Tuesday, December 23, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS! FELIZ NAVIDAD! BUONE FESTE NATALIZIE! FRÖHLICHE WEIHNACHTEN! JOYEUX NOEL!




  
I refuse to be politically correct – not now – not ever!  It’s the Season - you know which one - not only to be jolly, but to be absolutely, completely and totally politically-incorrect!  So, Merry Christmas to you one, two and all! 

As the Irish would say; “Nollaig Shona Dhuit” or “Nodlaig mhaith chugnat” to you; and, in their infinite wisdom and generosity the Scots would offer; “Share a wee dram with me!  Nollaig chridheil huibh!”  

I could go on and on and on, but I do believe you understand where I’m coming from!  

I won’t stop wishing everyone whose path I cross a “Merry Christmas”! (And even those I don’t…I can shout out very loudly when I need to do so – once I get rid the frog that sometimes takes up residence in my throat, that is) - 

Remy and Shama are not yet aware that I have a special gift for them; a shiny new stainless steel food bowl, into which I will add a few special, deluxe cans of fish; unopened, of course.  Naturally, they always have fresh meat for their dinner – nothing but the best will do for Lord and Lady Muck!  For breakfast, they of the furry variety have canned fish; never canned meats of any description!  Oh! No! Definitely not canned meat!  That just would not do!  Canned meat…yuck!  You must be kidding!

I have a feeling they know something is brewing.  To my readers in the Northern Hemisphere, as I write, it’s already Christmas Eve morning here in the wonderful Land of Oz.  As is the normal practice, I let Remy and Shama out for their morning run, but this morning they were back in a flash, within five minutes.  I think they’re taking turns…doing a little shift work…keeping their eyes on the fridge; they didn’t want to be away from it for too long.

On the subject of Christmas presents for my cats…here is a brief tale about Ruska, one of the stars of my ongoing story about the cats who (which/that if you insist on be pedantic) have played important roles in my life, and me in theirs - (my cat story will continue after the Christmas Season has passed).

Randall and I always opened our presents on Christmas Eve…late on Christmas Eve.  I’d prepare a special dinner for the two of us over which we'd enjoy some pre-Christmas good cheer, and late into the night we'd attack our Christmas gifts like two overgrown, impatient kids.

Our home was always open house Christmas morning.  Friends would flow in and out enjoying a glass or two of all that was on offer while they flowed, before going on their way to other predestined venues.   

Our Christmas lunch followed when the last transient visitor departed.  Lunch usually kicked off between 1.30 to 2 pm. Inevitably it always was a lengthy, leisurely affair. We usually had 14 or 15 guests at our Christmas table; and some others would pop in after they’d finished their own lunches, to partake in a celebratory drink or two before moving onto other grazing pastures. 

Our Christmas fare consisted of all the usual suspects…roast stuffed turkey, as well as roast stuffed chicken, along with roast pork, glazed ham, roasted vegetables, cauliflower and broccoli au gratin, green peas, rich home-made gravy; to be topped off with a rich Christmas pudding, brandy custard, ice cream, and…of course…trifle (topped with lashings of whipped cream aka Chantilly Cream aka Crème Chantilly)…and a fresh fruit salad, just in case I didn’t have enough food to cater to the hordes!  "The whole catastrophe" as Zorba the Greek would say.   

It’s a weakness I have; one I’ve never been able to shake.  I’ve always catered more than enough to cover not only the Army, but the Navy and Air Force included! So there was never any fear of not having enough vittles!

Come Christmas night food was the last thing on our mind!  And I'd had cooking up to "here"!

But…I’ve digressed, as usual…back to Christmas Eve and Ruska.  I know you probably won’t believe this., but it's okay - I’m used to that reaction.  The majority of times when I’ve told the story I’ve received strange looks…stranger than the ones I usually receive. 

Every Christmas Randall and I gave each other many presents, not just one each.  We were like big kids…we liked receiving lots of small gifts. (And between my birthday in November and Christmas I always received a year's supply of perfume)!   

With a glass of Scotch each, Randall and I would plonk ourselves on the floor in front of our Christmas tree ready and eager to begin opening our presents. Amongst the goodies under our Christmas tree there'd be a present for Ruska; and he knew it was there!  Ruska would sit with us and when I pushed across his present to him, he, Ruska would open it!  True…I do not lie.  He would tear at the wrapping paper with his paws/claws until it revealed what was inside.   

