About susannye

A corporate dropout, I left IT sales & marketing for the fun, flexibilty & fear of self-employment & freelance writing.

Royal Wedding Watch Special

We were all agog last November when bad boy Prince Harry announced he was finally settling down. Settling down but not settling, Harry’s soon-to-be bride is a lovely, American actress. Now, the wedding is just a few days away.

Chances are good you won’t be in the thick of things at St. George’s Chapel. It’s okay. Brew yourself a pot of English Breakfast tea, plump up the pillows and enjoy a regal morning. The wedding is at noon UK time or 7 a.m. ET. Local coverage begins at 4 a.m. but I don’t think anyone will mind if you sleep in and arrive just in time.

So how to watch the royal wedding … that’s easy. Plump up the pillows and sit back in regal splendor. If you have one, feel free to wear a tiara along with your best jammies. By all means, add a cup of tea and nibble a scone.

Not just any scone …

Ginger Scones … after all, Harry is a red head …
or
Lavender Scones … since purple is the color of royalty …
or
Lemon Scones … because lemon is light and bright, perfect for a spring morning.

Enjoy a long lazy morning with the prince and his princess and bon appétit!

Engagement photograph of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle  – courtesy of the Royal Family WebsiteFile photo dated 11/27/2017 – in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, London. 

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

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Choose Kindness & Grilled Moroccan Chicken with Chickpea Salsa

Sunday was Mother’s Day. I admit, I was a little glum on the run up to Sunday. It was the second Mother’s Day without my mom. However, thinking of Mom and all her gifts is a good way to get out of any funk. It’s also a great reminder to choose kindness. No matter what was going on, my mother always chose kindness.

What exactly does that mean – choose kindness? That’s simple. It’s smiling and holding the door for someone. It’s saying you’re sorry when you’ve done something wrong … and meaning it. It’s holding your tongue when you don’t have anything particularly nice to say. It’s telling someone why you think he’s awesome or she is amazing. It’s being generous with compliments and stingy with criticism. It’s a thousand little things that you can do to be kind to others.

Okay, but why bother? You may not realize it but kindness makes a difference. My mother loved children. If she found herself behind a young family in the supermarket line, she always took a minute to tell the children how smart or pretty or pretty terrific they were. A compliment will boost a child’s confidence and delight the parents. Same goes for a smile and friendly good morning to the clerk checking your groceries. It could help lift her out of a funk on a dreary day. Plus, it’s a twofer. Smiling will make you feel better too. Your smile could easily be your greatest gift to humanity.

A few years ago, I bumped into a friend in the supermarket. Yes, it happens often but this time was different. Like a lot of people from yoga class or friends of friends, we were friendly but not close. However, she was aware of the trials and chaos I had faced with the illnesses of both parents. Thankfully, my family had found its new normal. We had our ups and downs but were more or less chugging along.

On the other hand, her father had recently fallen ill. Her life was turned upside down. We talked for more than a half hour, right there in front the cold beer storage. More than her troubles, she shared what she had learned. This awful experience taught her to be less judgmental. She understood deeply why someone might look past her, scowl or, perhaps inadvertently, steal a parking spot.

Of course, some people are snobs; they look past most everyone. Others are cranky; they wear a scowl every day. Still others have that sense of entitlement; stealing parking spaces and cutting in line – it’s what they do. However, my friend learned firsthand what it meant to feel completely overwhelmed. She came to realize that a blank gaze or scowl might have nothing to do with snobbery, orneriness or entitlement. It could simply mean that that a person was deep in thought. She knew all too well that those thoughts could be overwhelming and frightening. When faced with the choice to ignore or judge the blank gazes and scowls, she chose to smile. She chose kindness.

I’m not sure that my mother chose kindness. I think she came naturally by it. Mom had the gift of assuming the best in everyone. Thanks to her, I’ve tried it. It works more often than not.

Leaving you with thoughts of kindness and bon appétit!

Grilled Moroccan Chicken with Chickpea Salsa
After a long winter, it’s time to get out the grill and try something new. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
3 cloves garlic, minced
About 2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast

Put the spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the wine, lime juice, olive oil and garlic and whisk to combine. Add the chicken to the marinade and turn to coat. Turing the chicken at least once, marinade for 30 minutes at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

Arrange the chicken on the grill. Cook the chicken for 3-5 minutes per side or until it registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer.

Remove from the grill, let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice the chicken and serve with spoonfuls of Chickpea Salsa.

