December menus: tailgate picnic for a tree-cutting trip. Artichoke, egg, and fish brunch Essay

DECEMBER MENUS Tailgate picnic for a tree-cutting trip. Artichoke, egg, andfish brunch. Cake and punch as you decorate the tree Family gatherings, with a wide range of ages, are a big part offestivities this month.

The challenge in menu plainning is to satisfyan equally wide range of tastes and dietary needs without a lot of extracooking. Here are three meals that help you tackle this problem. Designedaround uncomplicated foods, they have add-on elements to give the menusa little sophistication. These meals lend themselves to a tree-cutting picnic or indoorbuffet, a tree-decorating party, and a weekend or Christmas breakfast.

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Two-generation picnic or casual indoor buffet For children, chicken drumsticks, raw vegetables, and beans withtortillas make a realistic menu. For adults, spicy condiments turnthese foods into burritos. Family-style Herb Chicken Layered Beans with Cheese and Condiments Hot Chocolate Purchased or Homemade Pastries If you plan to picnic, bake the chicken and beans, then pack in aninsulated chest to carry along with the tortillas and chorizo. TPrepareyour favorite hot chocolate and carry it in a thermos. Family-style Herb Chicken 1/4 cup (1/8 lb.

) butter or margarine, melted 1 teaspoon dry marjoram leaves 1/2 teaspoon each dry oregano leaves, dry basil, dry sage leaves,dry thyme leaves, salt, and pepper 8 chicken drumsticks (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 lb. total) 2 large whole chicken breasts, split (3 lb. total) Stir together butter, marjoram, oregano, basil, sage, thyme, salt,and pepper. Rinse chicken and pat dry; coat pieces with the seasoned butter.

Arrange drumsticks side by side in a shallow 10- by 15-inch bakingpan. Roast in a 400| oven for 10 minutes. Arrange breasts skin side upin pan with drumsticks. Cook until chicken is well browned and nolonger pink at bone (cut to test), 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold;to transport hot, wrap in foil and carry in an insulated bag.

Serves 6to 8. Layered Beans with Cheese and Condiments 2 tablespoons salad oil 2 large onions, chopped 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed 3 cans (1 lb. each) refried beans 3 cups (12 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese Raw vegetable basket (suggestions follow) Warm tortillas (directions follow) Cooked chorizo (directions follow) 2 cups sour cream 1 can (8 oz.) green chili salsa About 1 cup fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves Heat salad oil in a 5- to 6-quart pan on medium heat. Add onionand garlic and cook, stirring, until onion is limp.

In a food processoror blender, whirl onions and beans until smooth; set aside. Evenly spread a third of the bean mixture in a deep 2- to 21/2-quart casserole with lid. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese.

Make 2 morelayers each of beans and cheese. (If made ahead, cover and chill up to2 days.) Bake, covered, in a 400| oven until hot and bubbly, 35 to 45minutes. Serve hot; to transport, put in an insulated bag or chest andserve within 3 hours. Serve warm beans either as a dip for vegetables or wrapped in flourtortillas and seasoned with chorizo, sour cream, salsa, and cilantro.Makes 8 servings. Raw vegetable basket. Allow about 1 cup vegetables for a serving.

Choose from whole peeled carrots; celery stalks; bell peppers, cored,seeded, and sliced; mushrooms; and cherry tomatoes. Warm tortillas. Stack 1 to 1 1/2 dozen flour tortillas (7- to8-in. size) and seal in foil. Put in a 400| oven until heated through,about 20 minutes. Keep warm in an insulated bag or chest. Cooked chorizo.

Remove 1 to 1 1/2 pounds chorizo sausage fromcasings and crumble into a 10- to 12-inch frying pan. Cook, stirringofter, over medium heat until sausage is well browned, 15 to 20 minutes.Drain on paper towels. Serve hot; to transport, pack in a coveredcontainer and carry in an insulated bag. If made ahead, cover and chillup to 2 days. To reheat, stir in a frying pan over medium heat.

A brunch for all ages To adults, serve eggs on sauteed fish with English muffins; makefish an option for the children. Offer mild-flavored chili sauce withboth egg stacks and artichokes. Egg and Fish Stacks Eggs with English Muffins Chili Hollandaise Hot Cooked Artichokes Winter Fruit Platter Allow 1 medium-size artichoke for each adult, half of one for achild. Start artichokes about an hour before brunch.

