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A home-grown Christmas

A home-grown Christmas

Well, the forecasters say that a white Christmas looks unlikely this year, down here at least, and that it won’t even be that chilly either. The photograph, taken last January, is just wishful thinking. Gardens benefit from a good bit of cold each year, to kill off pests and to stop weeds from growing. Many crops – hardy fruit such as apples and pears amongst them – actually need cold weather to induce proper dormancy so that they flower well when they have woken up again in spring. The technical term is vernalization. Garlic requires cold too and I’ve always had more success planting in autumn than late winter.

I am cooking Christmas dinner this time and, whilst I’d love to say that all the vegetables will come from my allotment, I’d be fibbing. Some will at least, but it is possible to do the whole lot with a bit of forward planning. I did it once and felt very proud. If you’re that way inclined, here’s what you’d have to do…

Many of the possible accompaniments to the traditional roast are harvestable now but others peaked earlier on and some forward planning is needed to have them on the day. Parsnips and leeks are in the former camp. They’ll shrug off hard frosts with no ill-effects. It’s annoying, however, if a cold snap freezes them into the ground, so if this looks likely, dig what you need up in advance and heel them in somewhere a little warmer, like a bed next to the house, a greenhouse border or even a bucket of potting compost in a cool porch. In this situation, Jerusalem artichokes should receive the bucket treatment too.

Carrots and beetroot can stand some frost but once into November, carrots in particular start getting slug-mangled. Lift them and store in boxes of sand or compost somewhere well ventilated, dry, cool (but frost free) and safe from vermin, such as a garage, conservatory or shed. Twist off the leaves and arrange in layers with the bigger ones towards the bottom (they keep longer) but don’t let them touch, or else any rot will spread more easily. For this reason, don’t store damaged produce and check regularly for signs of decay. They should last till March or even beyond. Celeriac, swedes and turnips can also be kept in this way.

The garlic, onions and shallots harvested in the summer are best hung up in nets or plaits or laid in slatted trays. Squash keep for months just as they are and are decorative too. Maincrop potatoes are lifted in September and early October and after drying for a few hours are put in wooden crates, or in sacks made of paper or hessian. They must be kept in the dark or they will turn green and poisonous. Robust greens like Brussels sprouts, kale and Savoy cabbage can be picked on Christmas morning itself. Their flavour actually improves after a few sharp frosts.

I think it’s really impressive what can be done without recourse to fridges and airfreight and we haven’t even touched on the business of making jams, jellies and chutneys. Anyway, whatever you are eating this Christmas, have a good one.

Homemade Liqueurs

With no special equipment required, homemade liqueurs are very easy to make!

Most homemade liqueurs start with vodka. This spirit is an ideal base for liqueurs because it&aposs colorless and flavorless, making it the perfect blank canvas.

Try creating some of the most popular liqueur flavors, like coffee, amaretto, and Irish cream -- they all rely on vodka for their kick. Or you may prefer to infuse the subtle essences of herbs, spices or fruit. Don&apost be afraid to experiment with rum, tequila, gin, brandy, and whiskey infusions as well.

Explore our complete collection of Homemade Liqueur Recipes.

Pick a Flavor

There are two ways to add flavor to liquor:

1. Mix flavored extracts right into liquor.
2. Choose the flavoring ingredients in their raw form and allow them to steep in the alcohol for days or weeks.

Using extracts is the fastest way to make a batch of liqueur, and there are a few cases (e.g. with almond extract), where this is the best way to achieve the flavor you&aposre after. More often than not, though, you will get the best results when you slowly infuse the liquor with fresh ingredients. For example, lemon cordial made with fresh lemon zest will taste much better than something made with lemon extract. Using fresh ingredients also allows you to introduce more variety you won&apost be able to find as wide a variety of extracts and essences as you will of fruits and herbs and spices.

Infusing liquor is not an exact science, but more a matter of taste. Infuse each flavor to suit your own preferences and if it ends up tasting too strong, you can always dilute it with additional liquor.

