New York City is a wonderful place to be during the Christmas season. Store windows are decorated and the streets are a bustle with shoppers and tourists.
Saint Lucia’s Day A Swedish Christmas Tradition
We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give. – Winston Churchill
Making The Best Candy
Candy is not difficult to make. Some candy recipes require little or no cooking at all. Other candy recipes need only careful timing and adequate beating. For some types of candy, however, special care is necessary. Follow these basic instructions and you can become a successful and versatile candy maker.
Always read a recipe through from beginning to end BEFORE starting to cook. This is important with all recipes, but especially candy recipes. You never will know if you need special equipment or a special ingredient until you read the recipe.
Always use the best quality, freshest ingredient available.
Measure ingredients accurately, using standard measuring spoons for small amounts, a fluid measuring cup for liquids, and graduated measuring cups for dry ingredients.
Follow recipes carefully. Use only the ingredients specified and add them in the order and by the method given.
To prevent sugaring, carefully follow directions about stirring and about covering the pan.
Use moderate or low heat, according to instructions in the recipe, so the syrup does not reach the boiling point too quickly.
Always use a saucepan large enough to allow space for the candy to bubble up when boiling. A 2 quart pan is large enough in most cases, but sometimes a 3 quart or even a 4 quart pan is preferable. A pan in which candy is made should be a heavy gauge metal, which holds heat evenly and will prevent sticking.
Candy making involves a lot of stirring and beating. Although an electric mixer may be used in some stages of preparation, such as beating egg whites for divinity, for most candy mixtures a spoon is best. A long handled wooden spoon is preferable, since it will never get too hot to handle. God bless wooden spoons!
A candy thermometer that clips onto the side of the pan is almost a necessity for successful candy making, since it is critical that the candy be removed fro the heat at the moment it reaches the proper temperature. It is best to use a clearly marked, easy to read thermometer with a mercury ball that is set low enough to measure the temperature of the boiling syrup, but does not touch the bottom of the pan.
To use a candy thermometer, be sure it is at room temperature before putting it into the hot syrup. Lower the thermometer gradually into the candy mixture AFTER the sugar is dissolved and the syrup has begun to boil.
The cold-water test is an alternative to a candy thermometer. Many cooks still rely upon this test, although it is not as accurate as a candy thermometer (hard ball/soft ball).
Temperature Tests For Candy
Temperature of Syrup Test Description of Syrup When Dropped Into Very Cold Water
234° to 240 ° Soft Ball Forms a soft ball that flattens on removal from water
244° to 248° Firm Ball Forms a firm ball that does not flatten on removal from water
250° to 266° Hard Ball Forms a hard ball that, on removal from water remains hard enough to hold its shape yet pliable
270° to 290° Soft Crack Separates into threads that are hard, but not brittle, when removed from water
300° to 310° Hard Crack Separates into threads that are hard and very brittle
To water-test, use very cold, but NOT ice, water. Use a clean cup, spoon, and fresh water for each test. Remove the pan from the heat and drop a little of the hot mixture into the water. Use your fingers to gather the drops into a ball and feel its consistency. If the candy is not yet ready, immediately return the pan to the heat.
Avoid making candy on damp or rainy days. High humidity is the candy maker’s enemy. If for any reason you cannot postpone a candy making session, cook the candy 1 or 2 degrees higher on the thermometer than indicated in the recipe.
Altitude also affects candy making. Temperatures given in recipes are typically for sea level. At high altitudes the candy must be cooked about 2 degrees higher.
Be patient and always allow sufficient time. Most candy does take time to make, and there is no way to rush the cooking with disaster.
"Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen
Ways To Resist Overeating During The Holidays
Tiny New York Kitchen’s new motto is that December is the new January! With countless cocktail parties, cookie exchanges, and holiday meals this time of year, even the most responsible eaters can be tempted to go all out. Here are a few tips that can prevent total diet derailment, and still enjoy yourself, during the holiday season.
Fill your fridge with healthy, protein-rich snacks that will fill you up and keep you full so that you are less likely to indulge during holiday festivities.
Decide which temptations you would like to resist and to what degree. Remember moderation is key!
Indulge wisely. Allow yourself to enjoy those must-have treats that you look forward to all year long. Whether it’s eggnog, mashed potatoes, pecan pie, or red velvet cake – keep in mind that there is no need for an all-out binge-fest. Enjoy a reasonable yet rewarding amount of holiday foods that you absolutely love. Remember that no single meal will wreck your waistline.
Pay attention to how much water you are drinking. Try and consume 8 to 10 glasses of water per day.
Hit the gym. This way if you do indulge a bit at least it can be somewhat “guilt-free.”
Eat breakfast! When you skip breakfast you set yourself up to eat more at the next meal. Whatever you do, eat breakfast!
To recover the day after “food hangover” feeling that follows a rich meal, eat a normal breakfast with protein, such as yogurt or eggs, the next morning. The rest of the day, avoid refined carbs, drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water to flush out the sodium. Also, fill up on “clean” foods such as fruits, vegetables, and protein.
Freeze those leftovers. Have leftover pecan pie? Freeze it! Storing tempting foods in the freezer to keep them out of sight means you’re much less likely to eat them since you’d have to defrost them first.
Be a smart snacker! Before you head out to those holiday parties, have a nibble of something so you don’t risk becoming starved. A handful of nuts, a mozzarella stick, Greek yogurt, or protein bar will work wonders.
Double up on those drinks! When you arrive at a party, start with a non-alcoholic drink to quench your thirst. Then have a glass of wine, champagne, or cocktail, but always alternate with zero-calorie liquids such as water or club soda. You’ll feel much better at the end of the night, and certainly the next day.
