Twinkle, Twinkle Lights So Bright & Hearty Sausage Soup with Beans & Greens

When I was little, the holiday decorations in our yard never stopped traffic. Like the rest of the neighborhood, our display was pretty modest. A life-size Santa did not peek down our chimney. The entire house was not outlined in flashing bulbs. Instead, Mom put electric candles in the windows and hung a wreath with a big red bow on the front door. Then, under the watchful eyes of his two little girls, Dad untangled strings of colored bulbs. He carefully wound them around the rhododendrons that flanked the front stoop. Dad completed the tableau with a spot light aimed at Mom’s wreath. My sister Brenda and I generally pleaded for bigger and better but it was not to be.

My childhood fondness for holiday decorations was not limited to our front yard. One of my favorite Christmas rituals was driving around town to see the lights and decorations. Of course, I wasn’t doing the driving; I was only five. I was in the back seat with Brenda, our noses pressed against the windows A week or two before Christmas, usually with little or no warning, Mom and Dad loaded us into our big blue station wagon and the treasure hunt began.

After circling the neighborhood, we’d widen our net. Never satisfied, we’d twist and turn away from familiar streets in search of the best and the brightest. Our philosophy was the bigger the better. We gave no points for subtlety or quiet, tasteful decorations.

Bouncing from one side of the car to the other for a better view Brenda and I giggled, oohed and ahhed. Most houses sported a few strings of lights wrapped around bushes or a tree. Others were more extravagant with lights wound around front porch railings or along roof lines. We drove all over town in search of spectacular. The truly remarkable displays combined a ton of lights with life-size wooden cutouts of snowmen or Santa in his sleigh.

When it came to lights, we all had our favorites. Brenda and I preferred the big, fat multicolored bulbs. Big and brash we loved all that color. On the other hand, Mom liked the icy glow of all blue lights. Dad drove and more or less agreed with everyone.

To blink or not to blink was an annual topic of conversation. Far from a debate, we were all in agreement. To our shock and dismay, we’d turn the corner and face a riot of flashing color. To our New England eyes, there was done and overdone. Santa and eight reindeer on the roof elicited enthusiastic applause. Flashing lights got nothing more than a disgusted ugh.

About the time I started high school, I stumbled down the path of discreet, good taste. I no longer dreamed of a plywood snowman on our front lawn. I had no desire to encourage Dad to bring out the extension ladder and hang colorful bulbs along every edge of the house and roof.

Instead, I clamored for little white twinkle lights and was more than happy with the spot lit wreath. At about the same time, I noticed a few big, old colonials with small wreaths on every window. Oh my goodness, l thought they were fabulous. That said, I didn’t want to press my luck and kept my eye on the prize of little white lights. It took a few years to convince my parents. After all, what self-respecting frugal Yankee is going to toss out perfectly good decorations in order to replace them with some newfangled invention?

Enjoy the lights and bon appétit!

Hearty Sausage Soup with Beans & Greens
A hearty soup is the perfect supper after your lights tour or tree trimming, Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
2 pounds precooked garlic sausage or smoked kielbasa, cut in bitesize pieces
About 3 cups cooked small white beans – 2 (15 ounce) cans or 8 ounces dried
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind* (optional)
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
6-8 or more cups chicken stock or broth
1 pound baby kale or spinach
Parmesan Crostini (optional)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

Lightly coat a soup pot with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the onion, carrots and celery and season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent, add the garlic and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the sausage, beans, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Add more or less stock depending how you like your soup – more like a stew or nice and soupy.  Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

If you have the time, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Stir in the spinach and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the greens wilt, about 5 minutes. Remove the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, thyme twigs and bay leaf, ladle into bowls or mugs, top with Parmesan Crostini, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

* Adding a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind will add flavor and richness to your soup. 

Parmesan Crostini
1/2-1 baguette, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly brush both sides of each baguette slice with olive oil. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce
Two Years Ago – Bûche de Noël
Three Years Ago – Roasted Beets with Sautéed Greens
Four Years Ago – Very Ginger Gingerbread Muffins
Five Years Ago – Ginger Shortbread
Six Years Ago – Baked French Toast
Seven Years Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Eight Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes
Nine Years Ago – Savory Bread Pudding
Ten Years Ago – Triple Chocolate Parfait

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

What are you serving this Thanksgiving? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

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Saint Patrick’s Day Weekend Celebration Special

Éirinn go Brách – it’s time to celebrate. Saturday is Saint Patrick’s Day. With all this beautiful new snow –  you’ve gotta love it – a parade is not the answer. Throw on a green turtleneck and cap and head to the mountain. After a day on the slopes, relax and enjoy a cozy dinner with friends. 

