Snow, Sun and Fun – February Vacation & Sausages with White Beans

King_RidgeWhen I was seven, my sister, Brenda, and I took up skiing. It was Brenda’s idea or maybe my father’s. In any case, we both received shiny, new skis for Christmas. Before long, we were hooked. About the time he turned three, my little brother joined us on the slopes.

February was our favorite month. January started cold and ended with a soggy thaw. Perhaps it was the ground hog but the weather took a decidedly better turn in February. The days grew longer and weren’t quite so frigid. School let out for vacation and carloads of flatlanders fled north to the mountains. Leaving within minutes of the last school bell, my family was at the head of that horde of suburbanites.

Our February ski vacations were always glorious. There must have been an unwritten rule decreeing perfect weather and snow for school vacations. It snowed every night but the days always dawned with perfect bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine. The snow gods didn’t tease us by dumping a foot of beautiful, fluffy white powder and then douse it with an inch of rain. The lift lines could be long and sluggish but there were lots of kids around and the skiing was outstanding. It might not have been perfect but it came pretty darn close.

Dad insisted on getting us up and out on our skis early. As far as he was concerned, we could sleep late and laze around in our pajamas after the snow melted. He yanked us out of bed as soon as it was light. We complained half-heartedly but to no avail. Determined to get us out on the slopes sooner rather than later, he rushed around making pancakes and hot chocolate.

As we climbed into the back of our big, blue station wagon my father always asked, “Do you have everything?” Invariably, I had forgotten my mittens or hat. In truth, I could have forgotten my head except that it was firmly attached to my neck. Hey, there’s one in every family and I was it. I would run back in the house and race around searching for gloves or goggles. Some mornings it took a couple of trips back and forth before I was ready to go. Finally, we pulled out of the driveway and were off for a day of snow, sun and fun. Except for the many mornings when, a half mile down the road, we turned around for a missing season pass. Unusually mine; my sister never forgot anything.

After a long day on the slopes, we headed home to ice skate or sled, cross country ski or jump off the deck. By dinnertime, we were cold, wet and wind burned, not to mention completely exhausted and starving. I think that it was all part of my parents’ grand plan. They figured if our days were filled with snow and sport, we couldn’t get into mischief. After a hearty dinner, we would fall into bed, looking forward to doing it all over again the next day.

With more rain than snow, winter has been far from typical this year. Thankfully, ski areas have been making snow. The skiing may not be stellar but fresh air abounds. Après ski, there is enough snow to cover hills for sledding and the local rink is waiting for you and your skates. Unless you’d rather strap on your snowshoes for a hike in the woods.

Whether you ski or not, enjoy a wonderful winter vacation with family and friends. Bon appétit!

Sausages with White Beans
A hearty casserole is the perfect dinner for family and friends after a busy day on the slopes. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound dried small white or cannellini beans (about 6 cups cooked beans)
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
1 1/2 large onion, cut the half onion in half again and finely chop the whole
5 stalks celery, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 4
4 carrots, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 3
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme


2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup dry white wine
3-4 cups chicken broth
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2-2 1/2 pounds cooked garlic sausage or smoked kielbasa

Soak the beans overnight. Drain and rinse the beans.

Put the beans, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, half onion, celery and carrot chunks, 1 sprig thyme and 1 bay leaf in a large pot, add cold water to cover plus 2 inches and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until the beans are almost tender, about 1 hour.

While the beans are cooking, put the bacon in a large casserole and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot, drain and reserve. Leaving just enough to coat the pot, drain any excess bacon fat.

Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots to the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent, 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the mustard and wine, add the remaining thyme, rosemary and bay leaf and simmer until the wine has reduced by half. Add 2-3 cups chicken broth and the crushed tomatoes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the beans and remove any large pieces of onion, carrot and celery as well as the thyme twig and bay leaf.

Add the beans and bacon to the casserole. Bring everything to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, adding more chicken broth if the beans seem dry.

