Christmas/Thanksgiving Gravy Stock – Make Ahead

A fun thing to do this time of year is prepare your stock for your gravy for Christmas (or even Thanksgiving). This firstly takes the task away from you closer to Christmas as you can just whip it out of your freezer, but it also lets you spread the cost of ingredients between now and Christmas. I think the most efficient way to do this is to buy a turkey or chicken for Sunday lunch (one that includes ideally the giblets and neck) and just save them and make this recipe at the same time. Once done just allow to cool and freeze.

Ingredients

Turkey/Chicken giblets/neck

1 onion sliced and halved

1 carrot, sliced lengthways

1 celery stick

1 bay leaf

6 peppercorns

1 tbsp salt

1.5 pints cold water

Method

  1. Put all in pan and boil for 30 minutes
  2. Remove the surface scum with a spoon
  3. Remove giblets and onion
  4. Boil for another 30 minutes
  5. Allow to cool then freeze

When it’s time to use the stock this is the recipe to use below:

Gravy (see Giblet stock as optional above)

Ingredients

Turkey pan with fat and burnt bits stuck to the bottom once the Turkey has been removed

2 tbsp flour

1 pint giblet stock or beef stock from a packet

Pinch of salt and pepper

Splash red wine

1 tbsp cranberry sauce

Gravy browning if you want to cheat a little

Method

  1. Pour off the majority of the fat left in the pan
  2. Add the flour and put the pan on the hob on a medium heat
  3. Using a wooden spatula scrape the bottom of the pan until all the black bits mix with flour and it starts to form a paste and the flour cooks out for a few minutes
  4. Add the red wine and cook out for another 2-3 minutes
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until the thickness of gravy you like
  6. If it’s not brown enough add a little gravy browning

Halloween Cat Cupcake Recipe

Although I live in England I adore Halloween. I adore all holiday seasons to be honest, any excuse to decorate or dress up. Every Halloween I prepare a large bucket of sweets or candies by the front door and one year I decided to go the extra step and make some cup cakes. These are probably more suitable to give out in your office as in reality they don’t travel well in a kid’s candy bag which I didn’t think about at the time to the neighbor’s kid’s dismay.

Basic cake recipe

Ingredients:

4 eggs (free range or organic if you can afford it)

225g sugar caster

225g self raising flour

225g butter or margarine

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of cocoa powder

Cooking chocolate block or if you are stuck a big block of standard chocolate or melt some bars will do


A cat mould (bought from a cake fare but you can buy these in any shape online) . A similar one on Amazon is https://amzn.to/3SlKmwZ or I love these https://amzn.to/3F80hfG.

Orange pre-bought sugar paste (https://amzn.to/3shFjmX)

Method:

1. You can use cup cake tin or pretty Halloween themed cases

2. Grease the tin by dipping a bit of kitchen roll in the butter and covering the inside of the tin lightly

3. Set the oven to 180 degrees c

4. Mix all the ingredients together and beat well. You don’t need to cream the butter, just mix well

5. Pour the mixture into the tin/cases leaving a slight dip in the middle as it will rise higher there

6. Cook for about 20 minutes until light and golden

7. When the cakes are cooled cut off the end of a piping (or sandwich/zip lock bag if you don’t have one) and fill will orange sugar paste

8. Squeeze the bag and pour in a circular direction. Practice a few times and you can fake some really cool looking icing. Leave the cakes to set somewhere cool

9. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for a few minutes. You can do it over a pan of simmering water but a few minutes in the microwave is so much easier. Just check it every 30 seconds to make sure it doesn’t burn

10. Pour the chocolate into moulds and put in the fridge to set (you can put in the freezer if you are feeling impatient but be careful as some types of chocolate go white and crystallise

11. When all cool push the chocolate onto the icing 7

Happy Halloween!

Kid’s Racing Driver Outfit Halloween costume

My husband adores Formula 1 racing and had always shared it with our sons. Max is older now and has a huge toy cat collection. He also loves wearing his caps that match his daddy. So for his birthday we decided to make him a racing driver outfit as there really aren’t a lot to buy.

This would work equally well for Halloween costume or any time of year.

I bought a boiler suit from Amazon (link below) and then some iron on patches from eBay, I tried to copy roughly where they are on a suit and think I did pretty well.

https://amzn.to/3TFxX8w

Stir up Sunday Shopping List: Victoria Christmas Cake and Mincemeat

Stir up Sunday is November 20th. This is the day whereby you prepare your Christmas cake and Christmas mincemeat so it can age beautifully over the weeks before Christmas so it tastes incredible on Christmas Day. It also allows you to add alcohol such as rum or brandy to the cake every week to let it soak in slowly. This year I’ve chosen to use a bottle I already had of Black forest Gâteaux flavoured rum.

