A Christmas Guide for a Stress Free Celebration

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Looking ahead and thinking about Christmas Day? This is the only guide you need for our top recipes, tips and tricks to make it hassle free and full of moments to remember.

TIPS AND TRICKS

You don’t have to make everything - Surprised to hear me say this? This is a biggie - Not everything has to be homemade.  For example I make the cake but buy the pud or I buy the sauces and put my time into the really important stuff like the mains and the veg.  Buy local if you can and even better if you can support a small business.

Set the table beforehand-Have the table set a day or even two early, I really enjoy doing it, and it’ll remind you of the day and how organised you are every time you look over and see it’s all ready to go.

Plants or Flowers - If you are having family over and you know they will bring flowers, be cheeky and ask them if possible to bring them up a day or two early, as standing in a sea of pots and pans looking for a vase is not the easiest and lovely plants or flowers dotted around the house looks lovely.

Get out all the serving dishes and wash them well in advance – if you are anything like me they are stored on top of the presses and they have gathered dust for most of the year. The last thing you want is to find that out as you take the turkey out to rest.  Pull out all your lovely serving stuff in advance and save yourself the stress.

Put people to work
. Christmas Day involves a huge amount of prep. You know that Irish thing we do where people ask can they help and you say ‘not at all’ and then nearly collapse under the mountain of tasks you have to do….. Instead why not plan in advance for what you can have your guests do or bring and put them to work in the kitchen along with you- Give ’em a cocktail — I have you covered below 😊 and they’ll be happy.

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THE RECIPES

Cocktail- Classic Champagne Cocktail - This is a classic and perfect to welcome everyone. Just the one is enough to get the party started.

1 sugar cube & a Twist of orange peel (optional)

A dash of Angostura bitters

30ml Brandy and Chilled Champagne to top up

Add the sugar cube to a chilled Champage flute. Add the orange peel, bitters then the brandy and slowly top up with the Champagne or sparkling wine as an alternative.

Union Square Café Spicy Nuts - These would serve a good few people as an appetizer with drinks or reduce the quantities and make for a delicious snack during the day.

500gr assorted unsalted nuts including cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds.
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper / 2 teaspoons Maldon salt
1 tablespoon butter melted
1 tsp honey
2 heaped tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 150C. Toss the nuts and spread out on a baking sheet Toast for about 15 – 20 minutes in the oven until they become light golden brown.
In a large bowl combine the rosemary, cayenne, honey, salt and melted butter. Thoroughly toss the nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm.

Party Dips - I love these 2 dips for over drinks - serve these with some crackers and fresh chopped veggies for a delicious and much healthier version of nibbles.

Caramelised Tikka Spice Onion Dip

3 large yellow onions peeled and thinly sliced
1oz butter and 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp tikka spice mix
1 tsp each of salt and pepper
2 large tbsp sour cream – use low fat if preferred

Heat the butter and oil in a large pan on a medium heat
Toss in the onions, salt pepper and tikka spice and fry gently for 10 minutes stirring to ensure it doesn’t get caught on the bottom
Reduce the heat to low medium and cook for 20 more minutes. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to remove the caramelisation from the bottom of the pot so it incorporates into the mixture. Allow the onions to cool and mix the sour cream into them and stir well,
Taste for seasoning. Store in the fridge but serve at room temperature.

Sun dried Tomato dip

150g sun-dried tomatoes -chopped
4oz cream cheese – use low fat if preferred
1 tsp salt and pepper
10 drops Tabasco – more if preferred
2 spring onions, trimmed and chopped finely (use white and green)

Puree everything bar the spring onions in a blender
Add the spring onions and pulse a few times to incorporate
Taste for seasoning.
Store in the fridge but serve at room temperature.

G&T Granita - Perfect Palate Cleanser for between courses not for the kids, serves 8

50ml water / 100g caster sugar
75ml good-quality gin and 250 ml good-quality tonic water
A few sprigs of fresh mint chopped very finely
Juice of 1 lemon

Add water and sugar to pot and heat on medium setting to dissolve the sugar. Give it a stir to help it along. Don’t boil
Add the remaining ingredients and pour into a freezer-proof container. Cool to room temperature, then freeze. After 1 hour, remove and whisk with a fork (or whizz in a food processor) to break up the ice crystals, then return to the freezer.
Repeat after another hour. Before serving, break up the granita with a fork to give it a softer texture.

Brussels Sprouts - One of my favourite vegetables, not just for Christmas but if your kids are like ours they still mightn’t eat them!

250g Brussels sprouts, cleaned & trimmed

3tbsp oil divided

1tbsp each of balsamic syrup and honey

40g pecans sliced

Blanch the sprouts in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes. Let them cool, then cut them in half and toss in 2 tbsp of oil and roast for 15 minutes at 180C.

Mix the other spoon of oil with the balsamic syrup and honey and toss over the sprouts and mix well. Sprinkle over the pecans and roast for a further 10 minutes then serve.

If you are preparing ahead you can do the first roasting step when you want to get them ready to serve, then toss in the oil honey mix and complete as directed.

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THE OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF

This is a round up of all the other stuff which I hope will help us remember what it is really all about which is Friends Family Health and Happiness.

Reach out and give something to people less fortunate than us. Lots of people are struggling to make ends meet but if you can afford to, find a Christmas charity which speaks to your heart and give them something to help someone else. Gather a few other family or friends and club together with them if you are short.

On the day remember to take a deep breath in and let go of past injustices, harsh words, arguments or old grudges, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have them but not reacting in the usual pattern will help not cause a row but more importantly you wont feel angry or frustrated.

Remember that it’s ok not to feel ho ho ho all the time, I love Christmas but I also find it quite an emotional time as I remember my lovely mum and my first love and many of us feel this way as we remember loved ones we have lost or regrets we have…

Watch your alcohol intake - it is a depressive and can lead to behaviour we regret.

It’s just one day and so what if the mash has a few lumps, look around the table, see everyone you know and love and even those who drive you mad and be thankful. Remember the magic can still be there even if you don’t believe in Santa anymore.

The final word is to get out for a long walk over the holidays, if you are like us and have had a PJ and Movie day (we wont mention the box of Celebrations) then you will definitely need to blast the cobwebs away and try walk off some of those calories.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS FROM GRAINNE & DOMINIC