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Healthy, reduced-guilt holiday desserts

The holidays are right around the corner and so are the rich, indulgent foods that adorn many dessert tables. Sweets of the season tend to be rich in flavor but also calories and fat.

Still, you don’t have to deny your cravings this holiday season. It is possible to create satisfying, sweet treats that are healthier options than traditional holiday fare. With these quick nutrition-savvy tips, enjoying decadent desserts has never tasted so good.

Infuse fresh flavors

Start your baking with all-natural ingredients and incorporate seasonal fruits and vegetables, such as apples, pears, sweet potatoes, pomegranates and pumpkins. These, along with super foods like walnuts and soy, are excellent choices to increase the nutritional benefits, and enhance the flavor, of baked goods.

Try fresh variations to old classics to give your homemade desserts a gourmet twist. Add a dash of vitamin A-rich chili powder for a bold take on dark chocolate brownies or tarts. Experiment with exciting combinations like lavender and lemon for a bright, unique flavor and a healthy dose of iron, plus vitamin C. Mix antioxidant-rich basil and cinnamon to produce a powerful taste sensation with added health benefits.

Make smart swaps

When deciding on a recipe for your next holiday gathering, take a look at its nutritional value, as not all desserts are created equal. To create reduced-guilt baked goods use alternative ingredients, such as egg whites instead of whole eggs or whole wheat flour instead of white flour. Apple sauce is also a clever way to introduce moisture into cakes rather than using oil.

A reduced-fat pumpkin pie – which can be made by blending pumpkin with healthier ingredients, like egg substitute and non-fat milk, may be significantly lower in calories and fat than pies made with full-fat ingredients.

As an added bonus, the leftover pumpkin pie ingredients, plus a few extra items likely on hand in your kitchen, can easily yield a low-calorie smoothie. This smooth, frozen treat is the perfect way to enjoy the fruits of your labor while baking for company.

Add a smooth finish

Don’t discount chocolate. In addition to being delicious, dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao contains heart-friendly antioxidants. Make a festive fondue platter with warm dark chocolate and sliced fruits like bananas, pineapple and strawberries.

Similar to a traditional fondue table, by creating a variety of dips and glazes, you and your guests can indulge in a sinfully good concoction that is still light on calories. For dips, opt for a Greek yogurt base that is high in protein and sweeten with natural ingredients, such as agave nectar and honey. A cinnamon glaze made with soy milk and tofu will please your palate – even if you follow a vegan diet.

Pick petite portions

Anyone with a sweet tooth can attest to the desire to eat with abandon during the last course. However, controlling portion sizes – whether cutting thinner slices of cake or splitting a piece with a friend – is an important part of smarter holiday indulgence.

Better yet, stick to smaller servings by getting creative with the end product. When baking a pie, lose the top crust. Or, instead of a pie, try a bite-size tartlet. Encourage sampling by making mini-muffins and cupcakes rather than their oversized counterparts.

Making a few small changes to your ingredients and your intake will lower calories, provide some unexpected nutritional benefits and keep you satisfied all season long.

Experience the flavor of Vietnamese cinnamon

Cinnamon may be the world’s most popular baking spice, but all cinnamons are not created equal, and in the foodie world, Vietnamese cinnamon has emerged as the most prized of the bunch.

The bunch, by the way, includes an array of cinnamons and cassias, all from evergreen trees of the Cinnamomum genus. Some are from Indonesia, others from China, Sri Lanka or Mexico.

Dark reddish/brown and lushly aromatic, Vietnamese cinnamon is favored for its distinctly sweet, peppery, spicy flavor. Less tannic and more robust than its relatives, it delivers a powerful taste whether used solo – as in those gooey rolls or spirally bread – or in combo with other spices – in a curry or pumpkin pie spice blend, for example.

All that potency comes from an extraordinarily high volatile oil content – the highest of all the cinnamons about 1 to 6 percent, compared with .5 to 2.5 percent in other cinnamons. The high oil content also helps the flavor disperse fully; there’s no mistaking what spice you’re dealing with when you taste a dish seasoned with Vietnamese cinnamon.