Chickpea Salsa
Makes about 3 cups

3 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1-2 tablespoons water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon or to taste cayenne pepper
Sea salt to taste
1 1/2 cups (15 ounce can) cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pound (about 1 pint) cherry tomatoes (a mix of colors is nice), finely chopped
1/3-1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put the tahini in a bowl, add the olive oil and lime juice and whisk to combine. A tablespoon at a time, add the water and whisk until smooth. Add the garlic, cilantro, cumin, cayenne and salt and whisk and until well combined. Add the chickpeas and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or longer in the refrigerator to combine the flavors.

Add the chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions and cilantro, toss to combine and serve.

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One Year Ago – Pissaladière
Two Years Ago – Tabbouleh
Three Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado
Four Years Ago – Grilled Balsamic Vegetables
Five Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Six Years Ago – Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Seven Years Ago – Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Eight Years Ago – Feta Walnut Spread
Nine 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 choose kindness? Feel free to share!

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

Mother’s Day Weekend Special

Inviting my mother over for dinner was always joy. She had little – probably no – interest in cooking but she appreciated a good meal. Not just the food, she appreciated the company, the conversation, the laughter, the give, the take and all the frivolity.

Mom was an easy guest. If I cooked it; she liked it – or at least it seemed that way. That said, she did have some favorites. Here are a few ideas to share with your mom this Mother’s Day weekend.

Let’s start with a great appetizer. My parents visited me at least a handful of times when I lived in Switzerland. Mom loved it all – the scenery, the food and the adventures. She may or may not have tried Pissaladière. It will be a good start to your Mother’s Day dinner. Alternatively, you might like to go with a tasty dip. How about my Artichoke Pesto? I know Mom liked artichokes. Serve the pesto with a few raw veggies, your favorite crackers and a wedge of fabulous cheese.

Now, to the table and a lovely salad. You will love my Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette.

For the main course, how about shrimp? It was one of Mom’s favorites. I’d consider Roasted Shrimp & Andouille Sausage – but it might be a little spicy for her … but maybe not. Serve the shrimp and andouille with rice or Sweet Potato Polenta. Another delicious possibility is Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn, Tomatoes & Salsa Verde. You can rev up the heat in the salsa or tone it down. In case of clouds or rain, a cozy Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers sounds good. Mom loved lemon and pasta.

Mom did have a sweet tooth. Her two favorite flavors were chocolate and, you guessed it, lemon. Here are a few possibilities … for chocolatey delicious try my Flourless Chocolate Cake or Chocolate Pana Cotta. Lemon lovers will love my Lemon Cheesecake or Lemon Tart.

This will be the second Mother’s Day without my mom. Like all mothers, she continues to keep an eye on me – last night in a dream. She was as beautiful and generous as always. My mother didn’t have a mean bone in her body. In spite of my sadness that she is gone and for all she suffered with Alzheimer’s disease, I will be happy to remember and celebrate her kindest this weekend.

In spirit or in person, have a lovely weekend with your mom and bon appétit!

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Don’t Jinx It & Lettuce Cups with Stir-fried Chicken & Vegetables

I haven’t seen so many teeth in all my life. Okay, that might be an exaggeration but it’s been just about year since I’ve seen so many and such big smiles. More or less everyone was beaming last Wednesday. At least for a day, it was not just summery, it was a perfect summer day. Blue sky, low humidity and eighty-five degrees, you can’t beat it. And it was only May!

Now here’s the question – what exactly was that perfect summer day all about? Was it a harbinger of more to come, a tease or a blip on the National Weather Service radar? Who knows? It doesn’t really matter. The challenge is simple – DON’T JINX IT. Come on; don’t play innocent. You know what I’m talking about – we’ve all got a million examples, some more memorable than others.

Here’s one … the first time I dressed down for casual Friday. To set the scene – it was long before I reinvented myself and became a plucky freelancer. Only a small handful of women executives worked in my employer’s European operations. I was one of them. On that particular Friday morning, I’d been out the office for at least a week and I was dragging. Half asleep, I grabbed a mug of coffee, threw on a pair shorts and headed out the door. Yes shorts, take your pick; you can blame it on the nineties or jetlag. Anyway, I was no sooner at my desk that a colleague asks me to meet with his client. Oh, and not just any client, a stuffy, British, pinstripe-type and I’m dressed like Gidget on her way to a pep rally.

