Another Rainy Weekend Special

Four large trees decided to tip over and take down power lines in my neighborhood this past Sunday night. We were plunged into cold and darkness. My street was not alone. Tens of thousands of houses in New Hampshire were in the dark. Lucky us, our power was restored mid-afternoon on Tuesday. Thousands across the state, some a mile or two down the road, have not been so lucky.

After a few days delay, work has resumed on the kitchen. The latest addition to the team is here to paint. Welcome Coleen. Bill, the electrician, is also here whittling down his punch list. If all goes as scheduled (no more power outages please), the kitchen will be all but done tomorrow.

Thank goodness. After an unseasonable warm fall, it looks like the weather has turned cold and dreary – typical November. Just before seven this morning, I went outside for my daily walk around Pleasant Lake. You could not see your hand in front of your face. It was that foggy. I guess it’s another comfort food weekend. It’s probably safe to assume that it is just one in a long string of comfort food weekends.

Why not invite a friend or neighbor without power to dinner this weekend? Need some suggestions … how about:

Get out your roasting pan. Main course, starter or hors d’oeuvres, you can never have too many roasted veggies. For an elegantly hearty start to your party, try my Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction. Or keep it simple and let your guests help themselves with my Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus.

When you are ready to head to the table, toss up a great salad with fall flavors. Roasted mushrooms are a delicious addition to tossed greens. See for yourself with my Mixed Greens with Roasted Mushrooms.

Now for the main course. How about a Roast Chicken. (Think of it as a Thanksgiving dry run.) Serve the chicken with my Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Pearl Onions.

For dessert, there is nothing like a creamy pud. What could be more New England than Maple Mousse with Apple Compote .

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

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Comfort Food for a Rainy Weekend Special

Yesterday was an absolutely miserable day and  more of the same is in the forecast. Well, we could pout, stamp our feet and whatever other petulant stuff you like to do. Or, we could have a go at some comfort food.

My kitchen is almost done and it is definitely usable. Last night, I was in an inventing mood. I was in a fusion mood and mixed it up with an interesting new dish. At least, I thought it was interesting. To start, Caribbean black beans met chorizo and cuddled up for a while. Then, I added a few shrimp. If you like, you could think of it as Caribbean Jambalaya. Staying with the Caribbean-Cajun fusion theme, I served it on top of a dollop of Sweet Potato Polenta. Just to continue the mix up, I added a little chipotle and cheddar to the polenta for a whiff of Tex-Mex. It was delicious, if I do say so myself. Happily, my guests agreed.

So, if you were ever wondering, the answer is yes. I do treat family and friends as guinea pigs when inventing new recipes. I also invite them to photo shoots. As soon as dinner is snapped for prosperity, the meal can begin. Unfortunately, my camera’s battery was dead so you’ll have to wait for pictures of my Caribbean-Cajun-Tex-Mex fusion.

With heavy rain headed to the northeast, I think this is going to be a good weekend to cook up some warm and cozy comfort food. Think soup or chili, pasta or stew. If you are more baker than cook, go for a great pie, coffee cake or cookies.

Whether you are sweet or savory, cook hearty with love and a dash of spice. Here are some suggestions:

For the cooks –

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Bake

Mediterranean Meatballs with Couscous

Hearty Black Bean Soup

Harira (Middle Eastern Soup with Chicken, Chick-Peas and Lentils)

Coq au Vin (French Chicken Stew)

Carbonnade á la Flamande (Beer Braised Beef & Onions)

For the bakers –

Apple-Oatmeal Cookies

Zucchini Muffins

Ginger Scones

Rustic Apple Croustade

Have a great weekend in the kitchen 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

Rockin’, Rollin’ and Casserolin’ & Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Bake

As soon as I think it’s time to write about colder weather, a blast of warm tropical air comes rolling up from the south. We keep asking each other, “Can you believe this weather … in October?” If we’d only stop and think about for a minute, we’d realize it’s hardly unexpected. It’s hurricane season. A quartet of mass destruction, Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria have plagued countless lives and ruined even more property. Turning northward, they brought heat and humidity to New England. Fortunately, we were spared high winds and flooding.

Warm weather has postponed my semi-annual changing of the drawers. For those who don’t follow this tradition, it happens twice a year. In the fall, turtlenecks go in the drawer. T-shirts and shorts take their place in plastic storage bins. The reverse happens in the spring.

