Talk, Talk, Talk & Morning Glory Muffins

The first telephone call, as in the first ever, was made one hundred and forty-four years ago today. Alexander Graham Bell picked up the phone and gave us the immortal words, “Mr. Watson – come here – I want to see you.”  Things haven’t been the same since.

Now, my grandparents didn’t have telephones in their homes when they were little. They were all born on one side of 1900 or the other. At the turn of the last century, less than one percent of American’s could phone home.

Telephones were more commonplace during my parents’ childhoods. By the end of World War II, the ratio of phones to people was one to five. Dad is quite proud that he can still remember his first phone number, as well as his grandfather’s. Or is it Grandpa’s license plate number he remembers?

Growing up, everyone in our neighborhood had a phone. Very early on, they were black with rotary dials and sat on a special table in the front hall. Those tables had a shelf for the phonebook and a not-at-all comfortable seat to discourage long chats. Although I don’t know what you’d do with it, those tables still pop up at the occasional yard sale.

It didn’t take long for wall phones to take over. Telephones, in an array of coordinating colors, moved out of the hall and into the kitchen. I don’t know it for a fact but I suspect it was so mothers could monitor teenage calls. Telephone cords grew exponentially as kids tried to escape prying ears.

Maybe there’s a connection, maybe not, but at about the same time, push buttons replaced rotary dials. In addition, many families installed a second phone, often in the parental bedroom. Meant for urgent, middle of the night calls, my sister and I used ours to escape eavesdroppers.

A few, make that very few, of our more affluent friends had their own telephone. Or at least, they shared it with their brothers or sisters. Right there in the phonebook, you’d see their last name and Children’s Phone. At sixteen, every girl’s dream was to have her own, personal number and a pink princess phone. The only girl I knew who had one was Barbie and she wasn’t even a person.

At college, our dorms were not limited to a single pay phone in the basement. That was the generation before me. Each room had a phone. On Sundays, I called home collect and asked for Susie. She was never home. A few minutes later, Mom or Dad called back to hear the news of the week. Only the most homesick students called home more often and they dropped out by Christmas.

Moving to Switzerland was a telephone flash back. Although beige instead of black, the phone in my first apartment had a rotary dial and weighed a ton. I eventually donated it to a local theater group.

From clunker to cell phone, it wasn’t long before I found myself asking, “Can you hear me now?” My first cell phone was hugely expensive but, thankfully, the company paid for it. Battery life was short, there was no texting or internet connection and reception was spotty. It didn’t matter. Only the cool kids had company phones. Traveling one hundred and fifty days or more a year had its perks.

I now juggle a smart phone, a landline and an office number. As handy as they are, telephones are not high on my list of favorite things. How is that the phone always interrupts at the most inopportune times but refuses to ring when I’d like nothing better than a diversion?

Call someone you love this week just to say hello and bon appétit!

Morning Glory Muffins

Whether you invite friends over for a healthy brunch or brown bag your breakfast to the office, these muffins will be a great addition to your morning. Enjoy!

Makes about 2 dozen muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick cook oatmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce, preferably homemade but store-bought is okay
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

Put the flour, oatmeal, baking soda and powder, salt and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Put the carrots, coconut, walnuts and raisins in a bowl and toss to combine. Set aside.

Put the sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well combined. Add the applesauce, sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Use a rubber spatula to fold in the carrots, coconut, walnuts and raisins.

Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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If you could call anyone – living or dead – who would it be and what would you want to ask and/or tell them? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2020

 

The Night Before Christmas & Roasted Butternut Squash & Sausage Tart

Over the years, my family’s Christmas and Christmas Eve traditions have morphed and changed. Tiny tots or the lack of have been a key driver to where and how we spend the holidays. It all started with my mother. As soon as my sister came along, she declared that children should be home for Christmas. Grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins were welcomed with open arms. The more the merrier as long as Mom didn’t have to pile kids and dogs and presents and onsies into the car. Her kids were going to sleep (or not) in their own beds on Christmas Eve.

