If your recipe only requires a sprig of rosemary or a garnish of parsley then freeze the remainder in small clear freezer bags (don’t forget to label them). If you cut the stems off the parsley and freeze just the curly tops, you’ll find that when you come to use it again it simply crumbles into your dish – genius!! You can also freeze herbs in olive oil in ice cube trays. Click here for more tips including freezing herbs in olive oil
Freeze leftover wine
If you’ve had a party and have a few different bottles of wine left with just a small amount in the bottom, simply pour into ice cube trays and pop into Bolognese sauce, casseroles or gravies when you need them.
Prepare soup ingredients in advance
If you’d like to spend more time with family and friends this Christmas then prepping soup ingredients in advance will enable you to whizz up a delicious, healthy meal with minimal time in the kitchen. Simply chop an onion and root vegetables (such as sweet potato, butternut squash, parsnip, carrot, leek and swede) and freeze in a large plastic freezer bag. The day you wish to use it you can either pop the frozen cubes straight into a large saucepan of water and stock or leave it to defrost for a few hours and use as fresh.
Take advantage of fresh produce on special offer or seasonal produce (and freeze it!!)
This week I’ve found fresh raspberries discounted in Waitrose and frozen them so they can be popped into healthy smoothies when we’re all sick of roast dinners and cakes! If you have the space in your freezer you can also peel and cube butternut squash and other winter root vegetables while they’re available cheaply and locally. (Buying local helps to support the environment too!) In the summer you can buy delicious, fresh tomatoes and make them into sauces to use throughout the winter. If you still have space in your freezer (and another week before the little cherubs start their school holidays!) you can also make and freeze: Chocolate brownies Mince pies Pastry (Though buying ready to roll pastry is even recommended by top TV chefs!!) Cranberry sauce Slices of lemon and lime for drinks Meaty stuffing balls (take the skin off of good quality sausages and roll into balls) And here’s another useful Christmas freezer tip: Buy a couple of packs of part-baked baguettes and ready-to-bake croissants or pain au chocolat for cosy, family breakfasts.
The Crafty Corner! Christmas decorations seem to get more and more expensive every year; £4.99 for a posh glass bauble anyone? Here are a few simple decorations that the children can make or assist with and won’t cost you a fortune. Classy Candles Save a few glass jars (jam jars are fine but smaller ones like curry paste are even better!) and wash them completely, remove the labels and sticky glue and discard the lids. Tie a pretty ribbon around the top and trim the ends into diagonals or V shapes. Pop a tea light inside (or the battery operated tea lights which negate all risk of fire!) and enjoy them flickering around your house, creating a warm, comforting glow. Paper Lanterns
Do you remember the paper lanterns you learned to make in primary school? These are so simple and fast to make and can be decorated to any level of ‘bling’, or kept simple in white. Gorgeous Glow Jars
Save a couple of glass juice bottles or pick up some second hand preserving jars and fill with a combination of battery operated fairy lights (I bought the crystal gem style from B&Q for around £5) and old pearl necklaces or other gem style jewellery. Little girls might like to make these with lots of pink gems, beads, hair accessories, small toys, flower petals, paper hearts or sweets in coloured wrappers. These make great bedside lamps for children and teens (Not toddlers or babies due to the small parts and the glass) and also can be part of a beautiful Christmas dining table centrepiece.
Get the wrapping right! Wrapping gifts doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it will look more professional if you’ve thought about the combination of wrapping paper, ribbon and gift tags.
Simple brown paper with a ribbon and the recipient’s favourite flower, a sprig of holly or bay leaves tucked through the ribbon will look stunning. To save on the quantity of ribbon used, instead of tying it in a cross and a bow, simply take two contrasting or coordinating ribbons and place them across the package at one end and use tape to secure the ends. Tuck a gift tag underneath at an angle (secure with double sided tape if necessary). Other great gift adornments include brooches attached to ribbon, autumn leaves (dried, pressed and written on with glitter pens/gold marker), small bells, wooden tags (owls are big this season!) and initial letters in wood. Try using music sheets as wrapping or gift tags for music lovers; children can make their own wrapping paper with potato printing or stamping in Christmas colours and shapes; and regular wrapping paper can be enhanced by folding a section of it in a concertina fashion. The most important thing to remember when wrapping gifts is to cut the paper just large enough – don’t have miles of excess paper hanging around! And finally, the best wrapping gadget we ever bought in our house is a proper office/commercial sellotape dispenser – no more cutting tape and sticking the sections to the edge of the table! With just two weeks to go until the big day, I hope you’re getting excited and looking forward to spending time with friends and family and watching children’s eyes light up when they open special gifts. Until next week, Lorraine
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