Christmas Cookies

Another Christmas tradition – spicy biscuits cut into Christmas shapes.  My husband loves these and so far I have never made them as well as his mother. (He likes to play with fire.)  Lots of other people love them though and they can be fun to make with the kids.  This is another activity you can freeze from any time now.  Divide the dough in half and freeze the dough.  Or roll out, cut the biscuits and freeze the uncooked cookies.  Then bring them out and bake. You can even freeze the baked biscuits so up to you and your schedule. Baking can be creative but cleaning up can be an added stress in an already stressed out season so freezing the biscuits  now will save that hassle.  Arrange children around the table with little bowls of different coloured icing and anything else you have to decorate with.  Ice in one colour and then pipe decorations on top or just use sprinkles.  We love them spliced together with a good plum or berry jam.  They will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days.   I would suggest you double this recipe to make enough cookies for a family gathering.

Set oven to 180C

  • 125g Butter softened
  • 75g Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tsp each of cinnamon, mixed spice and Ground Ginger
  • Cream butter, sugar and spice together until light and fluffy
  • Add 1 egg and beat well.
  • Sift 225g flour with 1 tsp baking powder
  • Add and mix until well combined.
  • Put onto floured surface and knead until the dough comes together nicely. If too sticky add a little flour.
  • Divide into 2 batches. Roll out the first batch to about 3 mm thick.  Cut out biscuits using your cookie cutters. Put onto greased trays and cook for 10 mins or so at 180C.
  • When cook, stick together with jam. Plum or berry is a favourite. Then ice.

Icing.

Butter icing for covering biscuits.

  • 50g butter melted.
  • Add tiny drop of vanilla essence.
  • Sift 2 cups of icing sugar and add along with enough hot water to make a smooth mix.  Add only a few drops of hot water at a time.
  • Divide up into smaller bowls if you are want different colours and add food colouring to each batch.

Royal Icing for Piping. (an option)

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 cups sifted icing sugar
  • Squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add lemon juice then icing sugar a little at a time until smoothly combined. This will make your basic white icing. If you want to make smaller batches of coloured, divide in two and add food colouring to each batch as needed.

Fun Festive Kiwi Sausage Roll Wreath

20171206_162030You saw it here first! The great Kiwi sausage roll reinvented as a Christmas Wreath.  This is an easy and great idea maybe for Christmas Eve when you don’t know who is going to turn up and at what time.  You can even make this a couple of weeks ahead and freeze – either cooked or uncooked.   I have used a dozen breakfast sized sausages for this one but you can make it whatever size you want and get really creative with the bow.

You will need the following:

4 sheets of flaky pastry defrosted

12 breakfast Sausages

1 beaten egg for washing.

Method

  1. Place one sheet of pastry onto oven tray. Use baking paper underneath to make it easier to plate up. Using a suitable sized plate, mark out a circle and cut around it. I used a 23cm pie dish for this which was the exact size. Then use a cup or similar to make a circle in the middle. You can either take that out or leave in.  Use as a guide for placing sausages.
  2. Cut another sheet length into 3 even size strips. Then cut straight down the middle so you have 6 pieces of pastry.
  3. Roll each sausage up in its own blanket of pastry. Repeat with the next sheet of pastry and next 6 sausages.  Brush the ring of pastry with the egg wash and arrange sausages in a ring around the outer part of the circle.
  4. Cut the final sheet of pastry in half. On one side, cut 2 lengths in the shape of a ribbon bow. Cut the remaining piece into a bow.  Use a final bit to loop round the middle of the bow.
  5. Brush with egg wash. If you are going to cook now, pop the whole tray into the fridge while you preheat the oven to 200C. Cook for about 20 mins or until well puffed up and golden.Serve with your family’s favourite sauce.