Cut the sausage on the diagonal into 1-inch-thick pieces. Add the sausage to the beans, return the pot to the oven and continue cooking until the sausage is heated through and the beans are bubbling, about 30-45 minutes. Ladle the beans and sausage into shallow bowls and serve.

If you have the time, cool the beans to room temperature before adding the sausage. Then, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator about an hour before baking. Cook the casserole in a 350 degree oven until the sausage is heated through and the beans are bubbling, 45-60 minutes. Ladle the beans and sausage into shallow bowls and serve.

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One Year Ago – Chocolate Panna Cotta
Two Years Ago – Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage
Three Years Ago – Cheese Fondue
Four Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Five Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Six Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Seven Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have any special plans for a winter vacation? Feel free to share!

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

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Resolved & Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower

veggies_03Alright then, here we are in 2016. The last twelve months just flew by. The dawning of the new year means it is time to come up with some resolutions. Decisions, decisions, to resolve or not resolve. Such dilemmas! Okay, let’s take a stab at it. Here goes:

Thankfully, there’s a whole slew of bad or silly habits that I’ve managed to avoid. That means I don’t need to give up twerking, fast food or smoking.

Plus, I already live a pretty healthy life. I could pledge to eat my vegetables, walk every day, drink more water and practice yoga. But I already do those things, so I don’t think they’d count as 2016 resolutions.

Lucky for me, the medical community goes back and forth on coffee and wine. I won’t give up either but continue to drink the two in moderation. What’s moderation? Well, I’m decidedly independent, so I guess that’s for me to decide.

As a decidedly independent type, I can’t promise to become more fashionable. Although I’m not exactly stuck in a time warp, I discovered my own personal style several years ago. While, they may move at glacial speed, my fashion preferences have evolved. My jeans have gotten skinnier but I don’t think I will ever give up turtlenecks, Bermuda shorts or the little black dress. You might find my look dull, even boring. I think of it as classic and it suits me.

The latest and greatest new phone is not on my list of must-haves so I can cross – stop texting while driving – off the list of potential resolutions. Okay, I admit my friends’ shiny gadgets generate sporadic twinges of phone envy. It’s not that I’m a Luddite. Truly, I’m not. Of course, I own a cell phone and, yes, it works. I even remember to charge it a few times a year. But hey, I work from home. I’m nothing if not easy to find.

While I have little interest in a new phone, I am intrigued to meet new people, learn new things and acquire new skills. That said, unless someone sends me a fact-a-day calendar as a belated Christmas gift, I can’t promise to learn something new every day. Nor can I promise to meet 366 (it’s a leap year) people in 2016. Remember, I work from home and live in a small town. My little life is not teaming with strangers. Then again, I could always introduce myself to random tourists in the supermarket. Somehow, I don’t think I will.

Many might be shocked to learn that I don’t keep a journal. Don’t all writers keep journals or morning papers? Perhaps that one should go on my list of resolutions. Well, I tried it once. I had just moved to Switzerland and figured it would be a good idea to chronicle my adventures. I even had a clever name for the journal – Notes from a-Broad. I kept it up for two maybe three months. Even with a new country, new job, new friends and a fair amount of travel my day-to-day musings were not that interesting. I prefer to let my thoughts and memories steep and age a bit before putting them to paper.

So, don’t expect me to get a tattoo, take up the saxophone or switch to green tea. Instead, I’ll side with the popular choice for once and take up the number one resolution for 2016. What is it? Enjoy life to the fullest. After all, 45.7 per cent of Americans can’t be wrong; can they?

Happy New Year and bon appétit!

Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower
Along with greens and grapes, lentils are one of the lucky foods popular at New Year. Main event or side dish, lentils are a delicious and healthy way to start 2016. Enjoy!
Serves 6

veggies_032 cups red or brown lentils
Vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon mustard seed
3-4 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Roasted Cauliflower (recipe follows)
Garnish: roughly chopped cilantro leaves

Pick through the lentils and remove any stones. Rinse well with cold water and drain.

