November is National Caregiver Month & Oven Braised Moroccan Chicken & Vegetables

National Caregiver Month, what does that even mean? Throughout the year, more than forty million people care for a family member. More often than not, the person receiving the care is elderly. If your only grasp of multi-generational living is the Waltons, well, it’s not always that rosy a picture. Sure, the story of three generations living and loving under one roof was a huge hit. Who didn’t drop everything on Thursday night to watch? However, in today’s reality, multi-generation households often mean one grandparent or the other or both are troubled by Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease, stroke or heart issues.

Family members are then pressed into action. Most caregivers are women. They are wives, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, sisters and nieces. A few husbands, fathers, sons, grandsons, brothers and nephews pitch in for good measure. The only payment they receive are the smiles of appreciation from their loved one.

Why do these brave women and men deserve a month of recognition? And by the way, who says they’re all that brave anyway? Well, to steal from an old saying – you can’t truly understand the life of a caregiver until you walk a mile in her shoes.

After she developed Alzheimer’s Disease, my dad was my mother’s caregiver. In Mom’s case, it was a slow and steady decline over twenty years. The first ten years were difficult. The last ten were something else. As Mom’s infirmities worsened, Dad developed back problems and then a post-surgery infection. It is not at all uncommon for caregivers to fall ill with something or other. Stress can be quite devious.

Dad’s prognosis of six to eight weeks to heal stretched out to eight months. Then there was another year and a half to fully recover and get back on track. His caretaking days were over. Mom needed round-the-clock care and moved to assisted living. Since he couldn’t drive and could barely walk, I moved in with Dad to help. I can only describe those first few months as drinking from a firehose.

There are as many scenarios as there are families. Your loved one can have physical difficulties, cognitive issues or both. The problems can be mild or severe. Onslaught can be fast or slow but, in most cases, the situation doesn’t improve with age. Although, my mother did not recover (you don’t recover from Alzheimer’s Disease), my dad did. No matter what seemingly never-ending ups and downs, caretaking requires constant adjustment to an ever-changing new normal.

Some caregivers find that their new normal includes the unimaginable. No one ever expects to help a spouse or a parent shower, dress, use the bathroom or eat. Although rarely discussed, helping with these simple daily tasks is quite real. Add frequent trips to the doctor, pharmacy and emergency room and you’ll understand why the days are never ending.

Oh, and by the way, most caregivers have a day job, full or part time, along with caring for their loved one. Morning comes early and bedtime is late. There are no days off. Finding yourself exhausted, on deadline and the verge of tears at eleven o’clock at night is part of the new normal.

Some families, like mine, have the good fortune to be able to add professional help to the mix. Others go it alone. My heart goes out to all the families that go it alone. I can not imagine.

Hug a caregiver this month and bon appétit!

Oven Braised Moroccan Chicken and Vegetables
Cozy comfort food is perfect for the rainy days of November. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8-12 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
8-12 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
Olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 cup or more dry white wine
2 cups or more chicken broth
12-16 ounces baby spinach or kale
Lemon or lime wedges, for garnish (optional)
Basmati rice

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Put the oregano and spices in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the chicken with half of the spice mix. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the vegetables in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining spice mix and toss to coat and combine.

Turn the chicken, scatter the vegetables in the pan and add the wine and broth.

Return the pan to the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Adding more wine and broth if necessary, continue roasting until the chicken is cooked through and golden and the vegetables are tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes more.

While the chicken braises, cook the rice according to package directions.

Remove the chicken from the pan, lightly cover and reserve.

A few handfuls at a time, add the spinach to the pan and toss to combine and wilt. Add a little broth if necessary and return to the pan to the oven for 3-5 minutes or until piping hot.

Transfer the vegetables to a deep serving dish or individual shallow bowls, top with chicken and serve with basmati rice and lemon or lime wedges.

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

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

What’s your favorite pasta and sauce? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

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The Final Days of Summer & Citrus & Spice Grilled Chicken

I’m one of those people. Sound intriguing – sorry, it’s not. I’m the kind of person who arrives at the supermarket at the exact same time as the rest of humanity. The parking lot is always full. It’s not just that the aisles are crowded with shoppers and their carts. No, that would be too easy. During my shopping excursions, traffic is further stalled by employees frantically restocking shelves. It doesn’t end there. No, the checkouts lines are always miles long.

