I will admit, whole heartedly, that I am one of those people that starts thinking about Christmas back in October. As soon as the Mr's birthday is out of the way come the end of September, my mind immediately starts to turn towards cosy nights in by the fire with a hearty bowl of stew in hand, berry and spice scented candles burning in the fire hearth, and piles of presents accumulating in the spare room just begging to be adorned with paper and ribbon.
This sort of stems from my love for the festive period, since I was a child but, more recently it has come from my choice of day job. More often than not, working in retail at Christmas means December has gone in the blink of an eye, and before you can say “Bah Humbug!” to one more rude Christmas shopper, Christmas Eve is upon us and you've still got a dozen presents to buy.
But not this time. No Siree!
I've got this Christmas Organisation lark down to a tee. So let me share a few tips with you, my lovely readers. And what better place to start, than in the kitchen...
The beady eyed amongst you may notice that once 'Back to School' time is out of the way, supermarkets already begin to filter festive items onto their shelves. Now is the time to strike! Adding little bits and pieces to your shopping trolley which can be stored away for the winter months will not only help make a dent on that seasonal shopping bill, but also help you out amidst a crisis when it turns out you completely forgot about that bake sale you volunteered for back in July, and now you're too caught up gluing tinsel onto cardboard angel wings for the nativity play next week.
My store cupboard items of choice so far have been:
Cocoa – to jazz up a whole load of different recipes.
Good vanilla extract – To add to cream, cupcake mix, even porridge. Again strictly for jazzing up purposes.
Mini Marshmallows – for above Bake Sale crisis, when Rocky Road saves the day. (And for having on top of hot chocolate on particularly cold nights).
Pumpkin Puree – Great for a quick dessert, sweetened and added to a ready made sweet pastry case, or adding with onions and spices to make pasties, or loosen with veggies and chicken stock for a lovely soup.
Chocolate coated marzipan – For when you need a sugar fix but, daren't break into the Quality streets. Also goes lovely cut into slices and served alongside coffee, after dinner.
Mulled wine sachets – simply add sugar, and wine, heat and enjoy! Aaaah, bliss!
Cupcake cases and treat bags – for those teacher/neighbour present emergencies. Put SOS Rocky Road into said cellophane bag, tie with ribbon, and hey presto, instant pressie! And you barely broke out in a sweat.
And finally my all time favourite tip for this time of year is cookie dough! No, not to eat raw from the tub when you've had a rubbish day, and feel like all of your festive dresses make you look like the pudding on the table. It's to put in the freezer!
Trust me, this is a good one. When you're feeling in the baking spirit, or you have eggs in the fridge for once and want to use them up before the Mr makes himself another fry-up and stinks the kitchen out, whip up a batch of cookie, or even biscuit dough, wrap it up well in cling film to protect from freezer burn and whack it in the freezer.
So by the time December comes around you roll in the door, in the cold and dark and can't face one more shop bought mince pie, you can find comfort in the fact that your forward thinking paid off. Hurrah! You have biscuit dough in the fridge which was thawing from last night, and yes you can have Cranberry and White Chocolate cookies after all. Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to all men!
This also works particularly well with freshly baked, un-iced cupcakes and sponges but remember to wrap these in tin-foil too, to protect from freezer.
So go on folks! Before you start hibernating and hiding behind your sherry and Buzzcocks Christmas special, pop a few extra bits in your trolley and bash out an extra batch of cookie dough for the freezer. Trust me, you'll be thankful come December 25th!