Wednesday, December 20, 2017

IT’S BEGINNING TO FEEL A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS.





As I write...we have only four sleeps to go – not taking into account Nana naps, snoozes and cat naps, of course!  

How do I know this mind-boggling fact?

First off  - it’s impossible to ignore the clues at my place e.g. fruit mince pies, shortbread, Liquorice Allsorts (I’ve already succumbed to temptation), chocolate-coated ginger; the ham hogging space in my fridge; the rather large, chicken hiding in my freezer waiting to be defrosted, stuffed and roasted – it’s plucked.  I’ve a couple of bones to pick with those two!  Along with a pile of fresh vegetables and an over-supply of stone fruits, the hints are clearly all there for all to see.   

By the way, it really isn’t an “over-supply” of fruit.  Fresh fruit is always a staple....I always have lots of “staples”.  It’s a must because, daily, I eat a lot of fruit.

I’ve enough food to feed an army!  Considering there are only three soldiers in this army of mine....the two generals, Remy and Shama...and me, the very private private, I’ve enough to last us three until Christmas 2018!   

Every year I say – “This Christmas I won’t go overboard”.   Naturally, I don’t listen.  With a giant splash in I go, boots and all.  No one listens to me, anyway...so why should I?

Further evidence Christmas is nigh - my two furry mates are scampering about, between cat naps, clad in their Santa suits, tinsel flowing freely – a fib, of course. 
I’m in the grip of the Christmas Spirit; not the spirit from a bottle, as you may have mistakenly assumed.  My Christmas cakes demolished the bottled spirit. 

Nowadays, I enjoy the Festive Season in my own quiet way.  Once upon a time I catered for and to hordes. 

When I was married Christmas Day was always held at our home, beginning with “open house” in the mornings, kicking off around 9 am.  

The morning festivities were followed by a sit-down hot Christmas lunch, consisting of roast turkey, roast chicken, (Yes....chicken, too), roast pork with golden, crisp crackling, glazed ham, and all the obligatory vegetable accompaniments - as well as cold fresh seafood to begin with for up to 14 or more, with extra treats such as bowls of lollies (candy) crystallised ginger, nuts in their shells, and bowls of plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines and cherries on the side for good measure. 

Christmas lunch usually began around 1.30 pm....lasting through until after dusk had descended. 

Naturally, plum pudding with brandy sauce and a huge over-the-top trifle completed the fare.   Sometimes, a pavlova was added to the mix.

And then later, when I was working within the hospitality industry in one form or the other my Christmas Days were spent catering for others who preferred dining out for Christmas lunch rather than in the comfort of their own homes.  Being catered for and waited upon was a more favourable option, apparently.

When I was a kid, like kids still do to this day, a drink of sorts and a slice of Christmas cake were left out for Santa’s consumption. 

It’s not Santa’s fault he’s a bit on the chubby side.  We’re to blame because of our willingness to feed him. With everyone doing similar, how could he not be plump?    

Year after year Santa, in all sincerity, tried to stick to a diet.  In desperation, when everything else failed, he consulted Oprah and Jenny Craig, but nothing worked in his favour. 

Accepting his fate, Santa is now content to be the jolly, portly fellow he is.  On the plus side, he didn’t have to waste any money buying a new outfit.  His suit still fits, and its colour blends with his complexion. 

However, Rudolph has a new LED nose. He and the other reindeers were also treated to a week at a spa.  They’re squeaky clean, relaxed and super fit, keen to begin their annual lengthy trek across the world on Christmas Eve.

Last night I attended my landlords’ annual Christmas party where I caught up with people with whom I’ve not socialised since this time last year.   Everyone was in party mode.  It was a fun time...a very pleasant, enjoyable evening.
   
And that, by choice, is the limit of my socialising over the Festive Season.   Enough is enough already!   

From this moment forth the partying will be confined to Remy, Shama and me - otherwise known as the “Three Musketeers”!

2017 is rapidly winding down to a close. 

Sadly, many among us lost loved ones during the year.  Many suffered unimaginable pain and hardships.

On the flipside, others – one would hope the majority - experienced and shared joy, patience, respect and love.