Years later, my sister and brother followed Mom’s example. That’s when the holiday became a mini road trip for Mom, Dad and me. Christmas Eve was spent with John and family and Christmas Day with Brenda and her crew. They lived less than an hour apart so the trip was far from taxing.

Today, there are no wee babies or even small children in the family. There haven’t been for a while. In addition, my brother and family now live a couple of miles down the road. For the past few years, we’ve spent Christmas Eve at my house. The better part of Christmas Day has been spent at John’s. But, you ask, what about my sister and fam?

Since we always try to do our best to extend any holiday for another day or two or three, the fun continues. Dad’s birthday is the 27th (yes, poor Daddy-o is an almost-Christmas baby), so, Brenda and family come over for a post-Christmas plus birthday celebratory brunch.

Of all these events, I think that Christmas Eve dinner is quite possibly my favorite. If I’m smart, I have all my presents bought and wrapped. My little tree is decorated, nutcrackers guard the mantle and greens fill the house with a piney scent. Best of all, around four o’clock, my nieces burst in the door ready to cook.

Christmas Eve – the girlies with Grandpa!

When they were little, their father called them the twirling girlies. They had boundless energy then and they have boundless energy still. They are smart, resourceful and brave. Not to mention, they have the most beautiful smiles. Just being in a room together makes me happy.

Aprons are passed out. We put on some music, pop a cork, maybe two, chat, laugh and chat some more. All the while, there is a whole lot of chopping, stirring and rolling going on. The table is set in festive red and green. Cooking tips are passed back and forth. Family history is shared. New news is exchanged. In spite of whatever bias I may harbor, I can state unequivocally that these are three remarkable young women. Plus, two out of the three really like to cook. The third is not quite there yet but she’s slowly coming around. In any case, all cooks love both an audience and someone to entertain them. She handles both tasks beautifully.

It is a wonderful thing to share something you love with people you love. I’m sure there will come day when our traditions will morph and change again. For now, I’m just relishing the time I get to spend with the girlies in my kitchen.

Wishing you a happy holiday season filled with love and joy. Bon appétit!

Roasted Butternut Squash & Sausage Tart

Christmas morning or birthday celebration, this hearty quiche is perfect for a festive brunch. Enjoy!

Serves 6-8

  • Savory Flaky Pastry (recipe follows)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausage – sweet or hot or a mix, casings removed
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) seeded, peeled and chopped butternut squash
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • About 2 cups (8 ounces) cheddar cheese, grated
  • About 1/3 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups half & half or whole milk or a mix

Roll out the Savory Flaky Pastry dough on a lightly floured surface. Line a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with the pastry and crimp the edges. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Breaking it up into small pieces, sauté the sausage until cooked through, remove from the pan and drain. Cool to room temperature.

Put the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, rosemary and thyme and toss to combine. Return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender. Cool to room temperature.

Bump up the oven temperature to 450 degrees.

Put the cheeses in a bowl, sprinkle with the flour and nutmeg and toss to coat.

Put half cheeses in the tart shell and top with the vegetables and sausage. Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

Put the eggs and mustard in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk until well combined. Slowly add the half & half, whisking until well combined. Leaving at least 1/4-inch at the top of the tart shell, pour in the egg mixture.

Transfer the tart to the oven. Cook for 5 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking until the custard is set and tart is golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.

Savory Flaky Pastry 

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 2-4 tablespoons ice water

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and shortening and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, cover and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

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

Home for Lunch Bunch & Greek Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy back to school and bon appétit! 

Greek Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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

Makes 4 sandwiches

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

Preheat the grill to high.

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

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

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

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

Cut the sandwiches into wedges and serve.

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

 

Begin with a Single Step & Rhubarb-Walnut Muffins

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
From Tao Te Ching by Laozi

I need a new word; one that combines sad and angry. Three mass murders in eight days created this mix of emotions. These most recent crimes are on top of the tens of thousands of annual gun deaths and injuries. Foot-dragging politicians talk about mental illness, video games  and the need for more information. Then, if history repeats itself, they will do nothing. No study group will be formed. No funding will be provided. The outrage will subside. The moment for action will pass until the next crisis.

