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.

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.

Cherry and Pistachio Stuffing

Growing up in Canada my mom always made a traditional stuffing that you shoved into the backside of your turkey, and for me it was the best part of Christmas dinner. Here in England though stuffing is a completely different creature all together, but no less delicious. This recipe is made in the traditional English style, but has a fruity modern twist that should delight even the most fussy eater in your house.

The best part of this recipe though is that you can make it now and freeze it. Just remember to take it out of the freezer a couple of days before so they have time to completely defrost.

  • Skill level: easy
  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 red onion, finely diced. (see video)
  • 450g/1lb sausage meat (if you can’t find sausage meat, just pick your favourite sausage and remove them from their skins)
  • 175g/6oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • zest 1 lemon
  • zest 1 orange
  • 100g/4oz shelled pistachios
  • 100g/4oz dried sour cherries (or dried cranberries)
  • 1 large egg
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • drizzle of olive oil

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a small pan, add the onion and cook until soft, and then leave to cool.
  2. Roughly chop the pistachios (I used a food processor and then just pulsed them a few times).
  3. Mix the ingredients, except for the olive oil. The best way to do this is by hand. Once mixed roll the stuffing into 24 walnut sized balls and put on a baking tray. or in a freezer proof container if freezing.
  4. Drizzle the stuffing with olive oil and cook at 220°C/Gas 7 on the middle shelf of your oven for 20 minutes before moving to the top shelf for 10 additional minutes.

These stuffing balls can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or put in the freezer for 2 months, but remember to take them out of the freezer a few days before Christmas and thoroughly defrost in the refrigerator before cooking.