Tag Archives forChristmas

The 12 tips of Christmas

This year, at the ripe old age of 38, I hosted my first ever Christmas at home.  It was nerve-wracking, exhausting, exciting, fulfilling and well, wonderful.

We didn’t have a big crowd so I was eased in gently.  My brother and his girlfriend joined us on Christmas Eve for some festive fizz and a gorgeous baked ham (can I call it gorgeous if I cooked it? Oh well, my blog, my rules!)

Then on Christmas Day, after a simple breakfast and some stocking opening, they left and both lots of parents arrived – bringing with them many and varied offerings towards the day’s eating and drinking.

Only 30 minutes later than originally planned, we all tucked into our roast turkey and trimmings.  Plates were cleared, so I take that as a good sign. Although there are several tweaks I will make next year.

So what did I learn?  After much pondering, I have decided that there are 12 key things that I’ll take away for next year.  The 12 tips of Christmas if you will…

Those of you who are seasoned Christmas hosts may smile wisely at these and please feel free to add more of your own in the comments!

Before the big day

Christmas

1) Plan for space invaders

Before you plan your Christmas food extravaganza, make sure you actually have both the fridge and oven space to cope with it all.  If, like me, you only have one oven then it makes things trickier – it’s not impossible, but careful planning is required. Thankfully, turkeys can rest for a good hour or two without any harm coming to them so you can do all your potatoes and parsnips etc once the bird is out and relaxing in its foil.

Fridge-wise, if you have a garage or shed then make use of these for veggies etc. Those of you with any outdoor space can fill a bucket or crate with water and leave it outside with all of your drinks.

Oh, and before you buy your ridiculously expensive turkey, for goodness sake, make sure it’ll fit in your oven! Just sayin’..

2) Do what you can in advance

Of all the Christmas feast and festivities, there is very little that cannot be at least partly prepared beforehand.  Puddings and cakes – obvs.  Perhaps less obvs, prepare all your veg the day before.  Potatoes need to sit in water once peeled and chopped, then just pour out and give fresh water when you’re ready to par-boil. Carrots, parsnips and sprouts (or most other veg) can be peeled, chopped and stored in freezer bags in the fridge quite happily for a day or two.

Check your recipes and where possible, make what you can in advance!

3) Yes. You’ve done enough food

Throughout the whole process, I found myself constantly questioning whether there would be enough food to satisfy my guests.  Would the turkey be big enough (despite the fact that I’d purposefully ordered one that would serve 2 more people than were actually coming).  How many potatoes to do? How many parsnips?  The fact is, with so many different things on offer, people tend to have smaller portions of everything and chances are, you’ve done more than enough!

4) Don’t forget the non-drinkers

I come from a family of drinkers.  I’m not saying we’re booze hounds but we like our wine…and our gin…oooh, and a spot of port…and Champagne for goodness sake, it’s Christmas after all.  With that in mind, I was sure to get in plenty of supplies to see us through.  Chances are though, there will be at least someone who won’t be partaking, be it due to driving, pregnancy or infancy.  These poor folk shouldn’t feel that they’re being left out of the frivolities so make sure there’s something special for them too.  This year, I did a combination of 1 part orange juice, 1 part apple and 1 part cranberry in a large jug with plenty of ice.  It went down very well with children and drivers alike!

It may be that you and yours aren’t big drinkers and so the non-alcoholic choice is plentiful.  If that’s the case – then you should reverse this and remember to provide for your more boozy buddies!

decorations

5) Ambiance is easy

I’m not at all creative or arty but I really wanted people to arrive and feel surrounded by festive spirit and cheer.  Short of plying them all with sherry at the door, I was a little stumped.  It turns out that it really isn’t too tricky (or expensive) to create a spot of festive sparkle.  A few fir cones, a bunch of baubles and a whole table (well not quite) of tea lights and suddenly your home is like a little corner of pure Christmas.  

6) Write a timetable

I see you rolling your eyes but seriously, this will make  you feel so much more in control and will also let you know when you have free time for important things like unwrapping presents and drinking Champagne Cocktails (more on those later..)

It’s a bit of a pain to do – you need to work out all of the timings for all of the things you need to prepare.  I mean everything.  When do you need to pre-heat the oven? When does the water go on for the veg? When do you heat the fat for the potatoes?  Once it’s done though you’ll feel calmer and more relaxed – and if you’re calm and relaxed then your Christmas guests will be too.

