Celebrating the Winter Solstice and the New Year


Winter in California is short, but to me is sweet.  The nights are longer and sometimes even cold, the days, shorter, but often sunny and pleasant.  Even so,  it is our brief time to enjoy hearty, warming  dishes created mostly in colder climates, but associated with happy memories and  rich traditions.

Our Monday night dinners in Palo Alto celebrate a non-sectarian, but ancient holiday , the winter solstice.  Unlike Thanksgiving with its ritualistic menu, our year-end menus leave more room for improvisation on the California theme of what is local and seasonal.  This year that menu  is centered around a grain  and nut loaf, with  red cabbage, winter  squash and  brussels sprouts  as  side dishes.

Our first menu of 2010 honors the American South, where they have strong feelings about what to eat at the New Year. This year more than  ever we hope for prosperity with collard greens representing  green money, black-eyed peas representing coins, and cornbread suggesting gold.  It’s interesting that  cultures as far afield as Brazil and Japan, where lentils and black beans, respectively, play a similar role to black-eyed peas in their  New Year’s celebrations, affirming prosperity in the new year.

Often our food traditions come from times and places where scarcity and hardship were common.  In winter there may have  been little to eat but  cabbages, beets and other root vegetables stored in cellars.   And so from Russian, Polish and Jewish  tradition comes the wonderful beet and cabbage borscht. Kasha varnishka, toasted buckwheat groats with bow tie noodles, also has Eastern European origins. It’s a dish we make only once a year, but its earthy simplicity  always satisfies.

Enjoy these dishes, stay warm and enjoy our brief California winter. And check back as we will continue to post more recipes.

(Find recipes for the asterisked items in the recipe pages of this blog)

December 7–James Holloway and Gary Alinder

French Onion Soup*

Lentil,  Millet and Sunny Seed  Cutlets with Tahini Onion Gravy

Long  Grain Brown Rice Pilaf

Roasted Cauliflower and Carrots with Black Sesame Seeds

Braised  Kale, Collards  and Anise with Lemony Vinaigrette

Green  Cabbage Pickle

Coconut Cake

Mint Tea


December 14–Winter Solstice Celebration

Holiday Punch

Caramelized Onion and Veggie Broth w/ Herbed Croutons

Neat Loaf w/ Mushroom Gravy*

Mashed Potatoes

Sweet and  Tart Red Cabbage*

Maple-Glazed Butternut Squash w/Dried Cranberries

Brussels Sprouts w/ Warm Walnut Dressing

Persimmon Pudding w/ Slivered Almonds, Pomegranate Syrup and Tofu Cream

Assorted Teas


December 21–Holiday Break (no dinner)

December 28–Holiday Break (no dinner)


January 4–New Year’s Celebration Southern Style

Turnip, Collard Greens-Mushroom Soup

Cornbread Muffins

Black-eyed Pea and Veggie Croquettes w/ Red Onion Relish

Pecan-Brown Rice Pilaf

Sweet Potato Spears w/ Barbecue Glaze

Carrot-Cabbage Slaw

Rich Ginger-Coconut Cake w/Tofu-Coconut Cream

Chicory Grain Coffee


January 11

Hearty Beet and Cabbage Borscht*

Kasha Varnishka w/ Creamy Onion Sauce

Mashed Carrots and Sweet Potatoes

Tangy Cucumbers w/Dill Vinaigrette

Mixed Greens Salad w/ Rye Croutons

Apple Cake*



January 18

Winter Veggie Chowder

Red Rice-Mushroom Croquettes

Chick Pea Casserole w/ Creamy Onion- “Cheese” Sauce

Maple-Glazed Roasted Carrots and  Parsnips

Collard Greens Sauté

Trial Mix Cookies*


January 25–James Holloway, Chef

Green Split Pea Soup

Tofu Stroganoff*

Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf with Carrot Chunks

Braised Winter Vegetables

Green and Red Cabbage Slaw

Millet Oatmeal  Cookies*



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