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Holiday Guide

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Deck the halls with lots of holiday cheer with a fun quiz and guides for the chilly months filled with friends, family and lots of festive foods. Ever wonder why people hang stockings on their mantle? How about the tradition of eating turkey on Thanksgiving? Unwrap the secrets to these holiday traditions and more in the Holiday Mythbusters quiz below.

If cooking is more your thing, put on your apron and check out our favorite recipes. We have plenty, whether you are looking for something savory or sweet. Yum!

And, while you’re waiting for those cookies to brown, get your yuletide on with our 12 Days of Holiday Movies — perfect for winter break with the fam.

Holiday Mythbusters

Does turkey make you sleepy? Why hang stockings on the mantle? Unrap the facts here.

Elf (2003)

Elf (2003) When an orphaned child stows away in Santa Claus' bag while he's delivering toys to an orphanage, an elf decides to keep the baby and raise him as his own. The boy, Buddy, grows to his full, human size and discovers he is not a Christmas elf like everyone else in the North Pole.

This coming of age tale is not only endearing, its comedic timing and writing make this a new classic. Buddy is played by the ever-hilarious Will Ferrell.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life (1946) This film is a true holiday favorite. Feeling down and drained, George Bailey is giving and compassionate, but never feels like he's living the life he's always wanted. When a financial misunderstanding threatens his family's business, he contemplates killing himself. However, Bailey's guardian angel shows him how his life has mattered to others, along with the many wonderful things he's achieved in his life. In the end, he makes some realizations that change him forever.

A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas Story (1983) Ever want a gift so bad it was all you could think about? Ralphie knows exactly how you feel. Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and sets out to convince the world that he deserves it. Follow Ralphie's antics in this crack-up comedy set in the 1940's with timeless laughs.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) In a faraway land, a depressed Jack Skellington, the king of Halloweentown, wanders into the woods to find the door to Christmas Town. When Jack travels through the door to the holiday land, he falls in love with the cheer and festivities of the place, deciding that he wants to be Santa Claus.

In true ghoul fashion, he kidnaps St. Nick and takes over the holiday for himself. Written by Tim Burton, this stop-motion animated film is a treat for the whole family. Don't let the pumpkins fool you, this is a fun holiday flick.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) There are a couple versions of this film and they are all as heart-warming as the last. In this modern fairytale, a store manager hires an elderly man named Kris Kringle to work as Santa Claus at a department store in New York City. When the manager's daughter begins to believe Kris Kringle is the real thing and an incident may prevent him from his Christmas Eve duties, a lawyer must defend Mr. Kringle and what it means to believe in Christmas.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) Probably one of the most recognizable animated Christmas features, A Charlie Brown Christmas, written by Charles Schultz, is a timeless classic for all ages. Charlie Brown is frustrated with the overwhelming materialism of the holiday when a friend suggest that he direct the holiday pageant. When things take a turn for the worst, Charlie Brown and his friends discover the true meaning of Christmas.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) You've heard the song and you've seen the nose -- now watch the heartwarming movie full of unforgettable characters. Though the animation isn't computer-generated with fancy effects, you'll drift away to the the North Pole and the Island of Misfit toys in this stop-motion film

Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer is the ultimate under-deer story about a young reindeer who is different from everyone else. Along his journey to find confidence, he finds friends he can depend on and who understand him.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol There are many adaptations of this story written by Charles Dickens. From Jim Hensen's muppets, to a computer generated animated film starring Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge, each version brings its own take on Dickens' spirit story about a wealthy and stingy man who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. A Christmas Carol is a tale about the true spirit of Christmas, forgiveness and what it means to be kind.

Frosty the Snowman (1969)

Frosty the Snowman (1969) "Happy Birthday!" are the first words uttered from a snowman who comes to life when a young girl places a magic hat atop his snowy head. Both "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" were songs written by Walter "Jack" Rollins and Steve Nelson. And, after the success of the songs, both were made into animated films.