Anyway, the delay has been a good thing. What with the new kitchen coming together, I needed the extra time to wipe down cabinets and counters, wash dust-covered dishes and find places for everything. You’ll be happy to know, I’m down to the last few strays. The fondue stand needs a good spot by the weekend. Otherwise, it and all the other homeless bits and bobs are going to the freecycle table at the dump. I’ve already filled a couple of boxes.

As soon as that’s done, I can start rockin’ and rollin’ and casserolin’. A classic casserole sounds like the perfect dish to break in my new kitchen. After all, everyone loves them. Casseroles are a part of our heritage. Think back to all those hearty dinners after hiking, biking or skiing. Maybe it was raking leaves and shoveling snow at your house. There was a bit of both at mine.

Fast forward and who could forget all the casseroles we took to potlucks in our twenties? I was living in Vermont and then western Massachusetts. It was cold a good part of the year so a casserole made sense. Besides, let face it, if you are in your twenties, you’re probably broke. A good casserole is as cheap as it is filling and delicious.

Perhaps the best thing about casseroles is their versatility. From classic French or Italian to spicy Tex-Mex, there are no limits to possible combinations. However, there are a few basics when it comes to assembling a great casserole. Start with your starch of choice. They’re all good – spuds, rice, tortillas or my favorite, pasta. Next, you’ll need some protein and veggies. Don’t forget, the end result is a one pot meal. You need to cover all the bases. Think beans for a vegetarian treat; create a delicious surprise with leftover pot roast or sauté up some chicken. You probably have yours but my favorite vegetables to put in a casserole are mushrooms, broccoli and spinach along with the requisite onion and garlic.

You’ll need a sauce. Any of the basics will do – Béchamel or the lighter Velouté, cream sauce, pesto or tomato sauce. Use any one in a multitude of variations or combinations. You can find most of them in a jar but give homemade a try. I promise the result will be worth the extra trouble. Finally, there is the cheese. From the king of cheeses, Parmigiano-Reggiano, to a humble cheddar, a great casserole is all about the cheese. Goat cheese, feta, ricotta, gruyere and fontina, we love them all.

With the last of the tropical heat and humidity surely gone, there is no excuse … it’s time to get rockin’, rollin’ and casserolin’. Bon appétit!

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Bake
Try this warm and cozy casserole the next time you have a crowd over. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
Classic Velouté Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2-1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup dry Sherry
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
About 8 ounces (2 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese
About 1 ounce (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
12 ounces pasta – cavatappi, penne or rigatoni
1 – 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut in bite-sized florets

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium-high. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the skillet. Reduce the temperature to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn the chicken, add the white wine and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature and cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place the chicken in a large bowl and reserve.

Make the Velouté Sauce. (Recipe follows.)

Put the sour cream, sherry and herbs in a bowl and whisk to combine. A little at a time, whisk the Velouté Sauce into the sour cream. Return the sauce to the saucepan.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil, add the onion, season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Add the onion and garlic to the sauce.

If necessary, add a little more olive oil to the skillet. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté until golden. Add the mushrooms and 2/3rds of the cheeses to the sauce and, stirring frequently, bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a large casserole.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, less 2 minutes. When the pasta has about 3 minutes of cooking time left, add the broccoli. Drain the pasta and broccoli and add it to the bowl with the chicken.

Add sauce to the chicken, pasta and broccoli and toss to combine. Transfer everything to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

You can make ahead to this point, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Cover and bake the casserole at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until piping hot and golden, about 15 minutes more.

Velouté Sauce
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking continuously, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste.

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One Year Ago – Cheddar Ale Soup
Two Years Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Three Years Ago – Gorgonzola & Walnut Shortbread with Savory Fig Jam
Four Years Ago – Soupe de Poisson Provençal
Five Years Ago – Hearty Black Bean Soup
Six Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna
Seven Years Ago – Gingerbread Cupcakes
Eight Years Ago – Buttery Chocolate Almond Brittle
Ninet Years Ago – Pork Stew PaprikaOr Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite casserole recipe? Feel free to share!

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

The Zen of Comfort Food & Mediterranean Meatballs with Couscous

You could blame it on the Columbus Day Weekend but I’ve had meatballs on my mind for several days now. A holiday fraught with controversy, both cherished and despised, Columbus Day nonetheless reminds us of the Italian-American part of our heritage. Although he never set foot in North America, we still claim Columbus as our first Italian-American. Stereotype or not, meatballs are a beloved part of the Italian in America.

