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Hold the lettuce: how to diversify your salads

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Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a refreshing salad, but you don’t always have to opt for lettuce as the main ingredient. Here are some ideas to inspire you.

Pasta salads
You don’t have to settle for macaroni with mayonnaise and celery. There is a huge variety of pastas to choose from. Conchiglie pasta, better known as shells, is perfect for salad thanks to its shape. Orzo, gemelli and rotelles are equally great choices.

Be sure to enhance the flavor for your pasta salad by incorporating fresh herbs like basil, coriander or chives. You can also add some savory texture to the dish by including roasted nuts or seeds.

Don’t be afraid to play around with interesting flavor combinations like shrimp and mango, chicken and sundried tomatoes, bell pepper and prosciutto or cranberry and apple.


Potato salads
This deli mainstay is more versatile than you might think. For starters, consider experimenting with different types of potatoes — there are around 80 varieties that are commercially available. Leave thin-skinned potatoes unpeeled to add texture to your salad.

In terms of dressing, think about swapping mayo for plain yogurt for a more calorie-conscious dish. Add Dijon mustard or wine vinegar for a sharper flavor profile.

Experiment with incorporating ingredients such as cherry tomatoes, pineapple, radishes, bacon and eggs.

Other salads
The base for a salad can be derived from nearly any ingredient including beets, legumes, quinoa, couscous, rice, bulgur wheat and buckwheat. Next time you go to the grocery store or farmers’ market, be inspired by in-season ingredients and use your creativity to step up your salad game.

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6 crowd-pleasing dishes to bring to a potluck

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Do you plan to attend a potluck this holiday season? If so, it’s a good idea to choose dishes that are easy to transport and can be prepared ahead of time. Here are some ideas.

1. Salads
Potato, quinoa, and couscous salads are easy to make in advance and don’t need to be warmed up once you arrive.

2. Meatballs
Season ground pork, beef, or chicken and roll it into balls. Then, bake them in the oven with your favorite sauce. When you arrive, simply reheat the meatballs in a microwave.

3. Marinated shrimp
These crustaceans are quick to prepare, keep well for a couple of days in the refrigerator, and can be served with crackers, bread, and various kinds of sauces.


4. Rice
White, brown, and wild rice make great sides. Add toasted nuts, herbs, or dried fruit to elevate this dish.

5. Macarons
These sweet and light cookies can be made in a multitude of colors and flavors. Opt for gingerbread, candy cane, and eggnog varieties to keep in the spirit of the season.

6. Nanaimo bars
This no-bake layered dessert is perfect for sharing. You can make it a few days ahead of time and cut it into bars before serving.

Visit your local markets and grocery stores to find all the ingredients you need.

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Spanakopita bites

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With its unique blend of textures and flavors, this appetizer may just steal the show at your holiday party.

Servings: 12

Ingredients
• 12 whole walnuts
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 green onion, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped
• Zest of half a lemon
• Juice of half a lemon
• 1 cup feta cheese, coarsely chopped
• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
• 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed and cut into 12 equal squares
• 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes. Let cool and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter, then sauté the onions for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, green onion, and spices. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for another 2 minutes, making sure to thoroughly break up any big pieces. In a bowl, pour the spinach mixture and let it cool for about 30 minutes.
3. In the bowl with the spinach add 1 egg as well as the parsley, dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, feta, and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and adjust the seasoning as desired.
4. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the 12 squares of puff pastry. On each square, put about 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture. Pull the corners of each square toward its center, and seal it with a walnut.
5. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg. Brush the egg mixture over the puff pastry and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 25 minutes.


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Ice palace cocktail

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This bright blue cocktail combines an array of tropical ingredients to warm your soul on a cold winter night.

Servings: 2

Ingredients
• 1/4 cup coconut cream
• 2 tablespoons shredded sweet coconut
• 12 ice cubes
• 1/4 cup pineapple juice
• 1/4 cup blue curaçao
• 1/4 cup white rum

Directions
1. Dip the rim of 2 cocktail glasses in coconut cream and then in the shredded coconut. Set aside.


2. In a blender, pour the remaining coconut cream, ice cubes, pineapple juice, curaçao, and rum. Blend on high for 30 seconds or until smooth. In the 2 glasses, pour the blended cocktail and serve.

