Make Ahead Bread Rolls and 5 Tips for a Less Stressful Christmas Dinner

I love Christmas time, the decoration, the music, I even love Christmas shopping and wrapping presents. I do try and make sure everything like Christmas presents are bought long before the madness so that probably helps keep my love for the season so strong. But one killer for most people is the stress of the Christmas meal. Even myself, a lover of cooking even for large groups and a lover of the season, finds myself more stressed then I need to be. So I have come up with 5 tips that are helping me with my sanity this year and I hope that they help you. One thing that I am doing is making these tasty bread rolls several weeks before hand so that they are ready to do on the day without too much hassle.

1. Write down your Christmas dinner in menu form. Seeing all the dishes you are planning on making on paper will help you better figure out if you are overdoing it. I often just have an idea in my head of all the things I want to do and just get the ingredients and start doing it, only to discover I am doing way too much and haven’t planned enough time to do it all. Write out all the dishes, how long they take to prep and cook and see if it is even possible for you to make all the dishes with the amount of oven space and hob space you have.

2. Cook ahead. In part with the writing down figure out what dishes can be made ahead of time to lighten the load on Christmas day. For example this year we have decided to start cooking the turkey the day before. We have so many people round the table that we never get to set the bird down on the table to display any way so this year to make life easier we are cooking the bird and slicing it so it can be reheated the next day. This is going to free up our oven for other things like our roast vegetables and stuffing. It will also ensure a prompt dinner start as the turkey is often the thing that takes even longer then you predicted.

3. Don’t be afraid to delegate. If you are like me you bite off more then you can chew every year. This year we have 20 adults and 3 kids to feed. Plus I have a 8 week old baby that also needs me so there is no way it would be sensible to do it all on my own. So instead this year we are dividing the load amongst us and doing as much as possible the days leading up to Christmas so the day can be spend fellowshipping together and not spent stressing over cooking. Because lets face it, even if you love cooking like myself it can be very stressful on the day.

4. Don’t experiment on the day. Have a new dish you have been wanting to try on Christmas day that you have never done before. TEST IT BEFORE HAND! Do not attempt something you have never done on the day. You are only opening the door to a stressful day and possibly a dinner failure on Christmas day when all the shops are closed. Either stick to what you are familiar or test the dish out a few weeks before hand.

5. Don’t go overboard with fancy table decor. I know you have been pouring over images in Pintrest all year feeling like a failure compared to the lavish table displays you see. But first of all most of the amazing things you find on pintrest are from photoshoots where the photographer had all the time in the world to setup their table, no hungry people wondering where the food is. Also remember your table is going to be full of food so unless you have a table that is big enough you are going to end up having to remove most of the decorations before the food is put on the table which kind of defeats the point. Instead stick to small simple ideas that can be prepared the day before and be delegated to someone else to setup on the day.

Remember Christmas should be a fun, wonderful day spent with family so don’t allow it to become a stressful environment and open up the possibility of stress related arguments on the day.
Bread-Rolls

Make ahead bread rolls

400g strong bread brown flour
1 tsp salt
15g butter
1 1/2 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
250mL warm water

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Crockpot Mashed Potatoes

As far blogging went November had to not be a priority for me. Sadly my tiny baby girl ended up dealing with two illnesses that landed her in the hospital both times ending us with seeing 11 days in November there with her. It was horrible and terrifying seeing such a small baby so sick. But thankfully December has been much more kind and I am excited for Christmas with my new little addition. I know there aren’t that many more days left before the big day but I just had to share with you a few special Christmas recipes to help make the holidays easier for you. Because probably like many of you with new additions means a bigger family get together, making the holiday cooking just a bit more hectic. So finding easier ways to do dishes that are staples I think is a must. And this first one I want to share is by far my favourite. This has single handedly changed the way we are making potatoes forever. My husband was never a fan of mashed potatoes, finding them dull and tasteless unless a lot of additions were made to them. So he has always wanted roast potatoes for the holidays. But once we discovered these and found that they are not only easier but so full of flavour he is now a convert. I never thought about it before but boiling potatoes really does take away precious flavour from the potatoes but cooking them in the slowcooker gives them a rich almost baked flavour. Season as you would normally but we found that doing it this way has us going back to simple salt and pepper seasoning as the potatoes already have so much flavour.

Crockpot-mashed-potatoes

Crockpot Mashed Potatoes

1 kilo (2 lbs) potatoes, cut into 2 inch pieces
(1/4 c.) milk
42g (3 Tbsp) butter
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Recipe adapted from Creme De La Crumb

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Brunch Challenge – Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls

So with the holiday season coming up I decided to focus on brunch ideas this month. The holiday time is full of big family and friend gatherings and eating big meals. So we like to keep things simple and stick to only two meals a brunch and then the larger meal. Small snacks can be served during the rest of the time but by limiting the meals to only two it helps relieve a lot of stress if you are catering for a large group plus since so many calories are consumed during the large meals it seems wise to limit the amount of meals we consume.

Before I share this amazing recipe I think it should be noted that I am not a baker. It is not my area of strength and very rarely does anything I bake turn out beautiful, tasty but not beautiful. I could probably get a lot better if I practiced more but baking is not a healthy thing so I try and limit the amount I do it. I say this because it is a common issue with people. I know so many people that say they aren’t good at baking so they don’t even try any more. They instead stick to store bought pastries, cakes and cookies, or buy only box mixes. But I want to encourage people to give it a try. Yes your results might be like mine, not perfect looking but trust me when I say these were so tasty they didn’t last long enough for us to look at them for long. Not only do home made baked goods taste better and are cheaper buteven more importantly they are better for you then store bought since they have less preservatives and other additives. And since baking isn’t great for the waist line I say any small thing you can do to make it better for you is worth trying.

