Ginger snaps and tea accompany a quiet Christmas interlude. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

A very simple Christmas celebration is in order this year. I have been looking forward to a bit of grandchildren time in the morning and a walk in the woods followed by a contemplative evening by the fire with my book.

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

This chowder, like all chowders, can be built a day ahead then gently reheated and savored at your leisure. For Christmas Eve supper, a midday meal after getting a dose of fresh air or as an appetizer for a bigger holiday repast, this is a delicious blend of Maine seafood in a savory broth.

If you prefer chowder with a thinner broth, omit the flour and water. And if you have fresh clams available to you, by all means, use them. I also hope that you will always make homemade stock for all your soups, but if you just can’t spare the time, a product I use to enhance boxed or canned stock is Better than Bouillon, which can be found with the aforementioned stock, usually on the top shelf at the supermarket.

I like a crunchy tidbit with my chowder and these herbed toasts are just right. Add a sprinkle or three of fresh-grated Parmesan and a touch of salt and pepper if you wish.

For Christmas, of course, there must be cookies, and this particular recipe has always been a favorite. When I was a youngster, our neighbor Audrey made dozens of ginger snaps during the holidays. The spicy scent of cinnamon, cloves and ginger never fails to bring back those sweet memories when we walked with our mother into that homey kitchen across the road to pop sugar-coated cookies into our mouths and play with Audrey’s cute little Scottie dog.

Remember, some day in the not-to-distant future, this Christmas and the subsequent winter season will be a memory, too, no matter how we spend it. My hope for us all is that we see the beauty in it, that we will appreciate this quiet time and that we will nourish ourselves and our loved ones in all the ways that matter most.

Seafood Chowder

3 tablespoons butter 
1/2 onion, diced 
3/4 cup celery, diced 
1 large carrot, shredded 
3 medium (1 1/2 pounds) potatoes, peeled and chopped 
2 cups chicken stock 
1 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 
1/4 teaspoon thyme 
1 bay leaf 
1/4 cup flour 
1/2 cup water 
1 cup half-and-half 
1 (6 1/2-ounce) can chopped clams, including juice 
3/4 pound haddock or hake, cut into bite-sized pieces 
1/2 pound bay scallops or quartered sea scallops 
1/2 pound small shrimp 
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped 

In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, celery and carrot and sauté about 10 minutes.

Add potatoes, stock, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until vegetables are soft, for about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. In a measuring cup, stir together flour and water. Add to soup and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add half-and-half and seafood then simmer gently with the cover on until seafood is cooked through, about 7-10 minutes. If the shrimp are really small, add them during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Sprinkle with parsley before serving. Yield: 6 servings

Herbed Toasts

1/4 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup fresh herbs or 3 teaspoons dried herbs such as rosemary, basil, oregano and thyme 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1 baguette, cut into 12 slices 

Preheat broiler. In a small pan over medium heat, stir together olive oil, herbs and garlic for 1 minute. Place bread on a baking sheet and broil on one side until golden, about 1 minute. Turn bread over and brush with oil and herbs. Broil for 1 more minute. Yield: 6 servings

Audrey’s Gingersnaps

3/4 butter, softened 
1 cup sugar 
1/4 cup molasses 
1 egg, beaten 
2 cups flour 
2 teaspoons baking soda 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoons cinnamon 
1 teaspoon cloves 
1 teaspoons ginger

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Add egg and molasses and blend well. Stir together flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix well. Chill dough for at least an hour. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape chilled dough into balls the size of a walnut and roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from baking sheets and cool on racks. Yield: Approximately 4 dozen cookies

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