Imagine my surprise last Thursday morning. First, I found a parking space close to the store. Next, the aisles were smooth sailing. Finally, each checkout line had one, maybe two people in it and no one’s cart was filled to overflowing. I was in and out in minutes. That’s when I realized, the summer people or at least a good many of them have up and left. It was a sign.

I headed to the farmstand, again, no lines. As I drove home, I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of the first red leaves. I reassured myself that a few trees always turn early. As I unpacked my groceries, I planned a pleasant evening on the porch. Fast forward several hours, with silverware in hand and ready to set the table, I realized with dismay that it was too chilly to eat outside.

The signs continue to pile up. The dawn’s early light is getting later and later while sunset comes too soon. I suddenly find I need a long sleeve shirt on my early morning walk. Like it or not, summer is singing its last swan song.

As for the summer people, even with shorter days and cooler mornings, I’m sure most of them would rather be here than wherever they are. Who wouldn’t – but I guess they don’t have a choice. After weeks of silence, school bells are starting to ring. The first yellow buses have been spotted. Practice fields are filling up in the afternoon.

With the days flying by, it’s time for one last celebration of summer. Back-to-school shopping can wait. You know everything will be on sale Columbus Day weekend, right? For now, I can’t think of anything better than playing and relaxing outside. To help you get started, here’s more than a day’s worth of ideas –

How about you …

… start the morning with yoga and a sun salutation.
… visit a farmers market.
… pick blueberries.
… take a hike.
… go on a long bike ride.
… sit on a beach.
… read a book.
… swim.
… waterski.
… paddle a SUP or sail a boat.
… sit some more, wait until dark and skinny dip.
… cook dinner over a campfire.
… make s’mores
… raise your glass and toast the moon.
… sleep under the stars.

Happy Labor Day and bon appétit!

Citrus & Spice Grilled Chicken
Take your grilled chicken to the next level with citrus, spice and fresh herbs. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup roughly chopped onion
1-2 tablespoons or to taste harissa or sriracha
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lime
About 2 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
Garnish: Citrus Salsa Verde

Put the garlic, onion, harissa, cumin, cinnamon and cloves in a small food processor, season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil and pulse until the garlic and onion are finely chopped. Add the orange and lime zests and juices and process until smooth.

Slather both sides of the chicken with the marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and several hours if you can.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Place the chicken on the grill and cook about 5 minutes per side or until nicely browned and cooked through.

Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes and serve with a generous drizzle of Citrus Salsa Verde.

Citrus Salsa Verde
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2-1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups cilantro leaves
1 cup mint leaves
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lime

Put the garlic and jalapeno in a small food processor, season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil and pulse until finely chopped.

Add the cilantro, mint, orange and lime zest and juice and process until smooth.

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

What’s on your final days of summer bucket list? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Jump In – The Water’s Fine Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli

I am nothing if not lucky. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, I’m absolutely, utterly and totally lucky. Growing up, my sister, brother and I had all sorts of wonderful opportunities. In the summer, we spent two weeks impatiently waiting for a ride to the town beach, two weeks at camp and a month on the Cape. Between the town beach and camp, we learned to swim. While they are now long gone, at least for a while, Mom had the certificates to prove it.

Whether at camp or the town beach, swimming lessons were serious business. For one thing, our instructors wore uniforms – red Speedos with a special lifeguard patch. Regardless of the weather, classes were held first thing in the morning. In addition to the red Speedos, these tyrants sported a whistle and did not hesitate to blow it. Every morning, they’d bark orders and toot the whistle as they put us through our drills: crawl, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and sidestroke.

All those swimming lessons were endured for one reason and one reason only – to pass the raft test. Without a doubt, passing the raft test was an important rite of passage. By important, I mean it was right up there with birth, death and marriage. Although, at seven or eight, I’m not sure we paid much attention to these milestones. In any case, swimming to the raft was certainly more important than a first haircut or high school diploma. Swimming to the raft meant that you were one of the big kids.

