Seen on Sunday morning: December 23rd

December 24, 2007 7:19:22 AM PST


A favorite gift this holiday season -- gift baskets full of goodies, but sometimes, you're just not sure what to do with some of the more unusual items.

With us this morning with some ideas is Chef James Briscione from ICE, the Institute of Culinary Education.

Basket 1: "Adam and Eve" Fruit Basket
Hidden Treasure No. 1 - Pomegranates
Dish: Arugula Salad with pomegranate vinaigrette

  • Pomegranates can be intimidating because their delicious flavor is contained in seeds which may seem difficult to access. Simply cut the fruit and scoop out the contents
  • I have chosen to use them in pomegranate vinaigrette and as a colorful garnish in an arugula salad which also contains shaved cauliflower and Locatelli cheese
  • The salad not only is beautiful but it has a great balance of textures and flavors from the peppery arugula and the thin, crisp cauliflower, to the creamy Locatelli cheese and the tart pomegranate seeds

    Basket 2: "Mulberry Street" Italian Specialties Basket
    Hidden Treasure No. 2 - Pesto
    Dish: "Pepped-up Soup with Pesto"

  • In an Italian basket, you'll often find a bottle of Pesto. It is made from fresh basil, garlic, and olive oil. Because basil has such a bold flavor profile, many people shy away from an entire dish of pesto sauce
  • Whenever I get a jar of pesto I like to punch it up a bit by adding some chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds. I also add a couple tablespoons of good olive oil which helps make it a little less paste-like
  • Pesto is a quick way to freshen up or liven up any dish. Instead of pouring it over a dish of pasta, I have chosen to use it in a hearty soup for the cold weather like in this vegetable soup

    Basket 3: "High Roller" Basket
    Hidden Treasure No. 3 - Truffle infused risotto and truffle infused oil
    Dish: Arancini

  • Truffles are always a treat because they are so expensive and decadent. This year was a record setting year price wise, with truffles priced at over $900.00 /lb for black truffles and over $3200.00 /lb. for white truffles. They have a rich and earthy flavor that is prized by professional chefs the world over
  • Since most of us can't afford individual truffles, we can enjoy the essence of truffles in great products like this. But how do you use them?
  • Left over risotto can be drizzled with truffle oil and rolled into Arancini or "rice balls."
  • They're crisp on the outside and contain warm, melted cheese on the inside. A great light meal, paired with the arugula salad or served as an appetizer

    Basket 4: "Gourmet Supreme" Basket
    Hidden Treasure No. 4 - Specialty Mustards and Roasted Nuts
    Dish: Pistachio-Encrusted Loin of Venison, aka: "Venison Sushi"

  • Condiments like mustards and spreads in gourmet gift baskets are fun to experiment with
  • Let's take the Champagne Shallot Mustard and roasted Pistachio Nuts
  • Use the mustard as an adhesive to meats to bind bread crumbs, grated cheese or other coatings
  • Chopped nuts make a great coating for your meats and their rich flavor and rough texture will enhance everything from beef to pork, chicken to lamb

    Basket 5: "Traditional Holiday" Basket
    Hidden Treasure No. 5- Panettone
    Dish: Panettone Panzanella

  • Panettone is a traditional holiday cake from Italy that contains delicious bits of candied lemon and orange peel
  • It usually comes in a beautiful box and like most of our hidden treasures, most people don't know how to enjoy it, other than to slice it up and eat it plain
  • Our panzanella dessert is a variation of bread pudding
  • It should be served warm and you can garnish it with vanilla ice cream or gelato or some marscapone cheese
  • It's a true comfort food and an easy recipe to enjoy with your family
  • It also makes a great base for French Toast or sweet Panini sandwiches

    For more information, go to

    -----WINE BOUQUET-----

    Wine - presented as a gift a little of your own personality, with us this morning with some creative ideas for wine bouquets is lifestyle expert and author of Life on Mar's, Mar Jennings.

  • A good quality bottle of wine without a price tag. Ask your liquor store for help when selecting a bottle for a gift.
  • Raffia
  • Garden string
  • A package of Moss (available at any garden center or craft shop)
  • Flower or evergreen clippings from your yard or garden center.
  • 1/4" satin ribbon


  • Take your bottle and place it on the side (be careful that it does not roll off the table). I place a large book on each side to support the bottle from rolling.
  • Break off a handful of moss the size of your palm and place it on the bottle stem. Take your garden string and tie the moss tightly to the bottle. Now, we will build from here.
  • Take your clippings and flowers and secure them on the moss by tying the garden string around the throat of the bottle.
  • Wrap the raffia around the throat of the moss covered bottle and over the flowers and clippings and tie a small bow about 4-5 inches for a whimsical look.
  • Lastly, add a silk bow around the bottle.

    For more information, visit at

    -----TAX RETURN-----

    We're nearing the end of the year and that means it's time to get organized and get together your 2007 tax return. Joining us with some tips is Ginger Broderick, CPA and president of Broderick & Company, CPAs.

