Four Seasons Food WinterHappy New Year to you all. I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas and that you all ate tonnes of delicious indulgent, festive food! I most certainly did. December can be a tricky month to find time to blog in. For me, the month just sped past and although I was cooking almost constantly, it was often not for the blog and finding time to sit down and write about it was neigh on impossible,

So an extra big thanks to everyone who entered the Four Seasons Food December challenge. We had 33 brilliant recipes, lots of delicious sweet things you can guiltlessly scoff at Christmas and some really clever festive ideas and twists. Makes me wish it was Christmas every month! (Although if that was the case I would not only be rather tubby but exceedingly exhausted…)

Which leads me nicely on to say that Louisa from Eat Your Veg is hosting January’s challenge and the theme is VIRTUOUS FOOD - anything you would consider healthy for kickstarting the New Year. Think veggie, think 5:2, think lean, think low sugar, low carb, LOW GUILT!!! Everything in moderation they say but lets show them you can eat virtuously without compromising on taste or enjoyment. The challenge is open here.

But before we go all wholesome and angelic, let’s take a look at all the lovely entries from December, wonton in their decadence. Oh Party Food, we love you…

Autumn Fruits Chutney by Nayna from Simply Food

Autumn Fruits Chutney

What cheese board is complete without a little chutney, what slice of ham or left over turkey even? It’s the perfect accompaniment to many a festive meal and this chutney sounds fantastic, full of apples and plums, chilli and cinnamon. It would also make a lovely foodie gift, one I would happily receive all year round. (Nayna, I can send you my address for your next batch if you like?)!

Tea Cup After Eight Chocolate Mint Mousse by Karen from Lavender & Lovage

After Eight Chocolate Mint Mousse

I have tea set envy! These mousse cups are just too pretty. A fantastic way to serve them and a really lovely, smooth chocolate treat to wolf (oops, I mean of course, eat daintily!) Melted After Eights whipped up with cream and if you are feeling extra festive, a dash of creme de menthe, sounds simply wonderful to me.

Come to a Party by Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen

Winter Cocktail

Oooo Janice, this little festive glass of appley alcohol sounds just wonderful! Maple Syrup infused with rosemary and thyme topped up with calvados and cider? I am literally drooling. I bet this goes down really easily (too easily!) and gets the party rocking. My kind of drink for sure. Make mine a large one!

Chilli Cardamom Cranberry Upside Down Cake by Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog

Chocolate Chilli Cardamom Cranberry Upside Down Cake

As is usual from Choclette, we have a really clever and interesting combination of ingredients put together to create a mouthwatering cake that I just want to gobble up! The cranberries look so juicy and colourful and there is the added bonus of white chilli chocolate in the cake too. This would wow guests at any party for sure.

Xmas Vanilla Cookies by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

Xmas Vanilla Cookies

This is a lovely cookie recipe, rich with butter and vanilla. Made with a fun festive biscuit mould and decorated cheerfully, these are truly perfect for Christmas. My kids would love them and I bet Santa and Rudolf would munch through a couple on Christmas Eve if some got left out with a nice glass of sherry!

Double Chocolate, Hazelnut and Cherry Muffins by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

Chocolate Cherry Muffins

I love the way that these were born out of a simple desire to bake, a quick reccy of the contents of the cupboards and hey presto, scrummy yummy muffins were born! Crunchy with nut, chewy from cherry and of course decadently chocolatey, these sound delicious and evilly addictive….just what you want from a Christmas treat.

After Eight Ice Cream Sundaes by Vanesther from Bangers & Mash

After Eight Sundaes

Ice Cream Sundaes…well there’s a dessert I have not had for a while but absolutely should have done! Reminiscent of childhood in all the very best ways, these cool tall glasses of ice cream, Afters Eights, brownies, fruit and sauce are indulgent and oozy and undoubtedly Aaaaamazing! The kind of dessert you start but just can’t stop. YES PLEASE.

Parmesan & Smoked Paprika Popcorn by Louisa from Eat Your Veg

Parmesan Paprika Popcorn

I was a child brought up on popcorn. Never allowed sweet things, I used to eat big bowls of home made salted popcorn instead (also bad by oh so good) so these grown up, cheesey spiced kernels REALLY appeal to me. As with the sundaes above, popcorn has become kind of retro to make  but now I have been reminded of it’s brilliance, I shall get popping again soon!

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Golden Syrup Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

Gingerbread cupcakes

‘It’s Christmas in a cupcake” – well who could put it better than that! These little show stoppers are so cute with the little gold candy canes and gingerbread men and the sound of that icing makes me weak at the knees. Loads of lovely Christmas spices make these cupcakes truly festive, sure to cheer up the most surly of scrooges.

