Tag Archives: holiday

Holiday entertainment survival guide

The countdown to this year’s holiday season has begun. Department stores have decked the halls. Families are scheduling trips to visit far-away loved ones. And hosts everywhere are stressing about entertaining family and friends during this frantic season of peace and good will.

To ease stress, the Kansas City Steak Company has put together a holiday entertainment guide to help you weather the storm and come out with host-of-the-year honors. Here are a few tips.

Stock the freezer and pantry with can’t miss meals that delight every time

Every host has some go-to recipes that are crowd pleasers. Be sure to stock your freezer with some family favorites leading into the holiday season. Whether you’re planning a glorious Christmas Eve feast or an impromptu holiday party, you’ll have everything you need to delight your guests.

A succulent prime rib roast is always a great go-to meal. It’s easy to prepare, doesn’t require a lot of fuss and never fails to impress even the pickiest eater. A flavorful beef tenderloin roast is another easy fan favorite. You can also check out a few other special holiday meals from companies like the Kansas City Steak Company to stock your pantry with foods your family and friends will love.

Don’t forget to add in a few appetizers, side dishes and a dessert or two to your freezer stash. When time is limited, stocking the freezer with time-saving, delicious go-to items is the way to go.

Add a few special items to make your holiday table sparkle

From colorful holiday runners and napkins, to large platters and serving bowls, it’s a great idea to pull out your holiday items and place them in an easy-to-reach location during the holiday season. Candles add a special ambiance to holiday parties, so keep a few of your favorite scented votives and pillars on hand and you’ll have a special glow.

And don’t forget to buy a few non-perishable foods that add elegance to any holiday spread: olives, crackers, holiday cookies, spiced nuts – whatever your family and friends enjoy, stock up and they’ll be ready whenever you need them.

Consider a potluck meal this year

Potluck dinners can take a lot of stress off your plate and are a great way to create memorable meals anytime – especially during the holidays. Usually the host takes care of the meal’s entree. Guests could bring their favorite salads, breads, desserts or whatever you need to round out the meal. It’s a great way to spread out costs, reduce stress and entertain in style.

Prepping the holiday bar

Impromptu and planned holiday gatherings often mean you’ll want to offer a variety of beverages. Stocking your bar with a few bottles of your favorite wine, beer, vodka, whiskey and some mixers means you don’t have to make a last-minute trip to the store when you’d rather be visiting with friends.

Welcome guests with festive holiday music

Few things say, “Happy Holidays,” like the tunes that define the season. Tune into one of the stations in your area that plays holiday music 24/7 from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Or download some favorites onto your iPod and let the music waft throughout your home.

Stow away a few extra gifts for unexpected guests

It happens every year. Someone stops by to deliver an unexpected holiday gift and you haven’t included that person on your gift list. Whether it’s a box of special chocolates, scented candles or even a box of succulent steaks, you’ll be prepared for any occasion by having extra gifts on-hand.

Making your home “guest-ready”

A clean home is a happy home – and a reflection on you. Take a few moments to walk through your home before guests arrive. Check the bathrooms to make sure they’re well-stocked. Add a few extra hangers to your closet. Remove excess clutter. Taking a few minutes before guests arrive to tidy up will mean that much less you’ll have to clean after the party.

Take time to savor the special moments and memories

There is no perfect holiday gathering, so remember to laugh and love and move on. Advanced planning will help you survive some of the usual holiday entertaining stresses, but learning to let the little things go can go a long way to helping you see that this time together is precious.

DIY: Holiday Decorating

As the holidays roll around, it’s natural to want to spread good tidings and cheer with festive decorations like wreaths, candy canes and Santa Claus figurines. But this year, instead of digging out the same old holiday decorations, why not create some new looks that will last the entire winter season, even after you put away the gift wrap and ornaments?

