Polar Vortex & Potato & Cheddar Soup

Hey! Canada! Come get your polar vortex.
Don’t you hate it when that happens? A friend comes over to visit and then leaves something behind. Maybe he forgets his coat or gloves or she leaves a book after book club or a dish after a potluck. You call to let them know and they promise to stop by to retrieve it. Of course, you believe them and you leave whatever it is by the backdoor.

A few days turn into weeks, even months. After tripping over it one too many times, the coat is relegated to the back of the closet. The gloves are stowed in the mitten basket. Abandoned books are shelved and dishes go into the cupboard. More often than not, these friends stop by from time to time. No matter how often they visit, they always manage to forget their stuff.

Before you know it, you are not only wearing those gloves; they’ve become your favorites. Thanksgiving rolls around and the homeless need winter clothes. The front hall closet is filled to overflowing, so, without really thinking about it, his coat goes into the pile for the shelter. Come spring, her book joins a stack for COA’s fundraising sale. A rainy day cleaning binge uncovers a beautiful platter but you can’t figure out why it doesn’t fit with the rest of your dishes. Your niece moves into her first apartment and you give it to her.

If only it were so easy to get rid of this arctic blast that just won’t quit. Or teases us by retreating for a few days and then come back with a vengeance.

So listen up Canada, you’re welcome to visit anytime. You’re an ally and a friend. We share a border and a language with most of you. And those who don’t, whether you are speaking English or French, you have lovely accents. So please come down and see us, enjoy our ski slopes, snowshoe in our woods and skate on our ponds. Visit our museums, give our musicians a listen, shop ‘til you drop and enjoy our restaurants. It’s all good as long as you leave your #@%&* polar vortex at home.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s March already and this is New Hampshire. It’s not the Yukon or Val-d’Or. All right already, we get it. We know it’s too early for sandals and cherry blossoms. We understand that spring is relative and Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions don’t apply here. No one expects to see daffodils until the end of April or early May. However, we shouldn’t be waking up to minus eight.

Now, if by some unfortunate chance, the arctic cold slips into your backpack and hitches a ride south, we’ll understand. We won’t like it but we’ll understand if, and ONLY IF, you take it with you when you leave. We get it that you too are ready to see the last of the blasted polar vortex. However, you sent it down here; taking it back is the right thing to do. Consider it good global manners or being a decent neighbor. We would be most grateful.

Stay warm and bon appétit!

Potato & Cheddar Soup
As long as the cold air refuses to head back up north, this soup will be perfect for a hearty lunch or light supper. Hopefully, it won’t be on your 4th of July menu! Enjoy!
potato_cheddar_soup_03Makes about 2 1/2 quarts

3-4 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoke paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 pounds red skinned potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
3-4 sprigs thyme, tied in a bundle
1 bay leaf
1 cup sour cream (optional)
4 ounces (plus more for garnish sharp) Cheddar cheese, shredded
Chopped chives and/or fresh parsley for garnish

Put the bacon in a large stockpot and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan, drain and reserve. Leaving just enough to coat the pot, drain most of the fat.

Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot, season with the paprika, salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the potatoes and chicken stock to the pot. Tie the thyme and bay leaf with butcher’s string and add the bundle to the pot. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Let the soup cool for about 30 minutes. Remove the herb bundle.

Using a potato masher, smash the potatoes until the soup is thick and chunky. For a thicker soup, process about 2 cups of soup in a food processor until smooth and stir back into the pot. For a very smooth soup, puree the soup in a blender.

Put the sour cream in a bowl and, a little at a time, whisk in 2 cups of soup. A little bit at a time, whisk the sour cream mixture into the soup. Reheat the soup to steaming on medium heat. Whisk the cheddar cheese into the soup. Stirring frequently, reheat the soup to steaming.

Meanwhile, put the bacon pieces on a sheet pan and warm in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with the cheddar cheese, bacon and chives. Serve immediately.

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One Year Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Two Years Ago – Guinness Lamb Shanks
Three Years Ago – Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Four Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Five Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your thoughts on the record cold and, in some parts of the country, record snowfall? 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

February Vacation! & Coq Au Vin

skiing_at_RaggedFor young skiers, nothing beats February vacation. As kids, some of our friends went to Florida for the sunshine or New York for the arts. The Nyes were more than happy to head to New Hampshire. By mid-February, the brutally cold winds of January had blown back to the North Pole. Even if the longest day was still months away, the sun waited until at least five to set. Every year the Nye kids looked forward to the break and a wonderful week in New Hampshire.