On the fresh fruit platter, include pineapple chunks, slicedoranges, bananas, sliced kiwi fruit, and pomegranate seeds. Have fish ready to cook, toast muffins, make hollandaise, then fryfish and eggs. Egg and Fish Stacks 1 to 1 1/2 pounds boned and skinned white-fleshed fish fillets(such as sole, lingcod, or red snapper) About 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 4 to 6 tablespoons butter or margarine 2 tablespoons salad oil 8 eggs Water Salt and pepper About 8 English muffins, toasted and buttered Chili hollandaise (recipe follows) If fillets are less than 1/2 inch thick, fold in the middle to makethicker. Divide fish into 4 to 6 serving-size pieces; coat with flourand shake off excess.

Melt 2 teblespoons of butter with oil in a 10- to 12-inch fryingpan over mediumhigh heat. Add fish to pan without crowding; cook,turning once, until lightly browned and center of fish flakes whenprobed, about 8 minutes total; keep warm as cooked. Repeat until allfish pieces are cooked; add butter to pan as needed. Wipe frying pan clean and set over medium heat; melt remaining 2tablespoons butter. Break 4 eggs into pan and sprinkle each with 1teaspoon water. Cover and cook until whites are set, about 1 minute. Cook remaining eggs the same way.

Season eggs and fish with saltand pepper. Serve each egg on a piece of fish or a muffin; addhollandaise. Serves 4 to 6 adults and 2 to 4 children.

Chili hollandaise. Melt 1 cup (1/2 lb.) butter or margarine. In ablender or food processor, whirl until blended 1 egg, 1 teaspoon Dijonmustard, 1 teaspoon chilipowder, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Withmotor running, pour in hot butter in a slow, steady stream. Serve hot orat room temperature. Makes about 1 1/4 cups. A tree-decorating party The delicate-textured cake, laced with nut streusel and candiedfruit, and the refreshing nonalcoholic punch will serve a dozen treetrimmers of all ages. Soft Cheeses Water Crackers Butter Cookies Roasted Almonds Winter Apples Layered Streusel and Fruit Cake Spiced Cranberry-Orange Punch Offer several soft cheeses, such as Brie, cherry- orwalnut-flavored process cheese, cream cheese, or Neufchatel; allow about1/8 pound for a serving.

Spread on crackers, butter cookies, or appleslices. Bake the cake any time during the day. Assemble the punch, thenheat when you are ready for it.

Layered Streusel and Fruit Cake 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine, at room temperature 1 cop sugar 2 eggs 1 1/2 cups sour cream 1 teaspoon grated orange peel 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 1/2 cups mixed diced candied (glace) fruit. Streusel (recipe follows) In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugartogether until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until wellblended.

Mix in the sour cream and orange peel. Stir together flour, baking powder, and soda; gradually add to thesour cream mixture, beating until batter is well blended; set aside. To assemble, thoroughly grease a 12-cup plain or fluted tube pan.

Spread a third of the batter evently in pan; sprinkle with half thecandied fruit and half the streusel. Make another layer with half theremaining cake batter and all the remaining fruit and streusel. Spreadremaining cake batter on top.

Bake cake in a 350| oven until a thin wooden skewer inserted incenter comes out clean and cake begins to pull from pan sides, 55 to 60minutes. Cool in pan on rack 30 minutes; invert onto a plate. Servewarm or cool. Makes 10 servings.–Susan H. Bell, Boulder City, Nevada.

Streusel. Mix together 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1 1/4 cups chopped nuts. Spiced Cranberry-Orange Punch In a 5- to 6-quart pan, combind 1 bottle (48 oz.) cranberry juicecocktail, 1 bottle (1 qt.) apple cider, 1 small can (6 oz.) thawedfrozen orange juice concentrate, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 4cinnamon sticks (each 3 in. long), and 1 teaspoon whole cloves.

Bring to a boil over high heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.Pour punch through a wire strainer into a 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-quart servingcontainer. Garnish with orange slices. Serve hot.

Makes 2 1/2 quarts,or 10 servings, 1-cup size. Photo: Whrm food for tree-cutting expedition includer herb-roastedchicken, hot bean dip to go with vegetables or in warm flour tortillas,pastries, and hot chocolate Photo: Two-generation brunch features eggs on fish for adults, eggson muffins for children. There are artichokes for all; children gethelf

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