While I am sure that common psychological or sociological threads can be found, let’s face it – each crime is perpetrated by an individual. Some are fueled by hate, some by despair. Some are part of a larger criminal enterprise; others are powered by extremist religious or political fervor. Some are the product of mental illness, drugs or alcohol abuse. Some perpetrators were bullied. Others are bullies. There is no one root cause, no single, elusive answer. Gun violence is complex. There is a long list of explanations for each terrible crime. However, there is one constant, one common denominator. Regardless of the crime – mass murder, drive by shooting, burglary gone bad or family violence turned deadly – easy access to guns makes it possible.

We will never make any progress, if we don’t take a first step. The vast majority of Americans want sensible gun control. And yes, my definition of sensible may be different from yours. But again, we will never get anywhere if we don’t take a first step. We need to make the effort. We need to try. The step can be small. It can be a compromise. We just need to take the first step … and then another and one more after that. Eventually, what is now very imperfect will become a little less so.

This morning I made muffins. I find peace in the Zen of everyday activities. Simple tasks, done one after another, are grounding. Recipes, no matter how complex, are nothing more than taking one step and then another and another to make something. Something you can share. Something that makes the day a little better or brighter or at least keeps you from going hungry.

I measured flour, baking powder and spices. I preheated the oven. I chopped rhubarb and nuts. I whipped butter and sugar, added eggs, vanilla and sour cream. The dry ingredients gradually joined the wet, followed by the rhubarb. Not done yet, I scooped the batter into muffin tins and then slid them into the oven. All told, I guess it took about a dozen steps.

Fifteen minutes later, they were golden and delicious. However, if you arrived at my door hoping to find a big breakfast, an all-encompassing solution to your morning hunger, it wasn’t there. Only muffins, one piece of what could become a more comprehensive feast.

A friend did come over. I took two more steps; brewed coffee and heated milk. We sipped lattes and ate a few of the muffins. We had a lovely chat about writing and freelancing and making a living as well as life and a few other things. Progress of a different sort was made.

Although some may lead you astray, most steps take you at least a little closer to where you need to be; closer to a more perfect imperfection. If the life of one child, one teenager, one man, one woman can be saved by taking the first step, isn’t it worth the effort? Isn’t it worth a try?

Here’s to a safer tomorrow and bon appétit!

Rhubarb-Walnut Muffins
A neighbor gave me an armful of rhubarb the other day so I made muffins. They are delicious as a little something to nibble with coffee or tea. Or include them in your next brunch – maybe you refer to it as a comprehensive solution to morning hunger. Enjoy!
Makes 36 muffins

4 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
12 ounces fresh rhubarb, cut into small dice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

Put the flour, baking powder and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the walnuts and whisk again.

Put the sugars and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat until well combined.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Gradually add the rhubarb and continue beating until just combined.

Use an ice cream scoop or two spoons to fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full with batter.

Bake in the middle of the oven until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Cool the muffins on a rack for a few minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Olives & Feta
Two Years Ago – Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn, Tomatoes & Salsa Verde
Three Years Ago – Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Cucumber & Feta
Four Years Ago – Bluebree Grunt
Five Years Ago – Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache
Six Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Seven Years Ago – Filet de Sole Meunière
Eight Years Ago – Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp 
Nine Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Chicken
Ten Years Ago – Corn & Tomato Salad
Eleven Years Ago – Summer Rolls

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

How do find peace during chaos? Feel free to share!

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

You Gotta Love a Nurse & Artichoke, Spinach & Goat Cheese Tart

I think I’m one of thousands, probably millions, who was incensed and disgusted a week or two ago. A thoughtless politician on the other coast suggested that nurses in rural hospitals sit around most of the day playing cards. After cooling down a bit (it took a while), I put on my be-nice-cap. Although still sort of fuming, the trying-to-be-nice Susan decided that the thoughtless critic has never spent any time in a hospital with a sick friend or family member. For the last seven or so years, first with two, now with one elderly parent, I have lots of experience with hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In fact, I’m so good at it that a friend brings me along to her appointments when she feels the need for a second pair of ears.

