Easy Christmas Centerpiece

Snowballs 300x225 Easy Christmas Centerpiece

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Truth be told, what I like most about hosting a party is not the cooking, but the decorating. And every year, for my Christmas Eve table, I plan a special table setting to delight my family.

Last year, I made moss tabletop Christmas trees. This year I’m creating a woodland theme with a table “runner” made of Noble Fir sprigs – free scraps of greenery I rescued from my Christmas tree lot, destined for the compost bin. I’ll add snowballs made from Styrofoam, tea lights and partridges bought years ago from my favorite florist.

As the years go by, I’m getting more practical about china, using my white everyday dishes that can go into the dishwasher, so we’re not cleaning up until all hours, hand-washing plates after dinner. But I’ll use good crystal and silverware to make the table sparkle. And I always set the table with cloth napkins, which go directly into the washer when the table is cleared, to prevent stains. Continue Reading »

Holiday Recipe Helpers

Rich Espresso Brownies 300x225 Holiday Recipe HelpersBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

By the time my leftovers have been bagged and my turkey carcass simmered for broth, I’m on to the next holiday. Our Christmas tree (a real beauty this year) is half decorated, with ornament boxes still scattered throughout the living room. But by the end of this week, the tree will be dressed, the wreath hung, the house made holiday-ready, and my recipes gathered for upcoming December events.

I must have about 500 cookbooks that I can turn to for culinary inspiration and I save December issues of national magazines from year to year, for further ideas. But of course, when it comes to timesaving, my go-to source is our Special Fork recipe database with its 30-minute prep requirement (cooking time may be extra). Continue Reading »

Thanksgiving 2014 300x225 After the Feast: 13 Terrific Turkey SandwichesBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Growing up, did you family do this at Thanksgiving? We would all sit down to dinner and after the pumpkin pie, we’d leave the table, do the dishes and keep the food out for second and third helpings to enjoy as the night wore on.

Returning to the feast was part of the special ritual of the Thanksgiving meal.

No more! We’ve learned since that we were courting foodborne illnesses. And while no one ever got sick, we know better than to take chances.

The rule: USDA says that you should cut up the turkey, separate stuffing and refrigerate in shallow containers within two hours of cooking. Use leftovers within three to four days. Continue Reading »

Some Easy Thanksgiving Sides

Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pecans 300x225 Some Easy Thanksgiving SidesBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Isn’t Thanksgiving the best food holiday, ever? I love everything about it – the cooking, the baking; the table setting – even the leftovers!

I always plan my Thanksgiving around tried-and-true family favorites, plus a few new dishes thrown in. This year, I’m adding Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pecans to our traditional menu.

The new recipe was created because I opted in to receive a free package of Diamond of California shelled pecans as a Klout perk. There’s no obligation to promote your perk, but of course, once you have a product in your hands, it ends up top-of-mind in your thinking. Continue Reading »

Kabocha no Nimono 300x225 Welcome Winter Squashes: KabochaBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Now’s the time to welcome hard-skinned winter squashes, including Hubbard, delicata, acorn, butternut and pumpkin. There are many easy ways to cook winter squash, such as roasting, steaming and sautéing.

But prepping them is another story.

The challenge is to get a knife to pierce the skin of your winter squash without piercing your own. You need a sharp, sturdy knife and good control, because the knife can slip on such a hard, smooth surface, with disastrous results. I go at it with a cleaver.

If you’re a novice at cutting squash, microwave it for several minutes to soften slightly. Once you can get the first cut into the squash, the rest goes a lot easier. Continue Reading »

Coconut Lime Rice Pudding 300x225 Taking Comfort in Rice PuddingBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

I returned yesterday from Les Dames d’Escoffier International’s annual conference, held in Boston this year. LDEI is an organization of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality. There are 30 chapters across the US, Canada and the UK. Membership, by invitation only, reflects the multifaceted fields of contemporary gastronomy and hospitality.

I attend every year for excellent professional and personal development seminars, networking, and to renew friendships made over years serving on boards, committees and as a former president of the organization. Continue Reading »

Halloween in a Hurry

Halloween Worms 300x225 Halloween in a HurryBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Some people go all out for Halloween, with steaming witches’ brews, ghoulish table centerpieces and elaborately carved jack-o’-lanterns. With my kids grown, I’m just the opposite. I don’t know if I’ll even get around to carving the pumpkins that are decorating my living room. (If not, I’ll use them for my Thanksgiving table.)

But that doesn’t mean I’ll ignore the festivities altogether. I’ll just do something easy and call it a day.

This year’s “easy” is a tray of “worms,” that you can use to top just about anything edible. These worms are almost flavorless so you can use them with sweet or savory dishes. It’s a great Halloween topper for pizza. The worms will collapse in contact with moisture, so if you sprinkle it on a salad, plan to consume the salad immediately. Continue Reading »

A Cooking Class in Japan

A Cooking Class in Japan 300x225 A Cooking Class in JapanBy Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

One of the most delicious meals I’ve had in Japan, to date, was at a Kikkoman consumer cooking class held at the company’s Tokyo office on Friday. The theme was washoku, traditional Japanese cooking.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the class was taught by renowned chef Chisako Hori, managing director of Kikunoi, a restaurant group that was awarded three Michelin stars for its main restaurant in Kyoto. She is also chef-owner and nutritionist at the anti-aging restaurant, Rire.

I have a history with Kikkoman, having grown up with its soy sauce, as my mother and grandmother before me. Kikkoman is a family business that goes back 19 generations and if I could trace my family back to Japan, they were probably Kikkoman users, too. Continue Reading »

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