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

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Holiday Special – New Year’s Day Brunch

Some would say it’s too cold to ski or ice skate. If you agree, why not invite family and friends in for an impromptu brunch? That said, it’s been a long week and, maybe just maybe, you’re getting to a little tired of cooking (say it ain’t so). If that’s the case, make it a potluck.

Here are few dishes to help you get motivated:

If it’s quiche you want, try my almost traditional Quiche. If you prefer some variation of brunch’s favorite cheese and egg pie, turn to my Spinach Ricotta Pie or Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart).

Unless you’d prefer a pancake. How about my Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa or Zucchini Pancakes with a dab of Tapenade. If you haven’t had enough smoked salmon or Gravlax, then try my Savory Blinis or Latkes with a dab of sour cream, a sliver of salmon and a bit of caviar. Then again, you can trade the pancakes for a toasted bagel with that lox.

A baked good or two is nice touch. For savory, try my Irish Soda Bread or Cheesy Pumpkin-Sage Biscuits. Want something sweet? How about Cranberry Coffee Cake or Gingerbread Muffins.

Brew some coffee, whip up a batch of Mimosas or Mango Sparklers and have a lovely brunch.

Happy New Year and bon appétit!

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

How will you celebrate the New Year? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2017

A Busy, Clearing Out the Cupboards Weekend Special

A new adventure starts on Monday. Renovation of my forty-something year old kitchen begins. I am delighted, excited and very busy cleaning out the cupboards, taking down the bright red pots and stashing the staples.

Let me tell you, it’s not easy finding spots for everything … dishes, pots, pans, gadgets, spices, canisters of flour and sugar, chocolate chips, nuts  … you get the picture. Anyway, the living room is filled wall to wall with the new cabinets and I’m making steady progress stripping the kitchen.

While I won’t be cooking much this weekend or for the next three or four weeks, I have some suggestions for you!

How about a Sunday brunch? The weather promises to cooperate so a hearty late morning feast on the porch sounds good. Quiche or something like it, is always a good bet. You’ll be a winner with my Quiche or any one of my variations on the cheese and egg pie. Maybe you’d like to try my Spinach Ricotta PieTarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart) or Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart.

Or think French toast or pancakes with my Blueberry Breadpudding oPuffy Apple Pancake. 

Don’t forget to include some fresh fruit. Take your pick – strawberries, blueberries, watermelon …this time of year, the list is more or less endless.

Finally, add a tasty muffin. (I confess, I love muffins.) Can I recommend my moist and delicious Zucchini Muffins.

Have a great weekend 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. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Take a Deep Breath & Zucchini Muffins

It’s not been an easy summer. After a couple of years of drought, what is probably more or less normal seems like constant rain. I have a friend who has tried to come up from Boston a handful of times this summer. Her best-laid plan calls for nine holes of golf with my dad followed by dinner with me. She recently pointed out that rain has thwarted her plan not once but again and again and again. Along with broken golf dates, more than a few cookouts have been rained out. Not to mention poor little me, I’ve been drenched on several of my early morning walks.

However, lawns and gardens have never looked better and until it’s time to build an ark or our tourist economy goes to hell in a handbasket, all this rain falls under the category of small stuff. Most of the big stuff is happening outside of New Hampshire. However, our rarefied air and beautiful lakes and mountains don’t provide immunity from the gnarly stuff that happens elsewhere. We still feel the consequences.

So, what should we do when our values are assaulted and our overactive brains have been filled with angst and tragedy? I have a pretty simple idea. I don’t know if it will work, but here goes. Take a day, an hour or just a long pause to slow down and take a deep breath.

Take a deep breath and slide into an Adirondack chair. There is nothing like an Adirondack chair. Having spent at least three days scrubbing and re-staining mine, I deserve to sit. I’d like to add a good book and a very good cup of coffee. My hope is to stay put for an entire morning, only getting up for a fresh cup.

