Women’s History & Oatmeal Squares

March is Women’s History Month. What? Why? Why do we need a month dedicated to women’s stuff? After all, isn’t women’s history a part of all history? Yes, of course it is but that hasn’t kept us from ignoring much of it.

Quick – name five historically significant women. No googling allowed. Okay, maybe that was too easy.

Now, do it again and then some. Name five historic women who have made key contributions to society, science, the arts, sports and business. That’s right, five names for each category. Oh, and feel free to add a few more categories if you like. Of course, the arts are probably pretty easy. The list of amazing legends of stage and screen is long. Now, is it just as easy to name five visual artists? As for the rest, after Eleanor Roosevelt, Madame Curie, the Williams sisters and the Spanx lady, how soon do you run out of names?

Depending on your personal interests, you may be able to go on and on for hours, or at least minutes, listing remarkable women in one and another achievement category. As girls and as women, we seek them out. The reason is simple, we want to know and be inspired by people who look like us.

Oh sure, outstanding people of all genders, races, religions, shapes and sizes can and do inspire. But it’s different when you can see a glimpse of yourself in someone you admire. Somehow, that glimpse seems to make a big, audacious goal a bit more attainable.

Don’t believe me? Then, I’m guessing you’ve never sat down in a classroom, walked into a meeting or arrived at a conference and, after looking around, realized you were the only woman in the room. It makes even the most confident among us wonder, “Do I belong with this crowd?” One thing’s for sure, you know you stick out.

So, you look around. Is it possible, you’re the first ever to be here? At this point, it’s more likely that you’re one of a few. Take inspiration from the stories of women who came before you. Gather strength from their fortitude and persistence. Not interested in the past? Let the latest generation of groundbreaking women motivate you.

Past or present, choose your heroes; the list is long – Maya Angelou, Mary Barra, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Kamala Harris, Hedy Lamarr, Martina Navratilova, Georgia O’Keefe, Gilda Radner, Megan Rapinoe, J.K. Rowling, Margaret Chase Smith, Julie Sweet, Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai and a whole lot more.

Or maybe you’re inspired by someone not quite so famous and closer to home. She could be a faculty member in your chosen major, part of the executive management team at your company, a local artist, a nearby rabble-rousing activist or an elected official in your state. Whether you meet or not, her very presence tells you that your goal, no matter how difficult, is not impossible.

This month, let’s raise a glass to the great women of our collective pasts and presents. Bon appétit!

Oatmeal Squares
These old-fashioned treats remind me of the kind of cookies my grandmother used to bake. Although, I’m not sure she would have included the chocolate chips. Enjoy!

Makes 24 squares

1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.

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

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, raisins and nuts.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees until the edges begin to pull away from the s of pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, about 25 minutes.

Cool in the pan, cut and serve.

Download or print my recipe for Oatmeal Squares.

One Year Ago – Oatmeal Whoopie Pies
Two Years Ago –  Spaghetti with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Bacon
Three Years Ago – Pork Stew with Beans & Greens
Four Years Ago – Shrimp Curry with Spinach
Five Years Ago – Mini Tarte Tatin
Six Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Eight Years Ago – Decadent Mac & Cheese
Nine Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Ten Years Ago – Creole Shrimp with Creamy Grits
Eleven Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Twelve Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello

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

Living or dead, within your personal circle, famous or infamous – who are the women that inspire you? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2021

Minimizing & Steak with Blue Cheese & Mushrooms

I’ve never really been one for fads. Probably because I’m usually asleep at the switch when they start. By the time I jump on board, whatever once hot color, style or trend is on the way out. Leaving me with too big shoulder pads or a sponge painted living room. That’s when I vow – never again and to stick with the classics.

Minimalism is the latest bandwagon. But who knows, maybe it’s already on the way out. Anyway, from the start, I’ve been pretty sure it wasn’t for me. While I admire the concept, I have to admit, I’m a bit of a collector. Now, I know a few people who won’t bring anything new into their houses unless they discard something at the same time. I respect that; perhaps, I’m even a bit envious. For them, there’s no rotating old bookcases into the garage, basement or attic for storage. Old chairs aren’t reimagined into plant stands. Christmas cards aren’t recycled into gift tags.

Now, I wouldn’t go so far to say that I’m a hoarder but I collect stuff. I collect books, shoes, sweaters and I’m not sure what else. I also tend to keep stuff. Something will outlive its usefulness but I’ll stop and wonder if it could somehow, someday come in handy. I’m one of those people who is convinced that as soon as I toss those bi-fold doors or that CD shelf, a fantastic re-use or up-cycle idea will pop up.

So, in the end, I have a lot of stuff. But just so you know, I’ve never turned a chair into a plant stand. I’m proud to say I finally gave away the old CD shelf as well as six bi-fold doors last fall. It definitely feels better to give something away than to toss it in the landfill. All that said, I do rotate bookcases from the house into the garage and attic. I’ve also been known to collect Christmas cards to recycle into gift tags. After holding on to them for two or three years, I throw them in with the recycling.

