Monthly Archives: December 2014

Traditions, old and new, that make Christmas even more magical

The-Snowman at Christmas


Traditions, old and new, that make Christmas even more magical

 The big day is almost here and I am so excited (possibly even more than the children!)

The build up began on the 1st with my oldest tradition – the opening of a wooden advent calendar that belonged to me when I was a child (we fill it with tiny chocolates and stickers). We have many more traditions, old and new, that I cherish and that make childhood and Christmas magical – just how it should be!


24 books of Christmas

I saw this idea on Facebook back in November, and I thought it was fabulous. I was going to buy 24 books from a charity shop but then my eldest child sorted through his books and selected 24 which are now too young for him. We wrapped each one individually and put them under the tree. Each day one of the younger children unwraps a book which we read that evening before bed.


Christmas decorations

Christmas Lights Express

This gorgeous idea was on the blog and I just couldn’t resist it!

One evening last week each child found a ticket under their pillow for the Christmas Express. We helped them into their dressing gowns, bundled them into the car with a little cup of hot chocolate and a cookie and took them around the local streets and town centre to see all the Christmas lights. It was lovely!


Christmas Concert

There’s nothing that quite gets you into the Christmas spirit than a carol concert or Christmas play. Usually, we go along to the local church carol concert but this year in place of a few gifts (they don’t need more toys!) we have bought tickets to see The Snowman at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. It will be the first time there for all of us and I can’t wait.


Christmas Eve Rituals

On Christmas Eve each child is given a package wrapped in brown paper and it contains a pair of new pyjamas and a tiny teddy (from the charity shop) to cuddle during the night. We bake Christmas biscuits (see the recipe below) and leave a couple out for Father Christmas with a glass of sherry and a carrot for Rudolf. We then all hang up our stockings before our final story and bed (after a large glass of wine and a sigh of relief for mum and dad!)


Christmas morning

Father Christmas usually forgets to clean his boots on the way in and leaves muddy prints by the patio. He even manages to leave a little bit of his beard (cotton wool) when munching on his biscuits! Despite his clumsiness, he has filled the stockings with exciting treasures, which we open first, and hidden some bigger gifts behind the sofa.


Have a wonderful Christmas everyone – I hope it is peaceful and happy, and you enjoy the Christmas traditions that are special to you and your family.



Christmas biscuits


Christmas biscuits

35–40 biscuits
15 mins prep time plus chilling
25 mins cooking time
65 Kcal per biscuit
4g fat per biscuit of which
0.3g is saturated
Suitable for vegetarians

Egg whites 2
Icing sugar 175g (6oz)
Ground cinnamon 2 tsp
Ground almonds 250g (9oz)
Lemon juice 2–3 tsp

1 Whisk the egg whites until stiff, fold in the icing sugar and cinnamon and whisk again until the mixture is of thick dropping consistency. Spoon about 6 tbsp of this meringue mixture into a small bowl, cover it and reserve. Continue whisking the rest of the mixture until it forms stiff peaks, then fold in the ground almonds and lemon juice and mix to a thick paste.

2 Form into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for about 1 hour, or until the mixture is firm enough to handle.

3 Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 and butter 2–3 baking sheets. Roll the dough out between two sheets of baking parchment until it’s about 5mm (¼in) thick.

4 Use a 2.5cm (1in) diameter star cutter to cut out shapes, then place on the baking sheets. Re-roll the trimmings and repeat the cutting out until all the paste is used up.

5 Bake the stars in the oven for 7–8 minutes, then remove from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 110°C/225°F/Gas ¼.

6 Use a pastry brush to paint the reserved meringue mixture over the top of the biscuits. Return the stars to the oven for about 15 minutes until the meringue has dried out but not browned. Remove the stars from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. The biscuits will keep for up to 2 weeks if stored in a cool place in an airtight container.

Cook’s tip
Ensure that both the bowl and beaters are grease-free before making the meringue, otherwise the mixture will not whisk up to the full volume.

Recipe taken from Year Round Dairy Cookbook.








Five reasons why the Dairy Diary Set makes a fabulous Christmas gift

The perfect Christmas Gift


Five reasons why the Dairy Diary Set makes a fabulous Christmas gift


1 It’s not just one moment in time – this gift gives its recipient pleasure all year round.

2 SO much for under a tenner – this set contains the 2015 Dairy Diary and also a pocket diary for the handbag AND a gorgeous notebook complete with pocket, elastic tie and pen.

3 Weekly foodie inspiration – each week, there’s a delicious new recipe to try.

4 Stress-busting – being organised and having everything written down in one place is a guaranteed stress reliever. In the Dairy Diary there is plenty of space to write and there’s also a handy pocket for storing all those bits of paper, vouchers and cards.