Tips for using Vietnamese cinnamon:

Browse any assortment of baking recipes and you’ll find cinnamon in the ingredients lists for cakes, muffins, breads, cookies, pies, bread puddings, cobblers, crisps, and pastries. It also has a special affinity for fruits, such as apples, apricots, cherries, pears, bananas and citrus.

Cinnamon’s warm flavor also shows up in plenty of savory dishes – soups, sauces, chutneys, catsup, pickles, fish, meat and poultry glazes, as well as many ethnic recipes. Its pungent sweetness also enhances grains and hearty vegetables like carrots, squash, potatoes, beets and onions. In most savory dishes, cooks prefer Vietnamese cinnamon over other cinnamons because of its ability to hold its own alongside other lively ingredients.

When using Vietnamese cinnamon to spice a beverage – a hot cocoa, an eggnog, hot cider, coffee or tea – you might start by stirring it into your prepared beverage just a bit at a time. Once you nail your preferred amount, you can add it directly – right into your coffeemaker basket along with your ground coffee, your mulling cider pot or your tea blend, for example.

Vietnamese cinnamon also partners well with other spices like cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, allspice and black pepper.

Here are a few places you might not have considered using cinnamon:

* Soups, stews and chili
* Peanut brittle
* Popcorn seasoning
* Spice rubs for meats
* Grilling marinades for fruits
* Rice and tapioca puddings
* Chocolate cakes
* Spiced nuts
* Granola and muesli

Here’s a recipe that shows off the vibrant flavor of Vietnamese cinnamon:

Poached Cinnamon Cheese Pears

4 large pears
3/4 cup pear juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons golden raisins
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon powder
3 tablespoons slivered almonds

Slice pears in half lengthwise and core. Place in a saucepan. In a small bowl combine juice, honey, vanilla extract, cinnamon stick and raisins; pour over the pears. Cover and simmer about half an hour, until pears are just tender. Place pears on a serving platter. Blend together cream cheese, leftover cooking liquid and cinnamon powder. Spoon some of the mixture atop the center of each pear, sprinkle with almonds, and serve.

Makes four large servings.

For a collection of seven savory recipes with cinnamon from various publications, visit www.theKitchn.com. Vietnamese cinnamon is available through Frontier Natural Products. They offer their organic Vietnamese cinnamon (5 percent oil) in one-pound bulk bags as well as 1.31-ounce bottles. This brand won the Gold Star Award from the restaurant industry publication Sante Magazine, who deemed it “a standout.”

Adding Traditional Twists to Thanksgiving

Across America, families will be spending Thanksgiving together, and more than likely, enjoying the same menu items they’ve enjoyed in years past. Interestingly, more than half of Americans would embrace adding new foods or new preparations to the Thanksgiving table this year, and many think that side dishes provide the perfect opportunity to experiment, according to the findings of a new survey.

The survey conducted by Pillsbury reveals that 89 percent of Americans say preparing homemade foods shows their loved ones how much they care. However, many think the Thanksgiving meal is the most stressful of all holiday meals to make, and 72 percent are always looking for tips and tricks to prepare their dishes quicker.

The survey also shows how new food trends are shaping today’s Thanksgiving table. While some households are starting to offer alternatives to turkey, more are incorporating vegetables into their meals. Green beans, corn and carrots are among the top vegetables that Americans will serve for Thanksgiving. Other side dish staples include stuffing or dressing, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes and cranberries. With the need to reduce meal preparation time, and the interest of many to incorporate new dishes to their traditional meal, an easy and delicious dish such as Sweet Potato Casserole Crescents is one that will surprise and delight friends and family members.

Pie is a traditional Thanksgiving element and many families will end their meal with the pumpkin variety, the top Thanksgiving dessert served across America, according to the survey. Apple and pecan pies are close followers.

“We often hear from consumers that they want to make a homemade pie for their holiday celebration, but they find making the pie crust challenging,” says Madison Mayberry, Pillsbury food editor and entertaining expert. Her recommendation: make a homemade pie using a Pillsbury Pie Crust, found in the refrigerated aisle at your supermarket. The pre-made crust allows you to unroll, fill, top and bake, saving time and making it easier to bake a delicious pie. Mayberry recommends adding one of these popular pie recipes to your holiday meal: New Fashioned Pumpkin Pie, Perfect Apple Pie, or Salted Caramel Pecan Pie.

