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ERIN SULLEY: Christmas entertaining, simplified

The author, after just assembling her ice cream snowman. Probably the fastest photo shoot ever — the race again melting ice cream is always a challenge. — Paul Pickett photo
The author, after just assembling her ice cream snowman. Probably the fastest photo shoot ever — the race again melting ice cream is always a challenge. — Paul Pickett photo

Yikes! It’s less than three weeks until Christmas. Time to tackle my Christmas budget and grocery list.

Wait. You do have a food budget, right? I feel I need an ear-piercing, record-scratching sound effect to turn back the conversation for a moment.

The Christmas season is filled with holiday cheer. Perhaps a more realistic picture these days is the awful commercialism. The hustle and bustle of buying gifts, decorating the tree and stocking the fridge full of food and drink, which includes ensuring you have enough food tucked away for entertaining and maybe a few unexpected mummers. Heaven knows you need cheese, meat and crackers on standby. It really does seem like an endless list sometimes, doesn’t it? Are you overdoing it? Are you buying a bunch of random items?

The pressure of thinking everything has to be picture perfect is exhausting. By the time you have the stockings hung, the tree tinseled and the Newfoundland hors d’oeuvres tacked on toothpicks, you’re out of energy and money. How are you truly supposed to ring in a happy New Year knowing you could be faced with debt and a whole new side of stress? Let’s gear ourselves down and work within our means. It’s not a bad thing — it’s smart to plan and organize a Christmas food budget; you’ll thank yourself.

Ask yourself, how many events are you hosting? How many elves will be there? What do you plan to serve? Once you have those questions answered, starting planning your menu.

You can choose to be super-sophisticated like my brother and create a top-notch Excel foodie budget spreadsheet. On the other hand, I’m more old school and prefer to break out the trusty pencil and paper. You might call me a traditiona(list). Sorry, last pun for the week — promise!

Things to consider: shop from the cupboards and freezer first. Remember that big appliance in the house that stores who knows what? It can be a wonderful treasure-trove.

Chopped Smarties rolled around ice cream. — Erin Sulley photo
Chopped Smarties rolled around ice cream. — Erin Sulley photo

If you get stuck with a bunch of items and are unsure of how to put them together, head straight to the good ol’ trusty Google or Pinterest and enter your ingredients in the search bar.

Think of dishes you can stretch, like potatoes, casserole and pasta. Comfort food that can be pre-prepared and frozen. Mac ‘n cheese is a casserole that can be made using leftover nobs of cheese. Add diced green and red pepper or green pepper and tomato for a festive look. It’s great for vegetarians, too.

Instead of an abundance of dishes, go for larger dishes, but fewer items. The added perk? Less mess and cleanup. Honestly, is there anyone who enjoys the after-dinner cleanup? No hands raised — I hear crickets. My thoughts exactly. Once you have your menu, write down the additional items you need to purchase.

“Stressed is just desserts spelt backwards.” — Author unknown

There’s nothing wrong with simplicity for dessert. Who doesn’t like a warm pie with ice cream? Ice cream is extremely versatile. Ideas? Let the ice cream soften and mix in Christmas sprinkles, chopped candy or chocolate bars.

Make your own ice cream sandwiches by putting ice cream between soft cookies and rolling them in sprinkles. And don’t forget your wee elves. Ice cream snowmen are always a hit, are simple to assemble and can be prepared ahead of time and frozen. A tip for serving ice cream: pre-scoop your ice cream onto a lined cookie sheet and put in the freezer.

In most cases, when you’re hosting gatherings, people will ask if they can bring something. “I can bring my famous spinach and artichoke dip.” Perfect, Debbie, just perfect, my dear. Don’t be shy, take them up on their kind offer. Debbie will be delighted when people ask for her delicious recipe.

Who says you can’t enjoy great food on a budget? Given the price of food these days, it’s a good place to start.

Ice cream sandwiches are always a hit. — Erin Sulley photo
Ice cream sandwiches are always a hit. — Erin Sulley photo

 

As a young girl, I asked my grandma if Santa was real. Her response: “I truly believe in the spirit of Christmas” — words I have cherished throughout my life. The spirit of Christmas is what you create, it’s the memories you make with family and friends over good food. What more could you ask for this Christmas? Foodie budget planning makes for a happier, stress-free dinner that’s Fit to Eat.

“Bakers earn the majority of their income in the morning. They earn most of their dough at yeast by a leaven o’clock.” — Author unknown

Erin Sulley is a self-confessed foodie who lives in Mount Pearl. Email erinmsulley@gmail.comTwitter @ErinSulley Instagram @erinsulley

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