Spanish Rice and Onion Wheat Buns can be incorporated into your holiday menu in many different ways. Enjoy experimenting! Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

We may be celebrating our holidays differently this year, but we still need to eat and comfort food is often at the top of the list when we head to the kitchen to prepare sustenance for ourselves and our loved ones.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

This versatile Spanish Rice includes chorizo to spice it up, but if you want to use a different variety of sausages, hotter peppers or add cayenne or red pepper flakes, feel free to experiment. Likewise with the spices; use your favorite variety and a larger amount will leave you with a drier mixture.

This hearty dish can be plated straight from the stovetop or wrapped up in tortillas and embellished with garnishes of all sorts. To make a casserole of it, spoon into a buttered baking dish, top with breadcrumbs and pats of butter and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until browned on top and heated through. Another idea is to bake the casserole for 30 minutes then drop some eggs on top and continue to bake until they done to your liking for a yummy breakfast.

The Onion Wheat buns are delicious just buttered up, but are even more delectable when split and grilled with a slice of melty cheddar. Perhaps you’d like to make a sandwich of them by adding crisp bacon and tomato slices or just slather them with pepper jelly.

Now is the time to be thinking about your cookie plan. Here’s a recipe that’s new to me and I must say, if you like cranberries, they’re a winner. Tart-sweet and festive looking, these bars are perfect for holiday giving.

Our Spanish Rice

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 small red pepper, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound chorizo sausage, diced
1 (28-ounce can) diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce cans) tomato sauce
2-3 cups cooked rice
1 cup black beans
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnishes: shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, black olives, cilantro, lime

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the sweet potato, onion and colored peppers about 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and meat and cook another 5-10 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and rice. Simmer over medium-low heat, uncovered, until liquid has cooked down, about 15 minutes. Season to taste. Yield 6 servings

Sweet Onion Wheat Buns

3 tablespoons butter
3 teaspoons brown sugar
1 large Vidalia onion, diced
1 cup flour
3/4 cup wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons dried sage
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large skillet, melt butter with 2 teaspoons brown sugar. Add onion and cook uncovered over low heat for 10-12 minutes until very tender and light brown, stirring occasionally.

Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center.

In a separate small bowl, stir together egg, yogurt and brown sugar. Add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. (The dough will be slightly sticky.) Stir in onion and melted butter, setting aside 2 tablespoons of onion to top the buns.

With a 1/4 cup measure, scoop dough onto baking sheet to make 8 buns, using your wet fingers to form rounded buns. Top with reserved onions, pressing them gently into the dough.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Yield: 8 buns

Cranberry-Pecan Bars

1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 beaten eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons orange peel, finely shredded
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup fresh cranberries, finely chopped
1/2 cup coconut, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, stir together flour and 3/4 cup sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/2 cup pecans. Press mixture into bottom of an ungreased 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until crust is lightly browned on the edges.

Meanwhile, combine 1 1/4 cups sugar, eggs, milk, orange peel and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat until mixed thoroughly. Pour over hot crust and sprinkle with 1/2 cup nuts, cranberries and coconut.

Bake for 30 minutes more or until golden. Cool slightly in pan on wire rack. Cut into 24 bars then cut bars diagonally into triangles. Cool completely in pan before removing. Yield: 4 dozen bars

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