As soon as school got out on Friday afternoon, we headed home to grab duffels and cram bags of groceries into the station wagon. Dad was expected to leave the office early. If he wasn’t home by four, his phone would start to ring. Instead of potential customers looking for quotes, it was his children demanding he head home. Since he was as excited as we were, Dad didn’t argue. Dogs, turtles and kids piled into the car and we headed north.

With an entire week to explore every slope and hidden glade, the pace was a little more relaxed. Especially if Dad headed back to the office for a day or two! If Mom was in charge, it was okay to hit the slopes at the crack of ten, even ten-thirty. Without Dad, there was less pressure to get in our daily quota of twenty-five (or was it more?) runs. Mom didn’t mind if we left before the last chair dropped its final load of skiers on top of the mountain. Heck, when Mom was in charge, we could leave at lunchtime if a nor’easter was blowing. We just couldn’t tell Dad that we spent the afternoon putting jigsaw puzzles together or baking brownies.

In any case, sitting around the house didn’t last long. As soon as we got a second wind, it was back outside for sledding or deck jumping. There was a fairly steep hill across the street from our house and most of the trees had been cleared for sledding. In a very snowy year, the stumps and boulders were not a problem. What you can’t see; can’t hurt you. Can it? Although no limbs were lost or broken, at some point, someone’s parents, not mine, must have taken a second look at those rocks. That was that and we were banished from the hill. The trees and scrub soon grew back. Today, you’d never know that a death-defying run was hidden among the rocks and under the trees. To make up for the loss, we tried a little cross-country skiing. While fun, cross-country couldn’t quite match the dangerous thrill of careening through the dark on the sledding hill.

With a ten or fifteen foot drop, deck jumping also required a fair amount of snow. Mother Nature usually complied by mid-February. Every weekend throughout December and January, we shoveled the deck, slowly but surely adding to the pile below. That first jump provided a wonderful combination of sheer terror and utter exhilaration. As teenagers, my sister and I discovered that it was a great opportunity for sixteen year old boys to show off. It still is.

I hope that you are enjoying the thrills, spills and fun of winter. Or at least sitting back and enjoying fond memories of winter wonderland vacations.

Bon appétit!

Coq Au Vin
Warm and cozy, coq au vin is the perfect dinner after a day on the slopes. Add a salad and serve the stew with warm crusty bread or smashed potatoes. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6coq_au_vin_02

2-3 ounces bacon, chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 chicken thighs or a combination of thighs and legs
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup cognac or brandy
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 bay leaf
16 ounces mushrooms
8 ounces frozen pearl onions
Garnish: fresh, chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain and reserve.

While the bacon browns, season the flour with salt and pepper and lightly coat the chicken. Raise the heat to medium-high and brown the chicken, about 3 minutes per side. Reserve.

Put the onion, celery and carrots in the pot, sprinkle with herbs, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from heat, add the cognac and mustard and stir to combine.

Return the pot to the heat and gradually stir in the wine and stock. Add back the bacon and chicken and bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer the casserole to the oven. Cook at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, heat a little olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden.

Add the pearl onions and mushrooms to the chicken, return the casserole to the oven and continue cooking for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove the chicken and vegetables from the pot and arrange on a large serving platter. Cover and keep warm.

Return the pot to the stovetop and reduce the cooking liquid by about half over high heat. Ladle some sauce over the chicken and vegetables, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve. Pass any extra sauce.

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One Year Ago – Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton
Two Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Three Years Ago – Lemon Cheesecake
Four Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Five Years Ago – Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole

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

What are your favorite winter vacation memories – ski, food or otherwise? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Comfort Food & Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù

frosty_window_01In spite of the busy day awaiting me, I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. Those soft flannel sheets were just too comfy and cozy. I might have stayed there all morning if somehow someone had brought me a cup of strong, milky coffee or tea. But no one did. So, digging deep to find a tiny smidgen of willpower, I finally wrenched myself from the warm cave.

Yes, I was that kid. The only one in the neighborhood who had no trouble sleeping in. I’m not talking teenagers here. We all know they do their best to stay in bed until the crack of noon. But small children, my sister and brother were among them, are famous for leaping from bed at dawn. Not me. If a stray beam of light penetrated the curtains, my curly head just burrowed deeper into the pillow. That extra hour was not necessarily for sleeping but for dreaming. I suppose it still is.

