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.