A Memorial Day Weekend Special

flags_daisiesWarm, sunny with a chance of thunderstorms! It doesn’t happen often but it looks like the Memorial Day Weekend will really, truly kick off summer this year. All the more reason to dust of the grill, toss a few salads and enjoy a holiday cookout. Now, comes the question, what to serve?

Relax on the deck with a glass of wine and a duo of crostini. I’d like to suggest my Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatziki & Greek Salad and Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts. Dust off the lawn chairs, sit back and relax with family and friends while the grill heats up.

Now for the main course. What could be more traditional than a burger? However, not just any burger will do. Give my Not Your Ordinary Burger with goat cheese and sundried tomato aioli or my Turkey Burgers with Greek Salsa. Tradition demands that you add a few salads. You love my Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado. It’s definitely one of my favorites. Next, what could be more traditional than spuds? My New Potato Salad Dijon is simple and delicious.

Don’t forget dessert. When I was a kid, my mother baked a batch of brownies every weekend in the summer. My Cheesecake Brownies or Triple Threat Brownies (or both) are perfect for the long holiday weekend.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What are you up to 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

A Memorial Day Cookout & Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatziki & Greek Salad

grilled_pork_chopOfficial or not, New England kicks off summer on Memorial Day weekend. The sky can be gray, rain may fall and the black flies can be vicious. It doesn’t matter. We New Englanders are a tough breed. If it’s wet, we’ll throw on a raincoat. If it’s dry, we’ll roll down our sleeves and slather on the bug repellent. Summer is short so please excuse us if we want to get an early jump on the season.

The best way to take a flying leap into summer is a cookout. So what if gale winds are whipping across the lake, it’s time to get your grill on. Call your friends, your family and neighbors and have a ball. Now, it’s been awhile so before you pick up the phone, here are a few essentials to help make your Memorial Day cookout memorable … in a good way.

Check the propane tank or buy a new bag of charcoal. Nothing puts the damper on a cookout faster than charcoal that refuses to light after sitting in a puddle in the garage all winter. Same goes for an empty propane tank. Gas grillers, if you don’t have a spare tank – think about investing in one. It’s a trick that I learned from my dad. That spare has saved the party more than once.

While you are routing around in the garage for the grill, find your cooler and give it a good scrub. Ditto for the outdoor furniture. How’s that for an added bonus? A Memorial Day cookout is a great motivator for getting the porch ready for summer.

Devise your menu. It’s a patriotic holiday so you may opt for traditional burgers and dogs. Even if you do, you can push the envelope with some interesting appetizers, sides and sweets. Sure, you can pick up a container of humus, a quart of potato salad and a sheet cake at the supermarket but it will taste like supermarket humus, potato salad and sheet cake. Perhaps I’m prejudice but I can’t help but believe that homemade not only tastes better; it’s better for you. When you make it yourself, you control the fat, sugar and salt. In addition, your dinner won’t be loaded down with preservatives or artificial ingredients.

While everyone likes them, as far as I know, there is no rule that says burgers and dogs are de rigeur for Memorial Day weekend. Show off your cosmopolitan flair and culinary prowess with dishes from around the world. Perhaps you’d like to try a Provençal picnic, Korean barbecue or even pizza on the grill. After all, we are a melting pot nation.

Take it up a notch. You may be tempted to load a case of America into the cooler. (In case you missed it, America is the temporary new name for Budweiser.) The timing is right; Bud’s newly rebranded cans hit the shelves yesterday. But, c’mon, you know you can do better. New England is the center of the universe when it comes to microbreweries. Okay, maybe not the center of the universe but we have more than our fair share of local, artisanal brews. Splurge a little and serve some of the best beer New England has to offer.

beach_binGo casual, pretty and green. It’s a cookout. There’s no need to break out the good china. Or any china or glassware for that matter. You can find colorful, reusable plastic dishes at your favorite department, discount or craft store. Okay, so maybe it’s not as easy as throwaway plates and glasses. But think of the trees you’ll save not to mention the landfill. Complete your table with a pretty tablecloth and pots of geraniums. You know you are going to buy geraniums anyway. Use them for your picnic table this weekend and plant them by the front door on Tuesday morning.

