December 2008 Newsletter

Get ready for ThanksgivingDecember is the month of enchantment, so delight your family and friends with homemade holiday treats, delicious warms meals, and festive decorations. No matter which holiday you celebrate, ’tis the season for giving!

So even if things aren’t so cheery with your bank account, don’t despair, give the gift of food – that’s something everyone on your list will appreciate.

No Gifts Necessary…

… make a simple holiday meal to share with friends and neighbors instead. During the fall and winter, I love to prepare traditional home made, American dishes so there’s no surprise that Thanksgiving, Hannukah and Christmas are my favorite holidays of the year. But for those of you who aren’t used to cooking a huge celebration meal, like this one, it might seem daunting.

In this segment, which aired in November 2008 on Better TV, I show how to cut the chaos of holiday meal-time with easy steps, tips, and tools that anyone can use. Cut cooking time in half but still enjoy all those classic home made, family recipes that everyone loves and looks forward to for the holidays.

Better TV Segment with Jennifer Iserloh

  • Chop It – Every home cook knows that chopping vegetables can be time consuming. But fresh vegetables add flavor and texture to old fashioned recipes.
  • Blend It – Blenders aren’t just for smoothies and mixed drinks! You can make fast soups, pudding and jello desserts, sauces, marinades, and even pasta sauce, all in the blender. Whip them up the night before and chill, drizzle, or marinade ready for the next day. Here’s another recipe idea: Dust off your blender and make some of your soups and dressings silk smooth.
  • Zip It – Use a zipper lock bag to store all your dinner prep and label each bag with a sharpie. The next day, just grab and saute, stir, toss and mix your way to a faster holiday meal.
  • Wrap It – Use plastic wrap or wax paper to roll up home-made cookies dough for easy slicing and baking for the next day. I love wax paper because it’s easy to handle and inexpensive too.v
  • Assemble It – Use the fast steps above the night before, but make the morning of the holiday even easier on yourself. One thing my Granny taught me about cooking holiday meals – prepare just a few things the day before your meal can really take the pressure off. So getting those casseroles, meat dishes, and baked goods started the day before leaves you plenty of time for socializing with your guests the next day.

Spiced Wine for Winter

How to make spiced wineFeuerzangenbowle is a traditional German alcoholic drink, often part of a Christmas or New Year’s Eve tradition. The name translates literally as “fire-tongs punch”, and is an old-time tradition of brewing mulled wine that is later enriched with rum and caramelized sugar.

This dark, powerfully sweet punch is easy to drink and can instantly defrost guests arriving at holiday parties or spending time chatting outdoors at a festive Christmas market. Learn more about how to make it in my latest post.

Planning Ahead for the Holidays

There are plenty of easy ways to save on time and energy but still have your Holiday meal taste delicious and look effortless. With just a bit of planning and thinking ahead you can cook a huge feast for 20 or more guests all by yourself – here are simple tips and do ahead ideas that even beginning cooks can use.

  • Shop Ahead – With the Internet, finding simple, healthy holiday recipes is easier than ever. Just plan your shopping list a week or even two weeks ahead of time. Use downtime, like your morning train commute, to quickly make your list. Many grocery stores now have “shop online” services where you can order your groceries over the internet and have them delivered.
  • Do Ahead – Spend 1 or 2 hours prepping the day before – it’s the perfect time to have your family or friends help over a hot cup of cocoa or a glass of wine. You can make cranberry sauce, apple sauce, desserts, salad dressings, and even store them directly in the serving dish so that they can go from the fridge right to the table.
  • Storage – Use wax paper and zipper lock bags to store items that need additional cooking the next day. I wrap my cookie dough in wax paper and chill it up to two days in advance so that I just have to slice and bake for freshly baked cookies for dessert.

Other News and Updates

  • Are Your Children At Risk? – As part of the annual American Heart Association conference in New Orleans, several new studies have garnered attention – providing further evidence for something we all believe is true. In one such study, obese kids (and kids with high cholesterol) had arteries resembling those of an average 45-year-old. Another study reported in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine offers more evidence that abdominal fat increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, meaning that you have a host of cardiovascular problems including insulin resistance and heart disease. !
  • Pumpkin – Pumpkins belong to the family of vegetables known as Cucurbitaceae that also includes cucumbers and melons. Called pepon by the Greek or “large melon”, the pumpkin is no ordinary gourd – it has become a staple, a widely-known symbol of fall family traditions in America. Many of you only think of pumpkins when they appear annually in Thanksgiving day pumpkin pies or perhaps around Halloween when they are carved to ward off evil spirits. But in terms of nutrition and every day healthy cooking, there is nothing to be afraid of here.

Happy & Healthy Cooking,
— Jennifer


  1. Hey Skinny-

    I want to make a Yule Log cake for my family on Christmas day. Any suggestion for making it a little more healthy than usual? Also is there a way to make this cake more flavorful and not just sweet? Or am I asking for the impossible? It’s just that I noticed in Italy that the baked goods weren’t overly sweet, but full of flavor.

    Merry Christmas and thanks!
    Lazy Susan

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