This Christmas sure was different from any Christmas we had celebrated before. Especially because we hardly had any furniture left in our living room. You might say to company making the holiday rounds, "Please, pull up a box and join us." But then you'd notice the "BREAKABLE" warning on the side.
Living in a large metro area, the biggest objective for me regarding the last three weeks of the year is simple. AVOID CROWDS! At. All. Costs. Sadly, the perishables won't keep two weeks before Christmas, so instead i try shopping for all my Christmas baking needs the week before Christmas and my Christmas dinner and the week after needs about 5 days before Christmas. This is when i miss living in Spokane the most!!
All our packing nonsense was just sheer and total distraction from our usually scheduled holiday cheer, however we didn't experience many flops in certain things i usually struggle with around this time of year. Here is my note to self...little improvement needed next year, but with a lot less "cardboard decor" around the house. May in reading these ramblings, you'll find inspiration to make your holiday operation run a little smoother too.
1. Christmas gifts: we kept it extremely simple this year with family. Only the kids received gift cards for the bookstore. And i bought these in November, instead of waiting for the week before Christmas! I'm getting smarter with age. :) Next year, we would like to give gifts of homemade preserves from our farm to family. No arguments here! That means a portion of the year's Christmas shopping will be done by July! Hooray!
2. Christmas baking: i used the KISS method this year. We made the traditional manacotti--two 15oz containers of ricotta in the recipe yielded 3 batches of manacotti filling! Meaning Christmas Eve dinner was taken care of not only for our neighbour, but for us as well. And with one batch in the freezer for New Years! Baking them off on Christmas Eve morning proved fortuitous. After Mass that night, we were able to invite a dear one to our house to share comfort food and the Mickey Roonie Santa shows. Is there anything better than spending your time visiting with guests while the meal is only needing a reheat? Lookin' like such a rock star makes me one happy momma!!
Following the KISS method also meant only one new cookie recipe was introduced this year. We baked the usual Pepparkakor (gingerbread), Lime Meltaways from Martha Stewart's Cookie Book, and banana bread. And truly, we didn't even need the banana bread.
What i liked about this was the simplicity in them. Yet still very kid friendly! Also to note is that these cookie doughs can be made ahead and frozen till you need them. Ahhhh, hear that?!? Next year is getting simpler already!
3. Double a Dinner: just before the week of Christmas, i made a double batch of Ina Garten's Chicken Stew with Biscuits. Not intentionally, mind you. Still getting used to my butter coming in half pound increments. :) I only doubled the stew part though, leaving out the chicken and biscuits in the 2nd batch. It kept beautifully in an air tight bowl in the back of the fridge for a week and 1/2. The first batch sustained us for a few lunches and dinners, alternating with homemade spaghetti sauce and mac n cheese. Just as we were starting to tire of these offerings, it was time for Christmas dinner. And now, as the New Year approaches, we have another dinner taken care of. Once i roast a chicken and make some biscuits. :)
4. Heavy Handed Use of KISS for Christmas Day: Didn't i just plan and cook a Thanksgiving feast just a month ago? Although it was fun, i was already in the kitchen enough the week prior to Christmas making cookies. Plus i got a wonderful new cookbook for Christmas to consume before the day was over!! So, for breakfast, it was a coffee cake, cold cereal, and fruit. For noontime snack, our fridge was a honey hole of leftovers. And for the feast, we ate ham, steak, mashed potatoes, and broccoli casserole at 2pm. Dessert? You guessed it--cookies! :) When dinnertime came around, none of us were hungry. As the evening went on, we snacked on popcorn.
One thing that i relied more on this year was frozen foods. We purchase all our meat from a local organic butcher who freezes all his cuts. Our food co-op has handy 5lb packs of broccoli, corn, peas. Focusing on the use of these next year into healthier meals, combined with our new gardening practices, may just be the ticket to not having to hit a grocery the whole month of December!! Well, a girl can dream, right?
I would say the only thing missing is simpler lunches this time of year. We need a huge bowl of fresh veggies, salad, or sauerkraut in the fridge! All these rich, gratuitous meals are wearing on our digestive tracts.
Also good to note: this isn't the time to chow down at your favourite mexican food restaurant in town, unless you stick to the taco salad!! :)
Hoping you have a wonderful New Year's celebration!