Now, there is one minimalist trend that I’ve been slowly but surely signing on to. That’s the uniform. No, not medical scrubs or coveralls but a particular, mostly monochromatic look. My cold weather uniform starts with black turtleneck and jeans. Based on the theory that black goes with everything or almost everything, I add a sweater and scarf from my too vast collections. Black boots finish off my ensemble.

As noted, this transformation has been slow. A frugal Yankee, I tend to keep thinks forever. I’m not about to toss out a perfectly good closetful of clothes on what could turn out to be a whim. Instead, I do a mini-purge every so often. Worn clothing goes out or into the rag bin. Stuff that no longer fits or should have been left in the store goes in the donation pile and is eventually carted off.

I don’t worry about a one-for-one swap. In fact, I’m delighted to see more go out than come in. I’m not big into retail therapy and Covid has helped curtail any latent shopping habit. This year, except for exercise gear, I’ve not done any shopping. With nowhere to go, it’s not been all that hard.

Wish me luck as I continue to pare down. Be safe, be well and be kind. Bon appétit!

Steak with Blue Cheese & Mushrooms

No need for a fussy sauce, these steaks are perfect on a night when you want a special dinner without a lot of effort. Add a baked potato, a salad and enjoy!

Serves 4

Olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced or chopped
1 – 1 1/2 pounds filet mignons or New York strip steak, cut about 2 inches thick
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 4 ounces Stilton, Gorgonzola or Roquefort cheese, at room temperature and crumbled

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill; the fire should be medium hot. Or preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high. Add the mushroom, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Keep warm on very low heat.

Drizzle the steaks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

To grill: Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side for rare and 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare.

To sauté and roast: heat a cast iron skillet over medium high. Place the steaks in the hot skillet, cook for 2-3 minutes for rare and 4-5 minutes for medium rare. Turn the steaks and transfer to the oven and roast at 400 degrees for 2 minutes for rare and 4 minutes for medium rare.

Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let rest for about 5 minutes.

To serve: slice the meat and arrange on a platter or individual plates, sprinkle with your favorite blue cheese crumbles and serve with a spoonfuls of mushrooms.

Download or print my recipe for Steak with Blue Cheese & Mushrooms.

One Year Ago – Baked Mac & Cheese with Spinach & Bacon
Two Years Ago – Alpine Mac & Cheese
Three Years Ago – Fettucine with Mushrooms & Kale
Four Years Ago – Spaghetti with Cauliflower & Olives
Five Years Ago – Flourless Chocolate Cake
Six Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs
Seven Years Ago – Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Eight Years Ago – Decadent Mac & Cheese
Nine Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Ten Years Ago – Creole Shrimp & Cheesy Grits
Eleven Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Twelve Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding

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

Are you a minimizer or a collector – or something in between? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2021

Time for a Vacation & Asian Braised Beef

Massachusetts schools are closed this week and local schools will be out the next. For the Nyes, February vacation was always a favorite. Not just for the kids, my parents, especially my mother, loved February vacation. Whether it’s true or not, we fondly remember flawless snow, sunny skies and cheerful tranquility in our little house in the New Hampshire woods.

Of course, that’s silly. As kids, we often fought. Not about anything monumental, we squabbled over who got to ride shotgun, who’s turn it was to feed the dogs and who borrowed who’s sweater. Somehow or other, everything was more laidback in New Hampshire. Or maybe it just seemed that way since it’s where we spent our weekends and vacations. Only a few hours from our Monday to Friday grind in the Boston suburbs, it felt a world away.

Vacation week was always jampacked with outdoor activities. We’d head to the mountain first thing in the morning and stay until the last lift closed. At least, we did when Dad was around. My father was a stickler for getting the most out our season passes. In his defense, before snowmaking, the season could be very short. Skiing at Christmas was touch and go. Skiing at Easter was practically unheard of.

Anyway, Dad would bookend our vacation with two long weekends. Tuesday through Thursday it was just Mom and the kids. Not a particularly enthusiastic skier, she never minded if we slept in a bit and headed home a little early. It didn’t make a whole lot of difference. Within minutes of turning into the driveway, we were back outside with sleds or skates or cross-country skis.

Pre-cable, let alone pre-internet, on a good day, the television managed to find two, maybe three, stations. All of them more than a little fuzzy. Most evenings, we read books and put together jigsaw puzzles. Once in a blue moon, we’d play some board game. My mother loved board games. Unfortunately for her, her children were far from enthusiastic.

