A Holiday Cocktail Party Special

Are you one of those people who think about but never get it together to throw a holiday cocktail party? I don’t blame you. With all that is going on, it can be daunting. Well, let this be the year you throw caution to the window and plunge in. I’ve got some tasty treats to suggest as well as some hopefully helpful Party Planning Tips.

A special cocktail is always a hit! Think sparkling with a Kir Royale. Too traditional? How about fun and festive with my Berry Merry Martni?

And now for the nibbles! For a small group, keep it simple. A nice platter, and perhaps a warm and tasty mug of soup. Let’s face, big or small, no one will be eating dinner after your party. For a larger do, you’ll want a nice selection of tasty treats to pass and a platter or two for grazing.

Delicious platters…
Put out a basket, a platter or two. Your guests can wander, chat with old friends and make new ones while they nibble to their hearts content. May I suggest …

Beautiful cheeses with fruit or some lovely slices of prosciutto and dried sausages, add a basket of artisanal crackers and Cheddar-Sage Biscuits and bowl or two of Roasted Almonds and Spicy Olives.

Fresh veggies with a great dip or three. Try my Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus or Chipotle Sweet Potato & White Bean Hummus. If you like, add small bowls of my Artichoke Pesto, Roasted Red Pepper Dip and/or Tapenade

Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce – what could be more festive?

Or go retro with a bubbling pot of Fondue.

For a nice touch, set stacks of small plates (tea and espresso cup saucers work well) next to your platters. Instead of a traffic jam at the buffet table, your friends can help themselves to a nibble or two and then move on to mingle and munch.

Not your Nana’s canapés …
Warm or cold, everyone enjoys a tasty hors d’oeuvre, so why not pass a few delectable little bites. Without a doubt, the two top fan favorites from my treasure chest of treats are Beef Tenderloin & Stilton Crostini and/or Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli … or if you prefer Lemon-Basil Aioli.

And by the way, speaking of retro and fondue, anything with melty cheese will please most guests. I’ve got lots to choose from – how about Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks),Spanish Stuffed MushroomsButternut Squash Tartlets? or Spanakopita?

For sipping … Served in shot glasses or espresso cups or a big old mug, what could be more welcoming than piping hot soup. Keep it easy, skip the spoons and stick to purées like my Roasted Butternut Squash, Tomato Soup ( with wedges of Grilled Cheese?) or Wild Mushroom.

A sweet finish …
One or two sweet bites are a great way to end the evening. Delight your guests with mini Gingerbread Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, Sweet Dream Bars and/or Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache.

rosemary_cashews_03Say good-night with a gift bag …
Send everyone home with a little treat. Leave a happy holiday basket at the door with little bags filled with my addictive Chocolate Almond Brittle or go savory with Rosemary Cashews!

Cheers and bon appétit!

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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! © Susan W. Nye, 2016

What NOT to Give this (or any) Christmas & Garlicy Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives

santa_sleigh_presentsIf you have finished all of your Christmas shopping, well then today’s post is not for you. However, if you have a long list of friends and relatives that you still need TO buy for – well, read on. Unfortunately, I’m not up on the latest and greatest, so, I can’t tell you what to buy for your spouse, your mom and dad or your best friend. However, I can make a few suggestions of what NOT to give to more or less anyone.

Fruitcake. A perennial non-favorite, fruitcake is THE what-not-to-give gift. The world’s most popular re-gift, this sticky-sweet cake is an acquired taste; one that few acquire. I’m guessing that hundreds, even thousands, of re-gifted fruitcakes have been bouncing from one house to the next for decades.

Socks and underwear. Forget coal, socks and underwear are what bad little girls and boys find in their stocking on Christmas morning.

Appliances. Unless you are ready to sleep in the garage for the next month or two, never, ever give your spouse a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. Same goes for a dish washer or washing machine.

Exercise equipment. Buying a loved one exercise equipment is a sort of like hesitating before answering the question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” The same holds true for a gym membership, a diet book or, heaven forbid, a scale.