Heat a little oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and carrot and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, jalapeno and spices and sauté for 2-3 minutes more. Add the lentils and enough stock or water to cover by 1-2 inches and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. You may need to add more stock or water. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the roasted cauliflower to the lentils, toss to combine and serve immediately garnished with chopped cilantro.

Enjoy lentils as a main dish on Meatless Mondays with basmati rice and sautéed greens or as a side dish at your next Indian inspired dinner.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
Vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the cauliflower on a baking sheet, drizzle with just enough oil to lightly coat, sprinkle with turmeric, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread the cauliflower in a single layer and roast, stirring once or twice, until browned and tender, 20-25 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Spiced Chai
Two Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
Three Years Ago – Old Fashioned Pot Roast
Fourhree Years Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
Fiveour Years Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
Six Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
Seven Years Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup

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

What about you? Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share!

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

Snow Daze & Black Bean & Beef Chili

snowy_day_New_London_02It’s been a snowy February. While the snowbanks in front of my house are not yet up to the roofline, all sorts of all-time records have been broken. And it’s not over yet! There’s still plenty of time before winter calls it quits. In the meantime, school has been cancelled left and right.

Growing up, snow days were a special treat, an unexpected and welcome holiday. Life was put on hold for a day. We slept in and then played outside in the snow. Eventually the cold drove us back inside for hot chocolate, old movies, books, jigsaw puzzles and marathon matches of Scrabble.

When I was in the eighth grade, February turned into a month of snow days. Okay, that might not be strictly accurate but it’s how my mother and I like to remember it. It started on a Sunday. We spent a snowy morning on the ski slopes. By noon, several inches of fluffy, new powder had fallen. Regretfully, we grabbed our skis and headed back to our little house in the woods to pack up and return to Massachusetts. The roads were slippery and the visibility nonexistent. That’s when my parents, Mom in particular, decided that the next day was sure to be a snow day. She decreed an extra night in New Hampshire.

One could say her insistence was for our safety. One would be wrong. Pure and simple, we stayed in New Hampshire because, snow or sunshine, Mom loved being there. That said, it was the right call. While we were hunkering, more than a foot of snow fell. Boston and its suburbs were wiped out. There were countless stories of stranded motorists, abandoned cars and impassable highways and byways.

Even worst, New York was an absolute disaster. Fifteen inches of snow coupled with the city’s broken down plows brought New York to its knees. Mom’s joy of spending extra time in New Hampshire was tempered by her dismay. The Big Apple’s mayor, John Lindsay, was her favorite politician. Not necessarily for his politics, she had what could best be described as a schoolgirl crush on the handsome mayor. The snow debacle destroyed his presidential ambitions.

Throughout New Hampshire, the plows were out all night and the roads were quickly cleared. We spent a carefree Monday on the ski slopes. Meanwhile, the news from the Commonwealth was bleak. Overwhelmed by the snow, it took the Bay State almost a week to dig out. We stayed put and enjoyed our winter wonderland. Finally, late Thursday afternoon, the awful announcement: school would resume on Friday.

My wise mother insisted that little if anything would be accomplished in those few hours. After all, it was a Friday and the following week was February vacation. She saw no good reason to pack up and head south. We all agreed; mother knew best.

It was a terrific vacation; the snow was great and the sun was shining. Shining until Sunday morning when clouds drifted in and weathermen began spouting dire warnings of another nor’easter. Having heard the horror stories of that first storm, we took no chances and stayed in New Hampshire, safe and warm. Heavy snow on top of heavy snow was a recipe for trouble. It took Boston and the suburbs several days to dig out again. Meanwhile, the Nyes enjoyed another glorious ski week with another foot of new snow and no lift lines.