When we told Randall’s folks about our clever little puss, they didn’t believe us.  I think they thought we’d been smoking funny cigarettes or eating a brew of wild mushrooms.  However, the first Christmas we spent on the coast after relocating there from Brisbane, Mother and Father arrived up from Brisbane on the Christmas Eve, so come gift opening time, to their complete amazement they sat staring with their mouth and eyes agape as Ruska proceeded to open his present.  Not only did he open the outer wrapper, but he then proceeded to open one of the gifts inside. (He, too, received more than one gift).   The particular gift Ruska opened was a firmly sealed kilogram or so packet of dried food…cat munchies.  He tore open the packet and began eating a few of the pellets.  There is no way he could have picked up the scent; no aroma escapes from those well-sealed packets.

From then on, Randall’s mother and father believed us when we told them such tales!  They’d seen a miracle happen with their very own eyes!!  We didn't have to convince them any further.

My best wishes to you one and all for a very Merry Christmas; relax and enjoy the Season to the best of your abilities and beyond.  

My two furry rascals and I intend putting our feet and paws up, respectively (and respectfully) while we munch on some prawns and a half leg of ham.  Fortunately, they don’t like fruit…so I’ll have it all to myself! As for Christmas cake and trifle…Remy most probably will have a taste test – he, being a typical male, doesn’t like to miss out. Shama will no doubt turn up her nose while flicking her whiskers and miaowing – “You must be crazy, or you think I am!”

Have yourselves a very Merry Christmas with your family and loved ones…or, if you’re doing it alone…enjoy it your way.  Being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. And always remember the love you feel – be prepared to share it; and don’t be afraid to voice it.   Demonstrate you care.  There is strength in doing so.


I hope that your New Year is a happy and safe one…may it treat you with kindness, and with a little (or more) prosperity thrown in for good measure. 


Let’s hope 2015 treats us all kindly.  God knows (and so do I) the world surely needs it!  We need a break from all the hate; the evil and the anger. 2014 overflowed with far too many challenges; too many devastating, heartbreaking events; too much sorrow.   

Enough is enough already!!

In the words of a Burt Bacharach song – “What the world needs now is love, sweet love….” – and loads of it.

Perhaps Santa can drop off a few bagfuls of love, peace and goodwill while he’s doing his rounds.  And once all his bags are empty of gifts, he can fill his bags up again - he can take away everything that is evil in the world and dump it in the deepest part of the ocean…or under the largest ice cap, never to be seen again!


 MERRY CHRISTMAS….A SAFE AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU…AND THANK YOU FOR BEING READERS OF MY BLOG…I ALWAYS APPRECIATE YOUR VISITS.

Christmas Turkey: Stuffing: Preheat oven 175C (350F).  On top of stove in a large pan, cook 375g bacon rashers, cut into ½-inch pieces until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Reserve 2 tbs. drippings in skillet; set bacon aside. Add 4c chopped onion and 3c chopped celery to drippings. Cook on medium-high heat 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Combine bacon, onion mixture, 1 cup chopped dried apples, 6 cups chopped pecans, 1-1/2tsp dried thyme and 1tsp dried sage. Stir 454g sourdough or cornbread crumbs. Stir in2-1/2 cups chicken broth and ½ cup butter. Remove 7 cups of stuffing for stuffing turkey. Spoon remaining stuffing into glass or ovenproof ceramic baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Bake covered 30 minutes; uncover and bake 15 minutes.

For the Turkey:  Preheat oven to 162C (325F). Combine 1 cup apple jelly, 1 cup apple juice, 1/4c white balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup honey and 1/2tsp salt in small, heavy saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 1-¼ cups, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reserve ¼ cup mixture for gravy.
Set remaining mixture aside for basting turkey. Remove neck and giblets from body and neck cavities of turkey. Refrigerate for another use or discard. Drain juices from turkey; pat dry with paper towels. Fill neck cavity with part of the stuffing. Turn wings back to hold neck skin against back of turkey. Fill body cavity with remaining stuffing. Place turkey, breast down, on flat roasting rack in shallow roasting pan (the juices will fall into the breast cavity keeping the turkey moist). Spray turkey with cooking spray. Place small pieces of aluminum foil over various extremities (skin of neck cavity and over stuffing at body cavity opening) to prevent over browning during roasting.  Brush turkey with some glaze mixture. Loosely cover the back and tops of drumsticks with aluminum foil to prevent overcooking. Put a little water in the bottom of the roasting pan. Bake 2 hours. Uncover turkey and turn it breast up; and brush turkey with additional glaze mixture. Continue roasting until meat thermometer inserted deep in thigh reaches 82C/180F. Let turkey stand 15 minutes before removing stuffing and carving.