The obvious re-gift. Re-gifting is somewhat controversial. While few admit, many do it. Controversy aside, there are re-gifts and, then, there are re-gifts. If your initials are monogrammed on the cuff, don’t re-gift that shirt. Yes, even if it makes your skin look sallow. Keep it for a Halloween costume or donate it to Goodwill.

Now, are there exceptions to any of these rules? Of course, there are always exceptions. Well, make that usually exceptions. I can’t think of a soul who is pining for a fruitcake. As for that canvas bag with your initials? Sorry, throw it in the truck of the car. Orange may not be your color but it will be great for grocery shopping.

Anyway, back to exceptions. You can break the socks and underwear rule if your gift is beyond special. The key to socks is finding pairs that your friends would never buy for themselves. Simple black, navy and brown or athletic socks are not for gifting. Colorful rainbows, alligators and pink flamingos work for me. Nor should you give a three-pack of tidy-whities to your sweetheart. Think lingerie, silk and sexy. (But make sure you get the right size. Otherwise, you could be sleeping in the garage until Valentine’s Day.)

While a vacuum cleaner never works, a young foodie who is assembling her first kitchen will be delighted with a gourmet gadget or fancy cookware. Think food processors, stand mixers and pasta makers. Or one of those fabulous French cast-iron pots.

Although they make great clothes racks, forget the treadmill or stationary bike. However, it may be okay to give the kids the latest athletic status symbols. Or maybe not. If one of the kids on your list failed the bean bag toss and has trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, well, you might want to think again.

Happy shopping and bon appétit!

Garlicy Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives
This quick dish is perfect for the busy holiday season (and that fabulous French cast-iron casserole). Enjoy!

Serves 8 for dinner & 12-16 as a small plate, tapas or appetizer

Olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch or to taste red pepper flakes
About 1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes*, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
About 2 pounds extra-large shrimp, shelled and deveined
About 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
8 slices thick cut ciabatta or country bread, toasted

Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and sauté until they begin to bubble. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about 1/3.

While the tomatoes simmer, season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium high, add the shrimp and toss to combine. Cook the shrimp, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until pink.

Transfer the shrimp to individual shallow bowls.

Add the olives, capers and butter to the skillet and toss to combine. Stirring frequently, cook the sauce for about 2 minutes.

Spoon the sauce over the shrimp, sprinkle with chopped basil and parsley and serve immediately with a slice of toasted ciabatta or country bread to soak up the sauce.

* You can use regular tomatoes but I find that the ones in my grocery store have little taste during the winter months. If you use regular tomatoes, seed and chop.

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One Year Ago – Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale
Two Years Ago – Maple-Nut Sundaes
Three Years Ago – Rosemary Cashews
Four Years Ago – Greek Stuffed Mushrooms
Five Years Ago – Ginger Crème Brûlée
Six Years Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Seven Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Eight 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 about you? How do you get in the holiday spirit? Feel free to share!

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

Post-Election Blues? & Butternut Squash Tartlets

I_votedBy the time you read this, you will have already voted … or set aside time for your trip to the polls. I’m assuming most Americans will be riveted to the returns tonight. I know I will be. Depending on how things go, we’ll be in dreamland before the clock strikes midnight … or stagger off to bed around dawn. Your guess is as good as mine.
Thank goodness, we can get back to normal tomorrow. The red, white and blue signs that have decorated the neighborhood for the last month or so can be hauled off to the dump. For those of us who plunged into the deep, dark abyss of round-the-clock news coverage, withdrawal might be tough. I’m thinking a chick flick binge and a bowl of popcorn with a glass of chardonnay will help. In any case, we’ll all be thankful to see the last of the seemingly endless run of political ads.

