Another Weekend Special – A Festive Holiday Dinner with Friends

If dinner for eight (or twelve) is on your weekend agenda, I’m happy to help. The holidays are a wonderful time to invite friends over for a casual-elegant dinner. Here are a few ideas …

Put a bottle of prosecco on ice, light the fire and get cozy. You’ll want to start with a savory or two. Perhaps you’d like to try my Greek Mushrooms and/or Butternut Squash Tartlets? No, how about my favorite dip – Baba Ganoush?

When you are ready to move to the table …

Start with a colorful salad. My Romaine & Radicchio Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Walnuts is beautiful and delicious. Serve the salad with a basket of Savory Rosemary Biscotti.

For the main course … well, how about Roast Chicken, Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc or Braised Short Ribs? All three would be delicious with a side of Roasted Cauliflower and a spoonful of Whole Grain Pilaf.

Now, for dessert! For rich and delicious and chocolate, you can’t beat my Flourless Chocolate Cake.

Happy holidays and have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

Check out the list  of all the recipes with links on this blog!

What are you up to 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? Try one of my seasonal menus or create your own© Susan W. Nye, 2017

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The Sounds of Christmas & Romaine & Radicchio Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Walnuts

The Christmas season is a beautiful time of year. When we were kids, Mom and Dad piled us into the station wagon for a trip around town to see the holiday lights. Sometime in early December, Nana gave my sister and me sweet little party dresses. From the school assembly to family dinner on the twenty-fifth, we were belles at every festive event. Delicious treats warmed our bellies and the smell of fresh pine boughs fill the air.

Not just sights and smells, there is a whole bunch of wonderful sounds to enjoy throughout the holiday season. Here are a few:

Any day at any time, happy voices fill the air. We’re never too distracted to exchange a friendly greeting with a neighbor or offer a merry thank you to our favorite barista. Perhaps more raucous is the shared goodwill at a holiday party. The season just brings out our cheery best.

Carols and songs fill the air. Let’s start with the radio station that plays only Christmas music. Move on to the musak in a department store elevator. Don’t forget to join a sing-along, impromptu or planned. And finally, I’m sorry but throughout the holidays you can hear me tunelessly humming as I go about your errands. There is something about the holidays that makes me want to sing.

Bells jingle and ring at every turn. They decorate the front door, letting out a cheery jingle with every opening and closing. They jangle at the student assembly. After all, not all of us can play the clarinet. Someone has to clatter the triangle and clang bells. Of course, no one can ignore the bell ringers with the red kettles and big hearts. They stand in front of malls and department stores for hours in every kind of weather collecting money to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and assist those in need.

Then there is the rasping sound of skates on the ice and the swoosh of skis on snow. Okay, skis are just as likely to make a skittering noise as they hurtle over New Hampshire’s icy slopes. Anyway, these sounds reassure us that we do indeed love winter … in spite of the cold and short days.

A crackling fire and whistling teakettle are sounds that will warm you inside and out. After a day shopping or an afternoon on the ice, it is pure pleasure to relax with a cup of tea or cocoa by the fire.

The rattle of cookie sheets is a welcome holiday sound. Whether you bake dozens and dozens or just one batch of an old family favorite, cookies are a delicious Christmas tradition. Be sure to bake a batch or two with your kids or grandkids. If they aren’t around, borrow a child or two from the neighbors. They will be happy to oblige as long as you return them with a couple dozen cookies.

There is nothing like the peace and quiet of gently falling snow. Cars stay home and off the road, the birds find shelter and any remaining sounds are muffled by the snow. It is pure peace and a sharp contrast to …

The happy shouts of children unwrapping their presents! I love all the excitement and noise on Christmas morning. The confusion of everyone talking and laughing at once just adds to the fun.

Enjoy the holiday season with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Romaine , Radicchio and Avocado with Pomegranate & Walnuts
This salad is as beautiful as it is delicious. Serve it at your next holiday party or bring it along to a potluck. Enjoy!
Serves 12

10-12 ounces baby romaine
2 endives, thinly sliced
1/2-1 small head radicchio, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Citrusy Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1-2 avocados, halved, pitted and cut into thin wedges
About 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
About 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Put the romaine, endives, radicchio and fennel in a bowl, drizzle with enough Citrusy Vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine.

