Christmas Undertakings

As the Christmas day approaches the feverish activities reaches its peak. Ingredients for the Christmas cakes and cookies are shopped from the choicest of specialty shops. Guest lists are made and menus decided with much animated discussions. Homes are spruced up, with whatever paint or polish touch-ups needed to make it look absolutely spotless. It is time to shop for new furnishings and linen so that freshness comes into the home to welcome the Lord. Dried fruits and nuts are soaked in rum and kept away till they are needed for the cakes and cookies to be made for the big day. The centre pieces that steal the show are the Christmas cakes and baked goodies. Goodies smeared and loaded with the richness of chocolate and whipped cream. The delectable layered treats with the goodness of fruity surprises are homemade and exchanged as gifts on the Christmas day.

On the Christmas Eve sincere Christians will not miss Midnight Mass which is held to rejoice the birth of the Lord with prayers, hymns and carols. People come to Church dressed up in their new clothes and pray with full devotion. Greetings of ‘Merry Christmas’ reverberate in the air and it is nearly at dawn that they enter their homes for a short nap if at all there is time for it! The children are restless for their gifts and early Christmas morning they rush to where their gifts await. As gifts are exchanged, the cake is cut, vintage wine brought out and members of the family toast each other and wish for happiness and prosperity.

The meal most often relished on the occasion of Christmas is the family Christmas dinner. In India due the diverse regional difference the main dish can be stuffed-chicken or turkey served along with stir fried vegetables and a rich sauce that oozes with the aromas of local spices used in the dish. Other popular items include Chicken-and-Spinach Casserole, Barbecued Chicken Lasagna, Chicken Cutlets, Vindaloo etc. Chicken or mutton biryani and sometimes the expensive turkey biryani is prepared and consumed widely during the Christmas time. While, vegetarian menus include Vegetable-and-Rice Casserole, Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, Corn-and-Cashew Cutlets, Mint Salad, etc. Desserts like home-made Banana-Chocolate Pancakes, Christmas Plum Cake, Chocolate Cups with Chocolate Mousse, Eggless Pineapple Mousse, Frozen Fruit Pudding, Apple Brandy Cheese Cake, Cherry Berry Cheesecake,and Quick Strawberry Cheese Cake,among many others ensure that you wind up the Christmas meal merrily.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
Chicken and Spinach Casserole
Quick Strawberry Cheese Cake

                  

The Christmas Story

Etymologically speaking, Christmas is derived from an Old English word: Crīstesmaesse, which means “Christ’s Mass.” Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, a divine leader whose teachings form the basis of Christian religion.

The Christmas Story

Birth of Jesus – Around 2000 years ago in Israel, Mary was living in Galilee of Nazareth and was engaged to a Jewish carpenter, Joseph. An angel appeared in her dreams and explained to her that she would conceive a son by the blessings of the Holy Spirit. She would carry and give birth to this child and she must name him Jesus. At that time, Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken, and every person in the entire Roman world had to go to his own town to register. Joseph was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary. On their trip to Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable. Out in the fields, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds who were tending their flocks of sheep by night. The angel announced that the Savior had been born. Suddenly a great host of heavenly beings appeared with the angels and began singing praises to God. As the angelic energies departed, the shepherds decided to see the baby and spread the word around. There they found Mary, Joseph and the baby, in a stable.

At this time three wise men (Magi) from the east saw a bright North Star, they came in search, knowing the star signified the birth of the king of the Jews. The wise men came to the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem and asked where the Christ was to be born. The rulers explained- In Bethlehem in Judea. So the wise men continued to follow the star in search of the new born king and found Jesus with his mother in Bethlehem. They were spell bound by the divine child’s presence; they bowed and worshipped him by singing hymns, offering treasures of gold, incense, and myrrh. (These were thought to be the origins of Christmas rituals of exchanging gifts and singing hymns.)

For his first thirty years, Jesus lived a traditional Jewish life, working as a carpenter. During this time, all of Israel was under Caesar’s Roman dictatorship, including Bethlehem. In his thirties, Jesus began his public teaching and display of recorded miracles. Over a three year time-span, Jesus’ reputation spread nationwide. The Roman governors and rulers of Israel’s provinces and the leaders of the Jewish people (the religious counsels) took note of him. To curb his following and teachings, Jesus was brutally tortured and then hung by his hands, which were nailed to a horizontal wooden beam (cross). This method of execution restricted the airflow to his lungs, killing him in three hours. However, according to more than 500 witnesses, Jesus returned from the dead three days later, and over the next 40 days journeyed in both the southern and northern provinces of Israel. To many, this was conclusive proof that Jesus was God.