At least once during the week, we’d join forces with another neighborhood family or two for supper. There weren’t really any restaurants to speak of at the time. Or at least, there weren’t many you’d take a gang of kids to. Most of the kid-friendly spots were closed from Columbus Day to Memorial Day. The moms did a quick inventory of who had what leftovers in the refrigerator and cobbled together a potluck. Before dinner and after, while the mothers chatted, the kids jumped off the deck into the massive snowbank below or navigated the suicide sledding hill across the street.

It’s a wonder that we all made it alive to twenty-one. Some might call it a miracle. Sure, there were a few broken bones and some bumps to the head. Before anyone tries to claim miraculous intervention, I’ll simply chalk it up to reasonably good genes coupled with only somewhat questionable judgment and a whole lot of luck.

We all deserve a vacation about now. Have fun in the snow and bon appétit!

Asian Braised Beef
East meets West when pot roast is braised in Asian flavors. Try this recipe for a delicious and cozy change. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
About 3 1/2 pounds chuck roast
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1/2-1 (to taste) jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 (1- 1 12 inch) piece ginger, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 cups chicken broth
1/2-1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
About 1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
14 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups basmati rice
16 ounces baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly coat a heavy casserole with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Brown the beef, remove from the pot and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, carrots, celery, bell peppers, jalapeno pepper and ginger, sprinkle with thyme and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Stir in the chicken broth, red wine, soy and fish sauces.

Put the cilantro in a blender, add about half the coconut milk and process until smooth. Add the remaining coconut milk and pulse to combine. Add the coconut milk-cilantro to the casserole.

Return the beef to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add more wine and broth if necessary. The sauce should come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pot roast. Cover and transfer to the oven. Turning the roast a few times, cook at 350 degrees until tender, about 2 hours. Add more wine or chicken broth if needed.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature and refrigerated. To reheat: bring to a simmer on top of the stove, transfer to a 350-degree oven and cook until piping hot.

Cook the rice according to package directions.

Transfer the meat to a cutting board. A handful at a time, add the spinach to the pot and stir until wilted. Slice the beef and serve with rice and generous spoonfuls of vegetables and sauce.

Download or print my recipe for Asian Braised Beef.

One Year Ago – Chocolate-Cherry-Nut Brownies
Two Years Ago – Chicken Soup Florentine
Three Years Ago – Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon
Four Years Ago – Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad
Five Years Ago – Sausages with White Beans
Six Years Ago – Chocolate Panna Cotta
Seven Years Ago – Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage
Eight Years Ago – Cheese Fondue
Nine Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Ten Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Eleven Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Twelve Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello

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

What are your favorite winter vacation memories? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2021

Share Some Love & Lobster Risotto

Valentine’s Day is coming. Since it’s a Sunday, let’s make that Valentine’s Weekend is coming. Just think about it; two whole days to share some love with your special someone. But why stop there? Why not share some love with all your special someones. That’s right, don’t start and stop with your sweetheart. Celebrate familial love with kids, parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins. Add some neighborly love with friends. While you’re at it, you can try some strange love. No nothing kinky, just a few kind deeds for a stranger or two. Heck, take it into Monday with some collegial love – better make that like – with your workmates and boss.

Now, for the two of you –

Enjoy a lazy morning together. When was the last time you read the paper from front to back and did the crossword? Stay in bed, enjoy an extra cup of coffee and maybe a bagel and lox and, of course, a bit of cuddling.

Get outside. Strap on your skis for the day or a few hours and enjoy some fresh air, blue sky and sunshine. Speaking of cuddling, there’s nothing like a little hug on the chairlift. If downhill is not your thing, glide through the woods on cross-country skis or take a hike in your snowshoes.

Bring a picnic on your outdoor adventure. A sunny spot away from the wind is perfect for more cuddles and a tasty snack. By the way, don’t even think about skimping. It’s Valentine’s Day, bring the good chocolate.

Cook together. If you like to cook, there’s nothing better than an evening together in the kitchen. Since it’s a special night, take a minute or several, to plan something just a bit over the top. Not impossible, end-up-in-a-fight over the top but enough to create a dinner and an evening you’ll remember.

More often than not, a memorable meal is all about the details. Buy the good chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano for your risotto and stir in some lobster. For carnivores, skip the flank steak, splurge on a filet and top it with imported Roquefort and wild mushrooms.

Or take the night off and order takeout. Call your favorite local restaurant and let them whip up a romantic dinner for two. Perfect after a busy week, all you need do is light the candles, pour the wine and enjoy a stress-free evening. (You can do both by the way, cook on Saturday night and takeout on Sunday – or vice versa.)

And, what about love for the rest of the gang?

You can all go outside and have some fun. Ski, skate, build a snowman or a whole snow family. If you’re adding friends or family that are not in your immediate household, wears masks or keep your distance. If it’s been a while, resist the urge to give a big hug. Better to bump elbows and pantomime that hug now, the real thing can come later.

Bake sweet Valentine treats for the special loves and friends in your life. Bring them along to your outdoor adventure or drop them on the doorstep with a card and a pantomimed hug.

