Happy Halloween! & Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

skeleton_03The other day I was shocked, yes shocked. I was chatting with a couple of women and they both agreed that they hated Halloween. Hated Halloween!?! From my first go at trick-or-treating on Mary Ann Lane to this day, I love Halloween and I will love it tomorrow and beyond infinity.

What’s not to love? When you’re a kid, you get to dress up and run around outside in the dark. All the mothers in the neighborhood give you candy and tell you how scary, cute, pretty or heroic you look. It doesn’t matter that your mom tosses at least half of your candy in the trash when you’re at school. Okay, maybe it matters just a little. Filled with sweet memories, Halloween is a wonderful adventure.

And when you’re a grownup (I’ve heard that happens to some people), you get to dress up and have fun with your friends until the wee hours. There is little if any candy but lots of dancing, hooting and hollering. Someone usually makes a big bowl of purple or green punch. If they are clever, they’ll add some dry ice and call it witch’s brew. Proceed with caution. More often than not, these concoctions are powerful stuff; hence the dancing, hooting and hollering.

So with all it has to offer, why do these women hate Halloween? While it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, most of the aversion centered on finding a costume. Words like pressure and competition were bandied about. In addition, these ladies weren’t looking forward to the thirty-seven pounds of candy that their kids bring home.

Admittedly, I get the candy thing; but the costume thing? Nope, not at all. Halloween shouldn’t competitive. There is more than enough rivalry in the world and no need to add Halloween to the mix. Dressing up should be fun. A costume lets you try on a different persona for a while. It’s an opportunity to be devilish, heroic, sultry, silly or just plain wicked.

In addition to fun, Halloween costumes should be easy. Life is too busy to spend days on your ensemble. A pair of jeans, a t-shirt and that ancient leather jacket that you bought during your junior year in Rome add up to James Dean or Marlon Brando. A sheet, some ivy from the garden and you can take your pick: noble Roman or animal house Greek. A slim and slinky black dress and gloves, a tiara and pearls and it’s breakfast at Tiffany’s. Some spray paint on an old pitchfork plus a little red dress, tights and shoes and you’re a devil in the making. Horns from the party store will finish the look.witches_hat_02Like Garanimals, you can mix, match and reconfigure your costumes. Skip the tiara and pearls, add a cape and a pointed hat for a wonderfully wicked witch. Swap out your devil’s pitchfork and horns for a cape and mask you’re a superhero. I have a thing for capes at Halloween, so as far as I’m concerned any excuse is a good excuse to wear one.

Whether you buy or make your costumes, it’s okay to wear them more than once. Unless you’re one of those A-list, red carpet movie stars, I doubt anyone will notice. Witch, devil, black cat; keep one or more handy in the back of your closet. Even if you are an A-list, red carpet movie star, the classics never go out of style.

Stay home and pass out candy, roam the neighborhood with your kids or make whoopee until the wee hours – whatever you do, be sure to try on a fun and festive, new you.

Have a spooktacular Halloween and bon appétit!

Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
A New England classic, whoopie pies are the perfect fall treat. Enjoy!
Makes about 3 dozen mini (or 1 dozen regular) whoopie piespumpkin_whoopie_pies_04

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (15 ounce can) pure pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon rum

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the butter and brown sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the pumpkin, egg, maple syrup and rum and beat until well combined. Mixing well after each addition, add the dry ingredients in two batches.

Leaving about 2-inches between each cake, use a 2-teaspoon ice cream scoop to drop batter onto the baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees until the cakes are firm, about 7 minutes. (Alternatively, use a 1-ounce scoop and bake for about 15 minutes.) Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Spread a dollop of filling on the bottoms of half of the cakes, top with a second cake and serve. Can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated for 2-3 days. Serve at room temperature.

Spiced Cream Cheese Filling
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pinch salt
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon rum

Sift the confectioners’ sugar and spices together into a bowl. Set aside.

