Category Archives: Food

Christmas Homemade Gifts_featured

5 Quick and Easy Homemade Holiday Gifts for Last-Minute Shoppers

Homemade Christmas Gifts‘Tis the season for last-minute shopping, but you can avoid the crowds with these easy homemade gifts. Best of all, they require little to no cooking.

Uh-oh. Crunch time has passed for holiday shopping, but there are still a few people on your “nice” list. You’re afraid you’re out of time and money. But, no need to worry, you’re not quite out of options just yet.

When all else fails–or you want to give something especially heartfelt–you only have to go as far as your kitchen to cross off the rest of your shopping list.

While nearly every food and cooking magazine offers ideas for homemade gifts, these five are some of easiest to make and wrap–especially since you’re running out of time.

1. Quick-and-Easy Dip Mix. Taste of the South magazine’s quick recipe relies heavily on your spice rack, but you should have most of these ingredients on hand. There’s no cooking involved–just mixing–giving you time to work on the presentation. (Note: Don’t forget to include the directions for preparing the dip, which are printed in the magazine.)

2. BBQ Rub. This sweet and spicy rub from Cooking With Paula Deen combines Montreal steak seasoning, brown sugar, paprika and kosher salt–and that’s it. Simply mix, store in an airtight container and present to your favorite grill master. Be sure to let him or her know that this has a shelf life of about two months.

3. Infused Vodkas. No need to turn on the oven for this idea from Martha Stewart Living either. But it will take a few days for your chosen flavor (tangerine, vanilla-cardamom, or pine and juniper) to stand in the liquor before it is strained to remove the solids and gifted.

4. Cider Sachets: OK, so there is some “cooking” involved here, but this suggestion from Food Network Magazine only requires the microwave. These sachets with their blend of orange zest, cardamom, peppercorns, allspice, cloves and cinnamon sticks soaked in apple cider will brighten closets and drawers with their seasonal aroma.

5. Chocolate-Almond Bark With Sea Salt: No homemade gift list would be complete without something sweet on it. And while this DIY treat from Bon Appétit requires cooking, it doesn’t take long. You’ll have to caramelize the almonds and melt the chocolate before playing the waiting game until the mixture sets in the fridge.

Magazines Pinterest Page

The 6 Easiest Christmas Recipes on Pinterest

Easiest Christmas Recipes on PinterestNo more excuses when it comes to creating the cutest of Christmas treats this year. Not with these super-easy ideas straight from the pinning phenomenon that is Pinterest.

It’s happened every year. You pledge to get ahead of the shopping-cooking-entertaining game, but so easily get caught up—and get behind—in the holiday hustle and bustle.

And just when you’re sure that everyone else succumbs to the same fate, your co-worker, friend, relative, neighbor, etc., shows up with some impossibly cute Christmas dish that makes you wonder: “How ever did she find the time for that?”

But thanks to Pinterest, you’ll never again have to be ashamed of the bowl of red and green M&M’s you were reluctantly forced into “making.”

These six recipes are the easiest, most festively cute creations we could find on the popular pin board site that even the busiest, least creative or cooking-challenged among us could pull off.

1. Red Pepper, Mozzarella and Basil Appetizers: If you can chop and kebob, then you can do this. Simply cut roasted red peppers (from a jar) in strips, wrap around a mozzarella cube and basil leaf.

2. Christmas Veggie Tree: More chopping required here, but a little more artistic presentation. Arrange chopped broccoli florets in the shape of a tree over a layer of hummus (prepared is fine), fill in blank spaces with chopped cauliflower, decorate tree with cherry or grape tomatoes, and garnish the top with a slice of starfruit or a yellow bell pepper cut into a star shape.

3. Strawberry Santas: This calls for, you might have guessed, even more slicing. Slice off leafy tops of strawberries so they sit flat. Slice off points of strawberries, fill with a layer of whipped cream and garnish with them. Finish the Santas with whipped cream buttons down the front.

