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

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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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One Year Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Two Years Ago – Thai Curried Shrimp and Green Beans
Three Years Ago – Asparagus Risotto
Four Years Ago – Fennel & Feta Salad
Five Years Ago – Dandelion Salad with Grilled Steak, Potatoes & AsparagusOr Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

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

Rethinking Bacon & White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale

bacon_03What can you say about bacon? Well, how about …

Your grandfather loved it and enjoyed bacon and eggs every morning for, oh let’s say, eighty-something, oops, make that ninety-something years. Not just granddad, you love it and wish you could have it every morning for the rest of your life. Not only that, if there’s bacon for breakfast you fervently hope to live to be one hundred. In fact, you’d be more than happy to find ways to sneak it into lunch and dinner.

You are not alone. Bacon is hot right now and getting hotter. News anchors get positively giddy when visiting chefs fry up a slab. Des Moines, Chicago, Los Angeles and, now, Baltimore have an entire festival dedicated to the salty strips. William and Kate passed out bacon sannies in the wee hours of their wedding reception. Okay, the beaming bride and groom didn’t actually do the passing. They had waiters for that.

So here’s a strange confession. I wouldn’t actually swear to it but I don’t think I’ve eaten a strip of bacon in nearly thirty years. As far as I can figure, I more or less stopped eating bacon for breakfast when I moved to Switzerland. Maybe it’s because the French word for bacon is lard. Or maybe because it didn’t look or taste the same. Oh, I’m sure I might have nibbled a slice or two during visits to the States or indulged at one of those big hotel buffet breakfasts. I traveled a lot on business when I lived in Geneva. I guess I should amend my statement, I don’t remember eating a strip of bacon in nearly thirty years.

Anyway, about the time I moved to Switzerland, I stopped thinking of bacon as breakfast food. That’s also when I discovered lardons. Living en Suisse opened my eyes to a variety of new-to-me ingredients and dishes. Lardons were among those new ingredients. Lardons are less fatty, smaller than bite-sized pieces of bacon. Swiss and French butchers even chop them up for you. They are a key ingredient in many French stews. And let’s face it, lardon sounds a lot more appetizing than lard.

Particularly in cold weather, I have a special affinity for what I like to call peasant food. Think Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon and Cassoulet plus hearty soups like Lentil, Bean or Potato. Some foodies try to dress them up and complicate things but for the most part, peasant food is simple, cheap and made from scratch. Oh, and if it’s French, there is a good chance bacon is involved.

Bacon doesn’t just add flavor to these dishes, the rendered fat comes in handy to sauté the veggies or sear the meat for your wonderful stew or soup. After all, no self-respecting peasant would let anything go to waste; especially if it will enhance the flavor of the dish. It’s best to start with a cold pan and gently cook on medium heat to maximize the release of fat. Remove the lardons and drain on paper towels. Then drain any excess fat from the pan, leaving just enough for your sauté or sear.

If you are worried about cooking with bacon, new research suggests that there is no clear link between heart disease and the so-called bad fats (bacon, cream, butter, etc.). When in doubt, cook and eat like the French – everything in moderation! If you are really concerned, forget about bacon as the king of breakfast food and enjoy it in beautiful French casseroles at dinner. It’s easier than you think and really delicious.

Bon appétit!

White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
A delicious side dish, try it with lamb, pork, poultry or seafood. A great money-saver, you can also serve beans as the main event. Penny-pinching never tasted so good. Enjoy!
Serves about 12 as a side dishwhite_beans_provencal_bacon_kale_02

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 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups crushed tomatoes
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 pound baby kale*

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 heat. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until the beans are tender 1 – 1 1/4 hours. Remove the onion, carrot, celery, thyme twig and bay leaf, drain the beans and season with salt and pepper. (Can be done ahead or use canned beans, rinsed and drained.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, 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 fat.

Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots to the pot, 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 mustard and wine, add the remaining thyme, rosemary and bay leaf and simmer until the wine has reduced by half.

Add the cooked white beans, crushed tomatoes and 1-2 cups chicken stock. Bring the beans to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for about 45 minutes, adding more chicken stock if the beans seem dry. For a thicker dish, mash about 1 cup of the beans with a fork.

If you have the time, cool the beans to room temperature and refrigerate for several hours. Remove the beans from the refrigerator and return to a simmer on medium-low heat.

Stir the kale into the beans, return the pot to the oven and continue cooking until the kale is tender, about 10 minutes, and serve.

* If you can’t find baby kale, you can use regular kale. Remove the tough ribs, cut in julienne and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Two Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Three Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Four Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Five Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What ‘s your favorite way to prepare/eat bacon? Covered in chocolate or sizzling with a side of sunny-side up? 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

The Weekend Special – A Cozy Dinner with Friends

Pleasant_Lake_Winter_MistVulcan-Schmulcan! It happened again! That mix of rain, then snow and finally cold. Quite frankly, it doesn’t make me very happy. Our ski season is short enough without a March deluge. But, I’ll cheer up if you will.

Although it’s not the most elegant of dinners, a long and relaxing evening with a charcuterie, roasted vegetable and cheese board and a hearty mug of soup sounds pretty good.

Light the fire, put on some music and open a bottle of wine. Settle in for a good long chat, a few good jokes and some interesting stories. While you are relaxing share some delicious cheeses, prosciutto and sausage and your favorite roasted veggies. Let everyone mix and match and create their own special crostini. Try Butternut Squash with prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano, Beets with goat cheese, Mushrooms with fontina. For a final flourish and garnish, top with Caramelized Onions and a sprinkle of toasted nuts.

Before everyone fills up, pass around steaming mugs of soup. Decisions, decisions. My Potato & Cheddar Soup and Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup are bother winners but so is my Black Bean Soup.

And for dessert? Something easy … and perhaps with chocolate. How about a knock your socks off brownie? Give my Espresso Brownies or Triple Threat Brownies a try.

Have a relaxing weekend and bon appétit!

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

What about you? What are cooking 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

Polar Vortex & Potato & Cheddar Soup

Hey! Canada! Come get your polar vortex.
icicles_02
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