Not long ago, I received an email from a reader asking me if I had an excellent recipe for date bars. It had been ages since I'd thought of those classic sweet treats with a cookie-like mixture sandwiching soft, creamy date filling. I hadn't even noticed that date bars seem to have gone out of fashion. My dad loved oat-laden, crumbly-crusted date bars. Unfortunately, my mom never developed a liking for the rich treat. The recipe my grandmother used to create the dessert that made her son happy stayed tucked into my mom's recipe file, never to see the light of day.
I was using a soup spoon to scrape the shallow puddle of spicy, rich, dark red gravy from the bottom of a deep bowl. "How could anyone even miss meat in this chili?" I posed the question to my husband as we sat at the table finishing our meal of a bean-dominated piquant chili. "In Texas, they wouldn't call this chili," said my carnivorous dining partner. He was right. True chili in Texas is abundant with meat and devoid of beans.
It's always interesting to read the onslaught of food trend reports as each new year begins. According to the Hartman Group's annual "Looking Ahead: Food Culture" report, we can expect to see vegetables become increasingly fashionable in 2012. Their analytics show consumption of meat is becoming more of a condiment than a center plate main attraction. As I read through the report, the Hartman Group's predictions of what's trending in and what's trending out in 2012 made me dizzy with optimism as I imagined seeing more happy, healthy, physically fit people living the good life.
For days, I've been making trips into the chilly garage to replenish the bowl of clementines that has been decorating my dining table. Before Christmas, I decided a small mesh-covered crate of the juicy fruit just wouldn't be enough for my clementine-loving family. I bought a case. It must have been 25 pounds. In just two weeks, I can see the bottom of the cardboard box. When I first started buying easy-to-peel clementines, close to 15 years ago, only those grown in Spain were available in local stores.
It's clear the time for resolutions is here. As I lay on the couch recovering from the stomach flu just a couple of days after Christmas, I saw advertising for Jenny Craig, the South Beach diet and Weight Watchers within minutes of turning on the television. Puffy people carrying extra pounds from holiday indulgences are just the audience they target. For many, new year's resolutions involve health and fitness. I've been hearing a lot about GOMBS from my health-conscious friends. Dr.
I found myself giggling as I stood at my stove. I was using the end of my candy thermometer to stir a mixture of milk and cream in my heavy, turquoise-colored saucepan. Its enamel-coated interior is stained with years of use. I was having flashbacks of my homemade yogurt-making days 35 years ago. It was a phase that coincided with my determination to feed my preschool-aged son as little processed sugar-laden food as possible.
Years ago, at a holiday gathering I attended, I overheard the hostess in conversation with one of her guests. As the Christmas-sweater-clad woman ladled thick, frothy homemade eggnog from a large punch bowl into a clear glass cup, I heard her say in a half-whisper that she always made plenty of the creamy beverage "spiked" with bourbon so she would have enough to use for French toast the next morning. That night the noise level in the house heightened as the level of 'nog in the punch bowl diminished.
What was the absolute favorite thing you ate in 2011? When Amy Ephron, publisher of an online food magazine called "One for the Table," asked me that question, I didn't hesitate before answering. I have no trouble recalling the favorite food I ate in 2011. It was the evening of Oct. 8. My husband and I were in Chicago that weekend to watch our son join a group of 45,000 ambitious human beings in one of the largest marathon races in the world.
Some of the best times during the holiday season come when friends gather together to share food, play games, sing carols, nibble sweet Christmas treats and sip on special beverages concocted especially for the occasion. My mom was known for the hot buttered rums she served to holiday guests. Well before friends were due, she blended together a thick, rich mixture of butter, vanilla ice cream and lots of sugar, all seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon. She stored the batter in the freezer. At serving time, the sweet goop went into mugs with hot water and rum.
How easy can holiday entertaining be? Extremely easy when someone else plans the menu, provides tried and true recipes complete with tips for success, and offers suggestions for wine and beer pairings. That's exactly what Minneapolis cookbook author Carmela Tursi Hobbins presents in her newly published cookbook, "Celebrations with Carmela's Cucina." "In the cooking classes I teach, students often tell me they have a hard time putting a menu together for a special holiday meal," Hobbins said during a recent phone interview.