Assuming the election isn’t contested; don’t look to Washington for excitement for the next couple of months. If you’re hoping for a resolution of one stalemate or another, don’t hold your breath. The House and Senate will be on vacation for a good part of November and December. Not much will be happening until January or beyond. Over at the White House, I’m guessing life will become pretty low key. In spite of being a lame duck, in a couple of weeks Mr. Obama will pardon a turkey. After Thanksgiving, Mrs. Obama will put up a tree and deck the halls. That should be about it until the next president moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Be it tomorrow or a week from tomorrow, if you start to feel any post-election blues, here are a few suggestions to get you through it:

Thanksgiving is three weeks away. Pour your heart and soul into it. Go all out with your biggest and best effort yet. Buy up every foodie magazine you can find and start planning. Forget cable news, the cooking shows are calling.

Take up a new hobby. Knit scarves for the entire family or the entire neighborhood for that matter. Go online and find ideas for homemade Christmas ornaments. Glue ribbons and beads on popsicle sticks or Styrofoam balls, have fun with felt and learn origami.

Go through your closets. Make a pile of all the warm, wooly clothing you no longer wear. Do a second sort and toss out anything that’s threadbare. Donate the good stuff.
Ignore the cold and get in shape. If you’ve spent the last month or two glued to cable news, the fresh air will do you good. While you’re at it, treat yourself to some new exercise gear … just stay away from red or blue. Think fluorescent green or pink.

It’s a little early to put up the Christmas decorations. So, do the next best thing; re-arrange the living room furniture. It will give you a new perspective. But please, make sure you turn the lights on before you enter the room. The days are short and it’s dark early; no accidents please.

Now, if your favorite candidate isn’t be the one taking the oath of office on January 20, your post-election blues may be quite intense. If any or all of the above fails to cheer you up, you can always start packing. I’m not sure if Canada or any other country will take you but you can give it a try.

Here’s to peace and prosperity. Bon appétit!

Butternut Squash Tartlets
Looking for a new appetizer for Thanksgiving? How about a tasty little tartlet? Enjoy!butternut_squash_tartlet_06
Makes 24 mini tartlets

Olive oil
2-3 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
About 1 cup finely chopped butternut squash
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
About 1 cup baby spinach or kale, chopped
4 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
2 eggs
1/4 cup half & half
24 mini phyllo pastry shells or 1 batch of Savory Pastry Dough
About 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the sausage and breaking into small pieces, sauté until nicely browned. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain.

If necessary, add a little more olive oil to the pan. Add the butternut squash and sauté until the edges start to brown. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and continue to sauté until the onion is translucent and the squash is tender. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.

Add the sausage and greens, toss to combine and wilt the greens. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Add the fontina to the vegetables and sausage and toss to combine.

Can be made ahead to this point, covered and refrigerated.

Put the eggs in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the half & half and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs to the vegetables, sausage and cheese and toss to combine.

Gently press the phyllo cups or Savory Pastry Dough into nonstick mini muffin tins. If using Savory Pastry Dough, freeze the dough in the muffin tin for 30 minutes.

butternut_squash_tartlet_01Fill the prepared muffin cups about the veggie, sausage and cheese filling. (If you have leftover filling, toss it with spaghetti for an easy lunch or supper.)

Sprinkle each tartlet with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake until golden, about 15 minutes for the phyllo cups and 30 minutes if using Savory Pastry Dough. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

Transfer the tartlets to a platter (you may need to use a knife to loosen them) and serve.

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One Year Ago – Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad
Two Years Ago – Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing
Three Years Ago – Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crostini
Four Years Ago – Pumpkin Cheesecake
Five Years Ago – Rustic Apple Croustade
Six Years Ago – Cranberry Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Decadent Cheesy Potatoes
Eight Years Ago – Broccoli Puree

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

What’s your secret? Feel free to share.

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

Happy Halloween & Chipotle Sweet Potato & White Bean Hummus

susan_nye_halloween_02It’s definitely one of my top holiday picks. It doesn’t matter if it’s gray and gloomy. Heck, it can snow and it often does. It doesn’t matter. Halloween is a magical night and just about every kid’s definition of paradise. First, you get to wear a costume. Second, you get to run around outside after dark. And third, people give you candy.