Christmas Tree Gingerbread Cookies with a Hidden Surprise by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

Gingerbread surprise cookies

Oh Ros you clever clever cookie you! Taking inspiration from the idea of pinata style, Ros has cleverly used a set of decreasing sized Christmas tree cookie cutters to create a cookie with a space in the center where she packed in plenty of hidden surprises! I won’t give the game away, but suffice as to say, it would be a jolly nice surprise.

Chocolate Yule Log By Caroline from Caroline Makes

Chocolate Yule Log

Yule Logs like this one are the ultimate in festive Christmas cake I think! And this ones looks soooo chocolatey and beautifully bark like! I have always been afraid to attempt to make one myself but luckily Caroline has provided me with much needed photo instructions and so I may just give it a try. One must conquer ones fears and feast I say.

Minty Chocolate Brownies – Gluten Free by Kate from The Gluten Free Alchemist

Minty gluten free brownies

 Although Kate was not one of the lucky bloggers to be asked to create a recipe for After Eight Chocolates, she did come up with these wonderful gooey gluten free minty brownies. The combination of mint and chocolate is a classic and works so well. Adorned with these festive little stars, these make a lovely Christmas treat.

Chocolate Truffles by Louisa from Eat Your Veg

Chocolate truffles

These are the quintessential Christmas foodie gift! Good fun to make with kids and really not all that complicated, they look so sophisticated and delicious, who on earth could not be delighted to scoff some of these! Toppings and flavour possibilities are many and Louisa has opted for nuts, chocolate shavings and cocoa to name a few. Loooovely.

Christmas Spiced Cranberry, Orange & Carrot Bundt Cake by Chintal from Chinskitchen

Christmas Bundt Cake

This is a lovely alternative to the more traditional Christmas cake options but still full of all the typical festive spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Made extra moist with the inclusion of juicy cranberries and carrots, this cake just sounds so vibrant and delicious. Decorated with white chocolate ganache to boot – Mmmm mmmm.

Festive Black Pudding & Apple Sausage Rolls by Me from Delicieux

Using first class black pudding sourced from my local organic farmer friends nearby, these sausage rolls are perfect finger food for any festive gathering. The black pudding adds a lovely pepperyness whilst the apple chunks add sweetness and moistness. This unusual twist on a classic will get your guests talking and smiling.

Mini Gingerbread House by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

Mini Gingerbread House

Ros is certainly living up to the name of her blog with entry number 5 which is just brilliant! These mini gingerbread houses are another Christmas triumph! The idea is that the house is small enough to sit on the side of your mug – just so cute! I love the fact that you don’t have to shar any with anyone else, indulgent as Christmas treats should be.

Cinnamon & Date Cake by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

Cinnamon & Date Cake

Ros you rock!! Entry number 6 and another super festive, beautifully decorated and shaped cake. I love dates in cakes, they create such sweet stickyness. I love the simplicity of this cake, pretty fuss free to knock up but packing plenty of fab festive flavours sure to put you in a cheery mood. I fancy a slice with a hot chocolate…

Nuts & Luchito Honey Roast Pumpkin Seeds by Louisa from Eat Your Veg

Nuts & Seeds

You simply can’t go wrong putting out a nice big bowl of nuts or seeds for people to pick at over Christmas. Possibly the best finger food known to man to accompany a few glasses of alcohol! And as party food goes, these are not too bad for you so can be eaten with relish and virtually no guilt (assuming you are not guzzling the wine with them!!)

Spiced Plum & Apple Eaton Mess by Vanesther from Bangers & Mash

Spiced Plum & Apple Eton Mees

Vanesther has taken a super simple classic dessert and given it the most wonderful festive twist and presented it with sophistication. Crunchy chunks of meringues layered with whipped cream and spiced plums and apples…this has a wonderful balance of textures and flavours. A clever accident turned total triumph!

Nigella Christmas Cornflake Wreaths by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

Cornflake Wreaths

Ros knocks it out of the Christmas park again with these pretty little crunchy chewy wreaths. Such a fun recipe to make with kids, no bake deliciousness. I love the marshmallows in the mix which no doubt make these uber chewy and completely addictive! They would not last long in my house thats for sure!

Leftover Turkey Chilli by Bintu from Recipes From A Pantry

Turkey Chilli

We all look for that interesting way to use up left over turkey after Christmas and this recipe gets the thumbs up from me. Low calorie, spicy and literally bursting with lovely veggies and beans, this will fill you up and warm you up! I particularly like the addition of sweet butternut squash. Definitely one to bookmark to liven up your leftovers!

Christmas Cupcakes by Caroline from Caroline Makes…

Christmas Cupcakes

I love the versatility of cupcakes, that you can flavour them and make them your own. Caroline has kept it simple but delicious with cinnamon and brown sugar and decorated them fabulously with buttercream and little Christmas paper figurines. These are perfect treats for the little ones and for big ones alike!

