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Winter holiday brunch

By SUSAN BELSINGER - Grit Magazine | Dec 9, 2020

Simple and delicious, old-fashioned Butter Cookies are nice to have on hand for the holidays.

By SUSAN BELSINGER

Grit Magazine

This festive brunch menu is as colorful as it is flavorful, and it makes great use of seasonal ingredients.

Winter greens, bell peppers, onions, pumpkin, cranberries and more provide sweet and savory flavors, guaranteed to please friends and family.

While hosting a brunch can be stressful and overwhelming, this menu allows for some of the items to be prepared in advance, making things a little less hectic for the hostess.

Tangerine mimosas

Yields 10 to 12 servings.

This tangy twist on a popular brunch beverage takes advantage of the season’s citrus bounty. If you’re unable to find tangerine juice, or you just don’t care for it, use blood orange or ruby red grapefruit juice instead. In addition, if you prefer a nonalcoholic version, simply substitute ginger ale for the champagne. Be sure your juice and champagne or ginger ale are thoroughly chilled for the best flavor.

1/2 gallon tangerine juice

2 bottles sparkling champagne

Half slices of tangerine, for garnish, optional

Fill flutes or wine glasses half full with tangerine juice. Pour in equal amounts of champagne.

Garnish each glass with one or two tangerine slices, if desired, and serve immediately.

Egg and cheddar cheese puff

Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Red, orange or yellow bell peppers, along with an assortment of early winter greens make this dish colorful, savory and delicious. Use whatever fresh greens you have left in the garden, or whatever looks best at your local grocery store. Chard, kale, spinach, beet and dandelion, or a combination, work well.

6 large slices whole-wheat bread, toasted, rubbed with garlic, and cut into large bite-size cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 red, orange or yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into strips

1 to 2 bunches of greens, stemmed, washed, dried, and cut crosswise into shreds (about 3 cups)

5 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

12 extra-large eggs

3 cups milk

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

Pinch of cayenne pepper

2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese, divided

Generously grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, or spray with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

Place bread cubes in a large bowl; set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and saute for about 3 minutes. Stir in bell pepper strips and greens. Cover and cook for another 3 minutes

Stir in garlic, salt and pepper. Cover and continue cooking until greens are wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove skillet from heat, and set aside.

Break eggs into a large bowl, and whisk until blended. Generously season with additional salt and pepper. Add milk, thyme, paprika and cayenne, and whisk to blend. Set aside.

Add sauted vegetables to bread cubes, and toss to combine.

Turn bread mixture into prepared baking dish, and top with 11/3 cups cheese. Pour egg mixture over the top, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, or let stand at cool room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. If refrigerated, remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to baking.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until eggs are set and top is golden brown. Serve hot.

Potato pancakes with stewed apples and sour cream

Yields 8 to 12 servings.

Latkes are a traditional Hanukkah pancake made from grated potatoes, egg, and either crumbled crackers, matzoh meal or breadcrumbs. In this version, I use only eggs to bind the potatoes together. Most important to the success of this dish is squeezing out as much water as possible from the shredded potatoes.

2 pounds organic russet potatoes

1 medium onion

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

Olive oil

5 medium to large organic apples, cored and cut into bite-size chunks

1/2 cup honey or maple syrup

Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

1/3 cup apple cider (approximately)

2-inch cinnamon stick, optional

Sour cream, optional

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Grate potatoes by hand or in a food processor. Place in a bowl, and cover them with cold water so they don’t discolor. Set aside.

Grate onion, and place in a bowl. Cover with foil, and set aside.

Place potatoes in a colander and press on them to remove as much water as possible. Transfer them to a clean kitchen towel and wring tightly from both ends to squeeze out any remaining liquid. Place shredded potatoes in a bowl, and pat dry with a clean towel.

Add onion, and generously season with salt and pepper. Stir in eggs, and blend well.

Heat one or two skillets over medium heat with just enough olive oil to cover the bottoms.

Drop potato mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, into hot skillets, and press them down with a spatula to flatten them.

Saute potato pancakes until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn, and continue cooking until other side is golden, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels, and then place in the oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining potato pancakes, adding more oil to the skillet as needed.

In a large, nonreactive stockpot, combine apples, honey, lemon juice, apple cider and cinnamon stick, if using. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. (The apples should be tender but not mushy, and the sauce should be fairly thick, not runny. Cook a bit longer, uncovered, if necessary to soften the apples and thicken the sauce.)

Taste, and adjust the honey or lemon juice, if necessary. Serve sauce warm over potato pancakes, with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Butter cookies

Yields about 4 dozen cookies.

These simple and delicious, old-fashioned cookies are nice to have on hand for the holidays. The prepared and shaped dough can be kept in the refrigerator for two days, or in the freezer for up to a month.

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 extra-large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

11/2 cups unbleached white flour, sifted

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour, sifted

Generous pinch of salt

Cream butter and sugar together in a food processor, or in a bowl using a wooden spoon. Beat in egg and vanilla until creamy and blended.

Gradually mix in flours and salt. Pulse or stir until just blended. Do not overmix. The dough will be soft.

Divide dough into two equal parts. Using plastic wrap to shape the dough, roll each part into a cylinder about 1 1/2

inches in diameter, and place on a flat baking sheet. For square cookies, gently tap the cylinders to flatten all four sides. Refrigerate cylinders for 1 hour, or place them in the freezer for 20 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. (If the dough was made in advance and frozen, let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before slicing and baking.) Remove plastic wrap, and cut dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Place on ungreased baking sheets, and bake for 10 minutes, or until light golden brown on bottoms and around edges.

Remove cookies from baking sheets while still hot, and transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

Flavor additive options:

While plain butter cookies are delicious, you can boost the flavor, if desired, with one of the following options.

– Rosemary butter cookies

Mix 2 tablespoons fresh minced rosemary with the flours, and then add to the creamed mixture with salt.

– Poppy seed-orange butter cookies

Mix 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, 2 teaspoons orange zest, and a few dashes of nutmeg with flours. Add to the creamed mixture with salt.

– Cherry-almond butter cookies

Add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract when adding the egg and vanilla. After adding the flours and salt, stir in 2/3 cup dried cherries and 2/3 cup slivered almonds just until blended.

– Chocolate espresso butter cookies

When adding the egg and vanilla, add 1 teaspoon chocolate extract and 11/2 tablespoons strong coffee. Add 1 tablespoon cocoa when adding the flours and salt. Stir in 1 cup mini chocolate chips until just blended.

Excerpted from GRIT. To read more articles from GRIT, please visit www.grit.com or call 866-803-7096 to subscribe. Copyright 2020 by Ogden Publications Inc.

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