Christmas Crackers – Zero Waste Style

Home made Christmas Crackers
Home made Christmas crackers

Do you enjoy having Christmas crackers but worry about the waste?

Of course they are not an essential, but they are a traditional part of the Christmas lunch table setting in the UK, and fortunately a simple one to replace with a less waste, homemade version.

I have been making my own for the last couple of years, using loo roll or other cardboard tubes and decorating with various bits and bobs saved through the year.  All you need to buy is the cracker bangs ( I found some unpackaged in lovely local shop Room No 9 in Leighton Buzzard but you can order online or find in craft shops) and your choice of gifts.

The first year I decorated them in the foil wrappers from chocolate bars.  They weren’t very neat but the family still really enjoyed them.  Next time I used some colourful pictures from a calendar and had improved the technique a little. I have saved some glossy wrapping paper that couldn’t be recycled to reuse this year.

The first step is to place the cracker bang carefully inside your loo roll or other cardboard tube and place it on top of the paper you will be wrapping it in to check for size – you want the cracker bang ends to be just covered. Mark where your cardboard tube comes to on the inside of the paper .

Then, removing the card tube again for now, carefully fold one end of the paper over to the mark you have made and cut some small slits – these will help you squeeze the ends of the paper in to tie them neatly.  It’s a good idea to try this out on a spare piece of paper first to make sure you have the slits in the right place and to see how big to make them.  Do the same at the other end.

Now, wrap the paper around the card tube with the cracker bang in and fasten with a small piece of tape.  Tie your ribbon around one end.

Now fill up the cracker with your chosen gift and joke.  I find jokes online to print out, or reuse jokes from the crackers at my work Christmas lunch – even better write your own.  We already have a set of Santa hats which are too large to fit in the cracker so we place those at the table separately but you could of course make paper hats if you prefer.

 

 

I try to source the gifts from local charity shops.  Last year I found these gorgeous wooden tree decorations which just fitted in, and which can be reused for the tree every year.  When I haven’t found anything suitably small preowned I have filled the crackers with sweets or lottery scratch cards.  Homemade sweets or biscuits would be another good idea if you can leave filling the crackers until close to the day.

Once the gifts are in, all you need to do is tie the second ribbon to close the end – and label them if you have personalised the gifts.

I’m not the most artistic or neat and tidy person so these always end up looking homemade, but there is nothing wrong with that – the family seem to enjoy them and there is hopefully no plastic tat to go straight in the bin.

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How to impress with minimal effort – Easy Chocolate Caramel Tart

chocolate-caramel-tart
Easy Chocolate Caramel Tart

When it comes to Christmas and New Year entertaining, easy is good.  Well, let’s be realistic, easy is good anytime.

Last week I made Banoffee Pie, to take to family for a Boxing Day tea. Since they started selling ready tinned caramel so you don’t have to boil a tin of condensed milk for hours Banoffee Pie has been my go to easy dessert.  But this dessert, inspired by Millionaire’s Shortbread, is even easier.  Yes really.

Ingredients:

  • 250g biscuits ( I used digestives as I had half a pack left from the banoffee pie but I bet something oaty like Hob Nobs would work really well)
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 tin caramel (I used Carnation)
  • 200g block of milk chocolate ( I used Choceur from Aldi which comes in easily recyclable card packaging and is free from palm oil)
  • Optional decoration ( I used Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray but  as I subsequently noticed this contains palm oil  I would omit or seek an alternative in future)

( I have mentioned which products I used for convenience only – this post contains no affiliate links)

Method:

  • Grease a flan dish or baking tray well.
  • Crush the biscuits either using a food processor or by wrapping them carefully in a clean tea towel or (ideally cloth) bag and bashing with a rolling pin.
  • Melt the butter – I did this in the microwave, setting the timer to 30 secs and checking and stirring every 10 secs or so until completely melted, but melt in a pan if you prefer.
  • Stir the butter into the crushed biscuits until well combined.
  • Tip the mixture carefully into your flan dish and press down with the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Chill for approx 1 hour until firm.
  • Spread the caramel carefully over the biscuit base and chill again until you are ready to top with the chocolate.
  • Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a bain marie or in a jug in the microwave.  I prefer the microwave as it is quicker but as with the butter check and stir it frequently until just melted.
  • Pour the melted chocolate onto the caramel carefully, gently spreading with a spatula until the top is covered.
  • Decorate as required and chill again until the chocolate has set.

To serve cut carefully with a sharp knife and have your plate or bowl at the ready – it will crumble!  And enjoy. Remember, easy is good.