Looking Forward to a Sunny Weekend Special

How do you know the drought that plagued New Hampshire for a couple of years is over? Well, look outside. If it’s not raining now, it was raining yesterday and might just rain again tomorrow. In any case, the garden is lovely and green.

I’ve got an interesting story to finish up this weekend but I’m still looking forward to some outside time this weekend. And, of course, what could be better than a cookout at the end of a beautiful summer day. Here are a few ideas:

Start with a delicious app. The corn at the farmstand is not quite local but it was picked this morning and delicious. Sounds like its a good time to try my Corn Cakes or my Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa.

For a salad, I’m just loving grilled greens this summer. I tried grilled romaine for the first time about ten years ago. I was hooked. You must give my Grilled Romaine Salad.

Now on to the main course … how about … Grilled Pork Tenderloin? A great dish, to turn to it when you have a group over. A big group? No problem just double or triple the recipe. Add a tasty and good for you, make ahead Wheat Berry Salad.

Now for something sweet. Local raspberries are at the farmstand so maybe you’d like to whip up a batch of Brown Sugar Yogurt Gelato and garnish liberally with raspberries. No? How about Cherry Cobbler? (With a scoop of Brown Sugar Yogurt Gelato? … or your favorite vanilla ice cream?)

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. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2017

What’s Normal? & Grilled Romaine Salad

So, what exactly is normal these days? The early morning pundits and the late night comic warn us that the chaos in the White House is not normal. Perhaps they are afraid that we will somehow or other get used to the chaos, even comfortable with it. It will become our new normal.

I think that we’ve all had times when we were trying to find normalcy. When I moved from Switzerland to California, it was a huge leap. Nothing was normal. Not the weather, not the traffic, heck not even the language. For the first time in a long time, the checkout at the grocery store required English – a cheery hello and thank you. After almost two decades, the more formal “bonjour, Madame” and “merci – bonne journée” had become automatic. These simple words are part of polite, everyday life. And being polite is normal.

By the time I landed in New Hampshire, I’d pretty much mastered greetings and goodbyes in English. However, I did re-discover how cold winter could get. In addition, after a long time away, I was living close to family again. Just like that, boots, shoveling, cold and lots more time with family became part of my normal routine. Managing the ups and downs of self-employment became normal. The flexibility to ski or kayak in the middle of the week became normal. Who knew? Living a balanced life is normal.

Five years ago, my dad became very ill so I moved into my parent’s house to help out. Now believe me when I say, “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout takin’ care of no people.” That said, I could drive Dad to doctors’ appointments and call 911. I also make a mean pot roast. Meanwhile, Mom moved into assisted living. Very little about 2012 and 2013 was normal. I’d say nothing was normal that year, except for helping people I love. That is normal.

By the summer of 2013, Daddy-o was beginning to feel better. I moved back home and he came along with me. Mom stayed in assisted living where she was well cared for and doted on by the staff. We couldn’t see the light but we were pretty confident that we were in the tunnel. We were good; we would find our new normal.

For me, this new version of life required a lot of juggling. I had writing assignments to find and finish as well as a part time job, taking care of one parent and daily visits with another. There were still lots of trips to the doctors and a few to the emergency room. This new life, this new normal was filled with comprises. For instance, I was tempted to insert an adjective above as in … taking care of one aging parent … However, my now nonagenarian father prefers that I don’t harp on his age. Compromise is normal; so are love, laughter and patience.

Well, here it is, it’s summer. It’s hot; it’s humid. It’s New Hampshire; it’s normal. As the day wears on, clouds thicken. Tempers may flare as the humidity gets more oppressive. Then boom! At the end of a steamy summer day, a thunderstorm is normal in New Hampshire. Sometimes a good thundershower clears the air. Sometimes it doesn’t; sometimes it takes another shower or a little more space and time. Either way, it’s normal. The list of normal stuff is long. Along with all of the above and more, there’s integrity, forgiveness and courage. Being normal is not always the same as being easy.

Wishing you a happy summer and bon appétit!

Grilled Romaine Salad
Grilling the lettuce adds a wonderful smoky taste to this salad. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 heads romaine lettuce, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
About 1 cup peeled and chopped cucumber
Thinly sliced red onion (pickled if you have the time)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2-3 ounces feta, crumbled

Preheat the grill to medium-high. Drizzle the romaine wedges with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the romaine pieces, cut side down, on the grill. Grill the wedges for about 2 minutes, turning so that all sides are charred.

