Saturday, 31 December 2016

January - Resolutions and Recriminations

If January had a face it would be that of a wizened old crone.  After the brightness of December, the anticipation of the Christmas festivities, the jollity, the excesses and the bright twinkly Christmas lights, the world retreats to a dreary gloom.  We can’t even cheer ourselves up with a food treat because parsimony is the byword for January as we attempt to make up for December’s gluttony.  The only bright spot on the horizon is that the afternoons will start slowly drawing out by the end of the month.  There’s always the hope of a little snowfall to change the palette of grey – lying snow will throw up a bit of welcome light at night and make a change of scene for the days.

The Christmas decorations have gone away, the last of the pine needles have been vacuumed up and the last of the mince pies, Christmas cake and turkey have been consumed.  January’s kitchen treats are going to have to be light and low calorie. 

Since we have to be careful what we eat this month, we need food that’s both low on calories but full of flavour and satisfying.  While it’s far too cold and dreary to be thinking about salads proper, a spelt (or barley) salad will bring a reminder of the summer to come, serve while the grains are still warm to keep the chill off and bring out the flavours. 

Soups too are a handy fall-back this month.  Fill up on veggie-thick, fat free soups and it won’t seem such a dreary chore.  Soups are such a lovely way to warm up on cold days.  This lovely minestrone soup can be prepared the night before working days and just re-heated with the pasta when you come home from work. 


Fish is a useful meal when we’re watching the calories too.  This lovely Venetian baked fish is really full of flavour and very satisfying, the drizzle of olive oil won’t break the diet, but you can leave it out if you prefer.

Puddings are going to have to be light too, or hard earned!  Soft fruit compotes are a handy fall-back, and lovely if you can make them with fruit frozen from last summer.  Serve them with fat free yoghurt for a guilt-free treat.  A rice pudding is a nice treat, but make it with skimmed milk rather than full fat, and cut down on the amount of butter and sugar too.

Good walks every day will blow away the cobwebs and bring some much needed daylight onto our skin.  Of course, the icy pavements, salt and antifreeze are a hazard to be aware of this month, especially for those of us with dogs.  Being towed along an icy pavement by a four legged companion intent on getting as much distance under her feet in as short a time as possible is always entertaining!  I escape danger at every turn this month.

By the end of this month the days will at last start to show the earliest signs of drawing out.  We’ll be hanging onto the last dregs of daylight by our fingernails by 5pm – but it’s a start!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Twelve Leftovers of Christmas

Christmas, the season of good cheer and gluttony.  After all the hard work in the run-up to Christmas, this little housewife doesn’t believe in lifting a finger beyond defrosting, re-heating or vaguely assembling ingredients in the days between Christmas and New Year.  If she could get away with it, she would see the inside of the supermarket for the duration either! 

With a bit of forethought, planning and some advanced prepping and cooking, you can join me in my well-earned holiday.

In no particular order, here are my leftover superstars:

Bubble and squeak 

A Boxing Day tradition, this is a lovely lunch before taking off for an afternoon at the beach blowing off the cobwebs and topping-up the mermaid blood.  This requires nothing more than chopping up the leftover cooked veg from Christmas Day in a little turkey, goose or duck fat – it’s Christmas, push the boat out!

Sausage and turkey pie with sage and onion stuffing

This is a lovely way to use up some of the leftover turkey and stuffing.  True, you will need to skin the sausages and roll out the pastry, but the results will be worth this bit of effort – trust me!

Golden turkey and vegetable soup

All this beauty requires is a bit of leisurely peeling and chopping of root vegetables and then you just pop the casserole in the oven for the magic to happen.  This is a lovely welcome-home after a long cold walk.

Brussels sprouts with bacon and Stilton

This is an absolute superstar of a dish and it requires no more than peeling and slicing some sprouts, chopping up some cooked ham, forking a bit of Stilton and stirring in a pot of cheese sauce. 

I make it to use up leftovers, or as a stand-alone meal, but it would make a lovely side-dish to any meal.

Broccoli, leek and Stilton gratin

This is another simple assembly job if you have leftover cooked broccoli.  If not, 10 minutes boiling won’t be too arduous and can be done ahead of time.  It’ll be worth that bit of effort!

Turkey Tettrazini

Strictly speaking this doesn’t come under my assembly- line Christmas rules, but if you make and freeze the sauce and the pasta before Christmas then all it needs are some cleaned, sliced mushrooms and the leftover turkey stirring in.

Turkey and Ham Pie

Again, this doesn’t fit the assembly-line ethos, but you can make and freeze the sauce ahead of time to save doing it on the day.  I’d still be inclined to make the mashed potato on the day though, potato doesn’t do terribly well in the freezer.

Quiche Lorraine

Aside from rolling out the pastry, this is simplicity itself and a lovely way to use up a bit of cooked ham.  If you have some Stilton to spare, fork a bit of that in as well – it’ll be worth the sacrifice!

Chicken tortilla soup

This is such a treat at Christmas, after all the rich food this is a lovely fresh soup and makes a complete contrast, it’ll be well worth the bit of extra effort required. 

Stilton stuffed chicken breasts

This only falls under the leftover category if you have leftover Stilton, but if you do then it’s a lovely way to use some up.

Pan haggerty

This is a very calorie-laden dish, but a lovely way to use up some cooked ham – and it is Christmas after all!

Salmon Pasta Bake

Again, this is a sauce that you can make ahead of time and stash in the freezer ready for when you need it.  It’s a lovely way to use up some smoked salmon, or cooked salmon.

From my home to yours, Merry Christmas!