Put the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the maple syrup and rum and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed and continue beating until creamy.

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One Year Ago – Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Two Year Ago – Chicken in Every Pot
Three Years Ago – Roasted Carrots & Pearl Onions
Four Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Five Years Ago – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pearl Onions
Six Years Ago – Mexican Chicken Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Have you got your costume ready? What will you be for Halloween? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Football in America & Gorgonzola & Walnut Shortbread with Savory Fig Jam

Hatfield_ClanTouch Down! If it’s Sunday it’s FOOTBALL DAY and NIGHT in Ahhh-MERica. Except for an apathetic few, football it is a mighty unifier and a great divider. Most Americans are brought together by their love of the game. Then, they are forever separated by their fevered support for their favorite teams. Like Hatfields and McCoys, woe to any poor New Englander who falls head over heels for a Jets or Colts fan. The object of their affection will need to convert post haste or face probable, make that certain, expulsion from the living room on game day.

I say most Americans because, maybe I’m sorry (and maybe not) to say, I count myself in that motley group who are more or less are indifferent to the game. Throughout the fall, people will gather to watch the action on giant and not-so-giant screens. Walls will shake and floors will tremble with the thunderous support for the home team and loud jeers and curses for the enemy.

Not so at my house. There’s a pretty good chance that my dad, and housemate, will be more or less riveted to the game but he’s generally pretty low key. From time to time, he’ll give a yelp or a whoop but not much more. Last week, he quasi-admitted that the game is more or less interminable. Not in so many words mind you, but still, an acknowledgment of sorts. First, he confessed to taking a break at halftime for a nap. Then, he admitted that he made it back in time to catch the last few minutes of the third quarter. As far as I can gather, no other game in the world can stretch fifteen minutes into an hour.

So for me, I think it all comes down to patience. Between pregame, postgame and all those fits and starts and beer commercials, it seems to go on forever. At least it does for this girl. I just don’t have the patience for football. I can’t watch a sixty-minute game play itself out over three, four or more hours. It doesn’t matter that Tom Brady looks good in tights. Tempting, yes, but not enough to get me on the couch for hours on end.

Unlike the rest of the country, it’s business as usual for me on Sundays. I could be writing or reading, playing in the kitchen, walking around the lake or working in the yard. Who knows? Maybe this is the Sunday to finally switch out the summer t-shirts for turtlenecks. What’s the weather forecast? Have we seen the last of Indian summer? It’s even possible that I’ll spend some time in front of a not-so-giant screen. Don’t get your hopes up. It will most likely be tuned to a movie or one of the all too many crime shows I favor.

So don’t look to me on Monday morning for an insightful analysis of game strategy or tight ends. Sorry, as sad as it may seem, I’m one of those girls who just don’t care. Yes, I know that women are the NFL’s fastest growing audience. And yes, I’ve heard the arguments. Maybe not all, but plenty. I don’t care if a football game is a free pass for several lazy hours on the couch. It’s not enough that the game is considered a viable excuse to overindulge in junk food and beer. Or whatever else you’d like to come up with.

I could promise to make an effort this Sunday but I won’t lie. I think I’d rather make soup, finish my book in time for book club or invite you over to try a new recipe with a glass of wine.

Anyway, go Pats and bon appétit!

Gorgonzola & Walnut Shortbread with Savory Fig Jam
Forget the chips and dip; turn your football gathering up a notch with delicious savory shortbread and jam. Enjoy!Gorgonzola_Walnut_Shortbread_Savory_Fig_Jam_02
Makes about 3 dozen

About 4 ounces (1 cup) chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon chopped, fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
6 ounces Gorgonzola, crumbled
1 or more tablespoons sour cream
Savory Fig Jam (recipe follows)

Put the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the flour, rosemary, salt, paprika and pepper and process until well combined. Add the butter and gorgonzola and process until the mixture begins to form small lumps. Add 1 tablespoon sour cream and pulse until the dough starts to come together in a ball. If necessary, add a little more sour cream and pulse again.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and gently pat into a ball. Cut the ball in two and roll each half into a log about 1 1/2-inches in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill in the refrigerator until firm, at least one hour and up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.

