You've baked dozens of cookies already and more kitchen time is in your future as you craft the big holiday feast. Family and friends will be staying for the weekend, and as much as you'd like to treat them to a special breakfast you're not sure you have it in you to whip up a French toast casserole or cheesy quiche.
Bagels from the corner bakery and a hot pot of fresh coffee might be all you can muster. With a few new products you can turn that simple spread into a special brunch.
Pick up a couple tubs of Twisted Butter at Sunset Foods or Mariano's Fresh Market (about $3.99 a tub) and transform bagels into dazzling morning treats.
Twisted Butter, produced in Northbrook by Twisted Foods, is a line of spreadable butter (made with AA salted butter, canola oil and other natural ingredients) that comes in six flavors.
Smear a bit of the Blueberry, Honey and Lemon Zest on raisin bread or try the Chive and Parsley on a sesame bagel or melt some into scrambled eggs.
The sweet and savory flavors move into lunch and dinner as well. I spread the Portobello Mushroom with Boursin-Garlic & Fine Herb Cheese on a turkey panini the other evening and am eager to try the Cilantro and Lime on cornbread and seared salmon. My mouth waters when I think of what the Bacon, Dijon Mustard & Green Onion spread could do to a baked potato.
Head to twistedbutter.com for more ideas and print out coupons.
Crème de la cream: I usually have cream on hand when guests visit so they can stir it into their coffee. This year I've got Coffee-Mate's new Natural Bliss creamers in the fridge.
Available in traditional sweet cream, vanilla and caramel, the creamers are made from all natural ingredients.
I'm not a coffee drinker, but I've enjoyed a splash of the vanilla in English breakfast tea and have perked up the boys' hot chocolate with a bit of caramel.
Look for the Natural Bliss creamers in the dairy case for about $2.79 for a 16-ounce container.
Consider cinnamon: Cinnamon warms up the season, sprinkled onto lattes and baked into cookies and cakes. But do you really know this common spice?
While there are several styles of cinnamon, from Vietnamese to Mexican canella, they can be divided into two major categories, best identified by their quills (sticks), writes Harold McGee in his book "On Food and Cooking."
The first is the product of the dried inner bark of the cinnamomum tree and is light brown in color, lightly sweet and when dried rolls into one familiar stick. The second is commonly called cassis and is darker, stronger in flavor and forms a stick with a double roll, McGee explains.
In the United States we associate cinnamon with sweet preparations, but in other parts of the world cooks use it in savory dishes as well. In Africa, it is a key ingredient in Moroccan tagines and the fiery Ethiopian spice mix berbere. In the Middle East, it flavors lamb and chicken. In India and Pakistan, it is added to the pungent spice blend called garam masala. In Mexico, it adds depth to chocolate.
Grated or whole, cinnamon is versatile and easy to experiment with. This winter, try adding a few dashes to your favorite meat rub. Saute a stick with onions for your next batch of chili. Or toss in a few sticks with some wine when slow-cooking brisket.
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