Trust me when I say if this non-baker can make these then you can. This recipe can easily be made the day before and stored in the fridge until the morning.
Banana-Bread-Cinnamon-Rolls

Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls

Filling:
150g (3/4 c.) soft brown sugar
50g (1/4 c.) granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
(1/4 c.) finely chopped nuts (I prefer pecans but only had chopped mixed nuts on hand)
14g (1 Tbsp) butter, melted
Rolls:
438g (3 3/4 c.) plain flour
12g (2 Tbsp) sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 ripe bananas
100g (7 Tbsp) butter, melted and divided
175mL (3/4 c.) milk
Icing:
2 cup icing sugar
2 Tbsp milk
Adapted from Inside Bru Crew Life

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Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Special Thank You to Royal Berkshire Hospital

So I going to break my own new rule, I know this month is all about 30inute meals but I am not going to be sharing one today and I hope you don’t mind but this whole post is going to be unusual and special for me. You might have noticed there was no blog posting last week. You see I was a little too busy having a baby!!!! It was a crazy week, physically and mentally. And like many things in life it didn’t go the way I planned it. But the care I received at my unplanned hospital birth was so amazing that I hope you don’t mind but I would like to dedicate this post to thanking them.

First to my first midwife Suzanne I can’t thank you enough for being the rock and support I needed. You listened to me so that I felt heard something that I needed. You were the voice of reason when I needed to be reasoned with and you were also there to help calm me when I got too stressed. Thank you for being in my corner and helping argue my case in bringing me back to the midwife led unit. You and Laura helped us create the kind of environment that we were wanting to create at home, to be honest in the beginning it did feel more like we were on a date night then at a hospital having a baby. The aromatherapy, the relaxing environment and peace and quiet that Chris and I were able to have was so soothing and I believe it is the only reason I went into active labour on my own.
My second midwife, Laura, I hope you realize how amazing you are. You were calm and encouraging especially when you noticed things weren’t right. I was scared and I can imagine you were a bit scared too but you didn’t let that show and that helped me stay as calm as I could in the situation.

Now it gets complicated in the thanks because of the amount of people there are to thank and so I am sorry I am not able to personally name you all. To the midwives and nurses downstairs in the delivery suite the calm you all displayed in what felt like an impossible birth situation was incredible. I am aware that probably few if not no one in the room had ever witnessed a breech delivery like that, let alone assisted but handled the situation with such calm and professionalism. You helped me achieve what I won’t lie, felt like was impossible, push her out.

To the staff in Buscot Baby Care Unit, the hardest moment for me was when she was born and I couldn’t hear her cry, you rushed her to the side to work on her and I felt like time has stopped. You worked so quickly on her and as you said at times she recovered quicker then you could finish what you were doing. But you made sure she was okay after such a traumatic birth. And while no parent ever wants their baby whisked away from them I am at least grateful she was whisked away to your care. Thank you for always being happy to have me sit by her side during the night and taking her out of the incubator so I could feed her. You helped make a horrible situation a little bit easier for this scared mummy.

To the staff in Marsh ward, spending the first 5 days of my daughter’s life in a hospital was so hard and I got stir crazy and frustrated at times but the care we received was so wonderful. Everyone, from the midwives and care assistants to the sweet ladies who brought me cups of tea throughout the day. You helped make this patient feel like a person, not a patient. I have stayed at hospitals in the US many times in the past and trust me there is a big difference. You all touched our lives and helped us get home as quickly possible and I want you all to know how positive of an impact you made on our lives that crazy week in October when a little baby’s head turned out to be a bottom and all of our lives turned upside down. Thank you all.

As a thank you I am sharing these amazing Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies. And yes before you ask I am delivering these beauties to the staff so they can enjoy them too.

Triple-Chocolate-Chunk-Cookies

Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies

227g (1 c.) butter
150g (3/4 c.) granulated sugar
150g (3/4 c.) packed soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
312g (2 1/2 c) plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
60g (1/2 c.) cocoa powder
170g (6 oz.) Milk Chocolate chunks *could use chips
170g (6 oz) White Chocolate chunks

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30 Minute Challenge – Creamy Spinach Pesto Pasta

Well I have to confess that I had hoped at this point I could be giving you the good news update that baby had arrived but sadly she is set on being late like her sister was. So I am trying to keep busy until she decides she is ready. This is the worse part for me because I am a very impatient person and the uncomfortable stage of the last part of pregnancy makes me feel a bit physically lazy while mentally wanting to be productive. If that makes sense. So I am glad this month I have challenged myself to stick to quick meals so dinner doesn’t have to be something I work too hard at.

This recipe utilizes a new addiction for me, spinach pesto. Last week when I went to the store to buy spinach all they had was a massive bag so I was stuck with more then I could use before it went bad so I hunted around for more ideas on ways to use it up. I came across a recipe for spinach pesto. I have always loved pesto but more often then not stuck to the basil version. For me this was even better, especially when used as a spread for a sandwich. The pesto can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to one week.

But warning, this dish has so much incredible flavour you might struggle sticking to correct portion sizes. This should have been enough to serve 4 people but sadly didn’t make to leftovers because we just couldn’t resist having more.

Creamy-Spinach-Pesto-Pasta

Creamy Spinach Pesto Pasta

350g dried pasta
300mL single cream
(1/2 c.) spinach pesto *see recipe bellow
60g (1/4 c.) parmesan cheese
Recipe inspired by Chow.com

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Posted in 30 Minute Meal, Challenges, Easy Meal, Main Course, Pasta, Sauce, Vegetarian Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment