Christmas Countdown – 23rd Dec

Posted by admin | Christmas,Just Food Articles - writers invited | Saturday 24 December 2005 6:59 am

Christmas Eve wishes, tips and some lovely mulled wine.

24th December.
Signing in on Christmas Eve, I can suddenly think of 20 things that should maybe have been added in earlier Countdown posts, but well it’s to late and no point stressing everybody. Including myself. Today is going to be really lazy, have an afternoon siesta, I’m going to try making some Mulled Wine (see recipe below), and maybe at night, take up a friend’s offer to go to Midnight Mass with her family.

    – By now hopefully the gifts are as done as they’re likely to be. For those unexpected drop-ins have a few assorted chocolates handy, wrapped in pretty paper or clear, and festooned with ribbons, there’s only so much you can do.

    – Concentrate instead on the food aspect now. How it’s going to turn out, (without driving you up the wall) and how you’re going to enjoy it.

Whatever is the menu you’ve decided on this Christmas, chances are you’ll be roasting some poultry. The Internet is full of how to turn out the perfect roast but in short what you need to tell yourself is, “it’s going to turn out great! I’m going to have lots of patience and not keep staring at it, and if everything isn’t absolutely perfect, so what, it’s only one day of the year, and if I keep a good sense of humor about it so will everyone else!” Apart from that, a few pointers…

    – Brush the poultry with melted butter before putting into the oven.
    – A halved lemon, a small orange or tangerine, an onion, or a few fresh herb sprigs in the neck cavity will add to the flavour. Slice some garlic and tuck it around your bird. It flavours the gravy wonderfully and you can mash it up later.
    – Start by cooking at the 220C/425F/gas mark 7 for about 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190C/375F/gas mark 5 and patiently allow approximately 45 minutes per kg. And then another 20 minutes for luck.
    – Place the poultry breast-down in the roasting pan. This allows the juices to moisten the breast meat, which otherwise can turn quite dry. Wrapping the bird in foil is a good idea too.
    – Leave the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes, covered in foil. This allows the juices which have bubbled up during cooking to sink back into the bird, leaving the meat moist.
    – The key to carving a chicken is to use a very sharp knife, remove the legs and wings, and then carve the breast.
    Take one final look at your menu. Is there anything you can do today and refrigerate or freeze? Small things like pre-boiling pasta, making chicken or vegetable stock, boiling chicken for a salad, even making stuffing, and storing it for tomorrow, can take a huge weight off your mind, same lots of time and make you seem super efficient on Christmas Day.

As of enjoying not just the Christmas Day meal, but all the meals we’ll be stuffing ourselves with from now to New Year, and longer here in India, thanks to it being the wedding season, the main thing you need to remember is THINK first.

    – If it’s cold, your body is automatically going to signal that it needs more than the usual amount of food.

    – Don’t just blindly gobble up nuts, chips and starters. Stop and think. Is what you’re putting in your mouth worth an extra workout? Not for me, it isn’t! Take a small plate and put a few starters on it, eat sloooowwwly. Then wait at least 20 minutes before you pick up anymore. That’s how long it takes your stomach to signal your brain that it’s full. Even if you never keep a food diary, try it during this season. If you fill it just half the time, you’ll still be shocked at the stuff you’re shoveling down.
    One friend who is kind of obsessive about her diets told me she never eats anything that doesn’t require a fork and knife. It’s a good way to eliminate about half the high-caloric stuff that surrounds us. Needless to say, I don’t, and can’t follow her rule. But it’s a good thing to keep in mind.
    – Survey the buffet table before you even pick up a plate, you’ll automatically mentally sift the things that you don’t really want in your plate because there are better things at the end of the buffet table.
    It’s easy to say, choose foods that are high in water content and fiber like veggie and fruit dishes, clear soups and non-oily salads, but not too much fun. So try everything, but in small quantities.
    – Once something is on your plate you feel obligated to eat it. So again, think as you serve.
    – Remember, most alcoholic drinks contain over 100 calories an ounce. Try to avoid drinks that contain milk, cream or fruit juice, – they’re filled with sugar and fat. Try wine spritzers or alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water, diet soda or flavored seltzer to cut your consumption. The habit of having a glass of water for every drink you put down also helps avoiding tomorrow’s hangover.
    – Maybe you can ease up a very, very little on your diet and exercise during the festive season. I mean, otherwise, what is festive about it, right? But live by the 80-20 rule. Do everything right 80 percent of the time and allow yourself to let loose and ”cheat” the other 20 percent of the time. Enjoy the festivities without carrying them around on your waistline the rest of the year.

I had some lovely Mulled Wine last year at the Sun’n’Sand Carol singing evening last year and this year I’m going to try making some at home. Here’s a modern version of a traditional recipe of Mulled Wine that a friend promised works great.


Ok, I’m going to close on that note. Have a lovely Christmas Eve, and a great Christmas Day. Don’t worry. Be happy.

Check out earlier Christmas Countdown

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