This holiday movie shows the importance of friendship and what it means to care during the holidays.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch!" This famous line came from the original animated version of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas created in 1966 for a TV movie that plays during the holidays every year. There's also the live action adventure with Jim Carrey, Molly Shannon and a young Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who.

Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone (1990) Spending time with friends and family is the best thing about the holiday -- except for Kevin McCallister. He's sick of being beat up by his brother and being yelled at by his parents. So, on the night before the whole family is supposed to leave on a trip, he wishes for his whole family to disappear. And, they do.

Find out what happens to Kevin as he stays home alone for the holidays and learns the true appeal of having a family.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) After you see this movie, you'll never worry about things being perfect for the holidays again. Think your family is bad? Check out the Griswold's, a family determined to have a family Christmas worth remembering -- and boy, do they -- though, not for the reasons they expected. Watch Chevy Chase in this slap-stick misadventure comedy about family, the holidays and what it takes to stick it out until the end.

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Creamy Pumpkin-Apple Bisque

Curl up by the fire and enjoy the taste of fall with this decadent soup.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup diced onions
1/2 medium Gala apple, peeled and chopped
1 can (14 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 of 15-ounce can solid pumpkin
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups fat-free half and half
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream

1. Heat canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and apple; cook 5 minutes or until onions begin to brown.

2. Place onion mixture in a blender with 1 cup broth. Secure lid, and puree until smooth. Return onion mixture to saucepan; add remaining ingredients, except half and half and sour cream. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce heat, cover tightly, and simmer 15 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and gradually add half and half while stirring. To serve, spoon equal amounts of soup into four shallow bowls and top with dollops of sour cream.

Yield: 4 servings. Serving size: 1 cup.

Flavorful tip: Adding the apple while browning the onion brings out the sugars of the apple and richly browns the onions quickly.

Recipe developed by Nancy Hughes for The Heart-Smart Diabetes Kitchen

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Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic

Ingredients:
2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Blanch green beans in a large stock pot of well salted boiling water until bright green in color and tender crisp, roughly 2 minutes. Drain and shock in a bowl of ice water to stop from cooking.

Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and the butter. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beans and continue to saute until coated in the butter and heated through, about 5 minutes. Add lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.

Recipe By The Neelys from the Food Network
Photo Courtesy of the Food Network

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Vanilla Caramel Corn Crunch

12 oz air-popped popcorn
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Pop the popcorn. Arrange the popcorn evenly in a large roasting pan. Place in oven.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla paste, and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil slowly. Boil for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly; do not burn. Stir in the baking soda and cream of tartar, which will cause the sugar mixture to rise.
Pour over the warm popcorn, stirring until coated. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Recipe From the Nielsen-Massey Vanillas new cookbook, A Century of Flavor.

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Turkey Ravioli

Makes about 36 ravioli.

1 pound Cooked turkey diced (thigh meat preferred)
2 tablespoon cranberry sauce
1-teaspoon gravy
1/2-cup breadcrumbs
One pack wonton wrappers
3 eggs beaten with a teaspoon of water

In a food processor bowl place turkey, cranberry sauce and gravy and pulse till Smooth, then mix in the breadcrumbs.

Taking the wontons-working with six at a time -lay them out three on a top row and three on a bottom row. Using a pastry brush, dip the brush in the egg mixture and wipe off the excess, brush all the wonton wrappers with just enough egg wash to cover them, with out being over saturated with egg.

Place one teaspoon of turkey filling in the middle of the bottom row, then place the top row over the bottom. Using a upside down shot glass push the filling down in the middle, then using a empty aluminum can cut all the raviolis and then press the air out of them with your fingers. You can cut them anyway you like or leave square.

Cook them by boiling them for a few minutes in boiling water until they float to the top of the pot, then toss with a little butter and serve!

Recipe by Chef Marc Taxiera of Beppe and the Russian Tea Room in New York.

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Blueberry-Lemon Country Cobbler

Adding diced pear and a generous amount of fresh lemon zest gives a true freshness to this extraordinary fruit cobbler.