Slice each log into 1/3-inch rounds. Arrange the shortbread rounds about 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Turning the pan midway through baking, bake the shortbread until the tops are dry and bottoms are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, transfer to a rack and cool completely. Serve with a small dab of Savory Fig Jam.

Savory Fig Jam
Makes about 1 cup

About 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces dried figs, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 cup dry red wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons honey

Gorgonzola_Walnut_Shortbread_Savory_Fig_Jam_04Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, add the onion and, stirring frequently, cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the figs, wine thyme and bay leaf, season with allspice, cayenne, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the figs are soft, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and cool, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and thyme twigs, transfer the jam to a small food processor, add the honey and pulse until almost smooth.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Two Years Ago – Hearty Black Bean Soup
Three Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna
Four Years Ago – Gingerbread Cupcakes
Five Years Ago – Buttery Chocolate Almond Brittle
Six Years Ago – Pork Stew Paprika

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How do you spend your Sundays? With or without football? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

All Downhill from Here & Hearty White Bean & Tomato Soup

rain_on_the_windowFor the next few, make that several, weeks; it’s all downhill from here. More often than not, Columbus Day marks the beginning of the end of leaf peeping. This year is no exception. While the roads are still filled with busloads of dead leaf watchers, the maples have peeked. No longer brilliant red; the tree in my yard is a skeleton with a few wispy leaves. For those that gush in wonder over the golden beeches and nutty brown oaks, there is still time for you. Truth be told, I’m a red girl. It’s more or less over for me when the maples fade, especially if the sky fades right along with them.

I’m not immune to bright yellow leaves against a brilliant blue sky but, unfortunately, mid-October can only mean one thing. We are entering the gray zone. Sure, we brag about our glorious fall to our friends who have the misfortune to live somewhere other than New England. We crow about our foliage, the mist on the lake in the early morning and the golden sunlight that filters through the golden leaves. The mornings and evenings are cool but my sunny (newly completed – yay!) terrace invites me outside for a break at midday.

That changes after Columbus Day.

It seems like overnight, glorious fall becomes a dreary twilight zone. It’s too miserable for autumn and not cold or clear enough for winter. Instead, it rains and rains some more. Followed by days of intermittent clouds, rain and, before you know it, snow. Not the nice fluffy stuff, the kind that is perfect for skiing or at least decent for snowshoeing. No, it is the wet, icy, sleety Halloween snow. The good stuff doesn’t come until late November or early December. Plus, it’s dark most of the time or maybe it just feels that way. The sun rises late and sets early, particularly for those of us that live at the bottom of the hill.

stirring_the_potSo, enough complaining! These dark, drab weeks are a perfect time to putter around the kitchen. The really well organized will cook up batches and batches of soup and marinara or Bolognese sauce. Not a bad idea if you’re a skier because, once the snow flies, you won’t have time to cook. If you’re not all that well organized or one of those I-hate-to-cook types, feel free to skip the puttering. Just flutter around the kitchen for a while, wave your arms a few times and then read a book or go for a walk. When you get back, make reservations.

Anyway, this too shall pass. The holidays are coming with lots of hoopla, fun and frivolity to keep us busy and happy. Before you know it, there’ll be enough snow for downhill and cross-country skiing. Whether you ski or not.

In the meantime, enjoy some time in the kitchen and bon appétit!