5 It’s packed full handy tips – from stain removal to home budgeting to metric conversions, you’ll find everything you need in the Dairy Diary.


If you order today, the Dairy Diary Set will arrive in time for Christmas.

Gone on, treat your friends and family to a gift they’ll remember – for only £9.25!


The Ultimate Christmas Menu

The Ultimate Christmas Menu


The Ultimate Christmas Menu

Make Christmas day extra special this year with these amazing recipes, simple enough for anyone and everyone to achieve.

  • Turkey with Sherry Gravy
  • Potatoes Dauphinois
  • Braised Red Cabbage with Blackberries
  • Cinnamon Spiced Cranberry Sauce
  • Syllabub Trifle



Turkey with Sherry Gravy

Turkey with Sherry Gravy

For a really festive meal, treat your guests to this turkey recipe on Christmas Day. The lemon, parsley and thyme stuffing is good to eat cold, too.

15 minutes preparation time 4½–4¾ hours cooking time plus resting
714 Kcal per portion
35.4g fat per portion of which 17.9g is saturated
6 servings with plenty left for eating cold

For the stuffing:
Fresh white breadcrumbs 250g (9oz)
Chopped parsley 6–8 tbsp
Chopped thyme 1–2 tbsp
Lemon 1, grated rind
Butter 110g (4oz), melted
Egg 1
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the turkey:
Turkey 5–6kg (11–13lb)
Turkey or chicken stock 600ml (1 pint)
Butter 50g (2oz), softened
Herbs to garnish

For the gravy:
Plain flour 3 tbsp
Gravy browning optional
Sherry 2 tbsp
Rosemary leaves to garnish
Lemon thyme leaves to garnish

1 Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/ Gas 5. To make the stuffing, place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together, taking care not to press it together too much – it should remain light and open in texture.

2 To prepare the turkey, rinse out the inside and pat dry. Press the stuffing into the neck cavity, shaping any extra stuffing into balls, which can be cooked on a small baking tray at the top of the oven for 15–20 minutes.

3 Pull the neck skin over the stuffing and secure with a skewer or a couple of wooden cocktail sticks. Weigh the turkey to calculate the cooking time, allowing 20 minutes per 450g (1lb). A turkey with stuffing that weighs about 6kg (13lb) will take approximately 4½–4¾ hours to cook.

4 Place the turkey in a roasting tin, pour the stock around it and spread the softened butter over the skin. Cover with foil and place towards the bottom of the oven (the shelf above the turkey at the top of the oven can be used for roasting vegetables).

5 Keep the turkey covered with foil until the last 45 minutes of the calculated cooking time, then remove foil, baste and return to the oven until cooked through.

6 To test if the turkey is cooked, pierce the thickest part of the flesh of the thigh with a skewer – if the juices that run out are clear, it’s cooked, but if the juices are still pink, then the bird needs further cooking. When cooked, remove it from the oven, and transfer to a warmed serving plate. Cover the turkey with clean foil and leave it to ‘rest’ in a warm place for 20–30 minutes as this will make carving easier.

7 To make the gravy, pour the juices from the roasting tin into a fat separator or jug. Return 3 tbsp of the fat to the roasting tin and skim as much fat as possible off the rest of the juices and discard it.

8 Place the roasting tin on the hob and stir in the flour for the gravy. Cook over a gentle heat for a couple of minutes, then slowly stir in skimmed turkey juices. Bring to the boil and, if it is too thick, then stir in some boiling water to give the desired consistency and add a little gravy browning if liked. Stir in the sherry and season to taste. Keep piping hot until serving and pour into a warmed gravy boat.

9 Serve the turkey garnished with rosemary and lemon thyme and accompanied with stuffing balls, roast potatoes, steamed vegetables, and orange halves stuffed with lightly cooked cranberries.


Potatoes Dauphinois

Potatoes Dauphinois

Time 1½ hrs
Serves 4
Calories 471
Fat 36g of which 20.8g is saturated
Suitable for vegetarians
Suitable for freezing

Butter 15g (½oz)
Potatoes 600g (1lb 6oz), peeled and thinly sliced (thickness of a pound coin)
Whole milk 175ml (6fl oz)
Double cream 200ml (7fl oz)
Nutmeg ½ tsp
Cheese such as Cheddar or Gruyère 50g (2oz), finely grated

1 Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Grease a 900ml (1½ pint) oval ovenproof dish with butter.

2 Place potatoes into medium sized pan with milk, double cream and nutmeg. Bring slowly up to boil on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3 Using a slotted spoon, strain potatoes, reserving liquid. Carefully arrange potatoes in dish, seasoning as you layer, and making sure they overlap neatly. Pour liquid over potatoes and sprinkle cheese over the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes.


