Fall Is in the Air Weekend Special

Fall AfternoonIt was warm, humid and breezy when I went into yoga last night. When I came out … It had changed from breezy to downright windy and the temperature had dropped at least ten degrees. I guess fall is finally, really here.

Not a bad thing since every New Englander who likes to cook, loves to cook in the fall. We love apples and squash and roasting just about anything. From cozy dishes like Mac & Cheese to hearty soups, chowder, stews, chili and risotto … the fall make us happy.

What will you cook this weekend? Here are a few ideas:

How about chili? It’s perfect after a busy day of hiking, biking or putting the garden to bed for the winter.

Chips and salsa are a classic start to any chili party. With cool nights – bordering of frost – the corn season is almost over. Before those tasty ears are gone, toss up a bowl of my Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa!

If you don’t have a favorite chili, try one of mine! I have several to tempt you.Chili Con Carne is always a good bet for carnivores. If you want some beans with that beef, try my Black Bean & Beef Chili. Vegetarians will love my Autumn Vegetable Chili. Other alternatives include a delicious Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash, Chicken Chili or Chicken, Black Beans & Corn Chili. Can’t decide … map out a schedule for the rest of the football season and give them all a try.

For a bit of crunch,; think slaw with my Jicama Slaw or Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro, Mint and Peanuts with your chili. Unless you’d rather try my Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad.

Now for something sweet. If you haven’t had one yet, you can’t beat Apple Crisp, à la mode of course. Or whip up a batch of Apple Compote and serve it warm on vanilla or ginger ice cream.If you like sprinkle with a few Sweet & Salty Pecans (or Walnuts).

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What are your plans for the weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

Change the World & Chili Con Carne

After weeks of daily prompting and too good to be true offers, I finally did it. What you ask? Buy a new car or swampland in Florida? No, I upgraded to Windows 10. Since I’ve been none too happy with Windows 8, I was in no big rush to make the leap. However, an article in one or another of the PC magazines convinced that I’d be better off. I figured, or maybe just hoped, that things couldn’t get any worse. So, one fateful morning when the little popup again popped up, I thought, what the heck, here goes nothing and hit yes!

After agreeing to give my house, sanity and first born over to the gnomes of Redmond, my laptop started to hum and a white bar began to ever so slowly turn green. I patiently watched for maybe a minute, maybe two, maybe less, before leaving my desk to fold laundry. I turned on the last of the morning news and what should I see but an ad for Windows 10.

It was as if Bill and his buddies were worried that I was having an attack of buyer’s remorse. Yes, I know the upgrade was free but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t regret my decision. The green bar continued its glacial crawl while happy children skipped across the television screen.

Gosh, how could I have hesitated? According to Microsoft, thanks to Windows 10, one of these adorable kids would change the world. Not only that, the future, was starting right then and there. Wow, I might not be a kid or adorable but I would not be left behind. I too could change the world!

I finished folding laundry and tucked everything, nice and neat, into their proper drawers. Returning to my PC, I discovered the slowly moving green bar was at ninety-something percent. Victory would soon be mine. Changing the world was just minutes away.

Following the instructions, I clicked yes and agree a few more times. Transformed, my dull old screen glowed midnight blue and was edged with silvery light. If nothing else, 10’s graphics were definitely more dashing. A friendly message invited me to relax and gently warned that the few final steps would take some time. A big round circle replaced the boring bar and clocked the minutes to what could only be an astonishing future. I took a shower, made several phone calls and dreamed of being amazing while contemplating another load of laundry.

Finally, I was up and running with a flashy new welcome screen. Although, I hadn’t morphed into a chubby cheeked toddler or a bucktoothed ten year old, I was ready, ready to be extraordinary!

Other than getting my start button back (thank you gnomes), I don’t see a big change between Windows 10 and 8. Perhaps the differences will become apparent in the next week or two. In the meantime, I suppose I can still reach for extraordinary.

How about I begin by being grateful? Hey, I have my start button back. I can show that gratitude by helping others. Between the slick new graphics and start button, there’s no telling what good stuff I can now cook up, write up or fess up.

Here’s to changing the world and new beginnings. Bon appétit!

Chili Con Carne
chili won’t change the world but it might help turn an ordinary evening into something extraordinary. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

Olive oil
12-16 ounces hot (or sweet) Italian sausage, casings removed
About 3 pounds chuck roast
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons (or more to taste) minced jalapeno pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon (or to taste) chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups beer, preferably dark beer
2-3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup sour cream
Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a little olive oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat. Breaking the sausage into pieces, sauté until cooked through, remove from the pan, drain and cool. When it is cool enough to handle, finely chop the sausage and reserve.

