Question: I will be entertaining two guests over the holidays who are recovering alcoholics, and I need some guidelines on what to serve. So many of the holiday recipes call for wine or liquor. Is it OK to serve pies, cakes, cookies, etc. made with liquor? If not, what may I substitute for those ingredients?
Answer: Most recovering alcoholics we spoke with agreed that alcohol burns off when foods are cooked, leaving only the flavor. Some saw no problem with serving such foods; others felt even taste can be a psychological trigger and therefore those foods should be avoided.
A representative at the Alcoholism Council of Los Angeles suggested openly discussing the menu with your guests ahead of time. If you prefer not to do this, be certain to alert them to any foods containing alcohol.
Foods inappropriate to serve include fruitcakes or steamed puddings soaked in alcohol after baking, hard sauces, rum balls, uncooked candies or cookies, and non-alcoholic wines and beers. White or red grape juice, sparkling cider and rum or brandy extracts may be used as substitutes for alcohol.
One member of Alcoholics Anonymous shared his recipe for an appropriate beverage with a festive look: A.A. COCKTAIL
1 ounce thawed cranberry juice concentrate
1 ounce orange juice
Combine cranberry juice concentrate and orange juice in glass. Add ice. Fill glass with tonic water. Makes 1 serving.
Q: I have two popover pans. I've used the recipes that came with them and had wonderful success until lately. Now they do not puff up and are no longer as hollow as they should be. What am I doing wrong?
A: If you have not changed any of your recipe ingredients or methods, it sounds as if the problem may be your oven. You might use an oven thermometer to check that the temperature is accurate. Perhaps the thermostat is not working properly.
Q: It puzzles me that I can't make popcorn at home that tastes like what I get at theaters. I either don't get a good flavor or it turns out tough. I've been using a butter-flavored oil and popcorn seasoning--each alone or with butter. I use a saucepan with high heat. I'd appreciate any tips you can give me.
A: It's impossible to exactly duplicate the type of popcorn sold in theaters because of the equipment used, but Williams-Sonoma carries a Theater Popcorn Popper and popping corn that are supposed to produce a close facsimile.
The popper, which sells for $16, is used on top of the stove, with or without oil. A crank mechanism activates the stirring paddle to heat the corn evenly and ensure that the kernels pop. The five-pound burlap bags of popping corn sell for $8 and come with 40 red-and white-striped paper bags for serving the popped corn.
A Williams-Sonoma representative, who admitted to being a popcorn freak, says she uses hazelnut or avocado oil in the popper to give subtle flavor changes to the popped corn. The store also sells other types of popping corn, which have been tested in the Theater Popcorn Popper with good results.
In response to the Nov. 28 You Asked About . . . column on canned black beans, there has been a flood of responses. According to readers, canned black beans may be found in the Mexican food sections of Giant Supermarkets, Mayfair Markets and Safeway Stores. Latin American food markets are another source, as well as some Chinese food stores. One reader even reported seeing cans of the beans at his local K Mart department store.