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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

Detox January

Written by Julianne Puckett on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

Photo by Julianne Puckett.

There’s a reason why so many of our New Year’s resolutions focus on eating better, losing weight or getting fit: we overindulge for the last two months of every year.

At least we come by it honestly. It’s not our fault that Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve and whatever other holiday I’m missing all fall within six weeks of each other — and that all the accompanying celebrations involve some kind of special, not-so-healthy food or drink or, worse yet, both.

Not to mention that, living in Vermont, we are surrounded by so many amazing restaurants that paying homage to them all takes a toll on our waistlines.

This is why, after all the excesses of November and December, my family engages in a little something we call Detox January.

Now, don’t panic: this is not one of those crazy juice cleanse or only-eat-grapefruit-and-chia-seeds fads. Our Detox January is simply a return to sanity, a way of getting our health and lifestyle back on track and starting the new year with good habits (habits that will likely last only until next November, I suppose, but let’s not focus on that right now).

The rules are simple. For the entire month of January,

  • Abstain from all alcohol (if a recipe calls for it, that’s OK)
  • Eat a bit healthier every day (I don’t expect you to get crazy here — we just try to eat more veggies than cookies and keep our recipes more Cooking Light than Julia Child)
  • Exercise more than you did in December.

That’s it. Easy, right?

Detox January is not some overly ambitious resolution that you know you won’t be able to keep (new gym membership, anyone?); instead, it’s a short-term, mini resolution that you know you can achieve. And what better, more positive way to start the new year than to be one of the fewer than 10 percent of Americans, according to Forbes magazine, that actually keep their resolutions?

Each year, through my blog, I try to get a few more people to join us for Detox January. As an incentive, I post healthy yet delicious recipes that can help us stay the course. Vermont Life’s Winter issue features Brussels sprouts (rich in A, B6, C and K as well as being high in fiber, protein and antioxidants) as the ingredient in the Cooking in Season department. I’m especially grateful for resources such as locally produced Eating Well magazine for easy recipes that don’t sacrifice taste for healthiness. For example, the first recipe I posted for Detox January 2013 was gingerbread muffins.

Because, really, wouldn’t you rather eat a muffin top than sport one?

For the gingerbread muffin recipe and more ideas about how to eat healthier this month, please follow along on my blog or check out my special Pinterest board.

Happy Detox January!

No Food Snobbery for Christmas

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

Photo by Melissa Pasanen.

Several years ago my youngest son came home from the last day of school before winter vacation excitedly clutching a piece of paper in his hand. His class had made a recipe, he told me, that would be perfect for Christmas morning and he wanted to make it for the family. “I can do it all by myself!” he said proudly.

I was all smiles and encouragement ― until I looked at the piece of paper and the recipe for “cinnamon bites,” which called for a package of refrigerated biscuits and a quarter stick of margarine. I thought briefly of mixing up biscuit dough from scratch and doing our own version, but he was looking at me so expectantly. I took a big breath of acceptance and remained all smiles and encouragement.

Despite their long list of unpronounceable ingredients, I bought a can of those refrigerated biscuits although I did sub in butter for the margarine and Alex proudly made cinnamon bites for us that Christmas morning and at least one other Christmas after that.

I love holiday food traditions as much as anyone and I especially loved that Alex was up for making something for the family. But I will admit that when I came upon this maple-bacon biscuits recipe from the amazing bakers at King Arthur Flour in Norwich a couple years later, they quickly replaced the cinnamon bites as our Christmas morning breakfast of choice. They are so good that my boys have even convinced me to make them at other times of the year.

The recipe is pretty simple. You could precook the bacon the night before and get the rest of the topping ingredients all measured out. You could also mix the dry ingredients for the biscuits and cover the bowl with a clean towel. In the morning, just finish the dough, melt the butter for the topping and whisk it together. Then all you have to do is put it ogether and bake the biscuits.

And you know what, if mixing up your own biscuits is too much on Christmas morning, you could even make the recipe with a couple of those packaged cans of biscuits.

Have a wonderful holiday.