Filling
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 lb fresh (or partially thawed frozen) blueberries
1 ripe medium pear, peeled, halved, cored, and diced
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Topping
3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup fat-free buttermilk
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg white
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Coat an 11 × 7-inch baking pan with canola oil cooking spray.

3. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and water in a large nonreactive saucepan. Stir until cornstarch is completely dissolved, then stir in berries and pears. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil 1 full minute. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon zest. Place fruit mixture in the baking pan.

4. Combine flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Combine buttermilk, canola oil, egg white, and remaining 1 teaspoon zest in a small bowl. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir until just blended. Spoon batter into eight small mounds on top of the filling. Mix remaining sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle on top of cobbler. Bake 20–25 minutes or until filling is bubbly and a wooden pick inserted into the topping comes out clean. Let stand 20 minutes to absorb flavors.

Yield: 8 servings. Serving size: 1/2 cup per serving.

Fresh tip: The canola oil makes the topping spread, creating a rustic cobbler appearance. Blueberries may be substituted with raspberries or mixed berries.

Recipe Developed By Nancy Hughes for The Heart-Smart Diabetes Kitchen

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Gingerbread Ice Cream Sandwiches

Gingerbread Brownies

Ingredients:
3 cups Flour
2 cups Sugar
1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 tsp Ginger, ground
2 tsp Cinnamon, ground
1 tsp Clove, ground
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, Melted
2/3 cup Molasses
4 ea Eggs
Unsalted Butter for greasing tray
6 oz Pumpkin Ice cream

Equipment:
Half Sheet Tray
2 Stainless Steel Bowls
Rubber Spatula
Measuring cups and spoons
Ice cream Scoop
Oz Scale
Plastic Wrap

Preparation:
1. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, clove and baking soda together in a bowl.
2. In a separate bowl mix the butter, molasses and eggs.
3. Pour the butter mixture into the flour bowl and incorporate with rubber spatula.
4. Stir until the consistency is thick- be sure not to over mix.
5. Grease a baking sheet with unsalted butter.
6. Pour batter into sheet tray and using rubber spatula evenly spread over entire half sheet tray.
7. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 16 minutes.
8. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.
9. Once cooled, cut edges off brownie in the pan. Then cut into 3 x 8 squares to get 24 pieces.
10. Cut the brownies in half horizontally with serrated knife.
11. Working quickly place 2.5 oz pumpkin ice cream on each the brownies.
12. Place the top on and press down. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freeze immediately. You might want to have a friend help wrap while you put ice cream in sandwich!
13. Store in the freezer for a yummy snack.

Pumpkin Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1/2 tsp lemon juice
8 oz salted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Equipment:
Whisk
Measuring Cups
5 qt Sauce Pan
Metal 1/3 Pan
Pound Scale


Preparation:
1. In 5 qt heavy sauce pan, mix sugar, water and lemon juice and bring to a boil.
2. Let simmer without stirring.
3. While sugar mixture is simmering, heat cream, butter and pumpkin pie spice in the microwave until it is hot, not boiling (180 degrees F).
4. When sugar mixture starts to show a little bit of color, watch closely. Continue to simmer until the mixture turns a medium golden brown color. NOT TOO DARK.
5. Turn off flame and add butter and cream, whisking consistently. Be careful of the steam.
6. Transfer to a metal 1/3 pan and cool at room temperature, not in an ice bath.


The Gingerbread Ice Cream Sandwich was created and is available at Burtons Grill, located at 1363 Boylston Street, Boston, Ma 02215

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Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients
Gingerbread:

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Royal Icing:
2 cups or more confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon egg white*

Decorating:
Raisins, as needed
White chocolate chips, as needed
Various food coloring
Various colors of sanding sugar
Equipment: Pastry bag fitted with small, round tip; cookie cutters in the shape of gingerbread men and women, dreidels, Christmas tree ornaments, and snowflakes; wire, string or yarn for stringing

Directions
Make the Gingerbread: In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and mix. Add the eggs and mix. Add the molasses and vanilla and mix.

