RECIPES:

Spiced Nuts 'n Chex Mix Green Bean Casserole Royal Pecan Rice Bake Sweet Potato Pie Chef's Choice Brine

Easy Entertaining With Katie Lee

(NAPSI)-When best-selling cookbook author Katie Lee entertains, the key ingredient is easy. Whether you're hosting a holiday party or family gathering, Lee believes it should be as much fun to host as it is to be the guest.

"My motto is 'plan ahead,'" says Lee. "Start out small and you won't take on more than you can handle. And if something doesn't go according to plan, don't worry--your guests will most likely never know the difference if you don't tell them."

Lee began cooking with her grandma when she was four, and she was hooked. Following are a few of her favorite tips:

  • Casual Rules--Keep things casual and comfortable. The key to a successful party isn't what's on the menu-it's how you make your guests feel.
  • Get Set--Set the table the night before and put out all the serving dishes and utensils you plan to use. Put a note in each serving dish for what will go in it to make sure you're covered.
  • Jump Start--Get the party started with drinks and snacks ready for your guests when they arrive. To break the ice, give your most outgoing friend a tray of appetizers to pass around and put another friend on drink duty.

One of Lee's favorite go-to party recipes is her signature Spiced Nuts 'n Chex Mix. "Nothing breaks the ice and makes guests feel more welcome than bowls of a crunchy snack mix to nibble as they mingle," says Lee. "This recipe is an elegant change of pace from plain mixed nuts. Plus, it calls for just a few ingredients so it's super easy."

Katie's Signature Recipe:
Spiced Nuts 'n Chex Mix

Ingredients:

  • cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • cup butter or margarine
  • 2 cups Corn Chex cereal
  • 2 cups Rice Chex cereal
  • 2 cups Wheat Chex cereal
  • 1 can (11.5 ounces) mixed nuts

Start to finish: 15 minutes
Makes: 16 servings ( cup each)

Directions:

  1. In small bowl, mix sugar, chili powder and red pepper; set aside.
  2. In large microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in cereals and nuts until evenly coated. Stir in sugar mixture until evenly coated.
  3. Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes, until mixture just begins to turn brown. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container.

For additional recipe and entertaining ideas visit www.ChexPartyMix.com.

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Quick Tips For Holiday Cooking

(NAPSI)-A few simple tips can help holiday cooks spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the season. Try these ideas for some quick kitchen fixes:

Quick Covers

Use foil as an instant lid for skillets, pans or casserole dishes that have no covers. Foil takes the shape of even the most odd-shaped dish to prevent food from drying out. Avoid spattering with foil covers to make cleanup easy. Carefully lift foil with a pot holder when checking or removing food.

Make Ahead and Freeze

Be prepared for the busy holiday season. Take time to make appetizers, breads and cookies in advance. Wrap tightly in foil and freeze. When company arrives, you can pop the frozen appetizers into the oven or quickly arrange cookies on a serving tray. Baking for most appetizers will only take about 20 minutes from the freezer.

Pan Prep

Line pans with foil before baking hams, casseroles and other holiday dishes. Your pans stay clean, and there's less scrubbing after dinner. Turn pan upside down and press a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil around it. Remove foil. Flip pan over and drop foil inside. Crimp edges of foil to rim of pan. Try this technique with this holiday recipe:

Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients:

  • Reynolds Wrap Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
  • 1 can (10 oz.) cream of mushroom soup, regular or 98% fat free
  • cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Pepper to taste
  • 4 cups cooked cut green beans
  • 1⅓ cups French fried onions

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8x8x2-inch pan with Reynolds Wrap Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil.

Mix cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, pepper, beans and ⅔ cup French fried onions in a large bowl. Pour into foil-lined pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot.

Microwave remaining onions on microwave-safe plate for 1 minute or until crispy. Spoon green bean casserole into serving dish using a plastic or wooden spoon. Sprinkle crispy onions on top.

For more recipes and tips, visit www.ReynoldsKitchens.com.

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Rice Adds Delicious Flair To Holiday Meals

(NAPSI)-If you're looking for tasty ways to mix up your holiday menu, try making room for rice.