Let your love shine on Valentine’s and every day. Bon appétit!

Lobster Risotto

Lobster Risotto is perfect for a romantic dinner. Both elegant and cozy, have fun taking turns stirring up this delicious dinner. Enjoy!

Serves 2

  • 2 (1-1 1/4 pound) lobsters
  • 1 carrot, cut in chunks
  • 1 celery stalk, cut in chunks
  • 1/2 onion, cut in chunks
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • About 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • About 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Fill a heavy, 6 quart kettle about 1/3 full with water and bring to a boil. Put the lobsters, tail down, into the pot, cover and return to a boil. As soon as the water is boiling again, uncover and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Remove the lobsters from the pot. Remove the meat from the claws and tail, chop, cover and refrigerate.

Return the lobster bodies and shells to the kettle, add the onion, carrot and celery chunks, thyme and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper, cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Strain the lobster stock through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pot and place on low heat to keep warm. You’ll need about 2 cups lobster stock for the risotto. Any extra lobster stock can be refrigerated or frozen for another use.

Lightly coat a heavy saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the chopped onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until it starts to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring for another 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium low, add the wine and simmer until the pan is almost dry. Add 1/2 cup lobster stock and, stirring frequently, simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Add the lobster, lemon zest and juice and fresh thyme and cook, stirring, until the lobster is cooked through, 3-4 minutes. Add the butter and the Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir until melted and combined.

Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and serve.

Download or print my recipe for Lobster Risotto.

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

How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day this year? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2021

A Different Kind of Super Bowl Sunday & Chicken & Black Bean Chili

This weekend will not be your run of the mill, ordinary football weekend. No, not by a long shot. Not only is it the Super Bowl but number twelve, Tom Brady, will be one of the quarterbacks. Only problem is he won’t be wearing a blue and red jersey. I guess it’s par for the course in our current topsy turvy world. Still and all, New Englanders and not, lovers of football will plant themselves in front of the television on Sunday evening.

On top of Tom wearing the wrong jersey, there is that tiresome, little issue of quarantine or stay at home or social distancing – whatever version you’re using to stay healthy and safe. I’m assuming here that you are being sensible. You are; aren’t you? Don’t let pandemic fatigue get the better of your otherwise good judgement.

Things will get better. Heck, they’re already getting better. No, the ball isn’t in the end zone but oldsters are being vaccinated and everyone else will soon get their chance. Before you do anything silly or worse; stop and think about it. You made it through Thanksgiving. You made it through Christmas. Okay, so there wasn’t the usual crowd and there was little, if any, family drama. But you figured it out and did the best you could. You’ve made it this far. You can certainly make it through a football game.

Besides, no one has said that you can’t have both a festive and safe football evening with your immediate family or pandemic pod. Since a big part of Super Bowl celebrations is the food, go for it. From chili to guac and spicy wings, whip up a few of your favorite football watching dishes. By the way, you might want to cut back a bit on the quantities. As much as you love them, I doubt you’ll want to be eating wings for days.

Anyway, I was in the super market a day or two ago. Yes, my local super market – the one that is being remodeled and reconfigured so nothing is where you expect to find it. That said, they are ready for the Super Bowl. Avocados for guacamole were piled high at the front of the store. In case you were worried, the beer cooler hasn’t moved. When I looked, it was full and ready for kick-off. Luckily, there are plenty of black beans in my pantry so I was spared that hunt. Whatever your favorite snack and brew, there’s plenty of time to shop and prepare for a delicious evening.

Now, if you’re still tempted to look for a sports bar or invite half the town over; STOP. Think again. Remember back in November and December, you figured it out. You celebrated time together while apart. The different households in your extended family stayed put in their own kitchens and living rooms and shared love, memories and recipes by phone, video chat and Zoom.

Well, you can do it again. Before, after and during the game, if you start to miss one or another of your football fanatic friends, call them or text them. Send them photographs of you in your favorite football jersey, making chili, eating chili and missing them. No, it won’t be the same. BUT, if it means you can be together next year and the year after that and, and, and, it will be well worth it.

Be safe, be well and be kind – to yourself and to others. Go team and bon appétit!

Chicken & Black Bean Chili

How’s the saying go? You can never have too many chili recipes? Enjoy!

Serves 6

About 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Olive oil

  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons (or more to taste) minced jalapeno
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon (or to taste) chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3-4 cups* black beans
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Garnish: grated cheddar cheese and fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a casserole over medium-high heat, add the chicken and brown on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, carrot, bell pepper and jalapeno in the casserole, sprinkle with the oregano and spices, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in the white wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the black beans, return the chicken to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven and cook for about 15 minutes.