New-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:

1 box Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk (1 1/2 cups)

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 425 F. Place pie crust in 9-inch glass pie pan as directed on box for One-Crust Filled Pie.

2. In large bowl, beat eggs with wire whisk. Stir in remaining ingredients until well blended.

3. Pour into crust-lined pan. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F; bake 40 to 50 minutes longer or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

4. Cool completely, about 2 hours. Store in refrigerator.

Tradition holds true across the country when it comes to Thanksgiving dinners. But with emerging food trends, and families trying to incorporate time-saving techniques and modernizing some of the classic recipes, today’s Thanksgiving table has a bit of a new look from years past.

For more Thanksgiving holiday recipe ideas, visit Pillsbury.com.

 

Unique & nutty twists on holiday recipes

With the holidays fast approaching it’s time to enjoy some of the season’s tastiest foods. Small twists can turn a traditional dish into a holiday classic.

The good news is it’s simple to add a fresh twist to holiday favorites with easy additions like Fisher Nuts.

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, an Iron Chef and expert on Food Network , says that nuts are one of the most versatile ingredients to use when reinventing dishes. Here are her top five tips for cooking with nuts:

1. Cranberry sauce with a tiny grate of orange zest and a handful of toasted almonds stirred in at the last minute puts a simple but tasty twist on a staple Thanksgiving side dish.

2. Want rich, thick gravy with no lumps? Thicken gravy with ground nuts instead of flour. Simply separate a little of the gravy in a bowl and blend with ground walnuts until smooth. Then just whisk it back in the pot with the remaining gravy.

3. Spruce up holiday side dishes by stirring in some toasted pecans or almonds. Top gratins with a thin layer or stir a handful into sauteed or braised vegetables. The nuts bring out the earthy flavors of vegetables, adding richness without making dishes too heavy.

4. Stir together melted semi-sweet chocolate and a handful of chopped pecans or walnuts. Add a pinch of cinnamon and roll into bite-size candies. It’s an easy way to have something different than a pie or cookies for the holidays. Plus it’s gluten free.

5. Make nuts part of any season by toasting them in a little warm olive oil over medium heat. When the nuts are toasted and coated in the oil, stir in any fresh herb (for example, rosemary for winter or basil for summer) and allow the herbs to gently crisp up and meld with the nuts. Serve as is with a pinch of salt.

These five tips can help you transform traditional holiday fare into instant classics. To “wow” guests, try this tasty recipe from Chef Guarnaschelli at your next gathering:

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Pecans

Sweet potatoes are at their best when combined with something sweet. This recipe blends flavors reminiscent of a cinnamon-infused pecan coffee cake topping and pairs them with sweet potatoes for a change from the more traditional marshmallow topped casserole. Plus, it’s perfect for busy cooks because the potatoes can be microwaved in just 15 minutes. (Prep Time: 25 minutes. Cook Time: 15 minutes Yield: 8 servings)

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Ingredients:

4 large sweet potatoes, about 3 pounds
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon orange zest, packed
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 cup Fisher Pecan Halves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Pierce sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Microwave on high for 15 minutes or until completely cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle.

3. Topping: Meanwhile, combine the pecans, flour, sugars, cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to blend. Mix in 1/4 cup butter. The topping should form sandy clumps. Refrigerate.

4. Split the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out some of the flesh inside. Arrange the sweet potato “halves” on a baking sheet. In a medium bowl, combine the sweet potato flesh with the remaining 1/4 cup butter, orange zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spoon the filling back into each potato half and top with the topping on a baking tray. Place the tray in the center of the oven and bake until the topping browns, 15 to 20 minutes.

Serving seafood this Holiday Season

When you’re brain-storming holiday menus, do lovingly roasted turkeys with all the trimmings and decadent cookies dance alongside the peppermint and sugarplums in your visions? Certain flavors and foods are strongly associated with the holiday season – seafood, however, isn’t always among those favored dishes. But it could be! The right seasonings and a dash of creativity – along with historically low prices on well-loved options like lobster – could make seafood a centerpiece of your holiday menus.

