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

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Feed a Cold? Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

slippers_02As the last few days have progressed, it has become increasingly clear that a cold has finagled its way into my head and chest. If there is any doubt, I’ve got the cough, aches and pains to prove it. It’s all my dad’s fault. Yah, yah, I know, when in doubt blame the parents. In this case, it really is his fault. It was his cold to begin with.

Three or four years ago, my now ninety-year-old father moved the few miles between the house I grew up in and the one I live in now. As roommates go, he’s not a bad sort. We are two messy-messers but we agreed to hire someone to clean one morning a week. We both adore Sarah and Dad is very fond of my cooking.

Dad is remarkably hale and hearty and claims he never gets sick. That’s interesting (for lack of a better word) because he was recovering from a very serious illness when he moved down here. On top of that, over the past five years, he’s made numerous ambulance trips and spent more than a handful of nights at both New London Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. But as I like to say, “He’s ninety and good at it.”

After fighting a bit of a head cold for several days, the bug moved down into Dad’s chest. (It also jumped across the dinner table and into me.) A trip to the doctor and a dose of antibiotics seemed to slow it down; at least for a day or two. Unfortunately, Dad’s improvement was short-lived.

I guess I should have known. After all, it has been more than six months since his last hospital stay. Obviously, Dad was overdue for a visit with the EMTs, a ride in the ambulance and a few days in the hospital. As robust and healthy as he is, his chest cold had escalated into pneumonia. Let’s not forget, he is ninety (and he’s good at it.)

Perhaps if the nurses and LNAs weren’t so nice to him, he’d decide it wasn’t worth the trip. For his part, Dad charms the staff and they can’t help but be nice to him in return. Regardless of Dad’s charm, these women and men are phenomenal, as kind and caring as they are professional.

Anyway, as I started to say, between work and visits to the hospital, I’ve been nursing my own cold. Only problem, I can never remember, do you feed a cold or starve it. The same goes with a fever. And what the heck do you do if you have both a cold and a fever? Since I lost my thermometer more than a few years ago, I guess I don’t have to worry about that one. When in doubt, assume 98.6.

Since Dad comes home tomorrow, I’ll soon have two colds to worry about. I think I’ll go with feeding. A nice hot mug of soup sounds like a delicious cure for the sniffles.

Here’s to good health and bon appétit!

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup
There is nothing like a mug of soup when you have a cold. Let the steam open your sinuses and the hearty goodness warm and heal you. Enjoy!
sweet_potato_red_lentil_soup_05Makes about 4 quarts

2 (about 1 1/2 pounds) sweet potatoes
Olive oil
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon or to taste sriracha
2 cups red lentils
8-10 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Sea salt to taste
1 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Grate zest and juice of 1 lime
Garnish: fresh chopped cilantro

Put the rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prick the sweet potatoes with a sharp knife. Bake at 450 degrees on a baking sheet until soft, 1–1 1/2 hours.

While the sweet potatoes bake, heat a little olive oil in a soup kettle over medium-high. Add the onion, celery and carrot, season with cumin and coriander and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and sriracha, and sauté for 2-3 minutes more.

Put the lentils in a sieve and rinse under cold, running water. Drain the lentils and add them to the vegetables and stir to coat and combine. Add 8 cups stock and the herbs, raise the heat and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to very low and simmer the lentils for 30 minutes or until very tender. Season with salt.

As soon as they are cool enough to handle, halve the sweet potatoes, scoop out the flesh and it add to the lentils. Use a potato masher to break up the sweet potatoes and mix them into the soup. Or for a smoother soup, remove the bay leaf and thyme twigs and puree the soup with a handheld immersion blender or in the food processor .

Add the coconut milk and more stock if necessary to reach the desired consistency.

Can be made ahead to this point, covered, cooled to room temperature and refrigerated.

Reheat the soup to steaming, stir in the lime zest and juice, ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro.

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One Year Ago – Tomato Soup
Two Years Ago – Savory Galette with Spinach, Mushrooms & Manchego
Three Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Roasted Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomatoes
Four Years Ago – Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash
Five Years Ago – Piri Piri Prawns
Six Years Ago – French Lentil Soup
Seven Years Ago – Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup
Eight Years Ago – My Favorite Chili

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

What about you? What are your New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share!

