New Year’s Day Brunch for Eight

Do you want to just sleep away New Year’s Day?

Maybe you want coffee and coffee and coffee and coffee… and maybe a football game later. Much later.

But if you’d like a touching, warm beginning for the New Year (and, honey, it really is 2010), this sweet and savory meal is for you. You might not need anything else the rest of the day.. especially if you don’t make it until 3pm. Smile.

I’m praying your Christmas and Hanukkah were great… This is just the eighth day of Christmas; did I do the math right?

8 maids a milking……………… Whoa. Just the thought makes my hands hurt.

Our tree stays up for the 12 days of Christmas. When the wise men arrive on January 6 is when I’m comfortable beginning to take down an ornament or two. Why not give it it’s full due?

Epiphany is an incredible season of its own. I love the word


Look it up and read the definitions. You need an epiphany; I know. I do, too.

Meantime, the menu.

Pomegranate Sparkler
Fresh Fruit Salad
Balsamic Fried Tomatoes
Sweet Potato and Black Forest Ham Frittata
Whole wheat toast/butter and jam
Stollen (an easy one)
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

Recipes are in the order in which you should make them………
Make your coffee just how you like it. Make lots.


Into each of eight flutes, pour equal amounts of pomegranate juice and champagne or cava (an inexpensive and super Spanish sparkler) or prosecco. No New Year’s Resolutions needed.
A few frozen raspberries or cranberries in the bottom of the glasses add a dash of seasonal red.

2 loaves. Each serves 8-10.
Great to make ahead and freeze. This recipe makes two. Keep one for later or take one to a friend. This is an easy stollen… not to worry about a thing. If you can make banana bread, this is just a T-tiny step above. No yeast. The original recipe that I’ve changed over a couple of years and bakings at sea level and at altitude came from Susan Westmoreland @ GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, linked here.

2 c ricotta cheese
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
2 c dried tart cherries (other dried fruit works)
1 c toasted walnuts, chopped roughly
2 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
4 lrg eggs (use extra large at altitude)

4 2/3 c unbleached white flour
1 c white, granulated sugar
3 t baking powder
1/2 t kosher salt
Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease two large, rimmed cookie sheets or baking pans.
Mix together ricotta, cherries, nuts, vanilla, lemon peel and eggs. Set aside.
In food processor, mix (using steel blade) flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Cut in cold butter and process until meal-like. Pour flour mixture into a large bowl. Mix in ricotta mixture by hand until the dough hangs together.
Do try this at home…………….or ask kids to help. They aren’t afraid of bread!
You’ll have a lovely dough by now and you need to turn it out onto a floured board or counter and divide it in half. With floured hands, gently knead each piece of dough about three times. With floured rolling pin, roll one piece of dough into 10” by 8” oval. Fold oval lengthwise, bringing top half over or that the bottom of dough extends by one inch. Repeat for second
piece of dough.

Pat /roll out; roll over…….Place each stollen on a prepared baking sheet. Bake about an hour until lightly browned and toothpick placed in center of bread comes out clean. Transfer bread to wire racks and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar. Slice as desired. 1 1/2 inches is good serving.
Wrap extra stollen in double layer of foil and freeze or deliver to friend.


Cut up 2 cups each of four of your favorite winter fruits and mix well in large bowl. If desired, mix in 1/2 c sour cream and top with shredded coconut.

Suggestions: Apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, pineapples…….Whatever’s good at your market!


Slice two large tomatoes and saute them in a little oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add 2 T top-quality balsamic vinegar and cook 1-2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and serve with frittata.

2T olive oil
2 small red potatoes, chopped roughly
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2# asparagus, chopped (remove bottom couple of inches)
1/4# Black Forest ham, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 eggs, well beaten
1 c Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large (12-14″) skillet, measure oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add both kinds of potatoes and onions. Saute until tender, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Add asparagus and ham and saute until the crisp has just worn off the asparagus. Add beaten eggs and cook, stirring, for five minutes or so, stirring often. When the eggs are about half-cooked, add Gruyere cheese and place in oven. Bake until crispy and the eggs are set to your liking. Turn pan over onto large cutting board and shower with Parmesan. Cut into 8 pieces and let your friends or family serve themselves. (While frittata bakes, make your toast.)

