Tag Archives: countdown

Christmas and Thanksgiving Timetable

Christmas and Thanksgiving can be a very stressful time if you’re the chief cook and bottlewasher in the house.  Even if you regularly cook roast meals, there is extra pressure on these two occasions to produce a meal fit for the King of Siam and his entourage because Christmas and Thanksgiving almost invariably involve big family get togethers. 

Your exact meal is obviously entirely up to you but I thought it might just be helpful to map out a suggested main-course menu (because this is what we all worry about) plus suggested timing.  Make this schedule the basis of your Christmas menu planning and add or delete items that you want to include or remove.  Remember, the clever cook will always plan ahead so that they don’t totally lose their mind (and cool) on ‘The Big Day’. 

Suggested Main Menu – Serves 8

Cider roast turkey with glazed apples and pears with sticky shallots

‘Pigs in blankets’ (little sausages wrapped in bacon)

Chestnut & cranberry roll

Crisp-topped sprouts

Buttery caraway carrots

Roast potatoes

Bread sauce



PREPARING AHEAD – All dishes to be kept in fridge or freezer until needed

Up to 1 Month Ahead

Parboil and freeze the Roast Potatoes

Make the Chestnut and Cranberry Roll, if freezing

***Up to 3 Days Ahead***

***If you have bought a frozen turkey, think about how you plan to defrost it. Be aware that in a fridge a frozen bird of the size appropriate to feed 8 people could take anything from a day and a half to two and a half days to properly defrost.  Suggested sizes of bird are here and tips on defrosting here (this second link takes you to the British Food Standards Agency site).  

Up to 2 Days Ahead

Make the Chestnut and Cranberry Roll if making from fresh

Prepare and roast the Glazed Apples and Pears with Sticky Shallots

Christmas Eve

Roast the Chestnut and Cranberry stuffing roll – keep in the foil

Make the bread sauce and store, covered, in the fridge

Boil or steam the sprouts and prepare the topping for the Crispy-topped Sprouts

Steam the carrots for the Buttery Caraway Carrots

Prepare the Pigs in Blankets

Defrost anything frozen in the fridge.



Stuff the turkey, weigh and calculate cooking time.  Heat oven to 190C  /  375F  /  Gas mark 5  /  (Fan oven: 170C, approx 340F)


Put the turkey in to roast (timings based on a 4.5 kg / 10lb turkey)

11.00am and 12.00pm:

Check the roasting tin – add more cider if needed


Remove the foil from the turkey to let it brown

1.00 pm:

Leave the turkey to rest.  Put the potatoes in the oven to roast, if frozen.  (If not, put in at 1.10pm).  Make the gravy.


Turn the oven up to 220C  /  425F  /  Gas 7  /(Fan 200C  / 400F).  Turn the potatoes and add the stuffing roll to oven to reheat.  Put the ‘pigs in blankets’  in oven to cook.


Reheat the apples, pears and shallots in the oven if room, or in the microwave if not, adding a little extra glaze.  Finish the sprouts and the carrots and heat the bread sauce, adding a little milk if it seems too thick.  Take the foil off the stuffing.


Serve and enjoy!  If you have a hot pudding planned for dessert, place it in the oven and allow the residual heat to warm it through while you eat.


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Christmas Countdown, 7

Santa in white robeWe’ve reached the end of my Christmas countdown prompts.  Hopefully spreading all that has to be done over a much longer period has not only made life easier for you, spreading the cost over several weeks has made it slightly easier to bear the cost financially. 

Before I give my very last prompts, here is a reminder of the checklist in its entirety.  Tick them off and give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve been organised enough to get all this done! If not, don’t worry, this list may still be a useful reminder and the point is to not get yourself all twisted up about Christmas.  It’s trite but true – Christmas is about families and friends  getting together.  Everything else is just tinsel in one form or another.

So here is where we are so far …..

Christmas cards written and posted.

The main ‘theme’ of the Christmas meal is organised, whether it is a turkey, goose, or whatever, so that all you need to do now is go and pay and pick it up (oh, and cook it)!  The same goes for extra meats like a ham for boxing day and beyond.

If you’re really organised you have bought, and wrapped, Christmas presents and because you harrassed family members to provide you with a wish list, you know they’re going to like what they receive!

The house is looking pretty good – cleared of junk and ready for the festivities.

You also know that you have all the Christmas gubbins like extra roasting pans etc. to cook and serve the meal.

If you’re an old-fashioned super-woman you may have even made some home-bake goodies like mince pies, ready and waiting in the freezer. 

Here are my last two prompts.  The first is obvious, the second will make you smile…until you need it and it isn’t there:

  • Put up Christmas decorations.  (…Told you it was obvious)!  Timing is totally down to you – there is no ‘right’ time.
  •  Have a quick think about your medicine cabinet and whether you have the basics.  In the haste of preparing food in a busy kitchen it’s awfully easy to cut yourself on a knife or burn your hand on a hot pot.  Then there is the question of over-indulgence – whether it be from alcohol or food.  In other words, make sure you have the basics to keep everyone safe and comfortable!  

