It’s an Easter Dinner Weekend Special

Nye EasterI’m still waiting for the final headcount for Easter dinner. So far it looks like a relatively small group, probably six. I think I’ve got the menu more or less under control.

Here’s what I’m planning:

How to start? I’m hoping to find artichokes in the supermarket. If I succeed, I’ll serve up some Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp. Many years ago I spent Easter in Rome and the artichokes were in season. For four days, we enjoyed one beautiful artichoke dish after another. Since then, I have always associated artichokes and Easter. In addition, I’ve got Spicy Olives and some Rosemary Cashews to nibble.

What about dinner? To keep it simple, we’ll sit down to Caesar Salad. Then it’s on to the main event. I’m not a real fan of ham, so lamb is my go-to for Easter. If it’s cold and dreary I braise it with artichokes and mushrooms and serve it with creamy polenta. If it’s sunny and clear, I’ll roll the grill out of the garage for Grilled Lamb. Asparagus is another Easter staple and Asparagus Risotto is delicious with grilled lamb.
Easter_Bunnies
And dessert? Most of my family are happy with anything chocolaty. Just in case the Easter bunny forgets to stop by, I need to come up with something, anything chocolate.Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake is pretty special and delicious. That said, Lemon Cheesecake with a generous spoonful of strawberries would be delicious.

Have a lovely weekend and a Happy Easter! Bon appétit!

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2014

How Will You Celebrate Easter? & Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake

bunny_in_snow_w_crociI don’t know about you but I have trouble keeping track of Easter. One year it’s in March, the next it’s in April. For a while there, I thought I must have missed it. But no, it’s this coming Sunday. In case you are wondering, Easter is tied to the lunar calendar. It is the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. That said, I have enough trouble figuring out if it’s Thursday or Wednesday. Keeping track of the phases of the moon is probably beyond me.

Then again, knowing the current moon phase does have its perks. Being on the beach on just the right summer night to see the full moonrise over Kearsarge is one of life’s special gifts. (It more than makes up for winter full moons. While the moon on the snow is lovely, to steal a phrase from Clement Moore, it gives “a luster of midday” that tends to keep me awake half the night.)

But enough of that and back to Easter. If you live in New England, chances are pretty good that you’ve searched for eggs in a blizzard at one time or another. It’s just as likely that you dusted off the picnic table for a cookout at least once, hopefully more. Yes indeed, we have shivered in our new spring finery on more Easters than I can count. Conversely, I remember one spectacular Easter afternoon when all the kids jumped into the neighbor’s pool. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for warm and sunny this year.

How will you celebrate this weekend? Will you greet the sun with a communal prayer? Host an Easter egg hunt for all the kids in the neighborhood? Gather your family for a delicious dinner? With any luck, a contingent of Nyes will be headed to Pleasant Lake for Easter. I’m not taking any chances and have already started doing my sun dance. I would love to take a walk around the lake in shorts and a t-shirt and spend some time on the beach. No, I don’t expect a swim. Still, it would be nice put our feet in the sand while we catch up, admire the mountain and watch the ice melt. Ice out is not unlike watching paint dry but it’s been a long, cold winter and we must find our entertainment when and where we can.

If I want to join the fun in the sun, Easter dinner needs to be easy. There is still a lot of snow in my yard, so eating outside is not an option. However, I’m thinking lamb on the grill sounds wonderful. Next, I’ll probably do something with asparagus but I’m not sure what. I still have plenty of time to figure it out! Finally, since most of my family members are chocoholics, a chocolaty dessert is probably in order.

Best wishes for a Happy Easter with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake
This cheesecake is a family favorite and I usually save it for special occasions and holidays. I can make it one or two days ahead so it won’t interfere with family fun. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does!Chocolate_Espresso_Cheesecake_04
Serves 12-16

Cookie Crust
9 ounces chocolate wafers or Oreo cookies (about 2 cups crumbs)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Put the cookies in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the sugar, cinnamon, espresso powder and salt and pulse to combine.

Put the cookies in the springform pan, drizzle with the melted butter and toss to combine. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and about 1-inch up the sides of the pan.

Bake the crust until set, about 7 minutes. Cool the crust while you prepare the filling. Keep the oven at 350 degrees.

Chocolate Layer
6 ounces dark chocolate
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon espresso powder
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Put the chocolate in a microwave proof bowl and zap on medium for 30 second (or less) intervals until the chocolate is almost melted. Let chocolate sit for a minute or two and then whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon and espresso powder in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. Slowly add the chocolate and beat until it is fully incorporated. Pour the chocolate layer into the springform pan and spread in an even layer.

