No. 5 – Christmas is coming!🎅

I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me feel more inadequate about my inability to keep on top of things, and be a proper Mum, than turning over November’s page on the calendar and realising Christmas is nearly here.

That sinking realisation that I’ve failed to do all of the things I said I’d do last year to make December a bit more stress free this year. All those to do lists in my head that never made it onto a piece of paper, so stood no chance of actually getting ticked off. One of my sisters buys virtually everything for the next Christmas in the January sales. (Love ya sis!) Why didn’t I get some of her organisational prowess?

But, hold the front page…this year I am feeling a little smug as I’ve actually done one thing, I’ve baked our Christmas cake! My Mum reminded me that when we were kids, we always baked our Christmas cake in October half term then stored it away until it was time to decorate it, the week before Christmas. So this year, I reinstated the tradition with the boys. I may not have bought a single card or present, or planned what we’ll eat over the festive period, but we have cake. Priorities, right?

We went old school with our Christmas cake baking and dug out my inherited Be-ro cook book, faded, much loved, and sticky with little sugary fingerprints from many years of baking. Every time I use this cook book it entertains me, with its advice from the 1920s for home cooks. With such tips as, “Teach your girls how to bake and cook. Let them take pride in making scones and cakes for daddy’s tea. Every minute you devote to this most important task will be repaid to you a hundredfold, both in the actual help you will receive in later years, and in the pleasure and satisfaction you will derive from knowing that you are helping them to become useful and economical housewives themselves.” it really does make me smile. Because all we really want to be is a useful and economical housewife isn’t it, haha! Despite all of the slightly worrying insights into what girls may have aspired to be that can be gleaned from the cook book, the recipes have stood the test of time, and their Christmas cake recipe is a winner. If it ain’t broke and all that!

We omitted the gravy browning (!) as we thought that the dense, fruit rich cake would be just fine without. The boys’ verdict on cake baking; the best bit was licking the spoon!

So, assuming that you are somewhere on the range between my unorganised self, and my mega organised sister when it comes to Christmas preparation, I thought I’d use this blog post to pull together lots of tempting festive recipes, just on the off chance that you haven’t planned your Christmas feast as yet either. Hopefully it’ll help you, and me too, to get a bit more organised for the big day.

I’ve steered clear of the main event; the turkey, goose, ham, beef joint, or nut roast, and instead focused on the side dishes, all those added extras that make Christmas food special. I’m not getting into the Yorkshire Pudding debate either. For me, they are a definite yes to include, no matter what the meat is, along with roast potatoes, and I don’t think you should mess with them too much.  The basic tried and tested recipes passed down from your Nan are always the best!

4 out of 5 of my family are non meat eaters, so vegetables are our thing, but making them delicious, special and kid friendly can be challenging, especially at Christmas when time is short and stress levels can be high. Mealtimes with smalls can be hard enough without inducing epic meltdowns at the table about vegetables being too green or hard or soft or ‘vegetably’. I’ve heard all of the above complaints, but not this year dammit, this year will be different!

So, make a cuppa, or pour a glass of mulled wine, whatever time of day it is, (I’m not judging), and cast your eyes over this collection of recipes. No soggy overcooked sprouts anywhere near here. Hope it’s helpful! The beautiful colours initially drew me to this recipe, but the mix of sweet squash and cranberries with the slight bitterness of the sprouts and the nutty walnut hit, all brought together with festive cinnamon and maple syrup sounds truly delicious. This is definitely on my Christmas table this year! If you need bacon with your sprouts, which our resident meat eater does, then this is the classic recipe, combining the holy trinity of sprouts, salty bacon and sweet, earthy chesnuts. An alternative squash recipe which we eat ALL the time. Combines sweet squash with the tang of one of my greatest food loves, blue cheese, and the sweet nuttiness of pecans. Perhaps works best with a vegetarian main course rather than gravy soaked meat, but equally impressive for a festive buffet alongside cold cuts of meat. Perfectly spiced and sticky red cabbage is a festive must have in my book! Don’t be put off by the 3 hour cooking time – the actual preparation is just a few minutes. Plenty of time to quaff the rest of the bottle of red wine that’s left over! I love a good mix of roasted vegetables done on one tray in the oven. Easy on preparation, and once assembled can just be left to do its thing freeing up time for more fun activities. The sticky sweet glaze on the vegetables will work perfectly with the slightly tart apple and the citrus kick from the coriander seeds. An alternative parsnip recipe if you don’t want to go down the sticky and sweet glazed route. Cheesy baked parsnips work so well as the salty cheese brings out the natural sweetness of the parsnip, delicious! If there’s one vegetable I can be fairly confident that all 3 of my boys will eat without complaints, it’s green beans. This looks a tasty way to serve them, so I’ll be trying this on Christmas day. The more green stuff the better, if only to offset chocolate selection boxes for breakfast! I’m not a fan of too much mash on my Christmas dinner plate. Roast potatoes; yes, no question, mashed potatoes; not convinced. It can all get a bit mushy and baby food like for me. I’ll be making an exception for this creamy, garlicky cauliflower mash however. Plus it’s way healthier than the standard mashed potato, so extra nutrition bonus points will be mine! This cranberry sauce is super easy to make and the addition of apples and cinnamon make it that bit more special and festive. It’ll work really well with duck and goose, and is of course essential for those Boxing Day sandwiches. If I can get myself in gear, I’ll make a batch for presents for grandparents too. Sshh!

☆☆ Edited to add:  I actually found time to make the cranberry and apple sauce recipe above! It took just a few minutes of prep then the odd stir – just defrosting cranberries, chopping bramley apples, both into a pan with a cinnamon stick and golden caster sugar and a splash of water. Done!

And how cute do the little jars look? Major mum points for me, plus part of the grandparents’ gifts sorted. Winning!

Have a cracking Christmas and New Year! May your festive tables be laden with delicious food, and surrounded by happy, smiling faces. If it all goes to pot, there’s always wine to ease you through. Till 2017!
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