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

Ski Vacation Special

skiing_headwall_RaggedAre you on vacation this week? With yesterday’s rain, you may have a house full of frustrated skiers. Hopefully, they are just as happy hiking as skiing and you can go out and explore. However you spend the day, your friends and family will be hungry at the end of the day. If you are running out of ideas, here are a few hearty dishes that will help make your vacation fun and delicious!

Chili is a ski house favorite but I have something even better. Try my Sausages with White Beans. My brother calls this dish, “Nice trip down memory lane! A more gourmet spin on Mom’s Friday night hot dogs and baked beans with brown bread!” Unless you have vegetarians at your party. Then you might want to go with my Vegetarian Chili.

Or take an old fashioned beef stew up a notch with my Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions or Braised Short Ribs. Enjoy these delicious braises with a dollop of Smashed Potatoes. Then again, seafood lovers will go crazy for my
Caribbean Seafood Stew. Serve the stew with a spoonful of rice or my Israeli Couscous .

For a bit of a change, everyone will love my Moussaka. You can’t go wrong with a cozy pasta dish. Try my Poverty Casserole or Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower & Bacon.

How about a salad to go with that cozy comfort food? Kids love my Crunchy Salad with Apples & Grapes and Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons. If you’ve got a taste for pungent, you can’t beat my Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnuts. Since kale is all the rage, you’ll want to try my Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad. My Greek Salad is a must have for Moussaka.

Now for a sweet. My mom always baked a batch of brownies for February vacation. My Black & White Brownies and/or Espresso Brownies are delicious. If you want to get a little fancy, try my Double Trouble Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes or Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart.

Have a great rest of week and bon appétit!

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

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

Snow, Sun and Fun – February Vacation & Sausages with White Beans

King_RidgeWhen I was seven, my sister, Brenda, and I took up skiing. It was Brenda’s idea or maybe my father’s. In any case, we both received shiny, new skis for Christmas. Before long, we were hooked. About the time he turned three, my little brother joined us on the slopes.

February was our favorite month. January started cold and ended with a soggy thaw. Perhaps it was the ground hog but the weather took a decidedly better turn in February. The days grew longer and weren’t quite so frigid. School let out for vacation and carloads of flatlanders fled north to the mountains. Leaving within minutes of the last school bell, my family was at the head of that horde of suburbanites.

Our February ski vacations were always glorious. There must have been an unwritten rule decreeing perfect weather and snow for school vacations. It snowed every night but the days always dawned with perfect bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine. The snow gods didn’t tease us by dumping a foot of beautiful, fluffy white powder and then douse it with an inch of rain. The lift lines could be long and sluggish but there were lots of kids around and the skiing was outstanding. It might not have been perfect but it came pretty darn close.

Dad insisted on getting us up and out on our skis early. As far as he was concerned, we could sleep late and laze around in our pajamas after the snow melted. He yanked us out of bed as soon as it was light. We complained half-heartedly but to no avail. Determined to get us out on the slopes sooner rather than later, he rushed around making pancakes and hot chocolate.

As we climbed into the back of our big, blue station wagon my father always asked, “Do you have everything?” Invariably, I had forgotten my mittens or hat. In truth, I could have forgotten my head except that it was firmly attached to my neck. Hey, there’s one in every family and I was it. I would run back in the house and race around searching for gloves or goggles. Some mornings it took a couple of trips back and forth before I was ready to go. Finally, we pulled out of the driveway and were off for a day of snow, sun and fun. Except for the many mornings when, a half mile down the road, we turned around for a missing season pass. Unusually mine; my sister never forgot anything.

After a long day on the slopes, we headed home to ice skate or sled, cross country ski or jump off the deck. By dinnertime, we were cold, wet and wind burned, not to mention completely exhausted and starving. I think that it was all part of my parents’ grand plan. They figured if our days were filled with snow and sport, we couldn’t get into mischief. After a hearty dinner, we would fall into bed, looking forward to doing it all over again the next day.

With more rain than snow, winter has been far from typical this year. Thankfully, ski areas have been making snow. The skiing may not be stellar but fresh air abounds. Après ski, there is enough snow to cover hills for sledding and the local rink is waiting for you and your skates. Unless you’d rather strap on your snowshoes for a hike in the woods.

Whether you ski or not, enjoy a wonderful winter vacation with family and friends. Bon appétit!

