Home for Lunch Bunch & Greek Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Last Tuesday, families were back at bus stops during my morning walk around the lake. It was the first day of school. Cell phones were in camera mode and working in overdrive. Most of the moms were wearing bigger and brighter smiles than the kids, much bigger and much brighter.

While my childhood was split between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, our Monday through Friday life was spent in suburbia. That’s where I went to school. It was a much different world from our northern New England paradise. For one thing, in square mileage, the town was half the size. However, the population was about fifteen, yes, fifteen, times greater.

In the spirit of the post-war building boom, houses were packed close together. Not reach out the window and shake your neighbor’s hand close but close enough. Instead of one regional elementary school serving a couple of towns, there were twelve neighborhood schools and no corner bus stops. From the first day of kindergarten until we finished the sixth grade, we walked to school.

These elementary schools were strategically located so that no child walked more than a mile. Or at least that was the theory. There were a few outliers. My friend Joy was one of them. Her street fell outside the one-mile radius of any school. Joy and kids like her had to tough it out, ride their bikes or hitch rides with their parents.

We actually walked to and from school twice a day. That’s right, we went home for lunch. As you might guess, that put quite a crimp in any parent’s day. But those schools were built in another time for another era. Most moms were stay at home; taking care of kids, house and husband. I’m sure there were a few exceptions but I never met any.

It didn’t seem to bother Mom much when my sister and I were little. She was always there when we bounced back and forth, to and from Fiske School. All the mothers in the neighborhood were on the same schedule. If they complained about it; we never heard. Then again, what seven-year-old pays attention to the hassles and inconveniences her mother might face?

Things changed a bit the year my brother started kindergarten. While the town had twelve neighborhood elementary schools, there was just one high school and one middle school. My sister was in her first year at the high school and I had just move up to the middle school. (We called it junior high back then.)

Anyway, our house fell within inches of the one-mile rule so, middle school or not, I still walked. My sister took the bus. But here’s the important part, neither of us went home for lunch. The school board figured that once you reached the ripe old age of twelve, you could handle a cafeteria.

On the other hand, my kindergartener brother was home every day at noon. It was about that time that my generally cheery mom started to talk about the home for lunch bunch. At twelve, I couldn’t help but notice the not-so-subtle note of irony in her voice. After all, this daily interruption and rush to be home had already been going on for ten years … and, there she was – looking at seven more.

Happy back to school and bon appétit! 

Greek Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

You don’t need to roll out the grill for this grown up version of a childhood favorite. Next time zucchini is on the menu, grill up some extra for tomorrow’s lunch. Enjoy!

Makes 4 sandwiches

  • About 1/2 red onion, cut in thin wedges
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Dash or to taste hot sauce
  • 1-2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • Butter
  • 4 ounces shredded mozzarella
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta
  • Black oil-cured or Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the onion and garlic in a bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Put the vegetables in a grill basket and, stirring from time to time, grill on high until tender crisp.

Return the vegetables to the bowl, fish out the garlic clove, add the hot sauce and toss to coat. Finely mince the garlic, add it back to the onion and toss again.

Meanwhile, brush the zucchini halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the zucchini until nicely browned and tender, 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the zucchini from the grill and finely chop. Add the zucchini to the onion and toss to combine.

Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread. Set half the bread slices in a skillet – you’ll probably need to work in batches or use 2 skillets. Spread a dollop of grilled vegetables on each slice and sprinkle with mozzarella, feta and olives. Top with the remaining bread slices, butter side up. Cover the skillet and cook on medium low until the bread is golden brown, about 8 minutes. Flip the sandwiches and cook until the cheese has melted and the second side is golden, about 5 minutes.

Cut the sandwiches into wedges and serve.

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Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

 

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Back to a New Beginning & Spaghetti with Grilled Eggplant

Well, my goodness, how the heck did that happen? Today, yes today, is the first day of school in the district. Not to mention, the long Labor Day Weekend is coming up. By the way, there is something very wrong, very out of whack with that. School is supposed to start the day after Labor Day not the week before.

