Happy Father’s Day Weekend Special

Okay Daddy-o, it’s time for a little celebration. We’ll be fêting my dad with a little lunch on Sunday. What about you? Most dads will take casual over fancy any day. Casual doesn’t mean ordinary. Make your celebration special with a delicious cookout.

I’m still a bit up in the air when comes to my menu. I’m debating between stocking up on some artisanal sausages. What could be easier? Or throwing some burgers on the grill. Still pretty darned easy! With goat cheese and sundried tomato aioli, my Not Your Ordinary Burger is simply spectacular. My sister is bringing a salad. However, you might like to try my Insalata Caprese . The first tomatoes are in at our local farm stand! Dad might also like a spoonful of Grilled Potato Salad.

For dessert, I’m leaning toward Strawberry Tort.

However, if you’re thinking of dinner rather than lunch, you’ll still want to start with an appetizer or two. How about Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus and Rosemary Cashews?

Next, you’ll want to try my Insalata Caprese.

For the main course, your dad will love my Grilled Steak with Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic & Rosemary-Balsamic Glaze. Throw a few asparagus spears and red potatoes on the grill and you’ve got dinner!

Dessert … you still can’t go wrong with Strawberry Tort.

Happy Father’s Day! Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2017


Let Dad Have His Day & Grilled Steak with Rosemary-Balsamic Glaze

Our poor dads, like the famous comic, they get no respect. Think back just a few short weeks to all the hoopla and folderol over Mother’s Day. Did you know that mom is almost fifty percent more likely to receive a card on her day than dad on his. As for gifts, the odds are even worse. Sorry buddy.

Maybe we should blame it on the retailers. After all, from flowers and chocolates to clothing and jewelry, Mother’s Day gets all the hype and even better deals. If they’re lucky, Dad’s Day may receive some vague recognition. The craft beers give a little shout out to dads but that’s about it.

It’s not that we don’t love you but, at least for daughters, moms are so much easier when it comes to buying gifts. I always figured if I thought a sweater was fabulous that my mom would agree. The same goes for a new handbag, perfume or earrings. But … huge, exasperated sigh … that’s hardly the case with Dad.

To make matters worse, the gift guides aren’t exactly fountains of wisdom. Shouldn’t someone tell the gift gurus that there aren’t a whole lot of men pining for a world’s best dad mug? And there’s hardly a line around the block waiting for bourbon-flavored marshmallows or teeny, tiny leather notebooks. But, hey what about the latest and greatest (?) – a grill so portable it fits in a briefcase. At home and on the road, don’t all dads live to grill? Unfortunately, I seriously doubt you’ll find grills on the list of FAA approved carry-ons.

What to do?

Forget some silly gift; celebrate Father’s Day with an apology. Apologize for keeping him awake half the night for the first two years of your life. For throwing up every time you were in the car for more than twenty minutes. For growing out of your sneakers before you even made it home from the shoe store. For that time he had to go down to the police station. For getting a divorce before the caterer had even sent her final invoice. For forgetting to pay back the down payment on your first house. For forgetting his birthday for the last fifteen years. For … for … for …

Next, give him a heartfelt thank you. Thank him for logging miles and miles around the living room when you had colic. For boosting you on his shoulders so you could see the parade. For teaching you to ride a bike, swim, sail, ski and/or drive. For helping you with your college tuition. For giving you an appreciation for the finer things in life … like a perfectly grilled burger or steak, fried clams with the bellies and a martini with olives. For brainwashing you to stay on budget and never, ever pay a penny in interest to the credit card companies. For … for … a whole lot more.

And finally, it’s highly likely that the one thing your dad wants more than anything is to spend time with you. So get out your golf clubs or tennis racket, pull on your hiking boots or dust off your bicycle and enjoy an afternoon together. Share your favorite museum with him or ask him to bring you to his favorite antique car show. Take in a movie or a concert. Buy a great steak and a nice bottle of wine or whiskey and fire up the grill. Listen to his jokes and his stories, no matter how long or how many times you’ve heard them before. You know what your dad likes to do. Make him happy; do it with him.

Happy Father’s Day and bon appétit!