Braised red cabbage with blackberries

Braised Red Cabbage with Blackberries

Time 45 mins
Serves 6
Calories 97
Fat 4g of which 2.2g is saturated
Suitable for freezing
Suitable for vegetarians

Butter 25g (1oz)
Onion 1, peeled and finely chopped
Red cabbage 500g (1lb 2oz), quartered, core removed, thinly sliced
Light muscovado sugar 2 tbsp
Red wine vinegar 2 tbsp
Ground mixed spice 1 tsp
Apple juice 150ml (¼ pint)
Blackberries 225g (8oz)

1 Heat butter in a saucepan, add onion and fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring until softened. Stir in cabbage then sugar, vinegar, spice and apple juice. Season with salt and pepper.

2 Cover and cook gently for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender. Add blackberries and cook gently for 10 minutes more.

3 Spoon into a serving dish and serve with roast turkey, chicken or casseroled lamb or beef.


Cinnamon Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Cinnamon Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Time 15 mins
Serves 6
Calories 96
Fat 0g of which 0g is saturated
Suitable for vegetarians
Suitable for freezing

Cranberries fresh or frozen 300g (11oz)
Caster sugar 125g (4½oz)
Fresh orange juice 125ml  (4fl oz)
Cointreau or brandy 1 tbsp, optional
Cinnamon stick 1

1 Put all ingredients in medium sized heavy-based pan and mix well. Heat gently, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Bring slowly up to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until cranberries are tender, stirring occasionally.

2 Leave to cool – the cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools. Remove cinnamon stick. Serve warm or cold with ham or turkey. This can be made a day in advance, cooled, poured into a rigid plastic container, covered and chilled overnight ready to reheat on Christmas Day.


Syllabub Trifle

Syllabub Trifle

Time 20 minutes plus chilling.
Per portion: 395 Kcal
27g fat (15.1g saturated)
Serves 6
Suitable for vegetarians

Trifle sponges 4
Raspberry jam 110g (4oz)
Lemon 1, grated zest and juice
Caster sugar 50g (2oz)
Dry cider with elderflower 120ml (4fl oz)
Double cream 300ml carton
Mixed frozen fruits 200g (7oz), just defrosted

1 Slice each sponge cake in half horizontally. Spread jam over half of the slices, then cover with the remaining slices, cut to fit and place in six individual glasses in a single layer. Spread any remaining jam over the top of the sponge cakes.

2 Place most of the lemon zest, the lemon juice and sugar in a bowl. Add the cider and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Drizzle a little of this liquid over the trifle sponges until just moist.

3 Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Gradually whisk in the remaining cider mixture.

4 Spoon the fruit over the sponge and then cover with the flavoured cream. Top with any remaining lemon zest. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.








Competition. Win flowers for a whole year!

Win a year of flowers


Win flowers for a whole year!

Oh how I would LOVE to win this prize. Imagine choosing a stunning bouquet to be delivered to your home every single month*.

Sadly I am not allowed to enter, but you can, just click here.

Plus £10 offer for everyone who enters

AND everyone who enters will also receive a £10 offer code towards the cost of a gorgeous bouquet, so even if you don’t win the prize you can bag a great discount!

I’m going to share this with all my girlie friends and family as I know lots who would love a wintry bunch of blooms to glam up their décor.

Win a year of flowers




Visit the Dairy Diary competitions page.

*Win one bouquet per month (each up to the value of £40 – there are lots of bouquets to choose from) and you can select a different recipient and bouquet for each month.

The bouquets are kindly donated by Appleyard London who are also offering the exclusive £10 offer code for everyone who enters the competition.






Top Tips for Wrapping Foodie Gifts

Homemade Christmas wrapping ideas


Top Tips for Wrapping Foodie Gifts

Homemade cakes and bakes make a tasty and thoughtful gift but can be tricky to wrap. Don’t worry though! Help is at hand!

You can buy lovely boxes and bags from your local kitchen shop, or a craft supplier like Hobbycraft. Make them prettier with simple embellishments, such as ribbons, twine and buttons, and a handmade tag.


Homemade Christmas gift tags


For my Christmas tags I buy a cheap pack of plain white luggage labels from the supermarket or post office and decorate them.

I save old wrapping paper and craft paper offcuts, Christmas cards and ribbons (saved from gift bags and cut from inside dresses!) and group them into colours.

then trim some paper to fit the tag with my paper cutter, stick on using double-sided tape and top with a piece of ribbon and a button or a paper shape cut out using a simple paper punch.


Homemade Christmas gift tags


There are lots more ideas for fabulous ways to wrap and label your gifts.

See our Pinterest board for further inspiration (there are lots of scrummy gifty recipes too).

Happy wrapping everyone!



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