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TIP OF THE DAY: 4 Tips To Make Christmas Dinner Easier

Cranberry Mimosa Cocktail
[1] Cranberry mimosa. Appoint one of the guests to be bartender (photo courtesy Ocean Spray).

Cheese Christmas Wreath
[2] Cheese wreath. One of your creative guests may want to do something special with the cheese plate (photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese).

Roast Turkey
[3] Ask someone in advance to carve the turkey or ham (photo courtesy iGourmet).

Christmas Coffee
[4] Ask someone to put on the coffee when the main course is over (photo courtesy Coffee Brewing Gear | Pinterest).

Fruit Cake
[5] Desserts: When someone asks if they can bring something, the answer is yes! (photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese).


If you’re hosting Christmas or any big dinner, here’s how you can make the event less stressful.

If you’re guesting, call the host in advance and offer your help (perhaps forward this email, if needed).

Before the big day, review the ingredients of everything you need, from nutmeg to fresh parsley to tea bags for the tea drinkers.

Candles? Check. Matches? Check. Whatever? Check. One year we actually ran out of salt!

At least a day in advance, make a chart by time slot, of every task that has to be done. This should include everything from making recipes through setting the table through brewing the coffee.

Our list, which runs to two typed pages, specifies not just timing, but what pots, dishes and serving utensils will be used.

Who can help you with any task, large or small? Ask them in advance of the day. They’ll be glad to pitch in.

  • Don’t try to cook it all. In fact, most people will ask if they can bring something. Don’t hesitate to make your day easier and accept. Ask any good cook to make cranberry sauce, vegetables, a pie (even if you likersd to make your own pie, spare yourself!).
  • People who can’t cook can come a bit earlier to help set the table. Our friend Elizabeth, who loves to clean and tidy, arrives early to vacuum and add her touch to the room.
  • If you don’t have a help-yourself bar, ask someone to be the cocktail master, getting each person a beverage. This is a good job to make easy contact with all the other guests.
  • Ask someone to be the wine steward at dinner: uncorking bottles, pouring, seeing who wants a refill.
  • No task is too small. Even someone who doesn’t cook can dress the salad.
  • Arrange with the best carver to carve the ham/roast/turkey. One of our regular guests brings her own, just-sharpened, knives.
  • Assign a different person “table clearing duty” for each course. Some of our guests actually love to do this—it lets them get up and walk a bit. One person may offer to do it all! Tape instructions next to the sink, e.g.: (1) Rinse and put dishes in the dishwasher. (2) Place silver in the plastic bucket [our silver gets hand washed the next day]. (3) Fill pots with soap and water and leave on stove to soak.
  • Select a “barista” to put the coffee on to brew, as soon as the main course is cleared from the table.
  • How about a wrap-up crew: literally, to wrap up the leftovers and stick them in the fridge. They may not do it the same way you’d do it, but it’s good enough for the night.
  • Put light eaters on “dessert detail”: They won’t be lolling in their chairs, overstuffed and undesirous of moving. The right person will be more than happy to slice, plate and bring plates to the table.
    We’d like to take a moment to thank all of our helpers from Christmases past and future: Bingo, Charles, Claudio, Eitan, Elizabeth, Laura, Vivian: You rock!

    Revisit your menu. Some of us are guilty of overkill: wanting to please everyone with everything—like serving roast potatoes and mashed potatoes.

    Do you really need two different salads? Cranberry relish and cranberry sauce? Steamed vegetables for the dieters and a separate vegetable dish tossed in butter? And creamed onions?

    For our mother, the answer was yes. She made at least two of every menu item, and three desserts. She was also on her feet in the kitchen the entire time.

    We always commented about Mom, that if there wasn’t enough left over to serve another entire dinner, she hadn’t done her job. It was time to retire the tradition.

    After killing ourselves for years to be our mother’s daughter, we realized: We’re not Mom. And no one but us will notice that there is only a turkey, and not a turkey, a ham and a roast.

    Just make one of everything: Everyone will have plenty to eat. If dessert is just store-bought ice cream in holiday flavors, great.

    And everyone, including the host[s], will have a great time!




    RECIPE: Apple Pie Oatmeal

    How about apple pie for breakfast—sort of?

    An apple crumb pie has a streusel topping made with oats, brown sugar and butter.

