Soupy Weekend Special

nye_pumpkinsAlright then, it looks like it could be a cloudy, rainy weekend in New Hampshire. Not to worry … remember soup – it’s good for what ails you, including, a drab day indoors. Relax and enjoy the soothing work of chopping vegetables. Revel in the warmth of your kitchen and cozy aroma of a bubbling soup. Share the delicious warmth and invite the neighbors over for a comfy evening by the fire.

Not sure what to cook … well, how about …

With a chill in the air, I’m thinking flatbread or one of its cousins to start. May I suggest you try my Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach or Savory Galette with Spinach, Mushrooms & Manchego for a relaxed start to the evening.

Next, soup’s on. How about piping hot mugs of Cheddar Ale Soup. You’ll probably want to add a salad. How about one of my favorites – Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad or a colorful Mixed Reds & Greens Salad with Roasted Garlic & Shallot Vinaigrette .

Finally, it’s time for a sweet treat. With Halloween just around the corner, pumpkin sounds good. Try my delicious Pumpkin Cupcakes or my addictive Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What are your plans for the 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, 2016

Soup for What Ails You & Cheddar Ale Soup

stirring_the_potHave you ever pondered the curative powers of soup? No? Well, let’s take a minute to think about it. Somehow, a steaming bowl of soup can heal you, revive you, lift your spirits and get you going again. It is truly amazing. I suppose, in most cases, it’s some combination of willpower and placebo. Perhaps soup is nothing more and, more important, nothing less than the power of positive thinking in a bowl.

Think about it for a minute. Somehow or other, no matter what ails you; soup is the answer. Okay, maybe not every time but often enough …

Head cold? Slurp down a bowl of chicken soup, breathe in the steam and let it clear those sinuses. Then, take two aspirins and go to bed early. You’ll be almost good-as-new in the morning.

Heartbroken? Forget the ice cream. Stir up some tomato soup and maybe add a grilled cheese sandwich. These elementary school favorites will take you back to simpler times. You remember; when boys (or girls) had cooties. You might not be fully recovered by the next day but you’ll be on your way.

Your favorite little black dress just a tad too tight? Whip up a batch of healthy, hearty vegetable soup. It will fill you up without a lot of empty calories. Add a daily walk or a gym workout and you’ll be svelte again in no time.

Stuck inside on a rainy day? Break out the roasting pan and soup kettle and make a batch of butternut squash soup. Think big. You’ll want to enjoy some now and freeze a gallon or two for later. Boredom and your Thanksgiving appetizer dilemma are solved!

Depressed about the rapidly approaching, very long New Hampshire winter? Sink your spoon into a bowl of hearty chowder. Any chowder will do – fish, lobster or corn. A good chowder will warm you up and, at least at my house, stir up a few wonderful memories of Nana Nye.

Even more depressed about the increasingly negative tone of the election? That could be a tough one. I’m not sure if there is a soup powerful enough to ward off that kind of funk. Perhaps you should fight fire with a fire. A spicy Thai curry might do it. Then again, maybe you feel the need to take the rhetoric down a notch or seven. If that’s the case, consider the humble spud. A comforting mug of potato soup could be the cure.

Friends coming for dinner? So, you’ve asked six of your favorite people to come over. It’s only been a day since you issued the invitations. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Now you’re not so sure. Relax; it’s no big deal. Keep it super casual and encourage everyone to come in their most comfortable jeans and favorite sweater. Make it souper delicious with finger food and mugs of cheddar ale soup around the fire. There you have it – soup – the key to becoming the world’s most confident and capable host.

Get out your soup pot and have a great week. Bon appétit!

Cheddar Ale Soup
A cheesy soup (and pun) for what ails you! Serve it at your next fireside dinner and enjoy!
Serves 8cheddar_ale_soup_01

6-8 ounces thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 or more cups chicken broth
2 or more cups whole milk
12 ounces ale
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme
24 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Garnish: chives and a little extra cheddar

Put the bacon in a soup pot and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Leave the fat in the pot, remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.

Raise the heat to medium-high, toss the onion, carrots, celery and potato in the bacon fat, season with paprika, chipotle, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the butter and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Add the flour, toss to combine and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. A little at a time, stir in the broth, milk and ale, add the Worcestershire and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Remove the pot from the heat and cool for about 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme twigs and, working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return the soup to the pot.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated.