But how did all this start? Why the costumes? And moreover, why the candy? Halloween is steeped in myths and legends, some of them scary, many confusing and all of them intriguing. Halloween began a couple of thousand years ago in Ireland, Scotland and Wales not as Halloween but as Samhain, the Celtic end of summer.

The ancient Celts saw the change of seasons as a time of chaos. They believed that spirits roamed the earth before settling back down for the winter. Huge bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits. People wore disguises so angry ancestors wouldn’t recognize them. Hoping for a blessing and good luck, food and gifts were left in doorways for the fairies and elves. Or maybe it was to placate angry spirits. Like I said, it’s all kind of a muddle.

Anyway, sometime around the 9th century the Pope proclaimed All Saints Day on November 1st. Since Samhain was celebrated on October 31st, it became known as All Hallows’ Eve, the eve of All Saints or hallowed souls. As often happens, the words somehow ran together and eventually morphed into Halloween.

Fast forward several centuries and not a lot has changed. In ancient times, restless spirits wandered the earth on All Hallows’ Eve. Now high-spirited children dressed as ghosts, pirates and princesses wander the streets. There is still food at the door but now it’s Reese cups, Nestlé’s Crunch and Snicker’s bars.

Let’s be clear here. Halloween is not just for kids. It is a wonderful excuse for a party. Foolish adults (like me) are all too happy to don a disguise. And no, the costume is not for hiding from canvassing politicians and their surrogates or even from restless ghosts. Collecting a stash of Milky Way bars is tempting but that’s not the reason either. Elaborate hats, capes and masks are all part of the merrymaking.

NYE_Halloween_TiniOnce you’re in costume, and maybe feeling a tad foolish, a little liquid courage may be in order. Or it could be that you’re just thirsty. Stir up a concoction of pomegranate or cranberry juice and rum, maybe add a splash of triple sec. Don’t forget to give it name like The Zombie or Vampire Punch. After a glass or two, you’ll be ready to dance the night away. Especially if the playlist includes Monster Mash, I Put a Spell on You and Witchy Woman.

All this frivolity is sure to work up an appetite. Invite everyone to enjoy an array of festive autumnal tapas. Be sure to include a few nuts or seeds, pumpkin or sweet potato and beans. They’re super foods and you’ll want to keep up your strength for more dancing!

Have a spook-tacular Halloween! Bon appétit!

Chipotle Sweet Potato & White Bean Hummus
The perfect spread for fall and your Halloween celebration. Enjoy!
Makes about 1 quartsweet_potato_hummus_01

About 1 pound sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 onion, cut into chunks
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds plus more for garnish
2 teaspoons or to taste puréed chipotle chile en adobo*
1 (15 ounce) can or about 2 cups cooked small white beans, rinsed and drained
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the sweet potato in a heavy, ovenproof skillet, sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat and toss to combine.

Roast the sweet potato at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and about 1 cup water, toss and return to the oven. Stirring once or twice, continue to roast until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes more. Remove the vegetables from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Put the pumpkin seeds in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the roasted vegetables, chipotle purée, lime zest and juice and 1-2 tablespoons vinegar and pulse to chop and combine.

Add the beans and pulse to combine. 1-2 tablespoons at a time, add about 1/2 cup water and up to 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and process until more or less smooth. Check for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper to taste.

Let the hummus sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes or 2 hours in the refrigerator to combine the flavors.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and serve at room temperature with pita chips and fresh vegetables.

* Put 1 can of chiles en adobo in a mini food processor and process until smooth. Cover and store the purée in the refrigerator 1-2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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One Year Ago – Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares
Two Years Ago – Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Three Years Ago Ago – Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Four Years Ago – Chicken in Every Pot
Five Years Ago – Roasted Carrots & Pearl Onions
Six Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pearl Onions
Eight Years Ago – Mexican Chicken Soup

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

What’s your favorite part of Halloween? The costumes, the candy, the parties? Feel free to share.