Television has given us a look, real or imagined, into the workings of big city hospitals. The emergency room is a favorite stage. Beds line the hallways and waiting rooms are filled to the brim. There is drama behind every curtain and romance in the stockroom. Now, I can’t attest to any storage closet shenanigans. However, there is usually at least a little drama around every bed in every hospital, urban, suburban and rural, across America. Yes, that’s right – every bed; tears, fears and joy are not confined to the ER or large population centers.

Small as they may be, these heartfelt dramas play out around the clock, week in and week out. They include the personal worries of knowing that someone you love is in pain, ill or in some kind of trouble – again. There are staff concerns when yet another patient arrives in pain, ill or in some kind of trouble – and alone.

Beautiful sunny, Saturday afternoons or snowy Thursday nights, illnesses and accidents happen twenty-four by seven, three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. There are no commercial breaks. Every day and night, rural hospitals feature scenes of love and loss, of hope and joy, of deep sadness and pure exhaustion. For each and every one of these mini dramas, nurses and nursing assistants are there … and they’re not playing cards. They know that, when it’s your loved one, the drama is hardly mini.

As we approach Mother’s Day, I can’t help but think of all the wonderful nurses and nursing assistants who helped my mother They embraced her with all her frailties and all her quirks. They treated her with kindness and dignity. The nurses I know have an uncanny ability to see beyond illness, beyond disabilities into the heart, mind and soul of the people they are helping.

Doctors come and go, checking in on patients once or twice, maybe three times a day. Nurses are one-on-one with them throughout their long shift. Day and night, from seven to seven, nurses are on duty, caring and watching out for your loved one. Not just for my mom or yours, they are there for the entire family. When they ask, “How are you?” It’s not a polite platitude, they want to know if you are taking care of yourself. When they tell you to get some rest, they aren’t kidding. A nurse may be taking care of your mom or dad or child or spouse but they are looking out for you too.

This year, Mother’s Day falls at the end of National Nurses Week. Honor your mom by hugging a nurse. Thank a nurse. Thank your lucky stars there are nurses on this planet. And by the way, rural hospitals are not perfect but if you’re looking for a card game, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Happy Mother’s Day and bon appétit!

Artichoke, Spinach & Goat Cheese Tart
What would Mother’s Day be without brunch and a quiche? Try my latest and enjoy!
Serves 6-8

Savory Flaky Pastry (recipe follows)
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 package (8-10 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, well drained and coarsely chopped
8 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed of excess moisture
About 8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch nutmeg
1 1/2 cups half & half or whole milk or a mix

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Line a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with the pastry and crimp the edges. Store in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat, add the artichokes and spinach and toss to combine. Cool to room temperature.

Put the eggs and mustard in a bowl, sprinkle with nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and whisk until well combined. Add the half & half and whisk until well combined.

Put the vegetables in the tart shell. Sprinkle with the cheeses. Leaving at least 1/4-inch at the top of the shell, add the egg mixture.

Transfer the tart to the oven. Cook for 5 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking until the custard is set and tart is golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

 Savory Flaky Pastry 
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold, cut into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and shortening and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, cover and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

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

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

Do you have a special nurse to hug this week? Feel free to share!

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

Life Is Like a Horse Race & Parmesan Popovers

The wisdom of Forrest Gump’s mama tells us that, “Life is like box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” That might be more or less true but not the whole truth. It’s not just possible but highly likely that there is more to life than sampling the mysteries of a box of sweets. Along with chocolates, maybe life is like a parachute, a bowl of cherries, monkey bars, a rat race or …. or a horse race.

With the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, the Triple Crown is about to play out. Now is as good a time as any to explore why life might be like a horse race. Last year, Justify was the thirteenth horse to win all three jewels in the Triple Crown. At this point, it’s anyone and everyone’s horse race. Who will make it to the winner’s circle this year – once, twice or three times?