Set the soup over medium heat and re-heat to steaming. A handful at a time, whisk in the cheese. Whisking constantly and adding more milk or stock if necessary, cook until the cheese has melted and is incorporated into the soup. Do not boil.

Meanwhile, put the bacon pieces on a sheet pan and warm in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls, garnish with a sprinkle of cheddar, bacon and chives and serve.

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One Year Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Two Years Ago – Gorgonzola & Walnut Shortbread with Savory Fig Jam
Three Years Ago – Soupe de Poisson Provençal
Four Years Ago – Hearty Black Bean Soup
Five Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna
Six Years Ago – Gingerbread Cupcakes
Seven Years Ago – Buttery Chocolate Almond Brittle
Eight Years Ago – Pork Stew Paprika

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

What’s your secret? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Fall Foliage Weekend Special

autumn_pleasant_lakeOh my gosh and golly, New Hampshire is just stunning! Stunning, there is no other word for it. Chilly in the morning, a magical mist rises from the lake. By mid-morning, the sun is warm and the sky is blue, the perfect backdrop for the brilliant red and gold leaves.

At the end of the day, cozy up with a few good pals and a delicious bowl of chili! Here’s a yummy menu to try this weekend …

Forget the same-ol’ same-ol’. Start with a tasty crostini. If you haven’t yet, you try my Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts or Mushroom Crostini. Sound good?

Now for the main course. Chili is a great idea. Make it early and then enjoy the day. Forget that bowl o’ red (or not). It’s fall, embrace the flavors of the season. How about a batch of my Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans? It’s autumn in a bowl! Add a simple salad of greens with one of my Classic Vinaigrettes and my Double Corn & Cheddar Muffins.

What about dessert? Well, you can go fancy-cozy with Maple Mousse with Apple Compote or cozy-cozy with Apple Crisp. I’ll let you choose.

Have a colorful weekend and bon appétit!

What are your plans for the 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, 2016

Enjoy the Peak & Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans

fall_leaves_02There is a closely guarded secret in northern New England. It’s not like one of those deep, dark family secrets. You know the type – maybe your uncle is ex-KGB or your grandparents were illegal aliens. Heck, maybe you haven’t paid taxes in a couple of decades or have an email server in your basement. Whatever it is, you’re probably okay as long as you don’t run for office.

New Hampshire’s secret is the foliage. Not the fact that we have it and it’s glorious. No, our secret is all about timing. All those people who crowded our highways and byways over the long weekend; they missed it. The peak, at least in my neighborhood, is rarely if ever on the second weekend of October. As long as Hurricane Matthew doesn’t take a turn and strip all the leaves from the trees, the colors should be at their most glorious this coming weekend.

Now that you know the truth, what are you going to do about it? How will you celebrate our bright and brilliant countryside? The peak comes and goes in what seems like instant so you don’t have a lot of time to ponder. Before you know it, the golden days of October will disappear. Is there any debate that New Hampshire is at its worst in November?

First and foremost, get out and about. Take a walk through the woods for an up close and personal foliage tour. Nervous about ticks? Take a walk through town, any town. Is there anything more New England than an old white church framed in scarlet and gold again a bright blue sky? The lake is magic this time of year. When the water is still, it is like glass. A canoe or kayak paddle is definitely in order. Maybe you’d prefer to hop on your bike and cover more ground. Or get in the car and go further still. However you travel, bring a festive picnic or plan to stop at your favorite bistro.

In addition to that bistro, you might want to wander through some of your favorite shops. Admire some antiques, find the perfect pumpkin and splurge on the latest novel by your favorite author. It’s probably due to all those years of back- to- school shopping but there’s something about fall. It makes us want to buy a new sweater, a pair of boots or new pillows for the sofa. Maybe even a new sofa?

While you are wandering around the farmstand looking for pumpkins, don’t forget to stock up on cider, apples, squash and a basket of gnarly gourds. It’s time to bake your first apple pie of the season. I guess anything apple will do – a cake, muffins – you choose! As for that lovely squash or sugar pumpkin, you’ll want to get cozy after a day outside with soup, risotto or chili.

