I publish my newsletter every month and hope you enjoy this one – lots of unusual gift suggestions.
JO’S HEALTHY KITCHEN – DECEMBER 2020 NEWSLETTER
Preparing for the Holidays is a time-consuming joy –wanting to have everything just right from ornaments on the tree to decorations all over the house, to shopping for gifts and wrapping them and on to the food. Traditional recipes are adhered to, some new may occasionally be introduced. Appetizers are my favorite way of starting off Holiday meals because they avoid a starter at the table and people can graze as much or as little as they want – but I like to make them a little special. I add interesting bits and pieces to my cheese board such as cornichons, grapes, mixed olives, rosemary herbed nuts and honey pepper sauce. I serve pre-cooked kielbasa sausage slices, always a winner, with home-made honey mustard sauce (half and half Dijon mustard and half a good honey), a little more sophisticated are the salmon endive canapés (see my website), feta, black olives and baby tomatoes are threaded on a cocktail stick and there is always the good old standby, hummus – note that none of these require heating or last minute preparation.
Random item – if you want a good Christmas photo background go to The Ivy Chelsea Market, London. The door to the restaurant is spectacularly decorated. Of course, you could also make a reservation for lunch or dinner as lock down is lifting, I believe.
Christmas crackers are an English tradition that is getting more exposure here in the US. Typically they contain a small (usually unwanted) present, a joke or riddle and a paper crown. A year or two ago I filled my own crackers. The cracker kits come with everything bar the gift and that is where the fun comes in – trying to find something interesting that matches the personality of recipient. The only parameter being that the gift fits in a cardboard loo roll holder. Some ideas – a packet of seeds for a gardener; herbs or spices for a cook; sachets of tea interesting tea for a tea lover; little cigars; individually wrapped chocolates. If you want to be really generous you could put airpods or jewelry inside the cracker. Tom Smith fill your own crackers are available from Amazon in the UK and from www.oldeenglishcrackers.com in the US.
Christmas presents and Holiday Gifts
I love giving and wrapping gifts, love writing labels with a gold pen… The problem can be finding the right gift. However, I am an inveterate clipper of articles suggesting books to read, presents to buy so I usually have a list of websites to choose from by the time it gets around to making purchases and I also buy little stocking fillers throughout the year.
In case you need a few suggestions…
AVAILABLE IN THE UK AND THE US
A stocking filler could be the new Toblerone flavor – Orange Twist – which tastes of candied orange peel and ginger (available at various UK supermarkets or Amazon in the UK and the US).
For the diva -Pink and Pearly Washing up gloves – oh, so glam! Hot pink with feather trim, a ‘necklace’ of pearls at the wrist and a faux ring (www.findmeagift.co.uk and www.fishpond.com in the US)
I have long wanted a Gluggle Jug – a fish shaped water (or wine) jug that makes an amusing glug glug sound when poured. The large size is most popular (1.3 litre capacity or 5 – 6 glasses) www.glugglejugs.co.uk or www.amazon.com in the US.
You can’t go wrong with anything from Emma Bridgewater, but browse her Christmas pottery first for an item(s) that can be brought out and used every year over the Holidays. Her personalized mugs are a great idea and they even come in miniature size as a tree ornament. www.emmabridgewater.com UK site and www.us.emmabridgewater.com in the US
AnySharp Knife Essentials Sharpener is great stocking stuffer, especially for the man who is about to carve the turkey. It has a lever so that it suctions to the kitchen counter which is very practical and it can sharpen serrated knives and, apparently, hunting knives too. Available at Amazon in the UK and the US.
AVAILABLE IN THE UK ONLY
The Sauce Shop sells Brussels Sprouts Ketchup (intriguing!) and Spiced Cranberry Ketchup, either individually or in a gift set (www.sauceshop.com and various local stockists)
Instead of giving a bottle of wine as a present send Letterbox wine, which literally is wine in a thin bottle that can be posted through your letterbox. Available in red (tempranillo), white (Sauvignon Blanc) and Rose (www.letterboxgifts.co.uk).
Have you tried seaweed sprinkled over or mixed into your food? Seaweed is a nutrient dense natural food full of protein, dietary fibres, vitamins and minerals. Check out Seaspoon’s website for gift boxes, letterbox gifts and more (www.seaspoon.com)
People who cook on an Aga are very attached to them so how about a mini Aga oven-shaped tin to keep biscuits in? (www.amazon.com)
Fine chocolates from the famed Charbonnel et Walker, especially their Rose and Violet Creams – don’t expect these to be shared but rather kept under lock and key! Grand Ballroom Fine English Rose and Violet Creams www.charbonel.co.uk
AVAILABLE IN THE US ONLY
Order a mixed box of artisanal soft pretzels. They come with flavored salts and sugars and with or without a jar of mustard, depending on which box you order (www.esprovisions.com)
Tea for one – a beautiful Botanical Porcelain Duo Teapot, Teacup and Saucer – the teapot sits on top of the teacup and saucer when it is not in use. Very pretty and unusual (www.amazon.com)
A very special gift, Regiis Ova Caviar, developed by Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and one of his chefs. Add his blini mix too (it is gluten free) www.regiisova.com
Want to grow things but don’t have a garden or don’t have green fingers? The solution is the Click and Grow Smart Garden, an indoor garden that cares for itself – perfect! The garden comes with 3 complimentary Basil plants. The website sells over 60 varieties of herbs, plants and flowers – wild strawberries, mini tomatoes, chili peppers and a vast selection of herbs www.clickandgrow.com
I do love The Barefoot Contessa – her recipes and the photography. Luckily for me she has just published Modern Comfort Food and if you order the book from her website you can get a signed copy www.barefootcontessa.com
PRODUCT OF THE MONTH
I spent several days in the South last month – St. Augustine, FL, Charleston, NC and Savannah, GA – and came back with a real love of pickled okra. Serve them with a cheese platter, with a sandwich or in a bowl by themselves. You can definitely buy them from Amazon, otherwise check the pickle aisle in your supermarket.
BOOK OF THE MONTH – Sorry, there isn’t one. I chose wrongly so not worth passing it on.
MOVIE OF THE MONTH
A light-hearted series called ‘Chef’ starring Lenny Henry, the comedian, co-founder of Red Nose Day in the UK and former husband of Dawn French (Vicar of Dibley and more). It is an old series but hasn’t really dated. Google it and you can find various places to watch it – otherwise it is on Britbox.
RECIPE OF THE MONTH – Trifle
Trifle is a British dessert going back hundreds of years and often contains alcohol – sherry usually. There are many different recipes some containing fruit (fresh or canned), some jelly. My trifle is very basic and has no sherry or jelly but is a winner. It has a lovely flavor of vanilla and is spectacularly easy to make.
Take a store bought vanilla pound cake (you will only need ¾ of it). Slice it into thickish slices. Spread with good quality jam on one side (I mixed Bonne Maman raspberry and strawberry jams together). Cut the slices into chunks. Place in a serving (a glass one is nice). Pour over a tin of custard (found in the international section of the supermarket in the US). Mix well together and cover with whipped cream – delish. P.S. Forgot to take a photo as guests just dug in! Serves 6.