Second Half & Blueberry-Ginger Cobbler

It’s the second half of summer. We need to make the most of it. There will be no grousing about the rain or heat or anything else. Until we built the little brown house in the woods, my family always spent August on Cape Cod. From the time they were babies, my parents vacationed on the Cape in August. The tradition continued.

July was a crazy quilt of long weekends on the Cape at one or the other grandparents’ cottage, a day trip to the north shore and summer camp. When all else failed, we spent the afternoon at the town beach. August was a rickety rental a stone’s throw from the ocean.

I don’t know why but I never questioned the August vacation rule. For that matter, I doubt I thought much about it. However, I did find it decidedly strange when some of my friends went off to the beach in July.

My mother was pretty good at declarations. When I told her of friends heading to the Cape or New Hampshire or Maine in July, her reply was something akin to, “some people just don’t know any better.” If you didn’t know her, from that remark, you might think Mom was a snob or at least very opinionated. While Mom loved a good opinion, she was never a snob.

I admit at some point, probably when I was a teenager, I was vaguely uncomfortable with her pronouncement. I think I had just read the Great Gatsby. I hated to think that we were the kind of people who fled the city in August. Was it possible that we were among those careless people with more money than sense?

I needn’t have worried. Our family was neither fabulously wealthy nor remarkably careless. We lived in the suburbs. We didn’t lie around all day in white dresses surrounded by billowing curtains and complain about the heat. We wore shorts and t-shirts. We road bikes, climbed trees and ran through the sprinkler when Mom couldn’t take us to Morses Pond.

Anyway, except for my Great Gatsby moment, once we were ensconced in the little brown house in the woods, the subject was moot. Mom and we kids left the suburbs within minutes of the final school bell in June and returned late in the afternoon of Labor Day. Dad took the 4th of July holiday week off and came up weekends. We still wore shorts and t-shirts. We left our bikes at home but climbed trees and hiked in the hills. We swam, sailed and made a feeble attempt to learn tennis. If it rained, we played Monopoly and did jigsaw puzzles. We didn’t wear white dresses and the little brown house did not have billowing, floor-to-ceiling curtains.

It wasn’t until fairly recently, like maybe in the last few years that it finally dawned on me as to why the Nyes took their vacation in August. (It was one of those duh rather than ah ha moments.) The Atlantic Ocean was too cold for swimming in July. Or so said, generation after generation of adults. Ocean or lake, salt water or fresh, you name it, kids will swim anytime from Mother’s Day to Columbus Day. Unless there’s an El Niño (or is it La Niña), then they’ll swim on Christmas Day too.

Anyway, it is just about time for my father to greet the second half of summer with a swim in Pleasant Lake. While July is definitely the warmer of the two months, Dad’s now ninety-year-old bones prefer to wait until the lake reaches a more balmy 75 degrees or at least a refreshing 65. Who needs a calendar when you’ve got family traditions?

Wishing you a lovely August and bon appétit!

Blueberry-Ginger Cobbler
Pick-your-own or pick up a couple of quarts at the farm, it’s blueberry season. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Blueberry filling:
6 cups picked over blueberries
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Biscuit dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small bits
1/2-3/4 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Prepare the filling: put the blueberries in a bowl, add the brown sugar, cornstarch, ginger, lime zest, cinnamon and salt and toss to combine. Add the lime juice and toss again. Set aside.

Make the biscuit dough: put the flour, crystallized ginger, brown sugar, baking powder and soda and salt and cinnamon in food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and process again until the mixture resembles fine meal. Transfer to a bowl, add the sour cream and stir until the dough comes together.

Assemble the cobbler and bake: transfer the blueberry mixture to the prepared baking dish, drop spoonfuls of biscuit dough onto the fruit and transfer the cobbler to the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden. Serve warm with vanilla or ginger ice cream.

Printer-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Grilled Filets Mignons with Salsa Verde
Two Years Ago – Corncakes
Three Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Four Years Ago – Summer Salad with Green Beans, Blueberries & Goat Cheese
Five Years Ago – Shrimp Salad Niçoise
Six Years Ago – Insalata Caprese
Seven Years Ago – Mojito Melons
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Antipasto
Nine Years Ago – Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder

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

What about you? Do you have a summer vacation story to tell? Feel free to share!