The nutrient-dense "energy food" is light on calories, has no saturated or trans fats and can provide a welcome change from pasta or potato side dishes. Plus, rice can be made in the microwave, freeing up space on your stove top for other holiday foods. More reasons to rave about rice include:

  • Brown rice is 100 percent whole grain, and just one cup provides two of the three recommended daily whole grain servings.
  • Rice is gluten-free and the least allergenic of all grains.
  • Rice is a versatile and delicious partner to other healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and beans.

Holiday Recipes

You can find plenty of festive rice recipes--from holiday side dishes to delicious desserts--at Web sites such as www.AllRecipes.com. Additionally, Rice-Select, the makers of the well-known Texmati rice, offers more than 100 recipes using rice ranging from Jasmati and Texmati to Arborio and Royal Blends.

Made with Texmati white, brown, red and wild rice, Royal Pecan Rice Bake is a tasty side dish to serve with poultry, pork or beef.

Royal Pecan Rice Bake

Ingredients:

  • cup chopped onion
  • cup chopped celery
  • cup margarine
  • 3 cups cooked RiceSelect Royal Blend Rice
  • cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • cup chopped parsley
  • teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (or to taste)

Directions:

In large skillet, saut onions and celery in margarine until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients, mixing well. Spoon into casserole; cover tightly and bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes. Makes about 8 servings.

Try this recipe for a Creamy Cranberry Rice Pudding. Made with Arborio rice, it makes a sweet addition to a holiday party or a delicious ending to a family meal.

Creamy Cranberry Rice Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked RiceSelect Arborio Rice
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • cup half-and-half
  • cup granulated sugar
  • (or cup granulated sugar and cup light brown)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • cup dried cranberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325F. Combine all ingredients, mixing well with a fork. Pour into a buttered 8x8x2-inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes, stir gently. Bake an additional 30 minutes or until set. Serves 6.

Learn More

All-natural, award-winning RiceSelect rice is made with specially bred, nongenetically modified seeds, and their organic products are certified by USDA accredited agencies. And their Texmati rice was featured in Consumer Reports and in the "Chef's Guide Book," an annual directory of the nation's best food products.

For more recipes and information, visit www.RiceSelect.com.

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Pumpkin Or Sweet Potato?
Tips And Topping To Make The Best Pie

(NAPSI)-'Tis the season for pie making. This recipe for Sweet Potato Pie features a stunning fig and toasted pecan topping that works equally well on pumpkin pie. Whether you prefer pumpkin or lean toward sweet potato, these baking tips will reward you with pie perfection.

Luscious, sweet, moist, dark Mission or golden California Calimyrna figs are simmered in brandy and maple syrup and swirled with toasted pecans. Spooned over a silky-smooth sweet potato filling, this showy, classic pie is even more appealing when you realize it started with a refrigerated pie crust.

For more recipes and fig tips, visit Valley Fig Growers at www.valleyfig.com.

Perfect Pie Tips

  • For optimum baking results, use a glass or dull-metal pie pan. Avoid shiny metal or disposable aluminum pans, which reflect heat and prevent crusts from browning. Dark pans may cause crusts to brown too much.
  • To keep baked edges from getting too brown, cover the edges with foil after the first 15 minutes of baking. Use a 12-inch-square piece of foil. Cut out a 7-inch circle from the center, and gently fold the foil "ring" around the crust's edge. Be careful: The pie will be hot!
  • Use a hot oven temperature during the first 15 minutes of baking.
  • Cool the pie on a wire rack to help prevent a soggy bottom. The rack helps air circulate.

Sweet Potato Pie With Fig And Pecan Topping Pie:

Ingredients:

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust ( of 15-oz. package)
  • 15 ounces canned sweet potatoes, packed in light syrup
  • ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • cup whipping cream

Topping

  • cup butter
  • cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup stemmed, chopped Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Figs
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon brandy or water
  • cup chopped, toasted pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450F. Prepare one 9-inch pie crust according to package directions for filled pie; do not bake.