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December 5. 20 Days to Go. Stay Calm and Get Organised – Budget

 

Budgets are important especially if you are on a tight one yourself.  As Pam Corkery said in an article I read a few years ago “Christmas is a time to break bread, not the bank.” It’s hard to find the balance between ensuring you meet family expectations of gift giving and not getting yourself into debt that is going to be with you months to come. Remember that spending money you don’t have is a recipe for more stress and pressure so just don’t do it.   However, it is lovely is lovely to think of everyone at Christmas time so make a list of those who you would like to acknowledge. A card or small homemade gift or treat is a lovely gift for many to let them know you are thinking of them this season.  And do that soon before you get too busy.

You will probably want to spend more on your immediate family for example and come to another arrangement with those outside that group.  Don’t go over your own allocated total budget of course but prioritise it accordingly.

December 4: Stay Calm and Get Organised; Gift Giving.

Make a List and Check it Twice

You may be super organised and have got all your gift purchases all out of the way and wrapped.  Most likely not.  Today in the spirit of staying calm and organised, get your cup of tea, go to your Mother Christmas HQ, get out your Christmas Journal and take stock of where you are up.

Start by making a list of who you think you need to buy for and then consider it.  If you are a parent then of course concentrate on your own children and partner and perhaps your parents as well. But for your adult brothers and sisters – have the conversation with the extended family about expectations and maybe come to an agreement about what level of gift giving is expected. You certainly don’t want to get into financial strife buying expensive gifts for those you don’t need to.  I do like the idea of giving something inexpensive but gorgeous or useful especially if you will see them on Christmas Day and you will be sharing gifts.  Something handmade, a good bottle of wine or nicely packaged cheeses, preserves, chocolate etc will go a long way to ensuring a day of treats for extended family. So agree on who you are going to buy for, shorten that list and your stress level.

For those you are going to buy for, its ok to actually ask them. If its your children for example, depending on their age, get them to write a letter to Santa.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter what their age is either. It can be helpful to have a third person involved – even if that person doesn’t exist! This does not mean that you get everything on their list of course but it helps to know what is in their heart.

 

Sunday 3 December 23 Days to Go. Stay Calm and Get Organised – Christmas Journal

I am a bit of a fan of journals and how they can help you with getting organised – and having a special one dedicated to Christmas is a  good idea.  So today’s task is to start one for yourself. There are plenty of good value ones out there. You might prefer to use a visual diary type or  just a B5 lined one.  Cover it in a beautiful fabric or Christmas paper – something to set it apart as your Christmas journal.

This journal is going to keep you together.  You are going to make some lists in it and you are going to keep it from year to year so you know who you gave what to, what you all ate, what recipes worked and what recipes will become favourites.  The idea is that you download all those things currently in your brain that you feel you need to do between now and Christmas so everything is in one place.  This will help you avoid walking around saying things like ‘I must remember not to forget”  etc.  Keep this handy as you go about your day so you can jot thoughts down as you think of them.

Now make the time to sneak off to your special Mother Christmas HQ and start getting everything down on paper.  Start writing lists – I’ve given you some suggestions below but add what is important to you. Let me know if you added something different as I am working on a master list myself

  • Gift list
  • Gift Shopping
  • Christmas card list
  • Menu
  • Holiday plans and timeline
  • Recipes
  • Events you have to go to.
  • Events you are creating
  • Personal care appointments: hair, nails etc.
  • All of the other things you have to do.

Now that you have brain stormed all that and captured everything you can think of – then comes  the most important thing. Go over your list and do the following.

Eliminate.  There are some things that would be nice to get done but if you’re going to end up a stressed out exhausted wreck by the time you get to Christmas Day – its just not worth it. Cross it off the list or pay someone to do it.

Delegate  to other family members. You don’t and shouldn’t have to do everything. Share food duties, cleaning duties, gift duties.

Prioritise – Get the important and time sensitive things done at once. You need to get something posted overseas?  Get that done soon. Ordering online?  If you want things to arrive before Christmas get in early.  Want to eat turkey?  Get it out of the freezer a couple of days before.

Plan. – Now make your master plan – work out when you are going to do what you think you want to get done, leaving some gaps if you can to catch your breath and enjoy the season as well.

Implement your plan!

Saturday 2 December  24 Days to go. Stay Calm and get organised.