Pat the beef dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If needed, add a little more olive oil to the casserole; add the beef and brown well on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the beef and reserve.

Put the onion, carrot, bell pepper, jalapeno and spices in the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the tomatoes, beer, chicken broth, brown sugar, oregano and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer. Stir in the sausage, add the beef, bring to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Turning the beef once, cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl. A little at a time, whisk 1-2 cups of sauce to the sour cream. Turn the beef again, add more chicken broth if necessary and stir in the sour cream mixture. Return the casserole to the oven and cook for another hour or until the beef is very tender.

Transfer the beef to a cutting board and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Cut the beef into bite-sized pieces and add it back to the sauce. Spoon the chili into bowls and serve with a sprinkle of cilantro.

The chili is best when made ahead. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or up to 3 days. Gently reheat the chili on the stovetop over low heat or in a 350-degree oven.

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One Year Ago – Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard
Two Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Three Years Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Four Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Five Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Six Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Seven Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon

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

How will you show gratitude this fall? Let’s start a conversation.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

Fall Breakfast & More Special

Autumn_Pleasant_lakeWith the official start to fall, the sun is coming up a little later every day. All the more reason to have a bit of a lazy start to the day. Sleep in and then invite a few friends over for a mid-morning feast. Enjoy some great food before you all head out for a walk around the lake, a long bike ride or a hike in the hills. It’s all good!

So, what’s for breakfast? Here are a few ideas:

Quiche or something like it, is always a good bet. You’ll be a winner with my Quiche or any one of my variations on the cheese and egg pie. Perhaps you’ll cook up my Spinach Ricotta Pie, Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart) or Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart.

Round out your breakfast something fruity. Give my Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt or Strawberries with Yogurt Cream. And by all means, you must include a batch of my Applesauce Scones or Apple Muffins!

For an after exercise pick-me-up, a steaming kettle of Roasted Tomato Soup with Fresh Corn or Roasted Butternut Squash Soup sounds perfect. Especially if you add either The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the History of my Kitchen or my All Grown Up Grilled Cheese to munch!

End the fun with a cookie. My Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies are nothing short of wonderful.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What are your plans for the weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

Slipping into Fall & Applesauce Scones

I lived in northern California for a short time and complained bitterly about the lack of seasons. My dear friend Julie, a native of the area, suggested patience. She assured me that before too long I would come to appreciate the subtle changes in the California calendar. I didn’t wait. Instead, I returned to my New England roots.

Ah, New England where winter is gorgeous but beyond cold. Spring is muddy and slow in coming. Summer is wonderful but short. And then there is fall! New Hampshire comes into its own in the fall. There are those delightful weeks of Indian Summer in September when the leaves are still green. Next, come the bold and brilliant days of October. In spite of a chilly start and end, the days are warm and filled with golden sunshine. Even the austere and dark days of November, have a certain elegance. If you are not into austerity and elegance, well, there’s always Thanksgiving weekend with lots of family, friends, food, football and, of course, shopping.

The autumnal equinox on Wednesday signals the official start to fall. If you’re feeling gloomy about the change in seasons, cheer up. As far as I’m concerned, autumn has a lot going for it. What you ask? Well, how about:

Layers, layers and more layers. My fashionista friends tell me that layers are back in style. No matter what the trend, I’m a layer-er. Scarves, turtlenecks, that old flannel shirt and a pile of wooly sweaters! It’s almost time to pull them from storage. It’s nice to know that, at least for a season, I’ll have a passing chance at something akin to stylish. Then again, my scarves will be too long or too short and the turtlenecks and sweaters the wrong shade of gray or beige. I think it’s been decades since flannel became passé for anyone other than lumberjacks. Like I said, a passing chance.

Snuggling up by the fire. Whether it’s a rainy Sunday or a crisp evening, I love a fire in the fireplace. Sure, they sing about the lazy days of summer. However, an afternoon on the sofa, in front of the fire, with a cup of tea and a good book; you can’t beat it … especially when you add a little snooze in the middle.

Pumpkins, squash and apples. It’s time to stock up on my favorite fall fruits and vegetables. How about a road trip to an orchard? Are you in? We’ll pick apples and buy a jug of cider. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend you add a bottle or two of hard cider to your basket.