Drain sweet potatoes; mash or whirl in food processor until smooth (potatoes should measure 1⅛ cups). In medium bowl, whisk together sweet potatoes, brown sugar, spice and salt. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, and cream. Pour filling into crust.

Bake pie 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350, shield edge of pie with foil to prevent overbrowning, and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes or until center moves slightly when shaken. Remove pie to wire rack to cool.

For topping, in small saucepan, stir butter and brown sugar over medium heat until melted. Stir in figs, maple syrup and brandy. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until reduced to a thick, glossy syrup. Remove from heat and stir in pecans. Spoon evenly over warm pie.

Cool. Chill for up to 8 hours before serving. Makes 8 servings.

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Turkey Tips That Save Time And Money

(NAPSI)-A good entertainment plan that saves time and money is something to be truly thankful for. With the right plan, all that cooks will need to do on Thanksgiving Day is put dishes into the oven and remove them when they are done.

A few hints from professional chef Jim Coleman can help you save money while affording you more time to spend with your guests.

Plan and Prepare

  • Start freezing stale bread a few weeks before Thanksgiving so you can use it to make stuffing.
  • Plan the menu the weekend before Thanksgiving. Compile recipes into a recipe booklet for easy reference.
  • Save gas and time by making lists of ingredients so you will only need one trip to the store.
  • Cut up celery, carrots, etc. and store in ziplock bags for ease of use during the next few days of prep.
  • Make stuffing the night before and make it a little dry so you can add gravy on Thanksgiving day to moisten.
  • Cranberry sauce, pie, gravy, and side dishes can be made a few days ahead.
  • Save money by asking guests to bring wine, desserts, a salad or a side dish.

Table and Tools

  • Set your table in advance; everything from a centerpiece and glassware to plates and napkins.
  • Enlist the help of family members in preparation and cleanup.
  • Sharpen your knives beforehand to save time on food prep. That includes your carving knife.

"A sharp knife is one of the most important tools and essential for the holiday season with all the food prep and carving of the bird," said Coleman. "Preparation can save time and money, and a quality knife sharpener can renew the knives you already own and save you from the expense of having to buy new knives."

Fortunately, you don't have to be an expert to put a razor-sharp edge on your knife. A sharpener such as Chef'sChoice EdgeSelect Model 120 electric knife sharpener can make sharpening easy. It uses 100 percent diamond abrasives and precision angle guides for a supersharp and durable edge. Call (800) 342-3255 for more information or visit www.chefschoice.com. A good knife sharpener saves money by renewing the knives you already own.

Thanksgiving Day

For a quicker cooking time, start at 400F with breast side down; after 45 minutes, turn over and lower heat to 325F. An 8-12-pound bird will cook in about 21/2 hours.

Get your carving knife ready. After the turkey is cooked (meat thermometer should read 180 when inserted in the thickest part of the turkey), cool the bird for 20 minutes.

Cooling makes the meat firmer and easier to slice. Remove and set aside the turkey legs and the last joint of each wing. Make a long, deep (to the bone), horizontal "base cut" into the breast just above the wing.

Slice down vertically through the breast until you meet the original base cut. This will release nice, even slices.

Refrigerate leftovers immediately. Add leftover cranberry sauce to mayonnaise to jump-start leftovers for sandwiches.

Here's a quick and easy recipe to help prepare your tasty turkey in advance:

Chef's Choice Brine (For 8-12-pound bird)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup kosher salt (per gallon of ice water)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1 orange, cut into wedges
  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon white or black pepper

Place a frozen turkey in a large enough container, such as an ice chest, to submerge it in the brine.

Pouring with a gallon measure, pour in ice-cold water to completely submerge your turkey. Add 1 cup of kosher salt per gallon of water. Then add remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined. Top with ice cubes and store in cool spot overnight.

Use more lime, orange, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, sage and pepper for more than 3 gallons of water. Discard brine after removing turkey and rinse turkey before placing in oven.

If you follow these tips, you will keep costs down and have more time for fun on Thanksgiving.

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