Collect together all the Christmas wrapping paper, string, bows, scissors, Sellotape, bows, ribbons, gift tags, boxes etc that you can.  Buy some big rolls and buy plenty because someone will turn up on the day having not wrapped anything yet and ask you if you have any spare paper. Then they’ll ask you if you have any scissors.  To save any unfortunate murders on what is supposed to be a Time of Peace, have plenty of extra paper available.   And the only rule is: if anyone else dares to use your space,  to put everything back where you found it.  Don’t make me have to search for my scissors.  Which reminds me; you do have to keep this space a secret because if you ever, at any time collect all this stationery together in one place, it becomes a magnet for the family and your carefully collected materials will disappear rapidly.  Make a family stationery box or drawer in a shared space and point them there.

Another thing. Sellotape. I advise you to get the best quality brand you can and even better to get a dispenser.  Who hasn’t said a lot of un-Christmas like words while wrapping things at last minute and you cannot physically find the end of the Sellotape on the roll.

Put all of these together in a suitable container.  You can get a really useful Christmas paper organiser from places like Ezibuy https://www.ezibuy.com/shop/nz/gift-wrapping-organiser/p/162314    or if you are a vintage kind of a girl, an old leather suitcase would be good.   You can fit ribbon dispensers in the lid and little  pouches for scissors etc.  Of course a plastic box will be fine and if that’s all you have available then use that for now and find something more attractive later on after Christmas.

You won’t have all of the above materials at hand so put them on your shopping list now and get the bulk of it all ready as soon as you can.  Then when you are out and about you can always pop into emporiums on the hunt for ribbons and other bits and pieces.

Stay calm and get organised. 1 December 25 Days to Go. Create a Workspace for Mother Christmas.

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The best way to deal with Christmas Stress is to get organised and plan.   So today the first thing to do is to  create a space for Mother Christmas.  Yes – I know it will fall to the women and mothers all around the country to bear the brunt of the work so we won’t even pretend Santa Claus has much to do with it.  When my youngest brother was little there is a story about how my Grandmother went to his room to wake him up on Christmas morning.  “Santa Claus has been” said Grandma.  “Has She?” was the response.  Even at that young age he knew  full well that it was his Mother who was responsible for most of the treats stuffed into pillowcases in the lounge.

So – all you wonderful women out there,  let’s get organised and plan to make this Christmas the most peaceful and joyful and special one yet. (Hint: Do not read “cost heaps of money” cause it doesn’t have to) Today’s task is simply to make a work station for yourself.  Create a clearing somewhere, table or desk space,  not in a public space if there are nosey children lurking around, maybe the bedroom, a spare room, your she-shed if you are lucky enough to have one. Decorate it however you want – maybe a family photo to remind you of who you are creating memories for, maybe a special Christmas decoration, a wreath, anything that brings you Christmas Joy.   (I still believe). But keep it clear and uncluttered.  Bear in mind that you will need some space to put gifts before and after wrapping so a wardrobe or room under the bed will be handy.

This is going to be your quiet calm thinking space so you can make room in your brain. Got it done? Right – now – lets do this!

Kitchen Garden Notes for August

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August – The Promise of Spring

After a wet winter over most of the country I am sure that we have all had enough of winter but the end is in sight and we see glimpses of it all over despite the mud. August, although sometimes the bleakest of months, brings the promise of Spring.

Once spring arrives starting next month, things will all happen at once so use this month to get ready.  Clean and organise pots, seed trays, tools, seed raising mix and seeds.  Mark out new beds if you are starting from the scratch.  Avoid walking on wet ground or cultivating wet gardens but get beds all ready for the new season planting.  As the soil dries up over the month get in and dig over your beds, removing any perennial weeds such as dock and couch, add plenty of manure and compost, turn over winter mulches, dig over green crops, add blood and bone and depending on what you plan to grow, some lime.  Leave the beds to settle and for the earth worms and all the microcosms in a healthy soil to do their work.  The more you can tend your soil at this end of the season the more successful your vegetable beds will be.

