Easter Bonnet & Easter Bunny Carrot Cake

Okay, now we all know that Thanksgiving is all about the turkey, Christmas is all about Santa and presents, Halloween is costumes and candy and Independence Day is fireworks. Now, what about Easter? With all respect, Easter is all about hats and dresses. I note with respect because Easter is often considered to be the holiest of day in the Christian calendar.

Easter marks the end of Holy Week, the end of Lent and the final day of the long Easter weekend. Holy Week commemorates the days and events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ. Easter celebrates the resurrection and the triumph of good over evil.

Like many Christian feast days, today’s Easter traditions are a mix and mingle of many ancient cultures. Centuries ago, Europeans celebrated the coming of spring and warm days with great joy. Warmer, longer days were a relief after months of cold darkness. For Anglo-Saxons and Celts, spring was a time of planting, fertility and renewal. As Christianity spread north, its beliefs, symbols, celebrations and rites collided with pagan traditions.

Over time, this collision created a strange combination. On the one hand, you have a history of fasting, prayer and serious worship. On the other, you find vestiges of pagan symbols of renewal with eggs, new clothing to welcome spring, parades, bunnies, lambs and baby chicks.

My mother was among the millions of America’s suburban women who took their children shopping for Easter clothes. I suppose mothers in urban and rural America took their kids shopping too but I didn’t see it with my own eyes. Like clockwork, back-to-school and Easter forced any and all moms to take a deep breath and, then, a hard look at their children’s clothing. More often than not, everyone had jumped a size, if not two.

Like most younger sisters, my wardrobe was mostly hand-me-downs. However, somehow or other, both my sister Brenda and I received a new outfit in time for Easter. Now, Easter is a strange holiday since it pops up anytime between the middle of March and late April. One year it’s a celebration of spring and the next you’re up early shoveling snow before church. Living in New England, our Easter outfits ranged from little wool suits to sweet cotton dresses. With full skirts, puffy sleeves and lace collars, the dresses were far superior to any chic little suit.

Thankfully, regardless of timing and weather, a bonnet was always included in our Easter ensembles. Bedecked with flowers and ribbons, those bonnets were the highlight of Easter shopping. I’m not sure if they were ever worn more than once but they stayed firmly on our heads throughout Easter Sunday.

I credit those bonnets to a lifelong love of hats. Funny enough, except for wool caps in winter, I rarely don one. Perhaps, I should change that this spring. Why, I could throw on a fascinator or wide brim and make every day a parade. Given the miserable weather we’ve been having, it might not be a bad idea.

New duds or not, have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

Easter Bunny Carrot Cake
For Easter or anytime – carrot cake is always a favorite. Enjoy!
Makes a 9×13-inch cake or about 24 cup cakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon dark rum

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan or line muffin tins with paper liners.

Put the flour, baking soda and powder 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 oil and sugar 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 rum and beat until well combined. 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.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan or fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake the cake for 45-60 minutes (cupcakes for 30-45 minutes) or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Generously slather with cream cheese frosting and serve.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Put the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the vanilla and beat until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and beat to combine. Increase the mixer speed and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Poverty Stew with Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde
Two Years Ago – Coq au Vin au Printemps
Three Years Ago– Moroccan Baked Cod
Four Years Ago– Artichoke Pesto
Five Years Ago– Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach
Six Years Ago– Runners’ Chicken with Spaghetti
Seven Years Ago– Bananas Foster
Eight Years Ago– Tapenade
Nine Years Ago – Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème
Ten Years Ago – Lemon Tart

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

How will you celebrate Easter this year? Feel free to share!

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

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Another Holiday Special – What’s for Christmas Dinner?

I’m dashing out in a few minutes for one last Christmas present … and then on to the supermarket to shop for tomorrow night’s Christmas Eve dinner.

I will not be cooking on Tuesday. If you are, you might want to take a peak at a few of my suggestions for Christmas dinner. I put these menus together last year. Hopefully one or another will help you solve any last minute cooking dilemmas.

Have a wonderful Christmas and bon appétit!