These final, frigid days of January aren’t a bad time to slow down and dream a bit. Well, except when you are striding across the supermarket parking lot with wind chills of minus fourteen degrees. If that’s the case, don’t slow down; whatever you do, keep going! Otherwise, grab that cup of strong, milky tea and get comfortable with a good book. Whether you actually read it or not is up to you. Stare out the frosty window and let your thoughts wander aimlessly. Drifting from here to Timbuktu and back again, you never know what you may find. In case you’re wondering, Timbuktu is in western Africa on the edge of the hot and sunny Sahara dessert.

While you’re at it, you might want to dream up a few new recipes. It’s comfort food season. Let your mind wander to the dishes your mother or grandmother used to make. (Or the ones you wished they’d made. My mother was not an enthusiastic cook. Same goes for her mother and grandmother.) Maybe your new recipe will be better than anything found in the kitchens of your childhood. If not, well, the cold weather will be with us for a while; just dream up another tomorrow.

Wonderful soups and cozy stews are perfect winter fare. To stay healthy during these ice-cold days and freezing nights, think hearty and nutritious. Don’t know where to start? A practical first step is to check your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. My pantry is usually packed with pasta, crushed tomatoes, beans, lentils, olives, onions, garlic and more. There are always carrots and celery in my refrigerator, not to mention a few leftovers. Chances are good, there’s chicken, a few sausages, spinach and homemade chicken or turkey stock in the freezer. And if I’m out of homemade stock, there should be a box of broth in the cupboard.

After taking stock of your ingredients, consider your dreams. Are you dreaming of sandy beaches? Turn those reveries into a Caribbean black bean soup or a spicy Middle Eastern stew with chickpeas and chicken. Earning for a warm spring day in the French countryside? How about cassoulet or lentil and sausage soup? Or recreate an evening in Bologna with a thick, rich sauce Bolognese over tagliatelle.

Now all you need to do is take a break from the daydreams, roust yourself from the sofa and throw everything into a pot. The interruption will be worth the effort. As you settle back into the sofa, you’ll be rewarded with the rich aromas of bubbling goodness.

Stay warm and bon appétit!

Chicken_Sausage_Bean_Ragu_01Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù
Too thick for a soup, this one pot meal can simmer while you read a book or dream by the fire. Enjoy!
Serves 10-12

1 pound dried small white or cannellini beans, soaked overnight or about 6 cups cooked beans
1 1/2 large onion, cut the half onion in half again and chop the whole one
5 stalks celery, cut 1 in thirds, chop the remaining 4
5 carrots, cut 1 in thirds, chop the remaining 4
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound Italian sausage, sweet or hot or a mix
4 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
Pinch chili pepper
1 cup dry white wine
2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts, skins removed
3 – 4 quarts chicken stock
28 – 32 ounce can crushed tomatoes
Parmigiano-Reggiano rind* (about 2×3-inches) (optional)
1 pound frozen spinach
4-6 ounces angel hair pasta, broken into 1-2 inch pieces
Garnish: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

Drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans, half onion, celery and carrot chunks and 1 bay leaf in a large pot, add cold water to cover plus 2 inches and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until the beans are tender about 1 – 1 1/4 hours. Remove the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf, drain and rinse the beans and season with salt and pepper. (Can be done ahead or use about 6 cups canned beans, rinsed and drained.)

Meanwhile, remove the sausage casings. Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot over medium high heat, add the sausage and, breaking the meat up into small pieces, sauté until lightly browned. Remove the sausage from the pot, drain on paper towels and reserve.

Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots to the pot, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Add the wine and remaining bay leaf and simmer until the wine has reduced by half. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the vegetables with the crushed tomatoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind and 3 quarts stock. Bring the ragù to a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the pot. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut or shred into bite-sized pieces.

Add the sausage, chicken, beans and spinach to the ragù. Add more stock if the ragù is too thick. If you have the time, remove the ragù from the heat, cool to room temperature and refrigerate for several hours. If not, bring the ragù to a simmer and simmer on low for about 15 minutes.

Raise the heat to high and bring the ragù to a boil. Add the angel hair pasta* and cook until al dente, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the ragù sit for 2-3 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

* A piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind will give the ragù for more flavor and richness.

* If you won’t be serving the entire pot of ragù in one go, remove the extra ragù from the pot before adding the pasta. The ragù freezes nicely so don’t worry about making too much. When adding the pasta, plan on 1/2-1 ounce per serving.

