Thursday, December 18, 2014

A LITTLE MORE CHRISTMAS CHEER....I THINK WE ALL NEED IT BADLY!












Echidna
Christmas Eve is a blink away. Stockings will be hung.  I’ve got a pair of never-worn, ladder-free pantihose. Will they do?   (The ladder is free because it’s needed for Santa’s use to climb up onto the roof).

Aussies don’t celebrate Thanksgiving; but every day we should nudge ourselves as a reminder to give thanks for every day. Easily we fall into the trap of complacency, taking too much for granted; including each other. Instead of a “pinch and a punch for the first of the month” - how about; “A daily nudge and a yank in thanks”? 

2014 has been a challenge-filled year throughout Australia and the rest of the world. We’re living in a world filled with hate, prejudice, intolerance and greed; and all mostly in the name of religion.  What a joke!  Unfortunately the joke isn’t funny, it’s tragic.

Whether the statistics prove it or not there appears to have been more “downs” than “ups” this year; more tears than laughter.  Unfortunately, the “downs” tend to remain in our mind more than the “ups”.  Decency of self; respect for one’s self, and for others, in far too many instances and areas have flown out the window.  They seem to no longer exist or be of importance in some quarters; by some folk; too many folk.

I lost a dear friend during the year. It causes me sadness; but I smile, too. My memories of the good times shared stay with me; and we did share many memorable, fun times.

With Christmas drawing nigh at a rapid rate of knots and because my cabin doesn’t have a chimney I’ve been busy chopping a hole in the roof so I can climb through it on Christmas Eve while toting a bag filled with a present for me from me and a couple for my two furry mates slung over my shoulder . I’ve thoughts of installing a fireman’s pole so I can slide down it for easy access.  A much better method than jumping I would think; far kinder on my hips that already scream out for mercy.  I guess once Christmas is over I can stick some clear plastic over the hole in the roof, turning it into a skylight.  I wonder if bubble wrap will do.  I’ve lots of bubble wrap.

I was halfway through cutting out the hole when I realised I do have a key to my door, not that I’ll need it on Christmas Eve because I will already be inside, in my bed, asleep, particularly around the bewitching hour and the wee small hours of Christmas morning when I'm meant to be depositing said presents.  I suppose I could utilize the pole. I could take up pole dancing as an exercise routine.  If I get good enough I could put on performances at the local Lawn Bowls’ Club and the Old People’s Home. 

Rather than set an alarm clock to wake me so I can stumble around outside in the darkness of night as I try to locate the non-existent ladder to enable me to climb up onto the roof etc., etc., my best plan would be to leave the Christmas gifts to me, Remy and Shama, the beverage and slice of Christmas cake on the coffee table before I go to bed. That would be the logical thing to do.  So I think I’ll go down the sensible path; the interior path.

I didn’t put up a Christmas tree, which was the rational thing to do because I don’t have a Christmas tree. And because we’ve been experiencing some wild and woolly storms of late, if it rains overnight it wouldn’t be a good idea to put the three presents and treats outside beneath one of the many trees on this property.  The wandering wood ducks, guinea fowl, bandicoots, echidnas, bower birds, foxes etc., – every diurnal and nocturnal creature combined would think all their Christmases had come at once!
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As I’ll already be inside (because that’s where my bed is) I won’t need a key to get inside; and it won’t be necessary for me to leave any food and drinks out for myself.  I can just raid my fridge if the mood takes hold!

So that’s all settled then.

In the meantime, here are some more recipes to get your taste buds a-kicking!  That’s my goal!

And, no doubt, I’ll be back between now and Christmas, but just in case you won’t be…I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, no matter what you're doing or who your doing it with!  If you’re writing to Santa please ask him for loads of love, peace and goodwill.  Don’t feel greedy about it…ask him for heaps and heaps of it! 

The percentages are that I will make another appearance before Christmas Day.  I'm just warning you!

