Guide to Hosting a Business Lunch or Dinner

Knowing how to host a business lunch or dinner well can be crucial to your success and the success of your company.  A lot of what you’ll need to do is proper preparation.  If you set the meal up meticulously, and take care of all the little things, you will head off most potential problems.

Let’s look step by step at how to approach hosting a business lunch or dinner:

1.  Familiarize yourself with multiple appropriate local restaurants, with different menus, different price ranges, etc. so you’ll have some flexibility in choosing the one that best fits the particular occasion and attendees of this meeting.  Establish good relations with the management, staff, host, servers, etc.  Make sure they know you and know how important it is when you come to their restaurant with business contacts.  Familiarize yourself with the menu and make sure you can make multiple recommendations from it.  Find out in advance if possible if any of your guests are vegetarians or have special dietary needs, as this may be a factor in choosing a restaurant.

2.  When you issue invitations, make it clear what the purpose of the meeting is, so people know what to expect.  Word the invitations unambiguously that you will be the host and they will be the guests, so it is clear you will be paying.  Make sure you choose a restaurant where your budget will allow your guests to order as they please; you certainly don’t want to be in a position of limiting their choices.

3.  Arrange with the restaurant to get a quiet table where it will be possible to converse comfortably.  Establish with them in advance that you will be paying.  Provide them a credit card when you arrive.  Ask them to add a 20% gratuity and allow you to sign the statement when you leave, rather than bringing a bill to the table.

4.  Dress professionally.  Unless there is something unconventional about your business or about the occasion, err on the side of dressing conservatively.  Be properly groomed; make sure nothing about your appearance would raise eyebrows or make a bad impression.

5.  Arrive at the restaurant first.  Whatever last minute arrangements you need to make in person about the table, the payment, etc., do it ahead of time rather than in the presence of one or more of your guests.

6.  Don’t wait at the table alone.  Wait in the bar or reception area where you can see the door, and greet your guests as they arrive.  Introduce each arriving guest to the other guests.  Allow the host to seat your party when you have all arrived.  If almost all have arrived, and people seem to be getting impatient, allow the host to seat your party, with instructions to bring the straggler(s) as soon as they arrive.

7.  Exercise proper table manners.  It is better to err on the side of being too formal rather than too casual.  If you are not confident you know all the proper dining etiquette, don’t be embarrassed about seeking some kind of training or class, or assistance from people more knowledgeable in this area.

8.  Bear in mind that most guests will be looking to you to take the lead.  They will expect you to call the meeting to order.  Most will only order a drink (appetizer, dessert, etc.) if you do.  You need to conduct yourself with confidence as the master of ceremonies, not just an equal participant.

9.  At the close of the meal, speak with each guest individually and thank them for attending.

10.  Be the last person to leave.  When you are the only one left, thank the wait staff that assisted you.  Make them feel appreciated so they will continue to treat you and your guests special in the future.  Or if there was any kind of problem, address it courteously with them now, and explain how things will need to be different in the future if you are to continue using their venue for important business meetings.

Follow these tips, and you should have no problem hosting a successful business lunch or dinner.


“Dining Etiquette in Business”

“How to Host a Productive Business Lunch: Things to Do Before Meeting Your Client”

1. How To Host A Business Lunch | The Art Of Manliness
2. Honey and Cinnamon for Weight Loss
3. Essential Guide To The Business Lunch – Forbes

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Great White Wines to Give for the Holidays

Welcome to the wonderful world of white wine! I just gave you three great red wine holiday selections so now it is time to move to the lighter side of things and focus on which white wines would be perfect for you to give as gifts during this holiday season.

My first selection and, I must say my favorite, is Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. This dry white wine is pale straw-yellow in color. The clean, intense aroma and dry flavor mixed perfectly with a pleasant golden apple aftertaste makes Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio a wine of great versatility. You can use it with a baked chicken dish or even with a seafood dinner for all you Christmas Eve fish eaters! The best part about this wine is that it is cheap, cheap, cheap! You can get a bottle for $20.00 at any grocery or liquor store and I guarantee it will be a hit this holiday season.