And what about those gnarly gourds? They are for decorating. After Christmas, fall is the most decorated season. Create a festive display of mums, pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks on your front porch. Perhaps you’d like to use some of those pumpkins to build fanciful scarecrows. Whether you go elegant or whimsical, there’s still a bit of time left for outdoor living. Be sure to invite a few friends over to enjoy a cup of afternoon tea or an early evening cocktail surrounded by your creativity.

Enjoy the peak and bon appétit!

Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans
Make this delicious chili in advance for an easy feast after an adventure-filled day. Enjoy!
Serves 12pumpkins_gords_02

1 pound dried black beans
2 bay leaves
Olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2-2 large onions, chopped
1 (or more to taste) chipotle pepper(s) in adobo, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 pounds ground turkey
2-3 cups homemade (or canned) pumpkin puree
2-3 cups chicken or turkey stock or broth
1 1/2 cups beer, preferably dark beer
3/4 cup sour cream
Garnish: toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh chopped cilantro

Rinse the beans, put them in a bowl, add water to cover by about 4 inches and soak overnight.

Drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans and 1 bay leaf in large pot, add water to cover by 3-4 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

While the beans are cooking, heat a little olive oil in a large casserole and heat over medium. Add the carrots, onions, chipotle, spices and herbs, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Add a little more olive oil to the casserole, add the turkey, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Return the vegetables to the pot and stir to combine.

Stir in the pumpkin puree, 1-2 cups stock, the beer and remaining bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Simmer on very low until the beans are ready to add to the chili.

After the beans have been cooking for about 45 minutes, drain and add them to the chili. Cover and transfer the chili to the oven. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Stirring a few times and adding more chicken stock if necessary, cook for about 1 hour.

Put the sour cream in a bowl. A little at a time, whisk 2 cups of chili into the sour cream. Stir the sour cream mixture into the chili, add more chicken stock if necessary and return the chili to the oven for about 1 hour.

Serve the chili in shallow bowls garnished with pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro.

Best if made ahead, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated for serval hours or overnight. To reheat: bring to a simmer over low heat on the stovetop or in a 350-degree oven.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree
1 or more sugar pumpkin(s)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the pumpkin(s) in half and scoop and scrape out the seeds. Quarter each of the halves and place the pieces on a baking sheet.

Roast the pumpkin at 350 degrees until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and put it in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse and process until the pumpkin is smooth.

Put the puree in a sieve lined with coffee filters or cheesecloth and drain for several hours or overnight.

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One Year Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Two Years Ago – Hearty White Bean & Tomato Soup
Three Years Ago – Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
Four Years Ago – Tagliatelle alla Carbonara
Five Years Ago – Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Six Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Seven Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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

What’s your secret? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Columbus Day Weekend Special

pleasant_lake_fall_04The long holiday weekend is upon us. The neighborhood is starting to fill up with summer people. The street and lake will hum with activity. My part-time neighbors will spend a few last days in paradise before heading south again. Beach chairs, kayaks and life jackets will be stowed and one last hike in the hills will be enjoyed. With sunshine, brilliant foliage and blue sky, it is a great time to enjoy life. After all, Columbus Day has strong ties to the Italian-American community. When I think of Italians, I can’t help but think of la dolce vita, the good life.

Here are a few ideas for a dolce vita harvest dinner:

Start with a beautiful antipasto platter. Set out some beautiful cheeses with a basket of tasty, artisanal crackers. Next, add some delicious Artichoke Pesto, Tapenade, Chicken Liver Pâté and/or Caponata for a delicious start to your feast.

Now to the table for a light and bright salad. Maybe you’d like to try my Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula Salad or Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad. Now for the main course – pasta of course! What to suggest? How about Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash, Italian Chicken Stew with Penne or Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes?

Now, what’s for dessert? Everyone loves a classic. For that you can’t beat Cardamom Plum Tort or Tiramisu.

Have a wonderful weekend and bon appétit!

What are your plans for the 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, 2016

Columbus Day Weekend & Cardamom Plum Tort

Elkins_Dam_Foliage_02The Columbus Day weekend is just days away. Although Columbus Day is a federal holiday, less than half the states celebrate and many companies treat it like any other Monday. As far as I can figure, Columbus Day has lost some of its luster. I could be wrong but the holiday seems to have regressed into not much more than a good excuse to buy a cheap mattress or shoes at a big discount.