That said; meatballs are not just Italian. You will find them all across Europe, the Americas, Middle East and Asia. More than some vague cultural reference, they are pure comfort food. They are one of the many dishes made by hand with love by our Nana, Nonni, Meme or Mormor. That connection to our past elevates them to the top of the comfort food pyramid. Think of meatballs as comfort food with a capital C and capital F.

Of course, they are not alone. Up there at the pinnacle of comfortdom sits mac & cheese, chicken noodle soup and chili. Of course, there is a long list of easy comfort foods. Indulgent snacks like fast food French fries and dumplings from the Chinese take-out come to mind. The quickest way to mend a broken heart is a pint of Rocky Road. Generations of Moms’ have served grilled cheese with a cup of tomato soup after a lost soccer game.

So why are meatballs so special? What puts them at the pinnacle? I have a theory but it may only apply to those of us who like to cook. Here goes. Meatballs provide comfort at both the destination and throughout the journey. In case you haven’t guessed, making them is the journey and enjoying them with family and friends is the destination.

Comfort food is all about love. Preparing a comfort dish is part of the Zen of everyday life. Although comfort food is rarely complicated, its preparation is often time consuming. The very nature of these recipes invites us to slow down.

The day my mother died, I made two batches of chili. It sounds strange, doesn’t it? I had been awake half the night. Sometime in the wee hours, I remembered that two pounds of black beans had been soaking for almost two days. I could have thrown them out. Instead, around five-thirty, I stopped tossing and turning and began making chili. Dad left for the hospital and I promised to relieve him by noon.

Mom had been ill for several years. The rhythmic chopping of onions and mincing of garlic helped me find peace. The easy back and forth from cutting board to stove, pantry and refrigerator was steadying. I had space and time alone for quiet reflection. The act of cooking simple comfort food was grounding on a difficult day. The first batch of chili went to a nonprofit fundraiser. The second was for the family.

Mom and I spent a quiet afternoon together. I told her about my peaceful morning, I think she approved. I read to her and then she was gone. After three hurricanes, an earthquake and the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, perhaps we can all find peace in both the journey and destination of cooking and sharing comfort food.

Chili or chicken soup, mac & cheese or meatballs … take comfort in simple food and bon appétit!

Mediterranean Meatballs and Couscous
I like to combine the flavors of different cultures. Here my mother’s Swedish meatballs meet the flavors of North Africa, Turkey and Greece. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

Mediterranean Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
2 pounds ground turkey
1/2 cup instant oatmeal
1/3 large onion, minced
1 small carrot, finely chopped or grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Flour, for dusting
Olive oil
2 cups Israeli couscous

Make the Mediterranean Tomato Sauce.

While the sauce simmers, put the turkey, oatmeal, carrot, onion and garlic in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the herbs, spices, salt and pepper. Put the eggs and vinegar in a bowl and whisk combine. Add the sour cream, whisk again and add the wet ingredients to the turkey. Gently toss and mix to combine. You can use a couple of large spoons but impeccably clean hands work best. Roll the mixture into meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Dust the meatballs with flour, add them to the pan and brown on all sides. You may need to cook the meatballs in batches; don’t crowd the pan.

Transfer the meatballs to the pot of Mediterranean Tomato Sauce, bring to a simmer and transfer to the oven. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. If needed, add more chicken stock to the sauce.

While the meatballs braise in the sauce, prepare the couscous according to package directions.

Drain the couscous and spoon into individual shallow bowls, top with meatballs and sauce and serve.

Mediterranean Tomato Sauce
Makes about 2 quarts

Olive oil
2/3 large onion, chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped or grated
2 tablespoons or to taste Harissa
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 cup or more chicken stock or broth
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

Lightly coat a heavy casserole with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the onion, carrot and harissa, sprinkle with the spices and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until onion is translucent, add the garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more.

Add the wine and simmer until reduced half. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, stock and herbs, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Can be made in advance.

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One Year Ago – Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans
Two Years Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Three Years Ago – Hearty White Bean & Tomato Soup
Four Years Ago – Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
Five Years Ago – Tagliatelle alla Carbonara
Six Years Ago – Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Seven Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Eight Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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

What are your favorite comfort foods? Feel free to share!