It’s been quite a while since I had to worry about finding the perfect back-to-school backpack or notebooks. That said, Labor Day does stir those not quite forgotten memories of a new start. The almanac claims that the new year comes on January 1 but that feels like just another winter day. However, the Tuesday after Labor Day – that’s something else. It’s not just another day on the calendar. It’s for jumping into new adventures. As a student and then a teacher, I spent more than a couple of decades doing just that. It still feels like a good time to start something new.

During the summer, schedules and routines seem to fall apart. One day, it’s too beautiful to stay inside and finish that project. Another is too hot to cook or write or think or do anything but float in the lake. My mother was always so sad on Labor Day. She loved our worry-free summers in New Hampshire. The first Monday in September always heralded the return to suburbia with its schedules and carpools.

If it’s not happened already, we’ll soon be back to our old routines or creating new ones. Long, lazy evenings on the beach will be cut short. Real shoes will replace flip-flops. Shorts will go into plastic bins and get stored in the attic. Book club and any number of other activities and responsibilities that were suspended over the summer will start up again.

Unfortunately, the whole idea, even the word routine sounds sooooo boring and, well, routine. However, there are some benefits. Creating routines that work for you, your priorities and your temperament will make you more efficient. With any luck, they’ll help you break a few bad habits and start a few good ones. Think of a new routine or return to an old one as a framework and a promise to yourself to accomplish a goal.

Now might be a good time to think about any changes you’d like to make. No, you don’t need to move across the country or start training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s okay to keep it simple. Maybe your new fall routine will include a walk every morning or cooking at home three times a week. Perhaps you’ll make room for a daily hour of quiet time to tackle that list of books you’ve been meaning to read. Or, you’ll finally take those Italian lessons, volunteer for a favorite cause or candidate or start tai chi. Whether it’s a skill you promise to learn or five pounds you want to lose, now is a good time to build a new routine to make it happen.

In the spirit of back-to-school, there will be rewards. Instead of a glowing report card, you will be rewarded in lots of small ways. Some will be intangible like the pleasure of getting lost in a wonderful book. Others will be easily discernible like the new found strength and stamina from regular exercise. While not always earth shattering, there’s something quite satisfying about taking on a challenge, large or small, and achieving success.

Carp diem and bon appétit!

Spaghetti and Grilled Eggplant
Farmstands and farmers markets are filled with wonderful local produce. Pasta tossed with fresh vegetables is a quick and easy dinner when the evenings start to cool. Enjoy!
Serves 8

  • 1 smallish red onion, cut in thin wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon or to taste your favorite hot sauce (optional)
  • 4 smallish eggplants, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2-1 cup roughly chopped or cut in julienne basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or a combination of both

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the onion and garlic in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Put the onion and garlic in a grill pan, place on the grill and, stirring from time to time, grill on high until tender crisp. Return the onions to the bowl, fish out the garlic cloves, add the hot sauce and toss to coat. Finely mince the garlic, add it back to the onion and toss again.

Meanwhile, brush the eggplant halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the eggplant on the grill, cut side down, for 3-5 minutes or until nicely browned. Turn the eggplant, reduce the heat to low or place on a cool spot on the grill and continue cooking until the eggplant is tender, an additional 3-5 minutes. Remove from the grill and cut into bite sized pieces. Add the eggplant to the onion and garlic and toss to combine.

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the pasta water, and return the spaghetti to the pan. Add the vegetables, pine nuts and basil, toss to combine, cover and cook on medium for about 1 minute. If the spaghetti seems dry, add a little pasta water.

Transfer the pasta to a deep serving platter or individual shallow bowls, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve with freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano or a combination of both.