Whoa bucko, let’s be careful there. Let’s not go disparaging Columbus Day. That goes double if your company gives you the day off or you’re married to an Italian. Columbus Day was a hard fought holiday. Although it was first celebrated in 1792, Columbus Day did not become a federal holiday until 1937. President Roosevelt’s proclamation was largely due to the tireless lobbying of the Knights of Columbus and Italian-Americans.

Admittedly, Columbus Day is fraught with controversy. From all or at least most accounts, Columbus was a nasty guy. His treatment of the indigenous people he met in the Caribbean as well as his crew was atrocious. Many cities and even a few states have changed the name and focus of the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day, Native American Day or Discovery Day. I’m good with that. Let’s settle this controversy quick because early to mid-October is a wonderful time for a long weekend.

For one thing, it’s still warm or at least warmish. Whether you want to march in or watch a parade, go for a marathon bike ride or visit a pumpkin patch, you can do it without dressing up like the Michelin man. For another, the leaves are starting to turn. No one but no one does fall foliage like New Hampshire.

Of course this year, we’ll have to contend with more than a few politicians making the rounds. With the election just weeks away, they’ll be at parades and harvest festivals. One or two might even show up in a pumpkin patch. I doubt any will make the mistake of checking out a corn maze. There’s too much at stake to risk the indignity of getting lost in a field of corn. Instead, the pols will be offering up sound bites, shaking hands and kissing babies. Let’s hope that the endless grind of campaigning doesn’t get the better of them. Heaven forbid someone starts biting hands and shaking babies.

For anyone living in New Hampshire, Columbus Day is a reminder that cold weather is coming and coming soon. As a midpoint between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, it is a good time to get your fall To-Do list together. Besides tracking down pumpkins, it’s not a bad idea to put the kayak away, run the weed-wacker around the garden and maybe plant some bulbs. While the long weekend is not a hard and fast deadline for these chores, I suspect we are all starting to feel the looming threat of an early snowfall. Those first flakes may not be hours or days away but the state is famous for Halloween ice and snow.

Regardless of how you spend the day, biking, weed-wacking or shopping, you’ll want to end it with a great meal. Both the holiday and the harvest can inspire you. Let your taste buds travel around the world and back again. After all, Columbus was from Italy and he was trying to get to the Far East when he landed in the Bahamas. Take your pick of any of these great cuisines or mix it up.

Have a fabulous weekend and bon appétit!

Cardamom Plum Tort
This melting pot dessert combines plums from Italy and cardamom from India. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Butter and flour for the pan
1 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
10-12 Italian prune plums or other purple plums
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a deep dish pie plate.

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

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined.

Add the dry ingredients and beat on low until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Cut the plums in half lengthwise, remove the pits and quarter, again lengthwise. Put the plums in a bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice and toss to combine. Add a little sugar if the plums are particularly tart.

Arrange the plums skin side up in concentric circles on top of the batter. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm, plain or with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream.

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One Year Ago – Easy Microwave Popcorn
Two Years Ago – Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil
Three Years Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Four Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Five Years Ago – Lobster Mac & Cheese
Six Years Ago – Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup
Seven Years Ago – Soupe au Pistou
Eight 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 the long holiday weekend? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Welcome October Weekend Special

rain_on_the_windowAfter a yearlong drought, it’s going to be a showery weekend. Make the best of the situation by breaking out your pots and pans! There’s a football game on Sunday (go Pats). Why not invite friends over for the game and some tasty tailgate food?

An indoor tailgate party give you lots of options. Here are a few:

Start with a few nibbles. Hopefully, it’s not too late to pick up a couple of ears of corn. You’ll love my Corncakes. Alternatively, give my Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus a try. Or go old school with my Simple Salsa & Guacamole.

Next, set up a delicious buffet table.

You must try my latest chili. With a hint of Brazil and the Caribbean, you’ll love my Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verde. I like to serve the stew with a spoonful of basmati rice. Basmati has just a touch of sweetness and it is perfect with the warmth and spice of the stew. Add a salad or slaw or both. Jicama Slaw and/or Caesar Salad would be nice.

For dessert, think grab and go. How about brownies? For a bit of elegance, try my Cheesecake Brownies or Espresso Brownies.

Stay dry, have a wonderful weekend and bon appétit!

What are your plans for the 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, 2016