Why not make a day of it? We’ll bring a picnic and take a nice, long walk through the orchard or surrounding countryside. Before heading home, we’ll need to make one final stop at the farm stand. I need a big, fat pumpkin for the doorstep and a butternut squash for dinner.

Cozy cooking. All that exercise and the crisp evening air will work up an appetite for the kind of cooking New Englanders love. I need to dust off my soup kettle, stew pot and roasting pan. I’ll fill the house with the wonderful aromas of bubbling apples, roasting squash and much, much more. You can’t beat the first tastes of the autumn kitchen.

Here’s to getting out, staying in and enjoying all that fall has to offer. Bon appétit!

Applesauce Scones
These scones are perfect for an autumn breakfast, teatime or anytime you want to settle back and relax with a good book or a good chat. Enjoy!
Makes 12-24 scones

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch cloves
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 cup homemade applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.

Put the flour, baking powder, salt and spices in the food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the walnuts and raisins and pulse to combine.

Whisk the maple syrup into the applesauce, add it to the dry ingredients and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, pat into a ball and gently knead until smooth, 8-12 turns.

Pat the dough into a 3/4-inch thick round or divide in half and pat into two rounds for mini scones. Cut into wedges and place them about 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the scones until light brown, 15-20 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Old Fashioned Applesauce
Makes about 3 quarts

8 pounds McIntosh or a mix of your favorite apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup apple cider or juice or water
1/4 cup or to taste maple syrup or brown sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Put the apples, cider, maple syrup and cinnamon in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and, stirring occasionally, simmer for 30 minutes or until the apples are very soft and falling apart.

Let the applesauce cool for 10-15 minutes. For chunky sauce, give the apples a rough mash with a potato masher. For smooth sauce, run the apples through a food mill or whirl in the food processor.
Serve warm, cold or use the applesauce in scones and other recipes.

Cover and store extra applesauce in the refrigerator or freezer.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts
Two Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Three Years Ago – Chicken Parmagiana with Spaghetti Marinara
Four Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Five Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Six Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Seven Years Ago – Oktoberfest Sausages & Sauerkraut

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

What do you love about the fall? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

All Grown Up Dinner Party Special

a_tableHas it been a while since you invited people over for a dinner party? Not dinner but a dinner party, the kind with real dishes around the table … not paper plates out on deck. Fall, even early fall or almost fall, means it’s time to invite people over for not just a delicious meal but one that is eaten at the table, not sprawled in a beach chair. (Don’t worry we will all miss the sprawling in beach chairs within a few months.)

Hmmm, what to serve? Here are a few ideas:

If you and your friends like cheese, you can’t miss with my Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts to start. Or try my Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crostini.

When you are ready to move to the table, sit down to a nice salad. Give my Crunchy Salad with Apples & Grapes or Romaine with Grilled Corn, Tomato & Avocado.

For the main course, how about some wonderful Grilled Lamb. (Enjoy cocktails and your cheesy appetizer outside. Let the lamb grill while you sip and enjoy the setting sun.) While you are at it, grill up some Red Potatoes and my Ratatouille Stacks or Balsamic Vegetables.

A fabulous dessert will end your party on a high note. How about Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard? If you can’t get enough chocolate these days, then you must give my Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart a go.

Have a great weekend, stay dry and bon appétit!

What are your favorite dinner party dishes? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

You Know You’re a Grown Up When … & Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts

table_set_for_dinner_01I think they call it the Peter Pan Syndrome. Generally ascribed to men, it’s an unwillingness to act your age, wake up, smell the coffee and join the real world. I confess; I may have a touch, just a touch, of PPS. It’s not that I’m unwilling to grow up; I just prefer to do it at my own pace. I am forever thinking, except for the most obvious, that anyone I meet is a whole lot older than me. Then he makes a reference to his favorite band in high school or she mentions some cultural icon I’ve barely heard of and I realize that, eeee-gads, I’m at least ten, make that fifteen, years the senior.

Maybe I should give this affliction a name, call it Young at Heart or, even better, Young in my Head Syndrome. The acronym, YHS, is the same either way. Anyway, my condition makes itself known in many different ways. For instance, it’s been years since I graduated from anywhere but as soon as I see those back-to-school ads, I feel like a schoolgirl again. With that feeling comes an overwhelming need to shop for a new notebook or sweater. September means it’s a new year and everyone knows you can’t start it without something (anything really) new.

