Make-Ahead Christmas Eve Dinner with Activities for All


I’ve worked on Christmas Eve for many years, so our Christmas Eve dinner was always something like a soup I left in the crock-pot while I directed the choir at church.  Or it might have been a made-ahead casserole like cassoulet that finished up in the oven while “Silent Night” was sung. One year I made a fish stew base early in the morning, heated it around 9pm, and threw in the seafood and fish for a few minutes until it had just cooked through.  On a rare occasion we’d go out for dinner before the first service or in between services if I had to direct an 11 o’clock.  (at left:  PPUMC Choir, Minneapolis)


I’m home and don’t have a church job this year as I’m cheffing for Jenn-Air and DACOR, so have the opportunity to make a fancy dinner.  As I’ve had the chance to cook several lovely meals this season for friends and neighbors, instead I think I’ll still stick with something  easy-to-serve–which will give me the chance to spend the evening with my family.   In fact, I bought the ingredients for beef stew the other day and it sounds wonderful to me; we all love it.  I could move it up to beef burgundy and, since I have tiny onions frozen and a great couple of bottles of Oregon Pinot Noir, I just might do it. The dogs might even get a tiny bite…


If you’re in the mood for a bit more than stew (or have a few more coming), try my make-ahead Christmas Eve menu, which is a collection of totally tried and true recipes tested this year in my favorite way–cooked by me and then eaten by Dave and good friends.  The best part is that you truly can make everything 1-2 days (or more) ahead and have it all ready to serve or heat and serve. Don’t feel like buying lasagna? Buy a tray from the Italian deli or local red sauce joint. Make sure to order ahead.  Just for fun I’ve added the wines/drinks we’ve tried with these dishes.  There’s easily enough food for 8, with extras for those big appetites who go for a second serving of lasagna.  Otherwise, you could squeeze 10 or maybe 12 servings if you’re very careful and throw a ham in the crock-pot four hours ahead of dinner, increase your salad and bread accordingly.


A few days ahead, spend a few minutes locating your serving dishes and checking on your dishes, silverware, and glasses. There’s nothing worse than running around the house trying to locate the green Christmas tree platter at 7pm.  Wash anything that needs it, borrow what you don’t have (or run up to your local thrift store and buy it), and if you have no soft fabric napkins (many of the new ones are made of expensive, horrendously stiff or unabsorbant fabrics), buy some good and attractive large, thick paper napkins.  You can put a candy cane in the middle and tie up with green ribbon, or get kids to decorate a small corner of each–no more than that. 



At home Christmas Eve service:  Listen to King’s College Lessons and Carols on the radio if you’re home in the morning on December 24; they’ve been worshiping thus since 1918 and it’s one of the best parts of Christmas! On at 8am on KCME (88.7 FM) here in Colorado Springs, I’m guessing it should be on 9am CST and 10am EST in the U.S.  Download booklet and read about it here.  Listen to another year’s service here.

Have kids coming?  Print up some coloring sheets; click here.  Check out crafts, etc; click here.  

Christmas sing-a-long; click here.

Pinterest Christmas game page; click here.

Christmas stories to print and read; click here.

Cooking together; click here. Or make the chocolate crinkles together (recipe below) as they’re best fresh.

Continue reading

Make-Ahead Holiday Brunch for 12


, ,


I might love brunch more than any meal...perhaps I like the laid-back time involved or the old-school approach.  There’s barely a noted beginning –sitting around drinking coffee as the food is put out — and there needn’t be any end. (Movie with the coffee and brandy??)  It’s almost always a group.  Nearly certainly a special occasion.  More fun at home than at some swanky, pay-through-the-nose, eat-til-you-drop place, I think.  Even the dogs are at ease.