In preparation I’ve included my ingredient lists so you can shop in advance.

Victorian Christmas Cake

Ingredients

Cake

175g raisins

350g glace cherries

500g currants

350g sultanas

150ml sherry or brandy or rum

2 oranges juiced and zested

250g butter softened

250g brown sugar

4 eggs beaten

1 tbsp black treacle

75g blanched almonds

75g self raising flour sifted

175 plain flour sifted

Decoration

Marzipan pack

Apricot jam or any if you are stuck

Icing pack

Any decorations you like

Christmas Mincemeat

I tend to make my mincemeat at the same time as I do my Christmas cake as the ingredients are broadly the same and you can avoid wasting items. You can add whatever else you really like such as cherries or different fruits or spices to make it really personal. Let people know if you’ve add the alcohol if you are giving them away.

Ingredients:

175g currants

175g raisins

175g sultanas

175g dried cranberries

100g mixed peel

1 small apple diced and cored

125 butter or suet

50g blanched or flaked almonds

225g brown sugar

½ tbs cinnamon

1 tbsp mixed spice

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

200 ml of brandy, rum, sherry or orange juice

New recipe for 15 minute keto pizza

I’ve previously tried the fathead dough recipe, made with cream cheese on Keto and it’s a bit of a faff. I was therefore pleased to see some people have evolved the recipe to a much simpler one so I tried it and tweaked it to make it my own.

Ingredients:

Pizza base:

200g almond flour

2 -3 tablespoons MCT oil (https://amzn.to/3SXt0rl)

2 eggs

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon of oregano

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Baking parchment

Toppings:

Mozzarella cheese grated

Parmesan cheese grated

Skinny ketchup or low carb tinned tomatoes crushed

Toppings of choice. I liked anchovies and onion

Method:

1. Mix all the pizza base ingredients together with a wooden spoon until incorporated

2. Spoon the mixture onto a piece of baking parchment lay on a pizza tray or metal baking sheet

3. Place a second piece of parchment on top and press until you have a 1/2 cm thick base

4. Peel off the top papet

5. Bake at 200 degrees c until the edges just start to colour which for me was about 7 minutes

6. Remove from the oven and add your Keto toppings of choice

7. Bake for around 10 minutes at the same temperature

Chicken kebabs (keto friendly)

I think I got my love of kebabs from holidays in Spain and Greece. As a child they were probably also a novelty food as they came on a stick and were relatively plain. For kids it’s a great way of getting them to eat vegetables but for adults you can spice them or marinade them anyway you wish. This is most basic recipe as I’m on keto the moment but feel to add piri piri spices or hot sauce or whatever you like.

Ingredients:

Chicken cut into chunks

Similar sized vegetable chunks. Peppers; onions and mushrooms work well but try any you fancy

Wood skewers (soak in water for at least an hour before cooking) (https://amzn.to/3CSNufB)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method:

1. Alternate chicken and vegetable chunks and push them onto the damp skewer until full. Don’t crowd too much so heat can reach all parts of the chicken

2. Coat in a little olive oil and season

3. Grill on a medium heat (you can do on a bbq also) until brown and cooked through

4. Season and serve

Simple keto breakfast cheesy omelette

So I’m trying to keep my breakfasts simple and relatively unfussy. I tend to have a couple of sausages or an omelette. For lunch or dinner I’ll add some veggies like onion or spinach but in the morning it’s a simple tasty cheese affair.

Ingredients:

2 eggs and 1 egg yolk

Salt and pepper

Block of cheddar cheese

Dried Parmesan (https://amzn.to/3elonsl)

Method:

1. Put some olive oil in a pan to warm through on a medium heat

2. In a Pyrex jug beat the eggs lightly. Do not add seasoning at this stage or any dairy

3. Pour the eggs into the pan. I use a small frying pan to get a denser omelette

4. When set lightly on the bottom sprinkle the cheddar (about 20g grated) and some Parmesan

5. Add salt and pepper

6. Serve

Leftover turkey pie recipe

So. It’s Boxing Day or a day or so later abs you’ve made turkey sandwiches. Now what do you do with the rest of the leftover turkey?

I personally love a good pie. Turkey and even the leftover vegetables can be a great pie filling. You can always make short crust but I’m guessing after Christmas you want an easier time.