The town beach had two rafts. Both required a swimming test. The first was more than difficult. The second was almost beyond endurance. However, it was worth the struggle. As we all know, there is not a little kid alive who doesn’t vie for the privileges of older siblings and neighbors. In the scheme of life, earning a driver’s license is perhaps the only challenge on par with (and possibly more significant than) passing the raft test. That said; a three-point turn on a hill is nothing compared to the hundreds of laps required to exit the baby area and join the big kids on that elusive raft. Okay, so maybe it was only eight or twelve laps but it seemed like hundreds.

For a long time, I thought everyone knew how to swim. When you grow up in New England, in spite of our short summers, swimming is part of life. From the ice-cold ocean to a somewhat tepid pond, opportunities abound. As added insurance, our school district mandated swimming lessons for all sixth graders. Once a week, we hopped on a bus and headed to a pool for swimming lessons. No kid was going slip through the cracks.

Eventually, life took me outside of my familiar New England boundaries. On my quest for adventure, my horizons expanded and I met all sorts of wonderful people. Imagine my surprise to learn that a good many of them could barely swim a stroke. Meeting these non-swimmers reminded me of the charmed existence I lived as a child.

When you’re young, swimming is all about the joy of diving under the lines that keep your little brother and his friends safe in shallow water. It’s the wonderful sense of freedom from swimming away from the crowded beach. It’s the feeling of strength and accomplishment as you climb out of the cool lake and on the raft. It’s the fun and silliness when that cute boy throws you back in.

News stories of a dozen young boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave is a powerful reminder of my fabulously lucky life. So, to those Speedo-clad tyrants, their whistles and drills, I say thank you. My crawl may be weak but I can do a decent breaststroke for about a mile, maybe more.

Enjoy the water, stay safe and have a wonderful summer. Bon appétit!

Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli
A taste of Provençal sunshine – hot off the grill. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 – 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 ounces goat cheese, sliced
8 burger buns

Make the Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium hot.

Divide the turkey into 8 pieces and gently pat into patties, brush both sides with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the turkey burgers on the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip and continue grilling for 2 minutes. Top each burger with sliced goat cheese and grill for 1 minute more.

Place the buns on the grill, turning once, and toast for 1 minute or less. Pop each turkey burger onto a bun, add a dollop of Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli and serve.

Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli
Makes about 1 cup

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2/3 cup prepared mayonnaise
1/3 cup tapenade (recipe follows)

Put the garlic, rosemary and lemon juice into the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until finely chopped and combined. Add the mayonnaise and tapenade and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Tapenade
Makes about 1 cup

Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes or to taste
About 8 ounces dry pack, oil cured black olives, pitted

Throw everything except the olives into the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until well chopped and combined. About a quarter at a time, add the olives and process until smooth. You may need to add a little more olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or more to combine the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Blueberry Bread Pudding
Two Years Ago – Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Three Years Ago – Cheesecake Brownies
Four Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Five Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Sic Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Seven Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Eight Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Nine Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

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

What’s your summer beach story? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Choose Kindness & Grilled Moroccan Chicken with Chickpea Salsa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaving you with thoughts of kindness and bon appétit!

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

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

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

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

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

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

Chickpea Salsa
Makes about 3 cups

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

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

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

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One Year Ago – Pissaladière
Two Years Ago – Tabbouleh
Three Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado
Four Years Ago – Grilled Balsamic Vegetables
Five Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Six Years Ago – Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Seven Years Ago – Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Eight Years Ago – Feta Walnut Spread
Nine Years Ago – Bruschetta with Grilled Vegetables & Gorgonzola
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How do you choose kindness? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Surviving Mud Season & Vindaloo Chicken

A week ago Monday, the day dawned with about six inches of cement-like snow in the yard. Only the day before, cheery crocuses were blooming and an inch of two of daffodils had broken ground. It was a bit disheartening to say the least and I wasn’t alone in my dismay.

Everyone had a joke. Mother Nature forgot to tell Father Time it was spring. It’s not the 15th of April, it’s 106th of January. After all, if we don’t laugh we might cry. The snow did raise a few hopes. Would it put a damper on next month’s black flies? (Unfortunately no, a hard frost in May will do that but not snow in April.)

I don’t know why these April storms surprise us. Perhaps we are in denial and only pretend to be surprised. After a few decades away, I admit I more or less had forgotten about New Hampshire’s snowy Aprils. However, my return to reality was swift and sure. The last one hundred or so miles of my journey home were in a snowstorm – it was  April 22.