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

More Summer Camp & Blueberry Bread Pudding

Last week I wrote a little bit about my first year at Camp Four Winds. A Girl Scout camp, it offered an escape from the hot, stuffy suburbs. Four Winds was basic to say the least, little cabins and tents in the woods, latrines and a big old dining hall. I’m not exactly sure if there were showers. While I sort of remember waiting in line for a shower, it might be my imagination. On the other hand, I have a clear vision of soaping up in the pond on Saturday night. You know the drill, once a week whether you need it or not.

Our days were not packed with fancy lessons or special programs. There was no horseback riding, tennis lessons, golf, dance classes or archery. At some point, we must have made a rope bracelet or gimp lanyard. We went on a hike, maybe two. Although I’d have denied it at the time, the hikes were none too arduous. One was planned as an overnight. We wimped out and returned to our little cabins when it started to rain. However, as luck would have it, the rain stopped in time for s’mores.

Come to think of it, camp was not all that different from what we did at home. We got up, we had breakfast and did chores. Of course, the chores were more onerous than those Mom gave us. My sister and I did not clean latrines back on Jackson Road. However, we did make our beds and could yield a broom. Brenda was the neater of the two. If pushed, I would eventually pick up my half of our room.

At home, we waited impatiently for Mom to do whatever needed doing before taking us to the town beach. At camp, the counselors corralled us down to the waterfront as soon as our beds were made and cabins swept. Starting with swimming lessons, most of the day was spent in and on the pond. Rain or shine, we stayed in the water until our lips were blue and our teeth chattered. Then we rowed boats and paddle canoes.

At the end of the morning, we were hustled back to our cabins to change into shorts and shirts. Bathing suits were not permitted in the dining hall. The food was unremarkable but kids gathered on the dining hall steps before and after lunch to sing camp songs. I can still sing a couple although I might mess up a verse of two.

After lunch was quiet time. Then and now, it seems rather silly. At seven or eight or however old I was, I was well past needing an afternoon nap. However, we were expected to rest or write letters home to our parents. I guess it was okay to read a book. Mostly, we whispered and giggled.

I’m pretty sure that quiet time was invented to give the counselors a break. How much do you want to bet that they spent the hour smoking cigarettes and writing love letters to their boyfriends? After resting, we were back at the pond. The remainder of the afternoon was filled with more swimming, more blue lips and more chattering teeth followed by rowboats and canoes. If you sense a pattern, you’d be right. It was not for naught. At the end of the two weeks, there was a swim meet. My crawl was hopeless but I came in second with my speedy backstroke.

Thankfully, there were more camp songs before and after dinner because the meal was as unremarkable as breakfast and lunch. At night, there were campfires, s’mores, ghost stories and more giggling. Little girls like to giggle and I was particularly good at it.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Blueberry Bread Pudding

You can call this Baked Blueberry French Toast and serve it for breakfast. Otherwise, call it delicious and serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

Butter for the pan
1 day-old* baguette (about 16-ounce), cubed
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 whole eggs
3 cups half and half or whole milk
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Generously butter a 13- x 9-inch pan. Arrange half of the bread cubes in the pan in a single layer. Sprinkle with half of the blueberries. Top with the remaining bread cubes and blueberries.

Put the cream cheese, sugar and spices in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at time, beating to incorporate. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the half and half. Gradually increase the mixer speed and beat until well combined.

Pour the custard pour over the bread and blueberries. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until lightly browned and set, about 30 minutes more.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve with or without vanilla ice cream.

* It is okay to use a fresh baguette. Just spread the cubes on baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes before prepping the pudding.

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One Year Ago – Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago – Cheesecake Brownies
Three Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Four Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Five Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Six Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Eight Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

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

What about you? How will you celebrate the first days of summer vacation and the longest day? Feel free to share!

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

April in Paris & Coq au Vin au Printemps

April in New Hampshire … the ski slopes close down, frost heaves hit new heights and mud season is at its peak. Time to get away to someplace like … Paris! Now, April in Paris, that’s a whole different story. I’ve had the good fortune to spend an April weekend or two in Paris. The chestnut trees are in bloom and beds of daffodils bob in the breeze. The air is spring-like and a whole lot warmer than New Hampshire. Indeed, unlike New Hampshire, a foot of new snow isn’t blanketing the town. Parisians can thank the Gulf Stream for that.

Don’t tell me you were asleep the day your science teacher gave his illuminating lecture on this wondrous current? Without going into detail, let’s just say the Gulf Stream is the reason that April in Paris is a good bit warmer than the Granite State. If all this snow and mud has got you feeling glum, how about we take a tour of the City of Light?