Ingredients:

4 potatoes (cut into cubes) – these can be leftover roast potatoes

Chunks of turkey (dark and light meat mix the best)

1 onion

1 splash olive oil

Pinch of salt and pepper

Pinch of sage or a fresh leaf chopped

Any leftover stuffing chopped up

Any leftover Christmas vegetables cut up

1 pack frozen puff or short crust pastry

1 egg whisked or 1 tbsp milk to glaze the pastry

Method

  1. Boil potatoes for 10-20 minutes dependant on their size until they are soft (or chop up if leftovers£
  2. Fry onions in olive oil until softened
  3. Add turkey; vegetables and seasoning
  4. Add to a baking tin and cover with pastry
  5. Glaze with egg or milk
  6. Sprinkle with sea salt
  7. Bake for 25 minutes at 200 degree c
  8. Serve

Sprout crisps (leftover Christmas) Keto

This recipe is one I’ve been meaning to try for ages and could be a really good use of your leftover sprouts after Christmas or if you are trying to eat a little better as they are super low carb.

I have bought a large bag of sprouts so thought I’d give it a go in advance

Ingredients:

Sprouts

Salt and pepper

Oil

Cumin

Chill powder

Paprika

Method: Very simply cut off the bottom of the sprout and separate the leaves. Place on a lightly spray oiled baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with the spices and seasonings. Bake for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees c but keep an eye on them as they suddenly crisp up.

Pregnancy in a pandemic

I fell pregnant is November last year, so just before we really knew about the pandemic or anything COVID related. It was a planned pregnancy just after our honeymoon and surpassingly and gratefully I fell pregnant immediately. At my age (39) I expected just like my friends and people my age to take at least six months or struggle. My mother who is sadly deceased I was told later apparently got pregnant just looking at my father which I found out later by a family member. That would have bern good to know!

So pregnancy was thankfully really lovely. Other than the discomfort of being so big I didn’t get any morning sickness and my work took it really well. They have such a good policy they basically allowed me to take a year off with pay which is very unusual. My manager did comment that he’d like me to get a nanny which was a joke but I did recognize the compliment in that too.

After a few months it reached February of this year and we’d already booked to go on holiday. I had sinusitis as part of my pregnancy so I lost all sense of taste and smell for a month and looking back i do wonder if it was COVID 19 especially as we did pop over to Lanzarote for a holiday at the year. When I gave birth I was tested for whether I had COVID 19 but not whether o had the antigens for it. I’m not even sure the antigens lady that long or whether the tests are good enough yet but I did wonder.

On returning from holiday my manger advised me as a pregnancy woman the company policy is that I work from home as the pandemic was just stating. I hadn’t even packed up my desk from holiday as I assumed I was going back into the office which you will soon see never happened.

A few weeks go by working from home which is much harder than people make out. Having 10 Skype or zoom calls a day isn’t fun, I did however therefore recognize the first positive of the pandemic and that is no longer having to commute into the office which was long and expensive. I was slap worrying about doing that heavily pregnant which quickly went away as a concern.

The next advantage I’ll say is that not drinking alcohol whilst pregnancy was hard for me. As someone who went for a drink with her husband after work or with work colleagues. I really missed it. Now no one was socializing so no one was drinking. Selfish win on my behalf it think.

I know a lot of pregnant women won’t agree with me on this one and I think it comes to personality typing. Also, as I’ve said my mother is deceased so i don’t have an immediate bond to facilitate but what I really enjoyed about social distancing and isolating whilst pregnant is the distancing itself. To be specific I went to all girls school until I was 18 and don’t enjoy groups of women together as a result. I have close female friends but they are very similar to me, Therefore, not having to attend pregnancy groups and getting to learn it all online was a complete personality joy for me. I know this wouldn’t suit everyone so I guess I was lucky I didn’t need the emotional support.

Continuing on the social distancing topic I found other benefits such as not feeling left out that I couldn’t attend the annual spa day (hot tubs abs pregnancy don’t mix) or feel sad not being able to eat olives or seafood S no one was eating out.

Then let’s talk about family. I’m not a hugger. I don’t like people commenting on my appearance or feeling the need to touch my pregnant stomach. All avoided thanks to the pandemic.

I could go on about all the benefits I enjoyed but to be honest I think it just suited my personality and the fact I’m very self sufficient. This doesn’t give enough credit to my husband by the way locked up with me but thankfully he is very similar to me. We enjoyed having the time to prepare the nursery and being digitally savvy had no issue sourcing everything online (except paint it that’s a different story).

I’m summary although the pandemic was horrific and shocking to a lot of families including mine I think it’s important to recognise that although I didn’t get my baby shower there are more important things in life abs relatively I was incredibly lucky to be so protected at such an important time.

PS My birth story was quite different and sleeping in a mask on under staffed shared ward of screaming babies was a different matter but I’ll cover that in a separate blog.