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One week until Christmas! Are your bells a-jingling in excitement? Mine are. Well, maybe not a-jingling but thanks to a fantastic writing month I’m feeling a tad seasonally happy and in the mood for celebration.

Before I introduce our gorgeous guest, here’s the Christmas edition of Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf.  Last week was a team event. Everything that went wrong is all my partner’s fault. Me hitting into the water for the bazillionth time had nothing to do with it. Noooothing at all. Oh well, at least we didn’t come last.Romance author Emmie Dark

Now don your Santa hats and pour a glass of festive bubbly because it’s time to get seriously Christmassy with contemporary romance author Emmie Dark.

Emmie writes gorgeous stories, the sort that spark with snappy dialogue, steamy sexual tension and plenty of heart-tugging emotion. Earlier this year saw the release of Spellbound, a sizzling hot romance filled with angst, lust and a super hot hero. This week sees its companion novella Charmed hit the shelves. Check it out…

 

CHARMED

 

Cover of Charmed by Emmie DarkWhen a handsome and charming stranger reluctantly enters the magic shop where perky Melanie Cooke works as a psychic, she fully expects to give him a standard reading and send him on his way. But for the first time in her life, her powers fail her and the reading goes horribly awry.

Michael Harrison was dubious about the idea of seeing a psychic, but given the attraction between them, he’s prepared to put first impressions aside. Yet as he and Melanie get to know each other, Michael is forced to confront his past, and to face the fact that Melanie may be more than she seems.

Will fear and suspicion ruin all or will the magic and power of love keep them together? 

 

Doesn’t that sound fun? Lucky for you that Charmed is available for immediate download right now. You can purchase direct from the publisher Destiny Romance or your favourite ebook retailer like Kobo, Amazon (for Kindle), Google Play, iTunes, JB Hi-Fi, BigW ebooks and more.

Ready for some Christmas fun? Heeeeeere’s Emmie!

 

Christmas Creativity

 

HI Cathryn and all Friday Feasters! Thanks so much for the invitation – it’s lovely to be here, especially to talk about food at this time of year. This time of year is my favourite foodie time – probably because it’s one of the few times of the year that I get to feed hordes. I properly plan menus and organise shopping lists – I do enjoy it! (But, if I’m honest, part of me is very glad that it only comes around once a year!)

I saw that Christina Brooke provided you with an ice cream Christmas cake a couple of weeks back, which, by the away, looks divine. I thought I’d do something similar – an icy Christmas treat, just perfect for a hot, sunny, Australian Christmas Day.

Have you ever looked at a photo in one of those gorgeous food magazines and been desperate to recreate it? Well, this was one of those times.

Delicious Magazine cover

Don’t they look great? And the recipe is SO simple. (I’m really not kidding!) Just grab some of your favourite vanilla ice cream and stir through some grated chocolate. From memory, I think we also added some chopped up pistachios and cranberries for an added Christmassy touch.

BUT… (You knew there’d be a catch, right?) There are a couple of little tricks.

But before I go into those, let me finish with the “recipe”. Once you have your ice cream with all its special treats folded through, you need to cut up squares of baking paper and twist them into long, narrow cones, and then stick them in place with a little sticky tape. Then you simply fill each cone with ice cream and return them to the freezer until you’re ready to serve.

SO EASY!

Ah, but here are the tricks. One, make sure you have enough room in your freezer. Something I didn’t plan, until we were already scooping ice cream into the paper cones was how on earth I was going to freeze them! Solution (thanks to my ever-logical mother) came from standing them up in champagne glasses! We needed to take a shelf out in the freezer to give ourselves enough room, though. And we all know at this time of year, fridge and freezer space is at a premium, so make sure you can fit them in.

And second – accept that it’s simply not going to look exactly like the picture.

Emmie Dark's Icecream Cones

If I make them again, I will do a better job of making sure the cones are completely filled, to avoid those little gaps. And I’d also try to do a better job of levelling off the tops, so that when you turn them out, they’re not quite so lopsided-y.

Emmie Dark's Christmas ice-cream cones

Having said that, they tasted absolutely delightful, and isn’t that what it’s all about in the end?

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

 

And a very merry Christmas to you too, Emmie! Thanks so much for this fabulous Christmas idea. Those icecreams look gorgeous, like decorations themselves and I bet they tasted delicious.

So, my clever Feasters, do you have a special Christmas trick? Something that looks amazing and impressive yet takes no time at all? I don’t so I’m in need of tips!!

If you’d like to learn more about Emmie and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest and Tumblr.