Transfer the greens to a deep serving platter or individual plates, top with avocado slices, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and chopped walnuts and serve.

Citrusy Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
3/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the garlic, shallot, mustard and brown sugar in a clean glass jar and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the vinegar, lemon and orange juice and zest and shake vigorously to combine.

Add the olive oil and shake again to combine. Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes or more to combine the flavors. Give one more vigorous shake before serving.

Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Garlicy Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives
Two Years Ago – Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale
Three Years Ago – Maple-Nut Sundaes
Four Years Ago – Rosemary Cashews
Five Years Ago – Greek Stuffed Mushrooms
Six Years Ago – Ginger Crème Brûlée
Seven Years Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Eight Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Nine Years Ago – Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Penne

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

What are your favorite sounds of the Holidays? Feel free to share!

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

Tree Trimming Family Dinner Special

Is this your weekend to decorate the tree and deck the halls? If yes, I thought you might like to celebrate with a special family dinner. You’ll want to think cozy and one-pot wonder. That way you can assemble dinner and let it bubble while you decorate. Here are a few suggestions for a delicious tree trimming dinner:

When it comes to cozy, is there anything better than a nice stew. I figure you might be a little tired of turkey so I’ll skip all poultry dishes this week. (If not, then check out my recipe index.)

First thought, you might like my Brazilian-inspired Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verde. I like to serve this stew with Basmati rice.

Not interested in pork? Alright then, how about a trip to Italy with Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms & Creamy Polenta?

Or, enjoy a taste of France with my Braised Beef Bourguignon. Serve the beef with Smashed Potatoes.

Start you dinner with a nice salad. If you haven’t had a chance to try my Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, then by all means do. Thinking you’d like something a little simpler. How about Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad?

And for dessert? Well, maybe you’d like to give my Ginger-Orange Cheesecake. Otherwise, then I think you and your family might like my Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing.

Happy holiday and have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

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

What are you up to 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! target=”_blank”>Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Loving the Holidays & Ginger-Orange Cheesecake

From time to time, you’ll hear someone disparage the holidays. They’ll complain that Christmas is too stressful or too commercial, too one thing or another. Not me, I love the holidays. The hustle, the bustle, the cooking, decorating, music and, yes, even the shopping. As far as I’m concerned, it’s pretty much all good.

With Black Friday, Shop Small Saturday and Cyber Monday, the past few days were all about shopping. However, with a refrigerator full of leftovers, I kept my credit card in my wallet and made turkey soup. That’s not to say, I wasn’t tempted. My intray pinged constantly with one email offer after another. These weren’t just any old sale. Not by a long shot, they were HUGE, door busters and blowouts. At least that was the subject line in the emails.

If last weekend was all about shopping, then it stands to reason that this coming weekend must be about decorating. Yes? No? Maybe? Let’s go with yes and deck the halls. More than anything, decorations tell our family history. From keepsakes and school photos framed in glittery popsicle sticks to tiny elves, sailboats and cowbells, our tree ornaments track new babies, weddings, comings and goings, hobbies and travels. Each tells a story, reminds us of an adventure or harkens back to a particular time in our lives.

In addition, our decorations create a bridge linking one generation to the next. Technology changes, cooking trends come and go, new artists overtake old crooners but you can always find a spot for Nana’s della Robbia wreath or Great-Grandma’s crèche. Several years ago, we found a small hemlock, perfect for Grandpa’s ancient string of outdoor lights. The only trouble was, as soon as Dad plugged them in, the bulbs exploded with a snap, crackle and pop. I guess some things are just not made to last. That said, the story has been told and retold at least fifty times, maybe more.

Whether it’s shopping, holiday baking or decking the halls that has you stressed (or all of the above), here are a few tips to keep you centered throughout the yuletide season.

1. Keep things in perspective and set priorities. It’s the holidays; it’s a busy time. It’s okay to say no once in a while. Don’t confuse must and can. As in, you must show up for work, take a shower and get some sleep versus you can singlehandedly fold hundreds of origami cranes and hang them from the gym ceiling for the school dance. Can doesn’t mean you should let alone must.

2. Exercise, I’m not listening when you say you don’t have time. With a to-do list a mile long, you deserve some me-time. Get on the stationary bike or take a walk, join a Zumba class or spend an hour stretching on your yoga mat. Breathe deep and take a break from all those things that are shouting for your attention.

