Many of these Christmas recipes are ones my mother cooked for our family at Christmas, that I learnt to cook as a child and that my kids cook now too. One of my favourite part of Christmas as a child was the huge collection of sweets, like White Christmas and Rum Balls, we made, so I have added many of these to the list. All of these recipes are in our submitted recipes section of Aussie Cooking.
With the rate of childhood obesity on the rise, try something new. This year, buy healthy snacks instead of lollies and chocolate. You don’t have to sacrifice flavour, either. Low-calorie or low-fat doesn’t mean it has to taste bad.
This is one time that toys are okay. All kids would agree you can never have too many toys. An Easter basket is about getting a special treat. No one said those treats had to be edible. Small hand-held electronic games are available at stores like KMart, Target, and Toys ‘R Us for less than fifteen dollars. Card games like Yugioh and Dungeon Dice Monsters are winners with kids these days. For the younger set, try dolls or action figures.
Jelly beans versus dried fruit. Jelly beans would be great if it wasn’t for all of the sugar. You can never eat just one or five for that matter. Dried fruit offers nutrition and taste in the same bite-sized portion as jelly beans. Ocean Spray® makes a snack called Craisins®. They are dried sweet cranberry snacks in different flavors. Also, Sunbeam®, best known for their sultanas, make dried fruit treats including yogurt- and chocolate-covered raisins. My favourite is chopped dates. Kids won’t believe they’re eating something that’s good for them.
Snack size versus regular size. If you add lollies or chocolate to your basket, smaller is better. Choose snack-sized morsels like Milky Way® or Peppermint Patties®. These candy treats are lower in calories than other choices. Just add three or four for a sweet treat instead of chocolate bunnies or cream eggs.
Store bought versus homemade treats. We all enjoy going to the store and getting bubble gum and cupcakes, but do you really know what’s in what you are eating? Most if not all marketable treats started in someone’s kitchen. That means they were homemade at one time. Let’s take Rice Krispy treats® for example. The recipe was on the cereal box before they became a pre-packaged item in the store. At home, low-fat ingredients can be substituted to create delicious treats for the Easter basket. When you know what’s inside your food, you feel better about serving it to your kids.
Easter baskets don’t have to be chock full of junk to be fun. Healthy additions make you a better parent without sacrificing taste. Teach children to eat right while they are young so that they develop a lifetime of good habits.
Even though you may not spend much time cooking in the kitchen, wouldn’t you like to treat your love to an easy, delectable and romantic dinner? A special meal is not just about food- it is about the effort and meaning that goes into it. These ideas will make it easy for you to create a memorable meal for Valentine’s Day, or any other time when you want to show someone your love.
Remember when you made a homemade card for your first girlfriend or boy friend and they were so happy they couldn’t stop smiling? You couldn’t figure out what you did that was so great but as you got older you began to realize that giving is best when we give not just ‘things’, but when we give of ourselves. Valentine’s Day is a perfect holiday to give to others by doing something special.
Make it Easy on Yourself
What kind of meal you want- brunch or dinner? Write down your menu and all ingredients from your recipes you’ll need in an organized way. List the stores you need to shop at.
What do you want to serve? Keep it simple – have 3 or 4 items, and not everything has to be homemade. Cook an easy recipe. Get a great dessert -go out and buy the most decadent chocolate cake you can find, or find fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate from your local candy store.
Choose food that your partner likes, not just what you like. This shows that you have put a lot of thought in to this and care, which is the point, right?
Be sure to start several days in advance. If you save everything for the day of the celebration, you’ll be frazzled and in not much of a mood to enjoy this time together.
Remember that this is about Love, not Technique
As with other activities associated with love, cooking does not have to be totally perfect. If something does not come out in time, or if it doesn’t look exactly like the picture in the cookbook, relax. Stay in the mood you set out to create- being grumpy or upset defeats the purpose. Laugh and have fun!
It’s the Total Feeling – Ambiance Counts
Setting your table is important in creating the mood you want to set, which is romance. Use your nicest dishes, silverware and the best, sparkling glasses or crystal you can get.
Choose a color scheme. You may want to use a white tablecloth and add color with the napkins and candles, or two beautiful place mats with matching or contrasting colors. For example, red or soft pink on a white background, with a small container of white flowers and lots of red votive candles looks beautiful.
Turn off the cell phone. Keep music soft and tender, but not so slow that it makes you want to fall asleep.
Just Show That You Care
Show your genuine love in what you say and do. That is what will come across as caring. The fact that you took the time to make this event happen, that you cooked a few things, mostly from scratch, will help this to be a beautiful memory for both of you!
REMEMBER OTHERS WHO MAY BE ALONE
This holiday is really geared to couples – and I want to suggest that you also included others- reach out for someone who may be alone. An elderly neighbor, or someone who has been recently widowed or divorced, someone who is ill and can surely use a lift. It is amazing how a call, a card, a little plant such as a yellow primrose , a pink or red cyclamen, or forced-bulb lavender hyacinth or tulip, will make everyone feel a little better! Most of these treats are under $5.00, but think of the joy that someone will get by this unexpected gesture of love.
AND REMEMBER THE KIDs
Not just with candy but also with a hand-written card, a lunch out together, making a Valentine’s craft such as construction paper and doily hearts to put in the windows, making cupcakes and decorating with all those yummy red candies and icing. Make some time to do this now because they are out on their own all too quickly.