Grilled Steak with Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic & Rosemary-Balsamic Glaze
This Father’s Day (or any day for that matter), dress up dad’s favorite dinner with a tasty glaze and a trio of aromatic veggies. (While you’re add it, add a few Grilled Red Potatoes.) Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil
3- 3 1/2 pounds New York strip steaks, cut about 1 1/2-2 inches thick
1 pound fresh (peeled and trimmed) or frozen pearl onions
8-12 cloves garlic, trimmed and peeled
1 pound whole mushrooms, trimmed

Make the glaze: put the vinegar in small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil the over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced by half. Remove from the heat, stir in the mustard, brown sugar, garlic, shallot, rosemary and thyme and season liberally with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature.

Transfer the vinegar to a bowl or jar, add the olive oil and whisk or shake until well combined. Make the glaze in advance or let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Whisk or shake again before using.

Spoon enough glaze onto both sides of each steak to lightly coat and let the beef sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill; the fire should be medium hot.

Put the mushrooms in a bowl, drizzle with enough glaze to lightly coat and toss to combine. Place the mushrooms cup-side up on the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes or until golden with nice grill marks. Turn and continue cooking until tender, about 5 minutes.

Put the onions and garlic in a bowl, drizzle with enough glaze to lightly coat and toss to combine. Transfer the onions and garlic to a grill basket and, stirring a few times, grill until tender and caramelized, about 5 minutes.

Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side for rare and 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for about 5 minutes.

To serve: slice the steaks and arrange on a platter or individual plates. Surround the steak with the vegetables and, if you like, drizzle with additional glaze.

Cover and store extra glaze in the refrigerator

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One Year Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Two Years Ago – Maple-Bourbon Pork Ribs
Three Years Ago – Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce
Four Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Five Years Ago – Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro, Mint & Peanuts
Six Years Ago – New Potato Salad with Gorgonzola
Seven Years Ago – Spicy Hoisin Wings
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Steak & Potato Salad

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

What about you? How will you celebrate Father’s Day? Feel free to share!

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

Feed a Cold? Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to good health and bon appétit!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas Vacation & Sticky Buns

King_RidgeHow could we have been so lucky? I don’t know how it happened (maybe it didn’t). When we were kids, we didn’t have to dream it, EVERY Christmas was white. By mid-December, the snow would start to fly. All rain and even the threat of a thaw were postponed until mid-to-late January.

Our winter wonderland made Santa’s job easy. From one year to the next, there was always some combination of Flexible Flyers, Flying Saucers, ice skates and skis under the tree. Oh and by the way, the Flying Saucers were not filled with little green men and did not whirl high overhead like a drone. They were aluminum disks that were perfect for flying down a hill at top speed. Flexible Flyers were made for hard packed, icy snow. Flying Saucers were made for the fluffy stuff.

Christmas vacations were filled with outdoor fun. There were plenty of little hills for sliding on Jackson Road. If we felt more ambitious, the country club was less than a mile away. Longfellow Pond was at the end of the street for skating.

Then, our already more than satisfactory Christmas vacations improved at least tenfold. Mom and Dad built a little brown house in the New Hampshire woods. After that, we spent all of our Christmas vacations whizzing up and down the slopes at King Ridge.

For the sake of our grandparents, we continued to celebrate Christmas Eve and Day in suburbia but we couldn’t get out of town fast enough. In the beginning, we headed north the day after Christmas. Then, we realized that most grandparents, including ours, don’t like to drive after dark. So, we’d have Christmas dinner at noon and they’d be out the door by two, maybe three o’clock. One year, I think they were barely out of the driveway before we were in our big blue station wagon and heading north.

King Ridge was a wonderful place for families. While it admittedly lacked vertical challenge, it made up for it with homey charm. Parents liked it because it was almost impossible to lose your kids. I’m sure a few kids managed to slip away for an hour or two but it took some doing. You couldn’t turn around without bumping into your mom or dad or one of your friends’ parents.

Kids liked King Ridge in spite of the ever-present village of adults. Ever-present, ever-vigilant and ever-ready to keep us from doing anything fun or stupid. Whether our actions were fun or stupid depended entirely on your perspective. If Mom and Dad were within eyeshot, we diplomatically agreed that jump was dangerous and bushwhacking through the woods was a bad idea. But as soon as they turned their backs, well, let’s just say that a kid’s gotta do what a kid’s gotta do.

