Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Catching Up With Friends and Keeping Things Simple

Sharing a laugh with my friend Lel

Doing a word search with my God-daughter

In my kitchen with our friends' daughter Mia

In our friends' amazing kitchen on Boxing Day

One of the things I love about this time of year is being able to take time out to visit with friends. Life seems to move so quickly these days and we don’t always get to spend a lot of the people who are important to us, so it’s lovely to have a bit of time to do that. For the past few days we have been entertaining and being entertained and it has been really wonderful.

Years ago I used to really fuss when I entertained, making sure that everything was perfect, and serving fairly formal meals most of the time. But now I have gotten to the stage where I want to spend time with my guests - not on my own in the kitchen - so aside from the odd formal dinner party, I try to keep my entertaining fairly casual. I mentioned in my blog on Sunday that I was doing a buffet for dinner that night, and I did that for lunch on Monday too. I served virtually the same buffet as on Sunday, but left out the roast potatoes as it was lunchtime, and added smoked salmon, some nice rolls and a plate of cheeses, including a big wedge of Stilton, which is very popular here this time of year. (It’s not my favourite, but to each his own!) Our friends on Monday stayed for dinner as well, so I got up first thing in the morning and made two Cottage Pies before they arrived. Once I had cooked the beef mixture and the potatoes, I just assembled the pies, and then cooled the whole lot down and refrigerated them. Later in the afternoon, all I had to do was gently re-heat them in the oven for about an hour, making sure the potato topping was nicely browned. It didn’t take long to cook some broccoli and I also made a quick and delicious side dish with leeks. (I’m just writing the recipe for that one up, and I will put it on the site in the near future.) Dessert was store-bought mince pies sprinkled with powdered sugar, store-bought Stollen slices and home-made butter tart squares. I had tons of time to visit with my friends, and everyone ate well too!

Yesterday we had a day on our own and after a fairly lazy start, we spent the day catching up on jobs around the house, and also visiting Costco to stock up a bit. We’ve got friends coming to celebrate the New Year with us, so today I’m busy cleaning, catching up on the washing, running some errands and cooking. Again I’m keeping New Year’s Eve dinner simple, centering the meal around the delicious individual Beef Wellingtons I can get ready-made at my butcher. I’ll skip the starter and just serve squares and mince pies for dessert because we will be having a cheese course as well. Plus I always do a little buffet at midnight, the centrepiece of which is Shrimp served with my Mom’s seafood sauce - a fantastic combination of horseradish, ketchup and lemon. I’ve never paid much attention to the quantities (Mom taught me to go by taste) but this time I’ll will actually measure so I can share the recipe!

When I was growing up in Canada, my Aunt Dorothy always made a big New Year’s Day dinner and invited all the family. I used to enjoy it so much that since I moved to England over twenty years ago, I keep Aunt Dorothy’s tradition by always cooking a nice lunch or dinner on New Years Day. This year I’m planning to serve Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Roast Shallots and Madeira Gravy as the main course. I’m still not sure about the dessert, but I’m sure I’ll think of something :)

I can hardly believe another year - indeed another decade - has nearly gone by, and my goodness, what a decade it has been. I have really high hopes for this coming decade - not just personally and as a family, but also corporately, for the whole world. Technology is moving so fast the potential for improvements to our lives, the lives of others in less fortunate parts of the world, and particularly in medicine, is absolutely huge. Events of the last decade, both good and bad, have reminded us of the importance of family, home, community and corporate responsibility. We are all very different than we were on the eve of the new millennium., but although the evening news would have us believe otherwise, we all have every reason to be optimistic.

New beginnings are wonderful things, and this new decade is a bona fide new beginning. With a bit of faith, hope and love, we can all do great things with it!