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One Year Ago – Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Two Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Three Years Ago – Fettuccine with Escarole, Radicchio & Mushrooms
Four Years Ago – Cassoulet
Five Years Ago – Caribbean Fish Stew

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

January Thaw & Mac & Cheese with Roasted Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomatoes

Susie_John_Dad_at_RaggedJanuary weather is remarkable for two reasons. The first is the absolutely ridiculous, positively frigid temperatures. Who in their right mind wants to get out of bed when the mercury is hovering around minus fifteen degrees? Yes, you got that right, not fifteen degrees but MINUS fifteen degrees. By the way, for my friends in Switzerland that’s Fahrenheit not centigrade. The coldest month, we can thank January for frostbite, frozen pipes and the strange but not exactly true belief that it can be too cold to snow.

The second is the January thaw. From one day to the next, the temperature skyrockets to forty or more. If it weren’t for the rain and resulting ice dams and flooding, the thaw might be a welcome change. And did I mention what happens to the ski slopes during the thaw? Buckets upon buckets of rain create uncharted rivers and streams on every trail.

I grew up in a house of eternal optimism. Even if it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs, we left our cozy suburban home on Friday afternoon for a weekend of skiing. My dad was convinced that it was snowing just over the border in New Hampshire. When it was still pelting rain in Manchester, he assured us that the snowline must be around Warner. Which of course, it wasn’t. The snowline was more or less a few hundred miles north of Montreal.

Never phased, he pulled the car into the driveway and assured us that it was snowing on the top of King Ridge. At a mere 1,500 feet above sea level, the only one he was fooling was himself. Even as he spoke, I’m not sure he was buying his story.

Before snowmaking, the New Hampshire ski season was short and not for the faint of heart. Ten weeks was a good year. And Dad was insistent that we make the most of our season pass in that short time. Blizzards, ice storms, January thaw or blistering cold, it didn’t matter. If the mountain was open, we were expected to ski. So, in spite of the foggy drizzle on Saturday morning, we headed to the mountain.

Juggling our skis, we’d slip and slid across the icy parking lot to the lodge. All the while, Dad had his eyes on the sky, looking for some glimmer of sunshine. After stalling over cups of coffee and hot chocolate, we finally put on our boots and skis and headed out the door. For one maybe two runs, we’d splash down the trail. Cold rain didn’t just soak our parkas and ski pants, it managed to find a path and sneak down the backs of our necks. As nasty as ten or fifteen below is, is there anything more miserable than thirty-five degrees and raining?

Home we went to play Monopoly, put together jigsaw puzzles or read by the fire. Done right, the January thaw wasn’t all that bad.

Within day or two, those balmy temps were replaced with more seasonable weather. The trails froze up hard and fast. The next weekend, sheets of pearl grey ice covered the ski slopes and shone dully in the cold winter sun. Always the optimist, Dad declared the downhill rink, “hard, packed powder!” And off we went, another day of adventure and skiing in New Hampshire.

Happy skiing and bon appétit!

Mac & Cheese with Roasted Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomatoes
Turn plain Mac & Cheese into a beautiful, bubbling casserole with veggies and Italian cheeses. Enjoy!
Serves 8-10

About 2 pounds broccoli florets, cut into bite sized pieces
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
2 ounces grated Pecorino Romano
4 ounces grated Fontina cheese
8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
1 pound pasta – cavatappi, farfalle, penne or elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup warm whole milk or half & half
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Pinch nutmeg
10-12 halves oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
About 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a large, shallow baking dish and set aside.

Put the broccoli florets on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread the broccoli in a single layer and roast at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Add the onion and more oil and vinegar if necessary, toss to combine and continue roasting for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, toss again and roast for 5 minutes more. Reserve.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Put the cheeses in a large bowl and toss to combine. Reserve.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions less 1 minute.

While the pasta cooks, make the sauce. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, season with hot sauce, nutmeg, salt and pepper and continue cooking and whisking for 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, simmer and stir until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Put the sour cream in a bowl and, a little at a time, whisk in the warm sauce until smooth.

Drain the pasta, return to the pot and toss with the broccoli, tomatoes, pine nuts, herbs and sauce. Add two-thirds of the cheeses and toss again. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until piping hot and golden brown. Remove from the oven, let rest for 5-10 minutes and serve.

