Mothers’ Day Weekend Special

Happy_Mothers_Day_Mom_Susie_Brenda_Summer

Oops! Looking for a fun and festive menu for
Cinco de Mayo? It’s here! Enjoy!

Will you be cooking for Mom this weekend? Breakfast in bed? A cozy family brunch? A tasty dinner? If you need a little help with the menu, here are a few suggestions:

Mothers’ Day Brunch! How about a delicious Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart? If Mom’s got a sweet tooth, try my Puffy Apple Pancake. Fill out your brunch with some fresh fruit. The strawberries are looking pretty good so how about Strawberries with Yogurt Cream. A bread basket is always welcome – especially if it’s filled with Lavender Scones and/or Rhubarb Muffins.

And don’t forget the Mimosas!

Mimosas

Orange juice – preferably freshly squeezed and chilled
Champagne or Prosecco, chilled
Grand Marnier (optional)
Garnish: orange slice (optional)

Half fill champagne flutes with champagne or prosecco. Carefully top the glasses with orange juice and 1 tablespoons Grand Marnier. Give a gentle stir, garnish with an orange slice and serve.

Mothers’ Day Dinner! For a beautiful start to her special dinner, Mom will love my Artichoke Crostini. Add a few nuts and Spicy Olives.

Sit down to a healthy salad. Perhaps your mom would like my Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad or my spring favorite Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado. (Rain is in the forecast but don’t worry. You can grill the asparagus in advance between showers.)

Now, the main course. For cozy, perhaps your mom would like my Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions or Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs. Thinking a bit lighter, how about Moroccan Baked Cod ? Serve the lamb or chicken with Whole Grain Pilaf and the fish with Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts.

What about dessert? Does your mom have a favorite. Mine loves chocolate. Chocolate Panna Cotta, Double Trouble Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes, it’s all good. Or go wild with my Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake.

Happy Day Mom and bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Mothers’ Day? 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, 2016

A Cinco de Mayo Fiesta

Limes_Hot_PeppersIt’s Cinco de Mayo (May the 5th) on Thursday. Time for fun and a festive, Mexican feast! Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. It commemorates a battle between the Mexicans and French in 1862. Independence Day or not, inco de Mayo has captured the hearts and stomachs of most of America. What about you? Are you ready for some south of the border treats?

Here are a few ideas!

To Start: A sure crowd pleaser is my Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa. Or maybe you would prefer to keep it simple with some chips, Salsa and Guacamole.

The Main Event:
If you have a hankering for chili try my Chili Con Carne. Chili not your thing? How about
Pork Mole. I won’t verify its authenticity but it is full of flavor and delicious. Complete the either one of these cozy stews with with some steamed rice and crunchy Jicama Slaw.

Sweet Treats:
Chocolate was discovered in Mexico so what could be better than … Flourless Chocolate Cake or Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart? Take your pick!

Have a fun and festive evening! Bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? 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, 2016

Mother’s Day & Puffy Apple Pancake

Mom_Susie_Brenda_SailboatMother’s Day is Sunday. It’s the day when little children clamber out of bed early. They burn English muffins, spill orange juice and deliver both to mom with a big hug. If he’s worth his salt, it’s a day for dads to clean up the OJ and then take everyone out for pancakes. Lucky for my mother, it’s been several years since any of her three burned an English muffin or spilled a glass of orange juice. Okay, maybe once or twice and it was white wine not orange juice. Not nearly as messy!

Mom is well into her eighth decade. Her brood has expanded over the years. Along with my sister, brother and me, she has seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Unfortunately, longevity has not been kind to her. Now in a nursing home in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, Mom is bedbound and barely verbal. She’s worn out but not ready to give up. When I stopped in to see her today, she smiled, chuckled softly once or twice and then hummed a little tune. Today and every day, I am grateful for all that she has given me over the years.

My mother raised a noisy bunch. I’m pretty sure that she did it on purpose. Far from reserved, she never hesitates to show her love of life and us. Get us together and before too long, we’re talking all at once. There could be some shouting but don’t worry; the laughter will be even more enthusiastic and contagious.

Under all the noise and laughter are independent thinkers. Mom loves the dialogue and rigorous discussion that comes from carefully thought out opinions. Fortunately (or not for some of the bosses who have hired us), Mrs. Nye didn’t raise no yes-man or women.

I’m not sure why or how but Mom did not pass on her neatness gene. She is a neat neater and I envy her that (and her long legs). In the scheme of things, there are neat neaters, messy neaters, neat messers and messy messers. I may be the worst but, as far as I can figure, none of her children inherited her neatness. I’ll blame it on Dad, he’s a bit of a messer himself.