Oh, and keep it for the following year! It’ll make life easier when you’re doing your next timetable.

The big day!

Christmas table

7) Forget the stupid timetable!

Huh?  Ok, so I don’t mean completely forget it, but DO allow yourself to be flexible.  The chances are that something will happen to throw the timetable out slightly. Don’t let this ruffle you.  The timetable is there to put YOU in control, not to control you. If a few tweaks are needed along the way, then go with it – show that timetable who’s boss!

8) Delegate and accept all help gratefully and gracefully

If you’re anything like me then it will be easy to turn into a bit of a control freak.  You’ve done your planning, you’ve got your timetable and everything is under control goddamit! The only thing is, there are probably a few people there who would actually quite enjoy being involved, getting stuck in and well, helping you.  Don’t see this as showing weakness or failure.  Christmas is very much a team event.  Let people help, get everyone involved and share the fun!

Equally, people don’t like to turn up empty handed so if they ask you what they can bring – don’t say ‘oh nothing!’.  Christmas is pretty pricey and frankly, any offerings should be gratefully accepted. Your guests will feel happier that they’ve been able to contribute and your bank balance will definitely thank you.

9) Make mistakes and move on

I hate to break this to you but something will go wrong. It may be a whopper, like forgetting to buy the turkey, or it may be something so small that no one will even notice.  Whichever it is, don’t let it ruin the day.  If something doesn’t go according to plan, then change the plan, have a laugh about it and get on with enjoying your day.  It’s not about the perfection of the meal, or the beauty of the decorations.  It’s about you and your loved ones being together and sharing Christmas.

10) Use disposable foil roasting trays

Who wants to be scrubbing greasy toasting tins on Christmas Day?

11) Champagne Cocktails

This is a tradition passed down from my parents.  I’m not sure which side it came from originally but I am sure that it’s an absolute essential.  Here’s what you need:

In your Champagne glass;

Add 1 sugar cube and a couple of drops of Angostura Bitters. Cover the sugar with brandy, add a slice of orange and then top up with Champagne (or any other fizz that you have to hand).

Drink and be merry!

IMG_0081 (1) (2)

12) Enjoy yourself – it’s Christmas!

Hopefully, you’ll have spotted this as a general theme throughout.  It can be so easy to get completely caught up in the plan and in the moment, that suddenly the day ends and you realise that you didn’t speak to your loved ones apart from in barked orders or sharp retorts.  So fraught were you, that you didn’t notice your children as they frolicked with their wrapping paper.  So tense were you that you completely missed the hilarity when Dad fell asleep and his paper hat fell on to his face.

Don’t miss these moments.  Let the potatoes burn.  Let the sprouts go cold.  Enjoy your family. Love your people.  Happy Christmas xxx

My 12 Part Guide to a Stress Free Christmas

Any Eat Drink Cook stalwarts among you will remember that last year, I posted weekly guides to help take some of the stress out of Christmas.  Now we’ve hit November I feel reasonably safe in bringing them to the fore again and offering them up as a metaphoric helping hand to any of you who are starting to feel the cold, sweaty palm of panic…

Stress Free Christmas

Stress Free Christmas? Yes please!

I will lead you by the hand from now until Christmas Day and together, we’ll achieve a relaxed and joyful festive season…

For too many years, I’ve panicked and stressed my way through the whole Christmas period.  I’ve forgotten to write cards, I’ve left my shopping until the day before, I’ve overspent on presents that I’m not sure people even want.  I’ve flicked through recipe books, planning parties that I’ll never get around to organising…

Well, NO MORE!  This year, I’m putting my foot down and getting organised.  If you’d like to join me in my stress free Christmas, then great!  I’d love to share my step by step guide with you.

All you have to do is subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss a thing 🙂

What does the guide include?

Along with regular opportunities to chat, share experiences and support each other on Facebook and Twitter, my Stress Free Christmas guide will take you through each of these steps:

Part 1: Budget for a Stress Free Christmas 

Making sure you’re planning your spending now so you can spread the cost and avoid nasty shocks!

