In years past, I have written about eco, healthy and affordable holiday ideas and you can check them all out here: 2006, 2007, 2008.
But this year, i thought I'd share a few tips to just make this joyful, yet stressful season, a little lighter. Seeing as how 2009 has been a rough year for many, we should close out the year on a high note so that we can all enter the new year happy and optimistic ; ) I hope that some, if not all of these can help make your, and those around you, holidays merry!
- Let go of a problem you can't solve. Enjoy the season ; )
- Don't despair if you are short on cash. Be creative. Sometimes thoughtful gifts are better than store bought ones.
- Organize a neighborhood holiday dinner. Have appetizers at one home, the main at another and dessert at the next!
- Remember our feathered friends! Roll pine cones in peanut butter and bird seed and hang them out side a window where you can enjoy them feasting on your treat.
- Don't wait until the last minute to wrap gifts or write all your cards. Wrap as you buy and divvy up your cards to do 10 a night until they are done. Don't make yourself work harder then you have to.
- Give your loved ones, friends and everyone you encounter the gift of a sweet disposition ; ) We are all stressed over the holidays to some extent but try to be the first to spread the holiday spirit! a person wrapped up in himself is a very small package.
- Give instead of receive. Pick some charities you would like to help out and try to donate some time or funds to help those less fortunate.
- Remember the best solution for holiday blues is to do something nice for someone else! Give anonymous gifts and be kind without expectations.
- Start collections of recipes and decorations for your children, adding one to each collection every year. When they are all grown up, they will have a nice collection to get them started along with wonderful memories attached to them.
- Plan ahead, be prepared and keep it simple.
- Curl up in front of a blazing fire with someone you love.
- Take the long way home and enjoy neighborhood lights.
- Start your own traditions, however small they may be ; )
- If you have the time, bake double batches of your holiday goodies to share with friends. Having extra baked goods is also great to have as an impromptu gift to take to a party.
- If you have children, have a decorations craft night and help them decorate their room for the holidays.
- Get the names of local military personnel and send holiday cards thanking them for their service. Do the same with nursing homes and find out who doesn't receive much mail. Send them a card and sign it "Love, Santa"
- Have hot cocoa, apple cider ans popcorn on hand for unexpected guests ; )
- Give yourself the gift of slack. No one expects perfection, especially during the holidays. Even Santa needs helpers!
- Make sure to make time for yourself to enjoy the season, to reflect on the past year as well as some goals for the new one ahead.
- Remember the best gift is a person filled with love & understanding ; )
8 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (2 pounds)
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons salt
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer, uncovered, stirring often, until the cranberries have broken down and the mixture has thickened somewhat, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely and serve or store in glass jars.
Cranberry Spinach Salad
1 (6 ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup olive
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
In a bowl, combine the spinach, pecans and cranberries. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the remaining ingredients; shake well. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat; serve immediately.
Holiday Shepard's Pie
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds ground soy beef (boca, ives or sub with marinated tempeh)
16 ounces canned tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups cooked mixed vegetables (peas, diced carrots and corn)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup vegan butter
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (12-ounces) boxed cornbread mix (follow instructions but sub eggs with egg replacer, butter with vegan butter & milk with unsweetened soy milk)
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the onion in vegetable oil. When the onion is soft add the soy ground beef, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon and brown. Stir in tomato sauce and mixed vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.
In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the potatoes about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Drain well and return to the pot. Whip the potatoes with an electric mixer until moderately smooth. Add milk, butter and sour cream and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Adjust consistency with more milk, if desired.
Follow directions on box to make cornbread batter.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly grease 6 (8-ounce) ramekins with nonstick cooking spray.
Spoon the mashed potatoes into the bottoms of each prepared ramekin, spreading them evenly with a rubber spatula. Then add the meat filling, spreading that evenly over the mashed potatoes. Pour the cornbread batter evenly over the meat layer in each ramekin.
Bake for about 30 minutes until the cornbread is cooked through and golden on top.
Butternut Squash Rice Pilaf
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, halved and seeded
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 parboiled brown rice
1 3/4 cups water or 1 14-ounce can vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chopped fennel fronds (leafy tops)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Grate the squash through the large holes of a box grater.
Heat oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly colored, 10 to 12 minutes. Combine 2 tablespoons water and tomato paste in a small bowl and stir it into the pan. Add rice and stir to coat. Add the squash, in batches if necessary, and stir until it has reduced in volume enough so that you can cover the pan.
Increase the heat to medium-high, pour in 1 3/4 cups water (or broth) and wine, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and the squash is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Add fennel fronds, oregano, salt, cinnamon and pepper; gently stir to combine. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
I wish you very happy & healthy holidays as well as a wonderful new decade! See you in 2010!!