Share with someone you love!
Happy New Year, friends………….as you sing any new or “auld” song,

Alyce–Could there be anything better leftover? Add a little butter.

Ginger Cookies and Merry Christmas!


Before we begin with ginger cookies, a huge and wonderful Christmas cookie hug to all who participated in DROP IN AND DECORATE. I think we had 14 dozen incredible sugar, gingerbread and chocolate cut-out cookies, decorated to the nines, for our local Bridge, An Assisted Living Center. We tasted, we decorated, we had dinner, we played, we sang, we laughed and we got to be better friends. Perfect thanks to Lydia Walshin of The Perfect Pantry for the super idea (now in the eighth year) of holiday fun and “doin’ good.”
Lydia tells me she’ll include a pic and a few sentences on the website after the first of the year. Eyes peeled. And: Let’s do it next year!

Continue reading

Drop in and Decorate





SOUP BREAD BUTTER WINE (vegeterian lentil and chili con carne)


What a great time we had! We began decorating at 4pm and the last neighbor wandered back over for one more glass of wine about 9. We had

Three kinds of cookies:

Three kinds of icing (with food coloring for lots of colors- if you desired)

Regular (buttercream)
15 sprinkles (maybe more) We even had pearls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Crushed Peppermint
Grated Chocolate
Altogether, we decorated about 14 dozen cookies for “The Bridge,” an assisted living community here in Colorado Springs. Cookies will be delivered tomorrow.
Pics posted and then, loved ones, I’m in bed and ready for a 6am departure to Florida.

Gabby had a great time. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…………………………………

Merry Christmas! Enjoy!!
Eat a new cookie,

Drop in and Decorate! Monday, December 14, 2009


What an incredible evening! Fun, Friends, Food……. and COOKIES, CAROLS & COOKIES!!!

Here’s a sampling of COOKIES and food::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

We will decorate three types of cookies:

Plain old Sugar Cookies from Fannie Farmer’s Baking Book
Gingerbread People (from same) and Chocolate Cutouts (Martha Stewart)

We have several colors of icing and 15 different “sprinkles.” We’ll even have “pearls.”

Cookies are to be donated to The Bridge (Assisted Living Center).

Please take a few to someone you know who no longer bakes. I have cellophane bags available.

Dinner: Your choice of Chili or Vegetarian Lentil Soup
French Bread from MARIGOLD’S CAFE
Wine: A-Z Riesling (Oregon)
Zinfandel (California)

Cocoa and
Coffee with, what else for dessert, your own decorated cookie!

Is there anything like a decorated cookie? Or any cookie cut into shapes? They’re just plain old fun. Enjoy the following poem………… It makes me think of Christmas Cookies.

Animal Crackers became such a part of American life that Christopher Morley (1890-1957), American humorist, playwright, poet, essayist, and editor, wrote the following poem:

Animal Crackers
by Christopher Morley

Animal crackers and cocoa to drink,
That is the finest of suppers I think;
When I’m grown up and can have what I please
I think I shall always insist upon these.
What do YOU choose when you’re offered a treat?
When Mother says, “What would you like best to eat?”
Is it waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast?
It’s cocoa and animals that I love most!
The kitchen’s the coziest place that I know;
The kettle is singing, the stove is aglow,
And there in the twilight, how jolly to see
The cocoa and animals waiting for me.
Daddy and Mother dine later in state,
With Mary to cook for them, Susan to wait;
But they don’t have nearly as much fun as I
Who eat in the kitchen with Nurse standing by;
And Daddy once said, he would like to be me —
Having cocoa and animals once more for tea!

I’m on the way to Florida on Tuesday to bake with my sister for a few days. I’ll be back in time to make my wine group brunch, to do a clam sauce dinner for close friends, cassoulet on the 24th and so on. I’ll attempt to blog it all, but probably won’t accomplish it! Enjoy your holiday baking and cooking; it’s no chore. Share it all, my friends.

Until then, enjoy your Advent journey………
Walk, don’t run, to the stable. You’ll have more time to pray.

Sing a new carol………….Listen to all of the old ones……Plan on church for Christmas Eve……

Pot Roast and Next-Day Soup or Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

First Day–

Later from the freezer…a break from cooking over the holidays………..