    The oatmeal recipe below is a close cousin, made with apples, apple pie spices…and oats, brown sugar and butter.

    Alex Caspero, MA, RD, CLT, who developed the recipe for Fruits And Veggies More Matters, advises:

    “To cut down on prep time for busy mornings, make a double or triple batch earlier in the week; then portion out in individual jars or containers. When you’re ready to eat, splash with a bit more milk and warm through, or enjoy it cold.”

    We say: It’s good enough to have for dessert: as is, with sliced bananas, a dollop of sour cream or ice cream.


    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 cup diced apple
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1¼ cup unsweetened almond milk or milk of choice
  • 2 1 tablespoon brown sugar or 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

    1. HEAT the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the apple and cook for 3-4 minutes until just softened. If you prefer your apples softer, cook them a few minutes longer.

    2. WHISK in the oats, cinnamon, ginger, almond milk, maple syrup and applesauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened and oats have cooked through, about 6-8 minutes.

    3. Stir in the vanilla extract, taste for sweetness (adding in more brown sugar maple syrup as desired), divide into two bowls and serve.


    Apple Pie Oatmeal
    [1] Part oatmeal, part apple pie, all delicious (all photos courtesy Alex Caspero).

    Apple Pie Oatmeal
    [2] Step 1: Cook the apples.

    Apple Pie Oatmeal
    [3] Step 2: Add the oats and the spices. Simmer, and you’re ready to eat!

    Brown sugar is a refined product: white sugar with some of the molasses added back in.

    Maple syrup is a largely unrefined sweetener, made by boiling the sap of maple trees.

    They have different flavor profiles, and different nutritional profiles. You can read more about it here.

    Here are the different types of sugar and sweeteners.



    GIFT PICK: Pre-Brew Coffee Spices From Simply Organic

    Simply Organic Pre-Brew Coffee Spices
    [1] Add a spoon of coffee spices to your ground coffee to brew a flavored pot.

    Simply Organic Pre-Brew Coffee Spices
    [2] Four flavors complement light through dark roast coffees. Both photos courtesy Simply Organic.


    Sometimes you feel like having plain coffee, sometimes you like a hit of flavor.

    Simply Organic has developed Pre-Brew Coffee Spices for you.

    Add a spoonful to ground coffee before brewing, and enjoy the flavor and aroma of carefully-crafted spice blends.

    There are zero calories and no added sweetness: just organic spices.

    There are four options:

  • Awaken Spices help open your eyes with the zip of cinnamon and anise. It won’t overpower light-roasted (blonde) coffees. Ingredients: organic cinnamon, organic fennel, organic cloves, organic anise, organic black pepper.
  • Chai Spices stand up to bold, dark-roast beans. Ingredients: organic cinnamon, organic fennel, organic ginger, organic anise, organic cardamom, organic cloves, organic black pepper.
  • Cinnamon Spices balance the acidic taste in coffee. Use them to heighten the citrusy notes of light-roast beans.
    Organic cinnamon, organic Ceylon cinnamon, organic orange peel.
  • Pumpkin Spices deliver pumpkin pie spices to your coffee, or make your own PSL. Ingredients include organic cinnamon, organic ginger and organic cloves.
    The Simply Organics line is certified organic, certified kosher by KSA, and is vegan, non-irradiated and non-ETO.
    A 1.69-ounce jar is about $6.00, a good stocking stuffer price.


    Also available on Amazon, iHerb, Vitacost, Walmart and other retailers.


  • All About Espresso
  • The Aromas & Flavors Of Coffee
  • Glossary Of Coffee Terms
  • The History Of Coffee
  • How To Make Good Coffee


    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Bantam Bagels…& Pancakes…& Egg Bites

    Bantam Bagels had a small shop in Greenwich Village, selling two-bite balls of bagel in different flavors, filled with a variety of cream cheese flavors.

    The novelty spread the word, and the plucky Bantams are now sold at 16,000 grocers nationwide.

    Along the way, the line expanded with Bantam Pancakes and Bantam Egg Bites. (The little bagel that could was recently sold for $34 million.)

    We love them all. They’re easy ways to have a tasty bite of breakfast, whether on the run (first, 20 seconds in the microwave) or settled in with the newspaper for a leisurely brunch.