Roasted Beetroot and Scallop Salad: Preheat oven, 180C. Place 1 bunch baby beetroot on a large sheet of foil; then enclose to form a parcel (and put it under your Christmas tree!  No…don’t do that…I’m joking)! Roast the beets for 1 hour or until the beetroot is tender; cool; then peel and cut into wedges. Make dressing: Whisk 1/4c olive oil or walnut oil, 2tbs red wine vinegar, 1tbs honey and 1tsp Dijon mustard together in a bowl; season with salt and pepper; lighten with a dash of water. Core and quarter 1 green apple; then thickly slice the apple; toss in the dressing with 2 red witlof (Belgian endive) leaves, separated and 100g rocket (arugulo) leaves; set aside.  Heat a dry fry pan over medium heat; toast 1tbs roughly-chopped walnuts; remove from pan and set aside. Brush 8-12 shelled, cleaned scallops with oil; season well with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  In batches, sear scallops in the pan for 30 seconds on each side until caramelized on the outside, but still opaque in the centre. Divide salad among plates; tuck in the scallops, beetroot and walnuts; drizzle with any remaining dressing; serve.

Christmas Wreath Salad: Slice 455g plum tomatoes. Halve some cherry or grape tomatoes. Arrange the tomatoes and 455g bocconcini around outside of large round platter to create a wreath. Spoon some fresh basil pesto** over it; season; dreizle with x-virgin olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar in the centre; garnish with fresh basil leaves.

** Basil Pesto: (You will have more pesto than needed for above recipe): Wash basil leaves; discard stems; dry thoroughly. In blender, add 2 peeled garlic cloves, 2tbs pine nuts and 1/4tsp coarse salt; process about 15 seconds.  Add 3 cups fresh basil leaves; using pulse technique, turning on and off, to shred the basil.  With machine on, drizzle in 1/2c x-virgin olive oil to create a coarse mash’ add 1/4c grated Parmesan cheese; pulse to combine.  Makes about 1 cup.  The pesto will keep up to 4 weeks, covered, in fridge. Pour thin film of olive oil on top of pesto to prevent discoloration. For longer storage, don’t add the parmesan until ready to use.  You can freeze it in ice cube trays or zip-lock bags, too.  Add the parmesan after thawing, just before serving. Pesto is great on toasted breads, baked potatoes, pizza etc.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts: Preheat oven 218C (425F). Combine 455g trimmed, halved Brussel Sprouts, 1tbs olive oil, 1/4tsp salt and 1/4ts pepper in large bowl; toss.  Spread sprouts (loose leaves as well…they crisp up nicely) in single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet; roast for 10mins. Add 1/4c coarsely-chopped pecans (or any other nuts as desired); stir. Roast 5 to 7 more minutes or until Brussels Sprouts are tender and lightly browned and the nuts are golden.  Meanwhile, combine 1/2c balsamic vinegar and 1/2c 100% apple juice in small saucepan. Bring to boil over med-high heat. Then reduce heat to medium; simmer 15mins or until thickened and reduced to about ¼ cup.  Remove from heat. Transfer the Sprout mixture to a large bowl; add 1/4c dried cranberries. Drizzle with balsamic glaze; toss until blended well; serve immediately.  (You can add diced, crisp bacon or pancetta, if desired….as a substitute for the cranberries….there’s lots of room for experimentation)!

Christmas Beef Rib-Eye Roast: Preheat oven 175C (350F). Combine 2tbs minced fresh rosemary or 2tsp dried rosemary, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1tsp salt, 1tsp dry mustard and 1tsp freshly-cracked black pepper. Sweet talk your butcher into giving you a well-trimmed small end of a beef rib-eye roast (about 2kg/4lb)…or buy one off him, if he insists!  Press half of the seasoning firmly onto the rib-eye.  Combine remaining seasoning with 2tbs oil in large bowl. Add 3 medium-sized potatoes, quartered, 2 large kumara (sweet potatoes), halved and quartered, 4 small onions, halved, some small carrots, unpeeled Jap pumpkin chunks…add whatever vegetables you feel like.  Place roast, fat side up, on rack in shallow roasting pan.  If using a meat thermometer (I never have or do) insert it into the thickest part of the beef, not resting in any of the fat on the beef. Do not add water or cover. Roast in preheated; 3/4hrs for med-rare; 2 hours for medium. After 15mins of cooking time, place vegetables on rack around the roast; roast 1-1/2hrs or until tender. Remove roast when meat is done as desired; tent with foil and let stand 15-20mins. Slice and serve with a good, rich brown gravy and vegetables. 

