Christmas: Cookies, Getting organised, Catering, Gifts that give

Stay out of the malls this year as much as you can! Bake at home, buy charity gifts online and plan, plan, plan so you are ready to set sail during the festive season.

Reduce or remove everything that harms your body and the planet. Rejoice in simple food, good company, restful relaxation and the joy of sharing.

Home baked treats
Cashew brownies

Fudgy chocolate and creamy cashews – a winning combination!

1 Egg
125g (4oz) Butter
1 cup Sugar
1.5 cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 dessertspoons Cocoa Powder
1 cup Cashews (or nut of your choice)
½ tsp Salt

Cream butter & sugar, add egg, flour, baking powder, salt, nuts & cocoa. Roll into balls or spread over a greased slice tray and bake at 180C for 15 minutes.  If making as a slice, cut while still hot using a sharp knife, allow to cool slightly before removing from tray.

Nothing beats simplicity – shortbread delights young and old with its buttery goodness!

225g (8oz) Butter
125g (4oz) Icing Sugar
125g (4oz) Cornflour
225g (8oz) Flour

Cream butter & sugar well, add sifted flour & cornflour.  Knead well, roll out about 15mm thick.  Cut into pieces, place on greased tray, prick and bake about 30 minutes at 150C.

For a heavenly taste, top with Orange Flower Icing:

Getting organised for celebrations and holidays

There’s nothing better than sailing towards the holiday season knowing that all your gifts and cards are done, menus for entertaining are planned, the house is clean and tidy, holiday arrangements are taken care of and the budget remains intact.

Does that sound inviting?  Why not check out for a totally free system to get yourself organised and enjoy life with less stress, less clutter and more space to enjoy quality time with your friends and family.

They have a special holiday section with checklists, reminders, recipes and clutter-free gift ideas so that everything is covered well in advance:

Easy holiday catering & outings
Wine, nibbles & other drinks

Grab several bottles of drinkable wine on sale and stash it in your pantry, closet or laundry – wherever you’ve got some room!   Places like Dan Murphys will often have heavily discounted stock to bring people in the door (hoping you’ll also pick up some other goods with high profit margins).   Work out how many functions you’ll be going to over the season and get this many bottles, plus some spares for those last-minute invites or quick gifts.

Also make sure you’ve got plenty of wine and beer if you’re hosting events.  For all purchases, if you’re not a big drinker then keep the receipts somewhere safe and you can return them in January if you have any left over.

Also stock up on non-perishables such as chips, crackers, biscuits, sweets and ingredients for your favourite “bring a plate” recipes so that you can quickly grab something from the cupboard as you head out the door.  And grab some paper plates/ platters etc if you’ll be bringing food to events.

Of course, ensure you’ve got plenty of wrapping paper and blank cards.   If you get plain green, red or gold wrapping paper in bulk rolls then you can use it throughout the year.  Similarly, blank cards can be bought in bulk and used for any occasion.

All of these advance purchases will help you to avoid a stressful and expensive last-minute dash to the shops on your way to an event.

For entertaining at home, keep some lime and/or lemon cordial in your cupboard (the adult versions, eg Schweppes).  You can also stock up on plain sparkling mineral water.  With some Angostura bitters, you now have what you need to cobble together a “Lemon-Lime-Bitters”.  These cordials make it easy to serve refreshing non-alcoholic drinks other than water, and they save you having to buy sugary soft drinks.

You can also use good quality fruit juices as you would cordial, like the 100% juice with no added preservatives in the supermarket fridge.  Purchase some on special and freeze for when you need it (if you’re really sneaky, freeze it as ice cubes to add straight into drinks).   Mix juice with sparkling mineral water for a healthy and economical “soft drink”.

Quick entertaining

Be ready to multiply your food at the last minute when unexpected guests drop round.
Keep plenty of natural yoghurt in the fridge as this can be used to make or bulk up dips (eg add a sachet of French Onion soup powder to a couple of cups of yoghurt for French onion dip).  You can extend pesto by mixing with yoghurt to make a creamy basil dip.  Or blend yoghurt, garlic and sundried tomatoes for a simple tasty dip.  Yoghurt is a healthy and light alternative to sour cream.

