Hint of Mint Cocoa Brownies and Sour Cherry and Pistachio Chocolate Bark

After my wee panic about lack of preparations for our family Christmas, I am pleased to report that I have tackled most of the food shopping. I have even made a modest stab on the food making front, too. Presents aren’t wrapped but I do have a few dishes tucked into the freezer. So, now that I have just finished with all my ‘Maggie’s cooking’,  I am counting on the exceptionally organised and calm Miss R to help me with the remaining tasks. This includes how to make three pomegranates, a bag of red Brussels sprouts tops, chillies and other random produce into a festive centrepiece without it looking like I forgot to tidy up after myself. Kirsty Allsop I am not.  Continue reading

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Mexican Hot Cocoa Mix and Kids’ Vanilla Cocoa Mix

I am a seasonally surprised person. Bright chartreuse buds in March – imagine; light levels lowering in autumn – what a shock; snow appearing in December – who’d a thought. Christmas is no different. Despite the tantalising window displays, bell-ringing pavement orchestras, and stressed-out shoppers laden with so many bags that I’m surprised ‘health and safety’ haven’t intervened, I still hadn’t twigged until yesterday that CHRISTMAS IS THIS SUNDAY. Yep, I have been writing about gifts to make but hadn’t quite realised how slender is the time between now and the Big Day. Even though a treacherously unstable pile of to-be-sent Christmas cards sits mocking me. Aargh! Usually by this time the freezer is fortified enough to suffice in a siege, but this year I have been all mouth and no mixing. And this is despite me making ‘interesting’ meals from oddball freezer bits and bobs in a bid to make space for festive goodies. There is still plenty of time (!!) but in order not to give myself a self-imposed panic attack I really should pull my finger out and get cooking. But first, just one more cup of cocoa…

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Rhubarb and Cranberry Chutney, Chipotle Mayonnaise and Provencal Herb Mustard

Today I have put together three recipes that you can give as gifts and/or keep for your Hanukkah or post-Christmas table. All three are extremely easy to prepare, possibly even at the same time. The mustard seeds  need an overnight soak but otherwise this trio of condiments is straightforward. They also require a minimum of kitchen skills, so shouldn’t stress you out during the time of year when many home cooks are up to their eyes in fiddly cake decorating and gingerbread house making (that isn’t me though).

I hope you have time to make at least one of these recipes, but even if you bookmark them for later you will find them a useful and tasty addition to the table, whatever the season. I will definitely keep all three handy for jazzing up our Christmas leftovers. If there are any. There’s a reason why some men willingly do the washing up… Continue reading

Sweet and Spicy Munch Mix

As promised, I am here with the first of my healthy festive food ideas for sharing and keeping. Today’s little recipe is so tasty you will probably make it but end up keeping it for yourself. No shame in that. Even so, this more-ish, healthy treat is extremely easy to put together; a second batch to pop into decorated cellophane bags or cute jars will not be a chore. If you have a reasonably well-stocked wholefood kitchen  you probably won’t even need to brave a trip to the shops. As a gift idea perhaps pair this Munch Mix with a batch of my Lower-fat Granola (add some dark chocolate chunks or chips to amp it up), or you could put it in a large Kilner-type jar with a vintage spoon. We are using a traditional Chinese spoon to self-serve out of our nearly depleted jar. Note to self: make a fresh batch soon.

And speaking of giving homemade presents. Some of you may be thinking it seems a bit cheap, that spending a bit of dosh is expected. Well, my feeling is that it shows that you care enough about the recipient to spend time and creative effort. I won’t give homemade gifts to everyone (I would if I had more time), and my family at least will get a few bought things too, but it feels good to put together an array of ingredients and produce something to share. Unfortunately I am no cop at decorating and packaging things, but I hope my modest culinary efforts will gloss over the lack of visual finesse. I don’t want it to look too slick and production-line, now do I?

Over the next few posts I will offer you my rhubarb and cranberry chutney, a Middle Eastern twist on chocolate bark, a fool-proof funky mayonnaise with accompanying wholegrain mustard, my favourite brownie recipe, and a few ideas on packaging up herbal tea and cocoa. I also hope to give you ideas for cookbooks to buy for yourself or a foodie friend, and fun but functional kitchen gift paraphernalia recommendations,  including an exclusive peek at a very good friend’s great new textile range. But for now, here’s my take on an idea I got years ago from the American Institute for Cancer Research website. It was a keeper. I hope this one is too. Continue reading