4. Christmas Strawberries: No slicing or chopping, but we have moved on to melting and dipping. Melt white chocolate or vanilla candy coating, dip to cover about half the strawberry, then finish with a dip in green sugar.

5. Peppermint Christmas Heart Treats: Think of this as advanced (if only slightly) melting. Attach two mini candy canes with a little melted white chocolate, and let set. Fill the hearts with more melted white chocolate and garnish with peppermint pieces and red M&M’s. Chill or set until firm.

6. Reindeer Noses: So this is the only recipe that requires using the oven, but just for a few minutes! Arrange a layer of round pretzels on a baking sheet and place an unwrapped Hershey’s Kiss inside each one. “Bake” in a 225 degree oven for about 3 or 4 minutes until chocolate is soft. Remove from the oven and place red or green M&M’s into the chocolate, making sure it touches all edges of the pretzel. Let cool, serve and enjoy!

For these and other easy Christmas recipes, check out our Pinterest board here!


Recipes Magazines

The 10 Best Magazines for Holiday Recipes

Best Magazines for Holiday RecipesThe amount of holiday recipes out there is daunting, but these 10 magazines can help narrow your focus based on what you’re looking for or what you need.

Next to gifts and Christmas decorations, you’ve probably spent plenty of time searching for holiday recipes by now. And while you’ve no doubt been thankful for trusted family hand-me-downs, dog-eared cookbooks and, yes, even Pinterest, magazines can be an excellent source for seasonal inspiration.

For starters, they deliver the latest and greatest ideas every month (or every other month, depending on publication schedule)—not just at the holidays, but all year round.

Another plus, and perhaps most importantly, there’s likely a magazine dedicated exclusively to the type of recipe you’re looking for—low-fat, vegetarian, classic, gourmet, fast, simple, and on and on.

With that versatility in mind, we’ve compiled this list of what we think are the 10 best magazines for holiday recipes.

1. Taste of Home: If you’re worried about whether you can replicate something whipped up in a magazine’s test kitchen, take heart in turning to this magazine’s recipes—all submitted by readers like you.

2. Martha Stewart Living: For elegant recipes set off with a touch of gourmet flair—not to mention suggestions for picture-perfect presentations—Martha helps take your holiday meal from the kitchen to a festively-set table.

3. Food & Wine: An obvious choice if you’re not sure what type of wine to uncork alongside your feast, but it also offers plenty of seasonal (and maybe easier-than-you-think) recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts.

4. Cooking Light: ‘Tis the season for temptation, but you’ve resolved to watch your weight despite it all. This magazine helps you stay strong with holiday ideas that cut back on calories and fat, but not on taste.

5. Food Network Magazine: This one’s a must if you love the sweet stuff and are looking for helpful tips and instructions on making cookies, cakes, candies and more. (P.S. Don’t miss the copycat recipe of Williams-Sonoma’s Peppermint Bark.)

6. Southern Living: All the classic Southern seasonal staples are covered here, from milk punches to red velvet treats. Holiday entertaining gets a lot of attention, so think party-perfect appetizers and desserts for baking or taking.

7. Every Day With Rachael Ray: There’s even more ideas for snacks and sweets here, but the 30-minute meals will help you both balance your time during the hectic holiday season and keep you and the family fed.

8. Woman’s Day: If you’re trying to stick to a budget—on top of all the other holiday spending—this magazine breaks down cost per serving for everyday meals so you’ll be able to manage a seasonal splurge or two.

9. Vegetarian Times: Just because you’re a vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s all sides and no entrees for you—not with all the hearty meal ideas inside. (Even non-vegetarians could find scrumptious sides, salads and more here.)

10. EatingWell: Following a healthier or restricted diet doesn’t have to translate into no hope for enjoying the holidays. All recipes in this magazine are tagged as being gluten-free or for healthy weight, high fiber or healthy heart.