My second selection is a wine I just discovered a few years ago and I will swear by it! It is called Luna di Luna and the particular one I recommend is the cobalt blue bottle which mixes 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Grigio. The thought of drinking two different wines at the same time did not appeal to me at first, but once I tried this mixture, I knew I would be a fan for life. It is light, refreshing, crisp and the taste is a perfect blend of melons and berries. This is a wine I would recommend using during your appetizer or soup portion of your meal, although it also goes very well with shellfish. And, you guessed it, you can find this wine for around $15.00 a bottle in any grocery store. Your guests will love this selection, especially if they are white wine enthusiasts.

My final selection is a little on the sweeter side, but I think it is a perfect compliment to my first two choices. The Ferrari-Carano Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc is a sweet and rich bodied wine with a ripe pear fruit taste mixed with citrus and lemon custard in the background. This wine also presents very faint hints of vanilla, herb, mineral and green peppercorn which add to the wine’s uniqueness and complexity. Once again, good with any chicken or seafood dish and reasonably priced at around $15.00 per bottle.

You can now rest easier as I have given you three outstanding white wine selections for gifts during this most joyous holiday season.

1. 12 Delicious and Affordable Wines to Give as Gifts This Holiday …
2. Warrior Diet
3. 10 Affordable Wines For Holiday Gift Giving – Huffington Post

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Everything you need to know about Pinot Noir

This is what happens when someone who knows nothing about wine writes an article on pinot noir. First, I think I’m writing an article about wine. Then, it turns out pinot noir is a grape. But then, I find pinot noir is both a grape and a wine. So, in an effort to give you everything you need to know about pinot noir we’re going to learn about the grape first, then the wine.

The pinot noir grape is one of the oldest grape varieties known to be cultivated for the purpose of making wine. It was known by the ancient Romans and made famous in the Burgundy region of France. It’s got a reputation as one of the most obstinate grapes a vintner could grow. The grape often refuses to pass consistent flavor and aroma profiles on to its offspring. Many of the afflictions known to grapes are common to pinot noir. Despite thriving in cooler climates, it’s particularly susceptible to spring frosts. And if that’s not enough, pinot noir produces thin skinned grapes that dry out quickly if not picked promptly.

Pinot noir is also notoriously difficult to turn into wine. Take that grape out of France, and it gives no end of trouble. Pinot noir grapes tend to ferment violently. It’s not unusual for the wine to boil out of the container, sending fermentation out of control. Pinot is also fairly prone to losing promising aromas and flavors. Even color retention can be difficult for this varietal.

However there is hope and this is where we start talking about the wine. Remember how I said that the pinot noir grape does best in cooler climates? Enter Oregon’s Willamette valley, British Columbia’s Okanagan region and the island nation of New Zealand. Even California’s Sonoma valley is producing some fairly decent wines. With that in mind, let’s get on to discussing what makes a good pinot noir.

Now with all this trouble, why do people even bother trying to produce pinot noir? Because when this wine works, it works brilliantly. A good pinot noir has a complex nose, often with an aroma of ripe grapes and black cherries. There will often be a hint of spiciness, maybe cinnamon or sassafras. Many tasters will also describe ripe tomato, mushroom and barnyard. This wine is full bodied, not heavy and low in acid and tannins. It’s full in flavor despite its delicacy. When pinot noir is done right, people have described it as being like liquid silk.

Next, I have a few words about choosing pinot noit. If this is the first bottle you’ve tried, go to the liquor store and talk to people. Liquor store employees are usually knowledgeable enough to help guide a person’s first purchase. Pay attention to the wine’s appellation. This will tell you where the grapes come from. And just like any other food product, the better the grape, the better the wine. For now, I’d recommend Oregon, B. C. or New Zealand wines. Stick to wines 2-6 years old as older wines tend to be over the hill. Finally, taste before you buy whenever you can. Many liquor stores offer wines by the glass, so customers don’t have to suffer through a whole bottle of wine they’re going to hate. Wine can be too expensive for that sort of trial and error.

When you get right down to it, experiment as much as is practical. And don’t worry if you get the occasional bottle that doesn’t work for you. Not every wine will. Just ask lots of questions and try new wines whenever you can. As long as you surround yourself with knowledgeable people, you’ll have a long and rewarding relationship with pinot noir.

