January 16, 2013

I know it's a little stereotypical to post a salad recipe right after Christmas for that bright and shiny new you for the new year. Really though, January is a great time for new beginnings and eating well is always a good choice, especially when the post-holiday blues can get some people in a rut.

It is also prime flu season and I have been flattened for the last few days with the virus. Yet another reason to eat well and let the body rest even when you're not feeling it. First off, a look back at a bit of New Year's Eve indulgence:

Ice cream Bombe Cake

This cake was the bomb, a christmas pudding ice cream bomb, in fact. What else do you do when all of those Christmas treats are on sale and you're stuffed to the brim with sweets? Make a cake, of course.

Ice cream Christmas Bombe Cake

On New Year's Eve we played some board games, ate some food and played some more games. We did dress up, but there was no night of desperately trying to wave down a cab and sloshing through the snow in heels and I was alright with that.


The cake I made for the occasion was a Jamie Oliver recipe my Dad made for Christmas dinner. It seems quite labour intensive; however, it just involves some leftover ingredients and a lot of freezer time. Jamie explains it best:

 

He is right; it's "retro beauty" and not that difficult to make. Layer the Pannetone bread in a bowl lined with saran wrap (or "cling film")...


Then spread the bread with jam and add some ice cream and the fillings. I used "cranberry trail mix frozen yoghurt," then stuff any leftover holiday ingredients in there, such as glace fruit, maraschino cherries, clementines and almonds. Wrap it up and freeze until about an hour before you want to serve.


Speaking of leftovers, after the indulging, socializing and eating, you tend to do a lot of this during the holidays:


Some presents this year included a cozy Hudson's Bay throw and a beautiful, orange dutch oven pot which I used to make this turkey and wild rice casserole with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce.


And then make something green and energizing because you will need it to get through going back to work and that time of year when everyone is sick (and it's only time until you get it) and is it spring yet?

Brussel Sprout, Clementine and Edamame salad

Making a salad out of brussel sprouts is something I never thought to do. Like many interesting meals, the idea for this recipe for Shredded Brussels Sprout and Tangerine Salad came from Pinterest. Also, check out this other refreshing recipe for a Brussels Sprout Pomegranate Citrus Salad.


Brussel Sprout, Clementine and Edamame Salad

1/2 pound brussels sprouts
2-3 clementines
1/2 cup cooked edamame beans
1/4 cup walnuts
Dressing:3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice,
a squirt of dijon mustard

Directions:

In the original recipe, the sprouts were shredded raw, but I cooked them and chopped them up afterwards. Then I added the clementines, edamame beans, walnuts and dressing. Then enjoy the greens, fruit and vitamins and hope it detoxes, rejuvenates and refreshes you...and have another piece of cake for dessert.
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January 04, 2013

I was looking at my finances for December and it seems I spent quite a bit on food last month. Oh well, I regret nothing. It's not that I spent a lot, but food is such an important part of the holidays and seems to take up a significant part of expenses this time of year. Even in the lead up to Christmas I felt like I was eating more elaborate food simply because everyone was gearing up for parties, dinners and celebrations.

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.

Stuffed acorn squash

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.

Holiday gift basket

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.

Homemade fruit cake

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...

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