Thank goodness for Mom’s generous and kind spirit. Mom has always had an uncanny knack for making people feel good about themselves, even special. I think she must have something of a Spidey sense when it comes to who might need a little extra care and attention.

Mom is not exactly an environmentalist but she doesn’t like waste. She’s green in her own, New England sort of way. We learned early that we didn’t own the electric company and didn’t live in a barn. We closed the door, turned off lights and put on a sweater if we were cold.

My mother is an unabashed optimist for herself and for others. Like the little engine that could, Mom believes in hard work and positive outcomes. Whether it is an exam, a special dinner or what to do with the rest of your life, Mom knows that everything will work out just fine in the end.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom and bon appétit!

Puffy Apple Pancake
Forget standing at the stove flipping flapjacks; make one big pancake for everyone to share on Mother’s Day. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

1-2 tablespoons butter for the pan
1-2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin wedges
4-5 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Maple syrup or confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Generously butter a 9-inch glass pie plate. Arrange the apple slices in the bottom of the pan.

Combine the brown sugar and spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle about half the sugar mixture evenly over the apples. Place the dish in the oven and bake the apples for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the remaining sugar mix in a blender with the eggs, flour, salt and vanilla and process to combine. Warm the milk in the microwave on high for 15-20 seconds. With the motor running, slowly add the milk to the flour and eggs and process for about 1 minute on medium speed.

Puffy_Apple_Pancake_05Slide the rack from the oven to reach the pie plate, without removing the pan, carefully pour the batter over the apples. Carefully slide the rack and pan back into the oven and continue baking until the pancake is puffed and golden, about 20 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Cut the pancake into wedges and serve immediately with a drizzle of maple syrup or a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

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One Year Ago – Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
Two Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Three Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Four Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Five Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Six Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Seven Years Ago – Rhubarb Muffins

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

How will you celebrate Mother’s Day? Feel free to share.

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

First of May Cookout Special

daffodils_april_10_03_edited We say goodbye to April on Sunday and give three cheers for the merry month of May.
In spite of the surprise snowstorm on Tuesday, the first of May means that it really, finally is spring. Roll out the grill and enjoy the first cookout of the season.

Uh oh – spring or not, it looks like the first of May will be a washout. Not a problem … just move your cookout to Saturday. Hooray, hooray, the thirtieth of April doesn’t rhyme but you can still have a good time!

Start with something delicious to nibble. I’m very fond of my
Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp. Or you could try my Greek Stuffed Mushrooms.

Next, sit down to a salad. Since you are getting out the grill, why not try my Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado. On the other hand, my Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula Salad is also very good.

What about the main course? How about chops? Lamb or pork, take your choice! I’m partial to my Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce but my dad is a big fan of my Grilled Mustard Pork Chops. Either way, serve the chops with a spoonful of my Quinoa Salad and a few slices of my Grilled Zucchini.

Top off your spring feast with something sweet and delicious. You can’t miss with my Flourless Chocolate Cake or my all-time spring favorite Lemon Tart.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What are you cooking this 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, 2016

The First of May & Quinoa Salad

poppyHooray, hooray! Sunday is the first of May. In ancient times, May Day heralded the start of summer. (You always wondered why the longest day in June is called midsummer. Now you know.) Throughout the decades, May 1st has witnessed many famous and infamous events.

Villages in medieval Europe welcomed longer, warmer days with a maypole, dancing and frivolity. Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro premiered in Vienna on May 1, 1786. For the less highbrow, the Follies Bergère opened its doors on the same day in1869.

It’s not been all fun but there have been games. The union movement traces its roots to May Day. Thirty-five thousand unionists walked off their jobs in Chicago in support of an eight-hour work day in 1886. May 1, 1920 was a dark day for Boston; Babe Ruth hit his first homer for the Yankees. It was also a bad day for villains. Batman began fighting evil in 1939 when his first comic book hit the streets.

There’s more! Those yellow boxes of Cheerios were first placed on supermarket shelves and Citizen Kane premiered on May 1, 1941. Rookie Mickey Mantle hit his first major league homerun in 1951. In 1961, Harper Lee received the Pulitzer Prize for the iconic To Kill a Mockingbird. Ten years later, the Rolling Stones released “Brown Sugar”.