Part 2: Making 3 lists & checking them twice 

If making lists is good enough Santa,  then it’s good enough for us!  Can’t hurt to check it twice either…

Part 3: Picking Presents 

Browsing the online Christmas shops and picking your way through what Pinterest has to offer.  Hardly stressful, right?

Part 4: Pickling Presents 

Giving a few homemade gifts is a great way to save a bit of money whilst at the same time, giving someone a really thoughtful present

Part 5: Party Invites 

Want to throw a Christmas get together without the stress?  Well, planning when, where and who is a good place to start

Part 6: Christmas Shopping 

Beat the rush, take your time and actually enjoy buying gifts for your family and friends

Part 7: Christmas Eats & Drinks 

Get ahead by planning your food shopping in advance.  I’ll give you a head start with some great recipe ideas and inspiration

Part 8: Party Food & Clothes 

Party planning phase two – you know the date, place and people.  Now the important stuff – what you’re eating and what you’ll wear! Hurrah! More recipes coming up!

Part 9: Christmas Cake

Have you ever made your Christmas cake in advance and fed it booze, the old fashioned way?  If not, then this is the year to embrace tradition and give it a go.  Guess what – I’ll have a few recipes to share..

Part 10: Turkey & Trimmings

No last minute panic about not having enough for Christmas dinner. You’ve planned what you need, now’s the time to get it ordered.

Part 11: Christmas Cards & Mince Pies

No day should go by in December without the consumption of a mince pie so it’s time to get stocked up.  Writing your cards will go by so much faster and more pleasurably with a glass of mulled wine and a warm, flakey, sticky, spicey mince pie by your side. What’s that I hear you cry? You’ll need a recipe or two?  Consider it done!

Part 12: Decorations

Time to really start feeling festive.  Get the tree up and give your house a Christmas makeover

This sounds amazing!  Sign me up!

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Thanks!

Stress Free Christmas Part 8: Christmas Party Planning

Christmas Party Time!

Well, here we are at Part 8!  Hopefully, you’re feeling nothing but a sense of excited anticipation when the word Christmas comes up.  No sense of panic or dread for us this year!

This week, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of what you’ll be serving your guests at your Christmas party, whether it be an intimate gathering for dinner or a big crowd of friends for drinks and nibbles (or anything in between!)

You’ll see I’ve mentioned outfit planning too.  This isn’t because I have any intention of getting into fashion advice – I would be very ill equipped to do so!  It is more to just cover a couple of practical pointers to consider if you’re hosting your own party.

So, onwards we go – recipe books at the ready and let’s get menu planning!

The Menu

Hopefully you have already decided what kind of party you’re having because this will largely drive what type of menu you will be serving.

Party Menu Pointers

  • Don’t make everything too rich.  One rich course is a decadent treat.  Three rich courses is a recipe for over-full, sleepy and uncomfortable guests!
  • Consider a theme.  You may want to serve an Italian feast, or a Middle Eastern banquet.  Alternatively, you might want to go for Pub food classics or 80’s retro.
  • Consider what drinks you serve and whether they will go with the food.  It’s worth looking online if you’re not a wine expert – there’s loads of great advice on what goes with what.
  • Check whether your guests have any special dietary requirements!  You don’t want to present people with the finest fillet steak, only to discover they’re vegetarians!  Equally, you don’t want someone collapsing on your carpet because they have a nut allergy and didn’t realise your cake was made with ground almonds…
  • If you’re doing drinks and nibbles, consider how many nibbles to serve.  If you listen to all the various domestic goddesses out there, they all give the same advice.  Just 3 or 4 different things will keep people happy and there’s no reason why a couple of these can’t just be shop bought, assembly jobs.  People would be frankly disappointed not to see one of the classic nibbles like nuts, olives or pretzels so while it may feel like cheating, it’s giving your friends what they crave – I promise!
  • How many different types of drink will you offer? It’s best to decide from the off what you want to serve your guests in terms of drink.  Will it be a cocktail evening, or wine and beer or maybe just fizz all the way?  Whatever you do, don’t feel that you need to offer a full bar.  People won’t expect this when they go to someone’s home.
  • How will you present the food and drink?  Drinks and nibbles tend to be pretty informal, so it should just be case of either putting all your nibbles on one table, or dotting them about the room, depending on what works best in your house.  For drinks, you need to decide if you’re going to go around serving them yourself (in which case, you should probably enlist some help) or (my preference) whether you want to set up a little drinks station on a table somewhere so that people can just help themselves.