Espresso Layer
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extractChocolate_Espresso_Cheesecake_01

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon and espresso powder in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. Pour the filling into the pan and spread evenly over the chocolate layer.

Wrap the springform pan in two layers of heavy aluminum foil and place it in a large roasting pan. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake until slightly puffed, softly set and golden, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer the springform pan to a rack and cool. Cover and refrigerate the cheesecake overnight or up to 2 days.

About 45 minutes before serving remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator. Use a knife to cut carefully around sides of pan to loosen the cheesecake. Release the spring and remove the sides. Cut the cheesecake into thin wedges and serve.

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One Year Ago – Runners’ Chicken with Pasta
Two Years Ago – Steamed Artichokes with Bagna Cauda or Warm Lemon-Garlic Sauce
Three Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Cake
Four Years Ago – Filet de Perche Meunière
Five Years Ago – Chicken Provençal
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Easter? 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

It’s a Birthday Party Special

Happy_DayI’ve got a busy weekend planned. The bad news is I’ll be plugging away at my taxes. The good news is I’m throwing a birthday party for a friend. It will be a Girls Night Out fête filled with good food, wine and stories.

Here’s what I’m planning:

How to start? Someone else is bringing a few treat to nibble; a wedge or two of great cheese and some grav lax. I’ll set out a dish of my Spicy Olives and some Roasted Almonds or Rosemary Cashews. Note to my local supermarket … the last couple of times I looked, you were out of raw cashews.

What about dinner? I’m going with one of my party favorites. You guessed it, Roast Chicken. I’ll serve it with Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach. This all-in-one side dish is an easy solution when you have a crowd. I’ll prep all the vegetables, herbs and pine nuts in advance. While we are all enjoying a glass of wine and a few nibbles, I’ll cook the quinoa and throw everything together.

And dessert? Instead of a traditional birthday cake, I’m thinking of my Panna Cotta with Strawberries. Unless I go with ss you are in the mood for my Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème, also with strawberries..

Between cooking and bookkeeping, I hope to get at least one walk around the lake. 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

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2014

I Have a Cold & Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach

slippers_02As I sit down at the keyboard, all I want to do is lie down or, at the very least, curl up on the sofa with a blanket. I am sniffly and sneezy and ache all over. Everything, yes everything, hurts. My head hurts, my shoulders hurt, my back hurts, my fingers hurt, even my skin hurts. Okay, I may be exaggerating but only the tiniest little bit. There is nothing like a cold to make you stiff and sore all over.

This whole head cold thing started on Saturday. Although I did my best to ignore it, I woke up with the hint of a sore throat. True to form, instead of crawling back into bed, I headed off to ski. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d solved a scratchy throat and a heavy head by ignoring them. I spent the morning and early afternoon on the slopes. When my legs began to feel like lead and the snow like cement, I called it quits. Not to be daunted, I ran some errands and filled a cart at the supermarket instead of going straight home.

Although my two big, canvas bags of groceries were admittedly heavy, I managed to lug them into the kitchen. But not much more; it took an almost herculean effort to move the perishables into the refrigerator. Leaving the half-empty bags on the kitchen floor, I staggered upstairs for a nap. I’m not sure if I slept but an hour under the covers followed by a steaming shower got me going again.

While I wasn’t my usual perky self, it was clear that all I needed was a decent meal and a good night’s sleep. All would be right with the world. If nothing else, I am an optimist. Oh, but that little burst of energy was just a tease, an illusion of almost-good health.

On Sunday morning, my body waved a white flag or cried uncle or whatever it does to admit defeat. To placate it, I stayed in bed an extra hour but that wasn’t enough. The old bod didn’t want anything to do with play or work. It didn’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone. No indeed, if such a thing is possible, my body was out on strike. All it wanted to do was laze around, sip lemon-ginger tea and watch Law and Order reruns. I never actually watched Law and Order when it was on in prime time so I have a lot of catching up to do. By midday, I was tired of Jack McCoy’s sanctimonious, holier-than-thou ranting or maybe I’d started to recover because I found the energy to start a new novel. Read one, not write one.

I’m still not thinking straight and I continue to sneeze, cough and, yes, I admit it, complain. That said, I guess I’m on the mend. I’m not quite ready to leap tall buildings in a single bound, run a marathon or cook a five-course meal for eight. However, I’m spending most of the day upright and have not been tempted to check in with Jack McCoy.

