St. Paddy’s Day Dinner

17759325_SSunday is St. Patrick’s Day, and many people, whether of Irish descent or not, will be celebrating. If you’re planning a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner or something less standard such as beef stew made with stout, take a few minutes to decorate your table for the holiday.

This place setting is easy to imitate or turn into a centerpiece. One fun image is the rainbow and pot of gold. Use colored paper or have a local young person create one with crayons – you can have one per person or a large one that runs across the center of the table.

Check party stores for black pots like the one in the photo – you may be able to find one left over from Halloween. Pick up some gold tissue paper and gold covered chocolate coins to fulfill the promise of a leprechaun’s pot of gold. No pot available? Use one of your own cooking pots  there are no rules on what the pot should look like!

Several grocery stores at the moment are carrying shamrock plants, or you can recruit those same children to draw or cut out shamrocks to decorate the table. Use green ribbon to tie napkins in place of napkin rings.

14238716_SIrish Soda Bread provides a great addition to any St. Pat’s dinner that is impressive, delicious and very easy to make. For a recipe, check the Internet or visit our Fulton Home’s Facebook page for a link to the Barefoot Contessa’s tasty recipe.

A half-cup of currants and a teaspoon of caraway seeds make a real difference when creating an authentic loaf. For a final special flavor, add a teaspoon or two of brown sugar and coat the top with a tablespoon or two of white sugar dissolved in water about five minutes before the bread is finished baking. That slight sweet taste and the surprise flavor of caraway will make your guests grab for soda-bread seconds.

Planning a Simple New Year’s Eve Celebration

You don’t have to spend a lot of money or invite a crowd of people to have a fun New Year’s Eve party. Here are a few suggestions to make your evening special.

Choose guests strategically: Invite a handful of your favorite people. Two or three couples or a few close friends makes a nice gathering. Smaller groups give everyone more of an opportunity to relax and interact.

Focus on little foods: Pick up a half-dozen frozen appetizers at your grocery or warehouse store. Options range from mini-tacos to bacon-wrapped scallops, depending upon your budget and preferences. You may want to add a couple of interesting cheeses with several types of crackers. Plan to stagger the treats throughout the evening. You may want to end with holiday cookies or serve a dessert. Include some hearty choices so people don’t miss having a regular dinner.

Plan a little decadence: Consider having one luxury item such as shrimp cocktail or scallops, and pick up a few particularly tempting dessert choices such as the items shown in the photo to the right. Bring some bling to your table with bright gold and silver beads or confetti. Pick up a nice bottle of sparkling wine for midnight and include the option of sparkling juice for those who don’t drink.

Plan for fun: Horns, hats, noisemakers, sparklers can all make midnight more entertaining. Have people write their resolutions for 2013 on small pieces of paper and put them all in a box or bowl. You can then pull them out to read one-by-one and have people guess whose resolution each one is.

Have fun yourself: Plan ahead so that food and drink are easy enough that you can spend most of your time with your guests rather than fixing things. By keeping things simple, you all can have a lovely time.

Edible Holiday Gifts

One of the nicest gifts for friends and family is something you make yourself. This year, how about baking some holiday treats?

Cakeballs – a new baking craze, make lovely gifts.  These are made to look like holiday ornaments. Whether on a stick or just piled in a bowl, these provide a different kind of treat; one tasty, sweet bite.  For extra fun, set these upright in a cup filled with holiday candies.

To make your gift extra special, how about giving it on a plate made of holiday candy? This little tray was created by setting peppermint hard candies together on a piece of parchment paper set on a baking dish, and baking for a short time in a low oven just until the pieces melt into each other. Let cool and then gently peel off. This also works with candy canes and peppermint sticks. Just be sure to use with hard surface treats. Moist ones will melt your dish!

Even if you’re not a skilled baker, treats such as chocolate-dipped pretzels can make a great gift. You can find baskets and other suitable containers at dollar stores and cake specialty shops. Whatever you decide to make, gifts like these are as much fun to assemble as they are to give!

Start Planning for the Holidays

We’re headed for the holiday season, and it’s easy to get caught up in everything you want to do until you’re overwhelmed. One helpful approach to make sure you are ready to make your holidays merry and bright is planning. Take the time now to create the framework for making holidays fun this year.

Budget your dollars: Many people end up in January with more bills than they expected. To head off this situation, spend time with your spouse or family agreeing on a budget. Be sure to include food, entertainment, cards, and any decorations as well as gifts. Add a cushion to cover unexpected expenses.

Budget your time: You may want to bake holiday cookies, decorate with abandon and write long notes to friends. Add that full-family Thanksgiving, volunteering and attending everyone’s holiday parties and you may end up too tired to enjoy everything. Combine some favorite events and projects with some time to recover and just have fun and the season will be pleasant instead of hectic.

Work ahead: Do you love homemade Christmas cookies? How about mixing up the dough and freezing it for later? Grab your cookbooks and recipe box and develop your menus for Thanksgiving and beyond. Plan for each event with grocery lists and all the recipes organized in files.  If you are going to ask Aunt Margaret to bring her sweet potato casserole, now is the time to call. Pull out your holiday card list before it starts to get hectic and address envelopes and write that newsletter. You don’t have to send them yet but wouldn’t it be nice to be ready when the time comes?

Take a few hours to plan your holidays this weekend, and you will help ensure a holly jolly time for everyone.

November is Good Nutrition Month

Wouldn’t you know it, the day after Halloween is the start of Good Nutrition Month! Here are a few suggestions to use your Fulton Homes kitchen to promote good eating for you and your family.

Ration Halloween candy: Of course chances are your little ones ate too much candy yesterday – and maybe you helped yourself to a bit more than you should have, too! Now that you’ve all had that indulgent experience, let your children know that this happens only once a year. Negotiate a specific number of pieces of candy every day. Here’s a hint – you start the negotiations at one piece and they will feel good if they can get you up to three, which is about where you want them to be anyway.

Use your kitchen space to drive your family to good snacks: Set up a shelf in the refrigerator with washed carrots and dip, sliced apples and cheese, peanut butter and other healthy choices. Let your kids know that those snacks are legal without getting permission. Place some whole-grain crackers on the counter or kitchen table along with bananas and other snacks that don’t need refrigeration. Make healthful snacks easy to access and junk food hard to find or simply nonexistent in your kitchen. Soon your family will automatically reach for the good stuff that’s in sight.

Get help with meal-planning and cooking. Make it fun for everyone and cook with the kids! Use your kitchen counter or island to plan and track meals for the week or even the month. Assign coupon searches to one child and grocery ads to another, with the promise that they will receive the savings as an addition to their allowances. Or you could have a contest with the one who saves the family the most money getting to choose a favorite meal for the next week. Print a copy of the food pyramid and have your whole family use it to plan meals that are well-balanced.

The holidays have started and it’s easy to get into bad food habits with entertaining and attending parties. You can create the opportunity to keep yourself and your family on a good nutrition path for the rest of the year and into the next!