Although it happened on April 25, the Russian news agency Tass finally reported the Chernobyl disaster on May 1, 1986. The UK elected Tony Blair Prime Minister on May Day 1997. SpongeBob SquarePants joined the television lineup in 1999. Long a day for protests, pro-immigration rallies were held on May 1st in both 2006 and 2007. Demonstrators were back at it in 2012 when Occupy Wall Street organized general strikes in cities across the United States

That’s just a glimpse of some of the notable comings, goings and happenings through the ages. Warmer weather certainly brings its share of joy and trouble. How about you? What kind of activities do you plan for the first of May? Fun and festive, inspired or inspiring? Taking a few cues from history, here are some ideas:

With or without a maypole, organize a neighborhood fête. Invite everyone over for a potluck cookout. Enjoy an afternoon in the sunshine with good food, games and camaraderie.

See an opera, take in a show or go to a concert. Perhaps you’d rather make your own music or dance the night away.

Spend an afternoon at the ballpark. You can watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees at Fenway or the Fisher Cats play the Binghamton Mets in Manchester. Alternatively, you can add a friendly game to your neighborhood cookout.

Be a superhero. Whether you take a lesson from the dark and brooding Batman or use a lighter approach, your family, friends and neighbors will appreciate some ordinary heroics. Walk a friend’s dog when she’s forced to stay late at the office. Give your brother a night off by offering to babysit his kids. Help your neighbor lug her heavy groceries from the car into the house.

Let your voice be heard. Do you have a cause that is near and dear to you? Join a peaceful demonstration, organize a petition or write your representative and senators.

Have a great day and better month of May. Bon appétit!

Quinoa Salad
Quinoa has a lovely nutty taste and is a favorite with kids. It’s the perfect salad for your May Day cookout. Enjoy!Quinoa_Salad_01
Serves 6-8

1 1/2 cups quinoa
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
2-3 scallions, thinly slice the white and pale green parts and chop the dark green tops
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Orange Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tart apple, diced
2 tablespoons currants
Juice of 1/2 orange
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Cook the quinoa according to package directions and transfer to a large bowl. Add the orange zest, white and pale green scallion, garlic and enough Orange Vinaigrette to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper, toss to combine and cool to room temperature.

While the quinoa is cooling, prepare the apple. Drizzle the apple and currants with orange juice and toss to coat.

When the quinoa has cooled to room temperature, add the fruit and toss to combine. Sprinkle the salad with chopped scallion and herbs and toasted almonds, toss again and serve.

The salad can be prepared up to several hours in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Orange Vinaigrette
Juice of 1/2 orange
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil to taste

Put the orange juice, vinegar, honey and mustard in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Slowly add olive oil to taste, whisking until combined and emulsified.

Cover and store leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator. It’s delicious with mixed greens.

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One Year Ago – Latkes
Two Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Three Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Four Years Ago – Espresso Brownies
Five Years Ago – Lemon Scones
Six Years Ago – Shrimp with Jicama Slaw
Seven Years Ago – Pork Mole
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have special plans for the 1st of May? Feel free to share.

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

Pizza Party Weekend Special

If there are kids in the house, there is nothing better than a Spinach_Pizza_03pizza party. Make your own and you’ve got dinner and entertainment all rolled into one. BTW, it’s also fun for the young at heart. After all, who doesn’t love a good pizza?

Nibble while you work. Set out some raw veggies and a dip or two before you start. You can’t go wrong with White Bean Hummus or Roasted Red Pepper Dip.

Add a tasty salad. Set out some raw veggies and a dip or two before you start. You can’t go wrong with Asparagus & Radish Salad has a light and bright citrus vinaigrette which is sure to please. If you don’t mind firing up the grill, Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado is a wonderful combination. Fussy kids? How about mixed greens with a Classic Vinaigrette?

Sausage_Pizza_03Now, what about the pizzas? Buy or make up a batch of your favorite pizza dough and let everyone have a whirl and twirl with Make Your Own Personal Pizzas. For those that can’t be bothered (and what fun are they), whip up a Greek Pizza. Or, for a bit of a change, try pizza’s favorite cousin and my Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach.

For dessert, think ahead and spend part of the afternoon keeping the kids happy and busy baking cookies. Perhaps you’d like to try my Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies or my Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies. Both are terrific. For something a little more special, try my Mini Chocolate-Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies.

Have a wonderful weekend and a great pizza party. Bon appétit!

What are you cooking this 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, 2016

Spring Vacation & Homemade Personal Pizzas

dreary_day_Elkins_DamApril vacation is upon us. As a kid, I never quite got the point of a week off in early spring. Yes, in New England mid to late April still qualifies as early spring. In northern New England, it often qualifies as late winter. Anyway, it always rained. Not just for a day or two, it seemed like it rained every day for the entire week.