Christmas Orange-Maple Glazed Ham: Preheat oven 200C/180C-fan. Line large baking tray with baking paper.  Place 1/4c orange juice, 1tsp finely-grated orange zest, 1/2c maple syrup, 2tbs brown sugar, 2tbs Dijon mustard and 1tbs English mustard in saucepan over high heat; whisk to combine. Bring to boil, and cook 5mins until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Remove rind from 4-4.5kg half leg ham by pushing your fingers in between the meat and the rind, leaving a generous covering of the fat on the meat. Pull rind back as you continue to work your hand over the ham. Cut the rind off at the bone (if using that end of the ham….no need to do so if you have the rump end of the ham leg). Score fat and stud with cloves…about 50 in all. Place ham onto lined baking tray; brush liberally with the glaze. Bake 25mins; brush with remaining glaze and back a further 20-30mins, until golden brown.

Festive Fruit Salad: Bring 2/3c fresh orange juice, 1/3 fresh lemon juice, 1/3c packed brown sugar, 1/2tsp each grated lemon and orange zest to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in 1tsp vanilla extract. Set aside to cool. Gather together 2 cups cubed fresh pineapple, 2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries, 3 peeled, sliced kiwi fruit, 3 sliced bananas, 2 firm, but ripe mangoes, peeled and diced, 2 oranges, sectioned, 1c seedless grapes (green or black or combination), 2c blueberries; layer the fruit in a large, clear glass bowl in the order as given above; pour the cooled sauce over the fruit; cover and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours before serving.

Tipsy Christmas Trifle: Egg custard: place 473ml (1 pint) milk and 30g caster sugar in saucepan; bring to the boil. Separate 4 eggs; then mix the 4 egg yolks with 2 egg whites; pour the hot milk over them, stirring immediately and well. Temper the eggs by adding a little mill at first or they’ll get angry and scramble! Return to the saucepan; and stir over gentle heat with wooden spoon. When the custard runs in ribbons down the back of the spoon, strain into a big bowl; cover with dampened greaseproof paper or cling-wrap to stop a skin from forming. (That doesn’t work if you cover yourself in cling-wrap, by the way).  Grab 6 individual jam-filled sponge rolls/fingers. Spread them each with a little extra raspberry or strawberry jam.  Warm the jam to make it a little gooey/runny for easier spreading. Place in a glass dish. Crush some Amaretti biscuits or coconut macaroons/meringues; scatter on top; sprinkle over some finely-grated lemon rind. Mix together1/4c sweet sherry and 1tbls Drambuie; pour over the sponges; leave to soak. Pour the cooled custard over the sponge etc. Whip ½ to ¾ cup whipping cream until stiff; sweeten a little with icing sugar; spread over the trifle.  Sprinkle lightly toasted flaked almonds, crumbled Amaretti/coconut macaroons or meringues, some crushed pistachios and fresh raspberries or strawberries over top for garnish. Refrigerate overnight.  Silver “hundreds & thousands” can be sprinkled over the top, too, just before serving, for a bit of extra Christmas cheer.

I'll write and post Chapter Five of my cat stories when Christmas has passed....

39 comments:

  1. Hmm ~ balsamic roasted brussel sprouts sound promising to me. I should do something special, but sitting here in the shopping centre (killing time while my car gets fixed) I am wondering what all the fuss is about. Have I become bah humbug? I think I have Lee. If I don't see you in the next week, may your Christmas be relaxing and peaceful. Carol in Cairns x

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  2. Don't worry, Carol. I'm feeling similar. I'm not at all in the "Christmas spirit" - and I'm not doing anything special.

    I've got half a leg ham in my fridge; and I'll be living on ham and cold salads. I did buy some local green prawns on Wednesday..and tossed them into my freezer. When and if I feel like it, I'll cook something for myself using them (or some of them). I always have more than an ample supply of fresh fruit on hand...I always have ample supplies of everything to cover my two furry mates and me. So my intentions for Christmas are very, very low-key. It will only be me and my two rascals...and this is of my own choosing. I'll enjoy it just chilling doing what I normally do on any given day. I made a couple of Christmas cakes a few weeks ago...just the good old boiled fruit cake...and that's about it. :)

    Thanks for dropping in...and I hope you and your lad have a wonderful Christmas, too. Stay cool...stay relaxed...and just enjoy it how you want to enjoy your time...no hassles. :)

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  3. Happy Christmas Lee - and a much, much happier year for you, for Remy and Shama and indeed for everyone.
    I am feeling a bit bah humbugish myself. We have a self invited guest on Christmas Day who tells us he will probably leave on Boxing Day - or perhaps the day after. Fish and visitors smell after three days and some of them before...
    Just the same I will have a huge bowl of fruit salad and a glass or two of bubbly when I get back from Lifeline on Christmas Day. And any day with fruit salad and bubbles is a good day.