Put the sour cream in a bowl. A little at a time, stir about 1 cup of hot braising liquid and beans into the sour cream. Stir the mixture back into the pot, return to the oven and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cut or shred into bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken to the pot, stir to combine, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Reheat the chili on top of the stove over medium-low heat or in a 350 degree oven. Spoon the chili into bowls, garnish with cheddar cheese and cilantro and serve.

* 8 ounces dried beans cooked according to package directions or 2 (14-15 ounce) cans, drained and rinsed

Download or print my recipe for  Chicken & Black Bean Chili.

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

Do you have a special plan for Super Bowl LV? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2021

First World & Braised Chicken with Artichokes, Mushrooms & Spinach

I guess it’s pandemic fatigue. From time to time, over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself muttering, “First world problem.” It happens whenever I or, maybe, someone else comes up with what is more or less a frivolous complaint. If I’m the one complaining, I figure the phrase will nudge me back into reality. If it’s someone else, well, I hope they don’t hear my muttering. I’m not ready to take on the role of local curmudgeon. Not now and maybe not ever.

Anyway, it’s probably a good idea to continue to remind myself that life really isn’t half bad. I truly am remarkably fortunate. In my little corner of the world, here’s the worst that’s happening …

Our local supermarket is in the middle of renovations. From one week to the next, you never know what you won’t be able to find. As I start to heave an exasperated sigh, I buck up and silently (I don’t want to sound like a crazy person in front of the other shoppers) tell myself, “First world problem.” Okay, maybe it takes an extra minute or two to track down one or another item on my list. Milk, broccoli, my favorite pasta and/or anything else I might need eventually ends up in my cart.

Even though the lockdown is far from total, sticking close to home is getting quite tedious. In fact, we’re more than a little bored with each other as well as our own company. Except for the dog. Always entertaining and comforting, I don’t think I could ever get bored with her. Anyway, I miss dinners with friends, concerts, movies and lectures. But let’s face it, boredom in a warm house with plenty of books, music and a television with way too many channels is a first world problem. Buck up buttercup.

Then there are the constant telephone calls from mechanical voices that want to sell me an extended warranty for my car. I fuss a bit at the inconvenience of getting up and dashing for the phone. But for heaven sakes, as long as I don’t trip and break a leg … I have a car that runs and takes me wherever I need to go. So, again, calm down; it’s a first world problem.

That said, I do have more than a first world problem with the calls to my dad about an urgent, personal business matter. These calls come and go with random frequency. We’ll have three or four in a week and then none for a few months. These callers should be ashamed of themselves for trying to scam an old guy.

Now, how about some first world good news? Coronavirus vaccines have been developed in record time. Our first world freezers put us at the head of the queue to receive these new vaccines. Inoculations have started and sign up for New Hampshire’s oldsters began last week.

So, bored or not with our own company and the company of those in our household, it’s time to cheer up. There is a light at the end of the covid quarantine tunnel. Sure, the light is still faint. And no, we don’t know what life will be like once we pop out on the other side. No worries, I’m sure we’ll be able to cope, adjust and manage.

There will be lots of ups and downs in the coming months. There will be lines to wait in and forms to fill out. Computers will crash and tempers will flair. Through it all, it’s best to maintain a sense of humor and healthy perspective. Don’t let the inconvenience of a first world problem spoil an otherwise perfectly fine day.

Be safe, be well and be kind – to yourself and to others. Bon appétit!

Braised Chicken with Artichokes, Mushrooms & Spinach

This one-pot dinner is great on a cold winter night. Enjoy!

Serves 4

  • 1-1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups or more chicken stock or broth
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped, fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6-8 frozen artichoke hearts, left whole or cut in half
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 12-16 ounces fresh baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a casserole or Dutch-oven over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove and reserve.

Add a little more olive oil to the pot if necessary and turn the heat down to medium. Add the mushrooms, carrot, celery and onion and sauté until the vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Add the white wine, chicken stock and herbs and bring to a simmer.

Return the chicken to the pot, add the artichoke hearts, bring to a simmer and transfer to the oven. Turning the chicken once at the midpoint, cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.

Put the sour cream in a bowl. A little at a time, stir about 1 cup of hot braising liquid into the sour cream. Stir the mixture back into the pot plus more chicken stock if necessary. Return to the oven and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is bubbling, 10 minutes.

Transfer the chicken breasts to a cutting board. A handful at a time, add the spinach to the casserole and toss to combine and wilt. Return the casserole to the oven for a few minutes.

Slice the chicken and arrange on a platter or individual plates. Top the chicken with generous spoonfuls of vegetables and sauce and serve.

Download or print my recipe for Braised Chicken with Artichokes, Mushrooms & Spinach.

