Gingerbread cut-outs, a family Christmas tradition for generations. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Roasted chicken, apples and leeks is a quick, economical main dish to serve your family on one of these upcoming busy nights – perhaps before the school concert or church fete, or after a round of holiday shopping at the mall.

While the chicken and its accompaniments are roasting on a sheet pan with olive oil and herbs, simply make a salad and warm a loaf of bread.

If you want a more substantial supper, cider-roasted winter squash goes along nicely and can be made ahead and reheated. Use butternut or Delicata squash instead of the acorn squash if you like. If you have fresh herbs on hand, use those. As a rule, I substitute one tablespoon of fresh herbs to one teaspoon of dried herbs. (If I don’t specify “fresh” in a recipe, I’m using dried herbs.)

Preparing a simple evening meal like this one may even leave you with enough energy to mix together a batch of gingerbread dough.

This is the recipe my daughter, Shannon, uses every December for not only cunning little goats, trees, mittens and people, but also for her whimsically decorated gingerbread house.

On a night when you feel up to it, prepare the cookie dough while dinner is in the oven. Then after the dishes are cleared, cut out some cookies with whoever wants to join in. These can be decorated with royal icing after thorough cooling, or the icing and subsequent sprinkles and baubles can be added the following day. I like my gingerbread straight-up – no frills needed.


I’m sometimes on hand to watch my grandsons decimate and devour the candy-covered house once Christmas is over. It can be painful to watch them pillage their mother’s careful, loving work, but she doesn’t seem to mind at all.

(Those of you with children of your own will surely understand what I’m talking about.)

But I digress. My favorite way to partake of this delectable gingerbread is contemplative. I brew a strong cup of Barry’s tea then dunk the little goats into it head first and nibble slowly to enjoy the experience.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at or 504-0545.

Whatever your holiday traditions are, make the time to thoroughly enjoy them.

Roasted chicken, apples and leeks

8 (2 1/2 pounds) chicken drumsticks and/or thighs


4 (medium) crisp apples, quartered

2 large leeks, halved crosswise then lengthwise

1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary

2 tablespoons olive oil

Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all ingredients together in a roasting pan then turn the chicken skin-side up.


Roast until chicken is cooked through and the apples and leeks are tender, about 45 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings

Cider-roasted winter squash

1/4 cup apple cider

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil


3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon sage

1 teaspoon thyme

Small acorn squashes (4 pounds) halved, seeded, and cut into 2-inch crescents

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together cider, cider vinegar, olive oil, butter and herbs in a shallow baking pan. Add squash and toss to coat, arranging it in a single layer then seasoning with salt and pepper. Roast for 50 minutes or until tender, turning once half-way through baking time.


Yield: 6-8 servings

Gingerbread cut-outs

3 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt


1 tablespoon ginger

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 stick butter, softened

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg


1/2 cup molasses

2 teaspoons vanilla

Blend all the dry ingredients except brown sugar together in a bowl. In a stand mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar and egg. Add molasses and vanilla. Gradually blend in dry ingredients.

Divide the dough in half, shaping into rounds. Wrap each half in cling wrap and let stand for a minimum of two hours on the counter to warm to room temperature. The dough can also be stored for up to four days in the refrigerator, but still allow it to come to room temperature before rolling out.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 7-10 minutes until edges are brown. Leave cookies on the baking sheet for a few minutes to firm up then cool on a rack.

Yield will depend on the size of the cookie cutters you use.

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