Besides, you didn’t have to be a kid to do something silly. Take, just for-instance, the time our friends the McCauleys came up from Connecticut. Skip was a teenager and was delighted to have a few ski lessons. Dad was just as delighted to teach him. An athletic kid, Skip made amazing progress, deftly getting from top to bottom in one piece. As for Dad, he was not so deft.

Sometime, around mid-morning on the second or maybe third day of the McCauley’s visit, Skip passed Dad and joined us about three-quarters of the way down the hill. Showing off, Dad swooped down with plans for a dramatic stop and a magnificent rooster tail of light fluffy snow. Rather than dowse his friends and family, he pitched over … and broke his leg.

It looks like we’ll have a beautiful white Christmas this year. Have a safe holiday and bon appétit!

Sticky Buns
A special, old-fashioned treat for Christmas breakfast or any morning during the holiday week. Bakers will want to use their favorite white bread dough. If you’re not a baker, feel free to cheat with frozen dough. Either way, enjoy!
Makes 12-16 bunssticky_buns_02

3-5 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup currants
About 1 pound of your favorite homemade white bread dough or frozen, store-bought dough, thawed
Creamy Icing (recipe follows)

Generously butter the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch or 8×10-inch baking dish.

Put the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a bowl and stir to combine. Add the nuts and currants and toss to combine.

If using homemade bread dough, follow your recipe through the first rise.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 16×6-inch rectangle. Leaving a 1/2-inch border along one long side, generously butter the dough. Evenly sprinkle the sugar mixture over the dough.

Roll up the dough, jelly-roll style, forming a 16-inch long log and pinch the seam to seal. Cut the log into 12 or 16 equal pieces. Spacing them evenly, arrange the buns, cut side down, in the baking dish.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for a slow rise, 8-12 hours or overnight. (If you’re in a hurry, let the buns rise in a warm area until puffed, about 45 minutes.)

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Bake uncovered until the tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes and drizzle with Creamy Icing. Serve warm.

Creamy Icing
2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
About 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 or more tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy; slowly add the powdered sugar and continue beating until well combined. Add the sour cream, maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. If necessary, add more sour cream until the icing is perfect for a nice, thick drizzle.

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One Year Ago – Cranberry Coffee Cake
Two Years Ago – Fish Stew Provençal
Three Years Ago – Twice-Baked Potatoes
Four Years Ago – Baked French ToastFive Years Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Six Years Ago – Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Potato, Leek & Kale Soup
Eight Years Ago – Salmon & Lentils

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

What about you? How will you spend the week between Christmas and New Year? Feel free to share!

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

Happy Father’s Day Weekend Special

Susie_Dad_Muir_Woods_11_2016_01Oh my goodness! It’s going to be a picture perfect weekend for Dad. Whether he is a golfer, a cyclist or a fisherman, he can enjoy his favorite sport in the sunshine. If you’re lucky, he’ll invite you to join him! At the end of the day, ask him over for a delicious Father’s Day feast.

Not sure what to cook for the old man, here are a few ideas:

How to start? If you’d like to go a little bit fancy but not over the top, pass my Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp or Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam. Add a few nuts and olives and call the appetizers done.

Now, what’s for dinner? I found local asparagus at the farm stand this morning. Assuming the all too short season is not over, start dinner with my favorite Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado. The combinations of flavors and textures are fabulous. If your dad is a meat and potatoes kind of guy, you can’t go wrong with my Grilled Filet Mignons & Mushrooms with Stilton Butter and a side of Grilled Red Potatoes or Grilled Potato Salad.

So what about dessert? Does your dad have a favorite? I’m still up in the air but I’m leaning towards a Blueberry Pie or Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart. Both are winners.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Father’s Day 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, 2016

Lessons Learned from my Father & Grilled Filet Mignons & Mushrooms with Stilton Butter

Susie_Dad_SF_11_2016_01I generally give my mother top billing when it comes to the lessons I have learned from my parents. After all, she was the stay-at-home mom whose influence touched us day in and day out. In truth, many of the values she passed on were deeply held by both of my parents. Mom just happened to be the one around at three o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon to deliver the message.

While I will continue to identify many of life’s lessons with Mom, I will always hear my father’s voice when it comes to certain dos and don’ts. For instance …

Stay out of debt. Wait a minute; make that – stay out of credit card debt. Mortgages and even car loans are okay or at least a necessary evil. However, Dad continues to have a strong aversion to giving even one cent of interest to the credit card companies. When I received my first credit card in my early twenties, he passed his aversion onto me.