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How to safely deep-fry a turkey

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Deep-fried turkey is actually a Cajun tradition and is an increasingly popular way to cook the main course.

It’s not the safest way — in fact, many people have burned their houses while attempting to do it. The number of burn victims from deep-frying reaches into the hundreds each year. The National Fire Protection Association and the American Burn Association discourage cooking a turkey in this manner, but because it produces a more flavorful bird with crispy skin, people continue to deep-fry.

Some advice from Underwriters Laboratories:

* Get a sturdy turkey fryer with four legs and a built-in thermostat, so the oil maintains the proper temperature.
* Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and dry, or you could be spattered with oil and severely burned.
* Fry outside and far away from your house.
* Follow instructions on the size of turkey to put into your fryer and how much oil to use. Splashing oil can ignite and turn your fryer into a flamethrower.
* Wear gloves designed for deep-frying.
* Never leave the fryer unattended.


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Raking leaves? You might be missing a treat

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Autumn leaves are a beauty — and a chore to rake — in autumn, but in Japan’s city of Minoh, they are also a snack.

According to legend, around 1,300 years ago, a traveler to the Minoo Taki waterfall in Osaka’s Hokusetsu region was so enamored of the beauty of autumn maple leaves that naturally, he decided to fry them. Thus, a new treat was born.

Maple leaves are picked from the tree, soaked in salt water for a year, then coated with a tempura batter, sesame seeds, and sugar before they’re fried in oil.

The first maple leaf store opened in 1910 in Minoh, 10 miles north of Osaka.


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Turkish delight: A timeless treat

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The Haci Bekir sweet shop in Istanbul has been selling Turkish delight — known as lokum in Turkish — since 1777 when the shop’s founder invented the sweet treat.

If you can’t make it to Istanbul to pick up their version, you can try it yourself at home and impress your holiday guests with Turkey’s favorite candy. You may want a second set of hands to help you with this challenging but worthwhile recipe. Make sure to follow each step carefully to ensure that your Turkish delight sets up correctly.

Ingredients:
4 cups granulated sugar
4-1/2 cups water, divided
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-1/4 cups cornstarch
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1-1/2 tablespoons rose water or orange flower water
2 drops red or orange food coloring (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar

Line a 9 by 9-inch pan with aluminum foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the sugar, 1-1/2 cups of water, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, and the mixture boils. With a wet pastry brush, brush down the sides of the pan to discourage crystallization and insert a candy thermometer to track the temperature. Allow the sugar to continue boiling, but do not stir, until it reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer, which will take up to an hour. Meanwhile, gather the rest of the ingredients and start cooking the other components when the sugar reaches about 225. Combine the remaining 3 cups of water with the cornstarch and cream of tartar in a larger saucepan and whisk until the starch dissolves and no lumps remain. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil while constantly whisking — the mixture will become thick and paste-like.


When the sugar syrup reaches 240, remove it from the heat and immediately start slowly and carefully pouring it into the cornstarch mixture while whisking to incorporate. Slow whisking will help you avoid lumps.

Reduce heat and simmer on low for about an hour, whisking every 8 to 10 minutes until the candy turns a light golden color and the consistency is thick and gluey. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rose water or orange flower water and the food coloring. Pour the candy into the prepared pan and leave it uncovered to set overnight.

The next day, dust a clean counter or cutting board with powdered sugar, then lift the candy from the pan using the foil to help you. Flip it facedown into the powdered sugar, then peel the foil away and dust with more sugar. Slice the candy into small squares with an oiled knife and dust the sides of each square with additional powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Eat as soon as possible. Store in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper.

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Upcoming Events

Dec
10
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10:00 am 10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 10 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area Journey back in time and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of a Civil War Encampment during the holidays. Interact with the 10th VA Infantry, also known as the Valley Guards,[...]
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 14 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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1:00 pm The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
Dec 17 @ 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
Italia Performing Arts is pleased to announce its own student production of the seasonal ballet The Nutcracker, to be presented in Front Royal, VA, on Saturday December 17th 2022. Tickets: $35 and $25 Under 16:[...]
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Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 21 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
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Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 28 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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First Day Hikes at Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
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First Day Hikes at Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. While the American tradition of celebrating the New Year occurs at midnight on New Year’s Eve, other cultures celebrate by enjoying the sunrise on New Year’s Day. As part of the continuing American[...]
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jan 4 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]