Although she never really liked to ski, Mom loves New Hampshire. Years later, she’d smile and reminisce about that February. It was the perfect vacation. Well, almost, she’d wistfully amend; perfect except for the handsome mayor’s fall from grace.

Enjoy the snow and bon appétit!

Black Bean & Beef Chili
A great dish for February vacation. It feeds a crowd of hungry skiers, skaters or sliders. Enjoy!
Serves 10-12Black_Bean_Beef_Chili_02

Start the Beans
1 pound black beans
1/2 large onion, trimmed and cut in half
1 carrot, peeled and cut in 3-4 chunks
1 stalk celery, cut in 3-4 chunks
1 bay leaf

Pick over the beans and discard any stones or shriveled beans. Rinse and toss in a pot with enough water to cover by 3-4 inches. Add the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until the beans are almost tender 1 – 1 1/4 hours. You may need to add more water as the beans cook.

What? No soaking? After reading several articles with clever titles like – To Soak or Not to Soak – I did some experimenting with black and small white beans. My conclusion; there is no need to soak the beans before cooking. You may need to add 15-30 minutes to the cooking time.

While the beans simmer …

Begin the Beef
Olive oil
About 3 pounds chuck roast
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 large onions, trimmed and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon or to taste dried chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or to taste minced jalapeno pepper
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine
1-2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup espresso or very strong coffee
1 bay leaf

Garnish: grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy casserole over medium-high. Generously season the beef on all sides with salt and pepper and brown each side for about 3 minutes. Remove the beef from the pot and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium. Put the onion, carrots and bell pepper in the pot, sprinkle with the spices and herbs, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and jalapeno and sauté 2 minutes more.

Return the beef to the casserole. Stir in the wine, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, espresso and bay leaf. The vegetables and liquid should come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pot roast. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook at 350 degrees, turning the roast once or twice, for 1 hour.

Combine the beans and beef
By now, the beans have been simmering for about an hour, drain them, pick out the bay leaf and as much of the carrot, celery and onion as you can and add the beans to the beef. Turn and wiggle the beef around so the beans are submerged in liquid, season the beans with salt and pepper and add more chicken stock if necessary. The vegetables and liquid should still come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the beef. Return the casserole to the oven and continue cooking, covered, until beef is very tender about 1 hour more.

Remove the meat from the casserole and let it sit until cool enough to handle. Cut and/or tear the beef into bite-sized pieces and return it to the pot with the beans. Give everything a good stir, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Bring the chili to a simmer on top of the stove over low heat. Transfer to a 350 degree oven or continue simmering on the stovetop on very low heat for 15-30 minutes. To serve: ladle the chili into bowls and garnish with a little cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro.

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One Year Ago – Coq au Vin
Two Years Ago – Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton
Three Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Four Years Ago – Lemon Cheesecake
Five Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Six Years Ago – Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole

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

Do you have a favorite vacation memory? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

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

Guy Fawkes Night & Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous

Bonfire Night - geograph.org.uk - 1034248If you know me at all, you know I dread November. By the fourth or fifth of October, a defense mechanism sets in and I lose track of time. All too soon, it’s Halloween. This fabulous eve of ghosts and goblins seems to come only minutes after the Columbus Day leaf peeper invasion. And then, it’s November.

Gray, dreary, cold November; there’s nothing to look forward to until the end of the month. Finally, Thanksgiving pulls us out of the doldrums and lifts our spirits. Or so I thought; until I remembered Guy Fawkes Night is tomorrow! An English holiday, it’s rarely, if ever, celebrated on this side of the pond. Who cares? Heck, it’s dark at 4:30 in the afternoon; we could all use, make that need, a little frivolity.

Guy Fawkes was part of a rebellious group who tried to blow up the English House of Lords and take down King James I. He was caught, tortured, tried and found guilty. He would have been hung but he committed suicide before anyone could get a rope around his neck. Is it irony, fate or fluke that Guy Fawkes Night falls just hours after the midterm election? Let’s go with none of the above.