Let’s start with a tasty appetizer. The Irish are justifiably proud of their smoked salmon. I can’t think of a better start to your dinner. Enjoy thinly sliced smoked salmon or Smoked Salmon Mousse on Irish Soda Bread.

Gather at the table for a lovely salad. Can I suggest – Roasted Carrot Salad. While not particularly Irish, it is delicious and sports the colors of the Irish flag.

Now, for the main course. Forget corned beef and cabbage. For a truly delicious Saint Paddy’s Day try my Guinness Lamb Shanks with a hunk of Irish Soda Bread or my Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin. Unless you have a large crowd coming … then a big pot of stew might make more sense. If that’s the case, my Irish Lamb Stew is the answer.

Unless you’d prefer a simpler après ski supper. If that’s the case, stir up a pot of potato soup. (After all, the potato famine  sent our Irish ancestors to America in the first place.) Try my Potato & Cheddar Soup, Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup or Cheddar Ale Soup.

Ready for dessert? Dig into my warm and homey Apple Bread Pudding with Bourbon-Caramel Crème Anglaise – please feel free to switch out the Bourbon for Irish Whiskey. And finally, top off the evening with an Irish Coffee.

Have a great weekend and sláinte!

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Weekend Special – Coffee? Tea? Please Join Me

At a certain point, no matter how young or energetic, we all need to slow down. I think I’m rapidly approaching that point. The roller coaster of cold, thaw, rain, snow, more cold, more rain and another thaw has not helped. It’s time for a lazy morning or afternoon or both.

Call up a pal and invite him or her over for coffee or tea. Keep it simple. It’s all about the company. Light a fire, set out a basket of muffins or a plate of cookies and enjoy a good long chat. While I find baking relaxing, particularly the simple stuff like homey muffins and cookies, sometime you just want to curl up in a big armchair. So, a little hint here – a few times a year, I bake a double batch and freeze them.

Here are some of my favorite muffins –

Applesauce Muffins

Zucchini Muffins

Very Ginger Gingerbread Muffins

And some cozy cookies –

Apple Oatmeal Cookies

Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies

Root ’n’ Tooty Good ’n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies

So brew  a pot of your favorite coffee or tea, sit back and enjoy. For a special treat, you might like to try my Spiced Chai.

Relax and bon appétit!

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

How will you celebrate the New Year? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Weekend Special – a Cozy Dinner in a Winter Wonderland

In the words of Mark Twain, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” Over the past week or two, we enjoyed(?) a typical January. Snow. Blistering cold. Wind. Drenching rain. More wind. More cold. Snow again. Most moms are going a little crazy with all the snow days. (My only advice – push the kids out the backdoor and tell them to build a snowman, go sledding or stomp around in snowshoes.)

When the weekend comes, enjoy a great day of sledding, skiing or snowshoeing. At the end of the day, kids and adults will both enjoy an Asian inspired feast! Here are a few suggestions to warm up at the end of the day:

Warm up by the fire with a mug of Mulled Cider. If you like, add a shot of rum for the grownup, try some warm sake or open a bottle of wine. For nibbling, try my Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce with fresh veggies and shrimp or my Lettuce Cups with Shrimp & Noodles. (If it seems like the evening is going to be too noodle-y, Lettuce Cups with Shrimp but no Noodles will be delicious. If everyone is chilled to the bone, enjoy tiny cups of my Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup.

When it’s time to move to the table, start dinner with my Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad. Next, grownups and kids alike will love my Dandan Noodles. (I’m addicted.)

For a snowy weekend dessert, what could be better than Frosty the Snowman Cupcakes? Well, how about Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart?

Have fun, stay warm and bon appétit!

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

How will you celebrate the New Year? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

The January Thaw & Dandan Noodles

Is there anything more frustrating that day after day of subzero weather? Ask any skier. You look out the window and it’s a winter wonderland of beautiful snow. Wonderland until you venture out. That’s when you realize that the bitter cold could rival Siberia. Of course, there are a lot of tough dudes and dudettes. They go out anyway but not me. I’ve been there and done that.

Now, don’t get confused here. I don’t stop exercising, I’m too much of a fanatic to quit cold turkey. You can still see me out and about walking around the lake or stomping up a hill on snowshoes. However, no way, no how, will you find me on a chairlift.

