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

‘Tis the Season for Taxes & Lavender Scones

taxes_04What can I say? The sky is the color of dirty snow. One last pile of dirty snow still clings to the edge of the driveway. Rain is not just in the forecast; it is imminent. Step outside and it feels like your thermometer is off by at least five degrees. Could it get any worse? Yes, of course, our taxes are due next Monday. (No, that’s not a typo. April 15th is a holiday in Washington so the deadline has been pushed back.)

While paying taxes is no picnic, filing is even worse. I assume that there are people who embrace the process as a fascinating puzzle or mystery to unravel. Not I. Running through all those numbers is pure drudge. I suppose that if I was a clever accountant, I would appreciate the finesse and creativity it takes to master the tax code. But I’m not. I’m just an ordinary person with a mountain of forms and receipts and a not-quite-as-easy-as-advertised software package to navigate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not complaining about the software. For years I did my taxes with a calculator and pencil, this way is much, much better.

I’m not alone. None other than Albert Einstein said, “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” If the dreaded tax season has you down, here are a few quotes to perk you up. If you like, you can use them to make refrigerator magnets. (You can sell the magnets to help pay your tax bill. Don’t forget to include your sales as miscellaneous income next year.)

Perhaps these lines will cheer you up, perhaps not. Anyway, here goes:

“No taxation without representation” was a popular slogan during the mid-1700s. The quote summarized the American colonists’ primary grievance against Mad King George. The notion of taxes without a voice in government led to the American Revolution. We have since learned that taxation with representation isn’t all that much fun either.

Benjamin Franklin shared the rather distressing truth that, “nothing is certain except death and taxes.” However, he failed to add that if you are hard pressed for time, the IRS will give you an extension. You just need to ask.

Too bad Richard Nixon didn’t heed his own words, “Make sure you pay your taxes; otherwise you can get in a lot of trouble.” The Watergate scandal, political corruption, dirty tricks and, yes, tax evasion landed Nixon in a whole heap of trouble and forced him to resign. Charges were not restricted to the president. Pleading no contest to tax evasion, Veep Spiro Agnew left office in disgrace ten months before Nixon stepped down.

Nixon and Agnew are not alone. Perhaps Leona Helmsley summed it up best, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” That was before the Queen of Mean was sentenced to four years in prison and fined $7 million for tax fraud. Al Capone must have been similarly deluded when he said, “They can’t collect legal taxes from illegal money.”

I guess Barry Goldwater knew what he was talking about when he said, “The income tax created more criminals than any other single act of government.” Will Rogers didn’t go quite so far. His take on our annual calculations and filing was, “The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.”

If your W-2 and myriad of other forms are signed and sent, well, good for you. If you are still busy calculating; my sympathies and best wishes.

Either way, with any luck, you’re due a refund. Bon appétit!

Lavender Scones
After your taxes are filed, clear your head of convoluted instructions and calculations with a leisurely cup of tea and a scone. Enjoy!
Makes 16 scones

3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for your work surface
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Lavender Honey Butter, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick silicon mats or parchment paper.

Put the flour, sugar, lavender, lemon zest, baking powder, salt and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer the buttery flour mixture to a bowl.

Stir the vanilla into the sour cream and then add the wet ingredients to the buttery flour mixture. Stir to combine.

tea_scones_04Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, pat together and knead for 10 or 12 turns. Pat the dough into a 10×5-inch rectangle. Cut the dough in half lengthwise and then cut each half into 4 squares. Cut each square diagonally into 2 triangles.

Arrange the scones on the baking sheets and brush the tops with cream. Bake the scones at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden. A tester inserted into the center of one of the scones should come out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes. Serve warm with honey butter.

Can be made ahead and reheated in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes.

Lavender Honey Butter
2 tablespoons lavender* honey
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, softened and cut in 1-inch pieces

Put the honey, lemon zest and juice in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed to combine. Add the butter and beat on low speed to break up the butter and begin mixing. Gradually increase the speed to medium-high and beat until well combined, about 5 minutes.

