Taste of Home has a new cookbook and its magazine is always good for ideas. I’m loving these easy tips for a great gathering:
* Gravy Glitches: If your gravy is runny, slowly stir cold turkey or chicken stock into a bit of cornstarch until it’s dissolved. Then gradually whisk it into the simmering gravy. Lumpy gravy can be poured into a blender for 20-30 seconds. You can also whisk in turkey or chicken stock—just a little at a time—until you get the right consistency
* Crank up the Cranberry: Make whole berry cranberry sauce according to the directions on the bag of fresh cranberries—it’s just berries, sugar and water. Whomp up the flavor when you take it off heat by stirring in a little orange marmalade or jalapeño jelly.
* Give the Kids’ Table VIP Status: Use place cards for each kid. Ask a fun uncle or aunt to eat at the kids’ table, then enjoy as they all giggle through the meal. You’ll wish you’d sat there, too!
* Revive Soggy Stuffing: Spread it on a cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 10 minutes. If the stuffing is still mushy, then stir and bake it for an additional 5 minutes.
* Disguise a Cracked Pie: Chocolate! The solution to many of life’s problems. Melt together 1 cup chocolate chips and 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, stirring until smooth. Pour over cooled pie and chill until set. Hint: You really should try this even if your pie doesn’t have cracks.
* Make the Fluffiest Potatoes: The key to super-fluffy mashed potatoes is to make sure they’re dry before mashing. Once the potatoes are cooked and drained, put them back in the pot, cover it up, and let them dry for 1 to 2 minutes. The drier the potato, the fluffier the mash.
galore! You can even put gravy in a smaller, 2-quart slow cooker. It holds beautifully for up to an hour on the warm setting.
Oh the flavors
The UV Vodka flavor concoctors have got it going on. I’m going to try UV Salty Caramel Apple ASAP. But now I’m enjoying a little something they call Sugar Crush. It’s a sweet, sweet mix-in for the holiday season.
UV Vodka is made with all-natural ingredients and now there’s some limited-time-only seasonal treats. Look for UV Salty Caramel Apple, the sought-after UV Sriracha and the topical UV Sugar Crush. So they may sound a little “girly.” I did a taste testing with “girls” over 60 and the four of them were very impressed with their Sugar Crush shots. Play with the following and create your own:
Not Your Mama’s Bloody Mary:
1 part UV Sriracha Vodka
3 parts Bloody Mary mix
Stir and serve with your favorite Bloody Mary garnishes.
Haute Hot Toddy
1 part UV Salty Caramel Apple Vodka
1 cup hot Apple Cider
Stir and garnish with a lemon, cinnamon stick and / or cloves.
1 part UV Sugar Crush
1 part cranberry juice
1 part Peach Schnapps
1 part orange juice
Rim glass with sugar. Shake ingredients with ice and streak into a martini glass.
Garnish with an orange slice.
Pools and more
Even if you don’t have a pool, visit Larry Tyson, who just hosted an opening of Achtwoo Pool & Spa Pros on East Parkway in Groves. They’ve expanded from Bridge City and Galveston, bringing a wall of very interesting barbecue tools, like flexible skewers. Can you envision a sort of necklace of meat and mushrooms on your grill? I was partial to torches and bird feeders fashioned into oversized, colorful metal flowers.