Christmas Breakfast Casserole with a Za’atar Bloody Mary

Christmas Breakfast Casserole with a Za’atar Bloody Mary

Turn on a “Cozy Christmas Coffee Shop … Christmas Jazz Music…” while you read.

Christmas breakfast should be, without a doubt, nearly carefree. That being said, it must also be delectable, desirable, and delightful all the while taking care of itself while you open gifts, listen to A CHRISTMAS CAROL, or zoom with the family or friends. Egg breakfast or brunch casseroles — also known as stratas — fit the bill perfectly and are endlessly adaptable to ingredients on hand. This bacon (ham? sausage? veggie crumbles? chorizo?) version topped with brightly colored chopped peppers (mushrooms? tomatoes? jalapeños? zucchini? fennel?) provides six or eight servings but is also perfect for a smaller group who also might enjoy leftovers. That would be us. Though we are rarely at home alone for Christmas, we are this year as are many people all over the world. We’ll make our brunch dish a day ahead, of course, bake it on Christmas morning, and enjoy it over the whole weekend. We might even freeze a couple of pieces for an easy weekend brunch in January.

Serving one? Halve the recipe, which works perfect in an 8 or 9-inch square casserole dish. Relish for a couple of days, share, or freeze.

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Nutcracker Granola

Nutcracker Granola

When you invite someone to go to “The Nutcracker,” it goes without saying it’ll be one of the events of the season complete with everyone dressed in their best holiday duds and ready for a yummy tea or fancy dinner before or after. It’s a special occasion and worth every bit of the extra effort it takes to get little girls’ hair tied up with ribbons or talking the teenager into some shoes besides banged up sneakers or clunker boots — even if you’re watching from the comfort of your own couch this year:

Your Guide to Streaming “The Nutcracker” in 2020/PLAYBILL

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Lorna’s Peppermint Stars

Lorna’s Peppermint Stars

You will never walk into my house to find me without cookies. If they’re not sitting there in plain sight, they’ll be found in the door of the freezer frozen and ready for the exact moment when the ice cold glass of milk is poured. This is, after all, Colorado, where cookies turn into hockey pucks 30 minutes after they’ve hit the cooling rack. I’m not particularly a cookie monster, but those of you who know him well recognize I’m married to one. And one truth I’ll share is this: I love to bake cookies. There’s a sweet comfort to the rhythm and rhyme of beating up butter and sugar, a zen atmosphere when time is suspended as they bake (I can’t answer the phone/let the cat in/check your homework; I’m baking cookies), and the perfect control I exhibit when they’re cooling (I’ll will slap your hand with this wooden spoon if you grab one while they’re still that hot. They must set, for God’s sake.)

Listen to HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS/The McCallans while you read or bake.

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Salmon Puttanesca

Salmon Puttanesca

Bright, briny, and brilliantly bolstered with happy heat, Pasta Puttanesca is a favorite amongst cooks short on time and big on hunger. Garlicky tomatoes, onions, salty anchovies, olives and capers, along with herbs and a little wine for good measure, all come together quickly in a hot pot and are typically ladled on top of a bowl of steaming pasta topped with grated cheese and fresh parsley or basil. If you’ve made the sauce and had a little leftover in the fridge, you know it’s also good next morning on grilled bread or scrambled eggs or even just cold in your spoon.

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Cornish Hens with Cranberry Cornbread-Brown Rice Dressing:  Thanksgiving for One or Two

Cornish Hens with Cranberry Cornbread-Brown Rice Dressing: Thanksgiving for One or Two

Printable recipe and an “Elevator” Version below

I always forget about Cornish hens and then when I make them, I can’t believe I let so much time go by without putting these festive little birds on the menu. They’re quick, inexpensive, and versatile — especially when you’re cooking for one or two for Thanksgiving. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of a bunch of side dishes, you can even cook your potatoes and vegetables such as carrots, onions, halved Brussels sprouts, chunks of zucchini, or diced butternut squash right in the pan with them. I include directions for the easy carrots and spinach from the photo in the printable recipe. And even cooler is the simple pan sauce stirred up in the roasting pan while the hens rest and you pour the wine. No Good Gravy! worries. While a one-pan Thanksgiving always sounds nigh unto impossible, you can actually do it if that’s your druthers. That’s an easy clean up, too. On your own this year? I’d still advise cooking two Cornish hens … you want leftovers, right? I mean, the best part of Thanksgiving is the I-don’t-have-to-cook next day sandwich with mayo on white bread. Right after the pumpkin pie for breakfast, that is. Don’t skip the whipped cream.