Take a deep breath and put your hand on your heart. My sister Brenda taught pre-school for years. Without fail every year, at least a child or two or three would be especially nervous about leaving mom every morning. Brenda’s advice was for everyone to hold their mother’s hand as they walked into school. When a little one began to feel anxious or sad, Brenda would prompt that boy or girl to remember holding mummy’s hand. Next, she would urge them to put their hand on their heart.

Throughout your day, your week, your life, take hold of your loved ones’ hands. Reach out to your spouse, your mom, your dad, children, sister, brother, friends and cousins. Then, whenever you feel a little anxious or sad or just need some comfort, put your hand on your heart. It works.

Take a deep breath and smile. If you are like me, you have a knack for visiting the supermarket when the lines are longest. Whether its long lines or some other first world problem, there is nothing like smiling to change your perspective. After all, it’s only a supermarket line. Besides, the summer people won’t be here all that much longer. Before you know it, they’ll be headed home to the suburbs and big cities where the lines are always long.

Take a deep breath and sit by the lake at sunset. I want to take it all in; the changing colors of the lake and sky, the honking geese flying overhead and the loons swimming by. I want to embrace the tranquility and enjoy a quiet evening.

Take a deep breath and maybe, just maybe, the headache that’s been following me around for days will finally leave me alone.

Wishing you peace and bon appétit!

Zucchini Muffins
A zucchini muffin will be a welcome addition to that book and cup of coffee. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 dozen muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups grated fresh zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven 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. Set aside.

Put the eggs, brown sugar, oil and vanilla in a bowl and, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat for 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low, slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the zucchini, walnuts and raisins into the batter.

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

Slide the muffin tins into the oven, bake at 375 degrees for about 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, about 20 minutes more.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Berry Peachy Crisp
Two Years Ago – Spicy Refrigerator Pickles
Three Years Ago – Double Trouble Chocolate-Oragne Cupcakes
Four Years Ago – Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad
Five Years Ago – Blueberry Soup with Mascarpone Cream
Six Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa
Seven Years Ago – Crostini with Goat Cheese
Eight Years Ago – Corn & Chicken Chowder
Nine Years Ago – Joe Nye’s Perfect Lobster

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

What about you? What do you love about late summer? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Easter Brunch Special

If dinner is more your style, check out my trio of Greek, Italian and French inspired Easter Dinner menus.

Are you one of those people who would rather brunch than lunch or dinner for Easter? Brunch is a good idea if you want to free up the afternoon for a hike, a long bike ride or a nap. Regardless of how you spend the afternoon, I’ve got a great brunch menu for you to enjoy with family and friends.

When it comes to brunch, you can’t go wrong with a cheesy pie. Try my Quiche Lorraine, Spinach Ricotta Pie or Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart.

Of course you’ll want a big bowl of berries … strawberries, blueberries and blueberries are delicious with a dollop of my Lavender Infused White Chocolate Cream or Creamy Lime Custard.

Next, add a scone or a pound cake or both. I love lemon anytime, especially in the spring. Give my Lemon Scones or Lemon Pound Cake a try.

Top it all off with a delicious cup of espresso or a cappuccino and your favorite cookie. How about Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti or Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache or both!

Have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

What are your plans for Easter? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2017

Merry Christmas Vacation & Sticky Buns

King_RidgeHow could we have been so lucky? I don’t know how it happened (maybe it didn’t). When we were kids, we didn’t have to dream it, EVERY Christmas was white. By mid-December, the snow would start to fly. All rain and even the threat of a thaw were postponed until mid-to-late January.

Our winter wonderland made Santa’s job easy. From one year to the next, there was always some combination of Flexible Flyers, Flying Saucers, ice skates and skis under the tree. Oh and by the way, the Flying Saucers were not filled with little green men and did not whirl high overhead like a drone. They were aluminum disks that were perfect for flying down a hill at top speed. Flexible Flyers were made for hard packed, icy snow. Flying Saucers were made for the fluffy stuff.

