Another Weekend Special – A Festive Holiday Dinner with Friends

If dinner for eight (or twelve) is on your weekend agenda, I’m happy to help. The holidays are a wonderful time to invite friends over for a casual-elegant dinner. Here are a few ideas …

Put a bottle of prosecco on ice, light the fire and get cozy. You’ll want to start with a savory or two. Perhaps you’d like to try my Greek Mushrooms and/or Butternut Squash Tartlets? No, how about my favorite dip – Baba Ganoush?

When you are ready to move to the table …

Start with a colorful salad. My Romaine & Radicchio Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Walnuts is beautiful and delicious. Serve the salad with a basket of Savory Rosemary Biscotti.

For the main course … well, how about Roast Chicken, Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc or Braised Short Ribs? All three would be delicious with a side of Roasted Cauliflower and a spoonful of Whole Grain Pilaf.

Now, for dessert! For rich and delicious and chocolate, you can’t beat my Flourless Chocolate Cake.

Happy holidays and have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

Check out the list  of all the recipes with links on this blog!

What are you up to 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? Try one of my seasonal menus or create your own© Susan W. Nye, 2017

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The Sounds of Christmas & Romaine & Radicchio Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Walnuts

The Christmas season is a beautiful time of year. When we were kids, Mom and Dad piled us into the station wagon for a trip around town to see the holiday lights. Sometime in early December, Nana gave my sister and me sweet little party dresses. From the school assembly to family dinner on the twenty-fifth, we were belles at every festive event. Delicious treats warmed our bellies and the smell of fresh pine boughs fill the air.

Not just sights and smells, there is a whole bunch of wonderful sounds to enjoy throughout the holiday season. Here are a few:

Any day at any time, happy voices fill the air. We’re never too distracted to exchange a friendly greeting with a neighbor or offer a merry thank you to our favorite barista. Perhaps more raucous is the shared goodwill at a holiday party. The season just brings out our cheery best.

Carols and songs fill the air. Let’s start with the radio station that plays only Christmas music. Move on to the musak in a department store elevator. Don’t forget to join a sing-along, impromptu or planned. And finally, I’m sorry but throughout the holidays you can hear me tunelessly humming as I go about your errands. There is something about the holidays that makes me want to sing.

Bells jingle and ring at every turn. They decorate the front door, letting out a cheery jingle with every opening and closing. They jangle at the student assembly. After all, not all of us can play the clarinet. Someone has to clatter the triangle and clang bells. Of course, no one can ignore the bell ringers with the red kettles and big hearts. They stand in front of malls and department stores for hours in every kind of weather collecting money to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and assist those in need.

Then there is the rasping sound of skates on the ice and the swoosh of skis on snow. Okay, skis are just as likely to make a skittering noise as they hurtle over New Hampshire’s icy slopes. Anyway, these sounds reassure us that we do indeed love winter … in spite of the cold and short days.

A crackling fire and whistling teakettle are sounds that will warm you inside and out. After a day shopping or an afternoon on the ice, it is pure pleasure to relax with a cup of tea or cocoa by the fire.

The rattle of cookie sheets is a welcome holiday sound. Whether you bake dozens and dozens or just one batch of an old family favorite, cookies are a delicious Christmas tradition. Be sure to bake a batch or two with your kids or grandkids. If they aren’t around, borrow a child or two from the neighbors. They will be happy to oblige as long as you return them with a couple dozen cookies.

There is nothing like the peace and quiet of gently falling snow. Cars stay home and off the road, the birds find shelter and any remaining sounds are muffled by the snow. It is pure peace and a sharp contrast to …

The happy shouts of children unwrapping their presents! I love all the excitement and noise on Christmas morning. The confusion of everyone talking and laughing at once just adds to the fun.

Enjoy the holiday season with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Romaine , Radicchio and Avocado with Pomegranate & Walnuts
This salad is as beautiful as it is delicious. Serve it at your next holiday party or bring it along to a potluck. Enjoy!
Serves 12

10-12 ounces baby romaine
2 endives, thinly sliced
1/2-1 small head radicchio, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Citrusy Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1-2 avocados, halved, pitted and cut into thin wedges
About 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
About 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Put the romaine, endives, radicchio and fennel in a bowl, drizzle with enough Citrusy Vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine.

Transfer the greens to a deep serving platter or individual plates, top with avocado slices, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and chopped walnuts and serve.

Citrusy Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
3/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the garlic, shallot, mustard and brown sugar in a clean glass jar and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the vinegar, lemon and orange juice and zest and shake vigorously to combine.