Hearty White Bean & Tomato SoupWhite_Bean__Tomato_Soup_06
It’s time to rattle the pots and cook up some rich and flavorful soup. Make a big batch of this delicious White Bean Soup; it freezes beautifully. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound dried small white beans, rinsed and picked over or 6 cups cooked, rinsed and drained
4 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped*
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon or to taste hot sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh, chopped rosemary
About 4 cups or more (less if you are using canned beans) chicken stock*
About 3 cups (28 ounce can) crushed tomatoes
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)†
1 bay leaf
2 ounces (about 1 cup) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more to serve
1/2-1 cup half-and-half (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sage Oil

Put the beans in a large bowl, add enough water to cover the beans by 2-4 inches, cover and soak in the refrigerator overnight.

Put the bacon in a soup kettle and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot and drain on paper towels. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

Leaving a coating in the bottom of the pot, drain some of the bacon fat, add the onion, leeks, carrots, and celery, season with hot sauce and cook, stirring from time to time, until the onion is almost translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans. Tie the thyme and bay leaf together with a piece of kitchen twine.

Add the beans, stock, crushed tomatoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind and herbs to the vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if the beans seem dry, until the beans are very tender, about 1 hour. If using canned beans, simmer for about 20 minutes.

Cool the soup for 20-30 minutes. Remove the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, thyme twigs and bay leaf and, working in batches, puree the soup. Use a blender for very smooth soup or a food processor for a more rustic version. Return the soup to the pot.

If you have the time, cool the soup to room temperature and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Stirring frequently, reheat the soup on medium heat. Stir in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, half-and-half and more stock if needed and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Reheat the bacon in a 350-degree oven for about 2 minutes. Serve the soup in bowls or mugs with a drizzle of Sage Oil and a sprinkle of bacon.

* For a vegetarian soup, substitute the bacon fat with a little olive oil and skip the bacon garnish. Use vegetable instead of chicken stock.

A piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind will add wonderful richness to your soups. If you have one handy, add it to the soup pot. If not, when you reach the end of your next wedge of parm; cover and store the rind in the freezer for the next time.

Sage Oil
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, gently packed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the herbs, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small food processor or blender and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped and incorporated into the oil.

Let the oil sit for an hour at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator to mix and meld the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Two Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Three Years Ago – Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Four Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Five Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Six Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you spend Columbus Day weekend? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good.

© Susan W. Nye, 2014

About Columbus & Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil

Landing_of_ColumbusThe long Columbus Day weekend is almost here. As far as I can tell, the celebrations started sometime in late September, maybe sooner, and just keep going and going. At least the furniture stores and automobile dealerships seem to celebrate Columbus Day for weeks on end. Every year, they hold never-ending, mega Columbus Day blowout sales. Or maybe they just seem to last forever. These deals come right on the heels of the back-to-school and Labor Day extravaganzas, immediately morph into Veterans Day discounts and then finally merge with Black Friday and Christmas markdowns.

But anyway, who was this guy who sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred and ninety-two? What’s his story? Back in elementary school, he was the hero who discovered America. All the Italian-American kids in the neighborhood loved it that an Italian had discovered America. With my Danish and Swedish roots, I felt just as proud when archeological remains of Viking settlements were found in Newfoundland. The digs proved that Scandinavians discovered North America four centuries before the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria left Spain. I kept waiting for a Leif the Lucky Day. I’m still waiting.

Columbus’ story is complicated. There is Columbus the hero. He’s the one who convinced the King and Queen of Spain that the earth was round and the shortest route to China was due west. They funded his trip and he discovered America. Ferdinand and Isabella rewarded Columbus with great wealth and made him governor of the new lands.

Then there is the greedy, criminal and cruel Columbus. In this saga, Columbus screws up and dies in debtors’ prison while another Italian, Amerigo Vespucci gets two continents named after him. Amerigo’s maps as well as his letters and journals eternally tie his name to South America. North America was thrown in during the bonus round. Marketing gurus love to applaud Amerigo. They suggest that Columbus, with a bit of effort, could have, should have, would have had the two continents named for him.