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One Year Ago – Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash
Two Years Ago – Piri Piri Prawns
Three Years Ago – French Lentil Soup
Four Years Ago – Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup
Five Years Ago – My Favorite Chili
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are you up to now that we are back in the deep freeze? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Fourteen Things to Do in 2014 & Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup

14_in_2014_01While many people turn to resolutions at the start of a new year, others are taking stock of their bucket list. Some of these buckets are so full that I for one wonder what the heck they’ve been doing for the last ten or twenty or more years. How about you? Are you starting to think that hiking Kilimanjaro or swimming with dolphins is more pipedream than possibility?

Maybe it’s time to take a second or third look at that bucket list. If you need to win the lottery to accomplish your goals, it’s probably time to reconsider. (Especially if you don’t buy lottery tickets; even when the jackpot is over $600 million!) So how about a simple list of fourteen things to do in 2014? And then do them. I’m still working on my fourteen for fourteen but here are a few ideas:

1. Learn something new. Take a course or design your own self-study with a pile of library books.

2. Find a new favorite author. Read reviews, ask friends, family and strangers for recommendations or pick a book by its (gorgeous) (racy) (intriguing) (sophisticated) (you get the picture) cover.

3. Change your look with a pair of brightly colored socks or a new shade of lipstick.

4. Cut your hair or grow a beard. Afraid of the scissors; change your hair color or go back to natural, find a new style or wear a great hat.

5. Get a tattoo?!? Show it to friends or keep it a secret.

6. Dive in and do something that intimidates you. Write a letter to the editor. Send the letter. Hang glide. Go to a party alone. Make a soufflé, Beef Wellington or Baked Alaska from scratch. Wear bright red lipstick or florescent pink socks, out, in public. Talk to a stranger. (A nice compliment is a good way to start.)

7. Every day for a week, get up in time to see the sunrise and go for a long walk.

8. Whether it is a walk-in closet or a tiny cupboard, clean your pantry. Think of the delicious treasures you’ll find. Dried cherries? Israeli couscous? Black beans? Anchovies, Kalamata olives or capers? Whip up a few great dishes with your finds.

9. Slap a new coat of paint on your living room or bedroom walls. Or both.

10. Think positive. When it’s too cold or too rainy to go out, spend the day reading your new favorite author. If you look for the silver lining, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find it.

11. Make a new friend.

12. Celebrate the small wins. When your favorite song comes on the radio, sing at the top of your lungs. When someone holds the elevator for you, thank him with a beaming smile. When you’re running late and every light is green; join the radio in joyful song.

13. Be thankful … for new friends, old friends, strangers who hold elevators, favorite songs, and, and, and …

14. Be happy; maybe not every minute of every day but most of the time.

I wish everyone a wonderful 2014 and bon appétit!

Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
When the weather turns cold or rainy, a mug of soup will warm you to the core. Enjoy!
Serves 8sweet_potato_soup_02

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 carrots, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon or to taste minced chipotle chiles in adobo
1/2 cup dry sherry (optional)
6-8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
Garnish: sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and chopped cilantro or cilantro oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the vegetables in a large roasting pan, sprinkle with cumin, thyme, salt and pepper and drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat. Toss to combine and roast for 45 minutes.

Add the garlic, chipotle and sherry to the pan and toss to combine. Return to the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Let the vegetables cool for about 15 minutes. Working in batches, puree the vegetables with a little broth in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Put the vegetable puree in a large soup pot. Add the bay leaf and whisk in more or less broth for a thicker or thinner soup. Reheat on the stovetop on medium and simmer for on low for 15 minutes.

If you have the time, the soup is best if cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated for several hours. Reheat on medium-low until piping hot.

Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls, stir in a dollop of sour cream, sprinkle with cheddar and cilantro or drizzle with cilantro oil and serve.

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One Year Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnutst
Two Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Three Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Four Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Five 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!

Do your have 14 for 14? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Late Fall Weekend Special

pleasant_lake_autumn_clouds_sun_01A few clouds, a little sun and a little rain. It’s late fall in New Hampshire. Chase away any November blues this weekend with a fun and festive dinner. It will give you something to do while it’s raining and your house will smell wonderful!

Here are a few ideas:

Let dinner bubble in the oven while you enjoy a long chat and a glass of wine. If you’d like something to nibble, how about my Baba Ganoush. It is one of my favorite dips and reminds me evening by the water in Turkey and Israel. Serve the Baba Ganoush with wedges of warm pita bread and fresh vegetables.

When you are ready, move to the table and a lovely salad. A Crunchy Salad with Apples & Grapes or Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad sounds delicious.

What could be better than braised beef at the end of dreary day? Either Braised Short Ribs or Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions will be the perfect. Serve the beef with my family’s favorite Smashed Potatoes.