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together. Working in batches and mixing after each addition until just combined, add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture. Shape the dough into a thick disk, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease 1 or 2 cookie sheets. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out 1/4-inch thick and cut out with desired cookie cutters.

To make the Royal Icing: In a mixer, blend the confectioners' sugar, milk, and egg white together. Add more sugar to get a pipe-able consistency.

To make Gingerbread Men and Women: Use gingerbread man and woman cookie cutters and cut out the cookies, re-rolling the scraps as needed. Decorate them with raisins and white chocolate chips for eyes, nose, mouth, and buttons down the front. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 minutes, and let cool on the pan.

Meanwhile, add some festive colors to your icing with food coloring and lay out colored sugars in small glass bowls with spoons. Using a pastry bag fitted with the smallest plain tip, pipe a few colorful borders or white borders and coat with sanding sugar. When set, add more lines of icing in white.

To make snowflakes: Use a snowflake-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the cookies, re-rolling the scraps as needed. If you plan to hang the cookies, use a toothpick to make holes in the cookies about 1/8-inch wide, keeping in mind that the holes will shrink as the cookies bake and puff up a bit. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 minutes, and let cool on the pan. Using only white icing and a pastry bag fitted with the smallest plain tip, pipe thin lines from the center of the cookie out to the points, like spokes of a wheel. Connect the spokes with thin lines between them, making a spiderweb effect to give it the look of a snowflake. Let the icing harden before threading the cookies onto wire, string, or yarn for hanging.

To make ornaments: Use any holiday-themed cookie cutter to cut out the cookies, re-rolling the scraps as needed. If you plan to hang the cookies, use a toothpick to make holes in the cookies about 1/8-inch wide, keeping in mind that the holes will shrink as the cookies bake and puff up a bit. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 minutes, and let cool on the pan. Meanwhile, color some of your icing in festive colors with food coloring, or use colored sugars. Using a pastry bag fitted with the smallest plain tip, pipe a few colorful borders and decorations on the cookies. When set, add more lines of icing in white. Let the icing harden before threading the cookies onto wire, string, or yarn for hanging.
To make dreidel trios: Use a dreidel cookie cutter and cut out 3 cookies. Lay 1 on a greased sheet pan. Fanning out at an angle, with the handles overlapping at the top, lay 2 more dreidels next to the first one (it will look like a paper-doll effect). The handle is now 3 layers thick; press on it gently to thin it slightly and make it larger. Repeat with the remaining dough, re-rolling the scraps as needed.

If you plan to hang the cookies, use a toothpick to make a hole in the cookies about 1/8-inch wide, keeping in mind that the hole will shrink as the cookies bake and puff up a bit. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 minutes, and let cool on the pan. Color some of your icing blue with food coloring, or use blue colored sugar and white icing together. Using a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip, pipe Hebrew letters or stars of David on the cookies' faces. Let the icing harden before threading the cookies onto wire, string, or yarn for hanging.

Recipe By Gale Gand from the Food Network

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Sweet Potato Muffins

Ingredients:

8 oz. sweet potato puree OR 1 whole sweet potato, 2 cups oats, 6 egg whites (1 cup), 1/2 cup splenda, 1 tbsp vanilla, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp pumpkin spice

Directions:
1. Microwave one peeled sweet potato for 5 minutes in a bowl
2. Mash up the sweet potato in a mixing bowl OR use 1/2 cup canned sweet potato puree
3. Pour in the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, and splenda
4. Blend the mixture for 2 minutes or until smooth (small chunks of sweet potato is fine)
5. Pour in the oats and mix with a spoon until mixed evenly
6. Place muffin wrappers in a 12 count tin, spraying them lightly with non-stick spray if desired
7. Preheat oven at 350 degrees
8. Scoop 2 tbsp in each muffin tin and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until muffin tops are brown

Recipe By Jennifer DiDonato of Made Fit TV. Click here for a video of the recipe.

Nutrition Information: Servings: 12; One Serving = 70 calories, .5g fat, 10.5g carbs, 3g sugar, 3.5g protein

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