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One Year Ago – Citrus & Spice Grilled Chicken
Two Years Ago – Cheesy Polenta with Fresh Corn
Three Years Ago – Fresh Corn with Sriracha Aioli
Four Years Ago – Romaine with Grilled Corn, Tomato & Avocado
Five Years Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Six Years Ago – Chocolate-Orange Tart
Seven Years Ago – Chicken Liver Pâté
Eight Years Ago – Blueberry Crisp
Nine Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Sauce
Ten Years Ago – Lemon Cupcakes
Eleven Years Ago – Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts

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

Are you planning any changes this fall? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

 

 

 

Telling our Stories & Grilled Eggplant Salad

Last week, I went back to my university, Saint Lawrence, for a reunion. The photographs of happy smiles on Facebook are a testament to two things. First, a good time was had by all. Second, if anything, we’re better looking today than we were all those years ago. Women of a certain age, we have earned every wrinkle and every gray and white hair and wear them with pride.

Yes, once upon a time, I spent a handful of years at Saint Lawrence with a bunch of wonderful people. Strangers, we came together in the idyllic north country, a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. College is a Neverland of sorts. We were so young, so full of fun but still so serious and, at least in my case, pretending to be brave. Somewhere between orientation and graduation, lifelong bonds were formed. Then and now, we are sisters from other mothers; distance can separate us but it can’t break those ties.

Mostly suburbanites, a few country girls and a couple of city slickers found their way into our mix. After school, we headed back into the real world. There we found love and jobs,  started families or not, and did our best to live good, interesting and meaningful lives. Years later, we are at that age when children are grown. Phones are filled with pictures of adorable grandchildren. Parents are gone or aging and causing frequent worry.

It was a pleasure to reconnect with old friends. All these years later, bonds still hold firm. It was so easy to fall into conversations, silly and serious. It was truly an honor to catch up, listen and learn. An outsider can only guess at the stories behind the many smiling faces in photographs captured throughout the long weekend.

What I learned: more than anything, we are no longer pretending. We are indeed a brave bunch. In spite of distance and years, many of the events that mark our lives are similar. Along with unique experiences, we share a whole bunch of oddly familiar stories. From the happiest of times to the worst of times, we are not alone in our adventures and misadventures. Many of the tales told by these old friends could have been my own.

Maybe it’s the intensity of college days but our bonds are more than a long-ago, short lived common past. Since the day we all drove south after graduation, we have each faced a multitude of successes, trials and tribulations. The years have been filled with love and loss, promotions and layoffs, births and deaths, celebrations and tough times. Both mini and mega, the crises and triumphs we have faced and continue to face are somehow similar. Not down to the nitty-gritty details but there is a familiarity. More than the short time we spent together, we share generational mores and values. We have a natural, you might call it intuitive, empathy for each other’s’ joys, frustrations and sorrows.

Job loss to mental illness, we don’t just murmur a superficial, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Whether we share an identical story or something only sort of similar or even quite different; we get it. Throughout the weekend, we listened intently, hugged generously and shared openly. There is comfort in knowing you are connected to this wonderful network, this wonderful sisterhood. It was only a long weekend but we headed south smiling, bolstered and ready for whatever comes next.

Here’s to more stories, a great summer and bon appétit!

Grilled Eggplant Salad
Summertime is salad time. Since most local produce is still a few weeks away, grilling the vegetables will intensify the flavors. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 2 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut in 1/2-inch slices
Olive oil
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes
About 8 ounces arugula (optional)
4-6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1/2 cup roughly chopped or torn mint leaves
About 1/2 cup roughly chopped or torn parsley leaves
4-8 small pitas

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Brush the eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant for 4-6 minutes per side or until nicely browned and tender. Remove from the grill and when the eggplant is cool enough to handle, chop into bite-size pieces.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Put the tomatoes in a grill basket and grill for 4-6 minutes, stirring from time to time.

If you like, brush the pita with a little olive oil. Grill the pita until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side or less. Cut each pita into 4 wedges.

