Sunday, November 26, 2006

Poinsettia Pointers

You're greeted by a sea of red, pink, and creamy plants at the entrance to every store during the holidays. Those poinsettias will definitely perk up the spirits during the season, won't they? If you are gifted with one, or can't resist the temptation to adopt a festive piece of vegetation for yourself, here are a few tips.
-Protect them from the cold and on the way home; leaf drop can rarely be repaired.
-Keep them in a cool-ish home climate – no more than 70º during the day and no lower than 55º F. during the day.
-Poinsettias love full morning sun and filtered afternoon rays.
-Don't let them dry out. Check the soil daily – and if it feels dry to the touch, give a drench and drain. Then back to its sunny – but cool – spot.

Anatomy lesson:
-The leaves are green – and should go all the way to the base of a healthy plant.
-The colored parts are called bracts – they're not the flowers. They should never be wilted or droopy or tinged with green.
-The tiny little yellow centers – those are the flowers. If they don't exist, the poinsettia is on its deathbed already.

If you grow inordinately fond of your poinsettia and want to pamper it through to another holiday, read this.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Carnivore Etiquette at the Dinner Table

If you're a carnivore and planning to host a Thanksgiving dinner – or any other feast for that matter – you should know the habits of your guests. Their eating habits, nothing more. It's not impolite to ask, especially if someone's bringing a date or other significant stranger to your home. You may be hosting a diverse crowd and you don't want any surprises: vegan or vegetarian? Low-carb, low-fat? Diabetic or simply no-sugar?

Guests also have their place, as we all know. They should keep it zipped and accept the foods they can eat. Remember, no critics on either side. Some people think it's perfectly all right to break eating styles on Thanksgiving. Even those who choose to go without meat and dairy could suffer serious gastronomical upset if they're forced to consume those products. Follow kosher rules, too, when preparing foods and use separate utensils. It won't hurt you.

If you need any other reminders about hostess and guest etiquette, especially at Thanksgiving, read this.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

No Flamethrowers Allowed

Cooking with alcohol adds flavor. You already know to use only the type of wine or other libation for cooking that you would drink yourself. When adding it to a dish, the inebriating part of it burns off, leaving great flavor. That’s the point in using a good-tasting wine. You shouldn’t waste money on expensive bottles, just not the bottom of the barrel, please.

When you’re ready to brave the flaming of a dish, there is always a certain risk involved. It is fire, after all. If you start a blaze, a lot of things could be ruined and who wants to lose an entire kitchen over one meal? Here are a few tips that will keep you out of the black.

- Use fireplace matches for lighting. An automatic lighter is OK, but that’s a second choice.
-Don’t pour directly from any bottle. The flame could actually be drawn into the bottle causing an explosion of sorts. Use an oven-proof measuring cup.
-If you have a gas stove, turn off the burner before lighting. In fact, it’s safest to remove from any heat source before lighting. And be sure there’s nothing overhead or flammable nearby – or you might have a surprise.
-Keep the pan’s lid within reach. This is the quickest way to douse an out-of-control flame.
-Have a fire extinguisher handy, too. You never know.