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

Forgot your Amazon Prime or Netflix password? A closet full of clothes and nothing to wear? Customer service put you on hold??  Do you have a favorite first world problem? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2021

Resolve & Baked Pasta with Two Kinds of Squash & Sausage

I don’t know about you but it’s been a bit crazy around my house. So crazy that I’ve barely given a thought to New Year’s resolutions. On top of the seemly never-ending renovations and the holidays, Dad sold his house in Florida. He was hoping the new owner would buy it furnished but no such luck. Not only that, contract to closing was only three weeks. Finding charitable organizations to take old furniture and junkmen to cart the rest of the flotsam and jetsam away is not always easy. Doing it long distance and over the holidays only added to the stress and strain.

But back to resolutions. I actually did give it a passing thought. I figured that this might be a good year to skip the whole thing. It wouldn’t be the first time. It dawned on me that I didn’t have much to give up. Especially with the coronavirus, life has been far from decadent. Not to mention that I already exercise every day and have for years … decades actually.

What do we do about 2021 resolutions? Pull the covers over our heads and ignore the whole thing? Or get creative. Heck, let’s go with creative.

As hard as I look, I’ve found no rule that says a New Year’s resolution must be for an ongoing lifestyle change. Nor have I found anything to suggest that you must give up a bad habit every single year. If that were the case, and you were successful, you’d soon run out of bad habits. I guess failure is assumed … along with the continuous need to hit the replay button on those same two or three resolutions. Don’t feel bad; you’re not alone. Somewhere around eighty percent of resolution makers fail to achieve their New Year’s goal.

So, how about we start small and see how it goes. If it works, we build from there. Here are three little suggestions:

Don’t pledge to hike all forty-eight of the highest peaks in New Hampshire in 2021. (Especially, if you’re not a hiker.) Instead, make a onetime promise this coming weekend to invite your children or grandchildren on a sledding adventure. After you’ve pulled a sled full of kids to the top of the neighborhood sledding hill a few times, it may start to feel like a 4,000-footer. And you could discover that, with hardly any effort at all, onetime becomes a regular thing.

Forget the months, weeks and days that loom between now and December 31. Take it one day at a time. When you wake up tomorrow morning, if you aren’t feeling too groggy, make an intention. Tailor it to the day. If you’ll be spending a good part of the morning on the telephone trying to track down an appointment for a coronavirus vaccine, set an intention to remain calm and patient.

Find ways to add to your happiness. Many, maybe most, resolutions are about deprivation. We vow to give up or at least cut back on a favorite, probably unhealthy, food or time-wasting behavior. Instead, fill your day with smiles; give them and receive them. That woman ahead of you in line at the supermarket, the one in the blue jacket – your favorite shade of blue – tell her. Tell her you love her jacket, tell her it’s a fabulous color. You’ll smile and be happy and so will she. Open your heart to give and receive little bits of happiness. You may be surprised at how easy it is.

May we all resolve to find peace and happiness in the new year. Be safe, be well and be kind – to yourself and to others. Bon appétit!

Baked Pasta with Two Kinds of Squash & Sausage

A cozy dish to cheer you and warm you during difficult days. Enjoy!

Serves 4

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • About 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces your favorite chicken sausage, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
  • Pinch or to taste crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4-6 ounces mozzarella, shredded
  • 1-2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • About 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces short pasta – cavatappi, penne or rigatoni

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly oil a casserole dish.

Lightly brush the inside of the spaghetti squash withe oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the squash cut side down on the prepared baking sheet, use a small knife to poke holes in the squash and roast at 375 degrees until tender, about 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool cut side up. When the squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape and fluff the strands from the bottom and sides of the squash. Measure out 1 1/2-2 cups of squash and reserve. Cover and refrigerate any extra squash for another use.

While the spaghetti squash cooks, put the butternut squash on a sheet pan, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread the squash in a single layer and roast at 375 degrees until tender, about 20 minutes. Measure out 1 1/2-2 cups of squash and reserve. Cover and refrigerate any extra squash for another use.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the onion and sausage, sprinkle with the herbs and red pepper, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the sausage is lightly browned. Add the garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Add the white wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the 2 squashes to the sausage and onion and toss to combine. Reserve.

Put the sour cream in a large bowl and, a little bit at a time, whisk in the Béchamel Sauce. Add about half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and whisk to combine.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions, drain, add it to the sauce and toss to combine.

Pour about half the pasta in the casserole dish, top with the sausage and squash mixture, dot with dollops of ricotta and sprinkle with a little Parmigiano-Reggiano and half of the mozzarella cheese.

Top with the remaining pasta, drizzle with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until piping hot and golden.

Béchamel Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and herbs and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

Download or print my recipe for Baked Pasta with Two Kinds of Squash & Sausage.

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

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2021

 

Chaos & Roasted Cod & Cauliflower

If 2020 felt like a decade, then, this past week lasted about a year. Bizarre may be too tame a word to describe a week when a bunch of wild conspiracy theories and fermenting lies exploded into chaos. How did we get here? I confess, I’m at a loss. Six, maybe nine, months ago it dawned me that I really don’t understand thirty or forty percent of the population. Perhaps it comes from living in the northeast bubble or an avoidance of internet rabbit holes. I don’t know but I just don’t get it.