It’s too early to sow much outside except for peas and broad beans.  Peas need to go into a well manured trench with some added lime.  Autumn sown broad beans can be staked and the tops pinched out if necessary.  New potatoes can be chitted this month by putting seed potatoes in egg cartons or boxes of straw and left in a warm light place to sprout.  If you plant them too early, especially if the soil is wet, they can rot before they get a chance to grow.  At the same time prepare the soil in your potato bed as above and add some potato fertilser – by the time the potatoes have sprouted the soil will be warmed and ready.

You can get a head start on spring by sowing leafy green and brassica  seeds in a warm place.  Visit your local garden centre to see what’s growing, purchase seed potatoes and maybe the odd punnet of brassicas to pop in a warm part of the garden.  Don’t forget herbs such as parsley and flowers such as marigold or poppy and nasturtium to edge beds and bring the bees.  Make a practice of only buying as many punnets as you can plant straight away – I don’t know how many plants I have lost by leaving them sitting for weeks.  Protect everything from frost and once things are actively growing start liquid fertilizing.

Jobs for this Month

Sow. Beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cauli, silverbeet, spinach, turnip – all can be sown in trays in a warm sheltered position. Sow broad beans direct into ground. Sow indoors; artichoke, celery, lettuce, leeks. Sow herbs like coriander, parsley and thyme.

Plant: Garlic can still go in.

Cultivate: Weed and fertilise growing plants.

Harvest: Silverbeet, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, parsnips, winter lettuce and mizuna.

Prepare: Beds for asparagus plants, rhubarb, potatoes and your potting bench for spring sowing.

Thoughts on Eating Frogs For Breakfast

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Someone once said one of the keys to being successful is to” eat a toad a day”.  This quote has been attributed erroneously to Mark Twain but It doesn’t matter who said it – the truth is that this is a very powerful habit to get into. Of course, you don’t actually have to eat any kind of cold clammy toad or frog – which I should imagine is a rather horrible thing to do – but it means doing the most unpleasant or difficult task at the beginning of your work day and now that’s not hanging over you, you can enjoy the rest of the day!  It’s not just at the office either. This is a good discipline to apply to other areas of our lives. If you need to do it then I suggest you  get organised the night before; have the telephone number ready, have all the documents you need in order and get clear on what result you are after.  This also prevents procrastination. Then as soon as you are at your desk  and ready to go, pick up that phone and make that call!  You will find the following good things will happen.

  1. Now you have got the hard stuff out of the way you can enjoy the rest of the day.
  2. You will probably find that whatever it was that you thought of as hard or difficult about that call wasn’t as bad as you thought and the fear and anxiety was something you brought to the problem in hand.  So you were worrying unnecessarily.
  3. That, in turn, teaches us the lesson that we can often make things harder than they really are and once we discover that, we can learn not to create so much meaning around what we think of as problems.  I know many times I have not made calls, sometimes for the lame reason that the person I am calling might be having their lunch and I am interrupting.  Powerful people make the calls that they need to make to get the results they need to take.   If there is an issue, communication is your best weapon.
  4. The act of actually making that call and resolving that issue is going to make you feel powerful   – so powerful that you can now confidently take on any further toads should they hop by.
  5. That feeling of personal power, accomplishment and achievement can be such a strong feeling that is can be a natural high. Learn to love that so if you have to coach yourself to eat that frog then focus on the great result you will get rather than the fear you feel right now.  The only way around some problems is through.
  6. And finally, you  will be developing a powerful habit to help deal with procrastination and therefore become more effective in living the life you want to live.

Coffee Sponge

Heat oven to 200c

4 eggs

½ cup sugar

½ cup of cornflour

¼ cup of plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp Chicory Coffee Essence

Method.

Beat eggs and sugar until very thick and fluffy.

Add chicory essence near the end of the beating and combine well.

Sift dry ingredients and carefully fold into egg mixture.

Using a rubber spatula, pour mixture into sponge tins and bake for around 12 mins.

Tip out of tins onto a cake rack to cool. When cool put together with coffee cream and ice with coffee icing.

 

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