Put the arugula in a deep platter or individual shallow bowls, top with eggplant and tomatoes drizzle with Spicy Green Olive Vinaigrette, sprinkle with feta, scallions and herbs and serve with grilled pita wedges.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

The vinaigrette can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving. Store any extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Salmon & Asparagus Salad
Two Years Ago – Strawberry Tort
Three Years Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Four Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad
Five Years Ago – Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart
Six Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Seven Years Ago – Blueberry Crumb Cake
Eight Years Ago – Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Strawberry Gelato
Ten Years Ago – Asparagus Soup

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

With whom will share your stories this summer? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

Colorful Resolutions & Curried Carrot Soup

crayonsForget January, we should be making our new year’s resolutions now. It doesn’t matter if it’s been decades since you last saw a classroom. Back-to-school has always signaled a new beginning. Hear that sound? It’s not just the rumble of the school bus; it is the sound of new opportunities.

Like a big, new box of crayons, September holds the promise of a fresh start. Pacific Blue, Unmellow Yellow or Radical Red, what colors speak to you and your goals? Crayola’s brilliant array of 120 colors provides lots of inspiration. Take your pick and choose the crayons that best represent your September resolutions. Here are a few suggestions:

Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown – are you finally ready to promise yourself more downtime? And actually deliver on that promise?

Razzle Dazzle Rose, Cornflower and Lavender – take advantage of some of that downtime to stop and smell the flowers.

Outrageous Orange – or have you gotten rather staid in the past few years? Sounds like you need to give yourself permission to let loose from time to time.

Purple Pizzazz – okay, maybe outrageous is not your style. How about a little dash and dazzle?

Mango Tango – could be the answer if it’s been too long since you tried something new and exotic. Have you considered learning some new dance steps?

Outer Space – there’s nothing wrong with reaching for the stars or heading out into the …

Wild Blue Yonder – for a bold, new adventure.

Sea Green and Purple Mountains Majesty – wherever your travels take you, be sure to take a moment to marvel at your glorious surroundings

Neon Carrot – could there be a message here? Something like … eat your vegetables.

Sunglow – I’ll take this one to suggest that we all spend more time out in the sunshine.

Tickle Me Pink – foul mood or flu, regardless of what ails you, laughter is always good medicine.

Gold, Silver and Copper – just in case you need some help with your finances.

Shamrock – because we all need a little luck from time to time. Just remember that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Decisions, decisions, what colors will motivate you this fall? With a fabulous rainbow to choose from, you are sure to find the perfect inspiration.

Color me happy and bon appétit!

Curried Carrot Soupcarrot_soup_05
Not quite neon, this soup is bright and flavorful. Enjoy!
Makes about 3 quarts

1 large onion, chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon curry powder or to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cilantro Pistou (recipe follows)

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger, season with curry powder, salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Add the carrots, toss to combine and, stirring frequently, continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Remove the soup from the heat and cool for 15 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender with the coconut milk until very smooth. Cool the soup to room temperature, stir in the lime zest and juice cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to let all the flavors combine.

Serve the soup cold or reheat over low heat until steaming. Ladle the soup into bowls or mugs, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Cilantro Pistou
1 1/2 cups lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Put the cilantro, garlic and lime juice in a small food processor, season with salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil until you have a thick, deep green sauce.

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One Year Ago – Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts
Two Years Ago – Baked Haddock with Fresh Tomatoes & Herbs
Three Years Ago – Pumpkin-Ginger Muffins
Four Years Ago – Roast Pork with Apples & Onions
Five Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Six Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Seven Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Eight Years Ago – Oktoberfest Sausages & Sauerkraut

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

Do you have any colorful resolutions for the fall? 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

Back-to-School Shopping & All Grown Up Grilled Cheese

Susie_1st_day_schoolYikes! What happened to summer? Labor Day has come and gone. Except for a stray flip-flop, the beach is empty. Squawking geese fill the sky and the first red leaves are dotting a big maple up by the college. When we were kids, the end of summer meant that it was time to go back to the reality of suburbia and back to school. We traded in long lazy days on the beach, hikes in the woods and fresh air for stuffy classrooms and chalk dust.

When first my sister and then I started kindergarten, an annual ritual began. Mom took us downtown for school clothes and shoes. We would visit Filene’s in search of that perfect first day of school dress. Although more often than not, the first day of school had come and gone by the time we embarked on our back-to-school shopping. It was simple physics, the space–time continuum. We couldn’t be in two places, the beach and suburbia, at the same time.