The Festive Season should be a happy time of the year, regardless of one’s religion; whether one is religious or not. 

Furthermore, goodwill shouldn’t be confined exclusively to this time of the year.   

Without a doubt, our world would be a far better place if, continuously, we did our utmost to spread encouragement, decency and confidence – tossing nastiness and thoughtlessness away.

My thanks to everyone who, over the past 12 months, shared with me their smiles, laughter, irreverent words of nonsensical nonsense; and for the rare moments of wisdom (again, I’m being facetiously tongue-in-cheek with my latter comment).  

Be considerate to others; to their feelings; to their life’s situation. 

Let us never take our world, and those with whom we share this paradise, for granted.  

Have faith in the goodness of others...and never lose sight of the goodness within your own self.... 

Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!  Be kind to one another at all times.   Make 2018 the best year ever!  


Spinach and Feta Roast Chicken: Combine 200g steamed baby spinach, finely chopped. 1/2c crumbled feta, 2tbs sour cream, 1tsp fresh thyme leaves, juice and zest of 1 lemon; season; mix well.  Generously season all over 1x 1.5 whole chicken; put in roasting pan.  Loosen chicken breast skin, careful not to tear; carefully stuff spinach mixture under the skin and into neck cavity.  Add 1 head of garlic, halved to pan; drizzle chicken with a little olive oil; top with thyme sprigs; tie legs together. Pour 1c dry white wine into pan; roast chicken at 180C, 70-80mins.

Garlic-Bacon Beans: Cook 455g green beans, about 5mins; drain. Heat 1tbs olive oil and 1tbs butter in pan; add 6 crushed garlic cloves; cook about 30secs. Add 6 cooked, chopped, thick, bacon rashers and beans. Sauté 1min on med-heat; season.  Sprinkle with shredded parmesan or crumbled feta, if desired. 

Cranberry-Spinach Salad: Whisk together 1/4c white wine vinegar, 2tbs cider vinegar and 3tbs sugar until the sugar dissolves. Stir in ½c olive oil, 3tbs honey, 1tbs finely minced garlic and 2tbs toasted sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Put 455g baby spinach, 1c toasted almonds and 1c dried cranberries in salad bowl; drizzle dressing over; toss. Serve immediately.

Christmas Cheesecake: Drain 375g maraschino cherries; reserve 2tsp juice. Quarter cherries; Beat 454g cream cheese, 1/2c sugar and reserved juice; add 2 eggs; beat until just combined; fold in ½ semi-sweet chocolate chips and cherries. Pour into crushed Chocolate Ripple biscuit crust (22cm pan); bake at 175C, 30-35mins, until centre is almost set; cool on wire rack. Serve with chocolate-coated cherries.  

Chocolate Cherry Berry Pavlova: Preheat oven to 120°C. Line an oven tray with baking paper. Mark an 18cm (7¼-inch) circle on paper. Place 100g dark, chopped chocolate (70% cocoa) in a small heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water (don't allow bowl to touch water); stir until just melted. Cool slightly. Beat 4 egg whites in a small bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form; gradually add 1c caster sugar, beating until dissolved after each addition, and mixture is thick and glossy. Fold 1tbs cornflour (cornstarch) and 1tsp white vinegar into meringue mixture; swirl in chocolate. Dollop meringue inside marked circle on tray.  Bake meringue for 1-1/4 hours or until dry to the touch. Turn oven off, leave meringue to cool in oven with door ajar.

Meanwhile, make cherry-blueberry compote: Place 2c cherries, halved and pitted, 1c blueberries, 1/3c caster sugar and 1/4 water in a med-saucepan over med-heat; bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes or until cherries and blueberries have released juices. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cherries and blueberries to a small bowl.  Stir 1/4c cherry jam into juices in pan; bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes or until mixture thickens. Pour syrup over cherry mixture. Cool completely.

Beat 250g softened cream cheese, 2tsp vanilla extract and 1/4c icing sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until smooth; gradually beat in 300ml thickened cream until smooth and combined.

Just before serving, spoon cream cheese mixture on pavlova; top with compote. Decorate with fresh cherries.