Check out Perdue Farms’ THE ULTIMATE GUIDE/How to Cook Cornish Hens if you’d like to grill, slow cook, fry, smoke or…your birds.

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Sweet Potato Soup

Sweet Potato Soup

At our house, marshmallows are saved for hot chocolate when our daughter Emily is home. I’ve never put them on sweet potatoes, though if someone else served up that inescapable casserole, I’d be polite and have a bite or two. I offer up an apology to all those gooey-sweet sweet potato fans out there and make mine the way I like them, which is thoroughly mashed up with butter, sherry, just a little brown sugar, and eggs. Top that with walnuts and bake a half hour while the bird rests and I’m in Thanksgiving heaven. The recipe is called a soufflé, but I’d say that’s stretching it. Leftovers, are, of course, perfect spooned up cold right out of the refrigerator or heated up in a skillet with a fried egg cooked in the center.

Sweet Potato Soufflé with Sherry and Walnuts/Cooks.com

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One-Pan Thanksgiving Sides: Easy is as Easy Does

One-Pan Thanksgiving Sides: Easy is as Easy Does

Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite holiday. There’s no gift buying or wrapping, little decorating except the table, and it’s all about the food and wine. I’ve cooked for two times twenty and I’ve cooked for two, loved both and everything in between.

Table-Thanksgiving-2

Thanksgiving in the Time of Covid-19: Is It Safe to Celebrate….

This year, with distanced or small Thanksgivings on tap for many folks, it could be the time to pull out all of the stops for a dinner-party style meal complete with several small courses and wine pairings. What if you dig out grandma’s china and crystal, throw on a table cloth, light the candles, and go big? It’s not something easily possible when there are 15 of you including 2 toddlers who eat nothing, a newly-vegan teenager, and aging parents (low sodium, please), but it is doable and entertaining for four who might share the cooking. Yeah, so that’s one idea.

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Beer-Braised Pork Shoulder–Election Day Comfort Food

Beer-Braised Pork Shoulder–Election Day Comfort Food

Let’s talk carnitas for lunch. Frittatas for brunch. Pork Ragú on Pasta with Parmigiano Reggiano come Friday Date Night. BBQ Sandwiches to kick off Game Day. Pizza. Nachos. Pork Chopped Salad for the Carb-Watchers. Sweet Potatoes topped with Pulled Pork, Smoked Gouda, and Pickled Red Onions solves dinner for everyone. Pork Stew — just because no one makes it enough. Hot Pork Sandwiches (see below) or what about Cubanos? Yep, all that, and even more can be had from one oven-braised pork shoulder that requires little more effort than sniffing happily around the house all day long while it stays all cozy in the oven. I guess I don’t have to but still will say this stuff smells exactly like hog heaven.

And wouldn’t that be nice on Tuesday, November 3, 2020?

Songs to Get You Through Election Day

Most Popular Movies and TV Shows tagged “presidential election”/IMDB

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Pumpkin-Pepita Muffins

Pumpkin-Pepita Muffins

Before moving to Colorado, I don’t remember eating pepitas, but I certainly got to them as fast as I could upon arrival. The tiny, full of health “pumpkin seeds” we eat for snacks, add to salads, tacos, omelets, or granola, and what I put on my muffins (above), aren’t like the pumpkin seeds you remove with all of the gloppy mess inside the typical Halloween jack-o-lantern. I mean, you could open up those big fat seeds (which have their own happy uses–see below at MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO READ) and try to get at the little inner seed, but that’s not where pepitas come from. Read on:

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Salmon on Two-Cheese Tabasco Grits

Salmon on Two-Cheese Tabasco Grits

Sometimes dinner just looks like a party!

You either love grits or you hate them. They’re one of those kinds of things. If you grew up eating them, as did I, they’re comfort food par excellence — we so need comfort food now — whether buttered and tucked under a big plate of eggs over easy with spicy patty sausage or baked up all cheesy in a casserole dish for the Thanksgiving or any other buffet. They do not, as some folks will insist, taste like paste. (I always liked paste myself.) The trouble has come with the advent of instant grits, which while technically kinda-sorta grits, are nothing compared to the pot of goodness made with stone-ground grits that take longer to cook and definitely need more attention than mashed potatoes. I’d just as soon skip grits if they’re instant, but I’m sure they have their place for folks camping with a bunch of kids demanding a hot breakfast 10 minutes ago.

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