A Sweetheart of a Weekend Special

valentine_roses_03Sunday is Valentine’s Day. How will you celebrate? Reservations at a favorite restaurant? A weekend away at a favorite country inn or an elegant hotel in the big city. Alternatively, maybe you’ll cook a cozy dinner for two at home. For singles, Valentine’s Day has become a favorite time for girls’ night out.

How about a romantic dinner for two! Grab aprons, pop open a bottle of champagne and have fun cooking together.

How to start? Toast a few slices of baguette and top them with my tasty Artichoke Pesto. Nibble and sip while you make a delicious dinner together.

Moving on to a sweet dinner menu. A colorful Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad will be a wonderful start your dinner. For you main course, how about Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic. You’ll have leftovers for a busy day later in the week, or cut the recipe in half. Serve the chicken with Whole Grain Pilaf (or keep it homey with Smashed Potatoes) and Roasted Beets with Sautéed Greens.

Now what about dessert? Traditional types will want to stick with chocolate. So how about Pot de Crème or Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème and a few strawberries. You might want to add a few airy and delicious Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache.

Now what about that girl’s night out idea? See above but … double or triple the recipes as/if needed. It all depends on how many single ladies will be joining you.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

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

What’s on your agenda this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2016

First in the Nation – Primary Day in New Hampshire & Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic

I_votedThose of us lucky enough to live in New Hampshire have lots to be proud of. (Yes, yes, I know. For the grammar police, that should be … lots of which to be proud.) Anyway, our glorious foliage in the fall is world famous. But that’s not all. Our state offers beautiful lakes for swimming, waterskiing and sailing, country roads for cycling and mountains for skiing and hiking. And finally, more than a few luminaries hail from the Granite State. Bode Miller, Robert Frost and the Budweiser Clydesdales are the first that come to mind.

Then, every four years, our brilliant leaves and wonderful outdoorsy activities pale in comparison to the hoopla created around our first in the nation primary. As for those famous faces? We’ll brag about them again later. For now, they take a backseat to the notables who travel our highways and byways during primary season. Suddenly, our little state is the place to be.

The excitement goes on for months. The candidates were here last summer to march in Fourth of July parades, still here in October to buy pumpkins for Halloween and back again in December to pick up their Christmas trees. Unlike the rest of the country, except of course for Iowa who threw their caucus last week, we get to see all of the presidential candidates up front and personal.

Followed by packs of handlers and journalists, they hold court in town halls and coffee shops. We have a front row seat to their every move. And, if by chance we miss something, well, the leading story on the evening news invariably starts with, “In New Hampshire today …”

Admittedly, this election has been more entertaining than most. Neither Barnum nor Baily could have staged a more interesting spectacle. Sometimes inspiring, other times infuriating, frightening, or laugh out loud funny, no one can deny the theatrical quality of this particular election. Part pep rally, part revival meeting, part over-rehearsed and part improvisation, it is the best reality television has to offer. From the soft-spoken few to the wild-eyed and impassioned many, none of the candidates are short on declarations, recriminations, claims and counterclaims. Look up melodrama in an on-line dictionary and you’ll find multiple links to the 2016 primary campaign.

Speaking of Barnum and Bailey, the republicans started out with enough candidates to fill a clown car. (It’s true; I checked the math.) Party establishment types, upstarts, a billionaire and a brain surgeon, jammed into the car. While the republican field still has plenty of candidates, several have been trumped. Their numbers are rapidly dwindling and the clown car is now half-empty. Or should I say half-full? Anyway, I expect that the New Hampshire primary will help to weed out a few more.

What about the democrats? In the early days of the campaign, the rivalry on the democratic side was not so much dull as nonexistent. Forget the clown car; a unicycle was about all the democrats needed for their parade. Then, one of our neighbors from Vermont, stepped into the race. Democrats across the Granite State and across the country are feeling the Bern. The democratic run to the convention may have fewer players but the contest is getting more and more interesting.

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting cloudy skies and a chance of scattered snow flurries on primary day. Assuming that the farmer is correct and you have some flexibility as to when you go to the polls, you’ll have no excuse to stay home. Besides, they’ll give you an I VOTED TODAY sticker. With any luck, that sticker will buy you a free cup of coffee or a doughnut. If not, well then, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did your part and contributed to the democratic process.

Don’t forget to vote and bon appétit!

Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic
In the old days, politicians promised a chicken in every pot. Try this one on primary night. You’ll be glad you did. Enjoy!
Serves 4

2-3 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
About 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup or more dry white wine
1/2 cup or more chicken broth
4 ounces fresh (peeled and trimmed) or frozen pearl onions
4-6 cloves garlic, trimmed, peeled and left whole
8 ounces whole mushrooms, trimmed and cut in half or quarters

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a skillet large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Put the bacon in a skillet and place over medium-low heat. Stirring occasion, cook until the bacon is crisp. Reserve.

Sprinkle the chicken with half of the herbs de Provence and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot skillet. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the onions, mushrooms and garlic in a bowl, sprinkle with the remaining herbs, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add the bacon and drizzle with enough bacon fat to lightly coat and toss again.

Put the mustard in a measuring cup or small bowl, whisking constantly slowly add the wine and broth.

Turn the chicken, add the wine and broth mixture and scatter the mushrooms, onions and garlic around the pan. Return the pan to the oven. Adding more wine and broth if necessary, continue roasting until the chicken is cooked through and golden and the vegetables are tender and caramelized, 30-45 minutes more.

Serve the chicken thighs with a spoonful of mushrooms, onion and garlic.

A great dish for a party, double or triple the recipe use a large roasting pan. This recipe is very forgiving. If dinner is delayed, add more broth and wine, reduce the oven temperature and let it bubble for an additional 30, even 45, minutes. It can also be made ahead and reheated.

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One Year Ago – Capellini with Lobster & Caviar
Two Years Ago – Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Three Years Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Five Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Six Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Seven Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies

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

How are you doing with your resolutions? Are you resolute or not? Feel free to share!

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

It’s a Super Bowl Weekend Special

super-bowl-50It’s the golden anniversary of sport’s biggest spectacular … Super Bowl 50! Whether you’ve invited the entire neighborhood in or need to bring a dish to someone else’s … here are a few delicious ideas.

Start with the almighty apps … As in appetizers, not software for your smart phone. Here’s my take on a couple of traditional football favorites:

Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa

Corncakes with Guacamole and Simple Salsa

Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings

Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts with crostini or artisanal crackers

Moving on to something more substantial. How about baked pasta … perhaps something like …

Poverty Casserole

Decadent Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower & Bacon

Mac & Cheese with Roasted Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomatoes

… or chili …

Chili Con Carne

Red Bean Chili with Pork and Butternut Squash

Chicken Chili

Add something green

Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro, Mint and Peanuts

Jicama Slaw

Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad

Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons

Finish it off with something sweet

Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies

Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies

Espresso Brownies

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

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

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! © Susan W. Nye, 2016

A Casserole – It’s What’s for Dinner & Poverty Casserole

Is it possible that, with this unseasonably warm weather, you’ve neglected winter’s most tried and true culinary delight … the casserole? It’s a favorite at après-ski, skating and snowshoeing parties. Unfortunately, there’s barely been enough snow and ice this winter for après anything.

Don’t worry about it. Before winter slips into spring, get out the glorious casserole dish that you love so much. You know the one. It was a present for your first wedding. You hid it in a bundle of dirty laundry when you and your ex were doing the property division thing. Or maybe it’s the one you bought on a whim, for no other reason than it is beautiful and you deserve it.

Not to be confused with stews or soups, a casserole is good for a particularly homey feast. When I was a kid, there were two kinds of casseroles. There were the casseroles your mother made on purpose. She shopped for a long list of ingredients, threw them together with some magical sauce and served it to the delight of one and all. Leftovers and a few tired carrots or a box of frozen vegetables went into the second kind of casserole. Mothers who liked to cook made both kinds. However, I’m guessing that their carrots still had some snap to them and the broccoli was fresh. Those that didn’t like to cook, like my mother, pretty much stuck to the leftover type.

To be fair, Mom’s leftover casseroles were made in the days when the Sunday dinner ritual was still in full play at our house. Pot roast, roast pork or leg of lamb graced the family table on Sunday. It would then reappear in various forms on three or four nights.

Mom had different names for her concoctions. Bread and with-it, Mrs. Slusser’s Delight and slumgullion were her favorites. The names were interchangeable. All referred to any combination, ridiculous or sublime, of leftover roast, a starch of some sort, a can of cream-of-something soup and whatever else she could find in the refrigerator or freezer. Minute Rice was her starch of choice and cream of mushroom was her go-to soup. Her secret ingredients were a dollop of sour cream and a splash of dry sherry.