Here are some flavoring ideas:

Fruit: Orange zest, lemon zest, kumquats, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, peaches, tart apples, pineapple, pomegranate seeds, dried apricots, or dried sour cherries. Whole fruit should be sliced and/or mashed to allow the juices to escape and let the liquor come in contact with as much surface area as possible. Leave the skin on for maximum flavor.

Herbs and spices: Vanilla beans, coriander seeds, peppercorns, hot chiles, lemongrass, cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, whole coffee beans, dill, thyme, basil, tarragon, rosemary, or even garlic. Be sparing with the cloves and nutmeg: too much of these ingredients can produce a numbing effect in your mouth!

Try combining a couple of different flavors in the same batch: how about apple-cinnamon, chile-lemongrass, lemon-tarragon, orange-cranberry, or raspberry-vanilla? Just don&apost try to pack too many different things into one bottle, or you won&apost be able to distinguish the flavors.

Give it a Rest

Once you&aposve chosen your alcohol and your flavorings, simply combine them.

  • Put flavorings right into the liquor, or any glass or earthenware jar/bottle with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Keep the container in a dark place and leave it at room temperature. If you don&apost have a dark cupboard in your house, put the bottles in a paper grocery bag and stir or rotate them a couple of times a day.
  • Depending on how potent your flavorings are, you&aposll need to let them steep for anywhere from a day to a few weeks. Most fruit needs a full two to four weeks for all the flavor to be transferred to the alcohol, whereas chiles, garlic, and most fresh spices only need a couple of days.

Smell and taste the infusions to decide when each is ready.

If you&aposve used mashed fruit, your infusion is now going to have bits of sediment in the bottom. To get rid of it, simply line a strainer with a coffee filter and slowly pour the liquor through. Don&apost try to save the fruit that&aposs been soaking in the booze--it won&apost have any flavor left in it.

Add a Little Sweetness

When sweetening your liqueurs, don&apost add sugar directly to the alcohol -- it will take too long to dissolve and you won&apost be able to tell right away how sweet it is. Instead, make a simple syrup of two parts sugar to one part water. Combine them in a saucepan and simmer them on the stove until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let the syrup cool to room temperature and then sweeten the infusion to taste. Once a liqueur has been sweetened, most of them taste better after they&aposve had a chance to "age" for a month or so. Aging allows the flavors to mellow and blend.

Bottle It Up

Scour local import stores, thrift stores or your own cupboards to find interesting glass bottles (if they don&apost have tops, you can buy corks at craft stores or winemaking supply shops). Have fun creating your own custom labels and "garnish" each finished bottle by dropping in a small quantity of the original ingredients (a few berries, a twist of citrus zest, an herb sprig, etcetera).

Serving Your Homemade Liqueurs

Most homemade infusions are wonderful when served unadorned, straight out of the freezer. They are also beautiful when mixed into a fresh cup coffee or drizzled over a scoop of good vanilla ice cream,

Any homemade liqueur can be substituted in a traditional cocktail with wonderful results. Make amazing martinis with your infused vodkas, or have fun inventing your own brand new signature drinks!

A home-grown Christmas - Recipes

Oh my, that's amazing that he weighed 26 pounds! I'm sure your children enjoyed this adventure. Fun times. Pat :)

We raised our own turkeys for years, and some dressed out at almost 50 pounds. They were spring poults we raised and butchered just before thanksgiving. Turkeys DO eat a lot , and they are messy, even if allowed free-range conditions. We have so many predators around here that love to eat turkey I had to keep them in pens. And the pens got very messy very quickly, especially in our wet winters. We still prefer home-raised turkey for Christmas, that is what we ate too, so will probably only raise 2 turkeys a year, unlike the large flock I kept for many years.

It would be fun to continue this discussion, we decided we're not sold on raising Heritage turkeys. They did not offer thrift or taste worth it for us for the amount of time and money invested. But , they are still tasty ! :)

There is nothing better than experience to help us make good decisions or better ones in homesteading. I am glad you shared this, thank-you.

Top 10 Nepalese Recipes

Nepal’s gastronomy is just as diverse and colorful as its culture and people. Nepalese recipes are simple, easy to cook, and highly nutritious. The secret lies in the various spices they use.