Serve dips with crackers and chips as nibbles before a meal, and save the nice cheeses for after the meal, French-style.  This way, your guests can savour the lovely cheeses for their flavour and texture, rather than gobbling them up because they’re too hungry.  (Tip: buy those yummy soft cheeses now so they’re nice and aged when it’s time to serve).

Have a dozen bread rolls in the freezer to add bulk to the lunch table when you have extra last-minute guests.  Cut open, spread with butter, rub with a cut clove of garlic and toast under the grill for a special touch.  Or grill with cheese as the milk fats and proteins will make them more filling.  Cut the rolls into quarters to reduce wastage – people can always come back for more.

Carbs make great salad bases as they’re inexpensive and filling.  For example brown rice salad, pasta salad or potato salad.  Just use Google to find plenty of options and adapt to what you already have at home.

Home-made hommous

This is so quick, simple and nutritious and it’s a real crowd pleaser. Make sure you’ve always got these ingredients at hand:

Juice of 1-2 Lemons (can freeze in ice cube trays; or substitute 1-2 tbsp vinegar, preferably Apple Cider)
About 1/3 jar Tahini
1 tbsp Ground Cumin (available bulk from Saini Emporium, Dee Why)
1 clove Garlic, crushed
2 tins Chick Peas, drained & rinsed
About ½ cup Olive Oil

Whiz the first 4 ingredients in a food processor.  With the blades running, gradually add the chick peas. When all chick peas are added, it will probably be quite pasty.  Now keep the blades running and drizzle olive oil in until it reaches your desired consistency.  Just before serving, drizzle with olive oil and dust with paprika.

Sharing with others – Gifts that give

“Nearly 4 out of 5 Australians say they’d be happy with a donation to charity instead of a gift.

Instead, this Christmas Australians will spend over $750 million on unwanted presents. That’s an amazing statistic. It means we’re spending millions every year buying things for people who don’t actually want those things.” 

St Vincent de Paul Society (

The build-up to Christmas can be overwhelming for both adults and children.   Not only is everyone tired at the end of the working year, but everywhere we are seduced with images of excess – excessive food, expensive consumer items and sparkly plastic trinkets.

We know that a lot of the Stuff that we are tempted to spend our precious funds on is produced in undesirable ways, in polluting factories staffed by poorly paid people.  The Stuff is then shipped using fossil fuels to our shores, to be hungrily purchased and wrapped and fleetingly enjoyed.   The Stuff then gathers dust or breaks and is thrown away in land fill, polluting our fragile Mother Earth once more!

The frenzy of desire passes quickly and we are left with empty pockets, struggling livers and Stuff we neither need nor want.

If this sounds like your experience of the festive season then please take a moment to think about what you can remove or reduce.  Less gorging and guzzling, less last-minute buying of factory-made Stuff.
Maybe see if you can find ways to connect with others, to share the abundance of good fortune that we so freely enjoy.

Can you donate to UNHCR to help the famine crisis in East Africa?  Would you like to give gifts, donations or virtual cards from Oxfam, World Vision or The Smith Family?  Could you set up a monthly donation to the Wayside Chapel in someone’s name?

Samaritan’s Purse “Operation Christmas Child” is a program that delivers a small box of toys to children in poor countries – you choose and buy the toys yourself (mark this on your calendar for October next year – it’s a great way to involve children in the ritual of sharing at Christmas time).

Some stores, shopping centres and banks have programs to purchase toys for children living in poverty. Again, it’s a great way for your children to experience the joy of generosity.

You can pack up a hamper of treats and non-perishable Christmas food for local charities to distribute to those in need.

Charity Card Market offers a selection of 70 charities to choose from:

And of course, all of the above charities greatly appreciate your cash donations. A simple gift of a cash donation to someone in need is a blessing to all concerned.

Wishing you a peaceful and happy festive season

This post is brought to you by Lois Nethery, acupuncturist and Chinese medicine herbalist at Ocean Acupuncture in Curl Curl on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Ocean Acupuncture is a natural medicine centre of independent health practitioners. The views expressed in this blog are the author’s only and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other Ocean Acupuncture practitioners.
The information presented in this blog, and on the Ocean Acupuncture website, is for interest and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for health or medical information or advice. For health or medical advice, please consult your health professional.