Merry Christmas to All ~ 2012

snowflake.jpgThe house is decorated, the tree is up, cards sent.

 

Presents wrapped, Christmas pudding made, wine chilling, duck in the fridge.

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChef P is out doing his Christmas shopping today…ah, Mr. Procrastinator!

So while he is out, I’ve been able to sit and relax a bit before tomorrow.  My mother-in-law is coming over so it will be a quiet day for just the three of us.  Later in the day however, We’ll be doing a Skype call with my parents and brother and sis-in-law and niece who have traveled to Washington DC for the holidays where they are renting a holiday home.

We had a bit of Christmas Cheer here on Saturday night and had invited a few people over.  I made masses of food and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves….

Lots of nosh! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy Happy New Year, from my kitchen to yours!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Cocktail ~ Hot Buttered Rum

Wow, can you believe it?  Christmas is just around the corner now and I’m sure many of you are still in frenzy-mode trying to get those last minute items taken care of; I know I am!  The holidays can be a wee bit hectic with all of the gift buying and wrapping, cooking, decorating, entertaining and those annoying wonderful Christmas tunes we hear everywhere we go on constant mind-numbing repeat.

Drinking a mug of hot buttered rum is like settling down in an armchair in front of the fire with a toasting fork, except that it’s all in a mug.  It also contains maple syrup which is scientifically proven to make everything all better!

HOT BUTTERED RUM

1 tsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp maple syrup
½ tsp ground allspice
50ml/2fl oz golden rum
apple juice, warmed, to top up
cinnamon stick, to garnish                                                                                                                                   whipped cream
freshly grated nutmeg, to garnish

Place the butter into your favorite coffee mug (a clear glass one if you have it), then add the maple syrup, allspice and rum.

Top up with warmed apple juice and mix it in with a spoon until the butter has melted and emulsified in the liquid (like mixing a salad dressing).

Using a lighter or gas hob/stove, lightly warm the cinnamon stick (be careful not to burn it).

Add the cinnamon stick as a stirrer, top with whipped cream and garnish with fresh grated nutmeg.

Sit back and enjoy your mug of comfort.

hot-buttered-rum

Christmas Cocktails ~ Atholl Brose

ATHOLL BROSE

Atholl Brose became one of Queen Victoria’s favourite drinks after she first encountered it in 1842, in Dunkeld, near Perth. Not the thick Hogmanay dessert, this streamlined variation is an update on the centuries-old original.

AthollBrose

500g (17 ½oz) thick-cut porridge oats
700ml (24fl oz) whisky
225g (8oz) heather honey (or any other honey)
100ml (3½fl oz) boiling water
300ml (10fl oz) single cream

Place the porridge oats and whisky in a large jar to soak overnight.

In a second jar, combine the heather honey and boiling hot water. Stir until the honey is completely dissolved. Add the single cream and stir.

Wring the oatmeal and whisky mixture through muslin or press through a fine strainer into the cream mixture. Stir to combine. Refrigerate to chill.

You can pour the mixture into clean, sterile stopper bottles for serving, if you prefer. Shake before serving.

Food Gifts ~ Candied Clementines

I’m always looking for new and unusual things to make for the markets, particularly the Christmas Craft Fairs.  One of them I’m doing on the 8th is going to be situated at a hand-made shop; no, I don’t mean the shop is handmade, but that they sell handmade items!  So I thought it appropriate that I have some different homemade items other than my preserves and chutneys.

I found a recipe a few weeks ago for Candied Clementine Slices.  The picture with the recipe had them set into a pretty gift box so I decided this would be a nice item to have on offer at the fair.

It’s a fairly straight forward and easy recipe; it just takes a good bit of time: 2 hours simmering, 2 hours baking plus an hour for drying prior to dipping in chocolate.

***Candied Clementine Slices***

  • 600g (1½ lbs – about 9 fruit) clementines
  • 1 kg (2 lbs) granulated sugar
  • 500ml (17fl oz) cold water
  • 5-6 Tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
  • 100g (3½ oz) dark chocolate

♣ Cut the clementines into thin slices (about 4-5 per fruit) and discard the ends.

Sliced Clementines

♣ Put the granulated sugar into a large pan with the water and heat gently, stirring until dissolved.  Bring to a boil and let bubble for 5 minutes.

Sugar syrup - pre-boil

Boiling sugar syrup

♣ Add the fruit slices, lower the heat and give it a little stir.  Simmer for 2 hours, carefully stirring occasionally, until the peel is translucent and tender.

Clementines in sugar syrup

♣ While the fruit is simmering, line two baking trays with nonstick baking paper and set aside.

♣ Preheat the oven to a low setting (gas ¼, 110°C, fan 90°C, 230°F).

♣ Using a fork, transfer the slices to the lined baking trays in a single layer.  Bake for 2 hours.

In the oven!

♣ Put the caster sugar into a bowl.  Leaving the oven on, remove only one tray from the oven at a time.  Dip each slice into it and place on a wire rack to dry for 1 hour.  You’ll need to work a bit quickly for this step because the slices will start to dry on the baking sheet and the sugar won’t stick.  If that happens, put the tray back into the oven while you work on the other tray.

♣ If not needed immediately, store the slices in an airtight container.  I put them in single layers separated by greaseproof paper.

Drying...

♣ Shortly before giving, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Dip the slices into the chocolate to cover half.

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♣ Place on a tray lined with nonstick baking paper, leave to set at room temperature, then gift wrap as desired.  I put about 9 slices (100g) into a disposable mini loaf pan lined with a doily, put each one into a decorative bag and folded down, taped and then put ribbon and a Christmas sticker.

