Food for thought

(Dec. 21, 2018) “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

These words have left a lasting impression and are still dear to my heart.

Visions of Christmas Eve linger as my sister and I were nestled next to mother. I can hear her reading the famous poem as my mind was mesmerized with wonder. Imagination is a wonderful thing; remember, it is the first step toward creativity.

But as the path of responsibilities took over, Christmas Eve is no longer a day where I am overflowing with anticipation and awe. I am totally exhausted, broke and need a week of relaxation.

Every year I tell myself to remember what the “spirit” of Christmas is all about, and every year I find myself slipping into the old ways of Christmas frenzy.

If you are in a hysterical state and need last minute ideas for gifts; do not fret, help is on the way.

Following are a selection of suggestions that might tempt your fancy for that special person.

Space is a serious issue in my kitchen; therefore, anything that will give me more room is greatly appreciated. A four-quart collapsible salad spinner from Crate&Barrel is a great idea. This nifty gift has been reduced from $29.95 to $11.97.

For those who are hooked on “The Great British Baking Show,” Paul Hollywood has written an impressive cookbook, “How To Bake.” It can be purchased at Amazon for $30.83. Baking is a science and cookbooks are quite helpful.

For the home cook who is eco-friendly, Bees Wrap assorted 3-pack reusable food wraps are unique and inexpensive.

These food wraps are made by infusing cotton with beeswax, and can be used over and over. When they are no longer usable, they can be used for compost. Amazon has these wraps for $18.

I am a huge fan of mandolines and every serious cook should have one. OXO Good Grip Adjustable Hand Held Mandoline is available at Amazon for $15. This price is hard to beat and what a great gift for the money.

The next present is a little pricy but it is a steal. Amazon has a multi-use programmable pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker and warmer all in one.

This pot normally goes for $139.95 and is on sale for $89.95. In addition, there is no charge for shipping.

For those who love to grill, I have the perfect gift. Grillbot Robotic Barbecue Grill Cleaner cleans grills with automatic brass brushes.

This hand-free operation works inside a hot or cold grill. There is even a timer function that turns off automatically when the grill is clean. How about that?

It is on sale at Amazon; this robotic grill cleaner has been reduced from $129.95 to $89.95, and again there is free shipping.

Gifts are not the only thing that can cause stress at the last minute. Your menu can put you in a terrible panic.

If you are still undecided about an appetizer, baked brie that is embellished with a spicy, gingery cranberry and pomegranate relish is a delicious dish and a great way to start your celebrations.

The following recipe will make enough relish for two mini baked brie appetizers. If you are entertaining more than 10 people, I suggest presenting one baked brie appetizer at a time. This way, a fresh brie can replace the other one after it has been consumed. You want your table looking beautiful the entire time.

In closing, let us give thanks to the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us and remember what the holiday season is about.

Relax, your festivities will be fabulous. On that note, I wish everyone a safe and wonderful holiday. Enjoy!

Baked Brie Embellished with a Cranberry and Pomegranate Relish

Ingredients

1 (12-ounce) package of fresh cranberries

3 tablespoons pomegranate arils

juice of 1 pomegranate

zest of 1 large orange

juice of two large oranges

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

3 tablespoons red pepper jelly

1 or 2 pinches of dried red pepper flakes

Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour

2 (8-ounce) brie wheels

fresh rosemary as a garnish

coarsely ground black pepper as a garnish

favorite crackers

1. Combine cranberries, pomegranate arils, pomegranate juice, orange zest, orange juice, ginger, brown sugar, pepper jelly and pepper flakes in a medium, heavy-bottomed pan and constantly stir over medium-high heat until cranberries start to pop.

2. Remove cranberry mixture, strain and spread cranberries on a baking sheet. This step will help the cranberries cool down so they will not turn to mush.

3. Using the same pan, heat the strained juice with several sprinkles of Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour. Constantly whisk until the sauce thickens. Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool. When cooled, combine sauce with cranberry mixture.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place wheels of brie in an oven-proof dish and bake for about 7 minutes or until the cheese stars to soften. Top with cranberry mixture and return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Remove brie from oven and carefully place on serving dish. Garnish with fresh rosemary and black pepper. Serve appetizer with favorite crackers.

Secret Ingredient – Wonder. “Wisdom begins in wonder.”

– Socrates

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