Menu Ideas

If you’re looking for inspiration on what to serve, then here’s a helping hand from the trusty internet..

Dinner Party Recipes – from Delicious Magazine

Dinner Party Recipes – from Jamie Online

Dinner Party Recipes – from Woman & Home

Getting the right outfit

I must stress again, this is not about fashion advice!  I just want to offer a couple of points to consider when picking what to wear, in order to avoid discomfort and yes, even disaster, later on.

  • Think about what colour you will wear.  If you’re going to be cooking anything that’s likely to spit or spill then white (or in fact anything light) is probably asking for trouble – even if you wear an apron!
  • Look hot but not hot. You’ll be doing a fair amount of rushing around, and potentially working in a hot kitchen so allow for the fact that you’ll probably be pretty warm without the aid of jumpers and thick tights!

Have your say

What Christmas Party Menus  have you tried and had success with?  I’d love to hear from you!

Take me to Part 9: Christmas Cake

Catch Up

Part 1: Christmas Budget

Part 2: Making Christmas lists & Checking them twice

Part 3: Picking Presents

Part 4: Pickling Presents

Part 5: Christmas Party Invites

Part 6: Christmas Shopping

Part 7: Christmas Food & Drink Planning

Stress Free Christmas Part 7: Christmas Food and Drink

It’s time to Eat Drink Cook & be merry!

See what I did there?

In Part 7, we’ll be planning our Christmas food and drink shopping and I’m hoping to open your eyes to the many and wondrous options out there, other than the local supermarket.  I recently started getting a veg box delivered each week and discovered that I’m not spending any more than I would at Sainsburys but I’m getting fresher and more varied veg, while supporting a small business rather than a faceless supermarket.

More and more I am disappointed by what my supermarket has to offer – watery chicken, extortionate steak that is actually more fat than meat and cuts that are getting smaller and smaller each year.

Why settle for this when we have such huge choice out there that is both better quality and often-times, cheaper?  So, get your list making hat on and let’s get started with our Christmas food and drink planning!

Plan your Festive Food & Drink in 3 steps

Step 1: List your basic foody needs

Here, you need to think what different meals or foody occasions you need to cater for.  I’m not talking about your normal shopping from now until Christmas, you just need to think about those occasions which require special catering.  No need to be too specific just yet so don’t panic if you don’t have all your menus etc planned out.  We’re just getting a rough idea for now.  Here are a few examples…

Foody Event Rough Requirements
   
Christmas drinks party for 10 Wine for mulling (5 bottles?)
Soft drinks
3-4 easy nibbles
Something sweet
Christmas dinner for 10 Turkey
Potatoes & Veg
Stuffing
Bread Sauce
Condiments (cranberry sauce etc)
Drinks – Champagne, Wine, Beer, Soft
Christmas Pudding
Christmas Cake
Christmas Eve for 6 Ham
Red Cabbage
Potatoes
Pudding
Wine, Beer
Boxing Day for 4 Smoked Salmon
Bucks Fizz
Roast Pork?
Veg & Potatoes
Nibbles
Wine, Beer, Soft

Step 2: Adding the meat to the bones

Once you have your basic plan above sorted then you can start to work through a bit more of the detail.  It’s time to hit the recipe books and figure out what you’ll be feeding your family friends.  I’ll be adding a few recipes to help you along the way!

Here are a few other tidbits to mull (there I go again!) over…

To turkey or not to turkey?

I can’t be that helpful here because I’ve never had anything but turkey in all my thirty (ahem) something Christmases.  I love the stuff and feel no need to change the habit of a lifetime.  That being said, if you’re catering for smaller numbers then a goose can be a wonderful thing and one should never underestimate the value of a beautiful roast chicken if there are just a few of you.  I’m afraid I can’t back a plan to veer so wildly from tradition as to go with beef or some other non-poultry based meal.  Each to their own of course but it just seems wrong to me.

Party Fare

If you’re going for a nibbles type do then follow Nigella’s advice and keep it simple.  No need to spend days in preparation!  Just pick 3 or 4 nibbles that take little or no effort. Here are a few of my faves:

Cocktail Sausages: What party is complete without them?  Nigella has a few recipes for these little beauties.  Here’s just one to tickle your tastebuds..