You may find the ‘Troubleshooting tips’ of my site helpful at Christmas (listed on my ‘Recipes Page’) – specifically tips for restoring the salt/sweet balance in cooking.  Then there is the hangover cure (listed in ‘Beauty and Health’) that I discovered many years ago that certainly seemed to help (…so I hear ….because I myself never needed it, you understand)! 

I will try to put together a Christmas meal countdown between now and the ‘Big Day’ so if this may be useful to you, please visit again.  

Whatever you do …Have a good Christmas!

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Christmas Countdown, 6

CE ShandWe’re very nearly at the end of my Christmas countdowns and if you’ve managed to follow them I hope you’re feeling quite organised and actually quite relaxed about the days ahead.    

Much of the Christmas food is bought or ordered, the Christmas cards are done and gifts have been mostly bought and wrapped. 

Keep purchasing non-perishable food items if you still need to.  Now, if you’re a home baker, you may want to start making things like mince pies, storing them in the freezer.  Think of any other items, like frozen vegetables, that you may want over the coming weeks and start adding those to your regular shopping.

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Christmas Countdown, 5

Christmas giftsBy now you will hopefully have started to clear away a lot of the junk you’ve collected throughout the year, have a good idea of what ingredients you have in the kitchen cupboards and what you may need to buy. If you use a traditional butchers’ shop, you have also ordered your turkey plus any other meats for Christmas.   

Stick with the seasonal tidying / clearing out and now is a good time to start buying non-perishable goods for the holiday – party nibbles like tins of nuts, alcohol, selection tins of biscuits etc.  Again, spreading the cost of these extras over a few weeks is less painful than buying it all in one fell swoop.

Wrap Christmas presents as you buy them.

I’m not going to be giving a separate reminder to post your Christmas cards but please bear in mind that the last posting date for friends and family in far flung places may be coming fairly soon.  If you’re in the UK, for example, bear in mind that Friday of next week (5th December) is the last day for air mail to Australia and New Zealand.  In other words, it may be sooner than you realised!

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Christmas Countdown, 4

A seasonal sort outIf you look around and find yourself thinking that there is too much clutter surrounding you, just imagine how much worse it will look at Christmas with decorations adorning the house, the cupboards stuffed with extra seasonal food and the arrival of new items in the way of gifts. 

It’s no bad idea, therefore to have a seasonal tidy up.  Throw away/recycle anything that is just plain rubbish.  Christmas, and the period leading up to it, is obviously an extremely important time for local charities.  Any quality items that you think might be of use to someone else should therefore be taken to charity shops.

Have a tidy up of your kitchen cupboards.  Check ‘consume by dates’ and throw away anything old.  Be honest and dispose of the ‘tail end’ of anything you were keeping, but which you know in your heart you are unlikely to use.  Stand back and admire the amount of space you now have …. except that now, of course, is the time to top up with replacement items that you may need in the coming weeks! 

It’s also a good idea to do a mental check list of what cooking implements you might need.  Replace anything broken or badly worn and if you need anything like new roasting tins, buy them now.

  • Keep on with the buying of Christmas gifts.  Wrap and set aside as you go along. 


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Christmas Countdown, 3

  • With any luck you’ll have your Christmas cards by now.  If you have them, or just as soon as you can get your mitts on them, start writing.  Starting them early means that you can do them in small doses, and so any you feel you want to put personal notes in can be given the extra time they deserve.  When you’ve done them all, go the extra mile and get stamps for them all.  Then all you have left to do is to stick them in the post box as and when you are ready.
  • How’s it going with family Wish Lists?  If you’ve spotted good presents to buy, start purchasing before the Christmas scrum begins.  At this time of year spreading the spending on both gifts and food items over several weeks makes managing money a little easier.

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Christmas Countdown, 2

Have you thought what you might cook on Christmas Day?  Whether it’s a turkey, a goose (or whatever else takes your fancy), don’t leave it until the last minute and buy it from a supermarket.  We were vegetarian for many years and I vividly remember seeing the meat section of the supermarket entirely bare at 10 a.m. on Christmas Eve with shell-shocked women standing and staring in disbelief that there were no more turkeys to be had.  I thanked my lucky stars that year that I wasn’t one of them. 

Your local butcher will start placing orders with suppliers for the Christmas period very shortly now believe it or not.  Go in and have a word with him (or her!) to see when you need to place your order and what you can pre-order.  It may also be possible for the butcher to make a note to set aside any extras you have in mind like chipolats and bacon for ‘pigs in blankets’.  Make a note on the calendar, on the computer, on the back of your hand if you like but get that order in on time.

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