Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday Entertaining - November

Holiday Table Tips!

Dressing your dining room table for everyday use can be a bit overwhelming but throw in a holiday or two and it can be down right mind-boggling!
Here are some simple rules to make setting any table for every season easy.

Dishes should be fun and inviting…
A monochromatic (all dishes are the same color) look is sophisticated and timeless but give it some spice with a gold or silver charger, layer in colorful linens or add one colored dish for a more unique style.
Multiple colors are great too! Choosing one color for your dinner plates, another color for salad plates and another for bowls will give you a layered look that is casual and fun.

Linens are just as important as dishes. Choose linens that are good quality, they may cost a little more up front but when you wash and use them regularly it’s money well spent.
Layering your linens can help give texture and choosing a neutral for the bottom and changing the top (smaller/cheaper) layers can save you money.

Keep the centerpiece simple, when the holidays come around use those basic pieces as your starting point, add in a few holiday items and with little time and money you have transformed your look. This also applies to a sideboard or buffet, keeping your everyday items out but adding just a small touch of the season will give you a look that’s both new and festive.

Don’t forget the chairs! Most people overlook the chairs around their table but this is another excellent place to decorate for the holidays.
A small wreath or candle ring hung by beautiful ribbon off the backs of your chairs is a great way to bring in color. For a more sophisticated look wrap a sash around the back and tie a huge bow with long tails. If this seems like a bit much to add to every chair just add it to the two end chairs (leaving the side chairs plain) or try adding a special touch to your bar stools instead of the entire table.

As you can see with a little pre-planning and a small amount of imagination you have all the tools to dress a beautiful Holiday table.

Basic Table Setting

For a basic table setting, here are two great tips to help you -- or your kids -- remember the order of plates and utensils:
Picture the word "FORKS." The order, left to right, is: F for Fork, O for the Plate (the shape!), K for Knives and S for Spoons. (Okay -- you have to forget the R, but you get the idea!)
Holding your hands in front of you, touch the tips of your thumbs to the tips of your forefingers to make a lowercase 'b' with your left hand and a lowercase 'd' with your right hand. This reminds you that "bread and butter" go to the left of the place setting and "drinks" go on the right. Emily Post could have used that trick -- she was often confused about which bread and butter belonged to her -- and sometimes she used her neighbor's! In which case, when it was called to her attention, she would say to the dismayed lady or gentleman, "Oh, I am always mixing them up. Here, please take mine!"
Some other things to know:
Knife blades always face the plate
The napkin goes to the left of the fork, or on the plate
The bread and butter knife are optional

Informal Table Setting
A. Dinner plate: This is the "hub of the wheel" and is usually the first thing to be set on the table. In our illustration, the dinner plate would be placed where the napkin is, with the napkin on top of the plate.
B. Two Forks: The forks are placed to the left of the plate. The dinner fork, the larger of the two forks, is used for the main course; the smaller fork is used for a salad or an appetizer. The forks are arranged according to when you need to use them, following an "outside-in" order. If the small fork is needed for an appetizer or a salad served before the main course, then it is placed on the left (outside) of the dinner fork; if the salad is served after the main course, then the small fork is placed to the right (inside) of the dinner fork, next to the plate.
C. Napkin: The napkin is folded or put in a napkin ring and placed either to the left of the forks or on the center of the dinner plate. Sometimes, a folded napkin is placed under the forks.
D. Dinner Knife: The dinner knife is set immediately to the right of the plate, cutting edge facing inward. (If the main course is meat, a steak knife can take the place of the dinner knife.) At an informal meal, the dinner knife may be used for all courses, but a dirty knife should never be placed on the table, placemat or tablecloth.
E. Spoons: Spoons go to the right of the knife. In our illustration, soup is being served first, so the soupspoon goes to the far (outside) right of the dinner knife; the teaspoon or dessert spoon, which will be used last, goes to the left (inside) of the soupspoon, next to the dinner knife.
F. Glasses: Drinking glasses of any kind -- water, wine, juice, iced tea -- are placed at the top right of the dinner plate, above the knives and spoons.

Formal table setting

The one rule for a formal table is for everything to be geometrically spaced: the centerpiece at the exact center; the place settings at equal distances; and the utensils balanced. Beyond these placements, you can vary flower arrangements and decorations as you like.

The placement of utensils is guided by the menu, the idea being that you use utensils in an “outside in” order.

A. Service Plate: This large plate, also called a charger, serves as an underplate for the plate holding the first course, which will be brought to the table. When the first course is cleared, the service plate remains until the plate holding the entrée is served, at which point the two plates are exchanged. The charger may serve as the underplate for several courses which precede the entrée.

B. Butter plate: The small butter plate is placed above the forks at the left of the place setting.

C. Dinner fork: The largest of the forks, also called the place fork, it is placed on the left of the plate. Other smaller forks for other courses are arranged to the left or right of the dinner fork, according to when they will be used.

D. Fish fork: If there is a fish course, this small fork is placed farthest to the left of the dinner fork because it is the first fork used.

E. Salad fork: If salad is served after the entrée, the small salad fork is placed to the right of the dinner fork, next to the plate. If the salad is to be served first, and fish second, then the forks would be arranged (left to right): salad fork, fish fork, dinner fork.

F. Dinner knife: The large dinner knife is placed to the right of the dinner plate.

G. Fish knife: The specially shaped fish knife goes to the right of the dinner knife.

H. Salad knife: (Note: there is no salad knife in the illustration.) If used, according to the above menu, it would be placed to the left of the dinner knife, next to the dinner plate. If the salad is to be served first, and fish second, then the knives would be arranged (left to right): dinner knife, fish knife, salad knife.