Running a race takes training and a lot of hard work. When it comes to sports, the arts, all sorts of things, it’s easy to sit back claim it’s all about talent. You got it or don’t. As important as natural talent is, training and hard work are what get you over the finish line first.

It takes teamwork. The jockey and horse need to operate as one. However, the trainer and owner, plus the breeder are all part of the team. Looking at our own victories, we may proudly declare we did it on our own. Sometimes that’s true but not always and probably not often.

You have to pace yourself. Thoroughbred horses can only run about a quarter mile at top speed. Setting a good pace out of the gate and then unleashing the final burst of speed at just the right moment are critical to winning. Throughout life, we find ourselves in situations where we need to decide when to cruise and when to go full out.

There are uniforms. Every jockey wears brightly colored racing silks. In the days before public address systems, those flashes of yellow, green and blue helped fans find their horse in the pack. But not just the jockey, the fans wear uniforms too. For women, showy hats are de rigueur. The most conservative of men will sport navy blue blazers and white flannels. For everyone else, it’s a pastel paradise. Women flounce in flowery dresses. Brave or colorblind men wear jackets in colors most often found in Easter baskets.

Most days most of us wear a uniform of some sort or another. For the executive, it’s a $3,000 suit. The middle schooler must have perfectly torn jeans. Some choose a uniform to stand out while others just want to blend in.

It’s a gamble. From the owner who literally bets the farm to buy, train and run a horse to the little old lady who places her $2 wager, horseracing is a gamble. So is life; who to marry or whether to put pineapple on your pizza, it’s all a bit of a gamble. Betting the farm on a new job or trying a new pub, sometimes we do our research and (maybe) all goes well. Other times, we trust our gut and hope for the best.

There’s one thing for sure, unlike a racehorse, we don’t peak early. While thoroughbreds can run for about five years, most retire after three. Not humans, we don’t get older; we get better. Fifty is the new thirty and eighty is the new sixty. At any age, it’s great to look forward to the next fabulous chapter.

Step into the winner’s circle, you belong there. Bon appétit!

Parmesan Popovers
Derby or Belmont, popovers will make an excellent addition to your watch party. Enjoy!
Makes 12 popovers

2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon or to taste freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a muffin tin or popover pan in the oven while you make the popover batter.

Put the eggs, salt and pepper in a blender and process on low until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the milk and process until well combined. A little at a time, add the flour and process until smooth. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and chives and pulse until well combined.

Remove the pan from the oven, place a teaspoon of melted butter in each cup and return the pan to the oven for 1-2 minutes more.

Remove the pan from oven and fill each cup about halfway with popover batter.

Return the pan to the oven and bake the popovers for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until the popovers are puffed and browned, about 10 minutes more.

Remove the popovers from pan immediately and serve hot.

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One Year Ago – Mexican Chocolate Pot de Crème
Two Years Ago – Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol
Three Years Ago – Puffy Apple Pancake
Four Years Ago – Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
Five Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Six Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Seven Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Eight Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Nine Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Ten Years Ago – Rhubarb Muffins

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

Is your life like a box of chocolates or a horse race … or something else? Feel free to share!

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

Race track photo courtesy of Noah Salzman under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Unleashed & Bagels with Lox & Cream Cheese

A neighbor recently reminded me of the good old days when kids and dogs roamed the woods and byways. No leash laws, just happy go lucky dogs with their free-range kids, sniffing and exploring to their hearts content.

When we lived on Jackson Road, we had two dogs, Penny, a feisty mutt and Eeyore, a born old Labrador retriever. Every morning they met up with their friends Alvin, a cute little terrier mix and Manfred, a furry midsized dog of mixed parentage. If Penny and Eeyore were slow to get up and out, Alvin yipped at the backdoor to speed them along.

While harmless, I suppose you could call them a pack. The foursome spent a good part of the day roaming the neighborhood looking for adventure. In most cases, that meant wandering around the woods, doing tricks to be rewarded with cookies from nice old ladies, rolling in smelly stuff and swimming in the pond at the end the road. In winter, they joined hockey games on the same pond. Now, Penny was not only feisty; she loved to steal pucks. She was never entirely sure of what to do with them but enjoyed the hubbub of a dozen kids chasing her across the ice.