Sausages with White Beans
A hearty casserole is the perfect dinner for family and friends after a busy day on the slopes. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound dried small white or cannellini beans (about 6 cups cooked beans)
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
1 1/2 large onion, cut the half onion in half again and finely chop the whole
5 stalks celery, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 4
4 carrots, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 3
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme


2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup dry white wine
3-4 cups chicken broth
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2-2 1/2 pounds cooked garlic sausage or smoked kielbasa

Soak the beans overnight. Drain and rinse the beans.

Put the beans, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, half onion, celery and carrot chunks, 1 sprig thyme and 1 bay leaf in a large pot, add cold water to cover plus 2 inches and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until the beans are almost tender, about 1 hour.

While the beans are cooking, put the bacon in a large casserole and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot, drain and reserve. Leaving just enough to coat the pot, drain any excess bacon fat.

Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots to the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent, 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the mustard and wine, add the remaining thyme, rosemary and bay leaf and simmer until the wine has reduced by half. Add 2-3 cups chicken broth and the crushed tomatoes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the beans and remove any large pieces of onion, carrot and celery as well as the thyme twig and bay leaf.

Add the beans and bacon to the casserole. Bring everything to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, adding more chicken broth if the beans seem dry.

Cut the sausage on the diagonal into 1-inch-thick pieces. Add the sausage to the beans, return the pot to the oven and continue cooking until the sausage is heated through and the beans are bubbling, about 30-45 minutes. Ladle the beans and sausage into shallow bowls and serve.

If you have the time, cool the beans to room temperature before adding the sausage. Then, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator about an hour before baking. Cook the casserole in a 350 degree oven until the sausage is heated through and the beans are bubbling, 45-60 minutes. Ladle the beans and sausage into shallow bowls and serve.

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One Year Ago – Chocolate Panna Cotta
Two Years Ago – Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage
Three Years Ago – Cheese Fondue
Four Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Five Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Six Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Seven Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have any special plans for a winter vacation? Feel free to share!

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

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr! & White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens

Last week reminded me of my first winter back in New Hampshire. At least last Thursday morning did. That first January back, it wasn’t just cold, it was brutally, day-after-day below zero cold. I’m convinced it was some kind of record-breaker. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t but, if not, well, it was d@#n cold.

But back to last Thursday. Like most mornings, I hobbled out of bed around 6:15. It was dark and cold and the day seemed particularly unwelcoming. Unlike like most mornings, instead of jumping into my walking clothes, I decided to check the thermometer. Wrapping myself in an old flannel robe, I stumbled downstairs to discover it was -18 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a flare for the even more dramatic, it was -28 on the Celsius scale.

Although I am remarkably loyal to my daily walk, I went back to bed.

Not so that first January back in New Hampshire. It was déjà vu all over again. When we were kids, my parents bought a season ski pass at King Ridge for the family. There was no snowmaking so the season was short. It didn’t matter how cold it was; if there was snow, you went skiing. No questions, no arguments, it was what you did. So that first winter back when I awoke to a subzero thermometer, I reverted to type.

With my father’s voice in my ear, I dressed like an onion in layer after layer and threw my skis in the back of the car. I was a hearty New Englander, returned to her roots. Like the mail carrier, we ski in sleet and snow and driving rain. We are hardly daunted by -20 degrees (-29 Celsius) and gale winds. Or so I thought.

I took one run, a second and then a break to warm up. I repeated the routine, again and again. Until the wind barreling up the mountain was so strong that it brought me to a complete stop. Gasping for breath, I pushed on and made it to the bottom of the hill. Shivering and defiant, I threw my skis in the back in the car and drove home. A woman can only take so much mediocre ski lodge coffee.

But not too defiant. A few days later, I tried again. After two runs, I uttered an expletive deletive and called it a day. Enough was enough. On that frigid January day, I became an emancipated New Englander. Always independent, some might say to a fault, I would be my own type of New Englander. One who defied definition but drank good, strong coffee and only skied when the sun was shining, the winds were gentle and the temperatures above 10 (still negative at -12C).

And one who is still remarkably loyal to an almost daily walk. While it was dangerously cold at 6:15 last Thursday, slowly but surely the mercury inched its way up the thermometer. At 2:00, it was now or never, so dressed like the Michelin Man, I headed out the door.

Stay warm and bon appétit!

White Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Wilted Greens
There is nothing like a bowl of soup when the temperature plummets. Enjoy!
Serves 8 or more

1 pound dried small white or cannellini beans (about 6 cups cooked beans)
Olive oil
1 tablespoon anchovy paste (optional)
1 1/2 large onions, cut the half onion in large chunks and finely chop the whole
5 celery stalks, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 4
4 carrots, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 3
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1 cup dry white wine
6 or more cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
2 large (about 2 pounds) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
About 12 ounces baby kale
About 12 ounces baby spinach
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Garnish: shaved or roughly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Put the beans in a large pot, add water to cover plus 3-4 inches and soak overnight. Drain and rinse the beans. Rinse the pot. Return the beans to the pot, add the chunks of onion, celery and carrot and cold water to cover plus 2 inches. Tie 2 thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf together with kitchen twine and add it to the beans. Bring everything to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the beans are tender about 1 1/4 hours. Remove the vegetables and herbs and drain the beans. Can be done ahead or you can use canned beans, rinsed and drained.

Heat a little olive oil in a large soup kettle over medium heat. Add the anchovy paste and the finely chopped onion, celery and carrot, season with cumin, allspice, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the rosemary and garlic and, still stirring, cook for 2 minutes more. Add the white wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the beans, stock, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind and remaining thyme and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes (or 30 minutes if using canned beans).

Raise the heat to medium-high, add the sweet potatoes and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer 10-15 minutes.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.

Raise the heat to medium, add the kale and spinach, season with salt and pepper and simmer until the greens wilt, about 5 minutes. Remove the thyme twig and bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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One Year Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Two Years Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnutst
Three Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Four Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Five Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Six Years Ago – Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies

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

How are you coping with the winter chill? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

It’s a Rainy Weekend Special

ducks_in_the_fog_elkinsIt’s April which can mean only one thing in New Hampshire. It’s raining, about to rain or just finished raining. Okay, that’s three things.

It’s mud season in New Hampshire and we all need is a comforting lunch!

Call a few friends and get out the griddle. It’s time for our favorite lunch – grilled cheese and a mug of soup. Try my Not Your Ordinary Ham & Swiss Grilled Cheese or my The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the History of my Kitchen. In spite of their highfalutin names, they are delicious. Add a cup of soup, what could be better on a cold day. You can go with a classic: Roasted Tomato Soup with Fresh Corn. Since fresh local corn is still months away, you can skip the corn or use frozen shoepeg corn. Alternatively, you might like to try my Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup or my Wild Mushroom Soup.

What about dessert? Staying with the comfort theme, well, is there anything better than chocolate chip cookies? I think my Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies may take the gold prize. Give them a try and let me know what you think. Alternatively, my Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies are loaded with chocolate chips, dried fruit and nuts. They are delicious and, if you like, you can pretend they are even healthy.

How to spend the rest of the day? You could grumble at the gray skies. But, I’d vote for a field trip. Instead of sending everyone home to pout, take in movie or visit the museum. There is no reason to head right home. Make an evening of it! Why not? You’re already out and you’ve got your umbrellas! Give that restaurant you’ve been dying to try a go.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2014

April Is National Grilled Cheese Month & Not Your Ordinary Grilled Ham & Swiss Cheese Sandwiches

Susan_Nye_1st_day_schoolSummer has salad days, the dark days of December have cookies and comfort food and April has Grilled Cheese. At least in New Hampshire, a celebration of our favorite comfort sandwich is probably a good thing. While other parts of the country are basking in sunshine and watching the daffodils bob, New England has been enjoying a typical spring. And by typical I mean that delightful combination of brilliant sun and temperatures in the seventies one day and snow, ice and gale force winds the next. With weather like that, we need a little comfort.

More than a sandwich, grilled cheese is an iconic symbol of childhood and the home for lunch bunch. That’s what my mother called us. Long after most schools across the country set up cafeterias and kitchens, the elementary schools in my childhood suburb sent us home at midday.

It was a nice break for kids and good exercise. We had at least an hour to get home, have lunch and get back again. Since we walked the half mile to school and back again, two round trips kept us pretty fit. That said, it kept our mothers on a very short tether. Within a few short hours of kissing us goodbye, we were back for a sandwich. It wasn’t long after that second kiss that we were home for the day. Mom heaved a giant sigh of relief and did a splendid happy dance when elementary school lunches finally started. My brother was in the third or fourth grade. John was the youngest of three and she’d been rushing home to fix lunch for one kid or another for more than ten years.

