Food & Drink

Some of this year's holiday guests bark

Many of us are having houseguests over the holidays. We envision families gathering with children from tots to teens, sharing food, remembering the past while anticipating the New Year.

I love it when my children and grandchildren come; they are basically what I call "low-maintenance" guests. However, to add to my joy this year, each family will be bringing their respective pets; my additional "guests" will include an eccentric poodle, an overactive Sheltie puppy, a new bunny and a sugar glider, an exotic marsupial named Tadpole.

I am not sure how my new guests will fit in, but we will try to be flexible and hope the bunny and Tadpole do not escape their cages.

If you're planning a holiday feast with houseguests or dinner guests, some of these questions may interest you.

Every time I have guests and they are being entertained in another part of the house, someone invariably wanders into the kitchen to chat. Last time it was Uncle Joe and he would not leave. It really gets me distracted when I am finishing up and am trying to get food ready to serve. Any suggestions for getting Uncle Joe out of my way?

When this question popped up during a cooking class, my assistant Bev beat me to the draw. She piped up, "Give them a job to do! Ask them to help wash the dishes and they'll either pitch in and help you or quickly disappear. Either way it works." I could not have answered that one better myself.

Eggnog always appears at holiday time in the grocery stores. I know it is a Christmas tradition, but exactly what is it, anyway? Do you just drink it or can you do other things with it?

Eggnog is a rich custardy drink thought to have originated in England, and is made with milk or cream, eggs, sugar and nutmeg. Often it is spiked with brandy, rum or sherry. Sometimes it is topped with whipped cream and is served during the Christmas season. Eggnog can be an ingredient in other recipes such as eggnog mousse, eggnog cheesecake and other desserts.

A cookie recipe that appeared recently in the newspaper called for walnuts. Should I use English walnuts or black walnuts?

If a recipe does not specifically state black walnuts, opt for the English ones, which are more common and much milder in flavor. Black walnuts are a regional nut and not always available in our supermarkets but do appear sometimes during the holiday season. They have a stronger flavor than the English walnut.