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

What are your holiday cooking plans? 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

 

 

Another Holiday Special – What’s for Christmas Eve Dinner?

Are you cooking this Christmas Eve? I’m soooo looking forward to cooking with the Nye girlies. My brother’s daughters, my nieces are fantastic twenty-somethings. Although their level of enthusiasm varies, they are all interested in cooking.

I like the tradition of fish for Christmas Eve. After all, I am a New England girl through and through. A few years ago, I posted a menu for a feast of seven fishes. Feel free to give it a try.

We’ll be keeping things a tad bit simpler at my house …

Kaela is the oldest of the three and most enthusiastic cook. We had a quick discussion about the menu between football plays this past Sunday. For the main course we’re going with Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce. I was thinking of serving the fish with Lemon Roasted Potatoes but Kaela convinced me that Lemon Risotto with Spinach & Herbs was a better choice. (In either case, it’s a good thing we all like lemon.)

But let’s back up the train here.

For starters, we’ll need some tasty apps. Something with mushrooms sounds good … like, well, Spanish Stuffed Mushroom or Mushroom Crostini. Or, if we decide to go with two fishes, then Shrimp & Cucumber Bites or Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce or Peanut Sesame Dipping Sauce  would be perfect. I’ll set out some Rosemary Cashews and maybe some Olives or Tapenade.

When it’s time to head to the table, we’ll want a great salad. Kaela has made a beautiful Kale Salad for the past two years. (It’s a busy kitchen with lots of chatter so, while I’ve sort of watched her make it, I’m hazy on the recipe. It’s quite simple with kale and lots of lemon and extra virgin olive oil. Here’s my interpretation. Or we can try my colorful Romaine & Radicchio Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Walnuts.

We’ll finish the evening with something sweet. I’m still up in the air for dessert. My mom always baked Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie. When I was a teenager, I took over dessert and baked a Bûche de Noël. Over the past few years, I’ve baked a Flourless Chocolate Cake and Ginger-Orange Cheesecake for Christmas Eve. I’m thinking about Ginger Mousse.

The girlies are coming for lunch tomorrow – so we can iron out all these last, little details.

Have fun countdown to Christmas and a great weekend! Happy holidays and bon appétit!

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

What are your holiday cooking plans? 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

All About Christmas Eve Traditions & Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce

My family has always enjoyed a bit of pandemonium on Christmas Eve. In fact, I think we thrive on it. From one generation to the next, the one constant has been overexcited children. For little kids, the day always seems to move at glacial speed. I generally started the day by jumping up and down and dancing in front of the tree. It didn’t take long for Mom to toss me into my snowsuit and outside. Her message was clear – time to build a snowman or take my sled over to the neighborhood hill. That was fine; I had lots of company. Most of kids on the street had received similar instructions.

My grandparents would arrive in the late afternoon and whisk us into the back of their car for church. My sister Brenda and I never missed the opportunity to ride in Grandpa’s Lincoln with the fancy electric windows. Those rides might have been Grandpa’s greatest gift to his only daughter. With my baby brother snoozing in his car seat and Dad behind the wheel, Mom could sink into the passenger seat of the family station wagon, close her eyes and enjoy a few blessed minutes of peace.

After church, excitement rose to a fevered pitch. Nana and Grandpa would stay for a quick visit but usually begged off dinner and headed home. They knew what was coming. For some unknown reason, or at least unknown to me, about half way through dinner, Santa stopped by. It was a neighborhood tradition. Each child received a small present and Santa’s promise that he’d be back with more if we cleaned our plates and went right to bed. The visit did nothing to slow down the dancing and prancing of the Nye sisters. After swallowing one or two more mouthfuls, Mom gave up and urged us into our jammies. Dad read the Night Before Christmas and we were off to bed.

My family is now in one of those in-between periods. In fact, we’ve been here for a while. There are no small children or babies to dance and prance with unbridled excitement and anticipation. That said, even without small children around, we do find ways to keep things hopping. Last year, it was a trip to the emergency room. Dad, I hope you’re listening when I suggest we skip the ER this year.

