Food Stuff 

Can-do spirit —Instinctive Movement, a group of local artists, is launching an outreach program in support of Gleaners Food Bank & the Coalition On Temporary Shelter (COTS). It's called "The Big Payback," and local businesses will help these creative types collect food for needy families during the holiday season. Instinctive Movement is inviting people in the area to set up a food donation site for the food drive, volunteer for meal service at COTS on Saturday, Dec. 22, and to attend the Big Payback event on Friday, Dec. 21, at Northern Lights Lounge. The latter event will feature soul, funk and dance music spun by the DJ collective, hosted by songstress and emcee Monica Blaire. Get in for $3 (to help feed those in need) or a donation of canned food. For information on canned food collection or to volunteer, contact Instinctive Movement at 313-283-2744 or e-mail instinctivemoves@gmail.com.

Freeze! — Prepare-and-freeze company Entrée Vous recently celebrated the first anniversary of their "new dinner assembly concept." The "make-and-take" kitchen gives you the chance to prepare your to-go, heat-at-home meal, which can keep in the freezer until the time is right. Sounds like it could have some appeal during our overburdened holidays. At 1969 W. Maple Rd., Troy; 248-435-4977; entreevous.com

Tea heads —Some young entrepreneurs from Novi and Farmington Hills have created a line of teas, called Ono Tea. The tea-makers are marketing blends of tea for health, scientifically designed so that the premium loose-leaf tea both tastes good and confers health benefits upon the drinker. To learn more, see their new Web site at www.iloveono.com, which shows off their "Yoga Collection" and previews coming products.


EAT THE PAGE

With a name like Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth (Chronicle Books, $22.95), this book from author Jill O'Connor has an attitude we love. Envision "chocolate-caramel-pecan soufflé cake," "cinnamon-donut bread pudding," "double-crumble hot apple pies" and "giant coconut cream puffs" — all irresistible stuff to indulge in at the time of year when we cast caloric concerns to the wind, fueling New Year's resolutions to hit the gym. (They should use this book as a recruiting tool.) These decadent treats deserve, no, require, a glass of milk.


A TASTY BEVERAGE

The variety of soda brands and flavors available in the market is astounding. Yet the best and cheapest are still made at home. With a few basic ingredients and a little patience, you can make a delicious soft drink reminiscent of a simpler era. Start with an extract from Gnome Beverage. The instructions are right on the package and they offer traditional flavors like root beer, birch beer, spicy ginger and vanilla cream. Carbonation is created naturally by fermentation. Find everything you need at your local home brewing supply store or online at northernbrewer.com.


IT WORKS

A Chef's Torch is the requisite utensil for creating the caramelized, crisp crust topping on classic crème brûlée. The ultra-rich creamy custard dessert is merely a mixture of egg yolks, sugar and plenty of cream, classically infused with vanilla, and baked in a water bath. Before serving, top it with more sugar, then burn the sugar with the torch, transforming the top into a layer of crunchiness. We recently tried a version that was infused with ginger, a slight departure from the classic French original, but one that can inspire experimentation with other flavors.

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