Grocery stores, magazines and of course, food blogs, don't help the situation with mouth-watering holiday and entertaining ideas. One of the latest editions of Canadian Living had this recipe for mustard sage pork chops with israeli couscous and I also enjoyed a stuffed acorn squash with tofu, brown rice, squash, onions, celery and mozzarella cheese. Also, a big shout out to this sweet potato gratin recipe. Somehow the sauce tasted exactly like real meat gravy even though it was made with coconut milk and potatoes. I assure you, I don't eat this extravagantly normally.
I also love giving presents and treats usually more than receiving them. I am not one of those people who shops months in advance, but I do like to put careful thought into what I give each person. Sometimes you need something nice on hand to give to co-workers, friends and hosts as a small token of your appreciation. Thus almost 50 jars of homemade strawberry jam that were once originally planned as wedding favours, were used as Christmas gifts this year.
I put together some gift baskets for the family with homemade jam, fruitcake, stollen bread, roasted nuts and a tea ornament from David's Tea. It might sound like a lot of work to put all of that together; however, I had my friend the trusty bread maker by my side. Did you know you could make Christmas fruit bread in a bread maker? I did not.
A stollen bread is a German fruit bread dusted with icing sugar. I also made a traditional fruitcake for the first time using a recipe from an old Delia Smith Christmas cookbook. They weren't that difficult to make partly because I skipped the alcohol in them, so they didn't require "feeding" or soaking. Yes, you have to "feed" the cakes with Sherry or Brandy. They did have to bake in the oven for 4 1/2 hours though. My goodness.
The first batch of cakes I attempted a marzipan topping using store bought almond paste, but the marzipan turned out kind of lumpy and I had to cover it up with sprinkles. For the second batch I rolled out the almond paste and laid it across the top of the cakes like fondant. They looked a lot nicer and it was also a little less effort.
Even if you're on a small budget, you can still make the most of the season. For example, it is possible to have a real Christmas tree in a small apartment and with a cat (who is also small). You just have to vacuum the needles up every other day. There's nothing like having a real tree though.
A few simple decorations are all you need, such as some Christmas cards strewn up on the wall, a poinsettia or two and homemade wreaths and decorations using tree trimmings are always fun.
When you're done decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping and running around aimlessly I suppose you can actually enjoy the holidays, which includes taking cheesy photos for next year's Christmas cards, taking a walk through the park and streets to see the Christmas lights, then snuggling up with some hot chocolate.
You are allowed to splurge a little bit though whether it's for yourself or someone else. We went to the market and bought some fancy blocks of cheese to eat on Christmas day as we watched movies and relaxed before dinner.
For dinner I let some cranberry sauce simmer away and roasted some spiced and sweet nut mixes for gift bags. Then I put a pot roast in the slow cooker and let the smell of meat, vegetables and gravy consume the apartment all day.
With any roast beef dinner you need some Yorkshire puddings and gravy; it's the British way. Gordon Ramsay helped a bit with that. I used a recipe from one of his books to make them for the first time. They are not the safest food to make, as you have to heat the oven to 450F, then pour oil into a muffin tin and let it smoke slightly, then pour the batter in the pan. We didn't have any cooking-related accidents or injuries, which was good.
Yes, the holidays are about somewhat splurging and then paying for it later. I have signed up for a booty camp fitness class for the new year, so I will be working away those extra calories. The food, presents and treats are nice, but ultimately Christmas is about celebrating and being thankful for everything and everyone you have. And also welcoming some new additions to the family...