1. Pinot noir
2. Nutrisystem Reviews
3. Learn About Pinot Noir | Wine 101 – VinePair

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Do you have a Recipe for a Fish Chilli

I love any hot and spicy recipe and I also like to try to fit as much fish into my diet as possible for health reasons. Although I don’t usually like to ‘mess about’ too much with a delicate fish, I find that the lovely meaty monkfish is the perfect fish to enable me to have both a highly seasoned dish and fish in the same recipe.

Monkfish (sometimes known as headfish) is a rather ugly looking fish; it used to be known as ‘poor man’s lobster’ and in the 70’s when deep fried scampi was a popular dish many places used chopped monk fish as a cheaper alternative to scampi. However the price of monkfish has increased greatly as has its popularity, and it is now one of the most expensive fish you can buy.

All the meat from the monkfish comes from the tail, with a firm, meaty consistency the fish is boneless with a delicious, slightly sweet taste and is perfect for this chilli recipe.

Although there seems to be a lot of ingredients in this recipe it is really very simple and well worth the effort of making it, it makes a delicious and healthy change from a beef chilli.


Serves 4


600g monkfish, cut into ¼ inch cubes

2 green peppers, de-seeded and sliced

150g tinned kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 large onion, chopped

1 red chilli, de-seeded and chopped finely

4 large firm tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato puree (paste)

3 bay leaves

¼ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon dried basil

¼ teaspoon dried marjoram

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

3 teaspoons chilli powder (or to taste)

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

400ml fish stock


1. In a small bowl combine the bay leaves, cumin, basil, marjoram, pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon chilli powder to make the herb and spice mix.

2. Heat the oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat and add the onions, sauté for around 8 minutes until soft.
3.  Add the chopped chilli and peppers and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.
4.  Add the prepared herb and spice mixture and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring continually.

5. Add the tomato puree and cook for another 2 minutes.

6. While continuing to stir, add the stock and the chopped tomatoes, bring to the boil.

7. Add the kidney beans and simmer until they are heated through. 

8. Add the monkfish and sprinkle with remaining chili powder to taste, cook and stir for about 2 minutes, until fish is almost opaque.

9. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve with boiled rice.

I do hope that you enjoy this tasty recipe as much as I do!

1. chilli fish recipe | fish manchurian recipe | Indian chinese recipes
2. Buying Meat and Poultry: How to Make the Healthiest Choice
3. Crispy Chilli Fish Non Vegetarian Recipe by Master Chef Sanjeev …

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Dinner Parties with a Touch of Mystery Variety and Fun

Are your friends dying to come back?

If so, then you must have made use of one of the many murder mystery dinner party games on sale these days. They are a fantastic method of livening up any dinner party!

There are many great reasons for using a murder mystery game.

Firstly they are great fun and a comparatively stress free method of entertaining friends, family, neighbours and work colleagues. You can use them to entertain complete strangers or close friends. They are a great way to mix and meet new people as there is never any difficult small talk.

Don’t panic – you don’t need to be a great actor to take part. In many games your part is scripted for you. You are told what to say, when to say it and what to ask.

The game does the hardest part of hosting for you. It gets everyone talking! There are no awkward pauses over dinner, and even the shyest person enjoys taking part, as they can act totally out of character if they want, or stay shy and just contribute the information they have to while watching everyone else.

There are games available out there for any occasion and any time of year from Mothering Sunday to New Year, birthday parties to weddings and a whole host of things in between, but you don’t need a special occasion as an excuse to host a murder mystery dinner party. These games are an excuse in themselves for getting everyone together for a bit of fun.

The games come in a variety of themes. You can select one which requires fancy dress, or one where people can simply come as they are. Theme nights also lend themselves to experimenting with intriguing new recipes and drinks if you are that way inclined, but there are even some that are designed to be run alongside a take away!

You can buy these games from shops in boxes or, to get an even greater variety simply download them off the internet. Some online sites are even customisable to your guests.

Once you’ve played one, you can guarantee that your guests will be talking about it for months and they will be begging you to run another.

Fancy trying one out? Then have a look in your local game shop, or simply type “murder mystery dinner party game” into a web engine to get a multitude of online vendors, or (in fear of being accused of blatant advertising) you could check out the following links below:

But don’t feel obliged to follow those links. They just happen to be the ones I know as I write for them!