That’s not to say I haven’t tried it. I did, my first winter back in New Hampshire. It was one of the coldest Januarys on record. I figured I better get used to my new normal. Dressed like an onion, I threw my skis and boots in the car and headed for the mountain. It was awful. Not only was the temperature on the wrong side of zero but the wind gusts were so strong, I was literally stopped in my tracks. Two runs and I was out of there.

While some have tried to tempt me, I stand firm on my decision to stay close to home on the coldest days. Every time I hear about a chairlift breaking down, I know I made the right choice. Can you imagine the nightmare of being stranded midair in gale force winds and frigid temperatures? Just the thought creates uncontrollable shivers.

All that said, there is something even worse than a month of subzero temperatures. That something is the infamous January Thaw. No, that’s not a typo. It definitely thaw with a capital T. The only thing more heartbreaking than beautiful snow in bitter cold temperatures is watching it dissolve in a drenching downpour.

Not only does the January Thaw wreak havoc with the snow on the mountain, it creates a mess at home. Several years ago, I lost a porch to the Thaw. The weight of the water-drenched snow caused it to cave. On top of that, water tends to seep under the door of the garage in any heavy rain. Add melting snow and, armed with a push broom, I’m on flood watch.

Then again, the Thaw doesn’t stay long, not even a week. It tends to follow a set agenda. First, there’s the buildup. For a day, maybe two, the sun is brilliant in a bright blue sky. Still cold at night, daytime temperatures slowly inch up to maybe twenty-five. Then, there’s the tipping point. Warmer still, the skies cloud over. In spite of the thermometer’s mild reading, there is a chill dampness in the air. A foreboding fog rolls in; that’s when you know. Rain is imminent. Find the rubber boots and get out the push broom.

In less than twenty-four hours, the drenching downpour starts to taper off. Temperatures plummet as the heavy rain winds down. Roadways freeze over. Ski trails become downhill skating rinks. I don’t know about you but I start to wonder, “What did I do to deserve this? Tell me and I’ll never do it again.”

I need some serious cheering up. Bon appétit!

Dandan Noodles
Throughout the winter, frigid cold or chilly rain, I gravitate towards noodles. Far East flavors or Mediterranean flair, I love them all. Add these spicy Asian noodles to your quick supper list. Enjoy! 
Serves 4

8-12 ounces Chinese or udon noodles
Vegetable oil
1 pound ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1-inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons or to taste sriracha 2 tablespoons tahini or smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds or peanuts, toasted and finely chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions and/or cilantro

Lightly coat a large heavy skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high. Add the pork, season with salt and pepper, and cook, breaking the meat up into small pieces, for about 2 minutes. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and sriracha and continue cooking until the pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Add the tahini, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar and stir to combine. Stir in the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, 5-10 minutes.

While the pork simmers, cook the noodles according to package directions and drain well.

Transfer the noodles to a large platter or individual bowls. Stir the sesame oil to the pork. Top the noodles with pork, sprinkle with sesame seeds, scallions and/or cilantro and serve immediately.

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

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

How are you coping with the cold, rain, ice and snow? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Weekend Special – a Cozy Dinner to Face the Rain and Ice

Right on schedule, it’s the January Thaw. After weeks of subzero weather, it would feel pretty good … if it didn’t bring rain … and ice. It may be above freezing but it’s wet and still chilly. Outside there will be a mess of slush and ice but, thankfully, inside it will be cozy and warm. Why not invite friends over for a game or movie night and dinner?

Here are a few suggestions for a cozy meal:

Set up the Jenga tower and invite everyone to gather by the fire. Pass a plate of warm and toasty Mushroom Crostini, sip a glass and hold your breath until the tower falls.

Start dinner with a hearty salad. Many of us grew up with pale tomatoes and paler lettuce. Now we lean towards vibrant colors. Kale, radicchio, arugula, roasted veggies and more come together in all their glory. Give my Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash or Romaine & Radicchio Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Walnuts a try. You’ll be glad you did.

For a cozy main course, enjoy a spoonful of Sweet Potato Polenta topped with delicious Roasted Shrimp & Andouille Sausage.

For dessert, load that Oscar contender that you missed in the theatres and enjoy it with my Mini Tarte Tatins. Be sure to add a spoonful of your favorite vanilla or ginger ice cream.

Stay dry and bon appétit!