Like many commemorations, Guy Fawkes Night has lost most of its political overtones. It has become a night for bonfires, fireworks and fun. Sounds a bit like the Fourth of July and a good excuse for a party; not a bad idea on a dreary November night. Call it an evening of rebellion; rebellion against a cold, cruel November.

Also known as Bonfire Night, the first thing you will need is towering pile of old wood. Oops, think again, a visit and fine from the fire department will probably ruin the your evening. It might be best to settle for cozy fire pit. Expect a chill in the air and encourage your guest to practice LL Bean chic with fleece and down. It is New Hampshire after all. Mull some cider and maybe add a shot of applejack or rum. If the weather is soggy, don’t hesitate to move the party indoors. A fireplace works fine for me.

Going with the theme of rebellion, invite everyone to share a personal story of insurgence, mutiny or foot stamping. The results will be anything but dull. I’m guessing there will be a few stories of college sit-ins. Depending on your group, there could be some more recent protests as well. Perhaps, you’ll get a play-by-play account of an almost-raging response to a telemarketer. Or another’s retort to the idiot who stole, yes stole, their parking space this morning. You know the feeling, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” And who knows, maybe one of your friends actually told the boss to take that job and shove it.

From the deadly serious to the mundane, the sublime to the ridiculous; it will be an enlightening evening. A trip down memory lane, you’ll hear about petitions, vigils and boycotts. More than history, you may learn some things that you never knew, never would have guessed about each other.

Perhaps one of your friends missed his chance to compete in the Olympics when the US refused to go to Moscow. You will find out who gave up any and everything from grapes to red meat, chicken, chocolate chips, Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirts and Mickey Mouse. You might even get a firsthand account of the March on Washington or Occupy Wall Street.

Happy Guy Fawkes Night and bon appétit!

Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous 
A dash of color and spice for a cold night, serve this flavorful stew as a vegetarian main course or as a side dish with chicken or lamb. Enjoy!
Serves 6 or more

Olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
2-3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon cloves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
1-2 medium zucchinis, roughly chopped
1-2 cups crushed tomatoes
1-2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup golden raisins
1-2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
12 ounces fresh mixed baby kale or spinach
1 1/2 cups couscous
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
Garnish: chopped cilantro or parsley

Heat a little olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and spices and sauté until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the garlic and sauté a minute or so more.

Add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and stock and stir to combine. Bring the stew to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the zucchini and simmer for about 10 minutes more.

Stir in the kale and continue cooking until it wilts.

While the vegetables are simmering, cook the couscous according to package directions. Add the pine nuts and scallion, drizzle with a little olive oil and toss to combine.

To serve: spoon couscous into shallow bowls, top with vegetables and sprinkle with cilantro or parsley.

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Bonfire photograph via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Gwen and James Anderson, participants in the Geograph® Britain and Ireland project. Copyright © by Gwen and James Anderson.

One Year Ago – Smashed or Mashed Potatoes
Two Years Ago – Apple Muffins
Three Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash
Four Years Ago – Spinach Ricotta Pie
Five Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Lentils
Six Years Ago – Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How do you cope with the gray days of November? What’s your strategy to keep smiling through the fog and drizzle? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Starlight & Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Brenda_Susie_Mary_Beth_CarusoWhen you’re little, there was something quite thrilling about being outside after dark. And even better if it is past your bedtime!

I grew up in suburbia, about twenty miles west of Boston. The houses on our street were all fairly small and overflowing with kids. Lucky for us, life in a small house, not to mention the times, encouraged outdoor play. Those houses could hold only so many toys and there were no computers, computer games or Disney Channel. If it wasn’t raining and the sun hadn’t set, our mothers shoved us out the door. Summer was pretty simple. There was nothing to do but play and nowhere to go but out.

We played hopscotch and four-square, rode bikes and climbed trees. We built houses and forts in the woods and staged elaborate games of make believe. There were epic battles of hide and seek, tag and Red Rover. Since every house had at least two children, and usually three or four, there were plenty of kids to join the fray.