Don’t live beyond your means. This is part two of the credit card debt lesson. It’s hard to be debt-free if you spend more than you make in a month. Although I rarely carry cash and use my credit card liberally, I’ve never gone into debt over a new pair of shoes, one too many dinners out or a vacation I couldn’t afford.

Love your work. Dad loves to tell people how excited he was to get up and go to work every morning. He’s been retired for almost thirty years but he’ll still tell you how much he loved his job. A sales guy through and through, he liked winning deals. However, meeting people and developing relationships was the best part of the business for Dad.

Make friends wherever you go. I’m convinced people were the key reason Dad loved his work so much. Many of his business friends, including his boss, called him Mr. Nice. He continues to make friends, here there and everywhere. I frequently run into people who tell me that they met my dad at some event or another. “What a charming man,” they inevitably say. That’s my dad; he draws people in. Not quite like a spider enticing a fly, Dad’s pull is more like a bee to honey.

Tell stories. Stories are Dad’s honey, it’s how he draws you in. At first, it seems like innocent small talk. Before you know it, you’ve told Dad your life story and he’s shared his. Well, maybe not his own story; there’s a pretty good chance he regaled you with something about his kids, grandkids, his business, his parents or grandfather, my mother or someone he met last week or in the last century. Dad has a good memory. He’d be happy to tell about the time he climbed a lamppost to see FDR on parade in his enormous Packard convertible. Or chatted with Tip O’Neill on a flight to Washington. The Speaker was loaded down with jars of Hellman’s mayonnaise for the Mrs. At the time, it was not available in the nation’s capital. Who knows; it might not be today. Anyway, at the drop of a hat, he can dive into stories that date as far back as the 1930s or as recent as this morning.

Stay connected. For years, Dad has filled his Sunday mornings with phone calls. In the past, he called his mother and dad and ninety-year-old cousin. Then it was his kids. He lives with me now but my sister and brother continue to receive his at-least weekly calls and emails. Of course, the grandchildren have been added to his routine, maybe not weekly but a few times a month.

All and all, not bad lessons from a guy in his ninetieth year.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there – including my own. Bon appétit!

Grilled Filet Mignons & Mushrooms with Stilton Butter
Get out the grill, this recipe is a great choice for your meat-and-potatoes dad. Enjoy!
Serves 8Grilled_Filet_Mushrooms_Stilton_Butter_01

8 (4-6 ounce) filets mignons
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
16-24 good sized whole mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
Balsamic vinegar
Stilton Butter (recipe follows)

Brush the filets with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. (In hot weather, reduce the sitting time.) Preheat a charcoal grill to medium-hot or a gas grill to high.

Working in batches, drizzle the mushrooms with enough equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Place the mushrooms cup-side up on the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes or until golden with nice grill marks. Turn, move to the coolest part of the grill and continue cooking until tender, 6-10 minutes.

Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, turn and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes more for medium-rare. Transfer the filets to a platter or individual plates, top each with a pat of Stilton Butter, garnish with the mushrooms and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Stilton Butter
Olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon cognac
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
About 2 ounces (1/3 cup) crumbled Stilton cheese

Lightly coat a small skillet with olive oil and heat over medium, add the shallot and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cognac and Worcestershire sauce. Cool to room temperature.

Transfer the shallot and garlic to a bowl, add the butter and use a fork to mash and combine. Add the stilton and stir to combine. Divide the Stilton Butter in two pieces, transfer to sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper, roll into logs about 1-inch in diameter and refrigerate until firm. Remove from the refrigerator when you are ready to grill the steaks and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds.

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One Year Ago – Maple-Bourbon Pork Ribs
Two Years Ago – Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce
Three Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Four Years Ago – Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro, Mint & Peanuts
Five Years Ago – New Potato Salad with Gorgonzola
Six Years Ago – Spicy Hoisin Wings
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Steak & Potato Salad

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

What have you learned from your father? Feel free to share.

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

Popcorn for Dinner & Easy Microwave Popcorn

susie_kaela_03Everyone has secrets, they’re part of growing up. Of course, you never peed in the lake. No, you don’t know anything about that broken lamp in the living room. The dog must have tipped it over chasing the cat. Sure, you were at the library studying. And that dent on the front bumper?