Serving seafood can allow you to combine both the “wow factor” your family and guests crave in a holiday meal with the nutritional benefits they deserve. Nutrient-rich seafood is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Plus, with a wide variety of textures and flavors to choose from, you’re sure to find a type of seafood that appeals to every person at your table.

Here are three secrets to incorporating seafood into your holiday entertaining:

1. Buy as close to fresh as possible.

Unless you live in a fishing village, it’s almost impossible to get truly fresh fish. Most seafood will have been refrigerated and/or frozen at some point in its journey from the water to your grocery store – and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, if the seafood were left unfrozen, it could easily spoil by the time it reached the market, so don’t discount a selection because you suspect, or are sure, it’s been frozen. Instead, consider how the fish or shellfish looks and smells – and in the case of live shellfish, how it acts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says fish should smell fresh, not “fishy.” The flesh should be shiny, firm and free of slime for both whole fish and fillets. Uncooked shrimp should be translucent and shiny, with no strong odor. If you’re buying live lobster or crab, avoid ones that appear lethargic, and instead look for ones that show leg movement. For live shellfish, tap the shell before buying. If the animal inside is alive and healthy, the shell should snap shut.

2. Variety is the spice of life.

Let’s be honest – even people who eat a lot of seafood often reach for the same old seasoning week after week, regardless of the time of year. Traditional seafood seasoning is flavorful, appealing and versatile – hence its popularity. But if you would like that flavor in organic versions with a more robust taste, maybe a Cajun twist, or even a version with less salt, try something new.

Frontier Natural Products offers three organic seafood seasonings – Original, Reduced Sodium and Blackened – that enhance a variety of seafood dishes. Made with certified organic, premium spices, all three flavors use real sea salt rather than evaporated table salt. Kosher-certified by KSA, the seasonings also help restore America’s wetlands – 1 percent of sales of the spices goes toward wetland preservation and restoration.

Mix up your approach with these seasonings. Sure, they’re great sprinkled atop a grilled or baked fillet, but how about as an ingredient in lobster macaroni and cheese? Or as the flavor that gives an extra zing to a crab dip?

3. Par for every course – and time of day.

Some people only feel confident serving fillets as an entree. Others can manage a crab dip appetizer but can’t envision basing an entire meal on seafood. Still others would never dream that seafood could work well on their breakfast table. Because of its variety and versatility, seafood can be great for any – or every – course and served at any time of day, from breakfast to a late-night snack.

Can’t imagine how seafood fits into a breakfast? Try incorporating leftover lobster in your scrambled eggs, a la Seinfeld’s George Costanza. Or, substitute a crab cake for the English muffin and give traditional Eggs Benedict a whole new appeal. An updated tuna salad or well-seasoned chowder is always great for lunch. And dinner can be a seafood extravaganza with appetizer and entree both going swimmingly with the holiday season.

You’ll find plenty of seafood recipes at Frontiercoop.com. Here’s one that echoes the holiday season’s blend of comfort and excitement by using lobster to give classic macaroni and cheese a sophisticated, celebratory flair:

Smoked Gouda Lobster Macaroni and Cheese  (Prep time: 20 minutes. Cook time: 35 to 40 minutes. Serves five)

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

3 teaspoons Frontier Original Organic Seafood Seasoning, divided

1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

8 ounces uncooked rotini (or other pasta)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups 1 percent milk

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup sour cream

4 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, grated

6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

6 ounces raw lobster tail meat, cut into pieces (thaw if frozen)

1 1/2 teaspoons medium grind black pepper

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, melt one tablespoon butter. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, 1 teaspoon Seafood Seasoning and bread crumbs. Set aside.

Add rotini to the boiling water and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain pasta and reserve.

In a large saucepan, melt four tablespoons butter and add flour. Cook over medium heat, whisking, three to four minutes, until golden. Gradually add milk to flour mixture, whisking. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat to low.

Add the heavy cream, lemon juice, sour cream, Gouda cheese, cheddar cheese and two teaspoons Seafood Seasoning, stirring until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth.

Spray a 9-by-9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray and place cooked pasta and lobster in pan. Pour cheese sauce into pan and mix everything together.

Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top of macaroni and cheese, and then bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are browned. Sprinkle final dish with black pepper.

5 tips to avoid holiday weight gain

Who doesn’t love the smell of a warm kitchen during the holidays? They’re designed around food and bringing family, old friends and new friends together. However, holidays can also be a detriment to your healthy lifestyle and cause you to lose your focus through the end of the year.

But they don’t have to.

“Think of fall as the perfect time to reassess the state of your health and prep for the challenges of the holiday season,” says Alicia Rodriguez, corporate registered dietician at Life Time – The Health Way of Life Company. “When it comes to nutrition and avoiding weight gain, my motto is, keep it simple and easy.”

Here are some tips to help you do the same.

Bulk up your plate with protein and vegetables

The side dishes at most holiday meals are often as good as the turkey or ham, but stuffing and mashed potatoes aren’t the best way to fill your plate. One way to avoid-weight gain is to build your plate with protein. This should be easy since holiday dinners revolve around meat. Second, fill your plate with side dishes that include vegetables. You may have a little spot left on your plate – use this space for your “indulgence.” When you look at your plate, the goal is that the majority is still providing you with good nutrients and reduced carbohydrates.

Use the “fork” trick

Many of us go back for seconds, and even third helpings at holiday meals. This year, focus on asking yourself if you’re enjoying your food. To help you answer this question, use the fork trick. Once you take a bite of food, place your fork down on the plate and let it go. Chew your food, swallow and then pick it up again. The key to this trick is letting go of the fork. This will remind you to slow down, enjoy your food and converse with friends and family.

Avoid the clean plate club

Growing up, many of us were always told “You can’t leave the table until you finish everything on your plate” and inevitably, we spent many nights sitting alone at the dinner table. These days, Rodriguez advises her clients to eat until they are full and, if their plate is not clean, it’s OK. Focus on one plate of food, slow down and be careful not to overeat. Overfeeding is never really a healthy thing to do.

Share your dessert with a loved one

After a satisfying meal, it is hard to avoid the sweet smells of pumpkin -or warm apple pie. If you choose not to skip dessert, share a small slice with a loved one or new friend. If you are hosting, designate one family member to bring dessert to limit the endless selection of pies and reduce the urge to over indulge.

Make like a turkey and trot out the door

Start your holiday with a new tradition this year and gather the family to do something active. Take a walk to a local park, put together a family friendly flag football game, rake the leaves up in the yard (and jump into them) or encourage the family to sign up for a run/walk event such as the Drumstick Dash in Roanoke.

Holidays are a time to be thankful for family, friends and everything in between. Savor the moment, really take time to taste your food, get out and have some fun, and avoid the-holiday weight gain.

Maximize snack mixes

Everyone wants to enjoy foods they can feel good about eating, and snacks are no different. While carrot sticks and crackers with cheese are great go-to options, it’s important to mix things up. Snacking should be tasty and combine an interesting medley of flavors, as well as include whole grains and vitamin-rich ingredients, resulting in a savory, nutritious nibble.

When deciding between your favorite snacks, there’s no need to sacrifice flavors and seasonings often reserved for main course dishes. Instead, look to combine different food groups to create unique, delicious snack mixes. A mix can not only pack a lot of flavor but also can be full of nutrient-rich vitamins and whole grains.

The perfect snack mix combines flavors, textures, seasonings and tastes.

* Whole grain crackers add heartiness to your snack leaving you deliciously satisfied.

* Adding vegetables such as leafy greens adds vitamins and minerals – a perfect low-calorie addition.

* For extra crunch, popcorn or nuts are flavorful ingredients to add to your mix for a wholesome, appetizing snack.

Chef Rocco DiSpirito, known for his best-selling healthy comfort foods series Now Eat This!, created Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crumbled Snack Mix, a tasty mix of popcorn, kale and the new Brown Rice Triscuit, which is baked with 100 percent whole grain brown rice. This snack mix is one great way to reap the benefits of whole grains in a distinctive new way.