Once we gave up Sunday dinners in favor of a day on the ski slopes, a different type of casserole began to appear on our table. Although she was still partial to sauces made from cream-of-something soup or direct from the jar, Mom took her casseroles up a notch. Her baked pasta and chicken divan became favorite Saturday night suppers after a hard day on the slopes. (On Sunday night we were in the car heading back to the ‘burbs. Dinner was a stop at Howard Johnson’s or, once we got home, frozen pizza or potpies.)

My earliest forays in the kitchen involved casseroles. Whether I was playing gracious host or needed something for a potluck, a casserole is what I made when funds were low. And let’s face when you’re twenty-something, you are always low on funds. When tossing these recipes together, I didn’t channel Mom’s leftover pot roast with Minute Rice and frozen peas but her Saturday night après-ski meals.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that you don’t have to be twenty-three and broke to make a mean casserole. More important, pretty much everyone loves them, especially if baked pasta and cheese is involved.

Here’s to casseroles and bon appétit!

Poverty Casserole
I’ve made this dish for hordes of hungry college students. They wolf it down. Remembering similar dishes from his twenties, my brother has dubbed it Poverty Casserole. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage*; hot, sweet or a mix, casings removed
Olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
Pinch or to taste crushed red pepper (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups (28 ounce can) crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 cup sour cream
Butter
About 12 ounces mozzarella, shredded
About 4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 – 1 1/2 pounds frozen chopped spinach
About 12 ounces ricotta cheese
1 pound pasta – cavatappi, penne or rigatoni

Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces, cook until nicely browned. Remove from the pan. Drain the fat and reserve.

Add a little olive oil to the saucepan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, sprinkle with Italian herbs, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Return the meat to the saucepan, add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Cool to room temperature and stir in the sour cream.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a large casserole. Put the mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a bowl, toss to combine and reserve.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, less 2-3 minutes. Saving a little of the pasta water, drain the pasta and then rinse under cold water. Drain well.

Put the pasta to a large bowl, add the sauce, ricotta and spinach and toss to combine. If the pasta seems dry, add some pasta water. Sprinkle the pasta with 2/3 of the cheese and toss again. Transfer the pasta to the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

You can make ahead to this point, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Cover and bake the casserole at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 15 minutes more or until piping hot and golden.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Cauliflower
Two Years Ago – Savory Blinis
Three Years Ago – Lettuce Cups with Shrimp & Noodles
Four Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Five Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower & Bacon
Six Years Ago – Chocolate Mousse
Seven Years Ago – Shrimp & Feta

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

How are you doing with your resolutions? Are you resolute or not? Feel free to share!

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

A Simply Delicious Weekend Special

So what’s on for this weekend? Snowshoeing? Skiing? A marathon read of War and Peace? Perhaps you are considering a little entertaining. Nothing big, nothing fancy, just a few friends in for a cozy dinner.

Start simple. A wedge of fabulous cheese, some great crackers and a few slices of apple or pear are all you really need. However (there is always a however), drinks will be even tastier if you add some of my Rosemary Cashews.

Now, to the table. I’m thinking that my Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad would be a good way to launch dinner. It is a wonderful combination of flavors. For the main course, how about Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs with my new favorite side dish Whole Grain Pilaf. Round it out with steamed broccoli or sautéed leafy greens.

And for simply sweet, is there anything better than a brownie? If you are a chocolate fanatic, then you must try my Triple Threat Brownies. And super chocolate fanatics? Take it way over the top with a brownie sundae. Start with a triple threat brownie, add a scoop of your favorite ice cream or gelato and then add a dollop of Death by Chocolate Sauce.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

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

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! © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Resolute or Not? & Whole Grain Pilaf

Can you believe it? It’s been almost a month since you vowed to exercise more, drink more water, drink less wine or coffee or both, call your mom every Sunday or eat more vegetables. Sound familiar. No? Maybe you wanted to start a journal, practice yoga, get out of debt or a myriad of other self-improvements.

Unfortunately, if you’re like most people with good intentions to improve, your resolve has already started to crumble. Let me guess, your running shoes have been sitting in the closet since the second or third week in January. The last time you called your mom was New Year’s weekend. Your journal has four entries and your eating habits, well, they’re more or less unchanged.