We don’t have many below-zero days in southern Colorado. In fact, our superior weather is one of our best-kept secrets. (“Oh, you have all that cold and so much snow,” is what non-residents often say. Mum’s the word on 350 days of sunshine a year.) But this week, Gabby goes out to do her business and beats it back in soooooooo quickly. Wouldn’t you? It was -8F yesterday morning when my feet hit the floor. And that after a day and night of snow and blow. Had to leave the faucet dripping in the mudroom or we might have had, like many, broken pipes. A furnace bought last year has kept the house at 65, but we had to stay away from the windows!

Tracks are from two lost dogs……

We also had a trio of bobcats visiting our yard (before second snow) for the second time this year. The mama (I think) weighed in at about 40 pounds, I’d guess. Two spotted younger ones at 25-30. Life here is beautiful, but it’s cautiously beautiful. You can barely see the mom? in the center of the yard near the little fence before the snow began; she blends right in. No amount of fooling around in the photo program improved the pic.

The resident neighborhood bear has, I think, hibernated. Well, she should have anyway! Our garbage remains undisturbed and that’s one sign of no bears.

Meantime, Advent cookie baking continues for DROP IN AND DECORATE, coming up on Monday, December 14, 4-7pm. Looking forward to decorating some great cookies with all of you (rsvp if you haven’t already) … The Bridge, a local assisted-living facility, is the lucky recipient of your good work. SEE YOU SOON!!

While it’s so cold, I thought you might like a good pot roast and next-day beef-vegetable soup recipe. We’ve enjoyed it for a few days and have shared with neighbors who haven’t gotten out in the weather either. You could freeze the soup for a quick holiday-time meal when your family’s in town and you’d rather play cards than stay in the kitchen. Stop by your favorite bakery and pick up best-quality bread, double-wrap in aluminum foil and freeze with the soup. To reheat soup, place up-side down container in sink under hot water until soup “pops.” Place in large crockpot and let unthaw on low all day. For bread, place frozen, wrapped loaf in 350F preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Unwrap and slice. Splurge on a little butter.

Butternut Squash Pot Roast

4-5# chuck roast (or any pot roast)

4T gluten-free flour mixture, divided (fine to use regular flour)

2 large onions, sliced

2T canola oil

2-3 c red wine

2 c gluten-free beef broth (or regular broth)

1# butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3-4″ pieces

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces

3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-2″ pieces

5-6 sprigs fresh thyme or tsp dried thyme; 2 lrg sprigs rosemary or 1/2 tsp dried

Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper

1/4-1/3 c water

Heat oil over medium-high heat in dutch oven or stockpot. Cover roast with 2T gluten-free flour mix and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Don’t be stingy with seasoning this big piece of meat. Brown meat well on one side for several minutes. Turn meat and add sliced onions. When second side in nicely browned, add wine and broth. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 2 hours (or place on low in crockpot for 6 hours after adding vegetables below).

When meat is just beginning to be a little tender, add vegetables, thyme and rosemary to the pot for the last hour of cooking. When everything is fork tender, remove meat and vegetables to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

Skim extra fat from top of drippings in the pot. To a 1 c glass measuring cup, add about 1/4-1/3 c cold water. Whisk in other 2T gluten-free (or regular) flour mix. Whisk the flour/water slurry into the drippings and bring to a boil for about 2 minutes until gravy is thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over meat and vegetables.
Beef Vegetable Soup for Next Day or for Freezer

2 large onions, diced
1 c celery, diced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
2 T olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Bay leaves
Kosher Salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 qts gluten-free chicken broth
1 qt gluten-free beef broth
1 qt water
Leftover gravy
32 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 c fresh, frozen or canned green beans
1 c finely chopped cabbage
1 c fresh root vegetables or winter squash (Iused leftover parsnips and butternut squash)*
Leftover root vegetables from pot roast meal
2 c leftover pot roast meat, cut into 1″ pieces
1 c small pasta such as tubetti or elbow macaroni, gluten-free if needed
Hot Sauce to taste

In a 10-12 qt stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and add onions, celery and carrots. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring often, and add garlic and bay. Saute briefly and season with salt and pepper. Add remaining ingredients; stir well. Bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer until vegetables are nearly tender, adding water or extra broth as necessary to keep soup from becoming too thick. Add tubetti and continue to simmer until pasta is tender. Season with a few drops (to your taste) of hot sauce and more salt and pepper if needed. Cool completely and ladle into large freezer container. Freeze for up to one month.
*Potatoes or sweet potatoes would work as well.