Cheesy Cauliflower-Broccoli Au Gratin: Preheat oven, 180C. Make cheese sauce: combine in saucepan, 2c milk, 1 brown onion, coarsely chopped, 4 fresh parsley stalks, 4 whole black peppercorns, 2 whole cloves and 1 dried bay leaf; bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat; set aside for 15mins to infuse. Strain through fine sieve into a large jug; discard solids. Melt 30g butter in large saucepan over med-high heat until foaming.  Add 2tbs plain flour (all-purpose flour) and a teaspoon or so (to taste) of dry mustard (or prepared English mustard); cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes or until mixture bubbles and begins to come away from the side of the pan; remove from heat. Gradually pour in half the milk, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk until mixture is smooth; gently add the remaining milk, whisking until smooth and combined. Place saucepan over med-high heat; bring to the boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 5mins or until sauce thickens and coats the back of the spoon; removed from heat.  Add ½ to ¾ cup coarsely grated tasty cheese and a tablespoon or so of grated Parmesan; stir until cheese melts; season to taste. Meanwhile, break 500g cauliflower into florets and 500g broccoli into florets. Cook cauliflower in salted boiling water for 5mins (or steam); add broccoli and cook further 2mins or until bright green - don’t overcook; drain.  Arrange the cauliflower and broccoli and put into a 6-cup capacity ovenproof dish.  Melt 60g butter in frying pan over high heat until butter is foaming; add 1 crushed garlic clove; cook, stirring, 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Add 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (made from day-old bread; cook, stirring for 5mins or until golden brown; remove from heat.  Pour cheese sauce over the vegetables; sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs and a little grated cheese. Bake in preheated oven, 15 minutes, or until golden brown and heated through. Serve immediately.
 

Rocky Road Pudding: Line an 8-cup capacity metal pudding steamer with plastic wrap Line an 8 cup-capacity metal pudding steamer with plastic wrap, allowing a 2cm overhang. Break 10 chocolate biscuits into 2cm pieces. Combine 1.25 litres quality vanilla ice-cream, softened, biscuit pieces, 1 cup vanilla custard, 1 cup mini marshmallows, ¼ cup desiccated coconut, ¼ cup granulated nuts and 1 cup fozen raspberries, roughly crushed, in a bowl; spoon mixture into prepared steamer. Smooth top. Top with another 6 broken chocolate biscuit pieces. Freeze overnight or until firm.  Stand pudding at room temperature for 5 minutes to soften. Turn out onto a plate. Carefully peel away wrap. Drizzle with melted white and dark chocolate. Top with sprinkles and cachous. Serve with custard and fruit salad.




32 comments:

  1. Wishing you health, happiness and a bountiful table in 2015,

    Very best wishes, Cosmo (& friends)

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  2. I suspect I'd love to be at your table, Lee! Would be excellent food (by the look of those recipes!) and fine company :) Oh, and the Cheesy Cauliflower-Broccoli Au Gratin sounds positively de-licious! And I will be making it. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon :)

    Wishing you and your precious furry family a VERY Happy Christmas! xox

    PS All our pets get presents too :)

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  3. Hey, Cosmo....thanks for coming by....all the very best wishes of the Season to you and yours, too. Have a Merry Christmas with your family. :)

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  4. Hi there Wendy. Pull up a chair, and tuck your napkin around your neck! :)

    A Merry Christmas to you...and make sure you do make that au gratin soon in the New Year! :)

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  5. Happy Christmas to you and your furry overlords. We too have had present opening moggies, but they didn't limit themselves to their presents.
    Jewel will get a can of John West smoked tuna, and Jazz some of the smaller portion's turkey breast. And anything else they decide is theirs.

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  6. Hahahaha...I love it, EC. You have a wonderful day tomorrow...try to relax as much as you can...enjoy it. Miaowy Christmas from Remy and Shama to Jazz and Jewel.

    Merry Christmas to you. And thanks for coming by...always. :)

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  7. I will see you for lunch tomorrow Lee and we will graze ourselves silly. Happy Christmas x

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  8. Have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year Lee. Time to put your feet up and have a glass or two. Hope you have a good book or a movie or two to watch. Cheers

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  9. Now that would be a lot of fun, I reckon, Carol. You have yourself a very Merry Christmas, my dear. Take good care and thanks for coming by. I'll raise a glass of good cheer your way. :)

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  10. Hey there, Helsie. Yes...I'll be have a very lazy day. I'll play it by ear and just take every minute as it comes...no fuss; no bother...but I'll enjoy it.

    All the best wishes of the Season to you, too....Merry Christmas...take good care. :)

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  11. I delightful story about Ruska.....So very sweet!!!Cats are Soooo very smart! And so deeply loving, too!
    A Very Merry Christmas to you my dear......And here's to a wonderful 2015, filled with ALL good things for you and yours!

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  12. Of course they should have believed you - cats are so clever that I swear, if they had opposable thumbs, they'd take over the world!

