Surviving the Gray Days of April & Moussaka

mud_seasonThere is no doubt about it. At least in New Hampshire, April is a crummy month. The ski season ends. Most days the sky is any one of more than fifty shades of gray. The clouds all too frequently open up and dampen more than our spirits with a fine drizzle, torrential rain or even snow. At least in my yard, all but a few spring blooms are hiding under dirty snow banks. Dirt roads are filled with muddy ruts. Paved roads are a roller coaster of pot holes and frost heaves. To add insult to injury, taxes are due.

So how do you lift your spirits when you are surrounded by gray skies, mud and piles of forms and receipts? Here are a few ideas:

1. Put on your rubber boots and slicker and go out anyway. It helps if your rain gear is bright red or yellow, polka dotted or flowered.
2. Find a change of venue. Instead of reading a book in your own cozy living room, grab a comfy chair at the library or coffee shop. Look up periodically; you never know who you might spot to share a cup of tea or coffee and a chat.
3. Do that thing that you’ve been postponing for weeks. It could be a boring piece of paperwork or cleaning out the refrigerator. The dreary weather won’t make it more fun or interesting but you will enjoy the feeling of satisfaction when you are done.
4. Take an afternoon nap.
5. Create a scrapbook for someone special. Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day as well as graduation and wedding season are coming.
6. Read all the Dr. Seuss books. The Cat in the Hat is a good place to start … “The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.”
7. Go to the gym. Get your blood pumping with a zumba workout or find serenity with a yoga class.
8. Do a crossword puzzle. And another.
9. Invite your pals over to play poker. Or bridge if you prefer.
10. Rearrange the furniture. You’ll have a brand new room without spending a dime.
11. Buy flowers. They’ll look great in your brand new room! Buy a second bunch and surprise a friend or neighbor.
12. Play with your dog or cat. They’re probably bored too. Make a video of your adorable pet and post it on YouTube. Just don’t let it go to Fido’s head when the video goes viral.
13. Learn something new. Attend a lecture, take a guided tour of an historic landmark or peruse a how-to-fix-anything book and then fix something.
14. Cook one of those dishes that you’ve been avoiding because it takes too long or is too complicated. Fill the house with the warm and wonderful smell of homemade moussaka, simmering soup or braised beef.
15. Invite all your favorite people to dinner to share that dish. We tend to entertain in the summer, on special occasions and holidays so a party for no reason at all in the middle of April will be highly appreciated and memorable.

Before you know it, the ice will be off the lake and the garden will be filled with flowers. Good luck and bon appétit!

Moussaka
Rich and hearty after a dreary day, this Greek dish is great for casual dinner parties. Enjoy!
Serves 12moussaka_04

About 3 pounds (3-4) small eggplants, trimmed and sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8-10 ounces each ground pork and turkey
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch allspice
2 tablespoons butter and more for the baking dish
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and pepper and bake until tender and browned, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the meat sauce. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the meat and season with salt and pepper. Breaking the meat up into bite-size pieces, sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the crushed tomatoes, herbs, cinnamon and allspice and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

While the meat sauce simmers, make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Add the nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and simmer, whisking often, until the sauce thickens about 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a deep 9×13-inch baking dish.

Put the cheeses in a bowl and toss to combine.

Layer half the eggplant in the bottom on the prepared dish, top with half the meat sauce and sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Repeat. Top with béchamel and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

Bake for 40 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Let sit for 10 minutes, cut into squares and serve.

* Moussaka can be prepped and assembled in advance. Cover and store in the refrigerator. It will take longer to cook if it goes into the oven cold.

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One Year Ago – Steamed Artichokes with Bagna Cauda or Warm Lemon-Garlic Sauce
Two Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Cake
Three Years Ago – Filet de Perche Meunière
Four Years Ago –
Chicken Provençal
Or
Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your favorite way to spend a rainy, gray or otherwise miserable day? Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013

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4 thoughts on “Surviving the Gray Days of April & Moussaka

  1. When you spoke of mud and I saw the signs I was transported back in time to when I was in grade school and high school in Vermont. If I remember correctly we had some vacation during what they called “mud week”. As I’m sure you know, Vermont is abundant with dirt roads and is truly mud season in the spring! Your recipe looks delicious and one I have not tried yet. Thanks for bringing back nice memories!

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    • Cheryl – Thanks for stopping by … I lived in VT for awhile – there certainly are an abundance of dirt roads and mud in the spring. Enjoy the Moussaka. Take care, Susan

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  2. This past overcast, drizzling day I did most of the things you mentioned. My scrapbook was the digital type. I did finish reading a book of poetry. I captured a few photographs in my yard of the newly sprouting flowers with the glistening water tear drops. I made Sheppard’s Pie for my husband. I posted to my blog and checked out Facebook. Yoda, my Italian Greyhound and I went for a walk in our bright colored outfits-no rain gear just a poncho and heavy shoes. Went to my friends place to play cards; she enjoyed the Sheppard’s Pie I brought with me. I dropped a puzzle off for my niece. She wasn’t home so I didn’t get to make it with her or read Dr. Seuss. I did 5 minutes on the stationary bike and crashed afterward with a 45 minute nap. I spent the reminder of my day listening to the Television and writing my thoughts down in my journal. One last thing I forgot to mention, I introduced myself to my new neighbor. They ask me if I had the same electric stove they had in their condo. I did have the same stove which resulted in me showing them how to work the oven. They have lived there for a month and didn’t know how to work it. I should mention that my complex is 55 plus living facility. Many of us have downsized from a house and are learning to adjust to our new environment. I’m happy I introduced myself to them and could provide them with assistance. It was a pleasant and busy overcast New Hampshire day.

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