Spoon the butter onto parchment paper or plastic wrap, roll into a log and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

* Don’t worry if you can’t find lavender honey. Your favorite honey should work almost as well.

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One Year Ago – Calzones with Marinara Sauce
Two Years Ago – Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake
Three Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with Pasta
Four Years Ago – Steamed Artichokes with Bagna Cauda or Warm Lemon-Garlic Sauce
Five Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Cake
Six Years Ago – Filet de Perche Meunière
Seven Years Ago – Chicken Provençal
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Yippee! I finished my taxes yesterday afternoon. How are doing with your calculations? Feel free to share!

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

Easter Brunch Special

rabbitts_easterWould you rather brunch than lunch or dinner for Easter? After today’s icy rain, it’s not a bad idea to free up the afternoon for some outdoor fun. Hike, bike or work in the garden – however you choose to spend the day – I’ve got a great brunch menu for you to enjoy with family and friends.

What to serve? Traditional or not, hmmm! Well, it is Easter. You and your guests will love my Quiche Lorraine. If you prefer to play it a little fancy, you’ll want to serve my Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart. (Asparagus is on special at my local supermarket.) If there are children coming, you might want to add a pan of my Baked French Toast.

Don’t forget to add some fresh fruit. My supermarket is also having a sale on strawberries. Pick up a quart and enjoy my Strawberries with Yogurt Cream. Or go crazy and enjoy your berries with my Creamy Lime Custard. Next add a scone, maybe two. You’ll love my Lemon Scones or Ginger Scones.

If your sweet tooth is not quite satisfied with the fruit and scones, feel free to pass a plate of absolutely wonderful, homemade Chocolate Truffles or tiny cups of Pot de Crème 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, 2016

Holiday Special – New Year’s Brunch

New_Years_EveAre you thinking about seeing in the New Year in with family and friends and a cozy brunch. Sound daunting after a week of cooking? 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).

For fun, why not try a different kind of pancake? How about my Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa. 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. Irish Soda Bread is quick and easy. Then add something sweet with my Cranberry Coffee Cake, Ginger Scones or Pumpkin-Ginger Muffins.

For the finishing touch, 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, 2015

Ho Ho Ho – Good Christmas Morning Special

Christmas_Stocking

When I was a kid we were up and out of bed by five o’clock on Christmas morning, Mom and Dad were fortified with multiple cups of coffee. My sister, brother and I made do with the chocolate coins and oranges in our stockings. I suppose that we eventually had breakfast but I don’t remember that part.

Would you like to serve a memorable breakfast this Christmas? Well, hmmm, I think I can come up with a few ideas.

The simply delicious continental breakfast, s my choice. Start with a big bowl of fresh fruit or something fancier like Mojito Melons, Strawberries with Yogurt Cream or Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard.

apple_muffins_01Then relax with another cup of coffee, tea or Spiced Chai. Add a muffin, scone or lovely slice of coffee cake. Your family will love my moist and delicious Apple Muffins. For a very Christmas-y treat try my Very Ginger Gingerbread Muffins. Or skip the muffins and try my Applesauce Scones or Ginger Scones. Or break out the bagels and cream cheese and enjoy them with my wonderful Gravlax or smoked salmon. They are all delicious but I think I’ll go with a Cranberry Coffee Cake this year.

eggs

Perhaps you prefer a hearty morning meal. Again, start with fruit and then move on to a fabulous breakfast casserole. Baked French Toast is a favorite with kids. You can’t go wrong with a traditional Quiche if you’re having a crowd. Unless you rather have a not so traditional Spinach Ricotta Pie.
Sound like too much work? Try scrambling up a few dozen eggs and don’t forget the bacon or sausage and some toasted Irish Soda BreadIf your Christmas morning is small and intimate, make it special with a couple of Brie with Sundried Tomato Omelets.

Wishing you a joyful and delicious Christmas morning!

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

What are you cooking Christmas Day? 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, 2015