First in the Nation – Primary Day in New Hampshire & Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic

I_votedThose of us lucky enough to live in New Hampshire have lots to be proud of. (Yes, yes, I know. For the grammar police, that should be … lots of which to be proud.) Anyway, our glorious foliage in the fall is world famous. But that’s not all. Our state offers beautiful lakes for swimming, waterskiing and sailing, country roads for cycling and mountains for skiing and hiking. And finally, more than a few luminaries hail from the Granite State. Bode Miller, Robert Frost and the Budweiser Clydesdales are the first that come to mind.

Then, every four years, our brilliant leaves and wonderful outdoorsy activities pale in comparison to the hoopla created around our first in the nation primary. As for those famous faces? We’ll brag about them again later. For now, they take a backseat to the notables who travel our highways and byways during primary season. Suddenly, our little state is the place to be.

The excitement goes on for months. The candidates were here last summer to march in Fourth of July parades, still here in October to buy pumpkins for Halloween and back again in December to pick up their Christmas trees. Unlike the rest of the country, except of course for Iowa who threw their caucus last week, we get to see all of the presidential candidates up front and personal.

Followed by packs of handlers and journalists, they hold court in town halls and coffee shops. We have a front row seat to their every move. And, if by chance we miss something, well, the leading story on the evening news invariably starts with, “In New Hampshire today …”

Admittedly, this election has been more entertaining than most. Neither Barnum nor Baily could have staged a more interesting spectacle. Sometimes inspiring, other times infuriating, frightening, or laugh out loud funny, no one can deny the theatrical quality of this particular election. Part pep rally, part revival meeting, part over-rehearsed and part improvisation, it is the best reality television has to offer. From the soft-spoken few to the wild-eyed and impassioned many, none of the candidates are short on declarations, recriminations, claims and counterclaims. Look up melodrama in an on-line dictionary and you’ll find multiple links to the 2016 primary campaign.

Speaking of Barnum and Bailey, the republicans started out with enough candidates to fill a clown car. (It’s true; I checked the math.) Party establishment types, upstarts, a billionaire and a brain surgeon, jammed into the car. While the republican field still has plenty of candidates, several have been trumped. Their numbers are rapidly dwindling and the clown car is now half-empty. Or should I say half-full? Anyway, I expect that the New Hampshire primary will help to weed out a few more.

What about the democrats? In the early days of the campaign, the rivalry on the democratic side was not so much dull as nonexistent. Forget the clown car; a unicycle was about all the democrats needed for their parade. Then, one of our neighbors from Vermont, stepped into the race. Democrats across the Granite State and across the country are feeling the Bern. The democratic run to the convention may have fewer players but the contest is getting more and more interesting.

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting cloudy skies and a chance of scattered snow flurries on primary day. Assuming that the farmer is correct and you have some flexibility as to when you go to the polls, you’ll have no excuse to stay home. Besides, they’ll give you an I VOTED TODAY sticker. With any luck, that sticker will buy you a free cup of coffee or a doughnut. If not, well then, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did your part and contributed to the democratic process.

Don’t forget to vote and bon appétit!

Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic
In the old days, politicians promised a chicken in every pot. Try this one on primary night. You’ll be glad you did. Enjoy!
Serves 4

2-3 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
About 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup or more dry white wine
1/2 cup or more chicken broth
4 ounces fresh (peeled and trimmed) or frozen pearl onions
4-6 cloves garlic, trimmed, peeled and left whole
8 ounces whole mushrooms, trimmed and cut in half or quarters

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

Put the bacon in a skillet and place over medium-low heat. Stirring occasion, cook until the bacon is crisp. Reserve.

Sprinkle the chicken with half of the herbs de Provence and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot skillet. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the onions, mushrooms and garlic in a bowl, sprinkle with the remaining herbs, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add the bacon and drizzle with enough bacon fat to lightly coat and toss again.

Put the mustard in a measuring cup or small bowl, whisking constantly slowly add the wine and broth.

Turn the chicken, add the wine and broth mixture and scatter the mushrooms, onions and garlic around the pan. Return the pan to the oven. Adding more wine and broth if necessary, continue roasting until the chicken is cooked through and golden and the vegetables are tender and caramelized, 30-45 minutes more.

Serve the chicken thighs with a spoonful of mushrooms, onion and garlic.

A great dish for a party, double or triple the recipe use a large roasting pan. This recipe is very forgiving. If dinner is delayed, add more broth and wine, reduce the oven temperature and let it bubble for an additional 30, even 45, minutes. It can also be made ahead and reheated.

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One Year Ago – Capellini with Lobster & Caviar
Two Years Ago – Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Three Years Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Five Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Six Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Seven Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies

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

How are you doing with your resolutions? Are you resolute or not? 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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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

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