Like most gurus, these marketing types are both right and wrong. Yes, Vespucci’s early maps granted him the honor of having two continents as namesakes. And yes, Columbus was a great sailor but he was also a cranky tyrant and ineffective governor. He was such a nasty guy and poor manager that early settlers rebelled and sent him back to Spain in chains.

However, the story of Columbus dying, impoverished, in debtors’ prison; that’s a myth. He did return to Spain in chains and languished in prison for a month, maybe two. Before long, Ferdinand felt sorry for him and released him. After all, he was a national hero. The King restored most of Columbus’ wealth and titles and equipped him for another voyage to the New World. That said, he was still a nasty guy and Ferdinand never, ever let him govern again.

Regardless of what the marketing gurus say, for a vile dude, Chris did remarkably well. Sure, there is no South Columbus or North Columbia but scores of cities, districts, states, universities and even a country are named for him. And let’s not forget there is no Vespucci Day but Columbus Day is celebrated by millions with a day oThe season for fresh, local tomatoes is almost over. ff, parades and furniture markdowns.

Anyway, have a great weekend, enjoy the extra day off and bon appétit!

Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil
Try this delicious bruschetta before they are all gone. Enjoy!
Serves 8
tomatoes_01

1 loaf ciabatta or baguette bread, sliced about 1/2-inch-thick
Pesto Oil (recipe follows)
8 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
About 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange 16 bread slices on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the toasts from oven and use a basting brush to brush the warm toasts with Pesto Oil.

Meanwhile, put the tomatoes in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.

Mound the chopped tomatoes on the toasts and sprinkle with goat cheese, place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until heated through, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the bruschetta to a serving platter, sprinkle with pine nuts, drizzle with a little Pesto Oil and serve.

Pesto Oil Basil
Columbus was from Genoa, a city famous for its basil pesto.

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, gently packed
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the herbs, garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a small food processor or blender and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and process until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped and incorporated into the oil.

Let the oil sit for an hour at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator to mix and meld the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Two Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Three Years Ago – Lobster Mac & Cheese
Four Years Ago – Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup
Five Years Ago – Soupe au Pistou
Six Years Ago – Mulled Cider
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you spend Columbus Day weekend? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Oktoberfest & Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard

Beer_Stein_01The calendar may say September but it’s the final days of Oktoberfest in Munich. Oktoberfest in September? What’s up with that? Well, the original Oktoberfest actually was in October but as the party expanded from one week to three, it pushed its way into September.

Perhaps you remember your first Oktoberfest. The sun was bright and warm that afternoon. With a festive air, you and your buddies gathered in the beer garden at the Hofbräuhaus to eat and drink, laugh and sing. It was all quite jolly.

If you’re lucky, you still have a few stained and raggle-taggled cardboard coasters you nicked from the Hofbräuhaus for a souvenir. If you’re not so lucky, you have a dirndl or pair of lederhosen, hopefully not both, as a memento of the day. One or both sits in the back of your closet, a not so subtle reminder to never drink and shop. Not a total loss, the dirndl came in handy at a pirate party back in 1992. The lederhosen are always good for a last minute Halloween costume. If only you had the nerve to wear them!

Let this be the year to drag out that dirndl, put together a fine collection of great beers and brush up on your chicken dance. Create your own fun and festive Volksfest. Fill your garden with singing and camaraderie, simple food and great beer. If it turns cold or rainy, just bring the fun indoors.

There are lots of great microbreweries in New England. Splurge and try a couple. Experiment with a beer tasting. Instead of huge beer steins, like the ones you had at the Hofbräuhaus, use shot glasses for a tasting. Explore ales and lagers, wheat beers, stouts, porters and bitters with a small sip or two of each until you find a favorite. Then, fill up a frosty mug.