Nigella’s Cocktail Sausages

Nuts & Olives: It’s not cheating to just open the odd packet and pour things into pretty containers.  People like nuts and olives – no need to fix what ain’t broken.

Smoked Salmon: Not being a particular fan of caviar, this would always be my choice when it comes to a celebratory snack.  Personally, I don’t think you can beat it on some brown bread and butter with a squeeze of lemon juice and a grinding of black pepper. If you want to be fancy schmancy about it though, here are a couple of ideas…

Smoked Salmon Blinis – from BBC Good Food

Smoked Salmon Crostini with Horseradish – from Delicious Magazine

Cheese – no need to keep the old fromage just for after dinner.  It can make some super little nibbles too…

Manchego & Honey – Jamie includes this in a great set of tapas recipes from his 30 Minute Meals book.  Just slice the manchego and drizzle over some good quality honey and some fresh thyme.  Yum.

Goats Cheese – There are loads of lovely little nibbles that can be made around goats cheese.  They tend to be more assembly jobs than actual cooking but they always go down very well!

Bruschettas with Goat’s Cheese, Tomato & Basil – from Delia Online

ps – bruschettas make another great little nibble.  You could just do 3 or 4 different toppings and leave it at that!

Baked Camembert – this is one of my all time favourites!  There’s something so decadent about the oozing, melted cheese.  Just cut the top off, drizzle some good olive oil over, along with seasoning and some fresh herb of your choice (I go for thyme).  Honey works well too.  Pop in the oven at about 180 C for 20 minutes until it’s all melted and delicious and then put on the table with a big basket of crusty bread for dipping.  Don’t expect there to be any left if you go back to the kitchen for more than 5 minutes!

Drinks

Most people go to a party or to Christmas dinner expecting there to be to be some celebratory tipple or other.  It would be a brave man who didn’t have both wine and beer to offer guests, but the really memorable host will have a little something extra too – perhaps a little cocktail on arrival or some after dinner digestif to round things off.  Don’t forget soft drinks for the poor old designated driver and for any children too!

Christmas Cocktails & Drinks – Jamie Oliver

Christmas Cocktails & Mocktails – Martha Stewart

Step 3: Sourcing your Food (or should that be ‘Saucing’?

Right, now you know roughly what you’ll be needing you can have a think about where you want to get it from.  Chances are that if you want to, you can just order the whole shabang from your local supermarket, but seeing as we’re being really organised here, it’s worth checking if that’s actually the best way to go.

Before I go on, I would like to stress that my suggestions below are NOT based on any commission and neither are they based on any experience of the companies I refer to.  I am just sharing the results of my own research in the hope it will help save you a bit of time 🙂

Meat/Fish

Do you have a local butcher of fishmonger?  If so, chances are, you’ll certainly get better quality fare from them than from your supermarket.  It may even work out cheaper too so it’s definitely worth looking into.   Another option to consider is whether you can order any of your meat or fish online – again, potentially it could be cheaper and/or better quality. Plus, I’d much rather support a small business or local farmer than a massive supermarket!  I’ve been doing a spot of gentle research and have found a few Christmas deals worth a look…

Farmison & Co Christmas Shop

Piper’s Farm 

Donald Russell Online Butcher

Fish Fanatics

Booze

Supermarkets tend to have some good deals on alcohol, especially around Christmas but again, always worth having a little lookie to see if local off licenses can offer you something better.  Online options also tend to offer good savings so it definitely pays to shop around.  A few more of my findings below:

Bargain Booze (the name says it all!)

World & Craft Beer (got to be worth a look, if only for the great punnage – ‘Good Libations’)

Majestic Wines – their offers are always worth a little look

Naked Wines – get a good bargain AND support independent wine makers!

Fruit & Veg

I recently started getting a weekly veg box from a local farm and I am so glad that I did.  Guaranteed freshness, guaranteed organic and guaranteed to support local business rather than faceless supermarkets.  Here are a few options to consider:

Green Grocers’ Choice

Farmisons

Riverford Farm

Right, now I’ve made myself thoroughly hungry with all this talk of festive food and drink, I think I’m going to go and make myself a snack…

Have your say

As always, I’d love to hear your comments.  What’s your Christmas Dinner or Party Food of choice?