Transfer the wedges to a serving platter or individual plates, garnish with avocado slices, cucumber and red onion. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and crumbled feta, drizzle with Creamy Vinaigrette and serve.

For a one dish supper, add grilled shrimp, chicken or steak.

Creamy Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
3 cloves garlic
1 (about 1/8-inch thick) slice red onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) pureed chipotle in adobo sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup (or to taste) extra virgin olive oil

Put the lime juice, vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, anchovy paste, garlic, onion, Worcestershire sauce and chipotle in adobo in a mini food processor or blender and season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until thick and creamy.

Transfer the vinaigrette to a storage container with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, give the container a good long, vigorous shake to recombine the ingredients.

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Two Years Ago – Blueberry Crostata
Three Years Ago – Orzo Salad with Lemony Pesto & Grilled Tomatoes
Four Years Ago – Watermelon & Cucumber Salsa
Five Years Ago – Grilled Chicken Salad Provencal
Six Years Ago – Lobster with Corn, Tomato & Arugula Salad
Seven Years Ago – Greek Green Beans
Eight Years Ago – Blueberry Pie
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Lamb

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

What about you? Do you have a camp story to tell? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Steamy Weekend Special

So, you say, this is summer in New Hampshire. Yes, indeed. A little steam, a little heat and maybe a roll of thunder in the evening. As long as I can get to the beach a couple of nights a week, I’m okay with it. How about you?

Pack up the picnic basket, buy a bag of charcoal and head to the water. It’s a good weekend to spend an evening or three on the beach. Here are a few ideas for that picnic basket:

Start with a great dip, some fresh veggies and pita chips. Maybe you’d like to try my Roasted Red Pepper Dip or Baba Ganoush? (That said there is nothing like a ripe, red tomato – fresh off the vine. You will love my Fresh Tomato Crostini.

For the main course … how about … Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol? For a taste of Asia, throw some boneless chicken thighs in my Hoisin Marinade and grill to perfection. Add a couple of salads – my Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette and Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad would be perfect.

Now for something sweet. You could take a walk and look for ice cream or bring along a batch of my Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies or Cheesecake Brownies.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

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

One More Camp Story & Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette

Okay, this is it, one last camp story. I promise. At some point, either my sister Brenda or I must have uttered the words that no mother wants to hear, “Camp is boring.” It really wasn’t, but if we had one too many rainy days, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. Camp Four Winds was all about the pond – in it, on it or sunning ourselves by it.

Before we knew it, camp brochures started to slip through the mail slot. Camp Waukeela’s brochure promised a surplus of activities. Next, the husband-wife team of camp directors came to our house armed with a slide show. They were at least ten years older than my parents and had preppy names like Skip and Twig. The slide show was filled to bursting with smiling, happy girls engaged in countless sports and activities. Mom was reassured and ready to sign on the dotted line. She always said the two worst times in a woman’s life was when she was thirteen and then again when her daughter was thirteen. While I was an affable eleven, my sister Brenda was thirteen. With lots to do, we couldn’t possibly get in trouble.

Not long after the last school bell, we were on a bus bound for the wilds of northern New Hampshire. Yes, the camp was so far north, that they sent a fleet of buses down to get us. Mom was delighted to avoid an all-day drive to the White Mountains and back. Warily, we stumbled onto one of the buses with a bunch of other kids. Brenda ditched me but my best friend Joy had my back. The rest of the girls were strangers. Whether it was true or not, we felt like we were the only kids who were new to the camp.

In comparison to Four Winds, Waukeela was plush. There was electricity, hot showers and flush toilets. When it came to staying busy, Skip and Twig had not lied. The good thing about Waukeela was that you didn’t have a minute to be bored. The bad thing about Waukeela was that you didn’t have a minute to yourself. We were shuttled from one activity to the next. There was no time to find a rock to sit on and contemplate life.

Unlike Four Winds, the entire day was not spent at the lake. Sure, we had swimming lessons and free swim. Yes, there were boats to row and canoes to paddle. However, we spent a good part of the day on land. We had tennis lessons, horseback riding and archery classes, volleyball games and badminton as well as dance and arts and crafts. Fancy-schmancy or not, all camps have rope for bracelets and gimp for lanyards. It is probably an accreditation requirement.

