Saturday, December 28, 2013

Post Christmas sales

We found a good use for half off Christmas decorations - fairy mobiles. We found sticks at the park and the children chose decorations. If you are an adult and focused it will take five minutes to make. We managed to fill in nearly thirty minutes doing this with children aged three-nine.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Candy cane meringues, mince pies and Christmas craft.

Chocolate mint truffles rolled in pistachio crumbs.
I recently looked back on my blog to last year to try and find which recipes I'd used for steam pudding and Christmas mince - and had some attractive photos but no actual clues as to what recipes I'd used.  This year I used Hugh Fearnly-Whittingsall's recipe.  I had no ginger cordial like the recipe specified but did have some gingerbread spiced syrup from Starbucks which substituted rather nicely.  I then used my trusty Edmond's Cookbook to create the steamed puddings.  Steam pudding always seems like a really stupid idea for a summer Christmas when you boil the damn things for four hours (note, that is the FIRST boil, you boil it again on the day).  This year I'm going to put some of the Christmas mince in some vanilla ice-cream - terrine style.  Perhaps add some orange zest to the ice cream......

Delicious mince pies, pastry recipe from an old tea towel of all things.

Our advent calendar last year was full of little chocolates.  This year I really wanted the children to get a bit more out of the Christmas countdown so I've put in little activities, including a few to try and get them to learn about more about helping others.  Those ones haven't gone down so well, but I'm hoping if I repeat them every year they will start to look forward to them as part of the Christmas build up.  Today we are off to pick a book at the Children's Bookshop that Altrusa will distribute to needy families.  Yesterday we got out all the paints and stamps and made metres of wrapping paper.  One rainy Sunday two years ago I bought a box of brown wrapping paper from Warehouse Stationary and it is still going strong!!

Gift wrapping paper

I think that these are my favourite home made Christmas present this year - they are so cute, and so easy.  I often find it hard to believe that something as delicious as meringues is made from eggs and caster sugar.  Nothing else.  You can add vanilla for flavour or a pinch of tartaric acid to help with the beating (and make them appear slightly whiter) but they are not necessary.  For Christmas presents though, food colouring made an appearance.

I painted stripes all the way around the piping bag I used.  The first few meringues had no colour, but after that they were all perfect - they remind me of candy canes.  If you like it then a drop or two of peppermint essence would really Christmas-ify them!

Paint stripes on your piping bag to get the candy cane effect.

I'm not cooking Christmas dinner this year - my Mum is.  It is hard for me to let go of being in charge of such arrangements as I love the hunt for great recipes.  But, a small part of me is very happy not to need to do all that cooking and planning.  As a result, the presents are all purchased/ made and I have more time for crafting and gardening.  Score.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The hard work pays off.

All of a sudden we can eat from the garden every day.  And sometimes all of our veges for a particular meal are from the garden.  It feels amazing.
White carrot, courgette, calendula, lettuce, strawberries. 

Our rather large raspberry bushes turned out not to be raspberries.  But boysenberries are equally welcome!!!

It has long been a dream of mine to harvest enough garlic to create a garlic plait.  On harvesting the garlic, which was an unnamed variety from Commonsense Organics I learnt that it is Pearl Garlic.  I think I'll search out a different variety next year as I will get through the Pearl Garlic quickly (it is just one large bulb).

The garden does requite a fair amount of attention at the moment, but it is worth it.  The deep freezer is full of frozen herb pestos, homemade cordials and soon it should be full of frozen beans and courgette as well.  So sweet. Each year I garden it becomes more cost-effective (particularly with the berries and fruit trees).

I'm off to create a lovely picnic dinner of garden salad, white carrot, calendula, cucumber (I bought this but should have my own in a fortnight) and parsley pesto roast chicken.  I'm really enjoying this year's Christmas parties!