It’s ok to tell lies, but do it politely, of course. It’s hard to say “no” to your boss or your nana when they offer you a treat. Tell them thank you and take it. Tell them how delicious it looks, but that you’ve just eaten and are going to save it for later. Wrap it up and take it with you. If it ends up in the trash or given to someone else then that’s A-Okay!
If you’re going to a holiday party, offer to bring a healthy dish that you love. Bringing something healthy that you love will guarantee that there is something healthy that you can fill your plate with. It will also give you a chance to show your friends, family or coworkers that healthy food can taste great.
Get Up, Stand Up! When you’re at a party or buffet, get one plate, and then step away from the food table, but stay on your feet! Standing up helps with digestion and makes it more difficult to keep piling food on your plate, and burn calories.
Get thyself distracted! After a holiday meal, get your mind off food by offering to help clear the table or do the dishes. Chew a piece of gum or pop a breath mint. Its kind of like brushing your teeth so that you won’t be tempted to ruin your fresh breath for another piece of pecan pie.
Cut those serving portions down. There is no need to ruin a family recipe by reducing sugar or cutting out fatty ingredients. Instead make the real version of your great-grandmother’s famous date-nut cake, but cut it into 18 small slices rather than 10 giant pieces.
If you do overeat don’t beat yourself up, acknowledge it and then let it go. If you do go a little crazy at a party, it’s really not helpful to beat yourself up about it. Each day and each party is like a “reset,” it’s a chance to try again.
"Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen
Each December I head to Shakespeare's Garden in Brookfield, Connecticut to pick up a variety of poinsettias to place around my house during the holidays. It's always such a joy to go to this charming nursury. They also have amazing ornament displays which are fun to look at and, of course, I can't resist picking up a few ornaments.
10 Steps For Staying Happy Through The Holiday Season
Thanksgiving is almost here which marks the beginning of the holiday season. With so many holiday pressures often times we forget what truly is important. We are busy shopping, cooking and wondering how to deal with some unsettled family business. Over the weekend I came down with a nasty flu, which is in full swing as I write this. To be sick is no fun to say the least, but I do take it as a sign to slow down and reflect. Here are some ideas for staying happy through the holiday season. I hope that you take time to enjoy the holidays.
Do Something Random For The Fun Of It
What have you always wanted to do, but came up with an excuse not to? What made you happy as a kid? Think about things you did, during the holidays, which were fun during the holidays and relieve them as a grown-up. If you have children then introduce your fond activities to your kids. Go ice-skating, go to a hokey play, watch your favorite movie or read a favorite children’s book.
Doing something for others is a powerful thing. Volunteer your time or donate money to a favorite cause or something that speaks to your heart is important. It’s a good thing to do and trust me it will make you feel good.
Take Care Of Yourself
It’s important to do things for yourself. Schedule a mani-pedi or a massage. Take a nap, take a day off and read in bed. Do whatever it is that you need to do to recharge.
Commune With Nature
So often we forget to go outside and do something for nature. Pick up garbage, feed the birds, start a compost pile, rake up leaves or whatever needs doing. You will be doing something good for nature and by being outside you will feel better.
It may be chilly outside, but go out for a walk or run anyway. We need the vitamin D and to get our blood pumping. Ride your bike, go skiing or sledding. If you can’t get outdoors then go to your local gym and take an exercise class. It’s important to get those endorphins going.
Try Cooking A New Recipe
Choose a recipe that peaks your interest and try making it. If it’s a big success then perhaps you can duplicate it for a holiday dinner. Even if you don’t make it for a holiday dinner you have it in your back pocket of recipes. If it doesn’t turn out then oh well at least you tried it.
Favorite Childhood Food
Everyone has a favorite childhood food. Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska my mother used to make something called Runzas. Whenever I need a “childhood comfort shot” I will make Runzas (thank goodness my mother left me the recipe). My husband grew up Italian in Castro Valley. During the holidays his aunt would bring an Italian rum cake to the family gatherings. My husband has been searching for this cake for over 40 years, but can’t seem to find it. I’ve tried several times to duplicate it from his description. The point here is, think about what your favorite foods were as a child. Try and duplicate them and share them with the people that you love. Trust me…food and memory are powerful things.
Honor Your Ancestors
Holidays can be emotional. We all have both happy and sad memories of people who have passed away. One way to honor those who have passed away is to make their favorite foods. Another is to watch an ancestor’s favorite movie. My father-in-law’s favorite movies was, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” After he passed away we would take the whole family and go to see, “It’s A Wonderful Life” at the local movie theater. Not one of us walked out of the theater with dry eyes. It was powerful, healing and an important holiday ritual. Take some quiet time to reflect and to be grateful for those people who are gone and were important in your life.
Forgive Friends & Family
Oftentimes living friends and family can be an emotional challenge. Forgive them. Lift the weight off of yourself and simply forgive them. This doesn’t mean that you should get right back into dysfunction (set boundaries and limitations). Deal with conflicts from your highest level of goodness and love.
Make Amends & Forgive Yourself
We have all wronged people that we love. Examine your past emotions and motivations in situations that are nagging your heart. Make amends; tell that person you are sorry. There is no need to go into “yeah but.” Simply “I am sorry I did fill in the blank.” Forgive yourself as well. Most of us are hard on ourselves, which creates stress whether we know it, or not. We all make mistakes. Forgive yourself. At the end of the day, at the end of the holidays the happy memories will not come from presents or material things as much as from genuinely connecting and appreciating your family, friends and yourself.