(By the way – the white haired gent is my dad … he had no interest in helping but couldn’t stay away from the fun.)

I think it was three maybe four years ago that we began a wonderful new Christmas Eve tradition. My twenty-something nieces come over to help me cook. I’m guessing Kaela’s move from the dorm to an apartment might have been the initial instigator. Her sister Emily did not want to be left out and joined the party. It is wonderful fun and, with two sous-chefs, the dinner is extra special. 

I love the idea of bonding in the kitchen – of passing recipes and stories from one generation to the next. The girls arrive around four, still a bit jet-lagged but filled with enthusiasm. We agree tasks and claim work spaces. There is a lot of laughter and more than a few questions. Music fills the air and, in keeping with the occasion, there is a little dancing and prancing plus a glass of wine or two.

When we started, Kaela described our time together as a cooking lesson. However, in just a few short years, both nieces have become quite accomplished. More than a lesson, it is a special time for us to share news and retell old stories.

Until the rest of the family arrives. Then we all we go into host mode. Kaela and Emily pass fresh-from-the-oven hors d’oeuvres and pour glasses of wine while I take care of any last minute dinner details. There is more laughter and lots of chatter. While there is no rush, dinner is served with plenty of time for everyone to get home and into bed before Santa arrives.

Have a wonderful holiday and bon appétit!

After dinner – Gramps and the Girlies

Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce
Although I fall far short of seven fishes, I like seafood on Christmas Eve. I usually start with gravlax or smoked salmon and then serve shrimp for the main course. It’s time to switch it up! Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 (about 3 pounds) salmon fillet
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 lemons, each cut into 4 wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Tarragon Sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Melt the butter and whisk in the juice of 1-2 lemon wedges. Let cool for a few minutes.

Place the salmon skin side down on a sheet pan and brush with lemon-butter. Arrange the remaining lemon wedges around the salmon, season everything with salt and pepper and slide the pan into the oven.

Roast the salmon at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until it is almost cooked through. Slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and, leaving the skin behind, carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter and loosely cover for 10 minutes. The fish will continue cooking while it rests.

Return the lemons to the oven and continue roasting while the salmon rests.

Serve the salmon with roasted lemon wedges and Tarragon Sauce.

Tarragon Sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the sour cream, mayonnaise and mustard in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the tarragon, shallot, garlic and lemon zest, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Best if made ahead, covered and refrigerated for a few hours. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

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One Year Ago – Gingerbread Decorations
Two Years Ago – Sticky Buns
Three Years Ago –
Cranberry Coffee Cake

Four Years Ago –
Fish Stew Provençal

Five Years Ago –
Twice-Baked Potatoes

Six Years Ago – Baked French Toast
Seven Years Ago –
Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta

Eight Years Ago –
Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

Nine Years Ago – Potato, Leek & Kale Soup
Ten Years Ago – Salmon & Lentils

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

What are you serving this Christmas Eve? Feel free to share!

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

Another Holiday Special – A Cozy Souper Supper

A cozy supper is the perfect end to any day filled with holiday fun. Maybe you have been out and about visiting Santa, touring the neighborhood looking at lights, trimming the tree or sledding. Whatever has kept you busy, unwind with family and maybe a few friends and a souper delicious supper.

Here are a few favorite soups to consider –

Hearty Sausage Soup with Beans & Greens
Potato & Cheddar Soup
Spicy Shrimp Chowder
Moroccan Chickpea Soup
or Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder

Add a festive salad – 

Romaine, Radicchio & Avocado Salad with Pomegranate & Walnuts
Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad
or keep it simple with a big bowl of mixed greens tossed with Classic Vinaigrette

Finally, top it all off with a sweet treat – 

A selection of your favorite Christmas Cookies
Gingerbread Cupcakes
or Apple Bread Pudding

Bon fête and bon appétit!

Want more? Try my Cocktail Party Menu, any and all of my favorite Christmas Cookies, or one of my seasonal menus. Feel free to create your own menus with the help of my extensive recipe index.