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Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crumbled Snack Mix (Yield: 9 servings, about 1 cup each, Prep time: about 10 minutes, Processing time: about 10 minutes)

Ingredients:

Olive oil cooking spray

3 tablespoons popping corn kernels

1/8 teaspoon each salt and crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch of Tuscan kale (about 15 leaves), or 4 loosely packed cups of leaves only (remove tough center stem with knife or kitchen shears)

20 Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crackers, quartered

1. Spray a medium-sized saucepot with 1 second of cooking spray; add the popcorn kernels and place over medium high heat. Cook, covered, shaking occasionally until the kernels have popped, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat; place popcorn in large bowl and season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

2. Lay the kale out in batches in single layer on microwave-safe plates. Spray each plate with 1 second of cooking spray and microwave on high for 1 minute. Flip the leaves, then microwave on high until the leaves are dried and crisp, about 1 minute. Continue microwaving, if needed, turning every minute until crisp. Repeat with remaining kale.

3. Break the kale crisps into bite-size pieces. Toss with the crackers and popcorn and serve.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 80 calories, 2g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 90mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate, 2g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 2g protein

Etiquette to Survive Holiday Gatherings

Whether you are hosting a fantastic holiday gathering or you’re the gracious guest, ask yourself this question: Are you comfortable with your knowledge of etiquette? Are you confident in your table manners or do you admit you take your cue by watching those around you?

“It seems so many people only think about etiquette during the holidays and then the pressure is on to be perfect,” says etiquette coach Dubravka Vujinovic. “But proper manners should be important at every meal, whether you are sitting down to a formal gathering or casual dinner with friends.”

Vujinovic is one of the etiquette experts at North Carolina-based Replacements, Ltd., the world’s largest retailer of old and new china, crystal, silver and collectibles. This time of year the company is bombarded with inquiries from those needing a crash course in proper social graces and entertaining. Questions range from how to set the table, to the best way to serve the perfect meal.

Vujinovic offers these suggestions for your next event:

BREAK OUT THE BUFFET

Buffets settings are becoming increasingly popular. In this style of setting the host places the food, dinnerware and utensils on a sideboard or table and guests serve themselves.

“I love buffets, because they are so stress-free for me as a hostess,” says Vujinovic. “Since the food is already on the serving table, I don’t have to keep running back and forth to the kitchen to keep bringing out different courses or dishes; I can relax and enjoy the evening. On the other hand, as a guest, I like buffets because this setting allows me to eat the food I want; I don’t feel obligated to have to sample everything that is being passed around the table.”

If you’re hosting a seated buffet, water glasses should be filled and on the table before your guests sit down to their meal. Guests should be guided to pick up their dinnerware and place it at their individual setting.

SET THE PERFECT TABLE

If you opt to set your table in advance or if you’re a buffet guest setting your own place setting, remember, forks go to the left, knives then spoons to the right. The sharp side of the knife blade should be turned toward the dinner plate. And remember, only include utensils in your place setting that will be used for the courses you are serving; extra pieces may confuse your guests.

The bread plate goes on the left of the dinner plate, glasses on the right.

Don’t panic if you aren’t sure about the proper place setting for each meal. Vujinovic says you can find “cheat sheets” or place setting guides for various meals on the company’s website, replacements.com, under the site’s “neat things” tab.

TIPS FOR HOSTS & GUESTS

Remember, the host/hostess always sits last. That person will let you know when it’s OK to begin eating. They may offer a blessing or statement or perhaps start by passing a dish.

Always pass food around the table counter clockwise to your right and refrain from serving yourself first. Pass the salt and pepper as a set, even if you’re only asked for one.

If you’re not sure which utensil to use with each course, start on the outside and work in toward the dinner plate.

Don’t cut more than one or two bites of food at a time, and never butter an entire roll or piece of bread. Instead, pinch off pieces small enough for one or two bites and butter those first.

If you need to excuse yourself temporarily, place your napkin on your chair to indicate you will be coming back. Signify you’re finished with the meal by placing your napkin to the left of the dinner plate, and your fork and knife side by side diagonally across your plate with the sharp side of the knife blade facing inward and the fork tines up.

Turn your cellphone on vibrate or don’t even bring it to the table. Enjoy the company of those around you.

Still hungry for more tips? You can find additional etiquette dos and don’ts on the Replacements’ YouTube channel.