Need more proof? Well, a few years later I was on the fence, dithering back and forth on whether to stay or leave Geneva. I ferreted around, investigated a few job leads but nothing looked promising. Deciding it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, I upgraded and bought new stereo equipment. Within three months, I was house hunting in California and the stereo was on the Swiss equivalent of Craig’s list.

The list goes on. You finally get the car washed and it rains on the drive home. There’s six inches of new powder and it’s still snowing. You lie, call in sick and head to the mountain. A half mile from the ski slopes, you slide off the road and wreck the car. It’s overcast but you don’t bother bring an umbrella to your kid’s soccer game. It doesn’t rain; it snows. You only run into your arch nemesis or an old flame on bad hair days. You sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000 and wait eighty-four years before winning another World Series. Like I said, the list goes on and on and on.

So what does all this jinx stuff have to do with summer weather in May? Simple, if you want it to last; don’t jinx it! In other words, don’t go running to the hardware store to buy a new air conditioner. Don’t drag the grill out of the garage and onto the patio. Leave the lawn furniture on the screen porch. Don’t swap out your winter and summer clothes. Sure, it’s a pain but day-by-day, dig through your storage containers to find a t-shirt, a pair of shorts and those sandals you love. If you want good weather to hold, you’ll keep tripping over that plastic box at least through Memorial Day. Flag Day, even the summer solstice, would be safer.

For the next month, maybe two, always bring your umbrella and bon appétit!

Lettuce Cups with Stir-fried Chicken and Vegetables
One of my after-the-movies, go-to restaurants took this off the menu a year or so ago. It is a great addition to any tapas-type meal. Time to add it to my regular repertoire. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth or a mix of both
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon or to taste sambal oelek or sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, finely chopped*
1 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
About 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1/4 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
About 1/2 cup roughly chopped toasted cashews
Inner leaves – Boston or romaine lettuce, trimmed

Make the sauce: put the wine, hoisin sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, sambal oelek, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Heat a little vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high heat,
add the onion and carrot and sauté for 1 minute,
add the mushroom and sauté 2-3 minutes,
add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute,
add the chicken and sauté for 3-5 minutes.

Add the water chestnuts and sauce and cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has been reduced down and absorbed, 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and sprinkle with cilantro, sliced scallions, cucumber and cashews. Let everyone help themselves to lettuce and spoon chicken and veggies into the leaves. Fold the lettuce leaf around filling and enjoy.

* You can use ground chicken if you want to save a little time.

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One Year Ago – Crostini with Cucumber, Radish & Feta
Two Years Ago – Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts
Three Years Ago – Rhubarb Crumb Cake
Four Years Ago – A Duo of Aiolis
Five Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Mushrooms & Mustard Sauce
Six Years Ago – Crunch Salad with Apples & Grapes
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Mustard Pork Chops
Eight Years Ago – Rhubarb Crisp
Nine Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Steak

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

What will you do to ensure the sun keeps shining? Feel free to share!

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

Cinco de Mayo Weekend Special

Well – if yesterday wasn’t wonderful … then I don’t know what is! Summer in May is the best. Not only is it a surprise (even if it happens every year!) but on top of the warm air, you can hear the peepers once the sun goes down.

The weekend promises to be a bit of a mix with some clouds, some sun and some thundershowers. Throw a colorful cloth on the table, find some salsa music on Spotify or Pandora, drag the grill under an overhang and go for it. Saturday is Cinco de Mayo – time to celebrate!

Let’s start with a great appetizer. You will love my Grilled Shrimp with Spicy Peanut Salsa. Add a few raw veggies to dip along with the shrimp. Not enough? You can’t go wrong with my Guacamole and Simple Salsa.

Ready for dinner? Keep that grill going. If you haven’t tried my Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter, now is the perfect time. Serve the swordfish with a delicious mix of Grilled Balsamic Vegetables. Choose any and all of your favorite veggies to throw on the grill. If you like, add a spoonful of Lemony Green Rice.

For dessert, think .. what else but chocolate? A few bites are all you’ll need of my Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème. Over-the-top delicious and rich, they may just become your new favorite dessert.

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo & Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème

In case you missed it, a few weeks ago Massachusetts and Maine celebrated Patriots’ Day. The day commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord. Those of us who grew up in Massachusetts learned a lot about the State’s early history. We spent most of the fall studying the pilgrims. In the spring, we turned to Mad King George’s tyrannical rule and our forbearers’ heroic quest for freedom.

