Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas Gift and Party Cooking

Most of our friends and family are receiving homemade gifts this year. Partly because it's affordable and thoughtful but also because it's fun to make!

One thing I often find tricky about baked Christmas gifts is that I usually see people over 3 or 4 weeks for small friends and family gatherings. This usually means that I either have to make gifts that last well or make lots and lots of fresh batches of things.  This year I made many different items, so everyone received different things.  Another way I got around this problem was to freeze the raw Oatmeal, Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies.  Details about this process are below.

Here is what I've been making.

Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Relish
This one is an old recipe of my mum's that I've spruced up with the addition of the peppers. It's very old school with the use of Keens mustard powder and curry powder.  I think next time I'll try something a bit different as we've been making this for years. Some mustard seeds would provide a nice pop!

Not Quite Nigella's evilly delicious Snickers Rocky Road. 
The gorgeous and clever Lorraine's recipe can be found here.  I have made about 7 different rocky road recipes in my time, and this is by far the most amazingly yummy one! You really can't beat chocolate, caramel and peanuts and the marshmallows Lorraine uses are the Coles brand chocolate and vanilla marshmallows and they are dense rather than fluffy and work really well!

Malteser Rocky Road
A tooth-aching sweet nut free rocky road.  This was inspired by the lovely Planning Queen.  Here is her recipe. Again I use the chocolate and vanilla marshmallows mentioned above and I use maltesers for the nut replacing crunch.  The main reason I HAD to make rocky road (although I could have made brownies if I'd had time on the day) was to use these adorably kitch reindeer and Christmas tree plastic decorations a la the domestic goddess herself Nigella Lawson.

Maple Toasted Muesli 
This is one of the dishes I made for my little boy's breakfast birthday party.  Recipe found here.

Old fashioned Lemon Cordial
Adapted from the great Stephanie Alexander's recipe from the cook's companion.  We like to add thicker strips of lemon rind and increase the water and lemon content and reduce the sugar a bit.  I adore these little bottles I found at Provincial Home Living.  They were only $2.95 each and make lovely little gifts.  The large bottles are recycled.

Oat, Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Cookies
Adapted from a Martha Stewart (bow to the master!) recipe found here.  These ones were mostly for the kids.  As mentioned above, I made a HUGE double batch of these and froze them, ready to be baked when we were seeing people.  After I made the raw dough, I portioned it up and flattened each cookie out and lay them on baking paper in Tupperware containers and wrapped the containers in glad wrap to ensure no air got to them.  This way, if I was catching up with 2 people, I could simply take 2 cookies out of the freezer and bake them on the day.  This also meant I wasn't eating loads of leftovers along the way!!!

Salted Dulce De Leche Ice Cream
I have posted about this delicious ice cream previously.  Recipe found here.

I dropped some of this (and some of the below raspberry frozen yoghurt) off to the lovely Nicole from Planning with Kids last week.  What an inspiring woman she is!!!!  She has so much energy and vibrance that it is absolutely contagious!!! If you haven't read her book or her blog, she has a very relaxed and balanced and fun attitude to oganisation.  In my opinion, she comes to planning from a view of it improving your enjoyment of life and your family, rather than the organising and busy-ness BEING your life.  She has helped me tremendously over the past year, even though I only met her in person for the first time last week!

She kindly posted a link to my blog this morning also, which has me extremely chuffed! You can see the ice creams I gave her here.

Raspberry Frozen Yoghurt
I can't remember where I found the recipe, but I get a 1kg tub of natural Greek yoghurt, stir in 1/2 cup of golden castor sugar and stir through some defrosted, squashed frozen raspberries and then churn in my ice cream maker.  My boys love this!

Orange and Cranberry Mini Loaf Cakes
I love this cake!!! But my husband isn't a fan of the whole (frozen) cranberries that hide within it.  I think they are deliciously tart and make the cake. Anyway, if he doesn't love it, there's no point in making it, otherwise I'll end up eating it all!  So when I saw these gorgeous mini loaf pans online at the beautiful Emerald & Ella back in August, I had to buy them with these Christmas cakes in mind!

Here are a few packaged up gifts.  The 2 boxes were just old cardboard packaging boxes that I cut the lids off and covered with paper from Spotlight. I made the gift tags using Publisher and as I'm completly obsessed with Chevron pattern (zigzag basically), I had to use that as the backing.  I am not very proficient using publisher, so added the chevron pattern one zig at a time until I had a line of it and then copied and pasted it throughout. I'm sure there is a clever, technical way of doing this, but I made do!

Party Cooking:
One of my good friend Claire's gorgeous girl turned 3 last week and I helped out with the catering for the small, but brilliantly fun party. My Mr 3 had an absolute ball and it was one of those great, relaxed days for kids and mums.

I made little lunchboxes using plain white snack boxes.  My friend Claire is the paper craft queen and she made beautiful babushka doll stickers to go on the top of the boxes with each child's name on them.  As this was her design and I haven't mentioned my blog to her, I won't share the image of this, but they are simple but very effective.

To fill the boxes, I made a version of the gorgeous Ruth's pumpkin frittata - recipe found here.  I replaced the cream with some self raising flour to make the texture more like zucchini slice and less eggy. This was purely done for a couple of fussy egg fearing children who gobbled it up happily with a more solid texture!  I made half the side of the pan with fetta and sage and seasoning, and the other half plain for the littlies. I LOVE Ruth's cooking so much that I am jealous of her kids!

I also made star zucchini pancakes, tomato and basil focaccia, fairy bread and fruit skewers.  Although a lot of the food looks very beige, there were lots of veggies in there!!!

We've also had lots of Christmas parties and picnics where I've been making similar foods and lugging them around town in my cute tins.

Mini versions of the Cranberry & Oat biscuits

It's been a full on few weeks with some crazy things going on around here, so the cuddles from my beautiful babies and all of this crafting and cooking have been what has kept me (semi) sane.  I find it all extremely therapeutic and possibly the level of cooking and crafting correlates directly to the amount of stress at the moment!!! It's lovely to have an outlet! 

I hope everyone is having a smooth and fun lead up to the silly season.  

Love Amy xoxo


  1. Any chance you could share the gorgeous labels?? I'm useless at clever things like that!! YOu have inspired me to spend the day baking!!!

  2. I can't wait to have more time to try bakiing these gorgeous treats! You're doing very well with such a variety of fabulous things. Xx

  3. yum. Once I figure out how I'm so keen to try the maple muesli

  4. Thank you lovelies!!!
    And if I can figure out how to upload a link to the labels, I will! Happy to share them!

  5. I love the sound of all these gorgeous homemade gifts! I wish I had more time to spoil my friends and family like that. Your little hampers are so beautifully packaged :)

  6. I love your homemade gifts, we are doing home gifts this year too. Your hampers look beautiful!

    Oh and P.S. you won the Cafe Cards giveaway on my blog. If you could email me your postal details I will get the cards sent out to you asap.

  7. You really need to come over to the west side of town so you can be closer to me. Yummmmmmmm

    Fruit skewers certainly being added to my list. I would like to do a picnic box for everyone and not bother taking everything I don't need.

  8. Amy your cooking is divine. And how gorgeous were those tags. So sweet x

  9. It all looks wonderful! I'm sure the recipients were thrilled. You've done such a gorgeous job of the packaging.