Significance of Jesus’s life and his teachings: All through his suffering he was patient and forgiving even to those who killed him. Christ saved us, not through his death, but through his life. He overcame evil through forbearance and perseverance. He taught us how we should live our lives and he showed us how to do it. His life was a living example of how only by doing good that we can be truly happy. Jesus set the stage so that we are free to choose. We must do our part to choose good, which will draw us closer to the Divine. Some of his teachings …

• God loves you and is with you
• Love one another
• Immense value of each person
• Reality of judgment to heaven or hell
• God forgives those who ask

Jesus’s life is a true living testimony of how life lived for other is worth living. Shall continue with more such interesting Christmas happenings in my next blog, stay tuned. Meanwhile, why don’t you try out these exciting Christmas recipes and share it with your friends and family…

Crusty Potato Fingers

Classic Roast Chicken

Eggless Pineapple Mousse

    

Christmas On-goings!

Christmas phenomenon has been around for more than two millennia.  People around the world have been observing it with traditions like exchanging gifts, attending the mid-night mass on 25th December, decorating the Christmas tree, leavingout the chocolate cookies and milk for Santa and last but not the least listening to Uncle John talk about his hernia removal surgery while you are trying to enjoy yourChristmas cake!
Christians celebrate, Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, a piousleading light whose teachings form the basis of the Christian religion. In India, the colonization of British till 1947 lead to percolation of this religion and its teachings amongst certain sect of Indians. Christianity in India is a minority and around 3% of its population observe Christmas. Christmas in India is also known as “bada-din” (the big day).
Christians in India decorate pine or banana or mango trees (this varies from region to region) during Christmas. They also light small oil lamps as decorations and fill their churches with red flowers. They give presents to family members and baksheesh, or charity, to the poor people. In India, the poinsettia is in bloom and so the churches are decorated with this brilliant red flower for the Christmas Midnight Mass. In South India, Christians put small clay lamps on the rooftops and walls of their houses.
At home families prepare cakes and cookies and traditional regional sweets.  The Midnight Mass precedes the Christmas day when the church resounds with the joyful singing of Christmas carols and thanksgiving.  The Christmas dinner is an important affair, where the whole family sits down together for athanksgiving meal, which includes Christmas Cake, Christmas Pudding and Roast Chicken or Turkey with all its traditional trimmings and numerous other dishes.
Feasting and merrymaking takes precedence during Christmas. Though each region has its specialties, it is an exciting opportunity to explore the newer possibilities of a sumptuous array of X’mas goodies this Christmas. Prepare these yummy treats suggested and do not forget to share it with your family and the much-loved Uncle John!

Christmas Punch
Christmas Cookies
Christmas Pudding

Cakes and Bakes and Jingle Bell

Christmas Cake recipeswould take you into a world of flour, dried fruits, rum and what not. Why not make a deviation this year and try some fruit cakes too. Something new with the traditional, it always works. I have also some of you asking for baking tips.

So here goes:

To make a cake spongier and better

  • Always keep the oven preheated while making any cake.

  • If you are making a fatless sponge then the secret lies in beating the eggs with the sugar to the stage where the batter forms ribbons when you pour it.

  • In the case of a cake with fat, the lightest cake would be one with even and small texture so ensure that you beat the butter and sugar well till light and creamy. Bake as soon as the batter is ready. Do not make the batter too thin.

  • In case of cake without eggs, make the batter using drinking soda and soda bicarbonate both. It aerates the cake well.

Which icing works where?

  • Fresh cream icing is best on light sponges with fruits.

  • Thick chocolate glazed icing is best on rich chocolate cakes.

  • Butter cream icing is favoured for birthday cakes where you need to use different colours and nozzle designs. Invest in disposable icing bags.

  • Any cake is best iced in a cool room, away from the direct breeze of the fan.

Why does a cake go flat?

  • If the baking powder and/or soda bicarbonate is not fresh and therefore not very effective.

  • If the batter is overly thin, then also the cake does not rise too well.

  • If the temperature is too high in the oven, the cake rises quickly and seems to be done but the inside is uncooked and hence cake falls flat when you remove it from oven.

  • If the cake tin is too large for the quantity of batter, you will get a flat cake.

Now some quick Christmas cakes. Check out Orange Marmalade cake and Date and Walnut Cake. For other choices look at Apple cake.

Christmas cake recipes are best preserved in your diary. Get your recipes perfected with every passing year.

Christmas table – let it be full and vibrant

Christmas dinner recipes are yours to choose from as there is such an influx of new tasty food right now. Christmas dinner requires a menu that can be planned now, yes, even weeks in advance. A short while ago we did talk about how to make pulaos and biryanis a part of the menu, so here we can actually look at the side dishes, or the accompaniments that can brighten up the Christmas dinner table still some more!
Look at a variety of raitas, salads, dips and chutneys on www.sanjeevkapoor.com. Look at also what papads can be used for – cones to hold stuffings of your choice. This is an attractive piece to have on the table, edible too!
Move along to raitas that are now sometimes served as course binders in shot glasses! Yes, it works.
  • Tricolour Raita
  • Beetroot Raita
  • Besan Cheela Raita
  • Grapes and Walnut Raita
If there are a number of crisp starters, then chutneys cannot be far behind. Choose from these really winter special chutneys, that reflect warmth.
  • Aloobukhare ki Chutney
  • Apricot and Black Pepper Chutney
  • Bhune Tamatar ki Chutney
How about something substantial as well as nutritious? Talking about salads here. Try out salads with light dressings of olive oil lemon juice, garlic, spices. Heavy cream based dressings using mayonnaise taste great but increase the calories. Avoid buying readymade dressings even if you are tempted too. They can be high in hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup. Do not cut up the ingredients so they are so big that they need to be cut while eating the salad, and not so small that the juices and flavours are lost.
You could use some recipes that can be part of your Christmas dinner menu.

Christmas pulaos – One wonderful dish that says it all!

Christmas Dinner recipes can have a platter of pulaos. Well, why not! Pulaos are wonderful when made lovingly with meats or vegetables or paneer or all three! http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com has a magnificent collection of pulao recipes that can be chosen as an integral part of Christmas dinner giving you choices that can cater to any palate.

Rest assured, have plenty of food going around the Christmas table. Make large pans of fragrant pulaos and biryanis and try and make them as vibrantly coloured as possible.
One spectacular dish is Angoori Pulao which shows off some silver balls, so reminiscent of Christmas baubles on the tree!
Baked Eggs and Rice has some sunny side up eggs that are brilliantly yellow and look very inviting. Just ensure that you serve it warm.
Beetroot and Mewa Pulao has that tender blush that will add some charm to the table for sure.
Chilli chicken tomato pulao is something that will add zing to the get together.
Green fried rice looks like Christmas : all white and green!
With pulaos, ensure that you have some small goodies on the side so that the meal is a bit more filling. You could have a variety of snacky bites, or papads, or variations of papads, some raitas or kachumbers. If you have a good chicken or mutton biryani then having a raita or kachumber becomes mandatory. We will hunt out some good recipes for you for the accompaniments for sure.
Christmas dinner is not so far off now. Do hope the baking plan for Christmas goodies has been made, with dotted ‘I’ s and crossed ‘T’ s, meaning, that it is perfect!

Christmas dinner at home – Plan the menus in advance

Christmas is 50 days away and kids are the most excited by the thought of the numerous gifts that they would get or what Santa Claus would get them! For us, who look after the eats and the kitchen at home, it is time to decide on some menus that could work for Christmas dinner and set the spirits for the festivities.

Well, Christmas Dinner Recipes are no longer a challenge to find really. All you have to do is decide what sort of cuisine you would like to focus on. Try a mix. Have some light poultry with a nicely baked potato dish, a cold salad, all finished with creamy hot beverages with cookies or then a luscious decorative dessert! And if it is a snack and dessert party (is fast becoming popular as more and more people are skipping main course), dwell a lot on research of starter recipes. For ideas I am going to suggest some recipes in all categories but today the focus is on starters.
Starters with chicken:

Fried Chicken Wings with Chilli Pineapple Sauce.
Bacon Rolled Mustard Chicken
Keema Samosa
Vegetarian options:

Asparagus Canapes
Cheese and Herb Patti Samosa
The best part of having finger foods is that you can base your whole menu around it. Have at least four or five starters if you are throwing a party. Count at least six-seven pieces per guest and once you know the segregation of vegetarians and non-vegetarians make the appropriate portions or numbers. When you serve them on platters (with toothpicks, dips, chutneys and paper napkins) do ensure that the platter holds a little flag saying the name or whether the dish has vegetarian or non vegetarian contents. It helps tremendously in being a gracious and thoughtful host/hostess. Be ready with a stack of small plates as even if one guest expresses his desire for one, more will quickly follow suit because eating from a plate is more convenient than managing with just toothpicks and napkins!
So as the mood is set to start planning your forthcoming Christmas Dinner or Party, do take some time off the start jotting down important notes!