1. Dinner and a Murder Mystery Games Complete Party Kits
2. Sardinian Diet
3. Murder mystery dinner parties at home – for dummies. | Red Herring …

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Debbie Meyers Green Bags Produce Bags Produce Savers Green Bags keep Produce Fresher Longer

With health and fitness concerns growing, fresh fruits and vegetables are recommended to give us the added nutrients we need with less fat and cholesterol. But with the economy in bad shape, prices are going up while our pocket books are shrinking and most of us can’t afford as much of those high-priced fresh foods as we’d like. If you’re anything like me, bell peppers might sit in the fridge up to two weeks waiting to be used, then get thrown out due to mold and spoilage. This costs extra money because not only did the peppers that were first bought get wasted but fresh ones have to be bought to replace them.

However, Debbie Meyers proposes a solution to this dilemma. With her patented Green Bags, she claims you’ll never need to throw out your produce again!

I decided to purchase my Green Bags through a mail-order company paying $9.95 plus the 6.95 P&H. When making any order, whether from a store, by mail, phone or internet, there’s always a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can return the bags for a refund if you’re not satisfied.

With my order the 10 bags were doubled to 20 bagsten 15 1/4″x5 3/4″ medium-sized and ten 17″x7 ” large-sized bags, about the size of conventional food storage bags. They appeared exactly as shown on television, but I was disappointed that there wasn’t a better container for storage other than the clear plastic bag they arrived in. Still, they fit fine in my kitchen drawer and I was kind of glad that I didn’t have another box to shove in there.

The first thing I tried in my Green Bags were bananas. I cleaned them off, put them in the bag and folded it loosely at the end since you’re not supposed to tie, twist or clip the bags. For two weeks the bananas stayed fresh in the bag. I took one banana out of the bag to work with me, but didn’t end up eating it and left it out over night. The exposure caused the banana to brown, so it seems they must be kept in the bags until ready to be eaten, or returned promptly to avoid rapid deterioration.

Upon trying several different types of produce such as tomatoes which did very well for 3 weeks; eggplant, which I kept two weeks; jalapenos, bell peppers and a salad, which stayed crisp a month after the purchase date – I knew these bags were special.

The instructions for the Green Bags say to continue to wipe off moisture as it accumulates on produce, which I didn’t do on the majority and still got great results. I did find, however, that zucchini and squash need to be dried off more often than most of the other produce, and seemed to spoil a little bit faster, but still came out lasting longer in the green bags than in normal storage.

One of the claims on the Green Bags states that they are reusable up to 10 times. They just have to be cleaned according to the instructions after each use, putting the same types of fruits or vegetables into the same bag each time. I actually continued to use the bags past the 10 times limit and they still worked. Not only does reusing save money, it also saves on harmful waste in the environment. In this category, Debbie’s Green Bags surpassed expectations on reusability and get a green-friendly thumbs up.

Another instruction for the Green Bags is that the produce must be washed and dried thoroughly before bagging. This may seem like a hassle but you’re really doing yourself a favor by reducing prep time later on. This also allows others, esp. kids, to eat straight from the bag easily and safely. Keeping produce dry prevents ethylene gas that’s released by fruits from spoiling, however you may want to wait a couple of days after produce purchase to put unripened fruits and vegetables in the bags depending on how soon you want to eat them.

Overall, Debbie Meyer’s Green Bags are a great investment. They stand by their guarantee, slow down the ripening and rotting process and increase the length of freshness time, giving us a healthy way to enjoy nutrient-filled foods longer, all while decreasing our waste and spending. Now if only they could create a green bag for our skin!

1. Debbie Meyer Green Bags
2. Manuka Honey: Health Benefits, and Uses
3. Debbie Meyer Green Bags: Kitchen & Home

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Dim Sum

Growing in up in New York City allowed me to have dim sum almost every weekend in Chinatown. It was always a cause for excitement. It is a complete full on sensory experience.

Arriving at the restaurant, there is the din of the crowd waiting for tables. There is always a crowd in front of a Chinese restaurant on the weekend just after noon. You take a number and wait. If your party is large, you will be seated at a private table. If you are alone or with a smaller party, you may be seated with complete strangers. But not to worry, they will not bother you. They are far too busy eating!