This easy, luscious but not fancy brunch menu with all the popular notes (eggs, potatoes, etc.) has several make-ahead options. It features quick crustless mini-quiches made in muffin tins that are fun to make together or for you to make yourself. The parmesan-garlic crispy potato dish prep is divided into microwave and skillet sections; the microwaving could be done ahead and the browning done while the quiches cook or re-heat.  I provide two choices for breads (My two-pepper Pumpkin or an easy, no-yeast stollen) and each is handily made and frozen a week or two ahead.  Brunch really needs a little alcohol and here the drinks are simple, familiar fruity-type tipples with tiny twists like tequila instead of vodka in a Bloody Maria or cranberry juice instead of orange for the Cranmosas. (Add a fresh cranberry in the bottom of the flute.)  A nice brandy coffee at the end won’t hurt anyone and provides just a bit of the digestif needed.  Make-ahead notes are in green.  


I don’t make brunch nearly enough, but loved making part of this menu for my job cheffing for DACOR. (Not pushing appliances here; I cook on a Blue Star range.)  I hope you’ll take a hint and invite your nearest and dearest or maybe just pull this together Christmas or New Year’s morning for the troops. Divvy up the menu between a few of you if it’s too much. If you have a smaller group, go ahead and make the full recipes as the leftovers are lovely and you won’t have to cook the next day.

Just add music and candles–thrift stores often have lots of inexpensive candle holders. (3 hours of lovely youtube Christmas listening music HERE.  Holiday sing-a-long video with lyrics HERE.)

 MENU for 12:

  • Bloody Marias (Bloody Marys made with 1 part tequila/2 parts Bloody Mary mix), Cranmosas (Mimosas made with 1 part cranberry juice/3 parts sparkling wine or champagne), Coffee/Tea  (no recipes)
  • Shrimp CocktailI told you this was old school. (Use THIS recipe, your own, or buy a tray totally ready at the store.  Cook shrimp and make sauce a day ahead; chill until needed.)
  • Fresh segmented mixed grapefruit and oranges (6 each–no recipeeasy to make-ahead!) OR a veggie tray with seafood dip such as this old staple.
  • Individual Holiday Quiches (Recipe below)
  • Crispy Parmesan-Garlic Potatoes (Recipe below)
  • Alyce’s Pumpkin Bread/Muffins with Candied Ginger and Two Peppers (Recipe below)
  • Stollenthe simple kind (Photo + recipe link below)
  • Cookies and small chocolates (No recipes; make or buy your favorites.)
  • Coffee with a nice dose–a tablespoon or two– of brandy and whipped cream (no recipe)


These tasty gluten-free (check all labels) baby quiches—12 green chile-cream cheese and 12 Italian sausage with mozzarella– are topped with an “X” made of red bell peppers and are a wonderful and fun holiday morning breakfast alongside a coffee cake and juice or fresh fruit if you want an even simpler meal. Cook the sausage and onion a day or two ahead to speed the process in the morning.  If you’d like, you can change up the fillings to suit your taste: ham and Swiss cheese with cooked broccoli/chopped fresh spinach or cooked bacon and cooked mushrooms with Gruyere, for instance.  One small shrimp with tarragon, perhaps?  If you’re terribly self-sufficient and unflappable, you could line up a wide variety of ingredients and let folks create their own tiny quiches. Serve with bowls of salsa and marinara on the table.  Don’t want to cook so early?  Why not make them ahead? (See Cook’s Notes for make-ahead instructions.)

Read through before beginning; this is easier than the recipe length would have you believe.

Makes 24 cupcake-size crustless quiches: 12 Green Chile and 12 Italian Sausage


24 paper muffin cup liners (You could grease the muffin tins, too, if you’d rather.)

For the custard for all of the quiches:

  • 12 large eggs, beaten
  • 6 cups half and half
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 drops hot sauce or to taste

For the Green Chile Quiches:

  • 4 tablespoons (2-3 ounces) softened cream cheese
  • 2 4-ounce cans chopped mild green chiles, drained and patted dry
  • 12 tablespoons (about 6 ounces) grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

For the Italian Sausage Quiches:

  • ½ pound cooked bulk Italian sausage
  • 4 tablespoons -or more to taste- cooked chopped onion
  • 12 tablespoons (about 6 ounces) grated mozzarella cheese
  • 6 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Dried basil—a pinch for each of the 12 quiches

To top all of the quiches:

2 red bell peppers cut into very thin matchstick pieces (or one red and one green)


1 cup each salsa and marinara sauce (put in bowls on the table)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.   Place paper liners in muffin cups.

1. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, half and half, salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

2. For the 12 green chile quiches, into each of 12 muffin cups layer: 

  • 1 heaping teaspoon chopped green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon cream cheese
  • Scant tablespoon grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

3. For the 12 Italian sausage quiches, into each of the other 12 muffin cups layer:

  • 1 tablespoon cooked Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon cooked onion
  • 1 tablespoon grated mozzarella cheese
  • ½ teaspoon grated Parmesan
  • Pinch of dried basil

4. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, pour into each muffin cup enough of the custard (milk-egg) mixture to come about ¾ of the way up the sides of the cup. It may be a ¼ cup or, in some cases, just a bit less depending on the amount of ingredients in the cup.

5. Top each quiche with two of the matchstick peppers laid on top of one another to form an “X.”

6. Place pans in oven and bake 25-30 minutes or until puffed and golden, switching pans mid-way through to ensure even baking. Cream cheese may puff through in the Green Chile Quiches and make them appear to be underdone; they’re not.

7. Remove pans to racks and let cool a few minutes before serving hot or at room temperature. See green notes before to make ahead.  Garnish with salsa or marinara sauce.

Cook’s Notes:  The idea for the green chile quiches comes from Betty White’s Mexican Quiche.  It may have originally been in the BAKERY LANE COOKBOOK.

If you’ve greased your muffin tins rather than used paper liners, you may want to let the quiches rest a couple of extra minutes after baking; the green chile quiches are more apt to fall apart without the liners, but are firmer with a little more cooling time.

TO MAKE-AHEAD AND REHEAT QUICHES: Bake, cool completely, and store in single layers in well-sealed containers in the fridge for up to two days.  Heat them briefly, 7-9 minutes, in a 350 degrees F oven.  Quiches are also good cold or at room temperature if you’re traveling or don’t feel like lighting the oven.

Want a simple, fast,  pat-in-the-pan crust for your baby quiches after all?  Use Krusteaz pancake mix. Recipe here.



serves 12

These oniony potatoes are cooked to a perfect crisp with very browned chewy shreds of Parmesan cheese and garlic.  A little crushed red pepper adds a kick.  To make one-two days ahead, chop onions and cook as in step 2, then chop potatoes and cook only in the microwave. Store separately in the fridge overnight.  Finish the potatoes, frying them with the onions, garlic, and Parmesan cheese(step 3), just before serving.  You’ll need to add a little extra oil to get everything cooking again.

  • 12 medium potatoes, diced, but not peeled (scrub very well with brush)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 tablespoons each butter and olive oil (or more as needed)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place half of the potatoes, seasoned well with black pepper, in a microwave-safe casserole, cover tightly, and microwave at full power for 5 minutes.  Drain potatoes. Repeat with the other half of the potatoes. Drain second batch.

2. In the meanwhile, divide the crushed red pepper, butter, olive oil,  between two large, deep skillets and heat over medium-low heat for 30 seconds; add onions, dividing again between the pans.  Cook 5- 10 minutes, stirring regularly, or until onions are softened. (continued below the photo)


3. Divide the microwaved, drained potatoes potatoes between the skillets and raise the heat to medium.  Season with a  1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pan and cook, stirring regularly, until potatoes are browned and tender–at least another 10 minutes.  Add 1 clove garlic and 1/4 cup parmesan to each pan and cook another 5-8 minutes or until cheese is oh-so-crispy and onions are very brown, bordering on burnt. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Serve hot.

ALYCE’S PUMPKIN BREAD with candied ginger and two peppers

This is a great pumpkin bread pan often available at Williams-Sonoma.  (Design changes year to year.) Any 9×5 pan will do, of course. The recipe also makes lovely muffins:


Make ahead, wrap well, and freeze for up to two weeks.  Defrost overnight without unwrapping.  Serve with softened butter, cream cheese, or butter mixed with a little honey.