    How do I get Started in Preparing my Tax Return?
    Get organized. Review your prior years tax return and make sure you have all the same documents from the previous year, i.e.:

  • W2s
  • 1099 documents for Interest and Dividends
  • Pension Distributions or Rollovers
  • Unemployment Compensation Statements
  • Mortgage Interest & Real Estate Tax Documents
  • K-1 statements on Investments.
  • Charitable Contributions
  • Receipts for Unreimbursed Employer Expenses

    What do I do If I find Mistakes in these Documents?
    You must review all documents for possible errors. There are frequent mistakes in W2s and 1099 Interest and Dividend Statements. Contact the companies that issue the information and request corrected documents. Do this as soon as possible. Many people wait until the last minute and can't get their information because the companies are too busy processing other requests. Many companies switch payroll service providers during the year or do system upgrades. During the process, numbers could 'drop' or get reassigned to other accounts. You need to keep your paystubs throughout the whole year and compare it to your year-end W2 in order to verify all of the money that was withheld in taxes was actually credited to you in your filing document to the government agencies. The same is true for interest and dividend you need to keep records in order to prove your position in correcting errors.

    Have the Tax Laws Changed very much for This Year?
    Tax Laws are always changing and it's hard to keep up with everything, especially since many proposed amendments do not get finalized. It is always best to review the instruction booklet that summarizes how new laws may effect you.

    Frequent changes in tax law generally affect the following:

  • IRA Deductions
  • Self-Employment Health Insurance
  • Higher Education Tuition Deductions
  • Standard Mileage Rates
  • Standard Deductions
  • Exemption Amounts

    Major important changes include the following:

  • Charitable contributions: New record keeping requirements for cash contributions. You can not deduct a cash contribution unless you keep a record of the contribution in the form of a cancelled check, bank statement defining the charity or written communication from the charity.
  • Earned income Credit Amounts Increase: The amount of earned income and credits has increased based on your filing status and number of children dependents.
  • Income Limits have increased for taking a Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits: You can take a Tuition Deduction for educational costs or take Education credits on your tax return based on your income.
  • Increase in business-related mileage: The standard mileage rate has increased to 48.5 cents per mile.
  • Increase in medical and move-related mileage: The cost of operating your car for medical reasons or a deductible move is 20 cents per mile.
  • Charitable mileage remains the same at 14 cents per mile.
  • Whisleblower Fees: If you receive an award from the IRS for information provided after December 19, 2006 that substantially contributes to the detection of violations of tax laws by the IRS, you can deduct attorney fees and court costs paid by you in connection of the award.

    Save time and money by being organized. Make an appointment with your accountant as soon as possible. Draft your own tax return and compare the result with your CPA as well. Question any differences and file timely. If you can't pay the taxes that are owed, you can request an installment.

    -----WOMEN OF WORTH-----

    A true inspiration, one local woman has gone from being a homeless foster child to a student at Harvard business school.

    Shamika Lee has used that experience and is helping others at Graham Windham - a foster care, adoption and family services organization. She's now one of 13 honored across the nation as L'Oreal's women of worth. Shamika is with us this morning.

    What is the Women of Worth Initiative?
    The Women of Worth initiative, sponsored by L'Oreal Paris, recognizes the achievements of women who are committed to distinguishing their own lives by making a difference in the lives of others.

    You were honored for your long-term volunteering efforts for Graham Windham, a local foster care. I was chosen as a L'Oreal Woman of Worth Honoree for my long-term volunteering efforts and the new programs I created for Graham Windham, a foster care, adoption and family services organization located in New York City with branches in the surrounding boroughs.

    - I was specifically recognized as a Woman of Worth National Honoree for the consistency and dedication to volunteering and creating positive changes for the foster children at Graham Windham, such as:
  • The Annual Holiday Gift Drive
  • Adopt-a-Family Holiday Drive
  • Starting a new clothing drive partnering with local dept stores for children who first enter Graham Windham with only the clothes on their back
  • Running workshops and providing guidance for the foster children
  • Serving on the Board of Directors

    You are very familiar with the foster care system.
    I grew up in the foster care system at Graham Windham, and I wanted to make positive changes so no child would ever feel left out with no new clothes or gifts during the holidays and beyond.

  • As one of the 13 Women of Worth Honorees, I received $2500 for Graham Windham and another $2500 was matched in my name for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. The grand prize winner from Oklahoma, won the grand prize of $25,000 for the Hugs campaign.

    Tips for Volunteering

  • Choose a cause you are passionate about - You will put forth your best efforts with something that is meaningful to you
  • Research and learn about the organizations that interest you.
  • Seek places you are familiar with - like your local church or synagogue that may offer desirable opportunities.
  • Seek opportunities to use your skills - (whether it be bookkeeping or teaching dance classes to seniors, your skills and knowledge will be put to good use.
  • Help out with seasonal volunteering needs. (Many organizations need extra help around Thanksgiving, Christmas with local coat drives, food banks serving the homeless, etc. Your help will be appreciated.

    Information on nominating your "Woman of Worth" for 2007 click here.

    -----HOLIDAY MAKEUP-----

    As you're preparing to see your loved ones this holiday season, we want you to feel your best. So, joining us this morning with some beauty tips is beauty expert, Cynde Watson. She was Miss New Jersey in 1992!

    For more information, go to or