 

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And another joyous Friday arrives, the last before the silly season begins in earnest. Isn’t it amazing how fast this year has gone? I feel like I say that every year but for some reason 2013 feels especially speedy. Still, it’s nice to get all Christmassy as today’s guest is about to. But first, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf WeeklyPamela Cook author

In an about turn, I played okay and didn’t lose a single ball in the water or have an embarrassing airy. In fact, my score was so okay that I dropped half a stroke off my handicap. I tell you, those golfing gods move in very mysterious ways. Rotten teases.

Enough of that. Time to raise your glasses to my rural romance writing guest Pamela Cook. Pamela’s debut novel Blackwattle Lake scored rave reviews and now her next novel has hit the shelves. Essie’s Way is guaranteed to be another booming success. Check it out…

 

ESSIE’S WAY

 

Cover of Essie's Way by Pamela CookA captivating story of family, love and following your heart, from the author of Blackwattle Lake.

Miranda McIntyre thinks she has it all sorted. She s a successful lawyer, she s planning her wedding and ticking off all the right boxes. When searching for something old to go with her wedding dress she remembers an antique necklace from her childhood, but her mother denies any knowledge of it. Miranda is sure it exists. Trying to find the necklace, she discovers evidence that perhaps the grandmother she thought was dead is still alive.

Ignoring the creeping uncertainty about her impending marriage, and the worry that she is not living the life she really wants, Miranda takes off on a road trip in search of answers to the family mystery but also in search of herself.

Ultimately, she will find that looking back can lead you home.

 

Doesn’t that sound lovely? Nothing quite like a finding yourself story and you can have this one in your hot little mitt with just a few clickety-clicks. For the paperback, try Booktopia, Bookworld, QBD The Bookstore, Angus & Robertson, your local chainstore or independent book retailer. If ebooks are your go, Essie’s Way is available for immediate download from Kobo, iTunes, Amazon (for Kindle), Google Play, JB Hi-Fi, BigW ebooks or your favourite e-tailer.

Loaded up? Excellent. Time to get Christmassy!

 

In The Spirit!

Hi Cathryn

Lovely to be visiting the Friday Feast again especially as Christmas approaches and we all start to think about what we’ll be eating and drinking over the festive season.

This year my family and I are doing something verrrryyyy special – heading to Austria for a white Christmas and a 2 week ski trip. Prior to arriving in Kaprun, the village where we’ll be staying, we’ll be checking out the Christmas cheer in London and Paris. My husband and I had a white Christmas many years ago and I’m really looking forward to having such an amazing experience with my three daughters. We’ll also be sharing it with close friends who are currently living in the middle east and joining us in Kaprun.

An Austrian Christmas market stall

So to get in the mood I thought I’d do a little research into what traditional Christmas fare is in Austria. Here’s what I discovered:

  • During Christmas, people head to traditional Austrian Christmas markets which are present in almost every single town, large or small. Vienna, Austria’s capital, conducts around 25 markets along with small huts to provide shoppers with presents, food and, the soul of the festival, sweet wines. Other stands provide decorations, art and craft, toys and jewelry etc.

Can’t wait to check out the markets and do a little wine tasting!

  • A traditional Austrian Christmas dinner includes “Gebackenerkarpfen” or fried carp, “Sachertorte” or the chocolate and apricot cake, chocolate frosting served along with Christmas cookies.

Not sure about the fried carp but the chocolate torte and the cookies sound pretty delicious.

  • A traditional Christmas feast includes goose and ham served with gluhwein and rum punch

I’ve never had goose – nor cooked it – but I’m willing to give it a try. And the gluhwein sounds like the perfect beverage to wash it down.

I’ve certainly drunk a few glühwein’s in my day but I’ve never made it so I looked up a recipe to take with me – apparently it’s all in the mixing!

 

GLÜHWEIN

The secret to getting a great Glühwein is the right mixture of red wine, cinnamon stick, sugar, oranges and cloves.

Ingredients (serves 10):Gluhwein

2 bottles of good quality red wine

2 cups of water

6 cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

2 oranges – cut into bite-size pieces

oranges for decoration

How to make it:

Put all ingredients in a pot and bring it close to boil. For additional taste, cut 2 oranges into bite-size pieces and add to the wine. Let simmer. Remove clove and cinnamon stick before serving it into lightly pre-warmed glasses. Decorate glasses with an orange slice.

 

So this Christmas instead of our usual BBQ and a swim in the pool we’ll hopefully be sipping our glühwein while the snow falls outside and a nice fat goose roasts in the oven. I’m also hoping that we’ll come home with all our limbs in fact and while I know the bank balance will be a lot lower (ie nonexistent!) I know it will be the trip of a lifetime.