My all-time favorite game was something we called Starlight. I later learned that kids in other neighborhoods called it Ghost or Graveyard or maybe Sardines. It was special for a variety of reasons.

Starlight could not be played with a handful of kids. A decent game more or less required the entire neighborhood. Most days and with most games, age lines were drawn and boys and girls didn’t mix a whole lot. A neighborhood melee didn’t happen all that often, making it all the more grand.

Full MoonRunning around in the dark was a real treat. My mother had this boring rule that we had to come home as soon as the streetlights came on.

And finally, no doubt about it, Starlight was an absolutely terrifying game. At least if you were six.

Unlike today’s playdates, these battles were far from perfectly planned events. More often than not, Starlight was play on the fly. It would start when, for no particular rhyme or reason, an impromptu gathering occurred. Warm weather drew families outside for a walk or game of catch. A group would form to admire a new car or welcome a family back from a cross-country vacation. With any luck, the adults moved onto the porch for a nightcap. Before our parents could stop and think about bedtime, we kids disappeared into the darkness. Out of sight, we were out of mind; at least for an hour, maybe more.

Starlight was a simple game. Someone was IT; I think we called this person The Ghost. One big kid or another, often my sister, always wanted to be IT first. The Ghost drifted off into the backyard and hid. Then everyone else carefully crept around the house. Each step was more frightening than the last. Just as our terror reached a fevered pitch, The Ghost leapt out of the bushes and tagged as many kids as possible.

Those who escaped returned to the front stoop, regrouped and did it all over again. If caught, you were declared dead or some such thing. Anyway, you then joined The Ghost and helped chase down the escapees. Eventually, the last kid was captured and became The Ghost in the next round. The game went on until blood, tears or both were shed or our parents realized it was after ten o’clock.

The summer always seems to end before we know it. Day or night, enjoy the outdoors and bon appétit!

Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
The season for local corn and tomatoes is short so indulge often. These quesadillas are great for lunch, a casual supper or appetizer. Enjoy!
Serve 4-6 for dinner or lunch and 12, maybe more, for appetizers

2-3 ears (enough for 1-1 1/2 cups kernels) fresh corn
Olive oil
About 1 1/2 cups (15-ounce can) black beans, drained and rinsed
About 1/4 cup chopped red onion
About 1 tablespoon or to taste minced jalapeño pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cheddar or Monterey jack, shredded (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup sour cream
6-8 large or 10-12 medium flour tortillas

Grilled Corn_02Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high. Brush the corn with a little olive oil. Lay the ears directly on the grill and, turning to cook evenly, cook for about 15 minutes or until nicely charred and tender. Remove from the grill. When the corn is cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to remove the kernels from the cobs. Can be prepared in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Put the corn, beans, onion, jalapeño and garlic in a bowl, season with cumin, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add the cheese and sour cream and toss again.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Grilled_Corn_Black_Bean_Quesadilla_02Set the tortillas on a work surface, evenly spread about 1/3 cup of beans, corn and cheese on one-half of each tortilla and fold the tortilla over the filling.

Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with oil and, working in batches, place the tortillas on the griddle. Flipping once, cook until the tortillas are golden and the cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Transfer the quesadillas to an ovenproof patter and keep warm in the oven while you cook the next batch.

Cut the quesadillas into wedges and serve with Fresh Tomato Salsa.

Fresh Tomato Salsa
1/4 cup or to taste chopped red onion
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced (or more to taste) jalapeño pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped or about 12 ounces tomato, seeded and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt to taste

Put the red onion, pepper, garlic and jalapeño in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil, season with salt and pulse until well combined and finely chopped.