Along with the tasting, sing a few songs and maybe play a little football. And by football, I mean soccer. We may call it soccer in the U.S. but the Germans call it football and most are über-fans. Much to their delight, Germany won the World Cup this past summer, so a game would not be out of line. Besides, chasing a soccer ball around the yard will keep you warm as the day starts to cool off. Soccer not your thing? Well, how about some oompah music and a go at the chicken dance?

You’ll also want to haul out the grill for one last cookout, sausages, of course. Serve them as the main course with sauerkraut or coleslaw and potato salad and a slice of rye bread. Better yet, try my bite-sized sausages for a tasty appetizer. Since it gets chilly, if not downright cold, as soon as the sun starts to go down, be ready to move inside. A warm and cozy goulash will hit the spot for dinner.

So, what are you waiting for? Stockpile some microbrews, invite friends over for late afternoon and fire up the grill. Be sure to tell everyone to dress warmly and bring a favorite Oktoberfest story. And for those without an Oktoberfest tale? Any shopping disaster will do.

Enjoy the early autumn sunshine with your own version of the world’s biggest beerfest and bon appétit!

Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard
A hearty hors d’oeuvre for Oktoberfest or anytime. Enjoy!
Serves 8Bratwurst_Bites_Horseradish_Mustard_05

2-3 tablespoons minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
About 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1/4 cup beer (more if cooking inside)
Olive oil if cooking inside
Horseradish Mustard

Put the sage, spices, onion and garlic in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the pork and beer and gently mix until combined. Cover and chill for several hours, preferably overnight.

Use a 1-tablespoon ice cream or cookie scoop to scoop up the sausage meat and gently roll into balls. Can be formed several hours ahead, covered and refrigerated.

To grill the sausage bites: preheat the grill to medium high. Arrange the sausage bites on the grill and grill, turning once, until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

To cook inside: Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches if necessary, add the sausage bites to the skillet. Cook the bites until nicely browned, about 5 minutes per side. Add 1/2 cup beer and shaking the skillet a few times, continue cooking until the beer evaporates, a few minutes more.

Transfer the bratwurst bites to a large platter, add your favorite pretzels and serve with Horseradish Mustard. If you can find soft pretzels, or like to bake, give them a try.

Horseradish Mustard
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup whole grain mustard
1/4 cup prepared white horseradish, well drained
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 teaspoon or to taste honey (optional)
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to combine the flavors. Serve at room temperature.

Can be made ahead.

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One Year Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Two Years Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Three Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Four Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Five Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Six Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your favorite Oktoberfest story? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Harvest Weekend Special

appleWe are headed into the last weekend of September. Fall is definitely here. The sun rises a minute or two minutes later every morning and a few minutes earlier in the evening. We are starting to describe the temperature as crisp, especially in the morning. And with the chilly mornings comes the end of the harvest. Before long a hard freeze will put an end to the corn and the rest of the summer vegetables. It will be time for butternut squash, parsnips and Brussels sprouts.

Enjoy this harvest weekend with family and friends and some delicious end of summer/early fall dishes!

So, how to start? Pop the cork on a bottle of Prosecco, set out a dish of Rosemary Cashews, a wedge of fabulous cheese, some artisanal crackers and a bowl of Spicy Olives. When you’re ready, adjourn to the table for a fabulous Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts.

What’s next? The days are sunny but the evenings are cool so it’s okay to turn the oven on. Before your guests arrive, set up a pan of Baked Haddock with Fresh Tomatoes & Herbs. And roast some beautiful Carrots & Pearl Onions.When you’re ready for dinner, slide the haddock into the oven and reheat the carrots. Unless you’d prefer some Broccoli Rabe with Lemon, Garlic & Chili Flakes. Toss it together in minutes while the haddock bakes,.

For a sweet finish … apples are in season. How about my Apple Crisp? Or wow your guests with a Rustic Apple Croustade!

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

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© Susan W. Nye, 2014

On the Road – Bumper Stickers & Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts

bumper_sticker_honor_studentSo we’ve made it through the primaries which can only mean there will be fewer names but more signs in front lawns … and on car bumpers. While proclaiming your political preferences may (or may not) help your candidate, it doesn’t do a whole lot to entertain or educate your fellow travelers.