With the change of seasons and April showers, it can be difficult to stay healthy. Get plenty of rest, don’t forget to exercise, eat healthy and maybe pamper yourself, at least a little bit. As for me, I think I’m just about due for another nap.

Bon appétit!

Quinoa with Sweet Potato and Spinach
This mixture of super foods may not cure the common cold but it could help you build up your resistance for a healthy spring. Serve it as a side dish or add chickpeas for a one-dish supper on Meatless Monday. Enjoy! quinoa_sweet_potato_spinach_01
Serves 6-8

About 1 pound sweet potato, peeled and chopped
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups chicken broth
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
(1 1/2-2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained – optional)
8-10 ounces fresh baby spinach
About 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Put the sweet potato onto a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with just enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, season with half the paprika and cumin, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread the sweet potato in a single layer and roast at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Add the bell pepper, and adding more olive oil and vinegar if necessary, toss and continue roasting until the vegetables are tender, 10-20 minutes more.

Put the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse well with cold water.

Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery, season with the remaining paprika and cumin, salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Stir in the quinoa (and chickpeas) add the chicken broth and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the quinoa is tender.

Add the spinach in 3-4 handfuls, tossing to combine and wilt the spinach. Add the sweet potato and toss again. Transfer the quinoa to a large serving platter or individual plates and garnish with pine nuts and fresh, chopped herbs.

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One Year Ago – Runners’ Chicken with
Two Years Ago – Bananas Foster
Three Years Ago – Tapenade
Four Year Ago – Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème
Fiveour Years Ago – Lemon Tart
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you stay healthy this spring? Any special resolutions for the new season? 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

Is-It-Spring-Yet Weekend Special

chairliftOops! I am more than a bit late posting a menu for the weekend. I couldn’t help it. We’ve just had two beautiful days … blue sky and warm temperatures. I couldn’t help myself, the ski slopes were calling my name. Can you blame? Not only is the mountain closing on Sunday but rain is in the forecast. In fact, the rain has already started.

I’m thinking a Greek-inspired menu would work well with this week’s grilled lamb chop recipe.

How to start? You could try my favorite Spanakopita Triangles. Unless you prefer my Greek Stuffed Mushrooms. Sip ouzo or a dry white wine and ignore the rain.

What about dinner? It’s not too early to drag the grill out of the garage or snowbank. My Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce sound good. Serve them with Grilled Asparagus and Couscous.

And dessert? The maple syrup has finally started to flow. It may not be Greek or Greek-inspired but my Maple Mousse with Apple Compote is delicious. Unless you are in the mood for my Chocolate-Orange Tart.

With any luck, the rain won’t wash away the last of the snow and we can have one last ski day on Sunday. If not, well, stay dry and have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2014

Pranks, Tricks & Scams & Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce

susie_brendaApril Fools Day is a fun, harmless holiday, filled with silly jokes and foolish pranks. When we were little, my sister Brenda was the master when it came to practical jokes. From time to time, I assisted her, playing Betty to her Veronica or maybe it was closer to Boo Boo and Yogi. More often than not, I was either oblivious to her antics, caught up in some adventure or misadventure of my own, or her clueless victim.

Brenda is a few years older than I am and, from about the age of eight or nine, was a clever prankster. She had no trouble thinking ahead and meticulously planned her little scams. I, on the other hand, was the ditzy sister. An optimist or romantic might say I was living in the moment; a practical parent might call it living in the clouds.

Not just a planner, Brenda had an uncanny knack for keeping a straight face as she deftly pulled the wool over her hapless victim’s eyes. If I somehow managed to pull off a prank, I was much too excited and pleased with myself to keep it quiet for long. My uncontrolled giggling was a sure sign I had a secret to share. Not my sister, she could think ahead, execute flawlessly and then innocently look her victim in the eye until she decided to unveil her sometimes dastardly, sometimes hilarious deed.

She had a long running prank with our much younger brother. When John was about two, she convinced him that she had a twin sister, Eleanor. Eleanor did not spend a lot of time at home but on boring afternoons when John was being a particularly pesky toddler, she would appear out of nowhere. She calmly sent John all over the house and yard to find first one fictitious twin and then the other. The prank went on for a long time but I never saw my sister snicker, giggle or do anything to give herself away.