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  13. PS Merry Christmas to you too.

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  14. Hey there Naomi. I hope you enjoy all that is good about Christmas and are able to share your day with friends and loved ones. Or if you're spending the day alone...enjoy it your way...that's what I will be doing. :)

    Thanks for coming by and a Merry, Merry Christmas to you...I hope 2015 is full of good things for everyone...I'm a little weary of all the despicable nonsense that goes on. So let's hope for better things to come. :)

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  15. Cats would probably run the world better than it's being run now, RK.

    A Merry Christmas to you, too. :)

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  16. "Our Christmas fare consisted of 'all the usual suspects'"(-great movie that one); how many ovens do you have???all that roasting....whew!
    I love all your images, they made me smile wide.
    I'm picturing Ruska tearing into his wrappings, what a clever cat!
    Merry Christmas to you and Remy and Shama, I hope 2015 is all you could wish for.

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  17. Hey there, River. Only one oven...with loads of practice, through the years I became an adept juggler when cooking. I've many a tale to tell of my exploits at juggling when cooking! Stories for another day! lol

    I agree..."The Usual Suspects" is a great movie. Kevin Spacey, for one, is always good in whatever he does.

    I'm glad I made you smile...you and Angel have a wonderful Christmas...all the very best wishes go your way from me. :)

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  18. Thank you! And a very Merry Christmas to you and Arlynda, Jerry....take good care. :)

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  19. Merry Christmas to you! That's a good idea for Santa, bring the good but take away the bad. Since he doesn't do that, it will be up to us! Wish I could.
    I'll have that glass of wine now, thank you. Cheers!

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  20. I'm glad the three of you had a good day.
    The weighing machine is next door!

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  21. G'day, Kay....Yep! If only it was as easy as that. I can't see any improvement soon, though. I can imagine it...but then, I have a vivid imagination on things I wish would come true. Cheers to you, too...I hope you enjoy your Christmas. Thanks for coming by. :)

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  22. Hey there Mr. Ad-Man...Nope....I didn't overdo it yesterday...I mostly ate fresh fruit throughout the day..and I must admit I got stuck into the licorice...me and licorice and licorice allsorts on Christmas Day are a lethal combination!

    Today I intend cutting into my ham...a very laid-back Christmas for me and two furry mates...but a very enjoyable one, even so. Thanks for coming by. :)

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  23. Your Christmas fare looked a bit better than ours! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Just stopping by to wish you a very blessed Christmas!!

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  24. Over-catering is a common problem - although I don't mind ham sandwiches for a week or two!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS: Hope you had a good Christmas

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  25. Hi there Sandie...that is not a picture of my Christmas table...I played it very low-key....just me and my two furry mates...just the way I wanted it...I dined mostly on fresh fruit...I put together a big fruit platter for myself in the morning...and I just grazed at will upon it throughout the day. I didn't cut into my ham until today - Boxing Day...and had some with a nice mixed salad. Thanks for your good wishes and for coming by. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your family. :)

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  26. Hiya Stewart...As I mentioned in my response to Chatty Crone...I didn't overeat on Christmas Day...it's really just another day to me nowadays...but in saying that, of course, I've got more than enough food to last me through to Easter! lol

    I will be dining off ham for the next week or so...but that suits me fine in this hot weather...ham and salad, and as you say...ham sandwiches...always go down well. I might toss a couple of toasted ham; and cheese in there somewhere for good measure, too. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, too. I enjoyed mine...very quiet and very relaxed. Thanks for coming by. ;)

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  27. When you said "I refuse to be politically correct, " I was expecting a tirade of political incorrectness laced with unbridled vitriol and various -isms but mostly it was about wonder cats and your old life with Randall. Isn't it funny that when we are in beautiful, precious moments we rarely pause to register their significance - not realising that we will cherish them many years later. Belated Christmas Greetings Lee!

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  28. No tirade, Yorky...I just refuse to bow down to those who say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". Say it as it is, I say! I'm a "black and white" person, which probably confuses the politically-correct fans (a good thing, I believe)! :)

    It is funny - the small and somewhat insignificant moments that remain with us. It proves the simple things and moments in life are so often the best.

    I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Yorky....thanks for coming by. :)

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  29. I hope your Christmas was a splendid one.. and 2015 better then 2014!

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  30. Hey there DesLily....great to see you. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you all the very best for 2015. Let's hope 2015 is a better year than 2014...one can only hope and dream. Take good care. :)

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  31. Happy 2015 to you Lee. I don't make New Years resolutions either, but dogs do. Here is one: "A dog's New Year's Resolution: I will not chase that stick unless I actually see it leave his hand." ~ Unknown

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