Like our list? It’s on Pinterest! You can see it here and repin or like. And if we left off your favorite magazine, comment and let us know!



Southern Living’s Cherry-Pistachio Bark Is a Perfectly Balanced—and Festive—Treat

Southren Living Cherry-Pistachio BarkFor a just-right holiday candy, try Southern Living’s Cherry-Pistachio Bark. It incorporates the colors of the season, and best of all, it doesn’t take long to make.

Chances are good you’ll run across some peppermint bark—or some variation of it—this season, what with candy canes being pretty plentiful and it being an easy enough treat to whip up on short notice.

But if you’re looking to try something new or make something a little less sweet, Southern Living’s Cherry-Pistachio Bark could be just the thing you’re looking for.

Much like the candy-striped and white chocolate concoction, this bark recipe comes together quickly, in about an hour or so. Factor in a little more time if you have to shell the pistachios, though.

Once the pistachios are shelled, they’ll have to be chopped to make a cup-and-a-quarter’s worth. If you have a nut grinder, this step is easier than it sounds—especially if it has the handy measuring guide like mine does.

Next step, add the dried cherries and two tablespoons of water to a bowl and microwave on high for two minutes. Once this is done, the recipe says to drain, but in my experience there really wasn’t much of anything to drain.

With the pistachios and cherries at the ready, start melting two 12 oz. bags of white chocolate chips and 6 2 oz. squares of vanilla candy coating in a large pan. Actually, I could have started this step while chopping the pistachios and microwaving the cherries, but I didn’t want to risk burning the chocolate.

Patience is required here because of the low heat setting, but it’s worth the wait. Chop the vanilla candy coating squares into smaller pieces, then continue to break them up with a knife as they soften in the saucepan.

Stir the mixture until smooth, then add the cherries and pistachios and mix well.

At this point, I added the mixture to a wax-paper lined cookie sheet and spread it as thin as possible. Southern Living’s instructions called for adding it to a jelly roll pan and cutting it out in heart shapes (it was printed in a February issue).

But had I known how much it would yield or how thick it would be, I would have used two cookie sheets for a thinner bark.

The result is a festive candy—red from the cherries and green from the pistachios—that is a satisfying balance of sweet and salty tastes.

For step-by-step visuals of this process or to repin, check out this recipe on our Pinterest board.



Everyday Food: 5 Delicious Reasons to Savor the Magazine’s Last Printed Issue

Everyday Food magazine is going, going, almost gone. But we’re celebrating the best of the last printed issue for these 5 delicious reasons.

Everyday Food magazine subscribers knew it was coming: the farewell-plus-what’s-going-to-happen-next letter. And sure enough, there it was on top of the plastic-bagged issue that arrived in my mailbox late last week.

While the December issue may be the last printed, standalone issue of one of my favorite food magazines, the letter assures that Everyday Food will continue its mission of delivering convenient, delicious dinner ideas—across multiple digital platforms.

For example, editor-in-chief Sarah Carey will appear in the reconfigured magazine’s daily video newsletter, even more content can be found on its YouTube channel, and, for those of us who still prefer print, we’ll get our fix five times a year when a free Everyday Food supplement is included with subscriber copies of Martha Stewart Living. (The first will arrive in March 2013.)

So before we bid adieu to Everyday Food as the magazine we’ve known and loved—whether beginning with the first issue in 2003 or discovered it a little later—let’s celebrate this final issue for these five delicious reasons.

1. Baked Banana-Pecan Oatmeal: You’re gonna need some energy to get through the hectic holiday season, and this healthy breakfast sounds warm and filling enough to do the trick.

2. Cutout Cookie Dough: Speaking of time, if you don’t have enough to meticulously frost those sugar cookies, opt for this easy solution. Incorporate cutouts of different colors in this step-by-step method.

3. Pomegranate Seeds: One of the most good-for-you parts of the fruit, the seeds can be used in a variety of surprising ways. Add them to guacamole or serve with roasted meat, such as the Pomegranate-Braised Short Ribs recipe just a few pages over.