Add the olive oil and shake again to combine. Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes or more to combine the flavors. Give one more vigorous shake before serving.

Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Garlicy Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives
Two Years Ago – Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale
Three Years Ago – Maple-Nut Sundaes
Four Years Ago – Rosemary Cashews
Five Years Ago – Greek Stuffed Mushrooms
Six Years Ago – Ginger Crème Brûlée
Seven Years Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Eight Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Nine Years Ago – Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Penne

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

What are your favorite sounds of the Holidays? Feel free to share!

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

Tree Trimming Family Dinner Special

Is this your weekend to decorate the tree and deck the halls? If yes, I thought you might like to celebrate with a special family dinner. You’ll want to think cozy and one-pot wonder. That way you can assemble dinner and let it bubble while you decorate. Here are a few suggestions for a delicious tree trimming dinner:

When it comes to cozy, is there anything better than a nice stew. I figure you might be a little tired of turkey so I’ll skip all poultry dishes this week. (If not, then check out my recipe index.)

First thought, you might like my Brazilian-inspired Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verde. I like to serve this stew with Basmati rice.

Not interested in pork? Alright then, how about a trip to Italy with Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms & Creamy Polenta?

Or, enjoy a taste of France with my Braised Beef Bourguignon. Serve the beef with Smashed Potatoes.

Start you dinner with a nice salad. If you haven’t had a chance to try my Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, then by all means do. Thinking you’d like something a little simpler. How about Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad?

And for dessert? Well, maybe you’d like to give my Ginger-Orange Cheesecake. Otherwise, then I think you and your family might like my Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing.

Happy holiday and have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

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

What are you up to 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! target=”_blank”>Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Loving the Holidays & Ginger-Orange Cheesecake

From time to time, you’ll hear someone disparage the holidays. They’ll complain that Christmas is too stressful or too commercial, too one thing or another. Not me, I love the holidays. The hustle, the bustle, the cooking, decorating, music and, yes, even the shopping. As far as I’m concerned, it’s pretty much all good.

With Black Friday, Shop Small Saturday and Cyber Monday, the past few days were all about shopping. However, with a refrigerator full of leftovers, I kept my credit card in my wallet and made turkey soup. That’s not to say, I wasn’t tempted. My intray pinged constantly with one email offer after another. These weren’t just any old sale. Not by a long shot, they were HUGE, door busters and blowouts. At least that was the subject line in the emails.

If last weekend was all about shopping, then it stands to reason that this coming weekend must be about decorating. Yes? No? Maybe? Let’s go with yes and deck the halls. More than anything, decorations tell our family history. From keepsakes and school photos framed in glittery popsicle sticks to tiny elves, sailboats and cowbells, our tree ornaments track new babies, weddings, comings and goings, hobbies and travels. Each tells a story, reminds us of an adventure or harkens back to a particular time in our lives.

In addition, our decorations create a bridge linking one generation to the next. Technology changes, cooking trends come and go, new artists overtake old crooners but you can always find a spot for Nana’s della Robbia wreath or Great-Grandma’s crèche. Several years ago, we found a small hemlock, perfect for Grandpa’s ancient string of outdoor lights. The only trouble was, as soon as Dad plugged them in, the bulbs exploded with a snap, crackle and pop. I guess some things are just not made to last. That said, the story has been told and retold at least fifty times, maybe more.

Whether it’s shopping, holiday baking or decking the halls that has you stressed (or all of the above), here are a few tips to keep you centered throughout the yuletide season.

1. Keep things in perspective and set priorities. It’s the holidays; it’s a busy time. It’s okay to say no once in a while. Don’t confuse must and can. As in, you must show up for work, take a shower and get some sleep versus you can singlehandedly fold hundreds of origami cranes and hang them from the gym ceiling for the school dance. Can doesn’t mean you should let alone must.

2. Exercise, I’m not listening when you say you don’t have time. With a to-do list a mile long, you deserve some me-time. Get on the stationary bike or take a walk, join a Zumba class or spend an hour stretching on your yoga mat. Breathe deep and take a break from all those things that are shouting for your attention.

3. Laughter is a wonderful stress reducer. Whether a string of lights explodes, you drop the pecan pie or you discover mice have been living in the Lionel train, all you can do is laugh and laugh some more.

