This year we’re moving home at the end of December and obviously this is quite daunting! Last year I only just survived Christmas preparation with 4 children, granted one was a newborn, I was in a constant feeding cycle so this proved tricky for getting organised. However this year with the addition of a blog, Youtube channel, work and the move, all whilst juggling a tottering baby means I need to be prepared and cut a few corners.
Every year my staple bakes are the lovely star topped mince pies by Nigella Lawson, Christmas chocolate cookies, Birthday Cakes for my Christmas Eve-born Daisy, a Delia Smith recipe Christmas Cake and pudding. I decided to try and cut corners and make mince pies in batches and freeze them for December and the same for the Christmas cookies. Then for the Christmas pudding I’m cheating and buying shop bought as the children don’t eat it and we can’t be left with leftovers as the fridge freezer needs to be emptied and defrosted on Boxing Day night ready for our house move! Decorating a Christmas cake is a yearly tradition that I do with Daisy, so this needs to happen, but again I need to cut a corner with it. This year I decided to not bake the usual Delia’s Christmas cake as I didn’t have all the store cupboard ingredients and didn’t want to stock up on items that won’t get used before the move. I thought about buying a cake and then decorating it with marzipan and icing or buying a ready made kit. Anyhow I decided against both of these (as the latter is also expensive) and the reason why I didn’t buy a plain fruit cake is I found an easier recipe in Delia’s bible, a Dundee cake. The ingredients were all store cupboard staples and so I just added a few tablespoons of alcohol to the recipe and it turned out well. To be honest we’re not fans of rich fruit cake so this cake looks much lighter and if it tastes good over Christmas this may well be our new yearly tradition of a fruit cake. I followed some advice on storing Dundee cakes and have wrapped it in layers of cling film and foil and frozen until closer to decorating time.
First attempt of Mince pies with shop bought pastry and mincemeat and topped them with a star as usual. We taste tested them and I have to say they were ok but it just didn’t feel right not to use the delicious orange shortcrust pastry that is Nigellas. I have decided that putting aside an hour to make pastry wouldn’t be too difficult, and to then compromise with filling them with shop bought mincemeat and popping several batches in the freezer to keep us in stock. As for the chocolate cookies they are so simple that no compromising is necessary.
As for my plans of Birthday cakes Daisy this year she is having an earlier party therefor the cake is being made 2 weeks prior to the day. On this occasion it is a cake I have chosen, rather than my children, who have elaborate design ideas of cakes! On Christmas Eve as it’s just our family at home, we will be having a tower of cupcakes and any left over cup cakes can be shared out to her friends on the street when they’re outside playing and getting rid of energy ready to sleep for Santa.
I have over the years been sucked into buying far too many teacher, school staff and nursery staff presents. Putting far too much effort into making presents look thoughtful and pretty. This year I have kept it simple and have cut down the amount I’m buying. I’m not buying for the 3 nursery staff in Teddy’s room, instead just his key worker. I’m only buying for Daisy’s 2 teachers and for the rest of the staff I will be taking in some of my batch cooked chocolate cookies and mince pies a few days before the end of term. Thus cutting down on the presents and using up the two batches of my favourite bakes.
I have also taken out the hassle of my usual baking for school and nursery fairs as the last few years I have sent every week in December producing countless biscuits and cupcakes. I just haven’t the time or inclination this year and so (shock /horror) as a lover of home baked offerings, I have instead purchased mini gingerbread men at quite a reasonable price! I feel slightly liberated and relieved for my own time & sanity that I have decided to break from committee tradition and not bake.
Another corner to cut is I’m going to cut down on Christmas card sending as the kids make our cards and this is usually done by ourselves or nursery. This year we have bought Hobbycraft cards and envelopes, and I have tasked hubby to produce some Pinterest potato-printed masterpiece and just send them to our UK family to cut down on air mail costs and paper waste. I would be cutting out on cards altogether this year to help reduce paper, but with a change of address to be sent out this will be quicker than obtaining extended family email addresses.
I haven’t attended every Christmas community event as they become just too many. I have just stuck with the nursery fair/nativity and the school play and fair and cut out the several extra community centre Christmas gatherings, and as for the toddler group parties I usually enjoy I’m not doing them as Florence is still quite small to appreciate these.
So my idea of completely cheating on baking this year has failed slightly, but I have scaled down on a few of my baking, birthday and preparation commitments! If anyone has any favourite simple, slightly cheating recipes then please do share with me as I could do with some new Christmas inspiration that saves my time in the kitchen yet adds to the magic of a tasty Christmas. The above might not sound like I have cut too many corners, but with limited time due to work in a school day these extra commitments really do take away from the odd hour I have to spend on my blog, admin and other life laundry. I would also love to hear any non-food Christmas time saver tips that you have or whether you too are avoiding some time consuming traditions or commitments.