I. Soup spoon or fruit spoon: If soup or fruit is served as a first course, then the accompanying spoon goes to the right of the knives.

J. Oyster fork: If shellfish are to be served, the oyster fork is set to the right of the spoons. Note: It is the only fork ever placed on the right of the plate.

K. Butter knife: This small spreader is paced diagonally on top of the butter plate, handle on the right and blade down.

L. Glasses: These can number up to five and are placed so that the smaller ones are in front. The water goblet (la) is placed directly above the knives. Just to the right goes a champagne flute (lb); In front of these are placed a red (lc) and/or white (ld) wine glass and a sherry glass (le)

M. Napkin: The napkin is placed on top of the charger (if one is used) or in the space for the plate.

*Dessert spoons and forks are brought in on the dessert plate just before dessert is served.
Content and photo courtesy of HYPERLINK "" The Emily Post Institute.

Cooking Group Recipe
Mini Ginger Cookies
2 ¼ cup shortening
3 cups sugar
¾ cup molasses (I use full flavor)
3 eggs
6 cups flour
1 ½ tsp salt
2 T soda
2 tsp ginger
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt shortening in a 3 - 4 quart saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and let cool. Add sugar, molasses, and egg. Beat well. Sift together flour, soda, and spices. Add to first mixture. Mix well; chill. Form into 1/2" balls and place on a greased cookie sheet 1" apart. If you would like a little sparkle to your cookie, roll in sugar OR top each cookie with a bit of raw sugar before baking. Flatten with the bottom of a glass and bake for 8 - 10 minutes (surface should just begin to show cracks). DO not over bake. These are not crispy cookies. They should be soft and chewy.
*Ginger cookies freeze well and are also excellent if you want to bake them to full cookie size.

Ginger Snap Dip

-8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp vanilla extract
1-8 oz carton frozen whipped topping, thawed

In a small mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Beat in whipped topping until blended. Refrigerate until serving.

Pumpkin Patch Punch
1 12 oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 12 oz. can frozen orange pineapple juice concentrate
2 cups water
1 pack orange powdered drink mix unsweetened (Kool-Aid works)
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Method: combine juices and water, add Kool-Aid and spice, whisk till blended. Keep refrigerated till ready to use, or freeze for future use. When ready to serve pour half of the mixture in punch bowl, add 2-liter bottle of sprite. Mix and serve.

Egg Nog
6 eggs (beaten)
2 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbl. sugar
ground nutmeg

Method: In large saucepan mix eggs, milk and 1/3 cup sugar. Cook and stir over medium to low heat till mixture coats a metal spoon. Remove from heat. Cool quickly by placing pan in sink or bowl of ice water and stirring 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Chill 4 to 24 hours. At serving time, in a bowl, whip cream and 2 Tbl. of sugar till soft peaks form. Fold in whipped cream mixture. Serve at once with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Hot-spiced Cider
8 cups apple cider or apple juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 inches stick cinnamon
1 tsp. whole allspice
1 tsp. whole cloves
8 thin orange wedges or slices (optional)

Method: In a large saucepan combine apple cider or juice and brown sugar. For spice bag, place cinnamon, allspice and cloves in a double thickness of cheesecloth. Bring up corners of cheesecloth and tie with string. Add spice bag to cider mixture. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer at least 10 minutes. Remove and discard spice bag. Serve in mugs with orange wedges.

Cheesy baked dip
8 oz. sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese
16 oz. cheddar cheese, grated (sharp or mild)
4 oz. chopped green chilies
Green onion (suit your own taste)
1 cup chopped ham
1/2 pound chopped bacon
1 round bread loaf, hollowed out

Method: Mix first seven ingredients together and put into the hollowed out bread loaf. Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for one hour. Serve with leftover bread or chips.

Polynesian Chicken Bites
4 boneless chicken breast cut into 1 to 1-1/2 inch squares
1 egg
1/4 frozen orange concentrate (thawed)
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup corn flakes (crushed)
1/3 cup flaked coconut
Foil to cover cookie sheet

Method: In one bowl mix egg, orange juice concentrate, ginger, and salt, set aside. In another bowl mix cornflakes and coconut. Place foil on cookie sheet. Dip chicken squares in egg mixture first and then roll in cornflake mixture; lay chicken on foil sheet (do no let them touch) Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Dipping sauce for chicken bites-
equal parts chili sauce and raspberry jam
equal parts chili sauce and apricot preserves.

Mexican Wedding Cookies
1 lb margarine*, softened
4 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar, divided
1 cups chopped nuts
1 tsp vanilla or anise

Preheat oven to 350°F
Combine margarine, 4 cups powdered
sugar, nuts and vanilla or anise in a bowl.
Squish together with hands.
Form into balls the size of large marbles.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350°F for 17 minutes.
Loosen from sheet. Let cool 15 minutes.
Roll in powdered sugar.

*Use margarine, NOT butter for this recipe.
Butter doesn’t hold its shape, and has a lower
melting point, resulting in flat cookies.

2 quarts apple cider
2 cups orange juice
juice from one lemon
one whole orange cut in half
12 whole cloves (or more)
4 cinnamon sticks
1 pinch ground ginger
1 pinch ground nutmeg

Combine apple cider, orange juice, and lemon juice. Put whole cloves into the rid of orange. Season with ginger and nutmeg.
Simmer for about 6 hours.

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