Wine: Cotes du Rhone
Dessert: Peppermint Ice cream, of course

Stay warm; stay well. Keep your Advent journey well-fed. If you share your Advent plate, it won’t get too full. It’s a crazy season. Pick the couple of things you like most to do and skip the rest. Turn down the lights; put the candles on. Invite your friends and family. They won’t see the dust. They don’t care anyway; they just need to know you want to be with them. Ok, wipe down the bathroom sink if you have to.


Advent Listening: We try to change out our cds daily to listen to different music every dinner. Three on the stereo right now are

THE HOLLY AND THE IVY Clare College Choir/John Rutter



Gabby wants to know if I’ll post a picture of her and her new friend, Anna ( who recently adopted some good human friends of ours):

Gab and Anna, seeing who has the best Christmas outfit………………. Or —-

Anna says,“Not the Mama!”

Sing a new carol; Dave and I have written one. New problem: how to share it on the blog..


Lemon Chard Chicken or Cooking for One in One Pan

First–an update on DROP IN AND DECORATE:

You can see I had some great help over the past couple of days and am much closer to being ready for DROP IN AND DECORATE, coming up at my house on Monday afternoon, December 14, 4-7pm. If you haven’t heard about it yet, DROP IN is a nation-wide program to bring people together decorating cookies for nursing homes, group homes and so on. You can check out the last blog on this site for complete details and a little history of the eight-year program.

My lovely young helpers worked all day Saturday making dough, cutting out cookies and baking them in my wondrous oven with three racks. We kept the music coming for hours and took a great break at Poor Richard’s on Tejon for pizza midday. Many thanks to Heather and Joshua, who are already excellent bakers thanks to their Mom and Grandma. We even had enough cookies for me to take a tray to a party last night. Can’t wait to see you with bells on, ready to sling some icing and red and green sugar around the kitchen, while playing and singing (or listening to) heart-warming homemade Christmas music from students and friends.
Apologies for photos; my camera died. These are from my cell.
— — — —

Meantime, a girl has to eat. This week, I cooked up another single pan dinner luscious for one or two people. I’ve had a couple of friends ask me lately about cooking for one and realize that most folks, even if they are cooks, do not like the idea of cooking for themselves. If you don’t believe this, think about the number of pre-made meals now available in grocery stores everywhere. Think about the shopping carts you’ve seen fairly full of frozen, microwave dinners. EEck. The pre-made meals are expensive and really, are they young or old? I mean, who knows? And who knows what’s in them? The microwave low-calorie meals are cheap, but they taste like microwave, low-calorie meals. Why not cook a little? You really don’t have to cook much. You do have to take the time to shop for yourself, but could go twice a week and make do. You’re worth it. And, you surely could always invite a friend or neighbor if you don’t like eating alone. (I’ve come to enjoy it and savor the time to listen to music or read quietly.)

I have a number of simple meals for singles or duos on the blog, but need to go back and make sure I’ve tagged all of them appropriately. The category is called Cooking for One or Two, which can also be for one with leftovers, of course. With this post, I also will begin tagging meals Gluten-Free thanks to a lovely young woman I re-met at a party last night. I cook and post Gluten-Free often, but have not been awake and aware enough to create a tag until now.

On to the Lemon Chard Chicken. While this sounds like fine summer fare, I ate it one night when it was about ten degrees. (It’s 17 degrees F and snowing right now.) It’s light, refreshing and the chicken makes for great sandwiches next day. The recipe makes enough for leftovers and sandwiches for one or just plenty for two people. Do not forget to eat the sauteed lemons; they are sweet and succulent and nothing like raw lemons. Yes, you, too, can put a “smile” of lemon in your mouth and suck on it. Really.

Cook’s Note: Set table, light candles and pour wine first; this cooks very quickly.
Wine: I had an open bottle of Joel Gott Zinfandel, which paired nicely. A light Chardonnay would also be tasty. Perhaps even a Sauvignon Blanc. On a cold winter’s night, stick to the zin, my friends.