4. Sheet-Pan Suppers: Even during holiday crunch time, you’ve still got to eat. But you can toss it all on one pan and in an hour or less have a delicious meal ready, like Rib Eye with Horseradish Butter and Root Vegetables.

5. Peppermint-Meringue Brownie Cake: This dessert almost sounds too good to be true, and Martha swears it’s easier than it looks. Master the meringue, and you’ve got yourself a treat that won’t last long.


Holiday turkey

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings and Recommendations

Wine enthusiast Dr. Richard Parker breaks down pairings and recommendations for your Thanksgiving feast, plus what to keep in mind and where to buy in Nashville.

Every Thanksgiving it seems that people are always sparring over what wines might best go with their traditional turkey dinner. Fortunately there is enough variety in the wine market to keep these deliberations from derailing your well-planned meal and festivities.

As most people will be enjoying the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, it’s easy enough to actually rule out a number of wines; I am talking, of course, about red varietals like zinfandel, merlot or cabernet sauvignon. But if you insist on serving a red with your meal, I would recommend going with the most food-friendly of the reds, the versatile pinot noir.

If you’re looking to shop economically for this varietal, I would recommend a Kenwood or Clos du Bois Pinot Noir—either should run less than $20 a bottle. However if you’re considering something a little more special, look for a David Bruce or Saintsbury; both will offer tantalizing flavors that will go well with almost every bite of your holiday feast from turkey breast to sweet potato casserole.

Now that we’ve dealt with the easy part, let’s tackle the more difficult option—the white varietals. What you choose will largely depend on your own taste preferences. While many people might seek out something rich and buttery, like a Newton Chardonnay from California, others might choose something cleaner with a hint of pepper, such as New Zealand’s Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

Since I’ve already mentioned it, I think the Matua Valley is the most underpriced wine on the market. Selling well below the $20 price point, this crisp, clean white with hints of pepper would easily complement the traditional Thanksgiving dinner and would be among the first bottles I would open at my own table.

But let’s go back to the chardonnays for a moment. This varietal makes for a fine pairing with most Thanksgiving meals. While Newton’s price point between $35 and $45 may make some hesitate in the current economy, there are some good alternatives that will work very well and still leave you with plenty of money for Christmas shopping at the Mall at Green Hills, including chardonnays by Chalk Hill, Buena Vista and Alice White. My recommendation for a best value chardonnay under $15 is California’s Toasted Head Chardonnay.

Alternatively if you’re pondering something a bit more exotic than a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, consider an Austrian gruner veltliner—one of the best white wines flying under the radar today, a German gewürztraminer or a California viognier. Toasted Head also makes a very nice version of this varietal. But if your tastes run sweeter, try Relax, a German riesling that sells for under $15 and pairs nicely with lighter fare. And if a dessert wine is what you’re after, look for an ice wine from Canada or a late harvest sauvignon blanc from California.

Inevitably, there are those who love their blush wines and fortunately there are some that can contribute to the Thanksgiving recommendations. Most people are familiar with the ubiquitous white zinfandel, but there are other blush wines including white merlot and white Grenache. But if you are looking for a surprise, Biltmore Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc de Noir will offer a delightful wine experience for even those who normally shy away from any wine with even a hint of pink.

With all the available choices you may be asking yourself, “What’s the right wine for my Thanksgiving dinner?” The important thing for you to consider is not what’s the right wine, but what wine will make the experience memorable.

Fortunately for Nashvillians, there are plenty of good stores to help you make the right selection. For folks living in western Davidson County, try Red Spirits and Wine in Bellevue. If you are in the Green Hills area, The Wine Shoppe at Green Hills has a good selection. West End Discount Liquors and Wines can help you in the midtown area. And those in East Nashville can stop by Woodland Wine Merchant.

May your Thanksgiving be happy and your wine selections be as satisfying as the late Thursday nap.