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

First Day of School & Dilly Beans

Susie_1st_day_schoolOver the past few weeks, the pages of Facebook and Instagram have been filled with first day of school pictures. It started with the big kids who were off to college. With anxious smiles, freshmen posed in front of their new dorms and bravely waved goodbye to mom, dad and the dog. Next, there came a flood of photographs with everyone else. This jumble included everything from sweet little kindergarteners to confident fifth graders, nervous middle schoolers and bored high school seniors.

Since I didn’t have an innocent, confident, anxious or bored student in my house, I didn’t take any pictures. Rather than mope or feel sorry for myself, I posted my first day of school photograph. At least I’m pretty sure that it was my first day of kindergarten. In the days before cameras-ready cell phones and easily posted digital images, most moms, mine included, didn’t document all of their children’s comings and goings. If for no other reason than they couldn’t find the camera. Or maybe they ran out of film. You remember film don’t you?

Anyway, I’m standing on our front step on Jackson Road looking adorable in a smocked dress and Buster Brown shoes. My smile is sweet and only a tad anxious. Brenda, my older sister, was already in the third grade. Since she seemed to be doing okay, I must have figured there wasn’t too much to worry about.

Nowadays, most schools teach kindergarteners a few reading fundamentals and a little arithmetic. Not my teacher, she focused on the basics. If nothing else, it reinforced much of what Mom and Dad were already trying to teach their two little girls.

So, in the spirit of Robert Fulghum and his legendary book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten here are ten things I learned in kindergarten:

Be nice.
Share.
Play fair.
Tell the truth.
Put things back where you found them.
If it’s not yours, don’t take it.
Don’t hit.
Wash your hands.
Look both ways.
Don’t wander off.

I’m doing pretty well with the majority of these lessons. Okay, I admit it; I’m terrible at putting my things away. And while I generally look both ways when crossing the street, I’ve made several metaphorical leaps without really looking. But no, I don’t regret them. Otherwise, I’d be in an office somewhere right now. Instead, I’m delight to be writing at my messy desk in my messy upstairs hall.

As for wandering off, all I can do is shrug and admit to being guilty. If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on a lot of fun, frustrating, interesting, challenging and wonderful times. Just think; I never would have wandered over to Switzerland. I can’t imagine my life without that fun, frustrating, interesting, challenging and wonderful chapter.

Here’s to the first day of whatever is next for you and bon appétit!

Dilly Beans
A little spicy and a little tart, these beans are a great addition to a late summer cookout … or anytime. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 quarts

About 2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 red onion, cut in half length-wise and then in thin wedges
1 clove garlic for each mason jar, smashed and peeled
1-2 bunches dill
1 bay leaf for each mason jar
2 sprigs thyme for each mason jar
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons dill seeds
2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water

Standing them up, pack the beans into pint or quart mason jars, adding the onion, garlic and herbs as you go.

Put the salt, sugar, mustard seeds, dill seeds and peppercorns in saucepan. Add the vinegar and water and, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Ladle the pickling liquid and spices into the jars and cool to room temperature. Cover the jars tightly and refrigerate for one week before serving.

The beans can keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 months.

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One Year Ago – All Grown Up Grilled Cheese
One Year Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Two Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Three Years Ago – Curried Green Bean Pickles
Four Years Ago – Grilled Ratatouille Stacks
Five Years Ago – Apple Crisp
Six Years Ago – Ravioli with Sage Pesto
Seven Years Ago – Brie & Sun-dried Tomato Omelet

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

What do you love about late summer? Feel free to share.