Tips:- Make ahead: The pavlova can be made a day ahead; store in an airtight container at room temperature. Topping is best made close to serving. To check that you have beaten the meringue sufficiently, rub a little of the mixture between your fingers ­ it should feel silky smooth, without any grainy sugar crystals.


Peach Melba Pavlova: Preheat oven 120C/100C fan-forced.  Line a large baking tray with baking paper.  Mark a 12cmx28cm rectangle on paper.  With electric mixer, beat 6 egg whites until soft peaks form.  Gradually beat in 1-2/3c caster sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dissolved.  Add 1tsp vanilla extract, 1tsp white vinegar and 2tsp cornflour.  Beat 1min.   Spoon the mixture onto prepared tray.  Use palette knife or spatula to spread mixture in marked rectangle, making sides slightly higher than the centre. Bake 1hr 20min or until firm.  Turn off oven.  Cool in oven with oven door slightly ajar.  Meanwhile, place 150g thawed frozen raspberries and 1tbs icing sugar in processor; process until smooth.  Place cooled pavlova on a platter.  Whip 600ml thickened cream.  Top pavlova with cream, an 825g can of peach slices, drained and 150g thawed raspberries, and/or strawberries, if desired.  Ready to serve.



39 comments:

  1. I've put on weight just reading all that Lee. Hope you enjoy your quiet Christmas up there on the mountain.

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    1. Hahahahahaha! It's that time of the year, Helsie....worry about the weight after 1st January! :)

      I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas. It's pretty steamy up this way. Yesterday and last night, humidity-wise were real stinkers! I imagine it was worse down/up your way.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  2. Well Merry Christmas - it is hard to think of Christmas being warm. Isn't it funny how times change - you used to have an all day Christmas - I remember going to my in-laws and they let me bring my mom. Now they are gone and it is just us. Merry Christmas girl. Love, sandie

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    1. Yes, times change...things change, Sandie. I'm glad I'm not having to go through all the fuss. These days I just couldn't be bothered!

      Thanks for coming by....and a Merry Christmas to you, too. Relax and enjoy the Season. :)

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  3. We had some horrendously hot days early this week and are currently getting a brief respite. Christmas Eve will be sweaty and nasty and then THE day is forecast to be cool. And damp.
    Bliss.
    Our fruitcakes have also consumed rather a lot of rum and brandy. Shortbread made. The biggest catering job left is fruit salad. I make a huge one and will live on it for the next week or so. The skinny one will get turkey and trimmings. Jazz will share his turkey.
    I hope Christmas and the coming year bring you and your furry flatmates everything you could wish for.

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    1. Hi EC....we were hoodwinked...fooled into complacency by a very mild, cool spring, but, boy...these last couple of days the heat has hit...and this humidity is so, so draining. I hate it! If it keeps up, stuff the chicken and roast vegies etc., I'll just have ham and salad....or just water and fruit! No one says I have to go through the whole rigmarole if I don't want to do so.

      I hope the temps up here on Christmas Day are cool...and a rainy day would be most welcome.

      I hope you, The Skinny One have a Merry Christmas, too, and I hope 2018 is kind to you both. A big cuddle for Jazz...Remy and Shama send their festive miaows, too.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  4. We might get snow for Christmas. I would rather have your warm weather. Enjoy your Christmas, Lee, and let’s all hope that this crazy world will straighten out in the new year.

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    1. G'day, Arleen. I'll willingly send you the heat and the humidity in return for some snow. It's melt rapidly here at present!

      Have a very Merry Christmas, Arleen...take it easy, relax and enjoy. One can only hope the world becomes a better place...(or those in it, do)!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  5. It sure does. I love this cool Christmas-y feeling. Happy Christmas to you and your fam.

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    1. Hey Lux....I wish you all the best for Christmas, too...relax and enjoy it whichever way you choose. Take care.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. Merry Christmas Lee.
    Yes, it's here and didn't take long will be all over soon.
    Traditional Christmas Dinner - was always welcome and we used to eat two each Christmas Day when all 4 parents were still with us. Then it became my turn, so all 4 parents came to our house for Christmas Dinner - now they are gone! We still have traditional Christmas dinner here at home with our children when they can come, some years they can't. This year we are having two Christmas Dinner's, one Christmas Eve at lunch time, the other Christmas Day at lunch time.....lot of cooking to be done :) but loving it.
    Always good to read your memories.
    Enjoy your Christmas and pleased you had a good evening the other night..
    Margaret xx

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    1. Hi Margaret...these last couple of weeks seem to have snuck up on us rapidly. Sneaky things!! :0

      Memories of Christmases past are great to have and to cherish....memories of times shared with loved ones no longer with us.