Anyway, these shopping trips were early lessons in dress for success. What is it about a new outfit? Or an old favorite for that matter? When it fits well and the color is right, it just inspires confidence. Whether we’re striding across the playground or the boardroom, our back’s a little straighter and our step’s a little surer when we know we look good. Don’t be modest, go ahead and admit it. Every closet has its stash of superhero garb. Maybe it’s your lucky jeans or a favorite power suit but once you put them on, you are invincible.

As any baby boomer knows, a Polly Flinder is the perfect dress to start kindergarten or the first grade. These cotton dresses were pure confection with smocking across the front, puffed sleeves, Peter Pan colors and full skirts that swirled when you twirled. At Easter, the dresses came in soft flowery pastels. For back-to-school, they came in darker, fall colors and tartans. Between a few of my own and my sister’s hand-me-downs, I had several. And yes, I looked absolutely adorable.

If we didn’t lollygag or misbehave, Mom took us to Bailey’s for a post-shopping ice cream. Bailey’s was part of a long-standing back-to-school tradition. When my grandmother outfitted Mom for back-to-school, she included both Filene’s and Bailey’s on their itinerary. Bailey’s was always cool on a warm Indian summer afternoon and the hot fudge sauce was thick and devilishly rich. Our little town’s premier ice cream emporium, Bailey’s was reserved for the special-est of occasions. The new school year definitely merited a trip to Bailey’s.

You can imagine my surprise when, bought out or gone bust, all three of these venerable companies from my childhood upped and vanished. Yes, Filene’s, Polly Flinder and Bailey’s are now nothing more than a fond memory and a few lines in Wikipedia. It’s a good thing that after some trial and error, I developed my own decadent chocolate sauce. As for sweet little dresses with smocking and Peter Pan collars, I think I’m more of a jeans and turtleneck kind of girl these days.

Okay, it may have been years since we graduated from anywhere but we can still celebrate September with any and all of our favorite back-to-school traditions. Bon appétit!

All Grown Up Grilled Cheese
Even if it’s been a decade (or more!) since you spent your days in stuffy classrooms, celebrate back-to-school with this grown up version of every kid’s favorite lunch! Enjoy!
Serves 4

8 slices really good artisan bread
Butter, at room temperature
Arugula Pesto (recipe follows)
About 4 ounce fontina cheese, grated or thinly sliced
4-8 thin slices Prosciutto de Parma ham
Pickled Onions*(recipe follows)

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Generously butter one side of each bread slice. Smear the other side with a generous dollop of Arugula Pesto and place the bread butter side down in a large skillet(s). Evenly distribute the cheese across the bread. Cook over medium-low heat until the cheese has melted and the bread is nicely browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Top half the bread with prosciutto and sprinkle the other halves with pickled onions.

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Carefully flip one half of the sandwich onto the other, let sit for a minute, cut into wedges and serve.

* I always add some onion to my homemade pickles. If you do too, use them in sandwiches, including this one. Otherwise, my Quick Pickled Onions will do the job.

Arugula Pesto
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
5-6 ounces baby arugula
Extra virgin olive oil
About 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Put the walnuts, garlic and vinegar in a small food processor, season with salt and pepper and pulse until finely chopped. Add the arugula in batches and pulse until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil and process smooth. Add the cheese and pulse to combine.

Cover and refrigerate the leftover pesto. Try it with pasta or spread it on pizza or sandwiches.

Quick Pickled Onions
1/2 Vidalia or red onion, halve the onion length-wise and then cut in thin wedges
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Put the onion and thyme in a small bowl.All_Grown_Up_Grilled_Cheese_08

Put the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a saucepan. Stirring until the sugar and salt dissolves, bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cover the onions with pickling liquid. Let the onions sit for at least 20 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cover and refrigerate the leftover pickled onions. Try them on any and all of your favorite sandwiches.

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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 is your favorite back-to-school shopping story? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015