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Have fun with these on the decorating and gift wrapping.  If giving these to a foodie, perhaps wrap them and put them into a cookie canister or a pretty serving bowl to give to the recipient.  Give with a bottle of Port or Whiskey.  How about with some tea leaves and tea cups?  The possibilities are endless…just use your imagination!

These make great little gifts for perhaps your neighbors, the babysitter, the mailman, the paperboy, your child’s teacher, your hairdresser or dentist or your favorite clerk at the bank.  Going to a party this holiday season?  Bring some of these to your hostess along with a small candle or bottle of their favorite wine.  Who would you give these to?

♥♥  Terri  ♥♥

Christmas Drinks ~ Homemade Eggnog

Eggnog.

As much a staple for an American Christmas as Christmas Pudding is for a British Christmas.

And it’s for this very reason that I am not able to find eggnog in this country, at least not yet.  In the States you can find eggnog in cartons in the dairy section of your local supermarket.

It was always a part of our Christmas celebrations.  I remember one Christmas that is was a BIG part of my and my sister-in-law’s celebrations!  It was early years, before my niece came along.  We were celebrating Christmas at a place called Timberline Lodge in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania.  It has since closed down, but we had many a good time there.

We were in one of the cabins that was able to sleep all of us (my parents, brother and Sis-in-law and me and my ex-husband) and included a full kitchen and a fireplace.  We would bring all the tree decorations, gifts, food; you name it, we brought it as we were usually there for about 4-5 days over Christmas.  We’d even buy a tree once we got there…we usually left mom to do the haggling as she could always chew the guy down on the price!

On this occasion, we decided to make an Eggnog Punch.  (Forewarning:  Not for the calorie conscious!)

eggnog

eggnogice

Another item that you can get in the States is eggnog ice cream.  So we got a half gallon of the ice cream, a couple of quarts of eggnog and the most important item…the rum….dark rum.  Yup, three simple ingredients.  I think we started with just one quart of the eggnog and added probably a third of the ice cream and then poured in the rum a bit at a time.  Of course we had to keep tasting it to get it myersright!

I think we just about finished it off between the two of us on Christmas Eve.  Mind you, we were both worse for wear the next morning but as they say, hair of the dog, so we made more for Christmas Day!

Now for those of you in the good old U.S of A., this will be easy for you to do.  For those of us without the possibility of obtaining two of the three items listed, you can make your own.

I’m sure there’s lots of recipes out there, but this is the one I’ve chosen.  Make this ahead of time so the flavors have a chance to mix while you keep it chilled before serving.  Serve it in a large punch bowl so everyone can help themselves.

***Homemade Eggnog***

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 90g (1/3 C) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 315ml (1¼ C) hot milk
  • 125ml (½ C) dark rum (or white rum if you can’t find dark)
  • 125ml (½ C) double (heavy) cream
  • Grated nutmeg for sprinkling

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl until light and fluffy.  Slowly add the hot milk and stir to combine.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, then reduce the heat until simmering.  Place the bowl over the simmering water and stir with a wooden spoon for about 5-10 minutes or until the mixture thickens and lightly coats the back of the spoon.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Stir in the rum.  Beat cream and the egg whites in SEPARATE bowls until soft peaks form.  Fold half of the cream into the milk/rum mixture, then fold in half the egg whites.  Fold in the remaining cream and then the remaining egg whites.

eggnogBowlPour the mixture into a punch bowl or serving glasses and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Enjoy!

♥♥ Terri ♥♥

Are you Ready for Christmas??

Christmas is a wonderful time of year for getting together with family and friends, enjoying great food, listening to favorite holiday tunes, decorating the house and exchanging gifts.  It’s also a terrible time for encountering stress along the way.

Even for the most experienced cook, hosting the family Christmas meal can seem a bit daunting.  With a bit of forward planning, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the festivities, and treat your guests to some really special food.  With only four weeks to go, hopefully you’re already on your way to planning the big meal.  Here’s some tips for your preparation…
Do a Kitchen Inventory ~

Make sure you’ve got enough cutlery and crockery for all of your guests.  Making the traditional turkey?  Make sure you’ve got a roasting tin big enough to hold it.  Stock up on turkey foil and greaseproof paper.  Don’t forget napkins, wine glasses and candles.

Confirm your Guest List ~

Get a proper count of the number of people you’ll be feeding.  Does anyone have any special dietary needs?  Any vegetarians?  Your guests will appreciate your concern and everyone will be happy.

Plan your Menu ~

Once you know who you’re cooking for, you can start to plan your menu for the day.  Start making a shopping list of everything you’ll need.  Go through all your recipes and make sure you’ve got everything, including any special pans you may need.  Put your order in to the butcher for your turkey or other meat such as a beef roast, ham or in our case, a duck!

Start your Cooking Early ~

Anything that can be made ahead of time is worth doing, be it a Christmas Pudding or Cake, mince pies or cookie dough.  These can all be made ahead and stored in the freezer until needed.

Shop now to Save Money ~

If you plan your menu early, you’ll have plenty of time to hunt down money-saving deals on everything you’ll need. Shop around now for a well-priced turkey, and make the most of bulk-buy deals on wine, beer and spirits.  And save yourself some more stress….leave the kids home with your spouse or the grandparents while you go do the shopping.

These are just a few things to get you started if you haven’t already.

These ideas pertain mainly to the food, but what other things do you do to plan ahead?

Can you add to this list? How do you stay stress-free for the holidays?  Please share your thoughts!

♥♥Terri ♥♥