Nepalese cuisine is influenced by its neighboring countries Tibet and India. In most dishes, ginger, garlic, turmeric, fresh chilies, coriander, and ground cumin is generously used.

The national dish called Dal Bhat represents the main elements of the Nepali kitchen: rice, pulses (mostly lentil), and curry. Nepali people eat this dish every day, sometimes even more than once a day. There is a vast selection of vegetarian food, so non-meat eaters will have no trouble finding the right food.

If you plan to visit this beautiful Himalayan country, the following list will give you some ideas of what to try once you are there. If you are back home, why not try something new? Bring some new flavors into your kitchen from Nepal.

1. Nepalese Chicken Dumplings – Momos

These delicious momos will be everyone’s favorite. Perfect for a main course or snack, fried or steamed with chili dip or ketchup.

2. Nepalese Noodle Soup – Thukpa

Traditional hearty soup from the Himalayas. It can be easily cooked without chicken to make it suitable for vegetarians. Ginger adds an interesting twist to the flavor.

3. Nepali Mutton Curry – Khasi Ko Masu

With this curry, you can not go wrong. A great choice for a big dinner party. Buy some ready-made naans or chapatis and serve it with tender Basmati rice.

4. Nepali Veggie Rice – Vegetable Pulao

This is a super light dish, a perfect light dinner. By using seasonal vegetables, you can create new variations according to your taste.

5. Stir-Fried Eggplant – Bhutuwa

Tender and delicious roasted vegetables with rice and super tasty tomato pickle, Achar in Nepalese. If you want to get a hearty meal, why not try Lamb Bhutuwa.

6. Nepali Beans Stew – Kwasi

The Nepalese Chili Con Carne without sweetcorn. Easy to prepare and super nutritious. Just remember to soak the beans overnight!

7. Traditional Nepali Set – Dal Bhat

Recipe via

Dal Bhat is the national dish of Nepal. If you ask a Nepali what did he have for lunch, the answer will be Dal Bhat. And no, he doesn’t mind having it again for dinner.

8. Savory Cauliflower Snack – Pakora

Okay, okay, deep-fried is not so healthy. But once in a while, you can have it. Serve it with fresh and healthy yogurt dip to feel less bad about the calories.

9. Special Nepalese Bread – Gwaramari

This traditional Nepalese snack, often eaten for breakfast with a cup of black tea or Masala tea, is a real kick-off start for the day.

10. Nepali Milk Tea – Masala Tea or Chai

Black tea cooked with milk and spices (cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, etc.) is a common drink in India and Nepal. Dip in some biscuits or use honey as a sweetener.

In Season: Oranges are at their peak between December and April. Since oranges keep well in cold storage, they can be found in supermarkets throughout the year.

What to Look For: The most common variety of orange for eating is the navel orange, so named because the blossom end often resembles a navel. The skin of a ripe navel orange ranges in color from deep orange to yellow-green. Choose fruit that's heavy for its size and free of soft spots.

How to Store: Oranges can be stored at room temperature for several days or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

A homegrown dinner

This is a post I started working on in January, but for some reason I never finished writing it until now. But perhaps it’s a timely one for all of you who live in the northern hemisphere!

Last summer, for the first time ever, we planted potatoes in our garden. We ended up with about 7-8 kilos of potatoes! Pretty good for a first attempt. Our other successful crops this summer included garlic and tomatoes. In fact, we had a pretty good crop of tomatoes, as the weather was unusually and consistently warm for this part of Australia!

Browsing through my cookbooks to get inspiration, I came across a Jamie Oliver recipe for chicken, tomatoes and potatoes. Perfect! I played with the recipe a bit, adding garlic and reducing the amounts a little to fit our family a bit better. It’s a fairly loose recipe, easy to adapt to fit your needs.

It looked delicious, tasted delicious, and was a great way to cook our homegrown dinner!

Crispy, sticky chicken thighs, with new potatoes and tomatoes

Adapted from Jamie at Home, by Jamie Oliver

Boil potatoes until almost cooked. Drain and squash using the back of a spoon or your thumb.

While the potatoes are cooking, season chicken with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil. In two batches, fry in a large frying pan for about 10 minutes over high heat, until almost cooked. To the second batch add the garlic, tossing it with the chicken.