Maple-Bacon Biscuit Bake
Adapted slightly from P.J. Hamel, King Arthur Flour, kingarthurflour.com

Yield: 16 small biscuits

For topping:
1/2 pound bacon, cooked until medium-brown
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons melted butter

For biscuits:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup cold buttermilk (Tip: you can make “soured” milk if you don’t have buttermilk on hand by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a scant cup of milk and letting it sit for a few minutes.)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees with rack in upper third of oven. Lightly grease an 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan.
2. To make topping: Chop cooked bacon into ½-inch pieces. Combine bacon with remaining topping ingredients, stirring until well combined. Spread in the bottom of the prepared pan.
3. To make biscuits: Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl. Work in butter until mixture is crumbly with some larger, pea-sized pieces of butter. Add buttermilk, stirring to make a sticky dough.
4. Drop dough in heaping tablespoonfuls over topping in the pan. A tablespoon cookie scoop, slightly overfilled, works well here.
5. Bake biscuits for 15 minutes. Turn oven off, and leave them in the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until they’re golden brown.
6. Remove biscuits from oven, and immediately turn pan over onto a serving plate. Lift off the pan and scrape any topping left in the pan onto biscuits. Pull biscuits apart to serve.

It’s Not Too Late for a Handmade Holiday

Written by Julianne Puckett on . Posted in The Arts

Peppermint scrub. Photo by Julianne Puckett.

The holidays are upon us again; for many, that means fretting over finding the perfect gift for everyone on the gift list. This year, forget the iPads and Keurig coffee brewers and consider a handmade holiday.

I dare you to find one person on your list who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a handmade gift from you (well, maybe not the guy who posted that meme on Facebook that reads, “Homemade gifts are the perfect way to say I’ve got lots more time than money.” Get that guy a gift card). And yes, even if you are craft-challenged. Because the gifts can be handcrafted by your hands … or by someone else’s.

Make It Yourself

Even at this late date, if you keep your ideas simple, you can give handmade gifts. I recently whipped up a batch of peppermint sugar scrub that took literally five minutes to make, yet, packaged in pretty jars with some ribbon and homemade labels, makes a lovely gift. Do you still need a little something for your child’s teacher or your favorite librarian? You can find step-by-step instructions for making the scrub on my blog.

Chocolate bark. Photo by Julianne Puckett.

And you can’t go wrong with food. Got a crabby grandpa that hates every gift you give him? I bet he wouldn’t say no to some decadent fruit- and nut-laden chocolate candy bark. And I bet you wouldn’t say no to making it when you find out how easy it is (the recipe is on my blog): if you can boil water and wield a knife, you’re all set. At this point, you’re practically Harry & David.

Buy Handmade
Let’s say you’re not quite Harry & David. Maybe you’re more like the Harry & David catalog. You can still give handmade by shopping handmade. If you’re as fortunate as I am to live here in Vermont, you can barely take a step without finding a handmade gift.

Shop your local main street: no matter what town you live in, you’re sure to find an art or craft gallery selling beautiful wares from local artisans. I have stopped more times than I care to count into Frog Hollow — a Vermont State Craft Center — in Burlington to find a special gift for someone and have never been disappointed.

Lovely wares at a holiday craft bazaar in Charlotte. Photo by Julianne Puckett.

No gallery in town? Online craft emporiums such as etsy.com can put you in touch with more artisans than you knew existed, from the local to the international, without even having to set foot out of your front door. Try qualifying your search for artisans by state to give your gift more local flair. Or simply shop the Vermont Life Catalog. I bought a beautiful set of luminaries from the catalog as a gift; knowing that they were handcrafted in my home state will make them that much more meaningful to the recipient.

And don’t forget local craft fairs, which are abundant during the holidays. You may not be crafty, but plenty of your neighbors are, and they’d love sell you a hand-knit hat, a fetching little apron, a polished wooden bowl, some silver jewelry or delicious maple products — and your family, friends or mail carrier would be even more delighted to receive them.

It’s not too late: happy handmade holiday to you!

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