Is it time to feel like a failure? Absolutely NOT! Depending on what study you read, as few as eight percent of us actually keep our resolutions. If you’ve slipped, you aren’t alone. And, if that resolution is really important to you, you’ll get back on track.

A lot of people don’t bother make resolutions. Some, definitely not me, don’t need to. They are perfect. Or at least they think they are. I’d guess another group is tired of making the same-old, same-old promises that they can’t/won’t/don’t keep. They’ve given up. As for the rest? Since I’m often among them, I’d like to think that we have become more or less comfortable with our imperfections. Isn’t there some line about being perfectly imperfect. Or is it imperfectly perfect?

Why am I so haphazard when it comes to resolutions? It’s not that I don’t want to improve; I do. If pressed, I’ll even come up with an answer. Take this year. A deadline was looming and I felt the need to write something (anything) down. I did a little research and joined the popular table. I claimed I would enjoy life to the fullest in 2016. Hardly original, enjoying life was this year’s number one resolution.

I should have gone with sit-ups, push-ups and weight training three times a week but I wasn’t ready to commit; at least not in public. Instead I took on this big idea which means lots of different things to as many people. If I’m serious, and I’m not sure that I am, I’ve got some thinking to do.

For starters, what does living life to the fullest even mean; or at least what does it mean for me. Do I join a motorcycle gang, skydive or take an exotic trip? Should I gather up a bunch of lists of must-read books, tackle any I’ve missed and reread my favorites? Do I look inward and meditate twice a day or surround myself with vibrant, interesting people or both? Maybe it’s as simple as eat, drink and be merry. Nah, it must more than that.

My life is good now but, heck, it could be better. Coming clean, I confess my resolution was both expedient and glib. To make it more, to make it real, I’ll need some time to figure it out. That said, I’m not starting from scratch. There are a couple of things that I’ve determined already. First, full is not busy; I’ve got plenty of busy. Next and in the same vein, a huge bucket list is not the answer. At least not for me. Finally, one thing is more or less certain in my full life. With apologies to Harley fans, there is very little chance that motorcycles will be involved.

Here’s to a full life and bon appétit!

Whole Grain Pilaf
Rich in protein and fiber, whole grains and nuts make a hearty and healthy pilaf. If one of your resolutions was to eat healthy, try this delicious side dish. If not, try it anyway! It’s that good. Enjoy.
Serves 4-6

1/4 cup wheat berries
1/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup wild rice
1/4 cup red quinoa
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
Garnish: fresh chopped parsley

Put the wheat berries in a jar, add 3/4 cup water, cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Put the wheat berries, brown rice and wild rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse well under cold water.

Put 4 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the wheat berries, brown rice and wild rice, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 30 minutes.

Put the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse well under cold water. Add the quinoa to the wheat berries and rice and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes or until tender.

Strain the grains through a fine mesh sieve and drain well. Depending on how well you rinsed them to begin with, the grains could be sticky. If you like, rinse them under cold water and drain well. Reserve.

While the grains cook, lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the onion, carrot and celery, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Can be made ahead to this point, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate separately for up to a day. If prepping ahead, reheat the vegetables in a large skillet before continuing.

Add 1-2 tablespoons butter to the vegetables, melt and stir to combine.

Add the grains and hazelnuts to the skillet, toss to combine and sauté until piping hot. Transfer to a serving dish or individual plates, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

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One Year Ago – Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks)
Two Years Ago – Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù
Three Years Ago – Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Four Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Five Years Ago – Fettuccine with Escarole, Radicchio & Mushrooms
Six Years Ago – Cassoulet
Seven Years Ago – Caribbean Fish Stew

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

How are you doing with your resolutions? Are you resolute or not? Feel free to share!

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

Cozy Cooking – Today on WMUR Cook’s Corner

WMUR_02Snowmageddon is headed to Washington but should miss New Hampshire. it will be cold and dry in New Hampshire! Still, it will be cold up here in northern New England. Chilly temperatures is more than enough reason to bring out the soup kettle.

I’m on New Hampshire’s ABC affiliate WMUR/Channel 9 today, stirring up a great soup for you to try this weekend. I hope that you will try my Tomato Soup. It is delicious.

This soup is great for a simple lunch or serve it as part of a cozy fireside supper with friends and family.

Want more choices?
Click Here!
for lots more soup and chowder recipes.
Or Here! for more seasonal menus.
Or Finally Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog.

© Susan W. Nye, 2016