Enjoy the long weekend and bon appétit!

Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatzik & Greek SaladCrostini_w_Red_Pepper_Tzatzik_Greek_Salad_03
A delicious small bite, these crostini will be even better when local tomatoes are available. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 dozen crostini

1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 roasted red pepper, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon or to taste sriracha
1 pint cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
1-2 cups arugula, roughly chopped
16 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
Red wine vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 baguette, thinly sliced on the diagonal and toasted or 6 small pita, quartered and toasted
About 6 ounces feta, crumbled

Make the tzatziki: put the cucumber in a fine mesh sieve, sprinkle liberally with salt and let drain for about 30 minutes. Rinse the cucumber, drain well and pat dry with a clean dishtowel or paper towels.

Put the yogurt, roasted pepper, garlic, herbs and sriracha in a food processor and process until smooth.

Put the cucumber and yogurt mixture into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Make the salad: put the tomatoes, arugula, olives and scallion in a bowl, drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons each vinegar and olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.

Assemble the crostini: spread a dollop of tzatziki onto each slice of toasted baguette, top with a generous spoonful of salad and sprinkle with feta. Serve immediately.

You can assemble the crostini and pass or set everything out let your guests assemble.

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One Year Ago – Ginger Shortcakes with Rhubarb Compote
Two Years Ago – Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
Two Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Four Years Ago – Asparagus Crostini with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese
Five Years Ago – Wheat Berry Salad
Six Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Seven Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

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

How will you spend the long holiday weekend? Feel free to share.

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

A Typical Spring Weekend Special

rainy_day_pleasant_lakeI think I just heard a clap of thunder! Clouds, showers and sunshine … typical spring weather is in the forecast for the weekend. What to do? Head outside when you can and find a project for when you can’t.

Last weekend I tackled the workbench. The big stuff is done but there are at least a billion nails, screws, nuts and bolts to sort. Whether you are hiking or biking or finishing your spring-cleaning, end the day with delicious dinner with family and friends.

Here are a few suggestions!

Start the evening with a glass of wine and a tasty, savory treat. If you’ve never tried my Feta-Walnut Spread, please do. Or take it up a notch with my Zucchini Pancakes. No rush, relax and enjoy the company.

Now for the main course. How about a taste of the Mediterranean? Get grilling with Moroccan Spiced Lamb with Eggplant Salsa. Add a delicious bowl of Tabbouleh and a basket of warm pita bread.

After dinner, enjoy a little something sweet. Sip cozy mugs of Spiced Chai and nibble Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache or Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti.

Enjoy the weekend and bon appétit!

What are you up to 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

Hop on your Bicycle & Tabbouleh

It must be spring; herds of cyclists have taken to the roads. Is herd the right word here? Perhaps flock or pack makes more sense. Flock because they fly by in their brightly colored spandex. Pack because of their tight formation as they careen down country roads. Whether you ride solo or are part of a team, gaggle or gang, it’s time to dust off your bicycle and take it on the road.

Even if they lack the romance and mystique of an easy riding Harley, bicycles gave us one of our first, intoxicating taste of freedom. Our bikes quickly took us out of shouting distance from Mom and Dad. We could cruise over to the schoolyard to swing on the swings, down to Longfellow Pond or nowhere in particular. By far, the best part was coasting down Jackson Road in joyful no-hands, no-feet abandon.

Perhaps you know, perhaps you don’t but May is National Bicycle Month. I can’t think of a better time to slip into some spandex and hit the road. If you are more the mountain bike type, hit an old logging road or rail trail. Chances are good that you’ll capture at least a bit of the heady freedom you felt at ten. Not convinced? Here are a few excellent reasons to hop on a bike!

It’s good for your heart and your head. Cycling improves stamina, strength and endurance. Watching your weight? Nothing like a spin on your bike to help keep the pounds under control. Exercise is also good for reducing stress. You’ve probably heard of the runner’s high, well, it works with biking too.