When school let out for the day or summer, this canine quartet kept half an eye on their humans. The dogs wandered in and out of games of kick the can, napped under trees while we climbed and chased bicycles and sleds along with the afore mentioned hockey pucks.

The only time our dogs saw the end of a leash was … well, never. When we took them with us to a friend’s house or the school playground, they stayed by our side. Oh sure, they’d meander off to sniff an interesting smell but they’d circle back within a minute or two. If not, we’d give a call and a whistle and they’d bound back wondering what all the fuss was about.

As the snow melts, the number of walkers and runners that pass my house near Pleasant Lake is growing. The first of the snowbirds are back. The fair weather walkers and runners are taking tentative steps out the door. The cross-country team from nearby Colby-Sawyer College dashes by. The day-in-day-out, twelve months of the year regulars, myself among them, will soon be outnumbered. Of course, the year-round diehards include a handful of dog walkers.

Big dogs, little dogs, young dogs, old dogs, glued-to-their-human’s-side dogs and boy-I’d-love-to-break-this-leash dogs, they all love a walk around the lake. For all their smiles, I suppose they would be terribly jealous, if they knew their great-grandparents wandered free.

With warmer weather and longer days, the pedestrian traffic around the lake will continue to grow. The summer people and their dogs will be here before you know it. It’s sad that the dogs can’t join a pack of friends like their young humans do. Throughout the summer, herds of kids play together on the lake, in the lake and around the lake. Meanwhile, their poor dogs sit at home.

Eeyore loved New Hampshire, the woods and lake. (Unfortunately, Penny went to live on a farm before we built the little brown house in the woods.) Just like his humans, Eeyore had a whole passel of summer friends. They spent hours wandering, investigating and swimming. Of course, some wandering and sniffing led to trouble. Among other discoveries, they found porcupines and skunks.

With or without man’s best friend, get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Bon appétit!

Bagels with Lox & Cream Cheese
I’m not big on breakfast except during mud season. That’s when I’m happy to indulge in a leisurely weekend brunch. Whether with friends or binge watching the news, be sure to include bagels and lox in your mud season brunch. Enjoy!
Makes about 1 cup salmon spread – enough for 6-8 bagels

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
Freshly ground pepper or your favorite hot pepper sauce to taste
4 ounces smoked salmon, at room temperature
Bagels
Chives, chopped

Make the spread: put the cream cheese in a bowl, add ground pepper or pepper sauce to taste and whisk with a fork until well combined.

Finely chop the smoked salmon and add it to the cream cheese. Whisk again until well combined.

Slice the bagels lengthwise and open up into 2 rounds. Toast the bagels in the toaster or under the broiler if you have a big crowd.

Top each bagel half with a good sized schmear of Lox & Cream Cheese Spread, sprinkle with chopped chives and serve.

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One Year Ago – Cheesy Eggplant Parmigiana with Spaghetti Marinara
Two Years Ago – Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms
Three Years Ago – Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
Four Years Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Five Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Six Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Seven Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Eight Years Ago – Roast Chicken 
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Ten Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata

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

Do you have a favorite dog? Feel free to share!

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

The First Day of Spring? & Maple Muffins

Tomorrow is the first day of spring. While the concept is not completely foreign, it will be awhile before we see spring in New Hampshire. Or at least the spring depicted in magazines. You know the one I mean. The spring that has flowers gently bobbing in a warm breeze.

Meanwhile, you can measure the snow in my yard in feet not inches. Instead of spring, the vernal equinox kicks off mud season in New Hampshire. In spite of the calendar, mud season more or less began about a week ago. After what may or may not have been the final snowstorm of the season, temperatures began to climb. Giant snowbanks are starting to shrink. Throughout the winter, slabs of sand-embedded ice have managed to cover every shady stretch of road. Those slabs are now crumbling.