As always, Mom sent both Brenda and I off with a collection of pre-addressed, pre-stamped postcards to fill in and send home. Mine offered vague but positive words of cheer. Brenda’s were less vague and anything but cheerful. At one point during our stay, I think she tried to talk me into breaking out of the joint.

We were both saved from a second year at Camp Waukeela. Within days of arriving home from New Hampshire, we were back on the road headed north. This time to a rickety rental near Pleasant Lake. At the end of the two weeks, Mom and Dad bought a piece of land. Our little cottage in the woods was ready in mid-January. That was the end of summer camp for the Nye kids.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Grilled Zucchini
I love zucchini. It’s easy, always plentiful and especially good when it is fresh and local. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise or on the diagonal
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the grill to high.

Brush both sides of the zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook until just tender, 2-3 minutes per side.

The zucchini are perfect as is with your favorite grilled meal. Or …. Turn them into a salad!

Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette
Serves 8

Lemony Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
4 grilled zucchini
About 4 ounces feta, crumbled
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced

Make the vinaigrette in advance. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour or longer in the refrigerator to combine the flavors.

Arrange the grilled zucchini on a platter or individual plates, drizzle with a little vinaigrette, sprinkle with feta, parsley, mint and scallions and serve.

Lemony Vinaigrette
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Put the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, mustard and anchovy paste in a small food processor, season with salt and pepper and process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth.

Cover and store leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Fresh Tomato Crostini
Two Years Ago – Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad
Three Years Ago – Watermelon Sorbet
Four Years Ago – Caramel Sundaes with Sweet & Salty Pecans
Five Years Ago – Gazpacho
Six Years Ago – Mousse au Citron
Seven Years Ago– Thai Salad
Eight Years Ago – Sweet Dream Bars
Nine Years Ago – Lobster Salad

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

What about you? Do you have a camp story to tell? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Celebrate Bastille Day Weekend Special

On July 14, 1789, anti-monarchist forces stormed the infamous Bastille Prison in Paris. Ruled by an excessive king and self-indulgent queen, France was in deep economic and political crisis. The storming of the Bastille began the revolution and the pursuit of liberty, equality and fraternity for the French people.

Zut alors! Let’s celebrate! Drink champagne and make some of your favorite French dishes. Here are some of mine:

For nibbling … first you should know that the French don’t do heavy apps like Americans. Try my Tapenade with crisp crackers or veggies. Even easier, set out a bowls of my Spicy Olives.Then again, a batch of Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam sounds good. Don’t forget the nuts … my Roasted Almonds or Rosemary Cashews will be perfect.

Next, move to the table. Remember, the French love a long and leisurely dinner. Why not start with a few Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli. Want something a bit lighter? How about Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction?

Now for the main course. I can’t think of anything better for a Bastille Day dinner than Filet de Perche. (I don’t know about you but perch is hard to find where I live. A few weeks ago, I made this recipe with haddock filets and it was delicious.) Serve the fish with steamed new potatoes or rice and Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts.

Unless you are in the mood for a roast chicken dinner. Typically French, throw a chicken in the oven and roast it to golden perfection. Add a dollop of Smashed or Mashed Potatoes. Don’t forget the Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts.

Now it’s time for the salad. (Yes, the French eat their salads after the main course.) Keep it simple (and very French) with beautiful baby greens tossed a little Classic Vinaigrette. Serve the salad with a few of your favorite cheeses and warm baguette.

For dessert … lets go with something warm and custard-y. Think French toast and give my Blueberry Bread Pudding a try. (In France, French toast is called pain perdu.) On the other hand, Blueberry Clafouti is creamy delicious and very French.

Tous à la Bastille! 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. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2017

More Summer Camp & Blueberry Bread Pudding

Last week I wrote a little bit about my first year at Camp Four Winds. A Girl Scout camp, it offered an escape from the hot, stuffy suburbs. Four Winds was basic to say the least, little cabins and tents in the woods, latrines and a big old dining hall. I’m not exactly sure if there were showers. While I sort of remember waiting in line for a shower, it might be my imagination. On the other hand, I have a clear vision of soaping up in the pond on Saturday night. You know the drill, once a week whether you need it or not.