Not just for stress reduction, aerobic exercise is good for clearing your head and problem solving. Whether it is the change of scenery or the flow of oxygen to your noggin, cycling will help you think creatively and find answers. Want proof? Albert Einstein claimed he came up with the theory of relativity while riding his bicycle.

By the way, if you are a regular runner or walker, it’s not a bad idea to switch it up from time to time. An added inducement, the black flies are thick as thieves these days. You definitely can’t outwalk them (I have a few bites to prove it) and it’s hard to outrun them. However, you can probably outride them.

You’ll save money. Whether you use your bicycle to commute to work or for your daily trip to the post office, you’ll save at the pump and on your car’s daily wear and tear.

Not just good for your wallet, biking is good for the planet. Thirty percent of greenhouse emissions in the US are motor vehicle related.

Besides, you’ll be amazed at what you miss whizzing around in a car. A bike slows you down and let’s you check out the scenery. Spring daffodils, a family of loons and much more awaits you. Biking provides a more intimate view of the world.

Shopaholics will be delighted. Whether you favor the outrageously colorful or something cool and subdued, a slinky, new wardrobe is calling. (If the thought of spandex terrifies you, it’s okay to wear a pair of old shorts or snap a rubber band around the bottom of your khakis.) Even if you forgo those zippy bike shorts, the shops may still beckon. What better way to show off the fit, new you than a new outfit (maybe two)?

Have fun and bon appétit!

TabboulehTabbouleh_02
A delicious addition to your next cookout or picnic, this healthy salad will taste even better after a nice bike ride. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1/4 cup bulgur (cracked wheat)
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and light green parts separated from the dark green
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch allspice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cups roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on the size
1 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

Put the bulgur in a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup boiling water to cover the bulgur plus about an inch, cover the bowl and let sit for 15 minutes. If necessary, drain well through a fine mesh sieve, pressing out any excess water.

While the bulgur soaks, put the white and light green parts of the scallions, garlic and lemon zest in a large bowl, season with cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper, drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, and toss to combine.

Add the bulgar to scallions and garlic and tossing frequently, cool to room temperature. Add the fresh herbs, dark green part of the scallions and juice of 1/2 lemon to the tabbouleh and toss again. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to combine the flavors.

Prep the tomatoes and cucumbers and put them in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with a little olive oil and remaining lemon juice and toss to combine. Add the tomatoes and cucumbers to the bulgur and toss again.

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One Year Ago – Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado
Two Years Ago – Grilled Balsamic Vegetables
Three Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Four Years Ago – Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Five Years Ago – Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Six Years Ago – Feta Walnut Spread
Seven Years Ago – Bruschetta with Grilled Vegetables & Gorgonzola

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

How do you stay fit in warm weather? Feel free to share.

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

A Spring Weekend Special

 Will the beautiful weather from the last few days continue into the weekend? Your guess is as good as mine! Rain, clouds or sun, why spend at least one evening this weekend with good friends, a bottle of wine (or two) and some tasty tapas?

Here are a few suggestions! You’ll want to try my latest crostini recipe. Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts are a lovely combination of sweet and savory. If you think you might like a second crostini, make up a batch of my Chicken Liver Pâté and serve it on toasted baguette.

Thinking you’d like something a bit more substantial? How about Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli or Spicy Hoisin Chicken Wings? Add a platter of Grilled Balsamic Vegetables and let everyone help themselves.

Then again, maybe you’d like to try my Savory Galette with Spinach, Mushrooms & Manchego or Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks).

For a little something sweet, set out strawberries with some Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème. Delicious!

Have a good weekend and bon appétit!

What are you up to 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 in Northern New England & Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts

daffodils_in_the_rain_03We’ve all heard the rhyme, “April showers bring May flowers.” Except in northern New England where “April showers bring May showers.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests that spring begins on March 20 and continues until June 20. If you live here, you know that’s nonsense. Warm winter, cold winter, it doesn’t matter. As far as I can tell, spring is either a myth or a scam perpetrated by Madison Avenue to lull us into buying cute shoes and overpriced sunglasses.

