In these weird times of restrictive rules and minimal opportunities to do the things we’ve always loved, it’s a time to consider some ‘out of the box’ thinking for getting the most out of our time and bringing us together for a bit of fun and light relief –
Christmas is just around the corner – some ideas to look at and give you something to plan for;
Food – start the day as you mean to go on!
In my world, FOOD is a major love affair and there’s no better excuse than Christmas morning to treat yourself to something yummy and a bit special when you wake up! Especially if it takes little time to prepare…
The best French Toast Ever- This easy homemade French toast recipe takes minutes to make.
6 large eggs
1 pint whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8 1-inch-thick slices Brioche bread
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
Yogurt, berries, and pure maple syrup or honey, for serving
In large, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla.
Working in batches, place 2 bread slices in egg mixture and let soak 2 minutes. Flip and soak 1 minute more (both sides of bread should be totally coated in mixture).
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter in large non stick frying pan, on medium-low. Once melted, add soaked bread and cook until golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes per side; transfer to wire rack. While toast is cooking, soak next batch of brioche slices.
Repeat with remaining butter and bread. Serve topped with yogurt, berries, and syrup, honey or just on its own.
Egg Croissant Savoury Bake – This buttery egg bake will have everyone jumping out of bed!
Butter, for the dish
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
16 oz. sliced mushrooms
12 mini croissants
3 c. baby spinach
5 oz. Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 1/2 c.)
8 large eggs
1 pint whole milk
Salt and pepper
Butter a 9″-x-13″ casserole dish. Heat oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat and cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
While the mushrooms are cooking, partially split the croissants, making sure not to cut all the way through. Stuff with spinach and all but 1/2 cup cheese and transfer to the prepared dish, cut sides facing up. Divide mushrooms among the stuffed croissants.
In a bowl, beat eggs with milk and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, then pour over the croissants. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the top. Cover with foil, then cling film; refrigerate overnight (or at least 15 minutes).
When ready to serve, heat oven to 200c, remove casserole from fridge and take off the cling film. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake until eggs are puffed and just set, 25 to 30 minutes more.
Spanish Potato Omelette – Crispy, oven-baked potatoes upgrade a basic frying pan omelette recipe.
6 large eggs
1 1/2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8″ thick slices
10 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, very thinly sliced
Finely chopped parsley, for garnish
In medium bowl, beat eggs with 3/4 teaspoon salt; set aside. In large bowl, toss potatoes with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
In a nonstick frying pan, heat the oil on medium. Add potatoes; cook 10 to 12 minutes or until tender but not falling apart, gently turning occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer potatoes back to large bowl.
To the pan add the onion; cook 12 minutes or until very tender, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer onion to bowl with potatoes. When potato-onion mixture has cooled slightly, gently stir in eggs until well combined.
Drain all but 2 teaspoons oil from the pan (reserve oil for another use); heat on medium-high 1 minute. Add egg-potato mixture to the pan, spreading in even layer; reduce heat to medium. Cook 7 minutes or until eggs are mostly set and edges are browned.
Loosen edges with rubber spatula. Remove pan from heat and cover with large plate; carefully invert, holding plate and skillet together. Slide omelette back into skillet.
Cook on medium 3 minutes or until bottom and centre are set. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with parsley.
Make a Christmas playlist
Get your people rockin’ around the Christmas tree with a playlist that has all your favourites! Put together a list of your favourite Christmas songs to keep the music going all day long. And remember: It’s never too early (in the morning or the year) to start playing them!
For the kids in the run up to Christmas, they usually get to visit the local Grotto and meet Santa in person, but in Covid socially distant times, it calls for inventive measures!
Why not try these instead?
Host a virtual Christmas party
Just because you can’t get together in person doesn’t mean you can’t see your friends and family on Christmas. Send everyone a link and host your party online.