Sit quietly for a moment and you can hear the first sounds of a New Hampshire spring. No, not a flock of red red robins bobbin’ bob bobbin’ along, they’re still waiting for the snow to disappear. The sounds you hear are the constant drip, trickle and even rush of melting snow and ice. Every dip in the road and driveway is now home to a murky pool. Run off flows freely into seasonal creeks. Small, usually slow-moving brooks are gushing with icy water.

Of course, sand and mud are everywhere. Otherwise, we couldn’t or wouldn’t call it mud season. Hardy country people, we rarely bother with fancy shoes. Throughout the winter, we make sure we have a good tread to keep from slipping and sliding on the ice and snow. With the snowmelt, those same shoes and boots keep our feet dry. Only problem, that tread picks up everything in its path and then tracks it all into the house. When it’s cold, that’s a little snow. It melts and we mop it up with an old towel. Now, a trail of sand and mud follows us inside.

Let’s face it, in spite of the mud, we love the change of seasons. It doesn’t matter if it’s messy, we still smile when the weather starts to warm. And yes, warm is a relative term. Every day the temperature is above freezing and the sun is out is a good day. Speaking of sun, we applaud every extra minute of daylight. Pun or not, there’s an extra spring in our step as well as some additional cheer to our greetings.

There’s plenty to make you cheerful. If you haven’t been out, the skiing is fantastic. (Or so I hear, my ankle took the winter off.) There’s smoke coming out of the sap house chimney. Who needs flowers when the sweet smell of maple syrup fills the air? Bets are being placed on the day and time for ice out on the lake. Forget the lottery – you could win a bundle on the Ice Out Challenge!

In addition, while I don’t want to jinx it, when it comes to chores, mud season is one of those in between times. The garden and lawn are covered with snow so no weeding or mowing. As for shoveling, there’s a fifty-fifty chance or better that any precipitation will fall as rain instead of snow. And besides, once mid-March comes around, I’ve been known to leave the snow where if falls. After all, why shovel when warmer temperatures and the sun will (eventually) take care of it?

Here’s to the longer, warmer days and bon appétit!

Maple Muffins
Mud season is also maple season in New Hampshire. A batch of maple muffins will make a wonderful addition to an afternoon cup of tea or Sunday brunch. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 dozen muffins

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup currents
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon dark rum

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the walnuts and whisk again. Set aside.

Put the butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. With the mixer running, slowly add the maple syrup. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and rum and beat until smooth.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.

Use an ice cream scoop or two spoons to fill each muffin cup about 2/3 with batter. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Carrot Salad
Two Years Ago – Irish Lamb Stew
Three Years Ago – Roasted Parsnips with Rosemary
Four Years Ago – Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin
Five Years Ago – Zucchini Pancakes
Six Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Seven Three Years Ago – Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant
Ten Years Ago – Fettuccine with Classic Bolognese Sauce

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

Are you for or against or … the time change? Feel free to share!

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

Easter Brunch Celebration Special

The mountain closes down on Sunday – so you won’t see me lazing around at brunch. I’ll be getting in the last few runs of the season. However, I’m happy to make a few suggestions for a tasty Easter Brunch. No need to rush, think late morning or early afternoon. Greet your guests with a sparkly glass. Tradition suggests that you start with a Mimosa.

Now for the main menu …

It may be old school but you can’t beat a cheesy, eggy pie. Not sure about that? Here are three favorites – Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart, Spinach Ricotta Pie and Quiche Lorraine. Try any or all.

Add a lovely salad, something simple like my Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad. For an easy and delicious alternative to hash browns, try my Lemon Roasted Potatoes.

Alternatively, and super healthy, try my Quinoa with Sweet Potato and Spinach with that cheesy pie.

Finish it off with a beautiful bowl of fresh berries. You can’t miss if you add a spoonful of Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème or Creamy Lime Custard. And, since everyone loves a good cookie, set out a plate of Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti or Macadamia Nut Shortbread.

If you’d prefer to celebrate with dinner rather than brunch, check out my latest Easter Dinner Menu.