I generally divide these so-called spring months into four unequal parts. First, there is still winter. The skiing is usually at its best during this period. Next comes mud season followed by black fly season. These two are both pretty ugly. Finally, we will have a glorious week or two when the lilacs are in full bloom. If we are lucky, the lilacs will bloom against a backdrop of bright, blue sky and sunshine.

But there is no need to grumble about mud or flies. There are countless advantages to a cold, rainy spring. For instance:

Where else can you splurge on ridiculously colorful rubber boots and rain slickers? And, even better, actually wear them? Too much? How about some cool leopard-print rain clogs and a trench coat?

So what if you’re stuck with a choice of stir-crazy or a rainy walk. You can wear your dazzling rain gear. Better still, after the walk you can reward your virtue with a luxurious, guilt-free bubble bath.

There’s no rush to pack away your heavy sweaters and fleece. Admit it, hit a warm day, even two and you’re tempted. Don’t fall for it. As soon as you haul those boxes up to the attic, the thermometer will plummet. When in doubt, wait a week. In the meantime, enjoy the free time. Cozy up to the fire with a good book, finish the sweater you started knitting last November or …

Stir up one last batch of your favorite soup. Potato-Cheddar? Beans and Greens? Tired of soup? You can always braise one last pot roast or make a batch of those wonderful short ribs.

A rainy day is perfect for a trip to the museum. Think of it as another good excuse to don your spiffy rain gear. Once summer comes, you won’t want to spend a minute inside. There is a must-see Killer Heels exhibit at the Currier in Manchester.

Afterwards, spend a lazy afternoon in a café, sip espresso and pretend it’s April in Paris instead of May in New Hampshire.

Then again, you can always stay home and binge watch that television show that everyone’s talking about but you somehow missed.

Sound too indulgent? Well then, reorganize your pantry. You never know what delicious goodies you’ll find tucked behind the oatmeal and boxes of pasta.

Reward you hard work by whiling away an evening with friends and a bottle of great wine. Perhaps some of the goodies you found in the back of the pantry will inspire you to try a spectacular, new tapas recipe or two.

Don’t worry summer will come, eventually. Bon appétit!

Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts
Look! You found a jar of Fig Preserves* in the back of the pantry. Put it to good use with quick and tasty crostini. Add a bottle of great wine and a few friends. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 dozen crostini

1 tablespoon buttercrostini_fig_stilton_walnuts_01
About 2 tablespoons minced red onion
3/4-1 cup fig preserves
2 tablespoons dry red wine
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons or to taste balsamic vinegar
1 baguette, thinly sliced on the diagonal
About 1/23 cup chopped walnuts
About 6 ounces stilton, crumbled and at room temperature

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, add the onion and, stirring frequently, cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fig preserves and wine, season with thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving dish, stir in the vinegar and cool to room temperature. Let sit for at least 20 minutes to combine the flavors. Can be prepped several hours in advanced, covered and stored at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Can be prepped several hours in advanced, cooled to room temperature, covered and stored at room temperature.

Spread the walnuts onto a baking sheet and bake at 375 until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Can be prepped several hours in advanced, cooled to room temperature, covered and stored at room temperature.

Serve the crostini warm or at room temperature. Spread a small dollop of preserves on each toast, top with stilton, sprinkle with walnuts and serve … or bake the crostini at 375 degrees for 2-3 minutes and then serve. The crostini should be warm not bubbling hot.

* If you found dried figs instead of preserves in your pantry, simmer up a batch of my Savory Fig Jam .

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One Year Ago – Rhubarb Crumb Cake
Two Years Ago – A Duo of Aiolis
Three Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Mushrooms & Mustard Sauce
Four Years Ago – Crunch Salad with Apples & Grapes
Five Years Ago – Grilled Mustard Pork Chops
Six Years Ago – Rhubarb Crisp
Seven Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Steak

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

Be it spring, summer, fall or winter, how do you survive an ugly season? Feel free to share.

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

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