Add back the first batch of chicken, along with the potatoes and tomatoes, and toss to combine with the chicken and garlic.

Pound the oregano leaves and a large pinch of salt with a mortar and pestle, add a good splash of red wine vinegar and about 4 Tbs olive oil. Season with ground pepper and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Toss to mix and transfer to a large shallow ceramic or glass baking dish or a non-reactive roasting tray. Cook in the oven for about 45 minutes until golden.

1. I didn’t skin the tomatoes, but if you prefer, you can blanch them in hot water and then slip the skins off.

20 Perfect-for-Fall Pear Recipes You'll Want to Eat All Year Round

Pears are a delicious addition to endless sweet and savory recipes they're best served with breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert (or all of the above). Their mild, sweet flavor pairs well with everything from prosciutto and potatoes to camembert, cranberries, cinnamon, and more.

Pears' peak season begins in late summer and goes through January, though they're widely available in grocery stores year-round. When shopping for pears, look for firmer fruits without soft spots, bruises, or blemishes. The ideal color will depend on which variety you're looking for: Green Anjous, Bartletts, and Bosc pears all come in varying shades of green, pinkish-red, and brown (and there are over 3,000 types of pear across the world). Keep in mind that pears are best when picked unripe and then allowed to ripen off the tree.

Pears are also super nutritious: they're packed with antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamin C, and dietary fiber. Here are 20 delicious pear recipes you can make this fall&mdashand winter, spring, and summer.

What A Lavish Traditional Goan Christmas Feast Looks Like

When you’ve got a Christian mother and a Hindu father, your life is a constant whirlwind of festivals— there are no two ways about it. Initially, it was all but confusing, not just for the Shrivastava clan but for others around us too. They didn’t quite understand what our whole family was doing at Christmas mass when we were just done celebrating Diwali a month ago. Sure, observing festivals constantly may sound like the better end of the stick, but with celebration comes traditions that you’ve got to respect. However, in most cases, traditions simply added to the joy of celebration—especially in the case of Christmas.

Come December, each year, we’d fly ourselves from Goa to Mumbai to visit my mother’s family a few days before Christmas. From rolling out perfectly shaped kalkals (if they weren’t perfect, my grandmother or mother would very pointedly redo it in front of us while complaining in Konkani, ensuring we understood their displeasure, even if it was in another language), to helping push marzipan into pretty floral moulds—the days before Christmas were a flurry of activity. Finally, when we’d get to our grand feast, set out on fine dishes reserved for Christmas, a glass of wine (homemade!) was placed beside each plate. The clattering of cutlery was forgiven or rather, unheard over the loud, raucous laughter and conversation that always accompanied Christmas Lunch. After all, it was a grand family affair. Our feast wrapped up with a barrage of Christmas sweets we had spent days making, Christmas cake and more wine.

Likewise, in a standard Goan home, the family is the real motivation behind this grand holiday. Without family, there’s little left to look forward to, which is why December in Goa is always crowded. Yes, it may be a renowned tourist hotspot but come what may, locals away from home will make their way back into town for their share of this traditional fare. In light of the same, we decided to break down the elaborate Goan Christmas lunch for those of you who aren’t privy to the feast that awaits.

First, the standard Christmas meal is ideally lunch, as most evenings are spent at a formal dance. Also, lunch means there’s enough time for an afternoon siesta after! While there is no standard set of dishes at every home, we’re going to talk about the ones that nearly always make it to the table every year—starting with the grand roast—a whole roasted pig or chicken. Coated with typical masalas, this roast tends to differ from a simple, glazed roast like the American counterpart. Goan roasts tend to also be a bit tangier due to the vinegar used in the marinade.

While the roast may be the centrepiece of any table, it doesn’t steal the spotlight from every other dish. Seafood and red meat are popular choices, more so when they’re traditional Goan recipes that have been passed down over the years. Steamed rice isn’t necessarily a staple—unless it’s cooked in the form of a Goan Sausage Pulao (of course, the famed Goan chorizo would make an appearance on Christmas) or Prawn Pulao. Side dishes include a tossed salad, Beef Rolls/Croquettes (fried, spiced beef mince), Pork Assado (sliced roasted pork cooked in spices and vinegar) and more. Sorpotel (previously a Christmas special that has now made itself a regular Goan dish), is a spicy, tangy (Goans really love their vinegar) pork curry best served along with sannas.