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2/3 cup butter, soft (to cut fat, use half apple-sauce–no more than that)
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin ( a can is 15 oz now; add applesauce to complete the  2 c)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup candied ginger, minced
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk, low-fat or fat-free  (can use regular milk instead)
  • 3 1/3 cups unbleached white flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese or Vietnamese cinnamon (I like Penzey’s cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4-1/3 cup salted or unsalted pumpkin seeds (I like salted)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F for bread or 400 for muffins. Grease and flour pans.  For muffins pans, grease only.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together cranberries and boiling water.  Set aside.
  3. With hand-held electric or standing electric mixer, beat together in a large bowl butter, pumpkin, applesauce, eggs, sugar and candied ginger until light and fluffy.  Beat in milk until well-mixed.
  4. On top of the wet ingredients, measure dry ingredients:  flour, soda, baking powder, spices.  Carefully mix just the dry ingredients with a spoon or rubber spatula, trying to avoid mixing the dry ingredients into the wet.  Using electric mixer, beat wet and dry ingredients together until just incorporated.  Don’t over beat.  Drain cranberries well and stir into batter gently.
  5. If desired, sprinkle pumpkin seeds into bottom of prepared pans (9×5) or baby loaf pans (3×5 or similar) or muffin tins.  Use ice cream scoop for muffins.  
  6. For loaves or baby loaf pans, bake at 350 for about an hour or half-hour, respectively.  Test for doneness with a toothpick or skewer; it will come out almost clean when the bread is done.  Leave in pans 5 minutes.  Bang bottoms of pans on board, floor or counter before turning out on to racks carefully to cool completely.   If sticking, use thin, sharp knife to go around edges.  When absolutely cool, wrap well in foil.  Store on counter 1-2 days, in frig for 2-3 days, and in freezer up to 2-3 weeks.
  7. If in muffin tins, bake at 400 F for maybe 15 minutes or until nicely browned and firm to the touch.  Turn out immediately onto metal cooling racks.  Follow storage instructions above, though muffins store well in large plastic containers that are freezer safe.

Cook’s Note:  I began making pumpkin bread years ago with a recipe from FANNY FARMER BAKING BOOK.  It has morphed into this, but Marion Cunningham, one of my idols, gets the credit and remains in my heart as she now surely is busy making the best pancakes ever eaten in heaven.

If Pumpkin Bread doesn’t sound quite right, try this Stollen; it’s miraculous as it uses no yeast and is done so very quickly.  It’s addictive.

Taken at our Colorado house several years ago…


I make a simple stollen (yeast-free) that’s done much more quickly than the traditional loaf and keeps much longer.  Best fresh, but you make it a day ahead and wrap well and store on counter overnight.  I use THIS RECIPE from Susan Westmoreland from GOOD HOUSEKEEPING.  I’m not sure you can beat it and it should be part of your Christmas –if you celebrate it — forever.  Just add butter!

To make further ahead: Do not add powdered sugar right after baking.  Double-wrap it in plastic and foil and freeze a totally cool loaf for no longer than two weeks.  (Leave wrapped while unthawing.) Dust with powdered sugar just before serving. 


Fancy table?  Sure, if that’s your thing.

Paper plates?  Why not once in a while?

Do as you like.

Sing a new song,


Ina Fridays — Appetizers — Marinated Herbed Feta


It seems like just yesterday I was emailing blogging friends to join in a new group-blogging venture called Ina Fridays.  Nearly two years ago, we began to come together monthly to cook just one special dish from Barefoot Contessa recipes, and we’ve been here the first Friday of the month ever since.  Some of us have been regulars; some have been in and out or left the team a bit ago.  All of us have adored having a reason to, just once a month, not be the typical all-on-our-own blogger.  (Blogging can have its lonely moments and we food bloggers need friends!)  Today marks the end of my participation in the group, though some bloggers may continue on.  I may pop in once in a while, but am mostly moving on to other blogging, writing, and cooking opportunities.  I’m grateful for the time we’ve spent together, happy to have gotten to know these fine cook-writers — if only online — and am mostly indebted to all of them for everything I’ve learned from all of the posts.    I’ll miss our monthly gatherings and will look forward to seeing what new food pops up on the blogs.  Many thanks, friends.  Cook on and don’t forget to sing a new song!