      Have yourself a Merry, Merry Christmas....and thank for coming by. :)

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  7. What a nice post. The first image was used on overseas Christmas cards we sent a few years ago. My goodness, you put on a spread when you had Christmas at home. Ours used to be similar, but now are much more restrained and simpler. I think I will like the garlic bacon beans when Chef is told to cook them. Having faith in the goodness of others can be a struggle at times, but most people are good, just not perfect. Give them the benefit of any doubt. I have both enjoyed and appreciated you blog mateship over the year past. Thank you.

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    1. Hey Andrew...and your response here is equally as nice...I thank you very much for the sentiment expressed.

      I hope you and "Chef" have a Merry Christmas filled with good cheer of all kinds! :)

      Take care...thank you again...enjoy...and relax. :)

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  8. Merry Christmas to you, Remy and Shama :)
    I agree with Andrew, you certainly used to put on a spread when you did open house at Christmas. I remember roast chicken at Christmas which was a real treat because the rest of the year was lamb chops or sausages, with a lamb roast on Sundays. Any fruit came out of a tin, usually peaches. When I grew up and did my own Christmas dinners, I switched to ham and fresh fruit, as many varieties as I could get. Always with cherries and grapes. Watermelon too. We cooked the day before and had cold meats and salads on the day when I reigned in my own kitchen.

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    1. Thank you, River...I wish you and the lovely Lady Lola the same. Have yourself a very Merry Christmas. I hope you get to enjoy it with your family and loved ones.

      When I was a kid growing we had chicken mostly only on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day....how things change over the years.

      The way the humidity is at the moment...if it keeps up being this steamy on Christmas Day....I might forego all thoughts of a hot lunch, too....just the ham with a salad is a very tempting plan alternative. I might find myself leaning to the lazy side of things! lol I only have myself to please, anyway...it's my way of the highway! :)

      Thanks for coming by...take good care. :)

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  9. Lovely, festive cards at the opening of your post! It's warming the heart.

    Your account of your Christmas dishes, past and present, make my mouth water.
    I'm also a lover of fruit, and feel sorry that certain fruits (grapes, bananas) have to be eaten in limited quantity, as they add weight.

    I like your words of wisdom (in the paragraph preceding the recipes)regarding our attitude to our fellowmen, ourselves, the world, life. Well said!
    Happy Holidays to you!

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    1. G'day, Duta. I'll be buying a pile of grapes, among some peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines and apricots when I'm out shopping this morning, ...and as for bananas, I love them and usually have two or three a day.

      Thanks for your good wishes...I send you my best Festive Season wishes back to you and your loved ones....and thanks for coming. Take care. :)

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  10. My packet of mince and last years stale mince pies look insufficient when I read that.... Merry Christmas!

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    1. Yea....just whack the mince pies in the oven for short time, Mr. Ad-Man that should liven them up a bit...and run water over the mince, throw a few herbs and some garlic into it...and all should be well.

      A very Merry Christmas to you. I hope you have some chocolate hidden away there, too, along with the fruit mince pies from last year...

      Take care and thanks for coming by. :)

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  11. So many Christmas delights.
    I hope you, Remy and Shama have the best Christmas ever.

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    1. Hi Sandra...we three intend to have a relaxed day...with our feet and paws up for most of the day...listening to music and reflecting on the past 15 years we've spent together! They were only little kittens when they spent their first Christmas with me...not even 2 months old!!

      Merry Christmas to you and your family. Have a good one. Thanks for coming by. :)

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  12. Is that a picture of the Christmas cheesecake there? Oh, it looks soooooooooooo good. My wife ordered a pudding steamer so she has been experimenting with making Christmas style puddings. We had two varieties of plum pudding, one with plums and one without (how can you have plum pudding without plums?!). Next up is figgy pudding.