Dessert: Well, at my house there are plenty of cookies right now. Why not bake some for sharing? Ok, get a roll of refrigerator sugar cookies from the grocery if you don’t want to bake. Why not?


1T olive oil
1/2 large onion, sliced
1 stalks celery, sliced thinly
1/2 lemon, cut into 1/4s
Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
3-4 skinned boneless chicken breasts
Large bunch Swiss Chard, big stems removed, sliced 1/2″ thick
1/2 c cherry tomatoes, cut in half (save 1/4 c for garnish)

In a large (12 or 14″ diameter) skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and celery and saute for 10-12 minutes until nearly tender. Meantime, wipe down chicken breasts with paper towel and season well with salt and pepper. Moving vegetables to the sides of the pan, add chicken and lemons. Brown chicken well on one side and turn over. Add chard on top of other vegetables and stir gently. Season vegetables with salt and pepper. As chard wilts, after 2-3 minutes, add half of the cherry tomatoes. Cook until chicken is just cooked through and chard is nicely wilted. Plate and top chard with rest of fresh tomatoes. (Don’t forget the lemon!)

Stay warm and well on your walk to the stable this year, if that is your tradition. Hear all the music you can. Remember to take a few cds to your car or download some great holiday tunes to your I-pod. Find time to sit and watch the “Christmas” trees full of snow out your window. Bundle up and walk, taking part in what Barbara Brown Taylor calls “the spiritual practice of putting one foot in front of another…” Take a friend to lunch, meet another for coffee, smile at the tired store clerks and thank them warmly with your great smile. Go to free concerts. Make “fast fudge” and eat some. Where’s that recipe of your grandmother’s that you’ve been going to make forever? This is the year. Don’t wait. Weren’t you finally going to try baking some yeast bread? Today. New cookies from a December magazine? Is this the year you’ll take a day off to cook a couple of holiday meals and put them in the freezer?
Sing a new carol; bake a new something______; light your eyes, loved ones,

Drop in and Decorate

.Bake whatever you like to bake.. But they MUST be cookies!!! —

It’s a great time of year to gather your friends and do something great together… This year, I’m hosting a cookie decorating event (soup supper included). Folks all over the country are doing the same things as part of the “Drop in and Decorate” event, begun eight years ago by Lydia Walshin of The Perfect Pantry. (information below.)

My fun time –and I hope you’ll be part of it!– is:

Monday, December 14, 4pm-7pm– Alyce’s House

Piano students and friends are invited to come decorate some (already baked) cookies to be donated to a local assisted living center for Christmas. I’ll have a pot of soup on the stove for a light supper. We’ll share some Christmas music… You can sing or play or just listen!!!

If you’d like to come and haven’t heard from me already, drop me an email and I’ll give you the details. I do need rsvps so I know how many cookies to bake. I have some small helpers coming this weekend to cut and bake with me; I hope we don’t eat them all!!

Read the blurb below to learn how it all got started.
Why not gather a few friends or family members and decorate?
Don’t like to bake from scratch? Get some rolls of sugar cookies and pre-made icing at the grocery. Go for it. Someone wants your cookies!!!!
Sing a carol or two as you bake for someone,

Event Information:

Lydia Walshin of The Perfect Pantry is a woman with lots of good ideas and so many of them do lots of good, like her brainchild, Drop In & Decorate, which is now in its eighth year.
The program is brilliant and fun: Bake a bunch of cookies, invite your friends to come decorate them with you and then donate the cookies to a nonprofit group in your community. As Lydia says, “It’s a simple idea in a complicated world and something anyone can do.”
This year, Pillsbury is donating 50 VIP coupons, worth $3.00 each off any Pillsbury product to be distributed (first come, first served while supply lasts) to anyone who plans to host a Drop In & Decorate event. And Lydia says she’ll include a Comfort Grip cookie cutter, donated by Wilton, to people who plan to host cookies-for-donation events.
Contact Lydia ( ) for information on free coupons and cookie cutters.
Visit The Perfect Pantry to find out more about Lydia and all that she does.
Go to the Drop In & Decorate site to download a free guide to hosting your own party.
And, most important: Have fun!