I share this only to point out that, as far as I know, no one in Mexico celebrated Patriots’ Day. Okay, I’m sure that a few of their athletes came north to run the Boston Marathon. However, I can’t imagine that there were lots of parties with baked beans and brown bread down in Cancun or Puebla.

And yet, in a few short days, we’ll be pulling out all the stops for a fun and festive Cinco de Mayo. Before you go making assumptions, no, Cinco de Mayo doesn’t celebrate Mexican independence. It’s the anniversary of the victorious Battle of Puebla against the French in 1862. Just as the Battles of Lexington and Concord were early victories in the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Puebla was an quick win in the Franco-Mexican War.

So why in the world do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo? First of all, it’s a lot easier for Americans to pronounce than Día de la Independencia – Independence Day. And second, Día de la Independencia is in mid-September. Life is good in September. The weather is fine. The leaves are starting to change to red and gold. We’re busy picking apples and showing off our new pencil boxes. We don’t have time for a Mexican fiesta.

Compare that to early May. It’s mud season. There is no red or gold and very little green. The trees are barely in bud. If it’s not raining, it’s cloudy or it will be soon. Sand is everywhere and I could (almost) kill for a mudroom. We could all use a little celebration right about now. Why not shake off the mud season doldrums with a ginormous Cinco de Mayo potluck. Your friends and neighbors will love you for it.

Don’t’ worry, you don’t need to make a huge fuss. The point is to get everyone together and have some fun. Here are a few pointers –

Start with a little color. Track down that sunshine yellow tablecloth and throw it on the table. Use the bright red napkins and add some candles or tea lights. A bowl of lemons and limes will make a perfect centerpiece.

Skip the hokey sombreros and silly mustaches from the party store but encourage everyone to think spring. It’s probably too cold and muddy for flip-flops but take a few minutes to find that bright pink sweater. It’s in the back of the closet somewhere.

Encourage everyone to bring a favorite Mexican-inspired dish. Hopefully, your foodie friends will go one better and create something deliciously authentic.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo y buen provecho!

Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème
Very creamy chocolate with just a touch of Mexican spice, I can’t think of a better dessert for Cinco de Mayo. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 1/3 cups half & half
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon for to taste chipotle powder
8 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon espresso or coffee powder
8 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon Triple Sec
Garnish: unsweetened whipped cream

Put the half & half and cream in a heavy saucepan, add the cinnamon, chipotle and orange zest. Stirring frequently, heat until steaming. Remove from the heat and let the orange zest and spices steep for about 30 minutes.

Put the chocolate and espresso powder in a large measuring cup or bowl. Set aside.

Reheat the cream to steaming.

Put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly add the hot cream to the egg yolks.

Return the egg-cream mixture to the saucepan and set over low heat. Stirring constantly, cook until the custard reaches 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove from the heat, stir in the Triple Sec and immediately strain the hot custard through a fine mesh sieve into the measuring cup with the chocolate. Let the chocolate sit for a few minutes and then whisk until smooth and completely melted.

Pour the chocolate crème into 8 small dessert bowls or glasses. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Serve the pots de crème with unsweetened whipped cream.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol
Two Years Ago – Puffy Apple Pancake
Three Years Ago – Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
Four Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Five Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Six Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Seven Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Eight Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Nine 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 Cinco de Mayo? Feel free to share!

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

Mud Season Weekend Special

Raining, snowing or a clear blue sky, I like to cook dishes from sunny climates during mud season. Think cheery recipes from the Caribbean, Asia and the Mediterranean. Friends and family will love the change. Here are a few suggestions to help you through a muddy weekend:

Let’s start with a few dips inspired by the Mediterranean. You love my Artichoke Pesto, and Baba Ganoush and Feta-Walnut Spread. Pita chips and some fresh veggies will make great dippers. Want to add a nibble or two? Try one or both of my favorites – Roasted Almonds or Spicy Olives.

Heading to the table, make the switch to south Asia with a flavorful soup. Either my Curried Carrot Soup or Curried Eggplant Soup would be a terrific choice.

Now, on to the main event. Serve up a little spice with my Vindaloo Chicken. Complete the dinner with spoonfuls of Roasted Cauliflower and basmati rice.

For dessert, think strawberries. They’re on sale at my local supermarket. Simply delicious, you will love my Strawberries with Yogurt Cream. That said, if you can find some rhubarb, you must try my Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018