For that, we turn to the bumper stickers of proud parents. Well, maybe not; we’re all getting a little tired of the moms and pops who brag about their honor students. Especially, if we know for a fact that their sixteen-year-old kid still can’t ride a two-wheeler or eats paste when the art teacher’s back is turned.

While it was funny the first or second time, the defiant parent rant is not much better. They’re the ones that proclaim: My kid skateboards better than your honor student or My kid can hack into your honor student’s computer.

Then again, all these parents may be on to something. Especially if you believe the bumper sticker that urges you to Be nice to your kids. They’ll choose your nursing home. I’ve still got one question. Which is it – the honor roll kids or the skate boarders and hackers – who follow the BS (that’s bumper sticker) wisdom: To err is human, to blame it on somebody else shows management potential.

There was a time when many thought that riding in the car was calming. The invention of the bumper sticker killed that illusion. I’m not a fan of some of those disconcerting, even threatening signs on the back ends of cars and trucks. They start with the silly – I am not infantile, you stinky poopy head.Then, move on to the (hopefully) tongue in cheek with The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list. The worst have escalated to pure road rage with the likes of This vehicle insured by Smith and Wesson.

Cynical witticisms remind travelers that life is filled to overflowing with strains and tensions. For example, Stress is when you wake up screaming and you realize you weren’t asleep. Or If you are feeling good, don’t worry. You’ll get over it. Then the sad truth hits, forcing you to admit, I used to have a handle on life, but it broke. Perhaps you will feel better if you repeat three times – Without ME, it’s just AWESO.

Look around during a traffic jam and you may see a deep philosophical question, possibly two. Get caught at the tollbooth on 93 in Hooksett on a holiday weekend and you too may ask, What if the hokey pokey is really what it’s all about? Or you could definitely start to wonder, What would Scooby do? Some drivers choose their BS (again that’s bumper sticker) to share their skepticism. Their rear bumper offers up warnings like, Don’t believe everything you think. Hours or minutes, whatever the delay, the cars will eventually start to move. So please stay positive and Take it easy. Life is short.

At journeys end, it’s nice to bring at least one lesson home. How about – Wag more. Bark less. Oh, and maybe just one more, something like … Make dinner not war.

Bon appétit!

Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts beets
Usually a sweet dessert made with apples, a French tatin is an upside down tart. These mini tatins with roasted beets and goat cheese are a delicious start to any dinner party. Enjoy!
Serves 6

3-4 beets, peeled and cut into wedges
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, cut in half lengthwise and into thin wedges
Butter
6 tablespoons dry white wine
About 1 pound frozen puff pastry, thawed *
About 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
About 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
About 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the beets on a baking sheet, drizzle with just enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with thyme, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread the beets in a single layer and, turning once or twice, roast at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Add the onion to the beets with a little more olive oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Continue roasting until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.

Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Lightly butter 6 (4-ounce) ramekins. When cool enough to handle, arrange the beets and onion in the ramekins, packing tightly. Drizzle each ramekin with 1 tablespoon white wine.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the puff pastry about 1/8 inch thick. Use a large biscuit or cookie cutter to cut circles of pastry about an inch larger than the tops of the ramekins. Lay the pastry rounds on top of the ramekins. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan and bake until the pastry is nicely browned, about 20 minutes. Let the tarts cool for about 5 minutes.

To serve: one at a time, invert a plate on top of each ramekin and, using a pot holder to hold the ramekin and plate together, invert the tart onto plate. Replace any beets or onions that stick to ramekin. Sprinkle the vegetables with goat cheese, chopped walnuts and parsley and serve immediately.

* If you prefer, use my Savory Flaky Pastry instead of the puff pastry.

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Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your favorite bumper sticker? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014