Although, I didn’t complain about the extra hour or so of sleep in the morning, the week was filled with a fair amount of grumbling. The weekend-to-weekend, nine day stretch could best be described as boring. It’s a pretty sure bet that I complained about being cooped up inside. I would have much preferred two weeks in February for skiing. Alternatively, it would have been nice to leave our stuffy classrooms a week early in June.

Of course, lots of kids embraced April vacation. They’re the ones who hopped on a plane and spent the week in the pool at their grandparents’ condo in Boca or West Palm Beach. My grandparents were smart enough to live in a one-bedroom apartment and so avoided the onslaught of three boisterous children.

Mom countered any attempt at a pity party with a reminder of our wonderful February ski vacation in New Hampshire. No, we were not exactly deprived. And yes, at least deep down inside, we knew how lucky we were. Still and all, it was hard to feel your good fortune when each day dawned rainy and you’d already seen “It’s a Mad, Mad World” and “Sword in the Stone” … twice. By Wednesday, Mom was probably more than ready to throw the three of us into a packing crate and ship us to her mother in Florida but she refrained.

If you’re stuck at home with kids or grandkids on a rainy day or, heaven forbid, week, here are a few ideas to keep them happy and you sane:

Bake cookies. Sure, it’s the go-to standby for rainy day entertainment but baking never gets old. Everyone but everyone loves cookies, especially if they are loaded up with chocolate chips.

Host a tea party. You don’t want to eat all those delicious cookies by yourself – do you? Share them with family, friends and neighbors.

Organize a film festival. Forget going out in the cold and wet; cuddle up on the sofa with your favorite on-demand provider or a stack of DVDs. Don’t forget the popcorn.

Get moving. After all those cookies and popcorn, you’ll want to get some exercise. Turn on your favorite tunes and dance or crank up the karaoke machine to sing and dance. Next, play charades, Mother May I or Pictionary, extra points for exaggerated gestures and enthusiasm!

Tackle that craft project. Turn a color copy of a favorite photo into a jigsaw puzzle, make a video or build fairy houses. When in doubt, Google rainy day crafts with kids!

Make your own pizza. Get everyone involved. Cut the dough for individual sized pizzas, offer a variety of toppings and let everyone assemble their own delicious pie.

Stay dry, have fun and bon appétit!

Homemade Personal Pizzas
More than dinner, homemade pizza is a great project to share with kids. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6

personal_pizza16-20 ounces pizza dough (your favorite recipe, store-bought or from your favorite pizzeria)
Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)

Your favorite cheese(s)

Mozzarella
Fontina
Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano
Feta
Goat cheese
Gorgonzola

Your favorite toppings

Caramelized onions or onions and peppers
Sautéed mushrooms, zucchini and/or eggplant
Sliced artichokes, sundried tomatoes, jalapenos, olives or capers
Pesto (spoon over a freshly baked pizza)
Fresh spinach tossed with a dash of olive oil and hint of balsamic vinegar
Crumbled sausage, pepperoni and/or chopped and cooked bacon
Sliced or cubed cooked chicken
Shrimp (to avoid over cooking, add after 3-4 minutes)
Thinly sliced prosciutto (drape over a freshly baked pizza)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you’re using one, place your pizza stone in the oven before turning on the heat. A pizza stone will cook your pizza evenly and give you a nice crispy crust.

Cut the pizza dough into 4-6 pieces. Let everyone stretch a piece of dough, give it a spin or roll out into rounds. Place the rounds on parchment paper.

Invite everyone to spread a little sauce to their pizza and then sprinkle with their favorite cheese(s) and toppings. Transfer the pizzas, parchment and all, to the baking stone or to baking sheets and slide the pizzas into the oven.

Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly, about 10 minutes with a baking sheet and about 8 minutes with a pizza stone. The crust’s thickness and the toppings determine how long it takes.

Marinara Sauce
Makes about 4 cups of sauce – you’ll need 3-4 tablespoons for each individual-sized pizzaSausage_Pizza_01

Olive Oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 small carrot, finely shredded
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes or to taste
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 cups (28-ounce can) crushed tomatoes

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the herbs, garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Optional – cool the sauce for about 20 minutes and put it in the blender and process until smooth.

Freeze leftover sauce for the next rainy day pizza party.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Chimichurri
Two Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Grilled Ham & Swiss Cheese Sandwiches
Three Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Four Years Ago – Thai Curried Shrimp and Green Beans
Five Years Ago – Asparagus Risotto
Six Years Ago – Fennel & Feta Salad
Seven Years Ago – Dandelion Salad with Grilled Steak, Potatoes & Asparagus

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

What’s your favorite combinations of cheese and toppings on a pizza? Feel free to share.

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