Our absolute favorite lunch was a grilled cheese sandwich. We didn’t have them often, so they were all the more coveted and delicious. Although she loved bringing her family together for a meal, Mom was not an enthusiastic cook. Her grilled cheese sandwiches were no frill and devoid of gourmet touches. She dabbed a little butter on some Wonder Bread and added a square of something that only vaguely resembled cheese and fried them up. Mom used those plastic-wrapped squares that came in orange or white. Those little squares melted beautifully and had little if any taste.

In honor of Grilled Cheese Month, it’s time to get out the griddle. You can go with the classic, Wonder Bread and Kraft Singles, if you insist. Not me. Now that I’m all grown up or at least a lot older, I steer clear of foods with labels like Cheese Product. Be it cheddar or brie, gruyere, mozzarella, fontina, Havarti or goat cheese, nothing beats real, honest-to-goodness, natural cheese. Don’t be shy, mix and match a few cheeses. And forget the Wonder Bread; wonderful cheeses deserve a beautiful, artisanal bread. From a lovely baguette to a hearty sourdough, there are lots to choose from for your perfect sandwich. To make it even more delectable, throw in a few grown-up embellishments. Already delicious, it will become irresistible when you make one or two or three spectacular additions. Think bacon, caramelized onions, fig jam, mushrooms, olives, prosciutto, spinach, tapenade or, well let’s face it, the list of possibilities is all but endless.

Oh, and while grilled cheese may be the epitome of the perfect lunch, those gooey on the inside, crunchy on the outside sandwiches will make a fabulous addition to your next cocktail party. Nostalgia will meet scrumptious when you pass around wedges of your favorite grilled cheese sandwich. Or mix it up with a spectacular variety of minis made with different combinations on sliced baguette. Yummmm!

Happy Grilled Cheese Month and bon appétit!

Not Your Ordinary Grilled Ham & Swiss Cheese Sandwiches
llish real Swiss Gruyère and Emmental cheeses with jambon cru and pickled onions for one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches you will ever eat. Enjoy!grilled_swiss_cheeses_proscuitto_05
Serves 2

About 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
About 2 ounces Emmental cheese, grated
1-2 tablespoons dry white wine
Butter, at room temperature
4 slices country bread
Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 thin slices(about 2 ounces) jambon cru* or prosciutto
Garnish: pickled red onions (recipe follows)

Put the cheeses and wine in a bowl and toss to combine.

Generously butter one side of each bread slice. Smear the other side with mustard and place the bread on a large griddle or in a skillet. Evenly distribute the cheese across all four slices of bread and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat until the cheese has melted and the bread is nicely browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Top half of the bread and cheese slices with jambon cru and sprinkle the other half with pickled red onions. Carefully flip one half of each sandwich onto the other, let sit for 2 minutes, cut into wedges and serve.

But what if you want to make grilled cheese for a crowd?

Multiple the ingredients to accommodate the number of sandwiches you want to make. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or foil and set wire racks in the pans.

Generously butter one side of each bread slice. Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches if necessary, cook the buttered side on the griddle until the bread is a pale golden brown.

Transfer the bread, toasted side down, onto the wire racks. (Can do up to 1 hour ahead.)

Put the cheeses and wine in a bowl and toss to combine. Smear the untoasted side of the bread with mustard, sprinkle with the cheeses and season with salt and pepper.

Bake until the cheese has melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, top half of the bread and cheese slices with jambon cru and sprinkle the other half with pickled red onions. Carefully flip one half of each sandwich onto the other, let sit for 2 minutes, cut into wedges and serve.

* Similar to prosciutto, jambon cru is a dry cured raw ham and popular in Switzerland and France.

Pickled Red Onions
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf

Combine the hot water, vinegar, sugar, salt and red pepper in glass bowl. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve.

Put the red onion and bay leaf in a clean glass jar. Add the vinegar mixture, cover and shake to combine. If the pickling liquid does not cover the onions completely, add more water and vinegar and give it another shake.

Cover and chill overnight.

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What’s your favorite Grilled Cheese combo? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good.

© Susan W. Nye, 2014