Let me tell you a story about a Pavlova. I once saw this beautiful picture of a Pavlova with a red bow. I really wanted to recreate something similar for my blog this year. I found the perfect ribbon last year at a quaint shop in Riebeek Kasteel. I kept it, and it was on my list to do. I thought it would be a waste to make a pavlova for our family so I invited friends over and got planning on a menu. I was so inspired by reading Mary Berry’s life story last week and wanted to make her Fish Pie, it is a similar recipe that I used to make in my basic cooking course (maybe a little too often, got a bit sick of it:) But as you know Level 6 load shedding(for my readers from the rest of the world, we have been having a lot of power cuts to conserve electricity, it is crippling South Africa and there is no quick solution in sight. Sometimes the power is off for hours.) happened last week and I changed the menu to include cold food and rather have Mezze platters.
The plan was to make everything ahead and then take pictures for the blog. A perfect Christmas table with decorated windows and linen napkins. But like in life does anything ever work out like you envision or plan? The Pavlova flopped, because load shedding started early right in the middle of cooking the Pavlova, it had a massive crack and did not cook through on the inside. We had unexpected visitors and it got dark so I did not take any pictures.
I know I will not have time to recreate these recipes and photograph them before we go on holiday but I think they are all great ideas and would love to give you some inspiration.
So this is my attempt to share all the wonderful ideas I used that I found on Pinterest and social media. I saved some of them on my Christmas board. Maybe next year I can attempt to capture some Christmassy content. I really need to get an assistant. Because I am just not getting enough done. It is not the way I envisioned this blog post but done is better than perfect.
Done is better than perfect!
The ideas are easy and doable even if you are not a whizz in the kitchen. There are so many expectations around Christmas and making it memorable and perfect for our Children, but oh my goodness the pressure. There are no rules when it comes to entertaining and we need to remember what Christmas is all about.
I am all about traditions and making Christmas special but all the ‘extras’ of elf on a shelf, matching pajamas, stocking fillers, Christmas Eve boxes, advent countdowns of books, and little gifts have me exhausted and financially depleted just thinking about it. Christmas holidays are lovely but also really exhausting, so don’t succumb to the pressures that are really overflowing from the US.
Be conscious of what Christmas is really about and rather expand in gifting to others that have less than you, instead of getting yourself wrapped up in holiday traditions that are stressful and expensive. It is all about showing people the love of Jesus. Involve your kids and spread the JOY!
I love the reverse advent calendar idea, where you add one item of tinned food, toiletries, etc in a box and give it to someone less fortunate on 24th December. This will teach your children alot more about the spirit of Christmas than any other advent calendar.
Snacks and Starters
Instead of chip and dip as a snack try something a little more festive. I saw this fabulous Antipaso Christmas Wreath over on Joyfull Healhty Eats Instagram page and made it for a family get-together. I also added a red bow at the bottom. But love the idea of adding rosemary to give it a wreath look. I used tomatoes, cucumber, gherkins, olives (make sure they don’t have stones in) salami, and bocconcini because they are just so damn cute. But feta and halloumi will work just as well. I think a great way to add some flavour would be to marinade the cheese in garlic,olive oil and zest with a sprinkle of salt. This could also be made a day before and just arrange into a wreath before serving.
Easy low-calorie cocktail. I love the bitterness of Grapefruit and this was really delicious!
Make it individually or make a nice big jug with appetizers.
50 ml Grapefruit cordial or Grapefruit juice
1-2 tots of Vodka
Fill the glass up with sugar-free tonic.
Stir and garnish with lot’s of ice, grapefruit slices and a sprig of rosemary.
Mezze-inspired platter meal. Ask friends and family to bring one or two dishes and soon you will have a whole spread. Also, fill platters with fresh fruit. There is so much abundance right now. Another tip is to make separate platters for children so they can have their own picnic while the adults have some quality time together.
These ideas are load-shedding safe, some things could be made in advance and eaten cold.
I boil my potatoes in my Instant Pot and then just roast them until crispy. It is so easy and a delicious gluten-free starch.
Use the little mini aubergines they are so cute! I also added toasted flaked almonds to mine.
This recipe was really so delicious. I could eat the whole bowl! So flavorsome and great for dipping pieces of pitta or crackers in.