Enjoy the holiday season with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Ginger-Orange Cheesecake
I like to make a cheesecake at least once a year for Thanksgiving or Christmas. This one will be perfect for Christmas Eve. Enjoy!
Serves 12-16

Ginger Cookie Crumb Crust
2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted

Ginger-Orange Filling
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 inches fresh ginger peeled and finely grated (about 2 tablespoons)
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Make the Cookie Crumb Crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the cookie crumbs, brown sugar, spices and butter in a 10-inch springform pan and mix with a fork until well combined. Firmly press the crumbs into the bottom and about 1-inch up the sides of the pan. Tightly wrap the bottom and sides of the pan in two large sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Cool the pan on a rack. Do not remove the foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Make the Ginger-Orange Filling: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until fluffy. With the beater running, gradually add the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Continue beating, adding the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in the sour cream. Add the crystallized and fresh ginger, orange zest and juice and beat until well combined. Pour the filling into the springform pan.

Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about halfway up sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake until the filling is puffed slightly, softly set and golden, about 1 1/4 hours.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and discard the foil. Put the cheesecake on a rack to cool. Transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator and chill uncovered until cold. Cover and chill overnight or up to 2 days.

To serve: carefully cut around the sides of the pan with a thin knife and release the sides of the pan. Cut the cheesecake into wedges and serve.

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One Year Ago – Chocolate Walnut Tart
Two Years Ago – Citrus & Spice Sugar Cookies
Three Years Ago – Peppermint Bark Cookies
Four Years Ago – Mixed Reds & Greens Holiday Salad
Five Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Six Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Seven Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Nine Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens

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

How do you keep your sanity during the Holidays? Feel free to share!

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

What’s Cooking? Christmas Special

Christmas_Tree_Fells_2015_01Are you in a panic? Wondering what to cook for Christmas? If that more or less describes your current state, you might ask, “What about you Susan? What are you cooking this Christmas weekend?”

I’m delighted to be cooking with my nieces again on Christmas Eve. We’ll be eight around the table. Seafood is traditional for the night before Christmas so that’s what we’ll be doing.

While a feast of seven fishes might be fun, we’ll keep it a lot simpler. Here what I’m thinking … a feast of a couple of fishes …

We’ll want a few things to nibble before dinner. I think Smoked Salmon Mousse sounds good. (I’ll check with the girlies – we may need to take it up a notch with a batch of Blinis with Smoked Salmon & Caviar.) I have some Sriracha Aioli and Tapenade on hand and I’ll get some veggies for dipping. And we’ll definitely want to roast some Rosemary Cashews.

A salad for the first course, kale sounds good. We’ll toss up a colorful combination healthy veggies with my Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad.

There will be shrimp for the main course. We could toss up a batch of Mediterranean Shrimp but I think we’ll roast the shrimp (but skip the Tarragon Aioli). Instead, we’ll stir up a creamy and delicious Lemon Risotto with Spinach & Herbs.

And for dessert? Chocolate of course. While I suppose with three or four women in the kitchen, all is subject to change. For now, Flourless Chocolate Cake is on the menu.

What about Christmas morning? While we are in the kitchen, we might as well prep a batch of Sticky Buns or bake a Cranberry Coffee Cake.

I will not be cooking Christmas dinner. If you are and still trying to decide what to cook … I’ve got two menus for you to peruse. In the meantime, I’m waiting for instructions or suggestions of what I can bring along to help.

Happy holidays and bon appétit!

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

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

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

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2016

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

Edible Holiday Gifts Special

Sugar_Spice_NutsStocking stuffers or a gift for your host, if you have the time, I have the recipes! Here are some of my favorites!

Ah Nuts! Serious or silly, all of your friends will love a little crunch for Christmas.
Rosemary Cashews
Roasted Almonds
Sugar & Spiced Pecans

Olives, Artichokes & More! Just perfect with a glass of wine and a lively chat.
Spicy Olives
Tapenade
Artichoke Pesto
Sundried Tomato Pesto

Make that a savory biscuit and (or) a dab of jam for the cocktail hour.
Gorgonzola & Walnut Shortbread with Savory Fig Jam or Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam.

Skip the savory and go for sweet.
Death by Chocolate Sauce
Maple Sauce
Caramel Sauce.

Snowflake_Sugar_CookieDid someone say Christmas cookies?
Citrus & Spice Sugar Cookies
Peppermint Bark Cookies
Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
Ginger Shortbread
Macadamia Nut Shortbread 
Snowy Pecan Balls
.

Or fabulous Christmas chocolates?
Chocolate Almond Buttery Brittle
Chocolate Dipped Orange Caramels Chocolate Truffles.

Happy holidays and bon appétit!

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

Will you be making any gifts this year? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going.

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

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2016