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

How will you spend this rainy-icy-snowy weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Dress like an Onion & Roasted Shrimp & Andouille Sausage

It’s hard to be glamorous when you live in a cold climate. If you’ve ever doubted this undeniable truth, just spend ten minutes watching the Golden Globes or Oscars. Heck, you don’t have to stay up for the awards, just watch the preshow parade on the red carpet.

There’s you, wrapped in a blanket, wearing a double layer of leggings, a turtleneck and a ratty old fleece. Out in Los Angeles, Saoirse, Emma, Meryl and Michelle saunter down the red carpet. They are sleek and beautiful in perfectly fitted gowns. Their hair, long and loose or wound into a fabulous twist, is impeccably coiffed. Back on the sofa in New Hampshire, if you’re not wearing a wool cap, your hair is pulled back in an ancient scrunchie.

Now, it’s all well and good to look like a ragtag bundle of fleece and wool in the privacy of your own home. However, whether you like it or not, you’ll eventually need to go out – if for no other reason than to stock up on milk and cocoa. Plus it’s a good bet that, in spite of the cold, you’re still expected to show up for work.

As if life wasn’t busy enough, we now have to worry about getting to work on time in spite of the deep freeze. Hopefully, your boss understands that everything takes longer in the winter in New Hampshire.

Somewhere in my travels, I was given the excellent advice to dress like an onion. I think it might have been in Italy … as in vestiti come’ una cipolla. Whoever offered this sage advice neglected to add that all those layers take time. Not just putting them on but scrounging around to find them.

Take for instance; the long johns I bought the year I returned to New Hampshire. I rarely wear them but when I need them, I really need them. Then, since nothing seems to fit over those heavy long johns, I need to figure out where I stashed the too baggy pants. The ones I bought by mistake. Let’s hope I didn’t finally toss them in the donate pile. Thankfully, the top layers are easier. First, I pull on one of my many turtlenecks, then add a pullover and finally top everything with big, heavy sweater and scarf.

Of course, those are just my inside clothes. Next comes the adorable hat my niece knitted for me, jacket and gloves. Shoes go into the bottomless bag I call a purse and warm boots go on my feet. In my wishful thoughts, my layering has made me look like a well put together Milanese. In reality, I look like the female version on the Michelin man.

Next, it’s time to get the car started and warmed up. If you are one of those crazy people who parks your car outside in spite of the cold, you need to brush the snow off first. By the way, sorry to call you crazy but, I confess, I don’t get it. You have a garage; why don’t you use it? What on earth is so important that it’s inside while your car faces the elements?

For anyone with the misfortune to live in the northeast without a garage, you have my unbounded sympathies. I’ve been there and it’s not fun. A garage is a relatively recent thing for me but I could never go back. The worst was when I lived on the top of a very cold and windy hill in Vermont. Luckily, I could walk to work. More January days than not, the engine refused to turn over and my car stayed put, admiring the frosty view. Is it possible a car needs to dress like an onion too?

Stay warm and bon appétit!

Roasted Shrimp & Andouille Sausage
Unlike a lot of winter comfort food, this cozy dish doesn’t need to bubble in the oven for hours. It comes together in about 30 minutes and pairs beautifully Sweet Potato Polenta. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound cherry tomatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon or to taste ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Olive oil
1 pound smoked andouille sausage, quartered lengthwise and roughly chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup dry white wine
2-2 1/2 pounds extra jumbo (16-20 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined

Put the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Put the tomatoes, onion and bell peppers in a bowl, sprinkle with 2 cloves minced garlic, the cumin and half of the chili powder and herbs, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss again.

Add the sausage to the vegetables and toss to combine. Divide the sausage and vegetables and spread evenly onto two baking sheets. Roast at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, turn the pans and switch oven positions and roast 10 minutes more.

While the sausage and vegetables roast, prepare the shrimp. Put the remaining garlic, chili powder, herbs and the cumin in a bowl, add 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice and white wine and whisk to combine. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Tossing a few times, marinate for 15 minutes.

Add the shrimp to the sausage and vegetables, drizzle with the marinade and spread everything in a single layer. Return to the oven and roast until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook.

Transfer to a platter or individual plates and serve immediately. The shrimp are a delicious with Sweet Potato Polenta.

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One Year Ago – Tortellini en Brodo con Spinaci
Two Years Ago – Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
Three Years Ago – White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens
Four Years Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Five Years Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnuts
Six Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Seven Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Eight Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Nine 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 dealing with the miserable cold? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018