Very Early Holiday Gift Thoughts

christmas-too-early-310x192Retailers believe it’s never too early to get the holiday decorations out, with some even starting as early as August to start vomiting Christmas all over their stores!  I strongly disagree with the practice.  Each season and each holiday  celebration deserves its own time.  Please, please, please let me enjoy Halloween before I have to start thinking about office parties, family Christmas, Chanukah and other end of the year celebrations.

In 2012, I was ready to seek out and high five Chris Matyszczyk of C|Net when he shared that stores decorating for holiday sales and playing holiday music earlier and earlier, was sending people like me online to shop in droves!  He even quoted a SOASTA poll with numbers showing how many other people feel just like I do:

  • 75% dislike that stores put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving
  • 78% hate holiday music played in stores
  • 75% believe the focus should be on Cyber Monday and not Black Friday

The only way I will even think about the holidays more than a month before they are upon me, is if I am planning to do any homemade gifts.  Anything that may require time to prepare containers, labels, and to sit for flavors to blend and deepen, like Lemoncello or other infused alcohol, flavored oils or vinegars, and especialy if I am going to be shipping those gifts, I want to have plenty of time to complete.

hot-honey-940x560I hadn’t settled on anything of that nature for this year, but did come across an interesting idea, courtesy of an article from the August 2015 edition of Bon Appétit Magazine: Hot Honey.  What a great idea for all of my friends who love to entertain, love anything with some kick and would appreciate the personal touch!

Hot Honey

  • 2 -4 Chili Peppers (Any variety, as hot or mild as you’d like)
  • 1 Cup Honey
  • 8 oz Canning Jar
Bring 2 chiles and honey to a bare simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Reduce heat to low and let cook 1 hour to infuse. Taste honey and adjust heat with another chile or 2, remove from stove, and let sit 30 minutes. Transfer to a small jar, straining if desired. Cover and chill.
  • Do Ahead: Hot honey can be made 3 months ahead. Keep chilled

Bon Appétit readers shared some tips in case you’re using raw honey and don’t want to risk boiling out the health benefits: 

  1. If you mix the honey and chiles together and let them infuse at room temperature for a longer period of time before using you won’t have to boil the honey;
  2. Set the steeping container in the sun (like you would sun tea);
  3. Heat but keep temperature below 104°

Suggested Uses:

  • Add a kick to a cup of hot tea
  • Sweeten and spice up a spot of whiskey
  • Brushed on BBQ’d ribs or chicken
  • Added to sauce for stir fry
  • Brush on grilled shrimp
  • Baked apple or pear desserts
  • Pour over ricotta, goat, or cream cheese and serve with apple slices, vegetables or crackers
  • Glaze for baked ham or pork chops
  • Mix into butter for a spicy honey butter (for corn-on-the-cob, cornbread or biscuits)
  • Add to vinagrette for a spicy-sweet salad dressing

Here’s a bonus recipe that I can’t wait to make myself:

Honey Bourbon Hot Toddy

  • 1/2 Cup Hot Water
  • 1 TBLS Hot Honey
  • 3 TBLS Bourbon (I prefer Maker’s 46 or Marker’s Mark)
  • 1 – 3 1/2″ Strip of Lemon or Orange Peel (I like Orange)
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick

honey-bourbon-toddy-940x560Stir honey and water in a 1-cup measuring cup until honey dissolves. Add bourbon. Pour into clear Toddy glass or coffee cup.  Twist a strip of lemon or orange peel over the drink, then add to glass. Stir with a cinnamon stick and serve.

Now I just need the nights to cool down enough (or I need to lower the air conditioner) so I can justify the warm evening drink 😉

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Halloween Treats For the Gluten Intolerant Child

gfhalloweencandy

I always feel sorry for the kids who have dietary restrictions or allergies that keep them from the annual day when they are given permission to gorge on as much candy as their little hands can shove into their mouths.   There are only so many carnival mini toys, erasers, glow bracelets and stickers that one child can find exciting in their bags before the disappointment starts to set in and they lose the childhood joy of dressing up for Halloween.

Thankfully candy manufacturers care about their bottom line and have made a better effort to label their packages so that parents can safely let their gluten intolerant kids collect all the candy they can grab in a couple of hours in the neighborhood and, when it comes to sort it, they can even eat a lot of it now!

In an October 2015 article featured in About Health, Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity Expert Jane Anderson compiled an updated list of candies that are safe for gluten intolerant kids (and their parents) to enjoy this Halloween:

  • M&M’s (all EXCEPT for pretzel-flavored M&M’s). Note that some special flavors have a risk of gluten cross-contamination because they’re made in facilities that also use gluten-containing ingredients — for example, in October 2015 the Pumpkin Spice M&Ms available in some stores are labeled “may contain traces of wheat”) NOTE: plain M&Ms (in any color) actually meet the more stringent standards for gluten-free certification, which require the products to contain less than 10 parts per million of gluten.
  • 3 Musketeers Bars (all flavors)
  • Milky Way Midnight Bar (not the original Milky Way Bar)
  • Milky Way Caramel Bar
  • Dove Chocolate products (all flavors EXCEPT for milk chocolate cinnamon graham/cookies and cream)
  • Snickers Bars (all flavors)
  • Munch Nut Bar (the customer service representative urges consumers to check the labels on this one)
  • Almond Joy (all)
  • Mounds (all)
  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kisses
  • Hershey’s Filled Chocolate Kisses (only caramel and cherry cordial creme, NOT Hugs, Special Dark, Milk Chocolate with Almonds, or Cookies & Cream)
  • Hershey’s Nuggets (milk chocolate, milk chocolate with almonds, special dark chocolate with almonds, and extra creamy milk chocolate with toffee and almonds)
  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, only in the 1.55 oz. size
  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds Bar, only in the 1.45 oz. size
  • Hershey’s Air Delight
  • Hershey’s Milk Duds
  • Heath Bars
  • Payday
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (all except for seasonal shaped items, such as Valentine’s hearts)
  • Reese’s Pieces (all except for Reese’s Pieces Eggs)
  • Rolo Caramels in Milk Chocolate (all except for Minis)
  • Skor
  • Skor Toffee Bar
  • York Peppermint Pattie (all except for York Pieces, York Minis and York Shapes)
  • Baby Ruth
  • Bit-O-Honey
  • Butterfinger Bar (original flavor only, NOT giant bar, Crisp, Stixx, Snakerz, Medallions, Jingles, Hearts or Pumpkins)
  • Nestle Milk Chocolate
  • Goobers
  • Nips (including both regular and sugar-free)
  • Oh Henry!
  • Raisinets (including Cherry, Cranberry, and Dark Chocolate flavors)
  • Sno-Caps
  • Wonka Pixy Sticks
  • LaffyTaffy (including LaffyTaffy Rope and FruitartsChews)
  • Wonka Lik-M-Aid Fun Dip
  • Smarties
  • Tootsie Roll (All products)

***DisclaimerBecause the same product can be produced and packaged in many different manufacturing facilities for the same company (creating the possibility of cross-contamination), always check the packaging and ingredients before consuming any candy, even if it does appear on this list

If you experience any reactions to products listed here, that display the GF symbol or statement on the packaging contact the manufacturers listed at the numbers on the linked PDF.

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