Take me to Part 8: Party Planning Phase 2 – Food & Clothes!

Catch Up

Part 1: Christmas Budget

Part 2: Making Christmas lists & Checking them twice

Part 3: Picking Presents

Part 4: Pickling Presents

Part 5: Christmas Party Invites

Part 6: Christmas Shopping

A Stress Free Christmas – Part 6: Christmas Shopping

Hello!

In Part 6 we will be making a start on the often dreaded Christmas shopping.  I will be pointing out the benefits of getting started early (as if you need them!) and looking at how you can take advantage of the convenience of shopping online, while still enjoying the festive feeling of perusing the shops on the high street.

So, get your Christmas Shopping list ready, pick up your purse and let’s hit the shops!

5 Reasons to Shop Early

I can’t imagine anyone really needs convincing of the merits of starting early, but just in case, here’s a bit of motivation to get you running to your Christmas shopping list!

1) Nab all the good stuff while it’s still in stock

It’s always so disappointing to go around the shops the week before Christmas and realise that all that’s left on the shelves are the things that were rejected by those who came before…

2) Miss the hellish queues and crowds

We’ve all been there… aching feet, banging head, fingers nearly cut in two by all the heavy bags. Possibly a tired, grumbling child or two (or spouse) in tow… Every shop playing the same Christmas carols that at first you found festive and charming but which now just add to your growing fury..  The queues are so long that you’re just grateful if you can see the checkout from where you’re standing. Sad times.  Sad, unnecessary times.  Get in there early people!

3) Spread the cost over a few months

In my disorganised days, year after year, I would be left having to buy ALL of my Christmas presents in one huge, stressful and EXPENSIVE shopping trip.   It is so much more manageable to buy a few bits here and there over the course of a few months.

4) Avoid nasty last minute panic

I’m going to paint you a little picture…  Little Johnny has been excitedly awaiting the arrival of Christmas since June because you’ve promised him that new bike with shiny bell and the red basket.  Only, when you finally get around to your shopping a few days before, they’re all sold out! NOOOOO! It’s too late to order one and frankly, little Johnny’s Christmas is ruined. Tut tut.

5) You too can be a Christmas boaster!

You know those Facebook updates I mentioned?  Well wouldn’t you like to be able to inspire that same kind of impressed resentment in your friends?

The Foolproof Christmas Shopping Plan

Step 1:  Hit the highstreet now!

I think one of the best ways to get yourself feeling festive is to have a day of Christmas shopping in October or November.  The shops are already stocking their Christmas goodies (for the most part anyway) but the crowds haven’t quite arrived so you’ve got first pickings!  Why not book yourself a whole day to hit your local high street and pick up a few of your first presents, whilst getting inspiration for others at the same time?  It’s also a good opportunity to pick up some Christmas cards and wrapping paraphernalia. Maybe treat yourself to a coffee and some cake, or if you’re feeling really frivolous, then a tasty lunch and a glass of vino (as long as it doesn’t impair your shopping skills of course)?

TIP: Remember to stick to your Christmas Budget!

Step 2: Finish off online

There’s no pressure to finish your shopping on your first trip.  It’s really more to enjoy the shops and get ideas.  Of course, if you see something perfect then get it but rest easy in the knowledge that what you don’t get now, you can get online later.  Hurrah!

Have your say

I can’t believe we’ve reached Part 6 already!  If you’ve been finding my Guide to a Stress Free Christmas useful then please do let me know by hitting like or adding your thoughts to the comments section.  Many thanks!

Take me to Part 7: Christmas Food & Drink Planning

Catch up:

Part 1: Christmas Budget

Part 2: Making Christmas lists & Checking them twice

Part 3: Picking Presents

Part 4: Pickling Presents

Part 5: Christmas Party Invites

What’s in season in October?