If not serving immediately, cover and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

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One Year Ago – Summer Salad with Green Beans, Blueberries & Goat Cheese
Two Years Ago – Shrimp Salad Niçoise
Three Years Ago – Insalata Caprese
Four Years Ago – Mojito Melons
Five Years Ago – Grilled Antipasto
Six Years Ago – Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder

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

What’s your favorite summer game? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going. Click here to leave a comment.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

October & Autumn Vegetable Chili

Octo from the Latin meaning eight and ber from the universal meaning it’s getting chilly outside. Elkins_Dam_Foliage_02Wait a minute, back up the train. An octopus has eight legs, an octagon eight sides but October is the tenth not the eighth month of the year


In spite of the confusing name, October has a lot going for it. With fall foliage at its peak, this is especially true in New England. Above and beyond the crimson and gold landscape, October is a great month for foodies.
. What’s up? Blame it on Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome. He made eight the new ten around 700 BC by adding January and February to the start of the calendar year. As far as I’m concerned, he is also responsible for any septo-, octo- , novem and decem errors I made on my SAT’s. If it weren’t for Numa, I’d be a Harvard graduate and a billionaire with long legs and fabulous hair.

Someone or other has declared October Applejack Month so you might want to think about inventing a new cocktail. Something with cider and applejack sounds fall-ish and festive. Debut your cocktail on the 11th, also known as It’s My Party Day.

Speaking of parties, Columbus Day on the 14th gives many people a day off and a long weekend. The fall foliage will be at its peak and it’s a great time to bring friends and family together for a celebration. After all, you’ll have an extra day to recover!

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, October is also Cookie Month. Why not bake a batch of your (or my) favorite cookies

and celebrate Mad Hatter Day with a fabulous tea party on the 6th? If that doesn’t work out, you can try again with a National Dessert Day gala on the 14th.

When you need a break from cooking, feel free to call for take-out. October is National Pizza Month. That said with endless possibilities, it’s fun to make your own. Consider throwing a pizza party. If you choose the 18th, be sure to end with chocolate cupcakes. Yes, the 18th is Chocolate Cupcake Day. Who would have guessed?

With beautiful squash, parsnips, beets, broccoli and cool weather greens in the market, it will be easy to celebrate National Vegetarian Month. Some linguine or penne tossed with your favorite fall vegetables will be delicious on World Pasta Day, the 25th. If eating your vegetables makes you feel a little too pure, indulge a bit on the 21st with National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day.

It’s also Seafood Month. Make plans to grill up some shrimp or swordfish before it gets too cold to cook outdoors. If it turns cold and rainy, you can always sauté or roast your favorite seafood or make a cozy chowder. Sounds delicious.

A bunch of new films hit theaters this month. All the better to enjoy National Popcorn Popping Month. Forget the milk duds and jujubes, munch on some popcorn and let the magic of Hollywood take you away.

And finally, drum roll please, one of my favorite holidays – Halloween comes at the end of the month. But more about that later …

… in the meantime, happy October and bon appétit

Autumn Vegetable Chili
Bring a batch of spicy chili to your next tailgate party or potluck supper. Enjoy!
Serves 12

autumn_vegetable_chili_021 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 celery stalks, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
6 cups cooked small white beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried chipotle chili flakes or to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1-2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup dry white wine
1-2 bunches (about 1 pound) Swiss chard, roughly chopped
Garnish: toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh chopped cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Working in batches, sauté the vegetables in a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned.

Transfer the vegetables to a large casserole and add the beans, spices and herbs. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock and wine. Bring the chili to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover and cook in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Bring to a simmer over medium heat on the stovetop and continue with the recipe.

Add the Swiss chard to the chili and stir to combine. Return to the oven and cook for 5-10 minutes more.

Serve the chili in shallow bowls garnished with pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Two Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Three Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Four Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Five Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? Where will you take a child this week? Feel free to share. 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

Be Prepared! & Red Bean Chili with Pork and Butternut Squash

snow_plowThe January Thaw has come and gone so it seems like as good a time as any to talk about power outages. After all it is snow season and at least one big nor’easter is bound to tear through New England at some point this winter. Maybe two. Or more. As a skier, I will always hope.