Enjoy your day of love
Marybeth Gregg has been cooking, entertaining and giving cooking advice for almost 20 years. She is well-known for her wonderful cuisine, great parties and started her successful cooking school several years ago. She has been featured in many newspapers, and is currently working on publishing a cookbook and a series of video tapes and dvd’s of cooking lessons. Marybeth has a monthly newsletter full of seasonal cooking tips, recipes and entertaining advice. You can visit her athttp://www.girlfriendsinthekitchen.com.
Everyone wants to have a Valentines that is a special occasion and the good news is you can create that ambiance at home without taking the whole day doing it. After all, what makes Valentines Day so special is spending time with the one or ones that you love. There are many ways to accomplish a nice Valentines evening, so please don’t feel restricted to the following suggestions. These are just some simple idea’s to help put a little enchantment into your Valentines holiday.
1. Of course you will want to use your finest dishes, cutlery, and linens for this meal. Naturally you are going to use a holiday recipe or two for Valentines Day. A recipe such as that deserves to be served on something as special as this occasion. Be sure to have those dishes on a nice, ironed tablecloth. Adding red napkins are a nice touch and they can be folded into the shape of a heart and placed on the plate with a small chocolate or chocolate covered strawberry.
2. Candles around the room set the tone for the evening. Whether the candles are scented or not is up to you. It is perfectly fine to have unscented candles if the one you love has allergies to contend with. Remember to dim the lights, so the candlelight can be thoroughly enjoyed.
3. A simple touch of a few beautiful, bright red flowers can go a long way. In addition to a few well-placed flowers through out the house and dinner table, you can add to the magic by scattering some rose petals on the dining room table.
4. Don’t forget the music. I always love to cook with some music playing quietly in the background. This also works extremely well for when you are dining. Be sure not to play party music like rock and roll, but select something soothing. This is the day of love and love songs are totally appropriate at this time. You may want to have some music selected that you can dance close together to afterwards or just sit and enjoy the lyrics.
5. The menu you select can be as important as your décor. I would recommend staying away from greasy, heavy foods. Being caught up in the moment and trying to hold hands with rib sauce covering them just looses something in the translation. This is not to say that finger food is not acceptable. Hors d’oeuvres are a nice way to start a romantic meal. Something special liked Baked Brie with Raspberry Coulis might be nice. Above all, don’t forget the dessert. There are many Valentines Day recipes for desserts that would complement most dinners. A Linzer Heart Torte or a Mint Cheesecake would do nicely.
With a little preparation you can put together a romantic evening without a lot of work on your part. This leaves time for you to enjoy putting together a special evening and then enjoying that evening in the company of the one you love.
Since the beginning of time one aspect of human social experience has stood out as the ‘place to be’ for communication and family bonding: the meal. In contemporary human life the evening dinner is often the only place and time that a family all sits down together. In tribal times (of course there are still tribes today) the cooking of a slaughtered animal or cultivated vegetables brought the group together to share ideas and feelings. Think about it these days; when you want to take someone out for a romantic date, meet business colleagues, get together with old friends and acquaintances, we go out for a bite to eat. What is it about sharing some food that puts us in such a relaxed and communicable state? Could it simply be science, and the fact that if you are tense when you eat, the food doesn’t digest as well? Or, could it have some psychological basis having to do with the idea that you are sharing some life-giving sustenance with your fellow species instead of warring over it? Subconsciously do we recognize the facts that we will be able to live another day as well as sew healthy seeds for future generations?
Think of all the problems in the world today. Maybe if we all got together for a feast we could work out some practical solutions, say while sipping on coconut milk, or chewing on a loaf of bread. The current (14th) Dalai Lama is quoted as having said, “I sometimes think that the act of bringing food is one of the basic roots of all relationships.”
There is also the idea of food as being a medium for the transferal of emotional energy. I am currently living with a friend who is very adept in the kitchen. He uses high quality ingredients and professional techniques, but he also follows the belief that what mood you are in, the amount of effort and awareness you give the cooking process, and the love and gratitude that you feel for the ability to eat is imperative to making a good meal. I have read in a famous Hari Krishna cookbook as well as Taoist teachings how the actual emotions that the cook feels when making a meal is transmitted into the food via chi energy. Feelings and food are both forms of energy. Native Americans believe that all thoughts and emotions are ‘alive’.
You may have seen the recent film, ‘What the bleep do we know?’ Read about it at whatthebleep.com. In this film world-renowned scientists discuss the idea that all thoughts and emotions are actually physically material in the sense that they are produced by chemicals and are transmitted in electrical forms. Therefore, a happy chef truly spreads happiness by enjoying the preparation of a meal.
So, next time you sit down to a meal with friends or family, or cook for guests, remember the significance of this often undervalued experience. For hundreds of thousands of years our distant relatives’ whole way of social life was based around the acquisition and sharing of food. It is often the main time to communicate to the ones you hold most dearly, so please don’t take it for granted or think that just because it is necessary for survival that there aren’t any meaningful and mysterious aspects to the experience. Relating to each other is one of the most important elements in a social creature’s existence; the meal is a time and place for relationships to sprout and grow. That’s just some of the power of the meal.