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

What We Like about Hospital Days & Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus

Hospital_Days_Fair_Rides_04My mother always said it was better than the 4th of July and second only to Christmas. What could it be? Certainly not Presidents’ Day, although it did offer up a long, ski weekend. In spite of the lovely foliage, it wasn’t Columbus Day. And no, it wasn’t Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Halloween or even Thanksgiving. It was Hospital Day!

By some odd coincidence or maybe it was fate, Hospital Day fell in the first week of our first summer vacation on Pleasant Lake. Between the lake, the view of Mount Kearsarge and Hospital Day, my mother thought she’d died and gone to heaven.

While the lake is still crystal clear, the mountain is as majestic as ever, Hospital Day has seen many changes. For instance, Hospital Day was just that one day and it was always on a Tuesday. Now it starts on Thursday and goes clear through Sunday with a triathlon. For our first Hospital Day, there was no midway or triathlon or battle of the bands. However, there was a bride doll raffle, a white elephant table and an auction.

So, while my mom may sorely miss the white elephant table, there is a lot to like about these always new, always changing and improving Hospital Days.

First and foremost, most mothers (and mine would agree) like Hospital Days because that they don’t have to cook. After all, it is summer and vacation time. You can start your day at the Pancake Breakfast, enjoy hot dogs and burgers with the Rotary Club at lunch and supper with the Lions Club at their barbeque. Besides not cooking, moms can shop ‘til they drop at the craft show and jewelry sale. Even better, they can dance ‘til they drop at Band Night and swim, bike and run the triathlon.

On top of pancakes, fair food and barbeque, Dads will like the great cars at the Car Nutz Cruise-In. There will be raffles, giveaways, live music and great company at the Meet the Chamber event. The few that like to dance will go for Band Night; the rest will be dragged along by their wives. Athletic types will participate in the triathlon. Less athletic types will rue the day they signed up for the triathlon.

Kids pretty much like everything about Hospital Days. And what’s not to like? There are rides on the midway and carnival games as well as cotton candy and way too many wonderfully awful treats to mention. Or is that awfully wonderful? I’ll let their mothers decide.

Little littles can bring their Teddies to a clinic. All kids can dance and bigger ones can be embarrassed by their parents at Band Night. There will be alpacas to pet and Humane Society animals to meet and greet. Speaking of meet and greet, kids can tour the firehouse, climb on the engines and visit with the firefighters.

Everyone loves the parade. I may be prejudice but the Hospital Days parade is definitely better than most. It is everything a small town parade should be. With a marching band, a team of unicyclists, homemade floats galore and lots of antique cars, fire engines and a motorcycle or two, it is the definition of old fashioned fun and schmaltz. It’s my favorite part of Hospital Days.

Enjoy all the great fun summer has to offer. Bon appétit!

Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus
Delicious with fresh veggies or pita chips, this hummus might just become your new favorite hors d’oeuvre. Enjoy!
Makes about 3 cups

beets2 medium, about 8 ounces, beets, peeled and roughly chopped
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon each finely chopped thyme and rosemary
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2-3 drops or to taste sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
1 can (about 2 cups) white beans
Extra virgin olive oil

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Beet_White_Bean_Hummus_04Put the beets on a sheet pan in a single layer, drizzle with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the beets for about 10 minutes.

Add the onion and garlic and more olive oil and balsamic vinegar if necessary. Toss to coat and, stirring once or twice, continue to roast for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly caramelized and tender.

Transfer the vegetables to a mini food processor, add the herbs and let the veggies cool for about 10 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and the lemon juice and pulse to chop and combine.

Add the beans and pulse to combine. 1-2 tablespoons at a time, add extra virgin olive oil and process until more or less smooth and well combined. Check for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper to taste.

Let the hummus sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to combine the flavors. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Cucumber-Mint Agua Fresca
Two Years Ago – Double Corn & Cheddar Muffins
Three Years Ago – Blueberry Clafouti
Four Years Ago – Blackberry Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt
Five Years Ago – Brown Sugar Yogurt Gelato
Six Years Ago – Red Pepper Dip
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Chicken, Shallots & New Potatoes
Eight Years Ago – Barbecue Chicken

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

What is your favorite sound of summer? Feel free to share.