Stimulate the senses

Nothing says winter like the fresh smell of pine and the soft, warm glow of candle light. Repurpose simple glass bottles into an outdoorsy candlescape with Krylon Natural Stone Textured Finish spray paint. Available in eight colors, like Olivine, it goes on easy and gives you the natural beauty of stone and an elegant, professional-looking appearance. Once dry, wrap artificial garland with pinecones around the bottle’s neck or let the garland cascade down the bottle. Place pine tree-scented white taper candles in the bottle openings, light and enjoy for a fresh look and smell that will stimulate your senses well into 2014.

Color works wonders

Another easy way to excite the senses during a drab, gray winter is with pops of color. For a decorative display that lasts all season, avoid the red and green color combination associated with Christmas and branch out with more contemporary choices like teals, blues, purples and pinks. Metallics like silver and gold are also a great way to glitz up the season without looking like the North Pole in overdrive. Try Krylon’s ColorMaster Metallic in Gold to spice up old ornaments, vases, frames, centerpieces and more in no time at all. Group spray-painted ornaments or pine cones in a hurricane vase or glass bowl and display on the mantel for added ambiance to any living room.

Deck the halls

Looking for a way to display the abundance of holiday cards from friends and family? Repurpose an old window shutter to create a unique display. Start by spray painting it with a festive shade, such as green or burgundy, which adds a touch of holiday spirit. Once dry, hang the shutter in the kitchen or entryway and place holiday cards in the slats of the shutter for a creative way to stay organized. Once the holidays have passed, you can still use the shutter to display birthday cards, thank you notes, party invitations and more all year long.

Outdoor decor

The inside of the home isn’t the only space you can be creative. Make a lasting statement before houseguests even step inside your home by focusing decorative attention to the outside. Line walkways and driveways with lights or faux miniature pine trees, and place white flameless candlesticks on each windowsill to add a simple touch of holiday spirit without going overboard. Prop a vintage snow sled outside the front door to welcome guests.

So, this year instead of the same decorations, consider some fun and easy ways to re-beautify them into pieces that you’ll be proud to display throughout the winter season. For more product or project ideas, visit www.krylon.com.

Home winterizing checklist

Fall means colorful leaves, apple cider and cooler temperatures. It also means winter’s on its way, so now is the time to winterize your home.

Improve your home’s comfort and energy efficiency with a home energy audit. Making energy efficiency upgrades identified in a home energy audit can save 5 to 30 percent on your monthly energy bill, according to Energy.gov.

If you would rather perform your own walk-through, this checklist can help you prepare your home for colder weather:

Exterior home maintenance tips

* Clean those gutters. Remove leaves and debris, then flush your gutters with water. This will help prevent clogged drains and reduce the potential formation of ice dams, which can cause excess water to get backed up and seep back into the house.

* Clean your window and patio door screens and put them into storage.

* Install storm doors. Storm doors help insulate your home against drafts and strong winds.

* Clean the tracks of patio doors and windows. Use a dry paintbrush to loosen dirt and debris and then vacuum to remove.

* Wash windows.

* Touch up exterior paint where needed.

 

Indoor home maintenance tips

* Schedule a furnace check-up by a professional to prepare it for the season. Also check to see if the filter needs changing.

* Add insulation. The amount of money you’ll end up saving in heating costs is likely well worth the investment of adding additional insulation to the attic.

* Check with your utility company to see if they offer rebates for energy-efficient home improvements including replacing windows or adding insulation.

* Clean and repair air ducts.

* Wrap pipes. Freezing temperatures can cause pipes to freeze and burst. To help prevent this, insulate pipes with a pre-molded, foam rubber sleeve, available at most local home improvement or hardware stores.

* Reverse fans. Adjust your ceiling fan to rotate clockwise to push rising warm air down.

* Check for leaks and drafts. Stand next to window and door openings to feel if cool air is blowing through. Leaky windows or drafty doors may need to be replaced. If you find a small leak around a window, seal it from the outside with weather-resistant caulk. Also apply weather stripping to exterior doors as needed.

Replace energy-inefficient windows

For a more long-term fix, replace old, drafty windows with a more energy-efficient option. Upgrading from single-pane to double-pane windows can also reduce energy costs, according to Energy Star.