Paris is a city for walkers so you will need comfortable shoes. Let’s start the tour by taking in the magnificence of the Champs-Élysées and the Jardin des Tuileries. Then we can wander over to the Seine and contemplate the river with all its grandeur. You’ll want to pause to enjoy the ancient architecture as we cross a few of its many bridges. While we’re out and about, let’s stop in and see the beautiful rose window at Notre-Dame Cathedral and marvel at the Church of Saint-Sulpice.

Next, it’s time to delight in Paris’ old world charm. We’ll wander over cobblestones and down narrow streets. You never know what charming bistro or amazing shop you will discover. When you need a break, we can stop for a leisurely coffee at a sidewalk café. If it’s a sunny day, we can probably sit outside. People-watching is one of my favorite activities in Paris.

When mid-day hunger pains strike, we’ll pick up an elegant picnic at the Marché St-Germain. The fruits and vegetables are gorgeous. The beautiful breads and cheeses take an ordinary picnic to a whole new level. We’ll add a view of the Seine or the Eiffel Tower or more people-watching at the luxurious Luxembourg Garden. Our picnic will be a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach!

Paris is not immune to April showers so if it rains during the trip, and it probably will, we can visit the museum. From the ancient Egyptians to the Mona Lisa, you can easily spend an entire week or more at the Louvre. The Musée d’Orsay is a must for fans of impressionism and post-impressionism. Built in a beaux arts railway station, it makes for a fascinating afternoon. Rain or shine, the Centre Georges Pompidou is a fun place to visit. From the jugglers and musicians out front to the cinemas and National Museum of Modern Art inside, the Centre Pompidou is not-to-be-missed.

At the end of a busy day, there is nothing better than dinner in a cozy bistro. No need to rush, take it easy and relax over a long, leisurely meal. The food and wine in Paris are nothing short of wonderful. After all that walking, feel free to indulge in a traditional five-course dinner. Each course will be loaded with flavor but you shouldn’t worry about overindulging. Portions are smaller than a typical American restaurant.

Oops, daydream and tour over. Don’t despair; instead, enjoy a walk around Pleasant Lake and a beautiful bistro dinner at home. Pick up a bunch of daffodils, download Ella Fitzgerald’s version of April in Paris and gather friends and family around your table for a taste of Paris.

Here’s to a little Parisian spring charm and bon appétit!

Eiffel Tower photo credit: Thank you Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Coq au Vin au Printemps
Roast chicken is a typical bistro meal. Add veggies for a typical spring bistro meal! Enjoy!
Serves 8

8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups or more chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup or more dry white wine
1 pound whole mushrooms, trimmed and halved or quartered
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces fresh (peeled and trimmed) or frozen pearl onions
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and chopped
1 pound baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoons herb and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the mushrooms in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Add the onions, sprinkle with the remaining herbs, season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Put the mustard and garlic in a measuring cup, whisking constantly slowly add the lemon juice, stock and wine.

Turn the chicken, add the wine and broth mixture and scatter the mushrooms and onions around the pan. Return the pan to the oven. Continue roasting, adding more wine and broth if necessary, for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked-through and golden and the vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl. A few spoonfuls at a time, whisk 1/2-1 cup of the hot braising liquid into the sour cream. Moving the chicken around if necessary, stir the sour cream and asparagus into the vegetables and around the chicken. Return the pan to the oven for about 5 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. Add the spinach and toss to combine. Return the pan to the oven for 2-3 minutes or until the spinach has wilted.

Transfer the vegetables to a large platter or individual plates, top with the chicken and serve.

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One Year Ago – Moroccan Baked Cod
Two Years Ago – Artichoke Pesto
Three Years Ago – Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach
Four Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with
Five Years Ago – Bananas Foster
Six Years Ago – Tapenade
Seven Year Ago – Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème
Eight Years Ago – Lemon Tart

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

What about you? What is your favorite spring destination? Feel free to share!

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

Groundhog Day & Oven Braised Chicken Cacciatore

punxsutawney_philGroundhog Day, we’ve all seen it or at least part of it. No, I don’t mean the annual folderol in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. I mean the movie with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. You know the one where they take a road trip to Punxsutawney. Their mission is to report on the auspicious occasion of a groundhog leaving his burrow to check the weather. Sure, it’s kind of silly but it’s also brilliant, classic Bill Murray. Who can resist?