The waiter comes over to ask you for your tea order. I usually go for a tea mixture called “gook po”. This is a combination of a black tea and a flower tea. It is a beautiful blend of potent richness and light sweetness. And when your teapot should run dry, you lift the lid and place it to the side. This signals the waiter to refill your pot. The experience is also known as “yum cha”. This means “drink tea” as the tea is just as important as the food that it washes down.

Next, you will be surrounded by smells. Ladies roll carts through the narrow aisles of the crowded tables. Weaving in very small spaces. This carts usually have two rows of goodies. They are generally batched with like items. They bark out the names of the dishes as they pass you. You wave them down and point or order and they place the dish on your plate. Generally there are either three or four of the items. Then she will stamp your tab with a symbol.

One cart may be steamed dumplings of shrimp, or pork, or vegetable or any combination of the three.
Another may be fried delicacies such as fried pork dumpling, fried shrimp balls, spring rolls (but these are not the spring rolls you get from your local take out).
Another may be assorted items such as sticky glutinous rice with chicken wrapped in banana leaves, or stick rice with Chinese bacon and scallions served in an upside down bowl, spareribs in black bean sauce, marinated chicken feet (which has a more delightful Chinese name that translates as the Phoenix’s claws), Chinese barbecue of roast pork, duck and chicken.
There are small plates of rice noodles in a variety of shrimp, beef, pork, stuffed with fried dough (that kinda tastes like a zeppole), and still another that is covered in scallions and dried shrimp.
There is also a cart of baos. Baos are rolls that either baked or steamed. They are stuffed with a variety of goodies. Roast pork, chicken, vegetables and any combination of those items.
And there are Chinese sweets. Such tiny egg custard tarts, bowls of coconut custard with fruit, sweet baos (both baked and steamed buns) filled with custard or bean paste or covered with sweet flakiness.

These days, Chinese restaurants also have a food station that patrons can go up to and get freshly cooked items such as green peppers stuffed with shrimp, eggplant stuffed with shrimp, fried turnip cake with scallions and Chinese bacon, tripe with Chinese turnip, rice porridge both plain and with pork and preserved duck egg. (Trust me, it is tasty).

Your taste buds will be amazed by the variety of flavors. Dim sum is highly labor intensive so only the largest restaurants will serve this and those with high dim sum traffic. Although, new small cafes have sprung up that serve dim sum all day. Not unlike the concept of the diner serving breakfast all day.

And when you are all done, the waiter comes over and looks at all the stamps on your tab and adds it up. Each symbol is a different price. I am always impressed with how quickly these waiters get to the total.

Generally dim sum is served between 11 AM and ends by 3 PM.

I have terrible command of Cantonese but there are some words I say quite well. Most of those words have to do with food!

1. Dim sum
2. Fish Oil for Seafood Allergy
3. Chinese Dim Sum History, Photos, and Recipes – Chinese Food

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Cooking Terms every Aspiring Cook needs to know

Any beginning cook looking at a cookery book might wonder whether they have suddenly forgotten how to read. Cookery, like many other things has its own terminology. Cookery books use particular terms to describe cookery methods, measurements, and other cookery concepts. This should not worry the novice cook, these terms are easy to decipher.

Cookery follows basic standard methods. These are baking, steaming, grilling (broiling) roasting, boiling stewing, steaming, and frying.

When you bake, you put pastry, bread, cakes, or biscuits or vegetables into the oven, and cook by using dry heat. Whilst you might brush a potato, for example, with a little oil, you do not usually add any cooking medium to other baked items.

When you roast food, such as meat, you also cook it in the oven using dry heat, surrounding the food with heat, but use fat to cook the food. Roasting makes good quality meat tender and succulent. Our ancestors roasted meat on a spit, basting, spooning, and the meat with fat as it cooked. You can cook meat, fish, and vegetables this way. Surround your joint of meat or poultry with potatoes or other vegetables. You can also roast fruit such as apples, pears or tomatoes.

Grilling (or broiling as Americans insist on calling it) is a cooking method using dry fast heat, applied from above or below, using the grill (or broil) on your stove, or a barbecue. Cooks use this method to cook steaks, chops, beef or other meat patties, toasted bread, Welsh rarebit, and many other items. You cook on a rack.

