Christmas crunch time? A well-stocked freezer is half the battle.
Before I move forward with the chores in chunks and one-stop shopping theme (see below), I have a question. Why did no-one tell that there’s an M&M Meat Shop tucked away in the same mall where I do much of my shopping, just a hop, skip and jump away from the liquor store? Very convenient. In any case, now I know. Took a quick 10-minute spin around it on the weekend and came home with a whack of goodies that will dial down my holiday stress by half.
Like many, I do love to cook and bake at Christmas. But I’ve learned over the years that it makes good sense to balance the home-made with pre-made and prepared foods. So I stocked up on appetizers, main courses and desserts, knowing that I can create a quick and casual snack or an elegant dinner, even on those evenings when I can’t get away early from work to prep or when friends drop by unexpectedly.
For nibbles and starters, try M&M Meat Shop’s Fig & Brie Phyllo Cups – tiny perfect phyllo cups filled with creamy brie, cream cheese filling and fig jam. Lovely with a fizzy wine. Add a dish of olives, and throw some veggies and dip on a plate and you're all set.
BTW, the website also has useful entertaining tips. For example, how many appetizers do you need? They suggest 12 appetizers for every guest at a cocktail party and six for a dinner party. For each hour of your party, count on two bottles of wine and one bottle of liquor per every ten people. (Of course, you’ll have lots of non-alcoholic bevies on hand and make sure that no-one drinks and drives).
At this time of year, I like to make sure there’s a good selection of frozen meat and fish in the freezer, ensuring fewer trips out to the supermarket during those busy December evenings. For me, that means stocking up on Jail Island Salmon, native northeast Atlantic salmon raised in their natural environment, and, a favourite of my kids, bacon-wrapped fillet mignon. Speaking of kids, I recommend taking a teenager along with you on a grocery trip. One of mine picked out a few things he can easily make himself when his friends come over after hockey — who knew he liked Calamari? — and they can help ferry the groceries in.
I also picked up a frozen pot roast, complete with gravy, to which I can add whatever veg I have in my fridge that’s suitable. This is perfect for doing in a slow cooker. Just pop it in before you start your day and by the time you’re ready, you’ll have meltingly tender meat, and the house will be filled with a delicious aroma. Add a splooch of red wine, and you’ll kick up the flavour even further.
Of course, my holiday cookies are unmatchable (if I do say so myself), but I will admit that the Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Puffs are very tasty. (Well, I HAD to test them before offering them to guests!) I also picked up a package of Raspberry Macaroon bars. These can be cut into bite-sized pieces, and mixed with other treats on a pretty platter. For a more elegant presentation, place one on a small plate, top with ice cream and drizzle with raspberry liqueur.
There now, that sounds easy, doesn’t it?