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  4. Hahahaha,,,I know what you mean about visitors, EC! You're becoming too much like me! Stop it! lol

    It's been a terrible year, hasn't it? And now I hear just a little while ago on the news that eight children in Cairns have been found stabbed to death in their home. Oh! Dear! The horrors; the tragedies keep coming and coming. I'm lost for words...and my heart is heavy.

    My very best wishes to you, The Skinny One and your two furry rascals, too. Have a very Merry Christmas..relax and enjoy it the way you wish to. I'll be doing similar here...very low-key...just me and my rascals. :) Take good care and thanks for coming by.

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  5. So you've decided against chopping a hole in your roof?
    Damn. I was looking forward to photos of sunlight filtered through bubble wrap.
    Have a great Christmas!

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  6. Yeah...with all the wild storms we've been having lately, it's probably a good decision, River.

    You and Angel have a wonderful Christmas, too, River. Take good care and thanks for coming in. :)

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  7. Merry Christmas to you too Lee. Is it age that makes us all a bit bah humbug do you think? Probably it's the absence of little children, they make it all exciting.
    We are expecting 15 on the day including the Japanese inlaws of my nephew. They don't speak any English so there's going to be a lot of bowing I guess ! As long as it isn't too hot. Heat completely spoils the day for me but I like the family gathering together. We'll be doing cold salads and the lovely whole leg of ham - best thing about Christmas in my opinion. I look forward to Boxing Day with the leftovers and lounging around relaxing. Cheers !

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  8. It is children who make Christmas, I think, Helsie. Their happy, expectant little faces in the morning...and their joy throughout the day.

    I used to always put on a massive Christmas lunch...once upon a time...but no more. I've professionally catered for a few, too. These days I play it very low-key...but I still enjoy it, my way.

    I'll never do a hot Christmas lunch ever again...I used to...and like you, usually for 14 or so; and that was after open house in the morning when people would visit for a couple of drinks of good cheers before moving onto whatever else they were doing. I think I've gotten wiser as I've gotten older...in some things, anyway! :)

    I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas, Helsie. Thanks for coming in. :)

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  9. What you should have done was post the presents to yourself and then you wouldn't know when they would arrive. You could have left the parcel on the table (Postie having acted as Santa) and opened it on Christmas morning. Saves all that hole cutting and ladder stuff! :)

    Based on your pictures I'm dreaming of a red christmas. Have a happy one - whatever you do.

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  10. Yes, AJ...but it would've cost me the postage! ;)

    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, too...enjoy your time with your loved ones. Thanks for dropping by...take care. :)

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  11. Hey Cosmos...Cheers backatcha! I hope you and your family have a lovely Christmas...stay cool...relax and enjoy. Thanks for popping in. :)

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  12. Never been much for wine. Would beer and whisky suffice?

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  13. This sentence make me laugh out load ~ 'As I’ll already be inside (because that’s where my bed is) I won’t need a key to get inside; and it won’t be necessary for me to leave any food and drinks out for myself. I can just raid my fridge if the mood takes hold!'

    And by the way, if you happen to take up pole dancing as an exercise routine, please let me know how it goes! :))

    A most humorous post, Lee :))

    PS Good to have a laugh because like you say, there's too much bloody tragedy in this world. So here's to a daily nudge and a yank in thanks!

    PPS Love that quote about 'Dreaming of a White Christmas ...!! Cheers to red or white :)

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  14. Take it from me, stay away from the ladder! In fact stay away from the roof.

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  15. Just how much Brandy went into that Brandy Butter you were making Lee?