And for dessert? Delight you guests with, perfect for the season, Pumpkin & Spice Cookies and tiny cups of White Hot Chocolate. (I’m never sure – should that be White Hot Chocolate or Hot White Chocolate!?!)

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What are your plans for the weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

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© Susan W. Nye, 2013

Cycling in Northern Italy & Orecchiette with Sausage, Mushrooms & Radicchio

schwinnSeptember is my favorite month. Filled with warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights, I try to spend as much time as I can outdoors. When I lived in Switzerland, September was a great time to take a sports holiday. The crowds of tourists thinned out as the days shortened and the air cooled down. Over the years, I hiked and biked all over Switzerland, France and Italy.

My friend John went along on a few of these adventures. Not to be confused with my brother of the same name, John was a willing companion for skiing, hiking and bike trips. However, there was one not so little problem. John’s life was filled with a multitude of minor mishaps and at least a few major calamities. One of my favorites was the time his car overheated in the middle of rush hour traffic. Unlike most cars, his didn’t stall and refuse to budge. No, John’s car burst into flames. Things just happened to John … and to anyone who traveled with him.

A bicycle trip, whether for two days or ten, takes a bit of planning and some negotiation. Maps are examined and destinations debated to find the perfect route with great views and not too many hills or heavy traffic. To complicate matters, when autumn days grow shorter you need to keep an eye on the clock as well as the map. Start too late in the morning or linger too long over lunch (or both) and you may very well finish your ride in the dark.

Trips with John never got off to an early start and always included a long, leisurely lunch. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? Sure, except at least one slightly terrifying ride. First we missed the10:03 train for Domodossola, the starting point for a long cycling weekend in Italy. Of course it was John’s fault. He always had trouble getting started in the morning. Feigning a frazzled and hurried look, he rode into the Geneva train station about fifteen minutes after our train had come and gone.

Luckily, there was another at 10:33. (I somehow suppose he already knew that.) It made a few more stops so we arrived in Domodossola about an hour later than planned. Our peddling was further postponed when John insisted we stop for lunch. He was hungry, we were in Italy and a quick sandwich would not do.

Finally, we were off and making our way down a quaint but narrow country road. Before too long the sun dipped down behind the trees. The blue sky turned to pink and then gray and finally black. There were no street lights. No ambient lighting from nearby stores and cafés. It was a country road; there were no stores, no cafés or houses. Every few minutes a car whizzed by, threatening to force us into the ditch. With white knuckles clutching my handle bars, I peddled and fumed until we finally arrived on Lago Maggiore’s picturesque shore. A momentarily contrite John offered to buy dinner. I accepted.

At the end of the same long weekend, just a few miles from the train which would take us home, it began to rain. Not a gentle mist mind you, it was an icy cold deluge. Next the quiet bike path we’d been enjoying abruptly ended and turned onto a major highway. Cars and trucks roared by at eighty or more miles an hour. It didn’t matter if it was his fault or not; I blamed John.

All that said, in spite of the rough start and end to the weekend, it was a success. The views along Lago Maggiore were spectacular, the conversation was fun and fast-faced, the food was delicious and the wine delightful.

Enjoy the open road and the early autumn sunshine. Bon appétit!

Orecchiette with Sausage, Mushrooms and Radicchio
After a long bicycle ride there is nothing like some delicious pasta! Enjoy!
Serves 4

About 12 ounces spicy or sweet Italian sausage
About 8 ounces orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) or conchiglie (medium shells)
Olive oilOrecchiette_w_Sausage_Mushrooms_Radicchio_01
1 small red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
About 12 ounces mushrooms, preferably wild, thickly sliced
1/4 teaspoon or to taste dried red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
About 8 ounces radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
About 1/4 cup chopped and toasted walnuts
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the sausages on a rimmed baking dish and roast at 375 degrees, turning once or twice, for about 30 minutes or until cooked through. Drain on paper towels and reserve.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and stock and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the radicchio, toss to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Orecchiette_w_Sausage_Mushrooms_Radicchio_03Cut the sausages into 1/2-inch rounds. Reduce the heat to medium, add the sausage and pasta to the vegetables and toss to combine. If the pasta seems a little try, add a few tablespoons of pasta water. Cover and cook for 1 minute. Spoon the pasta, sausage and vegetables into individual shallow bowls or onto a large platter, sprinkle with toasted walnuts and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve. Pass additional Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013