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

Advertisements

More Summer Camp & Blueberry Bread Pudding

Last week I wrote a little bit about my first year at Camp Four Winds. A Girl Scout camp, it offered an escape from the hot, stuffy suburbs. Four Winds was basic to say the least, little cabins and tents in the woods, latrines and a big old dining hall. I’m not exactly sure if there were showers. While I sort of remember waiting in line for a shower, it might be my imagination. On the other hand, I have a clear vision of soaping up in the pond on Saturday night. You know the drill, once a week whether you need it or not.

Our days were not packed with fancy lessons or special programs. There was no horseback riding, tennis lessons, golf, dance classes or archery. At some point, we must have made a rope bracelet or gimp lanyard. We went on a hike, maybe two. Although I’d have denied it at the time, the hikes were none too arduous. One was planned as an overnight. We wimped out and returned to our little cabins when it started to rain. However, as luck would have it, the rain stopped in time for s’mores.

Come to think of it, camp was not all that different from what we did at home. We got up, we had breakfast and did chores. Of course, the chores were more onerous than those Mom gave us. My sister and I did not clean latrines back on Jackson Road. However, we did make our beds and could yield a broom. Brenda was the neater of the two. If pushed, I would eventually pick up my half of our room.

At home, we waited impatiently for Mom to do whatever needed doing before taking us to the town beach. At camp, the counselors corralled us down to the waterfront as soon as our beds were made and cabins swept. Starting with swimming lessons, most of the day was spent in and on the pond. Rain or shine, we stayed in the water until our lips were blue and our teeth chattered. Then we rowed boats and paddle canoes.

At the end of the morning, we were hustled back to our cabins to change into shorts and shirts. Bathing suits were not permitted in the dining hall. The food was unremarkable but kids gathered on the dining hall steps before and after lunch to sing camp songs. I can still sing a couple although I might mess up a verse of two.

After lunch was quiet time. Then and now, it seems rather silly. At seven or eight or however old I was, I was well past needing an afternoon nap. However, we were expected to rest or write letters home to our parents. I guess it was okay to read a book. Mostly, we whispered and giggled.

I’m pretty sure that quiet time was invented to give the counselors a break. How much do you want to bet that they spent the hour smoking cigarettes and writing love letters to their boyfriends? After resting, we were back at the pond. The remainder of the afternoon was filled with more swimming, more blue lips and more chattering teeth followed by rowboats and canoes. If you sense a pattern, you’d be right. It was not for naught. At the end of the two weeks, there was a swim meet. My crawl was hopeless but I came in second with my speedy backstroke.

Thankfully, there were more camp songs before and after dinner because the meal was as unremarkable as breakfast and lunch. At night, there were campfires, s’mores, ghost stories and more giggling. Little girls like to giggle and I was particularly good at it.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Blueberry Bread Pudding

You can call this Baked Blueberry French Toast and serve it for breakfast. Otherwise, call it delicious and serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

Butter for the pan
1 day-old* baguette (about 16-ounce), cubed
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 whole eggs
3 cups half and half or whole milk
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Generously butter a 13- x 9-inch pan. Arrange half of the bread cubes in the pan in a single layer. Sprinkle with half of the blueberries. Top with the remaining bread cubes and blueberries.

Put the cream cheese, sugar and spices in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at time, beating to incorporate. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the half and half. Gradually increase the mixer speed and beat until well combined.

Pour the custard pour over the bread and blueberries. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until lightly browned and set, about 30 minutes more.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve with or without vanilla ice cream.

* It is okay to use a fresh baguette. Just spread the cubes on baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes before prepping the pudding.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago – Cheesecake Brownies
Three Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Four Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Five Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Six Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Eight Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

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

What about you? How will you celebrate the first days of summer vacation and the longest day? Feel free to share!

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

Summer Bucket List & Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries

When we were kids, we started each summer with a bucket list. One year, the raft test was the top goal. Once we’d perfected our strokes, there was the swim to the island. Climbing Kearsarge was on the list most years. After I started running, a run around the lake was de rigueur. On top of whatever athletic endeavors, there were books to read, a first beer to drink and maybe a blueberry pie to bake.