Before you shout, “I can!” (By the way, that’s my inclination too.) Let’s consider the pros and cons:

First, there’s a definite plus, especially for those of us with unruly hair. Let’s face it; we’d all like nothing more than to wake up one day and look like Andie MacDowell. Who knows, after Green Card, some of us might even want to be her. Anyway, like our beloved Mary Richards (aka Mary Tyler Moore), Andie works in a newsroom as a producer. Like Mary, she is smart, charming, funny and beautiful. Okay, she is a bit of a goody-goody but she had one heck of a curly mane.

Next, there’s the mixed pros and cons of Bill Murray. He’s the egomaniacal weatherman sent to Punxsutawney to cover the groundhog festivities. Funny, yes, Bill Murray is funny but he is also painfully obnoxious. He takes petty, peevish and petulant to new levels. Feigning self-assurance, he flirts with the lovely Andie and bullies the cameraman. He is scornful of the Punxsutawnians who just want to have their fun and celebrate their world famous groundhog.

Looking back, it’s pretty clear, in spite of being Bill Murray and famous and funny, he was everything we didn’t want to date. After all, the film came out in the nineties. From coast to coast and around the globe, we single women were convinced that we could do better. Of course, Andie agreed with us.

And finally, here’s where Groundhog Day (the movie not the sort of holiday) comes out on top. The movie is all about change and redemption. As most people know, the movie tells the story of this dreadful man who finds himself living the same day over and over and over again. As the movie progresses, a new twist develops. We figure out that Bill Murray’s character is not only insufferable; he is miserable.

Let’s face it; we’ve all had those times when nothing but nothing is going right. Unfortunately, although we hate to admit it, some of our difficulties are of our own making. Even worse, we’ve all been known to misbehave when things aren’t going our way. Who hasn’t gone off on a ridiculous tirade, done something petty or spent a good part of a day whinging or snapping at any and every one? Like a groundhog in a maze of underground tunnels, we get lost in our foolishness, pride or plain stupidity. Not every day, mind you, but at least occasionally we lose sight of our best selves. It’s okay to admit it; we’ve all done it … well, maybe not Saint Theresa.

As the snarky weatherman relives February 2nd again and again, he slowly but surely begins to figure things out. He begins to learn and change. If we let it, this little piece of cinema shows us that even at our most dreadful and depressed we are still redeemable. Even if our unhappiness turns us into a despicable bully, there is hope. Just like Bill Murray, we can change and grow. We can find love and happiness.

Have a happy Groundhog Day! Bon appétit!

Thank you Anthony Quintano for the photo of Punxsutawney Phil provided under a Creative Commons License.

Oven Braised Chicken Cacciatore
Whether the groundhog comes out on Thursday or not, winter is here for the duration. This chicken_cacciatore_05comforting chicken dish is perfect for a cold winter night. Enjoy!
Serves 4

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
About 1 teaspoon Italian herbs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup or more chicken broth
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup or more dry white wine
4 ounces fresh (peeled and trimmed) or frozen pearl onions
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, trimmed, peeled and left whole
8 ounces whole mushrooms, trimmed and halved or quartered

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a skillet large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the chicken with half of the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot skillet. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the chicken broth, tomatoes and wine in a measuring cup or small bowl. Add the remaining herbs, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Remove the skillet from the oven. Turn the chicken, scatter the onions, carrots and garlic around the chicken and add the liquid ingredients. Return the pan to the oven and continue cooking at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

While the chicken and vegetables bubble, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Scatter the mushrooms over the top of the chicken and veggies. Adding more broth and/or wine if necessary, cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and nicely browned and the vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Serve the chicken thighs with a spoonful of mushrooms, onion and garlic.

A great dish for a party, double or triple the recipe and use a large roasting pan. This recipe is very forgiving. If dinner is delayed, add more broth and wine, reduce the oven temperature and let it bubble for an additional 30, even 45, minutes. It can also be made ahead and reheated.

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One Year Ago – Poverty Casserole
Two Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower
Three Years Ago – Savory Blinis
Four Years Ago – Lettuce Cups with Shrimp & Noodles
Five Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Six Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower & Bacon
Seven Years Ago – Chocolate Mousse
EIght Years Ago – Shrimp & Feta

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

What about you? What’s the change you want to make this Groundhog Day? Feel free to share!

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