Want the recipe for the ginger cookies at the top of the blog?  Click here.

Continue reading

Turkey-Acorn Squash Salad with Apples + Parmesan Dressing



I had no leftover turkey as I traveled for the holiday, but I did have some from the deli and, in need of lunch, made this sweet and savory salad.  It was just the ticket for a day when, after boatloads of family dinners, my jeans were not exactly in their happy place.  This meal is fast, nutritious, figure-friendly, and family-pleasing.  Could you add a little of that leftover cranberry salad or relish off to the side of the plate?  I’m thinking you could.  Happy Giving Tuesday!

STILL HAVE FROZEN TURKEY? Take out a bit, unthaw, and use that.  By the way, your frozen turkey is at its best-tasting for 2-3 months if it’s wrapped properly and stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, according to STILL TASTY DOT COM, my go-to for storage questions.  If it’s in your refrigerator since last Thursday, it’s past time to throw it away; it was good/safe for 3-4 days only.  In fact, even simple vegetables cooked Thanksgiving day and stored in the refrigerator should be tossed after today.  Sad, I know.

IMG_0049 above:  Rosie thinks she’s Alpha



Continue reading

Thanksgiving: Gluten-Free and Vegan–A Buffet for 6 – 8



(above:  Butternut Squash Lasagna–G-F and Vegan–scroll down for recipe)

A small buffet for six or eight is great fun –so few dishes!– and here’s one that will go down well with gluten eating carnivores as well as those who follow gluten-free and vegan lifestyles.  Pass out recipes — or have folks find their own — and make it an easy day for the host.

While I am neither vegan nor on a gluten-free diet, I do often eat Vegan Before Six a la Mark Bittman and boast a daughter-in-law who for the most part eats gluten-free. The idea of a holiday menu that suits both profiles was a challenge I simply had to take because whenever I publish a recipe that is both gluten-free and vegan, I seem to have a really good number of new folks interested.  That means I’m interested, too.

So let me know what you think if you try the recipes or maybe just take one or two to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner so that you can eat without wondering whether or not there’s __________ in that casserole.  Naturally many of the recipes can be used for ONLY vegan meals or ONLY gluten-free meals and you can adjust those ingredients accordingly.  For instance, if you’re not a vegan, you might add grated Parmesan cheese to the lasagna or if you’re not gluten-free, you might use traditional lasagna noodles.  And so on.   Now on to the meal I so hope you enjoy…………

While the meal gets organized, start with music (here’s a prior Thanksgiving’s music post of mine), sparkling wine (Gruet from New Mexico is inexpensive and charming; please do drink American wines for Thanksgiving) and a gorgeous platter of vegetables, olives, dips, crackers (try Mary’s Gone Crackers.) Check wine and any other purchased food labels; most wines will be fine gluten-free options, but you might want to read up on that right HERE. Don’t eat too much because hopefully someone’s made one of my favorite soups for the very first course…

Go around the table (or the living room seats–wherever) and let each guest offer something for which they’re thankful if you’re not in the habit of grace before meals. Offer a toast to those healthy thoughts….thanksgiving is good for the body and soul.

FIRST COURSE SOUPS   Wine: Oregon or Washington Riesling (not too sweet…)

Naturally you might have some bread with these soups if someone’s brought some….Bread sticks or crackers would be nice, too–and not so filling.

Spicy Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Peanuts — 6 first course servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced*
  • 1 medium red onion, minced
  • 1 each:  celery stalk and carrot, minced
  • 4 fresh sage leaves, minced or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin (15-ounce can will work)
  • 4 cups gluten-free vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Heat the oil and garlic for one minute over medium-low heat.  Add vegetables, herbs, salt and pepper; season with 3 drops of hot sauce.  Raise heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender — about 10 minutes. Add pumpkin and broth; bring to boil.  Lower to simmer and cook another 10 or 15 minutes.

Stir in milk and heat through. Optional: purée using an immersion blender or carefully in batches in the blender or food processor.  Taste; adjust seasonings.  Serve hot garnished with peanuts.