Have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Snow Day & Applesauce Muffins

Who doesn’t love a good snow day? As kids, just the hint of a storm was enough to glue us to the local evening news. We were desperate to hear Don Kent proclaim a Snowmageddon. Back in the day, Don Kent was something of a local hero in the suburbs around Boston. It wasn’t so much his accuracy. I’m sure he got it right (or wrong) as often as anyone else did. It was his enthusiasm. Weather guys love weather, the bigger the better, and Don Kent loved it more than anyone.

Of course, Don Kent didn’t use the term Snowmageddon. He talked about nor’easters and snow showers. The more theatrical terms – Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse and Snowzilla – have only finagled their way into our vocabulary in the past decade. I don’t know about Don Kent but I must say, I kind of like them. And what about the recent bomb cyclone? Certainly, the magnitude of the storm would have been excited Don Kent. I wonder if he would have embraced the colorful, new moniker or stuck with the proper term – explosive cyclogenesis.

Depending on Don Kent’s prognosis, we spent the evening peeking out the windows looking for flakes. My bedroom was well located for storm watching. My window looked out onto the streetlight on the corner. It was perfect for illuminating the falling snow or lack thereof. Throughout the evening, I bounced from homework to window. Little was accomplished and, eventually, it was time for bed. I tried to sleep but the smallest noise had me bolt upright. Was that a plow?

In the morning, Don Kent was back, this time on the radio. We figured he hadn’t slept a wink, but then, neither had I. He’d report snowfall amounts, offer the day’s forecast and finally announce the school closings. Or maybe it was his cohort Arch MacDonald who plowed through all those towns, private schools and daycare closings. Andover, Boston, Cambridge, Framingham, Humpty Dumpty Daycare, Lexington, Our Lady of the Saints, Peabody, Somerville, Watertown, Weston … wait a minute! Did he say Wellesley? He must have! I didn’t hear it.

And so, we were forced to listen to the litany all over again. Only this time a dozen or more cancellations had been added. The list went on forever, a Montessori school in Haverhill, Mother Goose Nursery School, Natick, Wayland and, finally, Wellesley. Phew!

Armed with a PC and linked to the world by the internet, snow days aren’t quite what they used to be. It doesn’t matter; I still love a snow day. It’s still dark outside when I slip into what I like to call my daytime pajamas – leggings, an old turtleneck and an even older sweater. After shoveling snow away from the garage doors and making coffee, I spend the morning doing all those things I would have done at the office. Doing it from home doesn’t change the work just the mood.

Just like a kid, I sneak constant peeks out the window at the falling snow. As the fluffy white stuff piles up outside, the world seems to slow down. Snow muffles the tread of the few cars out on the road. A sporadic plow rumbles by. It passes the house heading west. Minutes later is comes by again, this time going east. A peaceful quiet settles over the neighborhood. It will be a few hours before the plow comes by again.

Whatever needs doing gets done – lots of email, website and social media updates, a few phone calls – they know where I live, a press release and more. While still good, thanks to the internet, snow days aren’t what they used to be.

Have fun in the snow and bon appétit!

Applesauce Muffins
Baking is a great activity on a snowy day. Warm up the kitchen with the delicious aroma of apples and spice. Enjoy!
Makes about 20 muffins

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, preferably homemade but store-bought is okay
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Set the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners.

Put the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the butter and brown sugar in large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the applesauce and sour cream and beat until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the walnuts and raisins.

Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full with batter. A 2-ounce ice cream scoop is perfect for standard size muffins.

Slide the muffin tins into the oven, bake at 375 degrees for 5 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes more.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Chocolate-Hazelnut Bars
Two Years Ago – Whole Grain Pilaf
Three Years Ago – Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks)
Four Years Ago – Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù
Fove Years Ago – Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Six Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Seven Years Ago – Fettuccine with Escarole, Radicchio & Mushrooms
Eight Years Ago – Cassoulet
Nine Years Ago – Caribbean Fish Stew

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

What do while away the hours on a snow day? Feel free to share!

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