Simple solutionThere are certain culinary arts, such as...

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December 19, 1993|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Staff Writer

Simple solution

There are certain culinary arts, such as carving meat and pouring wine, that raise fear in the hearts of the bravest home entertainer. Will the meat be hacked? Will the wine drip all over the snowy tablecloth?

For the wine-pouring problem, at least, there's a simple solution. It's called the DropStop, and it comes from Hill Marketing. It's a plain, stiff-foil disk, 3 inches in diameter, that is rolled up and placed in the neck of a wine bottle to form a pouring spout. The disks can be washed and reused.

The disks would make great stocking stuffers or thank-you gifts for all the wine lovers on your list. A package of three disks costs $3.95, plus $2 shipping and handling. Or there's a package of five envelopes (three disks each) for $18, which includes postage and handling. Make checks payable to Hill Marketing, P.O. Box 588, Glen Ellyn, Ill. 60138. Allow 10 days for shipment.

There's still time to help the hungry in America. If you have an American Express card and use it to charge purchases up to Dec. 31, American Express will donate 2 cents for each purchase to Share Our Strength, the national hunger-relief organization.

Have a helping of ham this month

Turkey holds the spotlight at Thanksgiving, but at Christmas ham takes center stage -- or so says the American Meat Institute of Arlington, Va., which figures that Americans consume 188 pounds of ham per year, more of it in December than any other month.

The folks at HoneyBaked Ham Co. say that's because in Colonial times, December was about the earliest that fall-cured ham could be enjoyed. HoneyBaked, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, has 41 retail stores across the country. (There are five in Maryland, two in the Baltimore area, at Belvedere Square in Baltimore and at 550 Governor Ritchie Highway in Severna Park.)

HoneyBaked Ham's spiral cut, hickory-smoked and honey-glazed hams cost from under $30 to about $70. To help people get the most out of their ham, HoneyBaked offers free recipes for ham soup, ham leftovers and side dishes. The recipes, printed on 3-by-5 cards for filing ease, are available in the stores or by calling (800) 394-4424.

HoneyBaked also sells ham bones -- essential in ham soup and other traditional dishes -- for $2 a pound. Here's a sample recipe:

Cheesy ham soup

Serves 10 to 12

1 ham bone

1 cup cooked ham, cubed

4-5 quarts water

2 cups potato, diced

1 cup carrots, sliced

1 cup celery, sliced

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1-1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups milk

2 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded

Place bone, water, potatoes, carrots, celery onion, salt and pepper in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and gradually whisk in the flour to make a paste, or roux. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly until the sauce is thick. eGradually add white sauce to soup. Do not boil. Add cheese and ham to soup and stir until cheese melts.

It's hard to avoid a certain amount of agonizing over Christmas pres- ents -- how much to spend, what to give, how to find the time to shop. In fact, there's a gift solution that's as close as your neighborhood supermarket. In fact, it's at your neighborhood supermarket.

It's a gift basket you put together yourself, filled with colorful, healthful fruits and vegetables, plus pretty linens, kitchen items, even a cookbook. Each basket can be tailored for the recipient -- star fruit, kiwi and bananas for a youngster, olive oil, chili pepper, peppers, onion and cumin for a chili lover.

The gift-basket idea is one of a battery of ideas from the Hypertension-Diabetes Initiative of the University of Maryland Department of Family Medicine aimed at getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables.

"They're so economical to put together," says Sarah Reese-Carter, a nurse who is a member of the department's community-outreach task force. Last week Ms. Reese-Carter teamed up with Basics-Metro supermarkets to offer in-store demonstrations on how to put together an appealing basket. "You can be so creative, and they're so healthy."

One suggestion from the demonstrations was a basket of foods high in the nutrients known as "antioxidants," which neutralize harmful substances in the body. Eating foods that are high in vitamins A, C and E and high in fiber can help ward off cancer and heart disease. An antioxidants basket Ms. Reese-Carter made up contained sweet potatoes, carrots, grapefruit, oranges, kiwi fruit, and sunflower seeds.

So many of the "treats" associated with the holidays are high in pTC sugar and fat, Ms. Reese-Carter points out. "These are some foods that you can eat during the holidays and eat plenty of," she says. "And maybe if you're filling up on them, you'll eat less of the other."

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