*If you have  a food processor, use it to mince all of the vegetables at once. Continue reading

Slow Cooker Green Chili Beef Stew with Bacon on Cheddar Potatoes




I cooked Monday for Inter-Faith Hospitality network (IHN) families; it’s something I’ve done for years at more than one church.  It’s a way of living life that makes a lot of sense to me; I like to cook and there are people who need dinner.  Here in Colorado Springs at First Congregational Church, we bring already cooked or nearly finished complete meals to a church kitchen where families without physical homes gather, eat dinner with us, and then spend the night.  A group of churches and temples work together and the homeless people spend a week at one place and then move to another while awaiting jobs and/or permanent housing.  It gives all of the congregations a chance to participate without burdening any one financially or otherwise with the full-time housing of the ever-changing group.

Typically, but not always, a dinner coordinator makes contact a couple of months ahead and asks what I’d like to make; for other churches there’s a set menu for each week.  The families aren’t the same, so it doesn’t matter if there’s meat loaf on Monday and chicken with rice on Tuesdays, etc. every time.  That gives the dinner coordinator a repeating group of  tasks that the volunteers become used to.  For instance, if I’m a shopping volunteer, I might know that every two months I’ll make a run to Costco for fresh milk, ground beef, chicken pieces, broccoli, spinach, etc.  Once a year, I might need to buy paper napkins and cocoa mix. If I’m a cooking volunteer and I’m scheduled for Wednesday, I know I’ll be making baked potatoes with toppings.  I find I like both options, though the latter gives me time to spend with other volunteers cooking in the kitchen rather than fixing food on my own at home.

IMG_6894 Continue reading

Curried Broccoli-Almond Brown Rice Salad–Gluten Free and Vegan for Thanksgiving


IMG_6886I’ve been dreaming about a gluten-free and vegan Thanksgiving dinner for the blog.  Not that I truly follow either diet totally (thought I eat vegan quite a bit for health reasons); I simply want the challenge.   Either direction is simpler than both together, as anyone who’s tried to make both vegan and gluten-free bread will tell you.  While I’ve got several recipes in-process, I thought it might be fun to have more than one entree or main dish. As it was Dinner on the Grounds at First Congregational Church in Colorado Springs — the time when we celebrate our congregation’s giving and commitments — I made this quick brown rice and broccoli dish for the meal.  While it might feel like a salad, and perhaps it technically is, I think it’s hefty enough to fill you up for days!  This recipe makes a big bowlful and is enough for 12 side servings or maybe 8 as a main dish.  Even if you don’t eat gluten free or vegan, you’ll like this healthy and tasty dish.  I was very sad to see there was none left to take home.

how you might change it up……

I used currants in the dish, but feel free to substitute dried cranberries for a more festive Thanksgiving table. Raisins or chopped figs or dates would be fine, too; I just like the tiny sweetness of the currants myself.  There’s no garlic, though you might add some –no more than a single finely minced single clove unless you cook it with the rice. Minced celery could be an addition to increase the crunch factor. Walnuts or pecans could replace the sliced almonds; toast them in a dry skillet over low flame for 6 or 7 minutes.  Could you use white rice?  Sure; brown rice has more protein, though, which is a big consideration for a vegan dish. Wild rice would be glorious, I’d think. Carnivores:  Throw in a couple of cups chopped chicken or leftover turkey.

This morning I’m cooking a big pot of beef-vegetable soup for Inter-Faith Hospitality Network (IHN), which is a group of local churches that houses and feeds homeless families, as well as helps them find jobs and permanent homes.  I’ve been cooking these meals for many years now and not much feels better when you love to be in the kitchen like I do. Dave will go with me and we’re working with the folks from Temple Shalom. This time we have a companion dog, too; I get to bring dog treats!

Try this:


12 side servings  or  6-8 main dish servings

  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • Extra-virgin olive oil –can sub canola oil
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 10 scallions, minced – white and green parts
  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds cooked broccoli florets
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, plus extra for garnish
  • Red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup dried black currants or 1/2 cup dried cranberries, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt

In a medium pot, heat water to boiling; add rice with a drizzle of olive oil and a few grinds of pepper.  Lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook 45 minutes or until tender.  While still hot, add 1/4 cup olive oil, the cooked broccoli, and almonds. Stir well and drizzle with 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

Stir in currants, curry powder (start with 1/2 teaspoon, adding more to taste), crushed red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix well. Taste and readjust seasonings, including curry powder.  Add an extra drizzle or two of vinegar and/or oil to moisten and season if needed. You might also want to add more  almonds or currants to taste; I liked the dish garnished with extra for looks and flavor.

