in half on diagonal. Add sliced lobster, asparagus and baby lettuces to dressing and toss gently to coat.    Spoon herb mayonnaise onto 4 plates in a circular pattern. Divide lobster evenly over plates. Place asparagus around it; mound salad greens in center of each, and top each with lobster claw.    Serves 4.
    -- Family Features/Martin Codax Winery
    Food Quiz
    Ancient Romans used what herb to make sacred head wreaths?
    A. Cilantro
    B. Bay leaves
    C. Rosemary
    Answer is at the bottom of the rail.
    Wise to the Word: Champagne
    Champagne is a region of France that produces the world's most celebrated bubbly of the same name. Real Champagne is made exclusively from a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes. Vintners in many countries do make their own champagne-inspired sparkling wines, but the real thing is produced soley in the Champagne region of northeastern France. If someone tries to serve you 'champagne' from the United States, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic or anywhere else outside of Champagne, know that you're being duped.
    Page 3 of 3 - -- Cookthink.com
    Number to Know
    160: The USDA recommends all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Farenheit. They also report that one in four hamburgers turn brown while cooking before reaching this temperature, so use a food thermometer to make sure. Go to IsItDoneYet.gov for the safe cooking temperatures of other types of meat.
    The Dish On ...
    "Jerusalem: A Cookbook"
    In Jerusalem, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi explore the vibrant cuisine of their home city — with its diverse Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities.
    Both men were born in Jerusalem in the same year — Tamimi on the Arab east side and Ottolenghi in the Jewish west. This stunning cookbook offers 120 recipes from their unique cross-cultural perspective, from inventive vegetable dishes to sweet, rich desserts.
    With five bustling restaurants in London and two stellar cookbooks, Ottolenghi is one of the most respected chefs in the world; in "Jerusalem," he and Tamimi have collaborated to produce their most personal cookbook yet.
    -- Amazon.com
    Answer
    B. Bay leaves. Bay leaves (alloro) have been used in Italian cooking since ancient times. Ancient Romans used bay leaves to make wreaths, with which they crowned revered poets and athletes. Bay leaf is an aromatic herb that contributes a delicate bitter flavor to soups, stocks, stews, and fish and bean dishes.
    -- Delish.com

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