Happy New Year

The 2017 holiday season is almost behind us. The 12th night is only a few days away, so it is time to get back to work, and start making plans (if you haven’t already) for 2018.

Personally, I am going to try to introduce some new ingredients to my weekly menus (fennel anyone?), and work my way through the pile of recipes on my “to try” list. And hopefully in making little, delicious changes, I will shed the excess holiday weight I have gained and get back to my ideal fighting weight without much suffering or sacrifice.

I also hope by sharing some of my culinary adventures that together we can all finally send a message to the food manufacturers that fresh is best.

If you have any foodie plans let me know in the comments below.

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Stop What You Are Doing It’s Snack Time

Preparing for Christmas is a time consuming task. You have shopping to do, cards to write, people to visit, and food to prepare… And you have to squeeze in work, looking after the kids and a million other tasks as well. Sometimes it is so busy you forget to look after yourself, after all you should be enjoying yourself this time of the year.

So take a few minutes, grab a bowl and make yourself a tasty holiday treat.

Mince Pie Popcorn

  • Cooking time: 15 mins
  • Skill level: easy

Ingredients

  • Popcorn
  • Jar of mincemeat

Method

  1. Make popcorn as per instructions on the pack, or using a hot air popper.
  2. Wait for the popcorn to cool. It doesn’t have to be cold, just cool enough to handle.
  3. Add a few big spoonfuls of mincemeat, and mix using your hands. Continue until the popcorn is well coated.
  4. Put the popcorn onto a nonstick baking tray, and bake at 180c/160c fan oven for 10 mins.
  5. Put popcorn in a bowl, and eat.

Slow Cooker Mulled Wine

This Christmas why not welcome your guests with a traditional cup of mulled wine and a mince pie. It is super easy to make and by mulling it in a slow cooker it won’t take up a burner on your hob.

Ingredients

  • 2x 750ml bottles of decent red wine
  • Peeled zest and juice of 2 oranges
  • Peeled zest of a lemon
  • 120g golden caster sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • Orange slices (to serve)

Method

Put all the ingredients into your slow cooker. Use a small bag made from cooking muslin to put the spices into, or use a strainer during serving to sift them out. Stir it up and heat through for 2 hours. Turn your slow cooker to the “keep warm” setting (if your slow cooker has one). Serve with a slice of orange.

A Perfect Christmas Doesn’t HaveTo Be Perfect

I am a big fan of Christmas! It is easily my favourite time of the year, and I must do a good job of organising and cooking and hosting because this is the fourth time in the last five years I have been asked to host Christmas dinner (the only year my services were not requested was in 2015, though I was originally supposed to host but sadly my Mom died on the 17th of December). I think the reason I am always called on to host at Christmas is my almost zen-like sense of calm and organisation… Or maybe it is just my fully stocked bar; who knows?

My Yoda-ish sense of calm however isn’t something that is hard-wired into my personality. It is the result of years of chaotic holidays, filled with the mini-disasters that everyone has, and my taking simple steps to ensure they never happen again.

So this year, I shall once again post some steps to ensure you have a fun and relaxing Christmas.

Domestic Dad’s Guide to Christmas Bliss.

  1. REMEMBER Christmas is just another day of the year, but with added presents, and a bit more indulgent food. The real magic of Christmas doesn’t come from perfection, it comes from “togetherness”. When the red mist begins to decent, take a moment to remember that you want it to be perfect, because you are surrounded by the people in your life that you love the most, then maybe have a glass of your favourite beverage, and go back to making memories.
  2. PLANNING is key. Make a menu well in advance, collect any special requests and make a plan. Remember to check that you have the room in the fridge for everyone’s delights, check cooking times, and make sure you have room in the oven and on the stove to make your menu in time for dinner.
  3. LISTS make everything go to plan. There is nothing worse than waking on Christmas day to realise you have forgotten to buy carrots, or pototoes.
  4. GET AHEAD. Try cooking as much as you can in advance and freezing it, ready for Christmas day. I have already made and frozen my Cranberry relish, and Stuffing Balls, and my Christmas cake has been maturing for a couple of weeks. I have also set-up a reminder on my phone to alert me to get them out of the freezer in time to be defrosted, ready for heating up on the big day.
  5. RECRUIT help. Get the kids to peel the vegetables and lay the table, ask guests to bring their favourite dish, or just ask for a hand in the kitchen from your guests. Most people actually don’t mind helping out.
  6. SET UP a drinks and snacks bar and let people help themselves. After all it is your Christmas as well, so you don’t want to spend it working as a waiter.
  7. ALLOW the kids to eat what they want for dinner. If they don’t want sprouts don’t force them, it will only cause unnecessary stress.

Another Chilli Recipe

Since I was a teenager I have been on the search for the world’s best chilli con carne recipe. My idea of the best chilli is that it is hot enough to give me a warming glow, but not so hot that you lose touch with your other senses. It has to be meaty and chunky, and it has to have some beans to make me think that I am being “healthy”.

I am not sure if I have found it yet, but I think I am getting closer with this fabulous chilli recipe.

Chilli Con Carne

  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 45- 60 minutes in the oven; 3 hours in a slow cooker
  • Skill level: easy
  • Serves: 2-4

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 250g minced beef
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 green, and 1 pepper
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 small bird’s eyes chillies, chopped (you can use other chillies at your own risk)
  • few splashes of Tobasco sauce (or other chilli sauce)
  • 1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • handful of fresh coriander chopped
  • 1 x 400g can of red kidney beans

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid and brown the minced beef. Add the onion, peppers, Worcestershire sauce, chillies, tobasco, tomatoes and tomato purée and beans. Crumble in the stock cube, and add the juice of the lime and the ground cumin, then add a little of the chopped coriander.
  2. Give it a good mix, then cover the pan and allow to simmer for 45-60 minutes, or a few hours in a slow cooker.
  3. Add lots more chopped coriander before serving on top of some rice or with some tortilla chips… Don’t forget an iced cold beer as my beverage of choice for the big people or some milk for the little ones.