3. Laughter is a wonderful stress reducer. Whether a string of lights explodes, you drop the pecan pie or you discover mice have been living in the Lionel train, all you can do is laugh and laugh some more.

Enjoy the holiday season with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Ginger-Orange Cheesecake
I like to make a cheesecake at least once a year for Thanksgiving or Christmas. This one will be perfect for Christmas Eve. Enjoy!
Serves 12-16

Ginger Cookie Crumb Crust
2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted

Ginger-Orange Filling
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 inches fresh ginger peeled and finely grated (about 2 tablespoons)
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Make the Cookie Crumb Crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the cookie crumbs, brown sugar, spices and butter in a 10-inch springform pan and mix with a fork until well combined. Firmly press the crumbs into the bottom and about 1-inch up the sides of the pan. Tightly wrap the bottom and sides of the pan in two large sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Cool the pan on a rack. Do not remove the foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Make the Ginger-Orange Filling: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until fluffy. With the beater running, gradually add the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Continue beating, adding the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in the sour cream. Add the crystallized and fresh ginger, orange zest and juice and beat until well combined. Pour the filling into the springform pan.

Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about halfway up sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake until the filling is puffed slightly, softly set and golden, about 1 1/4 hours.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and discard the foil. Put the cheesecake on a rack to cool. Transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator and chill uncovered until cold. Cover and chill overnight or up to 2 days.

To serve: carefully cut around the sides of the pan with a thin knife and release the sides of the pan. Cut the cheesecake into wedges and serve.

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One Year Ago – Chocolate Walnut Tart
Two Years Ago – Citrus & Spice Sugar Cookies
Three Years Ago – Peppermint Bark Cookies
Four Years Ago – Mixed Reds & Greens Holiday Salad
Five Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Six Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Seven Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Nine Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens

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

How do you keep your sanity during the Holidays? Feel free to share!

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

Thankful for Leftovers Special

After the feast of feasts, the refrigerator is filled with Thanksgiving leftovers. If you didn’t do it yesterday, it’s time to make turkey stock. You’ll also want to organize the rest of the leftovers. If you have room in the freezer, you won’t have to cook for a week, maybe two.

Now, you’re asking … what the heck do I do with it all? Here are a few suggestions:

There is everyone’s favorite … soup:

My Favorite Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup

Curried Thai Soup with Noodles, Turkey & Vegetables

Turkey Noodle Soup with Spinach

Not feeling soupy? How about:

Leftover Turkey Stir Fry

Black Friday Enchiladas (Turkey & Black Beans Enchiladas)

Cheesy Gratin with Thanksgiving Leftovers

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Bake

Poverty Casserole (Swap out the sausage with leftover turkey.)

Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans (Replace the ground turkey with bite sized pieces of leftover turkey.)

If you love roasted vegetables, there’s a chance you made too many. Regardless of the mix – butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, beets or whatever … you can –

Whirl them into soup – use my Roasted Butternut Squash Soup recipe as a guide. Or pile them onto crostini and top with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction. Try them in salad of Kale and Radicchio.

Any and all your roasted veggies will be delicious with Ravioli and Brown Butter, layered in Lasagna or stirred into Risotto.

Have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

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

How are you spending the long holiday 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! target=”_blank”>Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

The Truth about Thanksgiving & Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash

Whether it is your first foray into cooking for the feasts of feasts, you are an old hand or a guest not host this year, there are certain inalienable truths about Thanksgiving. At least, they are true for me.

Truth Number One: You’re going to be a little nervous, maybe a lot nervous. I don’t want to increase your anxiety but Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal. Whether you’ve been doing it for years or not, cooking Thanksgiving dinner has a fair number of moving parts. There will be last minute cancellations, additions and changes. One year, I had to pack up all the food, pots and pans and move the entire feast to my brother’s house. Why? The dog was sick and couldn’t travel.

Don’t worry; you are not alone in your anxiety and it’s easy to conquer. First, you can dial back the menu. No one will notice if you skip the creamed onions. Another possibility, you can give a shout out for help. You never know; your cousin might be delighted to bring the creamed onions. Finally, you can judiciously buy other people’s cooking. Check your local bakery, the farmstand and your favorite caterer or restaurant to see what’s on offer. Even if the pies at the farmstand weren’t baked in your oven, they are homemade. The same goes for biscuits from the bakery and stuffed mushrooms for the gourmet deli.