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

And a very merry Christmas to you too, Pamela, even though I’m insanely jealous of you right now! I’m not a skier at all, but there’s something completely magical about snow at Christmas. Such a contrast to Australia’s usually blistering days, and perfect for naughty fattening things and cockle-warming drinks.

So, Feasters, let’s get the Christmas spirit moving with your most memorable or favourite Christmas location. Are your fondest memories from big family lunches at grandma’s, and a table groaning with five different roasts even though it was 35 degrees outside? Or was your best Christmas spent snuggled up somewhere exotic with nothing but your beloved as a present?

I’m torn between home Christmases with the family and the enormously raucous Christmas lunch we hosted one year in Aix-en-Provence, France. The food was amazing, way too much wine was drunk and I distinctly remember an unsteady bunch of people dancing on the balcony to Kung Fu Fighting. I still cringe at what the neighbours must have thought…

Go on, share where your fondest Yuletide memories lie and make us all envious. You might even give us ideas!

If you’d like to learn more about Pamela and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.

 

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The footy season is now well and truly over, with my beloved Sydney Swans safely tucked up on holidays so I think it’s time to bore you with my golf game instead… or perhaps not. As my dad so loves to say, us Heins weren’t meant to play golf. A truism I sadly keep proving each week.Australian author Kate Belle

‘Tis a good thing then that I have all the deliciousness that is Friday Feast to keep you entertained. And this week’s guest is hugely entertaining too!

Multi-published Melbournian Kate Belle’s latest novel The Yearning is a must read. There was so much I related to with this book – the setting, the era – but it was the compelling story and Kate’s mastery of language that I adored most. A wonderful read that I can’t recommend highly enough, especially if you were a child of the 70s.

Take a look…

 

THE YEARNING

 

Cover of The Yearning by Kate BelleIt’s 1978 in a country town and a dreamy fifteen year old girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher. Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life.

Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class. He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window. He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until the erotic love notes begin to arrive.

Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him. He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes. One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced. And what happens next will torment them forever – in ways neither can imagine.

 

Intrigued? Of course you are! The Yearning is available now from Amazon for your Kindle e-reader or reading app, Kobo or iTunes. For the print book visit Booktopia, Bookworld, Dymocks, QBD The Bookshop, Eltham Bookshop and other independent book stores, or your local chainstore.

Unsure? Then read an extract here. You’ll be hooked, believe me.

Now please welcome Kate who is generously sharing a wonderful family recipe. Just the sort of Friday Feast I love.

 

Christmas Hand Me Downs

 

Hi Cathryn and readers. What a boon to finally get a guernsey on the famous Friday Feast. I’ve looked forward to this for a long time and even though I’ve literally had MONTHS to consider what to write about, I still can’t decide what recipe to share with you.

After checking the recipe index and seeing the poorly state of the vegetable list, and because I’m a vegetarian, I thought perhaps I should do a vegetable recipe – like creamy mashed potatoes, lemon & butter beans, or roast vegetable medley. But that seems a bit mumsy and boring and ‘eat up your veggies before you have dessert’. (Although there is nothing dull about the way I do veggies. Plenty of good quality butter, salt, pure olive oil, black pepper and cream. I’ve already told my doctor I’m here for a good time, not a long time. Bugger the cholesterol.)

But at heart (the part that’s still beating after all that fat) I’m a cake and pastry girl with a natural leaning toward carby, home-baked fare, and this is the time of year I embark on my boiled fruit cake, white chocolate white Christmas,Calendar showing Kate's pudding day and plum pudding.  So, against the repressed murmurings of my must-eat-wholesome-low-fat-food-fairy, I’m going to treat you to a special Christmas recipe that was passed to me by my dearly beloved’s ex-wife (yes, you read that right), who in turn inherited it from her Great Auntie Flo.

There are so many things about this recipe that appeal to me. Firstly, it’s been handed down three generations. Its history is as long as my list of ex-lovers and I can’t help wondering how many Christmas tables it has graced in the last century. Secondly, the family this recipe originated from were teetotallers and it contains so much alcohol there’s no need to refrigerate it. It just sits in its pudding bowl in a cool, dry cupboard for months developing mouth watering celebratory flavour. Thirdly, I love that it’s a second hand recipe. It goes well with my second hand kitchen utensils, second hand pets, husband and aprons. We are a fully recycled household so it seems appropriate to offer Friday Feast up a second hand heirloom recipe I’ve appropriated from someone else’s family.