Let’s face it; we live in a land known for its many seasons. In late October or early November, almost-winter begins. It is followed by winter. Winter is a great time for those of us who like to ski or snowshoe. Unfortunately, around the time the lifts close, still-winter or mud season begins. Spring, for all intents and purposes, is nonexistent.

Okay, I will grudgingly admit it. Sometime in late May or early June, we are not-so-blessed with a few days of black fly infested spring. Finally, there is a wonderful burst of summer, followed by a glorious fall. As lovely as these two mini seasons are, they are just that – mini. Together they barely make up a third of the year.

When it comes to surviving mud season, here’s what I got. It ain’t much but it’s about the best I can offer:

Defy all logic and smile. Smile, even if your car gets stuck in the slush or you loose a sneaker in the mud. It’s hard to be unhappy when you are smiling. If you don’t believe me, try it. Still not convinced? Well, then leaf through a pile of old Scientific Americans; the proof is in there somewhere.

Buy a ridiculously colorful raincoat and an even brighter pair of wellies (also known as rain boots.) It’s okay if they don’t match. Both will keep you dry and make you laugh. It’s hard to be unhappy when you are laughing. (See above for proof.)

If you can, get out of town, if only for a weekend or a day. You don’t need to go all the way to the Bahamas or Hawaii for a change. Spend some time in the city – any city will do. When was the last time you visited a museum? It’s been a while hasn’t it? How about shopping and lunch in a smart café? Indulge a bit; you deserve it.

Happy mud season and bon appétit!

Vindaloo Chicken
When New Hampshire turns muddy, I have a yearning for dishes from warmer climates. Curry is one of my favorites. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

6-8 bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil
6-8 tablespoons Vindaloo Paste*
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 carrots, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups (14-15 ounce can) unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup or more chicken stock
1 pound baby spinach
1 1/2-2 cups basmati rice
1/2 cup chopped cashews, toasted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a little oil a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Starting skin-side down, sear the chicken for about 2 minutes per each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve.

Put the Vindaloo Paste in the pan and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Add the bay leaf, stir in the white wine and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

Return the chicken to the pan with any juices and wiggle the pieces down into the vegetables.
Transfer the pan to the oven and cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked-through and nicely browned. Check the pan after about 30 minutes and add more chicken stock if necessary.

While the chicken braises, cook the rice according to package directions.

Remove the chicken from the pan, arrange in a deep serving platter and cover to keep warm.

Return the skillet to the stove and place over medium-high heat. Add the spinach in handfuls, toss to coat with sauce and cook, stirring, until all the spinach has wilted, 2-3 minutes.

Spoon the vegetables and sauce around and over the chicken, sprinkle with cashews and serve with basmati rice.

* You can find Vindaloo Paste in specialty stores, online and in some larger supermarkets … or you can make your own.

Vindaloo Paste
Makes about 1 cup

1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cloves
6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2-4 or to taste fresh bird’s eye chilies, chopped
1 cup loosely pack fresh cilantro
1/4 cup crushed tomatoes
About 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Put the spices and seeds in a small food processor and pulse to combine and grind the seeds.

Add the garlic, ginger, chilies and cilantro and pulse to chop and combine. Add the crushed tomatoes and process to combine.

Add the vegetable oil and process until the mixture forms a smooth paste.

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One Year Ago – I Love Lime Pie
Two Years Ago – Quinoa Salad
Three Years Ago – Latkes
Four Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Five Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Six Years Ago – Espresso Brownies
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Scones
Eight Years Ago – Shrimp with Jicama Slaw
Nine Years Ago – Pork Mole
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have a plastic pollution solution? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

The Taxman Cometh & Poverty Stew with Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde

It doesn’t rain but it pours. If you live in northern New England and it’s April, that’s both literally and figuratively. As if April wasn’t bad enough already with mud season, someone had to throw in Tax Day. Sure, I knew it was coming but I was too busy skiing to start in March let alone February.

With a week to go, I’m scrambling to get through all the forms. I think I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. It’s not the difficulty; I can add and subtract. (Heck, I can multiple and divide too.) It’s the complexity, the arcane language and wading through all those forms. Before you go and recommend one, I already use one of those software tax packages. Except for the one W2, the pile of 1099s and receipts from the dentist, home office expense and the like, I’m not shuffling paper. The majority of the slogging is from one screen to another. It may be automated but the whole thing still feels like a quagmire. Come to think of it, all those forms and receipts are still a lot of paper.

