by Kate Heyhoe
I just turned around and bumped head first into the holiday season. Ouch! As I say every year, it's way too soon.
After the impacts of Katrina and Rita, many of us are counting our blessings big time. All the more reason for the holidays to be filled with love, joy, and the sharing of food with family and friends, new and old alike. Now's the time to reduce the stress in our lives, not increase it. Eat, drink, and be merry, as the saying goes, and that includes the cooks and hosts of the season, not just the guests.
This season, I've assembled a few items that fall into the categories of tools, foods, and gifts for care-free entertaining, starting now and continuing in December.
This month, take a look at some electric appliances that may sound unglamorous, but can shave off time and conserve energy (yours) when prepping for the holidays. And, they make jolly good Christmas gifts besides.
There are blenders, and then there are blenders. The serious cook's new best friend may be the Vita-Mix Professional Series blender www.theprofessionalseries.com, a powerhouse designed for professional chefs but which has now, like Wolf stoves and Viking ranges, entered the home cook's domain.
Some folks have gorgeous, well appointed kitchens worthy of a four star chef, but rarely do they cook in them. They'll find the Vita-Mix Pro the perfect addition. And for the rest of us who really do spill, splatter, and joyfully mess around in our kitchens, the Vita-Mix rules. Sauces, drinks, and puréed soups were never so smooth. Or chunky, if that's the texture you prefer. Need to rescue a lumpy gravy or a curdled sauce? This is the weapon of choice.
Variable dials put your fingers in complete control, from low to lightning fast. In fact, at the highest setting, the laser-cut blade blasts up to 37,000 rotations per minute, or 240 miles per hour. The container's design is more than just tech-pretty: it creates a powerful vortex that forces ingredients up from the bottom and back down the center into the blades. Not one speck of food is spared.
What else can you use this sexy, macho machine for? Marinades, soups, sauces, smoothies, butters, batters, desserts, baby food and just about any processed dish a professional chef, or a die-hard home cook, can imagine. Still stumped for ideas: Not to worry. The Vita-Mix Professional comes with Create, a 194-page Recipe Book and a Get Started DVD. Now that's entertainment! (Suggested retail price $499)
Nachos and pizzas may not sound like holiday fare. But in between the stuffing and the turkey and the gravy and the roasts and the cookies and the cakes, studies show that nachos and pizzas are some of the most popular foods of the holidays. They're the comforting stuff we eat when the cook needs a break and the guests are overwhelmed by "holiday food." Now, Oster has devised a standard-sized toaster oven that accommodates a 12-inch frozen pizza. The convex-shaped back panel is just deep enough to bake a 12-inch pizza, without taking up extra counter space. Plus, an extra convection oven, compact as it is, never hurts, especially during the holidays. (Oster Pizza Fit Toaster Oven, suggested retail price: $59.99)
This season, consider the functionality of the electric knife. Even FoodNetwork's Alton Brown recommends electric knives when it's time to carve turkeys and rib roasts. I've not tried other brands, but my Oster electric knife also works well with summer specialties like barbecued ribs, brisket, and splitting chickens for the grill. For $20 or less, it's a handy year round tool, and comes with a fork and storage case.
Finally, I've replaced my old, sluggish iron with a Sunbeam Steam Master that makes pressing table linens, slipcovers and yes, even clothes, a snap. Best features: a retractable cord and variable controls on the steam/spray functions. No, it's not like showing off a fancy Subzero fridge, but it's a handy, functional gem nonetheless. And since holiday season is the time I use an iron most, in between the baking and the roasting and the chopping, it seems fitting to include it here.
I leave you with a cornucopia of seasonal recipes, just perfect for making a mess of even the most pristine kitchen. Happy holidays!
My, My American Pie: Pie-Making Pointers
Includes Award-Winning Pie Recipes
Portable Thanksgiving Side-Dishes
Chef Jimmy Schmidt's Turkey Recipes:
Copyright © 2005, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created November 2005
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