I have made a similar recipe many times. I did not get around to making my own naan bread. But these are really delicious, I can imagine they will also work well to cook on the braai. Another option is to buy pitta bread. Cut into strips and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and bake in the oven until golden brown and crispy. Great for dipping.
You need plenty of hummus for dipping. I love this hummus recipe. Easy and delicious but for those that can’t be bothered to make their own hummus you can get really delicious hummus in the supermarkets. I really enjoy the hummus from Pesto Princess, Mediterranean delicacies, and Woolworths.
This salad could also be a great addition to a Mezze-type meal
To add some protein to your Mezze platter add some of the following or just some cold meat or shop-bought meatballs and falafel. For easy homemade falafels try Outcast foods.
I made this green bean casserole for my family’s early Christmas celebrations. But made extra and served it with the mezze platters. Instead of using 6 tbs of butter, I only used 2 tbs. Instead of milk, I used chicken stock and I also found dried onions at Checkers that was not deep-fried. I also just used a little parmesan and added it before baking.
Everyone will help themselves either dipping crackers and pitta chips or filling naan or pittas with all the delicious plates of food. Have some extra lettuce and tzatziki on hand if the idea is to fill pittas.
End your meal with a beautiful centerpiece of Pavlova.
Did you know that the Pavlova was named after the Australian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova? The dessert also originated in Australia or New Zealand. The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years. We had a Ready steady cook board game at my school in London. And this was one of the questions. So I have always remembered this fact.
I have to say I have had a few disastrous Pavlova attempts. Always delicious to eat but they have not been photogenic enough. My previous oven always burned meringues and I want them extra white and bright.
I think it is a fantastic dessert. Gluten-free, and not as heavy as traditional baked desserts. You can make it ahead, even a few weeks before, and store it in an airtight container. But I will be a little careful right now with all the humidity in the air. It is easy to assemble. I like to use Lancewood yogurt instead of cream and flavor it with some honey or icing sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. There are so many fruits in season right now, so a tropical combo of passion fruit and mango is great or go festive with berries and cherries. I always toast some flaked almonds and add loads of mint for some extra visual pleasure.
You could also make individual Pavlovas or if you have a disaster just make an Eton Mess with crumbled Pavlova.
I have not tried this recipe from Emma Duckworth but it looks similar to the recipes I normally make. Hopefully, I will have my own recipe up on the blog very soon.
I absolutely love Donna Hay. Her food styling is right up my street. Stylish, using neutral colors. Attention to detail.
I loved watching Donna Hay’s Christmas on Disney Channel. If you are a foodie you will really enjoy this! There are so many creative and beautiful ideas.
Use recycled glass jars, kraft boxes, twine, and some greenery like rosemary to make it extra special.
This is such a fun, cheap and beautiful idea. I did not get time to make them but they seem pretty easy to make.
I like to keep my table setting fairly simple, I just jazz up my napkins with some twine, cinnamon sticks, and rosemary. A packet of rosemary can go far for all your Christmas decorations:)
I used lanterns for some extra ambiance, I am not a big fan of candles. They tend to go very dusty if you don’t use them often. So I prefer lanterns that I can refill with oil.
Activities for Children
This is such a fun and cheap craft. This is the recipe I included in my Kid’s Christmas baking boxes a few years ago.
We still had some in our Christmas decorations box. They are still going strong.
Decorating Christmas windows
Edding pens have wonderful printouts on their website to create these fabulous festive window designs. They even have an online competition. I did not manage to find their chalk pens in South Africa but there are some chalk pens available on Takealot and I got ours from Waltons. It worked ok but was quite thick like a crayon and not a pen. But it worked well enough.
It is a little late for counting down the days to Christmas. But maybe you can use it next year or just let your children paint the beautiful little pictures. My daughter can paint for hours listening to an Audiobook.
My daughter was a great help with wrapping and decorating gifts for all the family this year. This is a very cute and easy way to give your gifts some personality.
All you need:
Red & White twine
A fine liner black pen
I hope this has given you some stress-free ideas to enjoy Christmas but still make it festive.
Let me know if you tried anything and tag Wooden Spoon Kitchen on social media.