Our days were not packed with fancy lessons or special programs. There was no horseback riding, tennis lessons, golf, dance classes or archery. At some point, we must have made a rope bracelet or gimp lanyard. We went on a hike, maybe two. Although I’d have denied it at the time, the hikes were none too arduous. One was planned as an overnight. We wimped out and returned to our little cabins when it started to rain. However, as luck would have it, the rain stopped in time for s’mores.

Come to think of it, camp was not all that different from what we did at home. We got up, we had breakfast and did chores. Of course, the chores were more onerous than those Mom gave us. My sister and I did not clean latrines back on Jackson Road. However, we did make our beds and could yield a broom. Brenda was the neater of the two. If pushed, I would eventually pick up my half of our room.

At home, we waited impatiently for Mom to do whatever needed doing before taking us to the town beach. At camp, the counselors corralled us down to the waterfront as soon as our beds were made and cabins swept. Starting with swimming lessons, most of the day was spent in and on the pond. Rain or shine, we stayed in the water until our lips were blue and our teeth chattered. Then we rowed boats and paddle canoes.

At the end of the morning, we were hustled back to our cabins to change into shorts and shirts. Bathing suits were not permitted in the dining hall. The food was unremarkable but kids gathered on the dining hall steps before and after lunch to sing camp songs. I can still sing a couple although I might mess up a verse of two.

After lunch was quiet time. Then and now, it seems rather silly. At seven or eight or however old I was, I was well past needing an afternoon nap. However, we were expected to rest or write letters home to our parents. I guess it was okay to read a book. Mostly, we whispered and giggled.

I’m pretty sure that quiet time was invented to give the counselors a break. How much do you want to bet that they spent the hour smoking cigarettes and writing love letters to their boyfriends? After resting, we were back at the pond. The remainder of the afternoon was filled with more swimming, more blue lips and more chattering teeth followed by rowboats and canoes. If you sense a pattern, you’d be right. It was not for naught. At the end of the two weeks, there was a swim meet. My crawl was hopeless but I came in second with my speedy backstroke.

Thankfully, there were more camp songs before and after dinner because the meal was as unremarkable as breakfast and lunch. At night, there were campfires, s’mores, ghost stories and more giggling. Little girls like to giggle and I was particularly good at it.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Blueberry Bread Pudding

You can call this Baked Blueberry French Toast and serve it for breakfast. Otherwise, call it delicious and serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

Butter for the pan
1 day-old* baguette (about 16-ounce), cubed
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 whole eggs
3 cups half and half or whole milk
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Generously butter a 13- x 9-inch pan. Arrange half of the bread cubes in the pan in a single layer. Sprinkle with half of the blueberries. Top with the remaining bread cubes and blueberries.

Put the cream cheese, sugar and spices in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at time, beating to incorporate. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the half and half. Gradually increase the mixer speed and beat until well combined.

Pour the custard pour over the bread and blueberries. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until lightly browned and set, about 30 minutes more.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve with or without vanilla ice cream.

* It is okay to use a fresh baguette. Just spread the cubes on baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes before prepping the pudding.

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One Year Ago – Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago – Cheesecake Brownies
Three Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Four Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Five Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Six Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Eight Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

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

What about you? How will you celebrate the first days of summer vacation and the longest day? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Enjoy the Summer Weekend Special

This weekend, a lot of people will be packing up and heading home after a week’s vacation. Isn’t it nice when a long weekend grows into a week!?! Isn’t it even nicer when you live in paradise?

Before you head back to the city or the burbs, be sure to indulge in one last cookout. Here are a few ideas!

Kick things off with a lovely rosé or craft beer and a few of your favorite appetizers. When I lived in Switzerland, rosé was always my summer wine of choice. In the past few years, New Hampshire’s State Liquor Stores have started to carry some decent Provencal rosés.

Anyway, on to appetizers! Start with a dip or two. Both my Baba Ganoush and Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus are delicious. Serve them with fresh veggies and pita chips.

Next, enjoy my latest favorite salad. The fresh, local tomatoes are wonderful and I can’t get enough Tomato & Burrata Salad with Grilled Bread.

For the main course, how about Grilled Chicken with Shallots & New Potatoes.

For dessert … stay cool with Brown Sugar Yogurt Gelato. Since the season is short, smother it with fresh, local strawberries.

Happy summer – 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. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2017