We’ve all heard the cliché – you have to walk a mile in a man’s shoes and its variations with moccasins and stilettos. The shoe-moccasin-stiletto thing is not about agreement but developing an understanding, empathy or at least an awareness of what drives differing beliefs. It’s allowing yourself to accept, even love, someone who holds different philosophies and values. While far from perfect at it, I try to listen and gain at least an inkling of understanding of differing opinions. I try to look beyond the differences to find common ground and the good that’s in most of us. I hope that people do the same with me.

Let’s face it, family relationships and friendships are complex. We can and do love each other in spite of diverging points of view. From favorite sports teams and cilantro to science fiction and pineapple on pizza, there are tons of ways and times we can disagree but still love each other. Even if we are at odds with a sibling or cousin or friend, we don’t immediately assume they’ve lost their mind. Okay, maybe sometimes we decide that they are certifiable but we still love them

However, there are limits. At this point, I don’t think there is a pair of shoes that could help me understand the deep, dark conspiracy theories that are floating around. The notion that a bunch of media moguls, billionaires, movie stars and government officials have banded together to form a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Or at least, it doesn’t make sense to me. In addition, the assertion that this cabal is running a global child sex-trafficking ring while plotting against President Trump seems a bit farfetched.

If for no other reason, these are busy people. They have businesses and foundations to run, movies to make, legislation to debate and pass and laws to uphold. Now, I’m not saying that the supposed members of this supposed cabal are all good people. I’d guess that they all have their warts and faults. At least one or two, maybe more, are probably no good, very bad people.

However, these conspiracies are too outlandish, too elaborate with too many moving parts and loose ends. I learned a long time ago, if there is a choice between a simple explanation and a complex, convoluted one – go with simple. Somehow or other, it seems implausible that hundreds, maybe thousands, of state officials, poll workers, software developers, law enforcement, judges and I don’t know who else could be part of a conspiracy to rig the results of the 2020 election. That’s just too many people to recruit, cajole, blackmail and/or bribe. Nor is there any evidence of widespread fraud, dead people voting or busloads coming to New Hampshire or anywhere else to vote. Shouting it, re-shouting and shouting it again is not evidence. It’s just noise.

So, here’s the deal. In elections, in jobs, in competitions … in life … sometimes you win; sometimes you don’t. Losing doesn’t mean the election was rigged or deal stolen. It doesn’t mean you were cheated or the fix was in. It could mean a whole lot of the things like more people preferred your rival or wanted a change or feared change. Or your competitor had a better solution or story. Maybe your opponent worked or played harder or smarter or both.

As we start the new year, win or lose – let’s do it with grace and humility. Bon appétit!

Roasted Cod & Cauliflower

A delicious dish to help achieve that New Year’s resolution to eat healthy. Enjoy!

Serves 4

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut or broken into bite-sized pieces
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 pounds cod
  • teaspoons butter, cut in small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped almonds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the cauliflower in a large skillet or rimmed sheet pan, sprinkle with the lemon zest, drizzle with the juice of 1/2 lemon and enough olive oil to lightly coat, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and coat.

Stirring and tossing once or twice, roast at 400 degrees until lightly browned and tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve.

Place the fish in the baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining rosemary, drizzle the remaining lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and dot with butter.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes. Arrange 2-3 cups of cauliflower around the fish and sprinkle with the almonds. (Cover and refrigerate any extra cauliflower for another use.) Return to the oven and bake for 5-6 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and the cauliflower is piping hot.

Transfer the cod and cauliflower to a large platter or individual plates and serve.

Download or print my recipe for Roasted Cod & Cauliflower.

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

How are you coping with the latest chaos? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2021

A Year in Review & Sausage Stew with Lentils & Greens

So much happened in 2020 that the year seemed to last a decade, maybe longer. Little did we know during that first week in January what a strange, topsy turvy, mostly no-good year it would turn out to be. Millions were hit with the coronavirus. Hundreds of thousands died. Millions lost their jobs. Almost 100,000 businesses closed down. Along with all the darkness, there were a few bright spots. Not a lot but just enough to give us hope and courage. Here are a few of mine:

January – A fluffy, white West Highland Terrier moves in with me. As roommates go, this ancient dog is as close to perfect as you can come. She has the sweetest disposition, doesn’t yip and is very low maintenance. Best yet, if you’re feeling low, she’s most happy to oblige with a soothing hug.

February – The New Hampshire primary is in overdrive. Most if not all the candidates visit our little town to shake hands and make promises. As always, it is great to watch democracy in action.

March – An old, white haired guy moves in with me. No, not Santa, my now ninety-four-year-old father becomes my second roommate. Although high maintenance, he’s still good company.