Yes indeed, we all have our secrets. One of the secrets that every single girl in America, maybe the world, shares is popcorn for dinner. Whether you like to cook or not, whether you admit it or not … each and every one of us has succumbed to the charms and ease of popcorn for dinner.

As for me, I think it started in graduate school. My days started in the dark, running through quiet, early morning streets. Then it was class, study group, part-time job, the library, the computer lab, another study group, back to the library and finally, the last class of the day. I always seemed to have at least one night class, so two or three times a week I didn’t stumble home until ten o’clock or later. I staggered into the house with weary bones, a tired but still reeling brain and rumbling stomach.

That’s when I discovered the charms of popcorn for dinner. There was not a single leftover in the refrigerator. The salad bin was empty. Bluish fuzz covered the last morsel of cheese and the last cracker was staler than stale.

As a kid, we’d done the breakfast for dinner thing. While many love it, I don’t understand its appeal. First of all, breakfast is not my favorite meal of the day. That aside, it’s hardly instantaneous. Done right, you need to crack eggs, grate cheese, sauté mushrooms, cook bacon and bake muffins or scones. I suppose you should brew a pot of coffee as well. Done right, breakfast takes longer to cook than it does to eat. Seems like a lot of trouble for an exhausted grad student.

But popcorn, it’s ready in five minutes or less. Once made, you can stretch out on the sofa with a glass of wine and the Tonight Show and nibble to your heart’s content. One of the many beauties of popcorn is the prolonged nibbling. That and the sipping help you unwind from a too long, too packed day. Fond memories of childhood afternoons at the movie theater, the wonderful crunch plus the decadent butter and salt sooth your soul and your taste buds.

Through the years, popcorn has continued to be my go-to dinner after a too long day. For many years, I carried a brief case and traveled the world. At least once a month, a meeting, flight delay or a critical presentation kept me from home until it was much too late to cook. When I ditched the corporate world to write, one thing didn’t change. There were still nights when I staggered from the keyboard, tired and hungry with no energy to cook. Even if I had spent the entire day writing about food! Popcorn for dinner was not just for students.

A few years ago, my octogenarian father moved in with me. Popcorn or not, dinner at ten was not part of his plan. With some dismay, I thought that’s it, no more popcorn for dinner. And so, I learned to adapt. Instead of powering through, I took dinner breaks. I cooked and ate a real meal with Dad and then returned to the keyboard. Oh dear, was I finally becoming a real grownup?

Then one gray day, Dad and I went out for a late lunch. It had been a busy morning. Our lunch was leisurely and more than filling. Around eight o’clock, Dad asked about supper. He suggested a cup of soup. That’s when I introduced him to popcorn for dinner. A popcorn lover himself, he’s been all too happy to adapt and adopt. Two, maybe three times a year, after a busy day and a big lunch, we turn on the television, sip a glass of wine and nibble to our hearts content.

And so, now you have it. Proof that you’re never too old to eat like a grad student. Bon appétit!

Easy Microwave Popcorn
Yes, you could buy those packages of microwave popcorn but they are expensive and filled with not-so-funny chemicals. Give the real thing a try, you won’t regret it. Enjoy!
Serves 2 for dinner, more for a snack

1/3-1/2 cup popcorn
Butter *
Sea salt

popcorn_04Put the popcorn in a microwaveable bowl and cover with a plastic colander. If you don’t have a plastic colander, use the insert from the salad spinner. Place everything in the microwave** and hit the popcorn key. Depending on your microwave, you may need to zap the popcorn on high for a few minutes more.

popcorn_12While the popcorn pops, melt some butter (not too much mind you) in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove the popcorn from the microwave as soon as the popping stops. Toss the popcorn with the melted butter and a little sea salt***. Settle down in front of the television with a glass of wine, your favorite drama or football team and relax.

* I suppose the butter should be optional but I won’t tell if you don’t.

** If you don’t have a microwave, you can pop the corn with a hot air popper or on the stove in a heavy pot with a little vegetable oil.

*** Both Dad and I are purists and stick to butter and sea salt but, if you insist, you can raid the spice rack to dress up your popcorn. Trendy foodies add a dash of cayenne, smoky paprika, cinnamon or curry powder along with a sprinkle of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to their popcorn. If you are hungering for something spicy, sweet and salty, forget the cheese and toss with a little sugar, salt and your favorite spice.

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