No Goan meal would be complete without some form of Xacuti being served up yet another spicy but more coconut-y gravy. Let’s not forget the space dedicated to seafood too, it wouldn’t be a Goan Christmas without any gracing the table. Recheado Masala Tiger Prawns(prawns coated in a quintessential Goan spicy paste), Fish Fillet and a curry make sure this feast isn’t just another meaty extravaganza.

This may seem like a bit much but a Goan family on Christmas is ravenous—you don’t joke around with your food. Plus, close family friends or relatives are invited over as well. In fact, before everyone sits down for the main meal, snacks are handed out such as Rissois, Croquettes, or Liver Pate on Toast. Stuffing your face is mandatory once the main course has been put down on to the table, but always, always remember that dessert is just as elaborate of a course in itself. Make sure you’re mentally prepared as well as physically because you’re going to want to get a slice of the glorious Caramel Custard, layered Bebinca (a traditional Indo-Portuguese cake main ingredients include coconut milk, egg and sugar) and Christmas Cake. Fruits served with custard also make an appearance, although it pales in comparison to the other Goan delicacies laid out. In certain cases, houses will also put out Sans Rival (a rich pastry comprising of laters of buttercream, cashew and meringue) or Serradura (sweetened, thickened whipped cream, topped with crushed biscuit, earning itself the name ‘Sawdust Pudding’), both more exotic desserts than the norm.

The Goan spread is only one of the many elaborate fares around India when it comes to Christmas. Not all of us are blessed with a Goan family, relatives or friends who would invite you over (the horror!), but thankfully, Mumbai has a hidden gem of a restaurant that’s rustling up a Goan Christmas menu of their own. O Pedro, a Goan restaurant set up by The Bombay Canteen’s team intends on celebrating Christmas the Goan way—sample some of their Pork Assado with a side of Crispy Crackling, Stuffed Mackerel and more! If you want the whole package though, pop in on December 24 or December 25 for some of their Roast Duck and accompanying drinks – Good Ol’ Egg Nog & Christmas Milk Punch.

This article was written with inputs from Neha Joshi & Vanessa Monteiro to ensure we got the Goan Christmas menu down pat. Also, if we were you, we’d make reservations at O Pedro soon, especially if you don’t have tickets to Goa yet.

Homemade Caramel Apples Recipe

1 package caramels
2 Tbsp. water
powdered sugar
6 apples (Most people use Granny Smith Apples but they are too tart for me so I use Gala Apples.)

Stick a popsicle stick, handle end of spoon or a twig (washed, dried and wrapped in foil) in the end of the apple.

Sprinkle some powdered sugar on waxed paper to set the caramel apples on after they are dipped so they don’t stick.

Dip the apples in caramel and then roll in:

  • Crushed candy bar pieces
  • M&M’s
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Flavored chips: peanut butter, white chocolate, dark chocolate, cherry, butterscotch
  • Nuts and then drizzle with melted chocolate of your choice
  • Crushed chocolate-covered toffee squares
  • Crushed milk chocolate-covered toffee coated almonds

This homemade apple turnover recipe is so easy and delicious that you’ll be tempted to try to make it with lots of other fruits! This recipe is a great way to use apples or other summer leftovers!

How We Watch Christmas Movies

We love to watch movies on our Cinemood projector in any part of the house. Using it in the living room next to the tree makes the Christmas movie experience for our kids even more magical and unique.

I’ve tried a several projectors before and Cinemood certainly takes the cake when it comes to streaming movies (which is our method of choice). I hate dealing with chords and connections, and one of the best features about the Cinemood is it comes pre-loaded with all of your favorite streaming services – you simply have to sign into your accounts. Plus, since it holds a charge for several hours, it’s literally the most portable projector…. EVER!