October in season; a time for celebrating with food

I love how food is so interwoven into our culture, that just by looking at what is coming into season, we can immediately get a sense of what cultural occasions and feasts are approaching.  This month, pumpkins will be carved, the first cranberries will be purchased by organised Christmas cake makers and I for one, will be getting hold of some chestnuts to roast (although sadly, not over an open fire)…

Fruit

Clementines

Cranberries

Quince

Clementines and cranberries – could Christmas be coming? 🙂

Veg & Herbs

Kale 

Pumpkin

Sweet Potato

Sprouts

Did you know that 1st October was National Kale Day?  It’s not a vegetable that’s overly common – if you haven’t used it before why not give it a try this month?

Meat & Fish

Mussels

Duck

It’s quite tricky to get hold of fresh mussels unless you’re lucky enough to live near the sea, or a fishmonger.  If you can though, then do!  They taste of fresh, salty sea air and despite being a bit intimidating, are actually oh so simple to prepare and cook.  Just the addition of some simple ingredients – perhaps some white wine, garlic, parsley and cream, and you’ve got yourself a pretty heavenly dish.  Oh – and don’t forget crusty bread for dipping!

Foraging

Chestnuts!

Once chestnuts are in season, you know that Christmas is just around the corner 🙂  When I was little, we lived in a house with a gorgeous open fire (well, I thought it was gorgeous because I was nine and didn’t have to clean and re-make it everyday…) and one of my most cherished memories of Christmas time was roasting chestnuts on great skewers and cracking through their tough shells till our fingers hurt, but it didn’t matter because the soft, sweet nut inside was worth it.  Even now, anything with chestnuts in, makes me happy.

What do you think?

What foods do you love that are in season in October?  Let me know in the comments!

 

Your Weekly Guide to a Stress Free Christmas

Stress Free Christmas? Yes please!

I will lead you by the hand from now until Christmas Day and together, we’ll achieve a relaxed and joyful festive season…

For too many years, I’ve panicked and stressed my way through the whole Christmas period.  I’ve forgotten to write cards, I’ve left my shopping until the day before, I’ve overspent on presents that I’m not sure people even want.  I’ve flicked through recipe books, planning parties that I’ll never get around to organising…

Well, NO MORE!  This year, I’m putting my foot down and getting organised.  If you’d like to join me in my stress free Christmas, then great!  I’d love to share my step by step guide with you.

All you have to do is subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss a thing 🙂

What does the guide include?

Along with regular opportunities to chat, share experiences and support each other on Facebook and Twitter, my Stress Free Christmas guide will take you through each of these steps:

Part 1: Budget for a Stress Free Christmas 

Making sure you’re planning your spending now so you can spread the cost and avoid nasty shocks!

Part 2: Making 3 lists & checking them twice 

If making lists is good enough Santa,  then it’s good enough for us!  Can’t hurt to check it twice either…

Part 3: Picking Presents 

Browsing the online Christmas shops and picking your way through what Pinterest has to offer.  Hardly stressful, right?

Part 4: Pickling Presents 

Giving a few homemade gifts is a great way to save a bit of money whilst at the same time, giving someone a really thoughtful present

Part 5: Party Invites 

Want to throw a Christmas get together without the stress?  Well, planning when, where and who is a good place to start

Part 6: Christmas Shopping – Round 1 

Beat the rush, take your time and actually enjoy buying gifts for your family and friends

Part 7: Christmas Eats & Drinks 

Get ahead by planning your food shopping in advance.  I’ll give you a head start with some great recipe ideas and inspiration

Part 8: Party Food & Clothes 

Party planning phase two – you know the date, place and people.  Now the important stuff – what you’re eating and what you’ll wear! Hurrah! More recipes coming up!

Part 9: Christmas Cake

Have you ever made your Christmas cake in advance and fed it booze, the old fashioned way?  If not, then this is the year to embrace tradition and give it a go.  Guess what – I’ll have a few recipes to share..

Part 10: Turkey & Trimmings

No last minute panic about not having enough for Christmas dinner. You’ve planned what you need, now’s the time to get it ordered.

Part 11: Christmas Cards & Mince Pies

No day should go by in December without the consumption of a mince pie so it’s time to get stocked up.  Writing your cards will go by so much faster and more pleasurably with a glass of mulled wine and a warm, flakey, sticky, spicey mince pie by your side. What’s that I hear you cry? You’ll need a recipe or two?  Consider it done!

Part 12: Decorations

Time to really start feeling festive.  Get the tree up and give your house a Christmas makeover

 This sounds amazing!  Sign me up!

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Thanks!