    Bantams are a treat for the family as well as for guests. One of our favorite brunches is a mix of all three products.

    The only challenge is narrowing down the flavor choices. Take a look:


  • Breakfast (egg bagel stuffed with cheddar cream cheese)
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Cinnamon Sugar
  • The Classic (plain bagel stuffed w/ plain whipped cream cheese)
  • Everybody’s Favorite (everything bagel stuffed with veggie cream cheese)
  • Everything
  • French Toast
  • Italian
  • Jalapeño
  • Onion
  • Pesto
  • Pretzel
  • Sesame

    The most recent variety, filled with scrambled eggs, has launched in five flavors:

  • Cheddar
  • Chipotle
  • Garden Veggie
  • Onion Gruyere
  • Original

    These are our secret indulgence, anytime we want a piece of cake. Instead, a bite of Blueberry or Chocolate Chip Bantam Pancakes does the trick.

  • Apple Cinnamon
  • Banana Praline
  • Blueberry
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Homestyle (plain pancake stuffed with buttered maple cream)


    Bantam Bagels Platter
    [1] A platter of Bantam Bagels (all photos courtesy Bantam Bagels).

    Bantam Bagels Jalapeno
    [2] Wake up to jalapeño Bantam Bagels.

    Bantam Blueberry Pancakes
    [3] Who could refuse Blueberry Bantam Pancakes?

    Bantam Egg Bites
    [4] New Bantam Bagels Egg Bites.


    The products are frozen. To prepare, you can:

  • Defrost and toast.
  • Microwave.
  • Oven toast.
    Our favorite technique is oven toasting, but we admit to regularly heating with a quick 20 seconds in the microwave.


    GIFT PICK: Savino Wine Saver

    Savino Wine Saver
    [1] Savino automatically seals and unseals your wine, so every glass is fresh.

    Savino Wine Carafe
    [2] The patented technology eliminates the need for the pumps, gasses or corks.

    Savino Wine Preservation
    [3] It’s a wonderful gift for fine wine lovers! (All photos courtesy Savino).


    “Best wine saver ever!” exclaim many wine enthusiasts, over the Savino Wine Carafe.

    We’ve tried all the preservation systems that any wine collector has tried, and agree on the Savino.

    It’s for people who open really good bottles of wine and don’t consume the entire bottle. The Savino will keep the wine as is for a week.

    It’s especially valuable for older wines, which can deteriorate in the bottle as soon as they’re opened.

    The system is equally good for red and white wines.

    So we also recommend the Savino decanter to wine collectors wanting to experience an aged wine over 2 days.

    It’s a great gift for wine lovers. There’s also a plastic version for outdoor use.

    Unlike other wine preservation systems, the Savino carafe preserves the wine in an attractive carafe, designed not only to preserve the wine but to serve it directly.

    It’s so simple: Just pour the wine into the carafe. There’s no air to pump the air out of a bottle, no gas to spray into it.

    The Savino wine carafe is made in the U.S. from durable, high-quality, food-grade glass. There is no BPA or silicone.

    It can hold the entire contents of a 750 mL bottle of wine; you can decant into it and serve from the carafe. It’s dishwasher safe

    You simply pour the wine from its bottle into the Savino, insert the float to create a physical barrier between the wine and the oxygen, and place the top on the carafe.

    We most recently tried the Savino on a rather expensive aged red bordeaux from 1979 vintage. We carefully poured the wine into the Savino, stopping just when we got to the dregs (sediment).

    We enjoyed most of the wine in one sitting, and then let it sit for another 24 hours. The wine did not oxidize; it was nearly as good as when the bottle was newly opened.

    This was quite surprising since even young Bordeaux reds (cabernet/merlot blends) deteriorate faster once opened, in our experience, than most other wine varieties.

    We repeated the experiment once more with an even older wine, from 1970. From the start the wine was slightly oxidized from the bottle. But in the Savino the next day it just faded only a bit more.

    Not bad a showing, since even in this instance, the Savino was able to slow the deterioration and further oxidation of a 48-year-old red wine.

    But we promise: You’ll love it!


    Get yours at

    It’s also available at Amazon and other retailers: $49.95 glass, $24.95 plastic.

    If you don’t absolutely love your Savino wine preservation system, the company will offer you a refund within 30 days of purchase.

    —Kris Prasad



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