You can get $100 off the Cinemood with the code HOMEGROWNTRADITIONS. It’s worth noting that there’s a newer model coming out next year called Cinemood TV. The colors are brighter and the sound is better, but it is more of an investment. I’ll do a full comparison when I get my hands on the new one, but if you are looking for a budget-friendly option, you still can’t go wrong with the original. It’s been SO MUCH FUN!

Holiday Recipes

Asheville, North Carolina's local B&Bs and independent chefs share Christmas and holiday recipes to help the rest of us create that gourmet feast at home.

Enjoy melt-in-your-mouth delicate Marcona Almond Holiday Cookies known as Polvorones as made by Curate’s Chef Katie Button. The name polvorones comes from the Spanish word, “polvo” which means dust. The classic recipe calls for &hellip read more

Warm pita or rustic bread just begs to be dipped in this delicious roasted eggplant spread, known as Melitzanosalata, that is served at Golden Fleece. The mixture of eggplant, oil, lemon, and parsley is a delicious starter to a meal, and perfect when &hellip read more

Baked Eggs in Cheese Sauce with Country Ham Sovereign Remedies serves up a delicious twist on coddled eggs, a dish that dates back to late 19 th century England. Coddling is a gentle steaming that results in a soft-cooked egg. At Sovereign Remedies, &hellip read more

In a matter of minutes, make a plate of lightly-fried fritters you can serve at any time of the day. These sweet potato fritters are similar to potato pancakes or latkes but are fried in just a small bit of oil. Add the tart cranberry relish to &hellip read more

A mix of rich and warm spices help create a pumpkin spice syrup that will allow you to taste the best of fall with every spoonful. The folks at Biltmore Coffee Traders like to use 1-2 oz. of this syrup for a delicious pumpkin spice latte, or a nice &hellip read more

photo by Sommer Collier A perfect recipe for those cold winter days, this three-bean chili uses turkey (or tofu if you desire) as a lean protein substitute for meat. You can turn up the heat or dial it down based on your personal preference. This &hellip read more

photo by Sommer Collier This sweet and salty dessert recipe offers a unique twist to your typical cookie. Crafted by Red Rocker Inn for the annual Black Mountain Bed and Breakfast and Inn Christmas Cookie Tour, you&aposll have a hard time saving &hellip read more

Photo courtesy of The Omni Grove Park Inn. This signature recipe from the Great Hall of The Omni Grove Park Inn just the thing for sipping by a crackling fire on a cold night. Although store-bought marshmallows will work just fine, the Omni Grove &hellip read more

This Blueberry Buckle recipe from Crooked Oak Mountain Inn is ideal for special occasions or for a summer treat baked from wild picked blueberries. A buckle is a dense old-fashioned cake, named for the way the streusel-style topping &hellip read more

The regulars at Posana swoon over the simple but tasty Manchego Kale Salad. Anti-oxidant filled currants, mix with crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds and kale, and creamy Manchego cheese. This dish is ideal for holiday gatherings because it tastes great, &hellip read more

For a simple, sweet and delicious cake that looks as festive as it tastes, try this Cranberry Walnut Cake. This recipe from the Albermarle Inn will help you balance the sweet of the cake, the tart of the cranberries, and the crunch of the walnuts for &hellip read more

photo by Sommer Collier Your friends and family will delight in this incredible and versatile Banana Bread Pudding recipe crafted by the culinary team of the Omni Grove Park Inn. This recipe requires two days to make so prepare accordingly. &hellip read more

photo by Sommer Collier Start your morning off right by combining your favorite breakfast dishes into one. This easy Baked Eggs in a Nest recipe incorporates baked eggs inside a potato "nest" crust and easily feeds a large gathering with &hellip read more

Cranberry and Roasted Sweet Potato Scones A perfect fall treat, these scones from The Rhu feature a soft and flavorful texture with tart bursts of cranberries. Make breakfast, or any other meal, extra special at the holidays by adding a scone to the &hellip read more

Raspberry Rugelach Recipe

This sweet treat combines a recipe from Sweetheart Bakery with an irresistible raspberry jam, made by Asheville&aposs own Imladris Farm. Dough Ingredients 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature &hellip read more

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