    So it looks and smells like Christmas here as it must there too. On a sadder note, I checked on an old blogging buddy Peter, whom I believe you knew as well, and discovered that he had passed away this past summer. He and his sister Merle provided me with many chuckles when they were actively blogging.

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    1. Hello, Dave...

      Yes...sadly Peter passed away 29th June, 2017 (our winter here). He was a very nice fellow...his sister, dear Merle, passed away four or so years ago. She was a sweet soul.

      Peter had been battling his illness for a couple of years. Both were lovely people. Peter adored Marilyn Monroe and had a huge collection of photos of his idol. :)

      I've not made a steamed Christmas pudding in years, now. I used to make them in the cloth...calico. Prepared before Christmas and let hang in an airy spot until the day...and then re-steamed ready to be devoured after the massive main course! lol

      I no longer do that...and this year I'm being exceptionally lazy and have a deep-dish apple pie in the freezer and intend having some of that with ice cream and brandy custard.

      That'll do me. The way I feel now, I might just make a ham sandwich! :)

      I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas...the grand-kiddies will be filled with excitement already, no doubt! Enjoy and make lots of fun memories.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. And, yes....that's a picture of the Christmas cheesecake. :)

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  13. Another lovely post and of course perfect for the Season ... thank you.
    I always enjoy reading your recipes too ... so another thank you!

    And yes, I'm using most of your words - but thought they were great!

    'Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Be kind to one another at all times ... so important, and let's all try to make 2018 the best year ever!!!'

    My good wishes

    All the best Jan

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    1. G'day, Jan....likewise...I always enjoy reading your blog and your recipes, too.

      I hope you and your family have a most wonderful Merry Christmas...and may 2018 fulfill all your hopes and dreams. Take good care. Thanks for coming by. :)

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  14. A lovely post. And a wise one. Christmas is not just a time for giving and receiving gifts, it's also a time to be glad for what we already have. Thank you for the recipes. I'm glad to say that I have already made my food so I'll just have to find another excuse to make that cheesecake! Have a lovely Christmas Lee!

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    1. G'day Jenny...Christmas stirs within us many emotions of various kinds and of various degrees.

      To my mind the best gift of all is the gift of giving. I believe, speaking for myself, anyway...one gains more joy giving than receiving.

      Shortly I'll be putting together some stuffing/season...so it can sit in the fridge today and overnight enabling a decent time frame for the flavours to take control.

      I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas...thanks for coming by. :)

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  15. Merry Christmas Lee xo

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    1. Oh, Carol! (I feel a song coming on)! :)

      How wonderful to hear from you. I've thought of you often through the year and have wondering how you've been getting on. I hope all is well with. I do so hope you've had a good yeatr.

      Merry Christmas to you, my dear...and may 2018 treat you with much kindness.

      Thanks so much for dropping by. :)

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  16. Merry Christmas!!!!
    hughugs

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    1. And the same to you, Donna....thank you very much. Hugs backatcha! :)

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  17. I love your upbeat end message and the fact that it is underpinned by faith in the human spirit rather than faith in some non-existent deity.
    P.S. Please phone the Australian cricket team and ask them to stop scoring so many runs! It's not fair!

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    1. G'Day, Yorkie....we are of like mind in many things,. :)

      I hope your had a lovely Christmas with your family, enjoying all the good things life has on offer.

      No! I am not going to ring the Aussie cricket team!! Smithy and Co., are my mates, but the fellows follow what he tells them to do, not what I say (Keep scoring, boys)!!!

      I was doing my best to hold my tongue in an effort to not bring the subject of The Ashes up in conversation....however, seeing you were the one to make mention...... :)

      Thanks for coming by....now I've got to get back to the cricket...the second day of the Boxing Day Test has begun!! :)

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    2. What a co-incidence! You were a cook and Cook spoilt the Aussie glee!

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    3. Yes....that may be so, Mr. Pudding...but we have the Urn...we've already won The Ashes.

      Cook didn't spoil our froth and bubble. :)

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  18. You have such wonderful Christmas memories. Now I would like to lick the chocolate pavlova screen. Yum.

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