Christmas vacations were filled with outdoor fun. There were plenty of little hills for sliding on Jackson Road. If we felt more ambitious, the country club was less than a mile away. Longfellow Pond was at the end of the street for skating.

Then, our already more than satisfactory Christmas vacations improved at least tenfold. Mom and Dad built a little brown house in the New Hampshire woods. After that, we spent all of our Christmas vacations whizzing up and down the slopes at King Ridge.

For the sake of our grandparents, we continued to celebrate Christmas Eve and Day in suburbia but we couldn’t get out of town fast enough. In the beginning, we headed north the day after Christmas. Then, we realized that most grandparents, including ours, don’t like to drive after dark. So, we’d have Christmas dinner at noon and they’d be out the door by two, maybe three o’clock. One year, I think they were barely out of the driveway before we were in our big blue station wagon and heading north.

King Ridge was a wonderful place for families. While it admittedly lacked vertical challenge, it made up for it with homey charm. Parents liked it because it was almost impossible to lose your kids. I’m sure a few kids managed to slip away for an hour or two but it took some doing. You couldn’t turn around without bumping into your mom or dad or one of your friends’ parents.

Kids liked King Ridge in spite of the ever-present village of adults. Ever-present, ever-vigilant and ever-ready to keep us from doing anything fun or stupid. Whether our actions were fun or stupid depended entirely on your perspective. If Mom and Dad were within eyeshot, we diplomatically agreed that jump was dangerous and bushwhacking through the woods was a bad idea. But as soon as they turned their backs, well, let’s just say that a kid’s gotta do what a kid’s gotta do.

Besides, you didn’t have to be a kid to do something silly. Take, just for-instance, the time our friends the McCauleys came up from Connecticut. Skip was a teenager and was delighted to have a few ski lessons. Dad was just as delighted to teach him. An athletic kid, Skip made amazing progress, deftly getting from top to bottom in one piece. As for Dad, he was not so deft.

Sometime, around mid-morning on the second or maybe third day of the McCauley’s visit, Skip passed Dad and joined us about three-quarters of the way down the hill. Showing off, Dad swooped down with plans for a dramatic stop and a magnificent rooster tail of light fluffy snow. Rather than dowse his friends and family, he pitched over … and broke his leg.

It looks like we’ll have a beautiful white Christmas this year. Have a safe holiday and bon appétit!

Sticky Buns
A special, old-fashioned treat for Christmas breakfast or any morning during the holiday week. Bakers will want to use their favorite white bread dough. If you’re not a baker, feel free to cheat with frozen dough. Either way, enjoy!
Makes 12-16 bunssticky_buns_02

3-5 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup currants
About 1 pound of your favorite homemade white bread dough or frozen, store-bought dough, thawed
Creamy Icing (recipe follows)

Generously butter the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch or 8×10-inch baking dish.

Put the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a bowl and stir to combine. Add the nuts and currants and toss to combine.

If using homemade bread dough, follow your recipe through the first rise.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 16×6-inch rectangle. Leaving a 1/2-inch border along one long side, generously butter the dough. Evenly sprinkle the sugar mixture over the dough.

Roll up the dough, jelly-roll style, forming a 16-inch long log and pinch the seam to seal. Cut the log into 12 or 16 equal pieces. Spacing them evenly, arrange the buns, cut side down, in the baking dish.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for a slow rise, 8-12 hours or overnight. (If you’re in a hurry, let the buns rise in a warm area until puffed, about 45 minutes.)

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Bake uncovered until the tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes and drizzle with Creamy Icing. Serve warm.

Creamy Icing
2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
About 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 or more tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy; slowly add the powdered sugar and continue beating until well combined. Add the sour cream, maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. If necessary, add more sour cream until the icing is perfect for a nice, thick drizzle.