Make sure you’ve got a few games and conversation starters ready too. Microsoft TEAMS is free to use, Zoom will charge for groups of 3 or more
To download on mobile or laptop;
Lets Play! At no other time of the year is it so important to relax and enjoy yourself with your loved ones
Go on a Christmas scavenger hunt
This might become a new holiday tradition!. Split the family into teams and ask them to find a range of Christmas-related items or take pictures doing a festive task. It might be a Christmas sock, a chocolate reindeer or a cracker – hide items all over the house
Play Christmas Musical Statues for the kids
While you’re vegging out after your big meal, get the kids busy with a game of musical statues. Simply turn on that playlist you made earlier and pause it at random. Whoever’s still dancing after the music stops is out
Play Christmas song bingo
How well do you know your holiday tunes?
Christmas song bingo is a great activity because you can do other things while you play it. Ahead of time, make sure each song on the bingo cards is also on your playlist. Guests can keep an ear out throughout the day, then call bingo when they hear five songs in a row on their card.
Build a pillow den
After dinner is over, you’ve done the dishes and people are chilling out, bring the vibe to a quieter pace by building a pillow den with the kids and reading books or telling stories together. Bring a plate of Christmas cookies in there with you to really top things off.
Last but not least –Christmas cheer! The 12 Drinks of Christmas
1. Winter Sea Breeze
This refreshing drink combines vodka with a bitter bite of grapefruit juice, topped off with a hint of mint. Offer this refreshing beverage on your holiday brunch menu, or whip up a batch of them when you’re gathering with family and friends.
1 oz. vodka
1 oz. grapefruit juice
2 oz. tonic water
Mix together the vodka, grapefruit juice, and tonic water in a cocktail shaker.
Fill a glass with ice and pour in the drink mixture.
Garnish with the pomegranate seeds, cranberries, and mint, then serve.
2. Red Stag Dirty Shirley
Red Stag bourbon meets cherry syrup and a bubbly splash of 7 Up in this festive drink. Your bar patrons or house guests are sure to be jolly after sipping on this sweet beverage all evening.
1/2 oz. grenadine
1 1/2 oz. Red Stag black cherry bourbon
5 oz. 7 Up
Splash of maraschino cherry syrup
Pour the grenadine, cherry bourbon, 7 – Up, and maraschino cherry syrup into a glass filled with ice and stir.
Garnish with a maraschino cherry and serve.
3. Hot Mint Cake Coco
This rich, dark beverage has the ideal ratio of chocolate to peppermint, making it the perfect drink to enjoy after dinner or on a cool night while relaxing by the fireplace.
5 oz. hot chocolate
1 oz. Kendal Mint Cake Liquer (https://www.penningtonspirits.com/product/kendal-mint-cake-liqueur/)
Prepare the hot chocolate.
Pour the hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps into a glass or mug and stir.
Toast the marshmallows over your stove or with a butane torch.
Garnish with the torched marshmallows and serve.
4. Winter Sangria
This sangria is abundant with fruit, liquor, and wine. Refrigerate this tasty beverage overnight to have a pitcher ready for your catered brunch, office holiday party, or family gathering.
1/3 cup triple sec
1 bottle dry white wine
2 apples, cubed
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 small box red raspberries
Simple syrup to taste
12 oz. Sprite
Mix all of the ingredients, except the Sprite and rosemary sprigs, in a pitcher.
Refrigerate the mixture until it’s chilled and you’re ready to serve it.
Add the Sprite to the pitcher just before serving.
Garnish each glass with a rosemary sprig and serve.
5. Cinnamon Toffee Apple
Red and green are layered into a festive shot that looks as good as it tastes! Start the fun early and warm up your guests by serving this sweet and spicy shot.
3/4 oz. sour apple schnapps
3/4 oz. cinnamon whiskey or tequila
Red food colouring
Pour the sour apple schnapps in a shot glass.
Colour the cinnamon liquor with the red food colouring.
Layer the cinnamon liquor over the schnapps by pouring it slowly over the back of a spoon and serve.
6. The Snowflake
This creamy cocktail has a light and refreshing fruity punch, making it a playful beverage that’s perfect for any adult snow day!
5 oz. Hypnotiq (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hypnotiq-104100-01-Hpnotiq-Liqueur/dp/B004K1WAG2)
1 1/2 oz. Irish cream liqueur
3/4 oz. vodka
Rim a martini or cocktail glass with nonpareils.