Like most children, we had our list of daily chores. We made our beds, cleaned our rooms and set and cleared the dinner table. When we got a little older, we also did the dishes. Brenda hatched a few of her best pranks while stacking the dishwasher. Switching the salt and sugar were standard April Fools fare but she never played her best pranks on April 1st. One spring evening it was much too nice to stay inside so I skipped out of the dish detail. Hours later I discovered Brenda’s sweet revenge; a cold, little nest of spaghetti in the bottom of my bed. And yes, I dreamt of worms, both that night and a few more.

Even under her tutelage, I never developed Brenda’s skill for practical jokes. However, I did develop a bit of talent for tall tales. Tired of being mocked for my little feet, I once I wove an elaborate story of how my parents were missionaries and I grew up in China. I explained that out of respect for local custom my feet were bound as a child. I managed to tell the story with total sincerity and was surprised at how easy it was to dupe my tormentor. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I felt guilty and fessed-up pretty quickly. My childhood, while happy, was far from exotic. I grew up in a Boston suburb and had never been to China. Besides foot binding was outlawed long before I was born.

With winter dragging on and on it looks like Mother Nature has been pulling a prank on us. March came in like a lion and went out like a lion. We can only hope that she is feeling a little guilty and packs April with warm days and sunny skies. And if we can’t have warm days, can we please, at the very least, have sunny skies.

Bon appétit!

Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce
Grilled_Lamb_Chops_Lemon-Mint_Sauce_04Assuming you can dig the grill out of the snowbank, there is nothing foolhardy about these delicious grilled lamb chops and flavorful yogurt sauce. Enjoy!
Serves 6

Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
4 cloves garlic
1 shallot, roughly chopped
About 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-1 1/2 cups dry red wine
About 3-3 1/2 pounds lamb chops (1-2 large or 2-3 small chops per person)
1 bay leaf
Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows)

Put the citrus juices, garlic, shallot, mint, thyme, mustard and honey in a blender, season with salt and pepper and pulse to combine and chop. Add a little wine and process until smooth. Slowly add the remaining wine and process until well combined.

Put the lamb chops and bay leaf in a large, heavy-duty plastic, re-sealable bag, add the marinade and seal the bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate the lamb in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight, turning a few times.

Remove the lamb from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. The fire should be medium hot.

Shaking off the excess marinade, remove the lamb from the plastic bag and place on the grill. Grill until medium rare, 2-3 minutes per side for small chops and 3-5 minutes for larger. Remove from the grill and let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serve the lamb with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce.

Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce
1 cup plain yogurt
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Cover and chill for an hour or more to combine the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Confetti Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Two Years Ago – Magret de Canard Provencal
Three Years Ago – Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool Parfaits
Four Years Ago – Grilled Lamb & Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Five Years Ago – Spicy OlivesOr Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have a favorite practical joke, prank or scam? 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

Laid Back Weekend Special

rain_boots_02What the heck? It’s going to be one of those gray and drizzly, maybe rainy, maybe icy, maybe snowy weekends. Yet again, Mother Nature is tormenting us. When, make that will, we have one of those idyllic spring skiing weekend. Forget weekend, how about one perfect day.

Okay, that’s enough whining. On to the wine-ing. Make a few calls, figure out dinner, get out the Scrabble board and find the corkscrew.

How to start? A few easy snacks should do. Roast up a batch of Rosemary Cashews; they are addictive. Add a few veggies, maybe some crackers and a bowl of Tapenade. Cucumber chunks, bell pepper strips and endive all make great scoops for tapenade.

When the game starts to wind down or people start grow a little faint with hunger, serve small mugs of Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup or head to the table and enjoy a Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad

And for dinner? I hope you will try out my White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale. If your Saturday night equals franks and beans, they are a delicious alternative. Now, what to serve with the beans? You can keep it traditional and grill up some sausages to go with the beans. Unless you’d prefer seafood, Seared Scallops are a great match for beans. A Roast Chicken, Duck Breast (since the beans are nice and saucy, the sauce is optional) or Pork Tenderloin (skip the mushroom sauce) are also great choices.

And finally, end the evening with something sweet:If you want to take another crack at the Scrabble board or just enjoy the fire, a portable treat is just the thing. Try my Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting, Lemon-Lime Squares or Cappuccino Brownies.

Whatever you do or cook, make it a great weekend! Bon appétit!

How will keep from going stir-crazy this rainy-icy-snowy weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. 

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2014