That’s what I get for being part of the gig economy. Gigs – sounds like fun doesn’t it. Not only is it a cute little word but it reminds me of musicians. While it definitely has its benefits, it’s not always as cool as it sounds. The gig economy is all about contract work, part-time and temporary jobs. Musicians, writers and artists have been doing it forever.

Now, everybody is getting in on the action. Corporations, large and small, are hiring gig workers to fill gaps and manage the ebbs and flow of business. Some gigs are fulltime and last for months. They’re the consultants, software developers and graphic designers who come on board for big projects. I’m guessing H&R Block has been hiring gig workers like crazy for the past month or so.

Not all gigs are nine to five. Many are for a few hours a week – the teacher who tutors your reluctant fourth grader. Some giggers start young – the middle schooler who walks your dog. Some are seasonal. Think of the guy who cuts your grass every summer. Others, like your Uber driver, start and finish a gig in less than an hour.

Long or short, it doesn’t matter. Before you know it, the gig is up and it’s time to find a new one.

I love gig work because it opens the door to all sorts of interesting, new people, experiences and places. From the everyday to special occasions, I’m delighted to cover it. I’ve written about celebrations and tragedies as well as history, religion, traditions and the lack-of. Every story is a challenge. Every story is an adventure.

Gig work isn’t perfect. You’re generally on your own for health insurance, retirement savings and whatever other benefits a company might offer. Forget about paid vacation time, sick days or holidays. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Then, when it comes to filing your taxes, gone are the days of a single W2. With multiple employers, you have a pile of W2s and/or 1099s plus a bunch of self-employment driven deductions. As I said, it’s not difficult; it just takes a while, like forever.

Happy tax season and bon appétit!

Poverty Stew with Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde
Whether you get a refund or need to write a check, this hearty stew will get you through all the shuffling and calculations. If you need to write a really big check, skip the chicken. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound dried black beans
2 bay leaves
12-16 ounces hot (or sweet) Italian sausage, casings removed
Olive oil
About 3 pounds chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon or to taste pureed chipotle in adobo*
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup espresso or strong coffee
About 4 cups chicken stock or broth
Sweet Potato Polenta or plain polenta cooked according to package directions
Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde (recipes follows)

Rinse and soak the beans overnight in 10-12 cups water.

Drain and rinse the beans, put them in a pot, add water to cover by 3-4 inches and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until tender, 45 minutes-1 hour.

Meanwhile, lightly coat a casserole with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Breaking it up into pieces, sauté the sausage until cooked through, remove from the pan, drain and let cool. When it is cool enough to handle, finely chop the sausage. Reserve.

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the casserole, skin side down and cook until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the casserole and reserve.

Put the onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper, spices and oregano in the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the wine, espresso, sausage, beans and remaining bay leaf.

Add the chicken and wiggle the pieces about half way down into the beans, add enough stock to cover the beans plus about an inch. Bring everything to a simmer and transfer to the oven.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 30-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 30 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, remove the chicken from the casserole. Discard the skin and bones and cut or tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Stir the chicken back into the beans.

The stew is best if be covered and refrigerated for several hours or overnight.

Reheat the stew on the stovetop or in a 350-degree oven until bubbling.

Serve the stew with a spoonful of Sweet Potato Polenta and a dollop of Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde.

* Toss a can of chipotle peppers along with the adobo in a small food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a clean glass jar, store in the refrigerator and use as needed.

Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon or to taste roughly chopped jalapeno
About 2 cups cilantro leaves
1/4 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

Put the lime zest and juice, garlic, scallion and jalapeno in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse to chop and combine. Add the cilantro and olive oil, season with salt and process until finely chopped and well combined.

Let the salsa sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Pound Cake
Two Years Ago – Lavender Scones
Three Years Ago – Calzones with Marinara Sauce
Four Years Ago – Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake
Five Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with Pasta
Six Years Ago – Steamed Artichokes with Bagna Cauda or Warm Lemon-Garlic Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Cake
Eight Years Ago – Filet de Perche Meunière
Nine Years Ago – Chicken Provençal

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

How are you coping with tax season? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018