Mix the Hypnotiq, Cream Liquer, and vodka in a cocktail shaker.
Pour the mixture into the garnished glass and serve.
7. Whipped Caramel Hot Coco
Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, this hot and steamy drink is perfect for cuddling up after a long day in the bitter cold! Feature this beverage on your restaurant’s sign or in your window to draw the crowds in from the frigid outdoors, or offer it to your neighbours to warm them up after an afternoon of shovelling.
7 oz. hot cocoa
3/4 oz. whipped vodka
3/4 oz. caramel vodka
Prepare the hot cocoa and pour it into a glass mug.
Stir the whipped vodka and caramel vodka into the hot cocoa.
Prepare the dark chocolate shavings by using a chocolate shaver or vegetable peeler.
Top the mixture with the whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings and serve.
8. Salted Caramel Martini
Nothing beats the flavour combination of sweet and salty, all wrapped up in a beautifully decorated holiday martini!
2 oz. Bailey’s caramel liquor, plus extra for garnishing
Sea salt, crushed
2 oz. salted caramel vodka
1 oz. chocolate vodka
1 oz. dark creme de cocoa
Dark chocolate shavings
Line the interior of a martini glass with the chocolate and caramel syrups, and place it in the freezer until the syrups harden.
Rim the glass with the extra Bailey’s caramel liquor and kosher salt.
Shake the salted caramel vodka, chocolate vodka, dark creme de cocoa, half and half, salted caramel syrup, and 2 oz. of Bailey’s caramel liquor in a cocktail shaker and pour into the garnished martini glass.
Garnish with the shaved dark chocolate and serve.
9. Chambord Kir Royale
Bring in the New Year the right way with the Chambord Kir Royal! Make that special toast this season with the refreshing taste of raspberry with an added spritz from your favourite champagne or prosecco.
1/4 oz. Chambord
Pour the Chambord into a flute glass.
Top the Chambord with champagne.
Garnish with a lemon twist and serve.
10. Eggnog Cocktail
One of the most traditional holiday beverages is now featured as an elegant eggnog cocktail. Rimmed with cinnamon sugar, this dessert beverage is the perfect after-dinner choice.
4 oz. Advocaat (https://www.lidl.co.uk/en/p/christmas-spirits/gold-advocaat-egg-liqueur/p37551)
2 oz. spiced rum
1 oz. vanilla vodka
1 oz. dark rum
1/2 oz. maple syrup
Wet the rim of a glass with the extra eggnog and dip it in the cinnamon sugar.
Mix the spiced rum, vanilla vodka, dark rum, eggnog syrup, and 4 oz. of full fat eggnog in a cocktail shaker.
Pour the mixture into the rimmed glass.
Garnish with freshly-ground nutmeg and serve.
11. Santa Hat Martini
Combining tart cranberries, sweet vanilla, and the tropical flavour of coconut, this is Santa’s favourite island cocktail! Lay back, and pretend you’re soaking up the sun instead of shovelling the snow.
1/2 oz. coconut syrup, plus extra for garnishing
4 oz. cranberry juice
2 oz. coconut rum
1 oz. vanilla vodka
Rim a martini glass with the extra coconut syrup, powdered sugar, and grated coconut.
Shake the cranberry juice, coconut rum, vanilla vodka, and 1/2 oz. of coconut syrup in a cocktail shaker.
Pour into the rimmed glass and serve.
12. Christmas Gin Spritzer
Dry gin 25ml
Lemon juice 12.5ml
sugar syrup 12.5ml (make your own by dissolving 250g caster sugar in 250ml hot water)
Lemon peel to serve
Put the first three ingredients in a shaker, fill with ice and shake hard
Strain into a flute and top with champagne.
Using a zester or peeler, peel a long strip of lemon zest, being careful not to get too much pith.
Twist over the flute to release the oils and drop into the glass.
And finally, here are a few hacks you could try to add a new dimension to your life and improve on the little things that you already do! Even if not all practical, have a look – some are hilarious!