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One Year Ago – Cranberry Coffee Cake
Two Years Ago – Fish Stew Provençal
Three Years Ago – Twice-Baked Potatoes
Four Years Ago – Baked French ToastFive Years Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Six Years Ago – Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Potato, Leek & Kale Soup
Eight Years Ago – Salmon & Lentils

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

What about you? How will you spend the week between Christmas and New Year? Feel free to share!

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

Mother’s Day & Puffy Apple Pancake

Mom_Susie_Brenda_SailboatMother’s Day is Sunday. It’s the day when little children clamber out of bed early. They burn English muffins, spill orange juice and deliver both to mom with a big hug. If he’s worth his salt, it’s a day for dads to clean up the OJ and then take everyone out for pancakes. Lucky for my mother, it’s been several years since any of her three burned an English muffin or spilled a glass of orange juice. Okay, maybe once or twice and it was white wine not orange juice. Not nearly as messy!

Mom is well into her eighth decade. Her brood has expanded over the years. Along with my sister, brother and me, she has seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Unfortunately, longevity has not been kind to her. Now in a nursing home in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, Mom is bedbound and barely verbal. She’s worn out but not ready to give up. When I stopped in to see her today, she smiled, chuckled softly once or twice and then hummed a little tune. Today and every day, I am grateful for all that she has given me over the years.

My mother raised a noisy bunch. I’m pretty sure that she did it on purpose. Far from reserved, she never hesitates to show her love of life and us. Get us together and before too long, we’re talking all at once. There could be some shouting but don’t worry; the laughter will be even more enthusiastic and contagious.

Under all the noise and laughter are independent thinkers. Mom loves the dialogue and rigorous discussion that comes from carefully thought out opinions. Fortunately (or not for some of the bosses who have hired us), Mrs. Nye didn’t raise no yes-man or women.

I’m not sure why or how but Mom did not pass on her neatness gene. She is a neat neater and I envy her that (and her long legs). In the scheme of things, there are neat neaters, messy neaters, neat messers and messy messers. I may be the worst but, as far as I can figure, none of her children inherited her neatness. I’ll blame it on Dad, he’s a bit of a messer himself.

Thank goodness for Mom’s generous and kind spirit. Mom has always had an uncanny knack for making people feel good about themselves, even special. I think she must have something of a Spidey sense when it comes to who might need a little extra care and attention.

Mom is not exactly an environmentalist but she doesn’t like waste. She’s green in her own, New England sort of way. We learned early that we didn’t own the electric company and didn’t live in a barn. We closed the door, turned off lights and put on a sweater if we were cold.

My mother is an unabashed optimist for herself and for others. Like the little engine that could, Mom believes in hard work and positive outcomes. Whether it is an exam, a special dinner or what to do with the rest of your life, Mom knows that everything will work out just fine in the end.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom and bon appétit!

Puffy Apple Pancake
Forget standing at the stove flipping flapjacks; make one big pancake for everyone to share on Mother’s Day. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

1-2 tablespoons butter for the pan
1-2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin wedges
4-5 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Maple syrup or confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Generously butter a 9-inch glass pie plate. Arrange the apple slices in the bottom of the pan.

Combine the brown sugar and spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle about half the sugar mixture evenly over the apples. Place the dish in the oven and bake the apples for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the remaining sugar mix in a blender with the eggs, flour, salt and vanilla and process to combine. Warm the milk in the microwave on high for 15-20 seconds. With the motor running, slowly add the milk to the flour and eggs and process for about 1 minute on medium speed.

Puffy_Apple_Pancake_05Slide the rack from the oven to reach the pie plate, without removing the pan, carefully pour the batter over the apples. Carefully slide the rack and pan back into the oven and continue baking until the pancake is puffed and golden, about 20 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Cut the pancake into wedges and serve immediately with a drizzle of maple syrup or a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

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One Year Ago – Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
Two Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Three Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Four Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Five Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Six Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Seven Years Ago – Rhubarb Muffins

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

How will you celebrate Mother’s Day? Feel free to share.

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