I’m thinking that we can improve our chances for an outage-free winter if we prepare early and often. Think of it as an extension of the bring-your-umbrella-and-it-won’t-rain hypothesis. So here goes …

Get a good head start on the inevitable,
1. Test your generator to make sure it works before the power goes out. If you don’t have a generator, think about buying one.
2. If you have an electric stove, switch to gas. If you like to cook, you’ll be glad you made the change. Otherwise, think about a camp stove. Before you decide not to bother, remember your morning coffee.
3. So what do you do if you can’t face the day without coffee and your fancy machine needs electricity? Buy the old-fashioned version which best fits your taste – be it a simple drip cone, French press or my favorite Italian stovetop espresso maker.
4. Unless you have a smart phone, invest in a battery operated radio for storm updates (and music).
5. Be prepared for longer outages, the ones which lasts more than a day or two, with a cell phone charger for the car.
6. Stock up on candles and flashlights. A headlight, the kind for your head not the car, is great for reading as well as wandering around the house or yard in the dark. An oil lamp is also good. Don’t forget to stock up on extra wicks and plenty of oil.
7. And if you want the radio and flashlights to work, don’t forget batteries.

As soon as the weather people begin to talk excitedly of an impending storm,
8. Dig out the shovels and check the snow blower. Make sure you have plenty of gas and oil for the snow blower. It might be a good idea to have sand or de-icer or kitty litter to throw down after shoveling.
9. Fill the car with gas and look under all the seats for the snow brush and scraper. If you can’t find it buy a new one while you’re at the gas station.
10. Check your cell phone, I-pod, laptop and whatever toys and tools you can’t live without. Make sure they are fully charged.
11. If you have well water, fill any and all pitchers, carafes, jugs, empty soda bottles and large containers, including the bath tub, with water.
12. Make soup or better yet chili, something hearty and lots of it.
13. Stop by the library and/or bookstore and stock up on all those books you’ve been dying to read.
14. Depending on your inclination, check your supply of wine and/or chocolate and stock up as needed. Don’t skimp, you never know how long you might be left in the dark.

In case you are wondering about my preparations. Well I figure just talking and writing about it must be worth something!

Stay warm and bon appétit!

Pork Chili with Red Beans and Butternut Squash
Invite the neighbors in after shoveling – everyone appreciates a bowl or mug of chili on a snowy day. Add more or less spice to taste and enjoy!
Serves 8-10

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large onions, choppedRed_Bean_Chili_Pork_Butternut_Squash_03
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon (or to taste) chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon (or to taste) chipotle chilies in adobo, mashed to a paste
1 tablespoon (or to taste) finely chopped jalapeno
4 garlic cloves, minced
5-6 cups small red beans, cooked, rinsed and drained
4 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1-2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound frozen spinach
Sour cream (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Chopped cilantro

Heat a little olive oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat. Pat the pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Brown the pork in batches, remove from the casserole and reserve.

Adding more oil if necessary, put the onion, carrot, celery, spices and herbs in the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 7-8 minutes. Add the chipotle, jalapeno and garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.Red_Bean_Chili_Pork_Butternut_Squash_02

Add the pork, beans, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, wine and bay leaf to the vegetables and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the casserole and transfer to the oven. Cook at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the butternut squash for a few minutes or until lightly caramelized but still firm. Add the squash to the chili and continue simmering for 10-15 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for 5 minutes more.

Serve the chili garnished with sour cream, cheddar, pumpkin seeds and cilantro.

The chili can be made one day ahead. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. Reheat on medium or in a 350 degree oven, stirring several times, until bubbly.

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One Year Ago – Piri Piri Prawns
One Year Ago – French Lentil Soup
Two Years Ago – Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup
Three Years Ago – My Favorite Chili
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are you cooking this winter? 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