April – The internet embraces the coronavirus with a raft of parodies. Sung by everyone from a family in the UK (Les Mis’ “One Day More”) to Neil Diamond (“Hands Washing Hands”), they are a good distraction from the toilet paper jokes and memes. We watch them all.

May – My youngest niece graduates from college. We gather in my brother’s living room to watch the festivities play out across his big screen television. Separated from her friends, the graduate gallantly orders a cap and gown from Amazon and smiles throughout the afternoon.

June – There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The gym reopens and, with a flexible work schedule, I’m able to take three or four yoga classes a week. The combination of exercise and meditation is a welcome relief.

July – The ice is well out of the lake and the beach calls. Socially distanced cocktails with a view becomes our go-to way to end the day.

August – America celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment. There’s not a lot of hoopla but there is a lot of pride.

September – All three girlies, aka my brother’s daughters, come to visit. The weather stays mostly warm and sunny – allowing us to spend a fair amount of time with these beautiful young women.

October – New Hampshire foliage never disappoints. We’re outside as often as possible, even donning down jackets for a final outdoor dinner or two.

November – After months of speeches, debates and postulating pundits, the election arrives. In spite of the pandemic, Americans demonstrate their patriotism by heading to the polls in record numbers.

December – Not one but two vaccines are developed, approved and manufactured. Distribution begins and we are filled with hope and optimism. Let’s make our new normal the best ever.

Happy New Year to all. Be safe, be well and be kind. Bon appétit!

Sausage Stew with Lentils & Greens

Pork, lentils and greens are all traditional good luck foods for the start of the new year. Enjoy!

Serves 4

  • 2 ounces slab or thick cut bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1/3-1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chili powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 12-16 ounces pre-cooked kielbasa or your favorite sausage, cut in 1-inch rounds
  • 2-3 ounces (1-1 1/2 cups) lentils
  • 4-6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • About 8 ounces baby kale or spinach

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a heavy casserole over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve. Pour off any excess bacon fat.

Add the onion, celery and carrots to the pan, sprinkle with the thyme and spices, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Add the white wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the reserved bacon, kielbasa, lentils, 4 cups chicken stock and the crushed tomatoes to the casserole, stir to combine and bring to a boil. Cover and transfer to the oven and cook at 350 degrees, stirring a few times and adding more stock if necessary, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Add the kale in handfuls, tossing to combine after each addition. Return the stew, uncovered, to the oven for 5-10 minutes or until bubbling.

Ladle the stew into shallow bowls and serve with a chunk of warm crusty bread.

Download or print my recipe for Sausage Stew with Lentils & Greens.

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

Do you have a few good memories of 2020? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2021

 

Days Before Christmas & Cranberry-Walnut Muffins

‘Tis just days before Christmas and all through the town,
It’s as quiet as could-be; our spirits are down.

Covid is stirring and lurking about.We worried about Santa on his long night out.

We’ve eaten all the cookies; we’ve left not a one.
Blame our greed on the virus – it has us undone.

We’re doing our best to do what’s right,
We’re not part of the problem; we’ve seen the light.

We’re keeping our distance and wearing a mask,
It’s our proud, new look; should anyone ask.

We mostly stay home; our lives are quite dull,
I suppose we could do better during this lull.

With time on our hands, we could reinvent the pocket,
Build a better mousetrap or an intergalactic space rocket.

Instead, we’re missing our loved ones and our normal routines,
Our lives are in tatters; we’re betwixt and betweens.

The grumbling and moping are getting quite old.
It’s time to be doing; it’s time to bold.

Enough of the sighing, enough with the rants,
Let’s get it together; put on our big girl pants.

Grab those boot straps and give them a yank,
Let’s find an idea we can take to the bank.

But hold it a minute, back up that train,
Our days are still filled with stress and with strain.

It’s okay to be gentle – with ourselves and with others,
We all need a break; so, give us our druthers.

Let us live in our yoga pants for a little while longer,
We need more time for deep breaths and to become stronger.

At the end of each day, as we pull up the covers,
We have just one Christmas wish – that everyone recovers.

Merry, merry and happy, happy to all. Stay safe, stay well, be kind and bon appétit!

Cranberry Muffins

Add these sweet and tart treats to your holiday brunch menu or nibble a few with coffee while you open your stocking. Enjoy!

Makes about 3 dozen muffins

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Grated zest of 1 orange
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2-3 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sour cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

Put the flour, zest, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the sugars and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs and Grand Marnier and continue beating until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients.

Use a rubber spatula to fold the cranberries and walnuts into the batter.

Use an ice cream scoop or two spoons to fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full with batter.

Bake in the middle of the oven until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Cool the muffins on a rack for a few minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Download or print my recipe for Cranberry Muffins.

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

How are you being kind and gentle with yourself and others this holiday season? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2020