Xmas Brownies by Charlene from Food, Glorious Food

Xmas Brownies

Gooey decadent brownies with the added bonus of being packed with cherries and brazil nuts. The texture and flavour of these must be lovely! Charlene suggest the best way to consume for the full Christmas experience is to do so with mulled wine…well, I don’t need to be told twice! Sounds like solid advice to me!

Reindeer Cake Pops by Caroline from Caroline Makes…

Reindeer Cake Pops

Seriously, does it get any cuter than these little treats? I would almost feel guilty munching these little reindeers.. But I think I could just manage! I love that Caroline rolled these cake pops by hand and had no need for the overly expensive cake pop moulds I have seen on sale a lot recently! These dinky treats would literally go down a storm at any festive do!

Roasted Tomato, Basil & Gruyere Quiche by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

Tomato, Basil, Gruyere Quiche

I think a good quiche is the perfect addition to any buffet spread and this beautiful, colourful version would fit the bill indeed. Bejewelled with the red of the cherry tomatoes and flecked with the vibrant green of the basil, this light and simple quiche is bright and festive too.

Rudolf Hedgehog Hasselbacks by Louisa from Eat Your Veg

Hasselback Potatoes

Oh very clever Louisa! Vibrant red potatoes, made utterly beautiful, crunchy and scrummy but using the hasselback method. Crispy skin whilst soft yeilding and fluffy in the middle, these make a really impressive alternative to roastties. A clever tip of slicing them on a wooden spoon should ensure you don’t cut all the way through. Lou – yours are perfect stunners.

Irish Cream Chocolate Truffles by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

Irish Cream Chocolate Truffles

Chocolate truffles…with Irish Cream you say? Swooooon I say! Utterly indulgent and boozy these could be the ultimate truffles for me. As I always say, these make truly terrific home made gifts and I would seriously enjoy accepting some! Very few ingredients or complicated cooking required, these are just wonderful in every way.

Iced Cherry Pound Cake by Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary

Iced Cherry Pound Cake

Literally jewelled with lovely coloured candies cherries, this classic cake is so festive and would be ever so impressive to serve at a Christmas do. Topped with that generous layer of icing, this cake is simple but yummy. It keeps well or even freezes well, this little recipes is a great all rounder. And just so so very pretty!

Chocolate (Christmas) Fruit Cake (Gluten Free) by Laura from I’d Much Rather Bake Than…

Chocolate Fruit Cake

Dreamy ingredients in this alternative to your usual Christmas fruit cake – it includes such wonders as chunks of Terry’s Chocolate Orange, marmalade, honey and coffee and then it’s topped with simply super sounding fudgey white chocolate icing. I mean doesn’t that just sound seriously good? I certainly think so!

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with a Hidden Surprise by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Ros – another brilliant entry – you are s superstar! Hidden within the deliciousness of these lovely looking cupcakes is a little treat to delight and excite kids (and adults!). I won’t give it away…read the recipe to find the secret. The combination of chocolate and orange is a truly delicious one making these another tasty treat from Ros!

Pesto, Sun Dried Tomato & Parmesan Palmier by Louisa from Eat Your Veg

Pesto SunDried Tomato Parmesan Palmier

 Palmier are so pretty! All spirals and contrasting colours. Louisa has made these using shop bought puff pastry which I wholeheartedly agree with making them super quick to knock up at this busy time of year. But she has used her home made kale pesto as the filling which sounds divine, rich with garlic and walnuts.

Blue Cheese, Parmesan & Green Olive Bread Sticks by Caroline from Caroline Makes…

Blue Cheese, Parmesan & Olive Bread Sticks

Made from scratch bread sticks, potently flavoured with blue cheese, Parmesan and olive – they sound fantastic! Caroline made them for Christmas Day to go with baked camembert. They look chunky and crunchy and I’ll bet they were ridiculously good dunked in hot oozy melted cheese. Hope you saved room for the main course!

Coconut Delight Snowballs by Nayna from Simply Food

Coconut Balls

What a lovely alternative to the more typical chocolate truffles at Christmas. The white balls are made with coconut flour, condensed milk and tutti frittu fruit mix whilst the chocolate ones are also made with coconut flour but also mint crisp chocolates in there too. She used mint aero as a coating…one of my favourites! I love these, they sound so different!

And as promised, there is a prize for the chosen winning entry of a delicious box of chocolates kindly provided by those masters at Hotel Chocolat. In all the mayhem that is Christmas, I decided the easiest and quickest judge for this month would be myself! So without further ado, I have chosen….

Christmas Tree Gingerbread Cookies with a Hidden Surprise by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

Ros totally out did herself this month with an amazing 10 entries! That kind of dedication to party food definitely deserves an award so Ros, I dub thee, an honorary Festive Fairy! I chose your Cookies with hidden surprise because they are just such a brilliantly clever idea that really will inspire giggles and joy. So well done. Your choccies will be on their way to you very soon.