Power up for the December rush with a quick stir fry and spend time and energy on what matters most. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking, an evening at Gardens Aglow, a concert at the Chocolate Church, a school play, a church fair … all the December doings can add up to a whole lot of rushing around and crankiness and sleep deprivation.

I’m here to advise you to take it easy on yourselves.

Plan for some quick, healthy meals with lots of veggies thrown in, have some shortcuts in mind for when you really feel up against it, get some sleep and, most important, do what you really enjoy with someone you love.

To help you on your way through the holiday season, here’s a simple stir fry with green things to serve over soba noodles or rice.

Make a big batch of rice and divide 1-cup portions into freezer bags. It’s so quick and easy to pop in the microwave when a meal needs to be shored up with carbs.

Now for a quick plan when you’re asked to furnish sweet nibbles for the office party, school fete or book club gathering. Two words: brownie mix.

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Keep a few boxes on hand, along with a stash of candy accompaniments. Whipping up a couple trays of these at the last minute has saved me on many occasions. You can also make mini-cupcakes — just cut the candies in half and adjust the baking time.

The tradition that I am sure to do every year: Make homemade eggnog. About eight years ago, my granddaughter and I began doing this together for our family holiday gathering. We look forward to it every year, making the non-alcoholic version with high-end vanilla extract or allowing a couple split vanilla beans to float in the container of ‘nog as it cools, leaving them in there until serving time.

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

We purchase whole nutmeg to set with the tiny grater alongside the special eggnog bowl. Anna has always liked to grate the nutmeg into everyone’s cup, saying, “This is the best part.”

Power Stir Fry

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups pork tenderloin, sliced into thin strips
3 cups broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups zucchini, split lengthwise then cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 cup onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1-3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce mixed with a little water, to taste
Sesame seeds for garnish

Heat wok or large skillet over high heat. Add sesame oil and olive oil, then add pork and sauté 2-3 minutes. Transfer pork to a plate. Sauté broccoli for 2-3 minutes. Add zucchini, onions, garlic and ginger. Sauté just until vegetables are tender-crisp. Return pork to the skillet, season and stir in Hoisin sauce/water mixture. Heat through for 2 minutes then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Yield: 4 servings

Brownie Delights

1 (18.3-ounce) box brownie mix
3 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup oil
12 miniature peanut butter cups or York peppermint patties
Red and green M&Ms or sugar sprinkles (optional)

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or place paper baking cups in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups. Unwrap candy and set aside.

Stir together brownie mix with eggs, water and oil until combined. Fill each cup about 2/3 full of batter. Place 1 candy piece (peanut butter cups go upside down) on top of batter in each cup. Lightly press candy down into batter. Add M&Ms or sprinkles.

Bake 23-25 minutes, then cool 5 minutes and remove from pan. Place on wire rack and cool completely. Yield: 12

Eggnog 

3 cups milk, divided
3 cups heavy cream, divided
12 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg, plus extra for garnish
1 1/2 cups brandy, bourbon or dark rum, or 2 tablespoons vanilla

Combine 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar and nutmeg together. Whisk in 2 cups milk and 2 cups cream. Pour mixture into a large saucepan and stir constantly over low heat until it thickens and is the consistency of heavy cream (175 degrees). Do not overheat or the mixture will curdle. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1 cup milk plus 1 cup cream.

Pour into a container through a strainer. Chill thoroughly, uncovered.

Stir in vanilla or liquor. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours and up to three days. Sprinkle with nutmeg before serving. Yield: 12 or more servings

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