A filling pasta “cake” and chocolaty cookie bars are offset by a winter salad. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

This basic recipe for a round pasta bake is the epitome of comfort food in my book. It can be changed up as the mood strikes, or according to what you have on hand on any given day. Add whatever sounds good to you: sautéed onions, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, peas or any leftover deliciousness. Try different herbs and hard cheeses as well until you discover your signature “cake.”

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

As you add the pasta to the egg mixture, keep in mind that you want the cake to be somewhat creamy with a crisp outer crust. Once cooled, the melded triangles of pasta and cheese can even be eaten out of hand, and if there are leftovers (there probably won’t be), it freezes well.

Alongside the filling pasta, serve a bright textural salad that combines the succulent seasonal flavors of citrus and pomegranate on a canvas of smooth butter lettuce. The lettuce makes a beautiful presentation left whole or can be plucked apart and tossed with the fruit and dressing in a cut glass bowl.

After the dishes are done, pour the tea and set out a plate of Holiday Blondies. These chocolaty nuggets, dusted with sea salt and served slightly warm, can be changed up throughout the year with your favorite add-ins. Allow your imagination to run wild with nuts, broken pretzels and candies of all sorts.

As you get ready for the holiday ahead, be sure to allow for contemplative time. Nourish yourself. Treat yourself. Stay safe and well.

Carbonara Cake

10 ounces thin spaghetti
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces ham, prosciutto or pancetta, slivered
Leaves from 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook spaghetti in a pan of boiling salted water according to the package directions, then drain and cool in a colander. Grease an 8-inch spring form pan with oil, finely grate a thin layer of cheese over the bottom and shake it up the sides. When the spaghetti is cool, transfer to a large bowl. Beat together eggs and cream. Add meat, the remaining cheese, herbs and pepper. Add pasta to the cream mixture and toss to coat well. Spoon into spring form pan, pressing the mixture down with the back of a large spoon. Place pan on a baking tray and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until golden on the top and edges and cooked through. Allow to cool about 5 minutes then carefully run a knife around the rim of the pan and release the cake onto a plate. Cool a bit longer before cutting into wedges. Yield: 6 servings

Butter Lettuce with Citrus & Pomegranate

3 small heads butter lettuce
3-4 oranges, tangerines or clementines, peeled and sectioned
1 tablespoon olive oil
Arils from 1 large pomegranate

Wash and dry the lettuce and set in a bowl or serving plates. Place the citrus fruit in a bowl and coat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then arrange the fruit sections on the lettuce. Pour dressing over the salad and garnish with pomegranate. Yield: 6 servings

Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.

Holiday Blondies

1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs plus two egg yolks, at room temperature
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (10-ounce) package holiday M&Ms
1 (12 ounce) package) chocolate chips
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough paper to hang over the edges by an inch or two. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat until browned, stirring constantly. In a large bowl, whisk together brown butter and brown sugar. Stir in vanilla. Allow to cool slightly before adding eggs and egg yolks. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt, mixing until just combined. Fold in M&Ms and chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with flaky salt. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the edges are firm and golden and the center is slightly wobbly. Allow to cool for about an hour before lifting the brownies out of the pan by the edges of the parchment paper. Cut into squares. Yield: 24 (2-by-2-inch) blondies.

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