Serve immediately at room temperature.  You can also cover the dish well, refrigerate overnight, bring to room temperature, and serve the next day.  If the rice seems dry, moisten using a tablespoon or two of olive oil and stir well.

(Below:  Rosie and Tucker taking a nap while I made the beef stock this morning and granddaughter Piper doing a little dance to her own beat.)


Piper dancing to her own beat!󾌬

Sing a new song,



Ina Fridays — Desserts — Make Ahead Zabaglione with Amaretti



On the first Friday of each month, I blog Ina Garten recipes with a fine group of writer-cooks.  Scroll down to the bottom for links to the other posts and come back the next next month  for December appetizers. See you then!


If you’re an Ina Garten fan, you wait for the next cookbook like cheese waits for crackers…or actually, that might be “crusty bread” or “good baguette” if you’re Ina-smart.  I was sure; I would have sworn I preordered this book.  After all, I have tickets to see Ina in Denver on November 19 while she’s on the book tour. I’ve pushed it on this very blog. (No, I get no cash from Ina.)


 Why wouldn’t I have preordered it?  Day after day I watched the front porch to no avail. Finally I checked my amazon orders and there WAS NO INA ON ORDER! *$%&#  Quick like a bunny, I punched it in with free shipping; I’m amazon prime.  It arrived just in the nick of time for Ina Fridays and a Lasagna alla Bolognese birthday dinner I’m cooking for friends Saturday night.  Phew.  Et voila,



If you’d like the recipe, it’s on Ina’s website here. (Kind of a surprise.) And, of course, if you’d like to buy the book, click here or go to amazon, which you knew. Continue reading

One Pan-Pork Chops with Potatoes, Onions, Squash, and Apples




A dear friend of mine named Joyce once wrote a card — one of many she’s sent over the years — and mentioned she was still making my pork chop with potatoes and apples supper.  I vaguely remembered that meal, but it was one of those quick meals I never bothered to write down.  These days I keep a cooking journal and so have records of meals or at least titles and approximate amounts.   (Well, I’m supposed to anyway.  Since the kitchen remodel I’m still finding things.  Do you know where the lids are for my small Pyrex dishes?  Or my good silver??)


Late Friday afternoon found me cooking up two big pots of Pumpkin-Chicken Chili *-- one for us to share with neighbors and one for me to have in the DACOR kitchen at Shouse Appliance on Saturday.  I needed to make a vat of pinto beans laced with bacon, so those were bubbling away on another burner.  Enter Dave sniffing around for dinner.IMG_6813

(Apple-Cheddar Salad recipe here.)

Since I didn’t want him to overdose on chili, I got out my big sauté pan — it’s about 5 quarts — and threw in a few quickly sliced potatoes, onions, and apples.  On the counter was a yellow (summer) squash that had seen better days.  I sliced it and threw that in, too.  After those goodies were about half-way tender, I shoved them to the side of the pan and added some oiled and seasoned pork chops.  Lid on and dinner was done by the time I set the table and Dave opened a bottle of Pinot Noir.

*If you ate this chili in the Dacor kitchen, it differs from the recipe in three ways: I used beer instead of wine and added cooked Italian sausage as well as the bacon in the beans.


Above: I had the pups all “dressed” for Halloween and a big bowl of candy. We had two trick-or-treaters. The name Rosie seems to be sticking, despite my love for “Mara,” and all the other wonderful suggestions we’ve received.  I think it’s because I like to sing this old song to her.  This  morning I found her asleep on my feet while I was checking email.  She’s doing wonderfully well, though we’re still working hard on house training. Puppies.


 Happy Fall cooking…

Below:  Rosie practicing “Come” with Dave in the front yard.