Truth Number Two: You can leave that baggage at the door. You think yours is special? Forget about it. All families are complicated. However, when push comes to shove, and please no shoving or wrestling in the house, you can behave. Your brother can promise to stop talking politics for a few hours. For your part, you can hold him to it and refuse to take the bait when he wanders into dangerous territory. Your parents can agree to stay mute on your single status and you can put the complaints about your ex on hold. Remember, it’s only one dinner. Talk about the good times. I’m sure your family and friends have a few good memories.

Offer to bring a dish for your son’s vegetarian girlfriend. Yes, we know you don’t really like her but you love your son. Both quinoa and kale make a great peace offering. Alert your hosts of any new (real or imagined) food intolerance but don’t expect them to design the entire menu around you. Remember, there’s another faction within the family who thinks the menu should come straight off of Nana’s recipe cards. The ones she gave your mom in 1973.

Thanksgiving is a celebration. For goodness sake, just eat around your dietary issue or nostalgic yearnings. The Thanksgiving table is loaded with possibilities so don’t expect a whole lot of sympathy. Incidentally, there is no dairy in turkey and no gluten in mashed potatoes. And another thing, if Nana’s butternut squash is not on the table, enjoy the Brussels Sprouts.

Truth Number Three: Thanksgiving is always wonderful. It doesn’t matter how many little mishaps try to thwart you. Don’t worry. Like loaves and fishes, I once fed nineteen people from a eleven and a half pound turkey. Everyone had a last minute friend from out of town to bring along. I could have bought a larger turkey but it would not have fit in my apartment’s pint size oven.

Remember, everyone loves Thanksgiving. Outside it’s dreary and gray. Inside it’s warm and cheery. Family and friend love getting together. Whatever you cook, it will be delicious. Whatever anyone brings will be delicious. The conversation will flow. If things start to get a little unruly or teeter on the edge of civility, just say, “I’m thankful for _________” and fill in the blank. It works like magic.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
Serves 8

About 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Apple cider vinegar
Olive oil
About 8 ounces baby kale
1/2-1 small head radicchio, cored and cut in thin ribbons
Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Pickled Red Onion (recipe follows)
About 2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese
About 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
About 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the squash on a rimmed baking sheet(s). Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper, drizzle with enough vinegar and olive oil lightly coat, toss to combine and spread in a single layer. Roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and tender. Let cool for a few minutes.

Can do ahead. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Serve the squash at room temperature or warm. To reheat – spread the squash on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.

To serve: Toss the kale and radicchio with enough Dijon Vinaigrette to lightly coat. Put the greens on individual plates or a large platter and top with squash and pickled onion. Using a vegetable peeler or a course grater, make pecorino Romano cheese shavings. Sprinkle the salad with the cheese, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries and serve.

Dijon Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons chopped shallot or red onion
2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon or to taste hot pepper sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 1 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar, garlic and shallots in a blender, season with salt and pepper and process until the garlic and shallot is finely chopped. Add the mustards, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and 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.

Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes or more to let the flavors combine. Give the vinaigrette a vigorous shake before using. Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

Quick Pickled Red Onion
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
6 pepper corns
1 bay leaf

Put the sugar, salt and vinegar in Mason jar, let everything sit for a minute or two to dissolve and give it a good shake. Add 1 cup of water and shake again.

Add the onion, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. If necessary, add a little more vinegar and water to cover the onion. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to two weeks. Drain before using. Cover and store leftover onion in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Butter
Two Years Ago – Thanksgiving Leftovers
Three Years Ago – Cranberry Clafoutis
Four Years Ago – Black Friday Enchiladas (Enchiladas with Turkey & Black Beans)
Five Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Six Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Seven Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Ninen Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens

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

What are you serving this Thanksgiving? Feel free to share!

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

What’s Cooking this Thanksgiving? More Holiday Menus

Still not sure what to cook for Thanksgiving? We’re getting close to the final countdown and there isn’t a lot of time left to decide. I’ve got three menus that you might find helpful:

Thanksgiving Dinner at my House

New England Meets France

A Rustic Harvest Feast Italian Style

If you need a dish to bring to a potluck … I’ve put together a list of Thankgiving-ish dishes. Give one or two a try.