Kate's pudding day ingredientsEvery October this recipe makes an appearance at my kitchen bench on a Saturday I’ve allocated for pudding making. Be warned, this pudding is a serious and messy commitment, but well worth it. The pudding itself is medium weight, very dark and moist. The amount of butter in it makes it very rich necessitating only small servings. One pudding goes a long way. I recommend you start early in the day and have no other plans. My first attempt at Auntie Flo’s pudding (actually, my first attempt at any Christmas pudding) took a day and a half (my fault, not the pudding’s) and almost put me off the whole exercise. But with practice I’ve got the preparation down to about four hours. With up to six hours boiling time on the stove top that’s the day done.

The recipe itself is photocopied from a cookbook and includes a footnote about how individual members of the family prefer their pudding served – X: bit of custard, Y: piles of brandy cream, Z: a smidget of cold whipped cream – which is a delightful addition and brings extra warmth to the experience of making it.

All in all, it’s a recipe befitting a writer. It brims with mysterious back story, has great depth of character and a compelling and involved plot that leads to a profoundly satisfying climax.

Just one more thing – the secret to the inherent goodness of Great Auntie Flo’s Christmas pudding isn’t in the butter, the dried fruit or even the booze. It’s in the Christmassy feelings that flourish as you get your hands utterly sticky and hum your way through your daggiest Christmas music while you work. (Yes, you must!)

 

Auntie Flo’s Christmas Pudding

 

Ingredients for 1 standard 2 ½ pint pudding (Use as best quality as you can manage – no substituting!)

Daggy Christmas CD – push play and turn up loud

250g currants

250g sultanas

250g raisins

90g candied peel

½ cup blanched chopped almonds

70g minced fresh apple

125g plain flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp mixed spice

250g suet (or butter if you’re vegetarian)

250g soft breadcrumbs (I blitz day old bread in the food processor)

125g soft brown sugar

Grated rind 1 orange

2-3 eggs (free range of course)

1 tblsp brandy

2 tblsp rum

200ml beer (heavy only)

Method

Chop up dried fruit and nuts and combine with minced apple.

Chopping ingredients for the Christmas pudding

Sift flour with salt and spices into large mixing bowl (big enough to take the rest of the ingredients)

Grate the butter/suet into flour and rub in well (this gets very sticky but is quite enjoyable if you give in to it)

Christmas pudding preparation - rubbing butter or suet into flour

Add breadcrumbs, sugar and grated orange rind and mix with hands until even.

Mixing Christmas pudding by hand

Mix in fruit and nuts (yes, using your hands)

Beat eggs, adding brandy and rum (you can use a utensil for this bit)

Mix boozy eggs and beer to other ingredients and mix thoroughly into a soft mixture (okay, you can use a wooden spoon for this, but really, it’s better with hands :-))

Kate Belle's Christmas Pudding mix

Grease the pudding basin well (with butter) and line the base with baking paper. Press the mixture into the basin, pushing out all air pockets until the basin is brimming with yummy pudding.

Cover the top with a double thickness of greased baking paper followed by a double layer of tin foil and tie down tightly around the bowl rim with strong string, making a string handle for ease of removal from the boiling pot.

Pudding bowl preparation

Put the pudding bowl into a huge saucepan on the stove top and pour in enough hot water to come half way up the sides of the basin. Cover and boil for 6 hours (NB I usually make 2 smaller puddings by dividing this mixture in half and boil them for half the time). Keep an eye on the water level and top up as necessary. Too much water will soak into the pudding and make it gooey, not enough will make the pudding dry.

Allow pudding to cool and store for 2-3 months in cool, dry, dark cupboard. Cook it for a further 2 hours (adjust time according to pudding size) on Christmas day.

Serve with copious quantities of the reveller’s choice of brandy cream, custard, cream or icecream (or all of them!) and devour lustily.

Do you have a traditional Christmas recipe your family serve up every year?

 

Ooh, Kate, I could wrap you in a big Father Christmas hug! What a gorgeous post, and thanks so much for sharing such an important recipe with everyone at Friday Feast. I can just picture you now, boogie-ing to Jingle Bell Rock as you rub butter into flour or mix ‘boozy’ eggs.

So Feasters, do you have a Chrissy recipe that’s adored? I’ve got to brag that I make a mean Christmas cake, completely overloaded with brandy-soaked fruit. Because we tend to travel interstate, alternating between far north Queensland and south-east South Australian I haven’t had much of chance to create our own tradition, but we do get to savour other’s.

What about you? Do you get in the spirit with rum balls? Maybe fruit mince tarts? Or perhaps you have a special way with turkey? We’d all love to hear. Your tradition might inspire a new one for the rest of us.

If you’d like to learn more about Kate and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

 

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