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  16. Hi, Jerry...I think I left the options pretty much wide open. :)

    Thanks for popping. :)

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  17. G'day Wendy...I'm glad I made you smile and laugh. God knows we need more of that lately, don't we? What a horrendous week, this week alone, has been.

    When I have the guts to let go of the pole and slide down, I'll let you know how it was! lol

    Thanks for coming by. :)

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  18. Yes, Dexter...heed your own advice. No being Santa Claus for you this Christmas. Keep both of your feet firmly planted on the ground...do you hear????????

    Thanks for dropping (oops) in. :)

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  19. Hmmmm....now that you've brought the subject up, Mr. Ad-Man...I'd better get myself a bottle of brandy. I've rum and Scotch...and wine...and Frangelico, Kahlua and port; and beer...but no brandy. Sounds like a dry old time to me!

    Thanks for popping in. :)

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  20. Don't be surprised if I show up on your porch for Christmas dinner, this all sounds wonderful and definitely looks so delicious. I was particularly impressed with the Christmas wreath, very festive and colorful. I just know you'd be the local hit with your pole dancing, ha.l My three cats say hi to your's. and our weather is predicting a bit of snow for Christmas and I am hoping we get it, it would be welcome instead of all the dreary cloudy rainy days we're having.

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  21. G'day Linda. Don't let me fool you with the many recipes. There is no way I'm going to all that trouble. I intend it to be a very low-key, relaxed Christmas, yet an enjoyable one for me and my two rascals. Seafood, ham and salads for me...and I'm going to make myself a small trifle....just a small one. :)

    Thanks for coming in...please don't be a stranger. :)

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  22. Greetings! Hope you have a great time in The North! I still miss the cold at Christmas - you can take the boy of of…………etc

    Hope you have a good Christmas.

    cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  23. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, too, Stewart. My best wishes to you and your family...put a block of ice in your lounge room...that should do it! ;)

    Thanks for coming by. :)

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  24. Hey, I think I am going to make your Festive Fruit Salad!
    It all looks and sounds so good!
    Merry Christmas to you!

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  25. And goodness me, I just noticed that I neglected to "follow" you! Okay, now it is done! Sorry about that, the things I forget to do!!.

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  26. G'day Kay....not a problem re the " forgetting to follow" bit. I did leave a breadcrumb trail and I knew you'd pick up on it eventually! :)

    I'll be eating loads of fresh fruit over Christmas...but then, every day is Christmas Day with me when it comes to fruit!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family, too. Have a good one! Thanks for your good wishes. :)

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  27. A Very Merry Christmas to you, my dear Lee----and a Happy New Year, too!
    Thanks for your lovely words and I wish all of the same for you in the coming year!

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  28. Thank you, Naomi. I'll raise a glass of good cheer your way. You have yourself a lovely Christmas whatever your plans are and with whom...take good care. Thanks for coming by. :)

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  29. You know, if you're into chopping holes in houses, I have a few to send your way!

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  30. Holes or houses, RK? lol

    Have yourself a very Merry Christmas...relax and enjoy. :)

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  31. Lovely pictures of food. This year we are also invited to a Danish christmas, which is on Christmas eve. We are having family over after Christmas, and your festive fruit salad looks just the ticket. I think I'd better diet the other days of Christmas!

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  32. I meant to add, have a lovely Christmas, Lee!

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  33. I'm a fan of white wine, too, but will also drink red (which I hear is better for you.) :) I love your stories and the food! My goodness that all looks good.

    Merry Christmas, Lee!

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  34. Hey there Jenny...it sounds like you're going to have a lovely Christmas...twice. I wish you a very Merry Christmas....I hope you enjoy every moment with your loved ones and friends. Thanks for your good wishes. :)

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  35. Hi Lynn...I enjoy a chilled white wine, as long as it's dry, but, given the choice, I prefer red wine. I love my reds. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are my favourites; and a good Merlot or Pinot Noir for a lunch never go astray, either.

    I'm glad you enjoy my stories etc., Lynn...that's nice to know. Thanks for coming in. I wish you a very Merry Christmas...I hope you have a wonderful time with your family and loved ones. Take good care. :)

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  36. Thanks for the much-needed Xmas cheer and I hope you have a very merry time, Lee. x

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  37. Thank you, Pat...my good wishes back to you. :)

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  38. I have just downloaded iStripper, so I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.

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