Friday, December 28, 2007

Holiday Eating Tips

Happy Holidays,
My sister forwarded these to me via email. Perhaps you've already seen them. Karen and I thought they were worth sharing. Enjoy!

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffettable knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leaveimmediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.
2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. Like fine single-maltscotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can'tfind it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into aneggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Havetwo. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!
3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point ofgravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of yourmashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.
4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk orwhole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car withan automatic transmission.
5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to controlyour eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat otherpeople's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?
6. Under no circumstance should you exercise between now and New Year's.You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the timefor long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carryinga 10-pound plate of food and a vat of eggnog.
7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, likefrosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourselfnear them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the centerof attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind,you're never going to see them again.
8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or,if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always havethree. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?
9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with themandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have somestandards.
10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the partyor get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Reread tips; startover, but hurry, January is just around the corner.
Remember: Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arrivingsafely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways,chocolate in one hand, margarita in the other, body thoroughly used up, totallyworn out and screaming WOO HOO what a ride!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

One cook's garam masala is another baker's gingerbread

One of the secrets to making great-tasting cookies (or great-tasting anything, for that matter) is to start with really good ingredients. But, you may not want to spend big bucks for premium vanilla and whatnot, especially if you are not into baking year-round. I thought that I would share some of my favorite places to buy ingredients for holiday goodies.

I like to buy spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and coriander at an Indian market. There’s one right in Malden center, on Pleasant Street. The quality is soooo much better than that brand that starts with an “M,” and the price is much better too –~$4 for a 4-ounce bag of cinnamon. (If you think you can’t use that much cinnamon, go shopping with a friend and share everything). Indian markets are also good places to get golden raisins (for fruitcake!) and cashews (for nut brittle, mixed nuts, spiced nuts…).

Trader Joe’s has good prices on good-quality spices, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate. I like their 4-ounce bottles of vanilla for ~$5 – swanky brands of vanilla are nice, but unless you’re making a cookie in which the vanilla is the main flavor (like a butter cookie), I think it’s a waste of money. Also Marty’s Liquors in Allston used to carry vanilla, chocolate and some nuts; I haven’t been there in a while but I got some good deals in years past.

If you want to spend a little more money for premium nuts and dried fruit, go to Dairy Fresh Candies in the North End. It’s a tiny little store that’s a baking junkie’s heaven. They also have chocolate, almond paste, and marzipan. Polcari’s, which is also in the North End, carries some nuts and dried fruit in bulk as well.

If price is no object, then try one of the mail-order companies offering everything that your little baker’s heart desires. Check out Penzey’s, or the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Catalog for a dizzying array of ingredients (just how many kinds of vanilla are there, anyway?). Maybe Santa will put a Penzey’s gift certificate in my stocking this year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Some thoughts on upcoming holidays

For many people, things start to get crazy busy this time of year. Family dinners to plan, holiday parties to juggle, and maybe some shopping to do. So this year, we’d like to remind everyone who feels overwhelmed by the whirlwind to remember to stop and… well, just…stop.

That’s right – Relax! Everything will be fine. Somewhere along the line, preparing a holiday dinner turned into a competitive sport. It’s time to take a deep breath and let go of all that. No matter how well prepared you are, how many lists you’ve made (or spreadsheets – I’m one of those spreadsheeters) or timetables you’ve developed, something will probably go wrong.

Every Christmas, we bake hundreds of cookies. We make the same recipes from year to year and you’d think that we’d have everything down pat by now. Nonetheless, a few key points are always forgotten on one or two types of cookies. After much gnashing of teeth and shouted colorful expressions those essential bits of information finally pop back into the conscious mind, and at least part of the batch is usually salvageable.

The point is, nobody’s perfect. Television chefs have an army of assistants and food stylists to make everything look perfect (and they still run into trouble sometimes). Unless you’re willing to get out the blowtorch for touch-ups, that Thanksgiving turkey is probably not going to be perfectly golden brown. And we say, that’s okay.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lights, Action, Camera!

We've begun production of our first program, due to broadast sometime in December. The show theme is Holiday Cookies. Join us in Karen's kitchen as we show you how to make biscotti the old-fashioned way and decorate cookies and cakes with icing -- without the mess. Karen shares a family favorite, handed down through generations. Then we'll take you inside Cookies by Miss Jackie's, a Salem Street favorite!

Our Website ( is also under construction. Bookmark it now to easily access featured recipes, videos of previous shows (once we have them) and some of our favorite links and resources.

Have an idea for a show theme or recipe? Want to share your culinary heritage with your Malden neighbors? Post a comment here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Welcome to the Neighborhood Blog, the official blog of Neighborhood Dish, MATV's newest cooking show. Why? Because all communities have eating in common. We hope to bring Malden's diverse community together by sharing our culinary heritage, encouraging you to prepare and enjoy delicious wholesome food, introducing you to food-related businesses and organizations in the Malden area, and having fun along the way.

Neighborhood Dish is produced and directed by two Malden residents, Karen Yates and Paula Spizziri. We're currently producing our first two episodes -- stay tuned for details as they emerge.

Neighborhood Blog is a place where Malden residents can share their:
  • Thoughts on food, including their cultural experiences with food
  • Their opinions and recommendations about area food-related businesses, e.g., restaurants, supermarkets, and ethnic groceries
  • Feedback on and suggestions for Neighborhood Dish programs

Karen and Paula are excited to share their love of cooking and eating, and breaking bread with friends and family.

Be part of our Neighborhood. Visit the Neighborhood Blog and participate by voting on our polls and posting comments.