In spite of my YHS, I am frequently faced with proof that I am indeed getting older. For instance:

Let’s start with the most obvious. My eyes start to close at nine and are down for the count by ten. Of course, they pop wide open again in three maybe four hours for some obligatory tossing and turning.

Next is a bit of role reversal. While it’s been years since my parents had to worry about my health or safety, I frequently worry about theirs. Same goes for doling out advice. My dad tends to come to me more often than the other way around. Since most of his questions are at least vaguely related to his computer or the internet, they pop up quite frequently, even daily.

Moving on to the kitchen, I admit my coffee mugs are a hodgepodge of souvenirs, stocking stuffers and freebies. However, I can and do set a proper table. I’m on my second set of dinnerware and have twelve matching place settings. Can’t stay for dinner? You can join me for a toast; there are a couple dozen wine glasses in my cupboard. Yes, they match and no, they don’t have colorful caped crusaders on them.

Speaking of wine, I haven’t been carded in more than a decade. Make that two or three decades. In addition, it’s been a really, really long time, like forever, since I sipped a fruity drink with a silly name. Instead, I have a closet full of decent wine to go with those wine glasses.

And finally, while I didn’t buy my wine glasses at IKEA, I still and will always love this Swedish purveyor of everything ever needed or wanted for a first (and second) apartment. A trip to IKEA is more than a semiannual spending spree. It is shopping as entertainment at its finest. Alas, I am well past my first and second apartments and rarely shop for entertainment. My collection of cheap but stylish stuff with funny names and umlauts has all been relocated. The storage unit I bought for the kitchen with zero cupboard space is now in the garage, filled with tools and half-empty paint cans. Most everything else went to the Salvation Army or the dump a long time ago.

Here’s to staying young in your head and bon appétit!

Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts
The evenings turn cool in September. This warm and pungent cheese spread will go perfectly with a glass of wine. Enjoy!
Serves 12

????????????????????????????????????Olive oil
1 large Vidalia or red onion, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon butter, cut in small pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream or half & half
1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
8 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat on medium low. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and, stirring frequently, cook for about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and butter, toss to combine and continue cooking and stirring until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic, toss to combine and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with half of the rosemary and thyme, toss to combine and set aside to cool.

Put the cream cheese in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. With the mixer on low, slowly add the cream, Worcester sauce, hot sauce and remaining herbs and continue beating until smooth.

Use a rubber or silicon spatula to fold the gorgonzola into the cream cheese mixture. Transfer the cheese to a shallow baking dish.

The cheeses and onions can be covered separately and stored in the refrigerator at this point. Bring to room temperature before baking.

When ready to bake, top with the cheese with the onions.

Bake at 350 degrees until heated through and bubbling on the edges, 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with walnuts and serve with crackers, warm or toasted sliced baguette, and/or vegetables.

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One Year Ago – Baked Haddock with Fresh Tomatoes & Herbs
Two Years Ago – Pumpkin-Ginger Muffins
Three Years Ago – Roast Pork with Apples & Onions
Four Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Five Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Six Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Seven Years Ago – Oktoberfest Sausages & Sauerkraut
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Are you grown up? How can you tell? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

Still Summer Weekend Special

Pleasant Lake cloudsIf you are holding onto summer with brute force and white knuckles, you can relax. The equinox and official start to fall will not be here for another couple of weeks. Last week’s heat wave proved it, it’s still summer. Even if clouds and showers hide the sun for a good bit of the weekend.

Anyway, it will be a good weekend for a movie or invite friends over to watch football. Or forget about football, hang out in the kitchen and make pickles.

When it comes to dinner, enjoy a bit of cozy, comfort food. Here are a few ideas:

To start, pick up some fresh eggplant in the farmers’ market and give my Baba Ganoush or Caponata a try. Add a bowl of Roasted Almonds and another of Spicy Olives.

roasted_tomato_soup_w_fresh_corn_01Moving on to the main course, who says you can’t have soup and sandwiches for dinner? You can’t beat my All Grown Up Grilled Cheese. Add a mug of my Roasted Tomato Soup with Fresh Corn. Yum!

And for dessert? Stick with the warm and cozy theme. The first local apples are in the market and everyone but everyone loves Apple Crisp. Or go with cool, creamy and chocolaty and give my Chocolate Panna Cotta a go.

Have a great weekend, stay dry and bon appétit!

What are you planning for the long holiday weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2015