The word braise originates, as many cooking terms do, from a French word, “braiser”. Meat or poultry typically is seared at a high heat on top of the cooker before being placed in a covered dish with liquid covering the food, you then place the food in the oven usually on a low heat setting and cooked for a long time. Heat, time, and moisture combine in braising to cook the food until tender and means that braising helps to render cheaper, tougher, cuts of meat into delicious meals. Coq au Vin is a famous French chicken dish cooked using the braising method. Like so many peasant dishes, Coq au Vin was originally a way to make an old boiling fowl into a delicious tasty meal for peasant families.

Stewing is another ‘wet’ method of cooking. One cuts meat or into small pieces, searing them before placing in a saucepan or pot with a tight fitting lid, covering the meat completely in liquid such as gravy, and cooking over a low heat for a long time on the top of the stove.

Steaming is a method used for sweet and savoury puddings and for vegetables. In this method, the food cooks in steam without touching the water. For example, to make a steamed treacle pudding, one places the pudding in a basin, and the basin into a saucepan or pot with a tightly fitting lid, putting boiling water into the pot around the basin. You then make sure that the water is boiling before covering the pot turning down the heat and cooking for the appropriate time. The food cooks because of the transferred heat and steam from the water through the basin.

There are several ways to fry food. You shallow fry food in a shallow pan using a little fat or oil. To sauté is another French term originating from the verb “to jump”. One uses a sauté, or frying, pan to cook small pieces of meat, vegetables or other food, and keeps shaking the pan so the food jumps about. Deep-frying, for chips (or French Fries), fried chicken or fish, is done in deep very hot oil either in a pan or deep fat fryer.

Measurements are important in cookery especially when baking cakes, bread, biscuits, and pastry and when using spices. Recipes often call for level, rounded, or heaped teaspoons or tablespoons of an ingredient and this can confuse novice cooks. To measure a level teaspoon of any ingredient, take a measuring teaspoon; fill it with the ingredient, then run a flat bladed knife across the edge of the teaspoon pushing off any excess back into the container that is a level teaspoon, which you can now add to the food. A rounded teaspoon is a spoonful with the same amount above the teaspoons edge as there is in the spoon’s bowl. A heaped teaspoon is a teaspoon containing as much as you can get on the spoon without any falling off it.

There are other miscellaneous cookery terms, which you might come across in cookery books. A recipe may ask you to take flour, or corn flour (maize flour), and butter, or margarine, to make roux. A roux is the base for a sauce. You take the specified amount of butter, or margarine, and put it in a pan and melt it over a low flame. You then add the flour or corn flour, stirring all the time until you have a smooth paste, then add the liquid, a little at a time stirring constantly. This is the base for many sauces, including the basic white sauce.

Creaming is a method that cooks use when making a cake batter. You usually cream butter, take your softened butter and put it into a large mixing bowl, then beat it with a wooden spoon, when it is soft beat the sugar into the butter. For a cake batter, it is ready to add more ingredients when the mixture looks white and feels creamy.

There are several cookery dictionaries on the internet. These can be very helpful for cooks, of all abilities, when they come across an unfamiliar term. For the novice cook they are indispensible. Beginning cooks should get a good basic cookery book; those aimed at students are usually very good. There are some recommended ones for American or British novice cooks. Cookery is both an art and a science, which has its own terminology. This terminology can seem confusing at first but when you become familiar with their meaning these term will be as natural as the words you use everyday. Knowing these meanings will help you to cook wonderful food to feed and please your friends and family and give you great satisfaction.

1. 25 skills every cook should know | BBC Good Food
2. Diuretics Still Work for Blood Pressure
3. Cooking Basics Guide for the Aspiring Chef – The Culinary Cook

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Chocolate Deserts Low Fat and Yummy

Chocolate Mousse  low or NO sugar and fat 

3/4 c fat free milk

1 pkg (1.4 oz) sugar free instant pudding mix CHOCOLATE (but is good with others too including lemon for something different)

1/2 c fat free sour cream

1 tsp almond extract (best buy is Safeway house brand – this could be optional but in my estimation it makes the dessert)

3 oz fat free cream cheese cubed

FOLD IN LAST 1-8 oz carton FREE (Southbeach) cool whip

1 tbsp cookie crumbs (opt)

Whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes (or forget this and put all in bowl and mix with electric beaters – I do)

Original recipe then says to mix sour cream, cream cheese and almond extract – add pudding and mix well and fold in cool whip last – put into 6 little glass bowls and enjoy….