SERVES 2    —   Easily doubled

There is enough of the potato mixture to serve another day with eggs or you might be able to stretch it to serve four if you can fit four chops in your pan and serve a green vegetable or salad as a side.  The wine or water makes just a little sauce to keep it all moist.

To a large, deep skillet or sauté pan heated over medium-high flame, add 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil along with 3 sliced potatoes, 1 large sliced onion, 1 sliced yellow (summer) squash, and 1 cored and sliced apple.  Season generously with seasoned or kosher salt, pepper, and a good pinch of crushed red pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes or so until all are at least half-way tender. Push the potato mixture to the sides of the pan to make room for the chops.

Add 2 thick bone-in pork chops you’ve brushed with oil and seasoned well with salt, pepper, and a good pinch of dried thyme.  Cook until the chops are well- browned on one side and turn over to brown the other side.  Stir the vegetables and apples, pour in 1/4 cup white wine*, then cover and reduce heat until everything is tender.  Use an instant-read thermometer to check the chops for doneness. They should read 145 degrees.  Let dinner rest in pan five minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot garnished with the grated zest of one lemon.

*Can sub water or chicken broth for wine. For a more smoothly silky sauce, dab in a tablespoon of butter as well.


Sing a new song; cook some pork chops,


Butternut Squash-Black Bean Soup in the Microwave in 15 Minutes


IMG_6791Could you make this in a pot?  Of course, but it would take longer.

Could you make more of it?  Certainly, cook on.

But if you’re in a hurry for a fast, healthy meal when it’s cold outside and you’ve got nothing ready, this is for you.  Garnish it as you see fit and be happy in your tummy tonight.


Above:  Meet Rosie! She sort of jumped in the car and came home with us from Pueblo last night. (Not really:)  13-week old Labradoodle, she slept throughout the night without crying.  Of course she did steal Tucker’s bed — right next to our bed — to do it.  About 1 am, he snuck into it with her.  Otherwise Tuck’s nose is just a tish out of joint.  Watch for Rosie’s upcoming adventures. P.S.  Rosie  is her litter name.  We might rename her.  Ideas for names for a very black, wiry-haired dog with a beautiful temperament and tons of patience for a pup would be entertained! Leave in comments or on my fb page.


If you have a food processor, pulse the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and spices in the bowl fitted with the steel blade until finely minced.  You could easily sub pumpkin for the butternut squash or cooked brown rice for the beans if that’s more appealing.    

Makes 5-6  1-cup servings or 2 2 1/2-cup servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (needn’t be extra virgin)
  • 3 each carrots and celery stalks, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon each:  ground cumin, crushed red pepper and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: grated ginger and kosher salt
  • 15-ounce can cooked, mashed butternut squash or a 12-ounce box of frozen mashed Winter Squash, or 2 cups pureed  butternut squash
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 or 2 15-ounce can drained black beans or 2 -3 cups homemade black beans
  • Sour cream, Greek yogurt, or a drizzle of cream for garnish, optional

In an 8-cup glass measuring cup or similarly-sized microwave-safe bowl, stir together the olive oil and minced carrots, celery, onion and garlic with the ginger, cumin, peppers, and salt.  Cover* and microwave on full power for 2 minutes. Uncover, stir, and cook another minute or two until nearly tender.

Stir the squash and broth into the cooked vegetables and spices and mix well.  Cover again and microwave on high 5 minutes.

Uncover carefully and stir in the black beans. (If you’d like, purée it before adding the beans using an immersion blender in the bowl or carefully in batches in the regular blender. Hold blender top down with a towel.) Cover a last time and microwave on high 2 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.**  Serve hot with a drizzle of sour cream, yogurt, cream, or crushed tortilla chips for garnish, if desired.

*Plastic wrap works, but so will a microwave-safe dinner plate if it will fit in your microwave.  Some of the newer 8-cup Pyrex glass measuring cups have their own lids.

**A little more ginger gives it quite the zing you might love. If you’re a zinger, that is.


I often sign my books, very truthfully:

Cook soup all year long for health, wealth, and happiness…

Sing a new song; love a new puppy,



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers