Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas cookathon - the prep

It's been apron on, and flour all over the kitchen today, as my Christmas food preparation finally got under way. Given that I'm a cook, and an obsessive planner/list maker, and I had been determined to be super-organised this Christmas to counteract pregnancy tiredness etc., you would have thought that I would have long ago planned what we were going to eat over the festive period (there will be 8 of us for most meals from Christmas Eve through to the 27th, plus 2-4 extra on Christmas Day). But no, I only got around to doing my menu plan yesterday afternoon. And all my other Christmas tasks have only been achieved in the last 10 days, instead of by the target date of December 1st. But bizarrely, I haven't been majorly stressing out about it (other things yes, the food, no).

Part of the reason for the lack of stress is because my mother has been an angel and done quite a bit of food prep already & frozen stuff to bring with her (stuffings & sauces for the big meal, plus a shepherds' pie, a lentil/bean bake & a dessert to feed us all on Christmas Eve). So really, there aren't that many meals left to plan for, as the turkey extravaganza follows our traditional format, and several meals after that are based on cold cuts (plus vegetarian options for my brother & his girlfriend). And I promised myself that this year, I really would aim to keep things simple - no starters or unnecessary side dishes. No-one is likely to go hungry after all. But at some point, I needed to plan it, and make sure that we actually had the right ingredients in the house. Menu plan done, I headed for the supermarket yesterday afternoon, highly detailed shopping list in hand, for the "big" food shop (I'm going to be doing another one tomorrow for the vegetables/perishables, and then picking up my turkey order from the butcher, and cheeses from the deli, on Saturday). In my naivety, I thought that it wouldn't be too busy if I went around an hour before the end of the school day. Oh, how wrong I was.

Nearly 2 hours later, I emerged with my trolley piled high, more or less triumphant (bizarrely, there was no decent vanilla ice cream available. Or pomegranates. Although the latter are more decorative than crucial). And I'd even managed to pick up a few extra presents for Karen along the way (of the DVD/book/CD and chocolates variety), which was good as her pile of presents was looking distinctly small and uninspired (a Fossil man's watch that she already knows about, and an aromatherapy penguin hottie that she doesn't. And something else that I can't even remember what it is. But I don't think that it's a surprise - except to me!!). So still pretty uninspired, but not quite as hopeless as it had been looking. She is sooooo hard to buy for, and this year I have absolutely no imagination whatsoever on the present-buying front. People should feel lucky that they're receiving any presents at all given my cotton-wool brain!

Anyway, back to the food stuff. Having lain awake for an hour already after an early-morning pee-stop, I decided to get up at 5.45am. I'd decorated the tree by 6.30am and was busy cooking by the time Karen got up (at which point I put on my newly purchased Christmas CD to get more in the festive mood). So far today I have made:

  • 24 mince pies plus 12 spiced cranberry & apple pies (for the dried fruit-haters), with sweet orange pastry
  • Brandy butter to go with the mince pies and Christmas pudding (which is already made)
  • Sausage rolls with home-made flaky pastry
  • Leek, feta, sundried tomato & almond strudels
  • Rillettes (a coarse pork terrine - see photo above. I know that it looks a bit like cat food (or worse), and it was rather time consuming to shred all the meat, but mmmm, yum!!!!)
  • Chocolate ruggelach for breakfast treats (I've never made these before, but they sound so good)
  • Orange, almond & cardamom cake (it's actually more of a pudding than a cake)
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Choc-dipped fruits for petits fours (OK, so you can see I haven't entirely stuck to the KISS mantra)
  • And lots of ice cubes (not hard I know, but at least I've actually remembered to do it, in readiness for the gin/vodka & tonics for everyone else. I'll be on the Virgin Mary's).

Still to do: braised red cabbage, and icing the (already made ahead) Christmas cake. The rest of the food can be prepared with help from the assembled family/friends, as and when needed. And Karen (who never cooks) has volunteered to make a trifle as a lighter alternative to Christmas pudding (I think she was seduced by the idea of the champagne syllabub that's going on top, from one of my foodie magazines. Odd that). Now I just need to go and cook dinner (chicken & mushroom parcels, with potato gratin & sugar snap peas - I'm starving), and write my shopping list for tomorrow!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tears and frustration

I had complete pregnancy meltdown at the start of the weekend - poor Karen had to cope with me weeping all over her at 5am on Saturday morning! I'd got in a bad mood on Friday night before she got home, with various silly little things that had gone wrong (e.g. me dropping & breaking messy things from the fridge). But of course when Karen asked me what was wrong and I answered "lots of things", my poor pregnant brain couldn't even remember more than one thing that had happened - which was actually pretty funny! For about 30 seconds before I got in a grump again. I was partly in a bed temper because I'd been sitting on my own, waiting for her to come in from work (she'd been out with work colleagues for a Christmas drink) and writing all the Christmas cards, as I do every year, and feeling generally put upon at having to organise all the household stuff, even though normally I enjoy doing it (and always tend to find fault with Karen's way of doing stuff because it's not my way - which doesn't help matters any).

I woke up early on Saturday feeling completely overwhelmed at everything we had to do over the weekend to get ready for Christmas (and of course also thinking of all that we need to do before Pip arrives, even though we should have plenty of time to sort all that out). I just felt totally miserable & also fed up with myself for being so hopeless, as nothing was really wrong, I was just feeling completely frustrated and useless. After an hour or so, I got up & left Karen to sleep, and after I'd had a bit more of a cry downstairs and a cup of tea, I felt much better, and actually ended up having a pretty productive weekend! I wrapped all the Christmas presents, finished writing and sent the Christmas cards & then we went shopping and bought the last few presents we had left to buy, plus a couple of airbeds for Xmas guests. Plus a Christmas tree (although it's not up yet). And yesterday I cleaned out the fridge, and then had a complete sort out of my larder, which was positively overflowing with ingredients (quite a few out of date of course!).We also had to move everything out of the hallway and the living room last night, as we are having new flooring/carpet fitted this morning. So after we've put everything back tonight, the whole downstairs will be ready for Christmas - hurrah! At least I now feel much more organised & my brain feels a lot tidier as well as the house!