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

Beat the Heat & Fresh Tomato Crostini

Well, I did my best. Reports of an impending onslaught of heat and humidity were flying so I dragged the air conditioners out of the garage and hoisted them into a couple of windows. I have to tell you they weigh a ton or maybe it just seems that way. It was tough work but I was willing to make the sacrifice. I just knew that if anything could forestall the approaching wave of steamy air, my advanced preparation was it.

Like most people in northern New England, I resist the lure of cool, conditioned air. I can’t be sure but I think in must have something to do with the nine or ten months we keep our windows sealed up tight. Summer is a celebration of fresh air. It is a joy to tear open the shutters and throw up the sash. Come September, we’ll be opening fewer windows and closing them by late afternoon.

I suppose I could bite the bullet and invest in central air conditioning. I could but I won’t. Instead, I rally around the mostly true clichés that we Yankees mutter every summer.

“It’s New Hampshire. It doesn’t get all that hot.”

“It’s New Hampshire. It always cools down at night.”

“It’s New Hampshire. There’s always a nice breeze.”

“It’s New Hampshire. When it gets really hot, a thunder shower cools things down.”

“Come on, it’s New Hampshire. We get, what, maybe three really hots days and nights a summer.”

On top of being a New Englander, I lived in Switzerland for a couple of decades. And guess what? You got it; there was no air conditioning. Not in houses, not in stores or restaurants or even offices. Yes, I shared an office building with a couple hundred people and it was not air-conditioned. It was air-cooled but no one seemed to know what that meant. Since you’re dying to ask … yes, there were times when the office felt (and smelt) like a boys’ locker room during a heatwave in Louisiana. On the plus side, there were no fights over the thermostat and no space heaters hidden under desks.

Anyway, when I bought my house near Pleasant Lake, there were half a dozen almost-new window air conditioners in the garage. The former owners were from California and didn’t share my New England mindset. These west coast transplants didn’t last long in the land of four seasons, three maybe four years. I’m not sure if our icy cold winters or hot, humid summers did them in. It could’ve been both. They said they were moving west again to be closer to their kids.

I’ve been known to curse those Californians. After all, if those air conditioners weren’t in the garage, I wouldn’t need to lug them around twice a year. Thankfully, I didn’t keep them all. I’d be exhausted before I got them installed. I sold a couple and held on to a few. Just in case.

There you have it: the confession. I’m not the purist I pretend to be. While I draw the line at spending thousands on central air conditioning, I’m not totally adverse to throwing a unit into a bedroom window. Particularly if it was free in the first place. Free – the Yankee blessing and curse that fills our attics and garages with things we hardly need.

Stay cool and bon appétit!

Fresh Tomato Crostini
This recipe only works if you have fresh, local tomatoes. Make it your deliciously easy go-to summer appetizer. Enjoy!
Serves 8Fresh_Tomato_Crostini_03

1 baguette, sliced
Garlic-Basil Oil (recipe follows)
2 cups roughly chopped tomatoes
Sea salt to taste
Chopped chives

Preheat the grill to medium-high.* Place the bread slices on the grill and cook until golden, about 1 minute per side.

Remove from the grill and, while the bread is still warm, generously brush with Garlic-Basil Oil. Add a generous spoonful of tomatoes, sprinkle with sea salt and chopped chives and serve.

* You can toast the bread on a grill pan or in the oven but the end result will not be as delicious.

Garlic-Basil Oil
2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the basil, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small food processor or blender and pulse to chop and combine. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and process until the basil and garlic are finely chopped and incorporated into the oil.

Let the oil sit at room temperature for up to 60 minutes or in the refrigerator for several hours to mix and meld the flavors. Serve at room temperature.

Store any extra Garlic-Basil Oil in the refrigerator.

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

How do you beat the heat? Feel free to share.

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