What are your favorite soup recipes? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

© Susan W. Nye, 2018

Another Holiday Special – The Cocktail Party

Will you be celebrating the season with a festive cocktail party? If it’s been awhile since you entertained a crowd, this could be your year. December is a great time to entertain. After all, your house is decorated and spirits are high.

Not sure what to serve? Keep it simple with a few serve-yourself platters and a couple of one or two bite savories to pass. Here are a few ideas:

As for those platters –

Arrange a three or five beautiful cheeses on a cutting board. You’ll want to include a variety of textures and flavors. Combine a firm cheese like a beautiful aged cheddar, add a soft cheese like a triple-crème brie and don’t shy away from a fabulous blue cheese. Stilton is always a good choice or try my Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts. (You can prep it in advance.) Feel free to add a Spanish Manchego, a smoked Gouda or a log of goat cheese.

You can’t go wrong adding some prosciutto, pâté and artisanal sausage to your cheese board. Alternatively, you can create a separate charcuterie platter.

A seafood platter is a great idea. You can go crazy with oysters, shrimp and crab or keep it simple with gravlax or smoked salmon. Embellish the salmon with wedges of lemon, thinly sliced onion and capers. A little caviar or chopped egg would also be nice.

Finally, a vegetable platter with a wonderful dip or two is a good idea. Most of your guests will consider it dinner, so a few veggies will be appreciated. As for dips, can I suggest Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus, Sun-dried Tomato Aioli and/or Spicy Red Pepper Aioli?

Now, what to pass?

Cook up a couple of one- or two-bite savories. (BTW – if you aren’t hosting but heading to a potluck, any one of these delightful little treats will be welcomed.) Could I suggest – Cheesy Spinach Tartlets, Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms and Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce.

Don’t forget to scatter small bowls of Spicy Olives and my favorite Rosemary Cashews an strategic spots. At the very least, put one of both on the buffet table and on the bar.

Finally, finish the evening with a sweet treat. Who wouldn’t enjoy a Christmas cookie, brownie or mini cupcake or all three? Fill a tray with rows of Macadamia Snow Balls,  Gingerbread Cupcakes and Sweet Dream Bars. For a smooth and creamy treat, fill tiny dessert glasses (even a shot glass) with Chocolate Mousse or White Chocolate Mousse and topped with a raspberry.

Bon fête and bon appétit!

Want more? Try one of my seasonal menus or create your own with the help of my extensive recipe index.

What are your favorite recipes for cocktail party nibbles? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

© Susan W. Nye, 2018

The Long Columbus Day Weekend Special

I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to the long weekend. Oktoberfest ends on Sunday – so you might want to hoist a beer and grill some sausages. Or you might want to create a beautiful Italian feast.

Let’s start with the Italian feast…

Start with a lovely antipasto platter. Before it’s too cold to cook outside, assemble a beautiful platter with your favorite Grilled Vegetables & More. You might want to create a second platter with one of my favorites – Tomato & Burrata Salad.

Now for dinner. We all love pasta, so why not toss up some spaghetti (or your favorite pasta) with Pesto alla Genovese. Complete your main course with a few Garlicky Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives.

Finish the evening with a wonderful chocolaty dessert … something like my Chocolate Walnut Tart.

As for Oktoberfest, I have a few suggestions if you want to take your celebration in a Bavarian direction. Only a few and I’m going to flub a little because I don’t do a lot of German cooking …

Fire up the grill and start the evening with Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard. Alternatively (and stealing a page from Eastern Europe), you might like my Savory Blinis with Smoked Salmon.

Moving to the table, I’ll recommend my Roasted Carrot Salad. Although hardly German, it is delicious.

For the main course, well, I admit it – when I think of Oktoberfest I think of Sausages with Sauerkraut. You’ll want to add some Potato Salad. However, Roasted Pork Loin with Apples & Onions and Smashed Potatoes would be a very nice alternative. Or more Austrian or Eastern European, try my Pork Stew Paprika with buttered noodles.

Now, for dessert, everyone will love my Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing.

Have a great weekend. Bon Appétit – Buon Appetito – Guten appetit!

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