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Tips to enhance holiday meals with flavor

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Updated: 1/25/2013 10:31 am

(BPT) - Thanksgiving and Christmas meals often incorporate a lot of traditional foods and flavors, which as a host, may become a bit boring. But when you have friends and family visiting for several days, there are plenty of opportunities to shine with new flavors and interesting meals.

As a host, embrace all of the meals you'll be serving, which provides you with an excellent chance to show off your culinary skills. To help you plan the menus and entertain your guests during their entire visit, Gaby Dalkin of What's Gaby Cooking and Lindsay and Taylor Landis of Love and Olive Oil have recipes and tips to make everything much easier.

'I think like most people, I'm not just entertaining on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, but am making meals for my family on the days surrounding the holiday,' Dalkin says. 'These are times when I feel like can stray from the ordinary holiday tradition and experiment with my recipes.'

Here are some tips to make your holidays a memorable time:

* Assess your ingredients - including your spice cabinet - to ensure all holiday essentials like cinnamon, cloves, vanilla bean, nutmeg, flour and sugar are available for all recipes.

* Choose recipes ahead of time so you know that you have all ingredients available. Purchase the dry goods you need at least a week ahead to help reduce stress. Then purchase perishable items like meat and dairy products a day or two before guests arrive so you have everything ready to go.

* Make non-perishable snacks ahead of time and store them in containers to bring out when needed. Try this recipe from Dalkin to keep your guests happy:

Sweet and Spice Roasted Nuts

Ingredients:
1 cup raw whole cashews
1 cup raw whole walnuts
1 cup raw whole almonds
1 cup raw pepitas
1 egg white
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon Spice Islands Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands Ground Saigon Cinnamon

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and set it aside. Combine the cashews, walnuts, almonds and pepitas in a large bowl and toss to combine. Whisk together the egg white, water, sugar, salt, cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Drizzle the wet mixture over the nuts and toss to combine, making sure they are evenly coated. Transfer the nuts to the baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the nuts from the oven and separate the nuts as they cool. Store in an airtight container and serve as needed.

* Add a surprising and special touch to cocktails. Slice a Spice Islands Bourbon Vanilla Bean in half and drop it into your bottle of vodka or bourbon several days prior to the arrival of your guests. It will add a delicious and warm flavor to all cocktails.

But don't forget about the children at your gathering either.

'I always create interesting cocktails for my seasonal entertaining, and this year, I'm making something special for the kids,' says Lindsay Landis. Her holiday drink gives a festive gingerbread twist to the classic root beer float. Instead of using root beer with ice cream, she instead uses vanilla cream soda and spiced molasses syrup to make the drink taste just like liquid gingerbread.

* Finally, choose recipes that can be easily made in large quantities. Dalkin serves her Classic Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Chip Pancakes the day after a big holiday to continue the rich, luxurious flavors guests enjoy during the holidays.

Classic Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Spice Islands Ground Saigon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands Ground Ginger
1/8 teaspoon Spice Islands Ground Nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon Spice Islands Ground Cloves
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Spice Islands Sea Salt
1 cup 2 percent milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup chocolate chips
butter or baking spray for skillet

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, sugar, baking powder and salt and set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, vegetable oil and egg. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until everything is just combined, being careful not to over mix. Fold the chocolate chips into the mixture. Heat a griddle or large pan to medium-low heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Drop 1/4 cup of batter onto heated skillet. Cook on the first side until the edges begin to bubble, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip pancake over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Continue this process to make the rest of the pancakes, making sure to lightly spray the pan between each pancake to ensure they do not stick. Serve the pancakes immediately with maple syrup and butter, if desired.

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