Filling may be put into graham cracker or any pie crust if you like. It is totally yummy for “FREE”.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

1 cup bread cubes (about 5 slices cubed – may use whole wheat or other whole grained bread)

3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa

2 Tbsp melted butter

1 egg slightly beaten

1/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent, I used 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 packager of Stevia NOW

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract, best with almond and I use 1 tsp.

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 cups scalded (cook until skin on top but do not boil) milk (you can do this in the microwave)

Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, cocoa , extract, butter and egg.  Add milk slowly stirring constantly

Add bread cubes.  Pour into buttered (or Pam sprayed) baking dish (casserole size)

Set this dish in a pan of warm water in an over set at 350 F.

Bake 1 hour or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Yummy hot or cold.

Just the best! This recipe has been in our family for four generations now. I intensely dislike “bread pudding” BUT this one is wonderful!  I use a turkey baster to get some of the hot water out of the pan before removing from oven so I don’t have to try to take the inner dish out and get the pot holders wet and too hot.

1. See It, Make It: 100-Calorie Chocolate Desserts – EatingWell
2. Calories in Almonds
3. Low-Calorie Chocolate Desserts –

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Christmas Drinks

Don’t tell the Child Protection Agency but my earliest memories of Christmas dinner are of drinking the small glass of cider my parents poured as a treat for my siblings and me.  I remember how delicious it was with turkey, stuffing, and especially the pork, and to this day a festive lunch is not complete without a bottle of fizzy fermented apple juice. So why not try it yourself?  Cider’s sour-sweetness is perfect refreshment with the savoury smorgasbord of a traditional British Christmas dinner. Even the inexpensive supermarket brands that drunk on their own would be nothing special suddenly sparkle when matched with a roast potato.

So banish the wine and try something different this Christmas.  If that dusty bottle of sweet Sherry stuffed in the back of the cupboard only comes out once a year to spice up the trifle pour it away and add a splash of Madeira instead – full bodied, complex and very sweet.  But don’t ignore Sherry as a drink, rather than just think of it as an ingredient.  A chilled bottle of Fino may encourage you to look with a new appreciation of Jerez’s unique export.  Pale and bone-dry, this Sherry will stimulate the appetite.  Amontillado and Manzanilla are also on the dry side and are easy drinkers. What better excuse for polishing Grandma’s elegant little Sherry glasses!

Beer is also a revelation with Christmas comestibles and there is a style of beer that will match with each dish.  But this year we’re concentrating on cider for the main courses, so think of beer for the Christmas pud, mince pies and cake.  Several brewers make special ales for this time of year and some might even be described as Christmas cake in a bottle!  The choice of dark malts, hops, alcohol strength, and length of maturation imbues the beer with incredibly rich spicy fruit characters and a full body.  Try Tally Ho by Adnams; Christmas Ale by Shepherd Neame, or Owd Rodger by Marston’s – all three will go well with Stilton and mature Cheddar so that’s the cheese course sorted too.

Phew – full yet?  Surely you can fit in one more tiny glass of something.  If you would normally have a Bailey’s Irish Cream or a Scotch after lunch, remember we’re trying new things this year so for a rich smooth velvety treat sip a Merlyn Welsh Cream liqueur. And no need to go north of the border for the water of life – try Chapter 6 by the English Whisky Company.  Distilled in Norfolk and made from locally grown barley, it has a sweet oak, caramel palate to savour at 3pm during the Queen’s Christmas message.

Now if you doubt you will be able to eat or drink anything else for a week that’s OK – just make sure that on New Year’s Eve when you break your fast you have a stash of English sparkling wine from Nyetimber, Ridgeview, or Camel Valley –dry spritzy perfection that will hit the spot as 2011 dawns.

For readers not based in the UK – the brands listed in the blog below are all British – but if you like the sound of them, why not come here for Christmas!

1. The 12 cocktails of Christmas – Mix That Drink
2. Does Flaxseed Lower Cholesterol
3. 100+ Christmas Cocktails & Holiday Drink Recipes – Marie Claire

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