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.

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.

 

 

No Tricks Here!

Treat guests to a hair-raising Halloween experience

Whether prepping for trick-or-treaters or hosting a party fit for Frankenstein, turning your home into a haunted house can be fun and easy. With these tips, before you know it, your home will be transformed into the spookiest house on the block.

  • Create terrifying tombstones. Set the stage before trick-or-treaters even hit the front door. Use wood, cardboard or thick Styrofoam to create tombstones that you can put in your front yard. After cutting out the desired shape, use a matte gray spray paint to cover the surface, and then use black paint to write creative epitaphs such as “Dare to Disturb” or “Happy Haunting.”
  • Get creative with pumpkins. Everyone enjoys a good jack-o-lantern, but why not choose to think outside the box when decorating with pumpkins this year? Instead of carving, try spray painting or using your favorite Halloween candy to decorate pumpkins in fun, spooky patterns. Plus, this is a project that even the littlest witch can enjoy.
  • Download a haunted playlist. Nothing is quite as spooky as the sound of doors creaking or ghosts shrieking. Put together a haunted playlist that you can listen to while guests arrive, or stick speakers near an open window to entice the nearby trick-or-treaters to stop by for some candy.
  • Serve spine-chilling treats. Use your free time on Halloween to make these simple but yummy treats designed to look like spiders. Serve them when guests arrive to kick-off the scary festivities.

18652366_web

Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkin Spiders  (6 Servings)

6 Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins

1/4 cup Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips

Large pretzel twists (2 -1/2 to 3 inches)

12 yellow Reese’s Pieces Candies

Line tray or cookie sheet with wax paper. Remove wrappers from peanut butter pumpkins and place alongside each other on tray leaving 1 inch of space between each peanut butter pumpkin. For each spider, cut 8 matching curved sections from pretzels which will form the legs. Set aside remaining pretzels pieces.

Place milk chocolate chips in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at medium an additional 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are melted and smooth when stirred. Transfer to small heavy duty plastic food storage bag. Cut off one corner of bag about 1/4 inch from the tip.

Attach pretzel legs and yellow candy “eyes” to spider with melted chocolate; place dot of melted chocolate on each eye. Allow chocolate to set before moving spiders.

For more wickedly delicious recipes, visit CelebratewithHersheys.com.

DIY: Creative Kids’ Activities for Fall

Each year autumn marks a time for change – leaves turn colors, the air becomes crisp and parents everywhere prepare for their children to return to school. The new season brings with it a shift in rhythms and patterns, including a new weekly routine for families as children go back to school.

For young children starting school, it’s important to maintain a learning environment even after the last school bell rings and they return home. Spend this time building family traditions and making learning fun by incorporating some of these fun indoor and outdoor fall activities into your seasonal routine.

EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS

* Set up a scavenger hunt with your kids to teach them about the differences between the tree; this activity allows children to run around the neighborhood learning about the wide variety of living things in their environment.
*Collect fallen leaves to create a beautiful fall collage. This is a fun activity for young children as they can use their imagination and creativity to design a unique image celebrating the fall season.
*Use a metallic marker so kids can write on the leaves, creating patterns or images, then place the leaves on wax paper and apply Mod Podge to keep the design in place as it hangs.
*Visit a local pumpkin patch: One of the most cherished fall traditions for families is spending a day at a pumpkin patch. Full of fun and games, the pumpkin patch is a perfect place for young children. Whether you’re making your way through the corn maze, interacting with the animals in the petting zoo, or enjoying a hay ride around the grounds, your family is sure to have a blast.

HALLOWEEN PREP

*Use the pumpkins brought home from the patch to design a spooky Jack-o’-lantern with your children. Let them design a face on the front of the pumpkin and cut it out for them.
*As Halloween approaches your little one will need a costume. Whether it’s shopping for the perfect costume or making one from scratch, use this time to learn more about your child’s likes and dislikes while encouraging them to express their creativity.

Make this fall season unforgettable and continue to help your children grow by introducing these lifelong family traditions.