What’s on your summer bucket list this year? If you don’t have one, well, then it’s time to get one together! Not sure of what to put on it? Well then, may I suggest:

  1. Ride a zip line. You know you want to. Any number of New England ski resorts are adding summer fun to their playlist. A ride down the mountain on a zip line sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon.
  2. Make pickles. I rarely make jams or jellies and I’m not a canner. However, I do like to make refrigerator pickles. They are quick, easy and delicious.
  3. Rent a flashy sports car and drive to the coast for fried clams and beer. One of my longtime traditions is to have fried clams once a year. Summer is by far the best time to indulge. What could be better than a trip to the coast, a walk on the beach and dinner with a view.
  4. Pick some berries. Maybe you’ll spend a morning at the pick-your-own strawberry field, stop by the blueberry farm or visit the raspberry lady. If you’re lucky, you’ll time to pick all three. Be sure to make at least one pie, tart or cobbler this summer.
  5. Take a three-day tech vacation. No computer. No Facebook. No Twitter, Instagram or YouTube. No television. No gadgets. Just you, family and friends face to face real time.
  6. Start a new hobby, try a new craft or learn a new game. At least for three days, you’ll have plenty of time. Take a dance lesson and keep going. Try watercolors or calligraphy. Maybe this is the summer to discover, or re-discover, darts, billiards or mah jongg.
  7. Try paddle boarding. It turns out that kayaks are sooo yesterday. Who knew? Then again, paddle boarding has already been around for a few years. Maybe it too is passé. It’s hard to stay up to date.
  8. Run through the sprinkler and throw water balloons. Even in New England, we have soaring temperatures and plenty of humidity. If you can’t get to the beach, a sprinkler is the next best thing. A water balloon fight with your kids or grandkids is even better.
  9. Invent an exotic cocktail. Think of it as your reward for hiking to the top of whatever mountain or running however many miles every morning.
  10. Watch a movie in the backyard. No, you don’t need a giant television screen. Plug your laptop into a projector and pin a sheet onto the back of the garage. As for titles, think Top Gun, Jaws, Grease or that one with the dancing and Patrick Swayze. Don’t forget the popcorn and maybe one of those exotic cocktails.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries
A creamy and delicious tart to start the summer. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3 cups plain yogurt
Graham Cracker Crust (recipe follows)
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 – 1/2 cup (to taste) honey
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1 quart strawberries, hulled and halved
Brown sugar to taste
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (optional)

Put the yogurt in a colander or sieve lined with a clean dishtowel or coffee filter and drain for several hours or overnight. You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups of yogurt cheese.

Make the Graham Cracker Crust.

Make the Yogurt-Cream Cheese Filling: Put the cream cheese in a bowl, add the honey, vanilla, orange zest and salt and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. With the mixer on medium-low, add the yogurt a few spoonfuls at a time beat until smooth. Spoon the filling into the graham cracker crust and smooth the top. Cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

Put the strawberries in a bowl and gently toss with brown sugar and Grand Marnier.

To serve: if you like, you can artfully arrange the berries in concentric circles on top of the tart, slice and serve. Alternatively, you can slice the tart and then top each piece with a spoonful of berries.

Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Set a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a 9-inch glass pie plate and whisk with a fork to combine. Add the melted butter, mix until well combined and firmly press the crumbs into the pan. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 7 minutes and cool on a rack.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Berry Flag Cake
Two Years Ago – A Hint of Asia Barbecue Chicken or Pork
Three Years Ago – Potato Salad Niçoise
Four Years Ago – Grilled Scallop & Asparagus Salad
Five Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Six Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Seven Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

What about you? Do you have a summer bucket list? Feel free to share!

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

What Now? What Next? & Strawberry Tort

It will be all pomp and circumstance at the local high school on Saturday. Bright-eyed teenagers will collect their sheepskins in front of beaming parents and grandparents. Many will continue their education in the fall; others will head straight to work. There will be plenty of sage words and glib platitudes but here are a few more…

Dreams are like an early morning mist. They float and surround you but there is little to grab and hold. Work is real and makes dreams come true. No one said it would always be easy; make a plan and persevere.

Don’t settle. Life is too short, too tough and too much fun to settle for dull and boring. It is much too short for cruel and meaningless.

Don’t wait for stuff to happen to you. Create your own next best thing. Achieve something; learn a new skill or take an old one to new heights. Perhaps you will write a sonnet, unscramble a piece of jumbled code or build a birdhouse. Go ahead – take a step, then another and make life happen.

Of course, accidents happen and luck can be hit or miss but the future is by far and away a product of the choices you make. Good, bad or indifferent, own your choices and move on to the next.

Don’t just pick your battles; pick the outcome. If you find yourself in the middle of an angry feud, you can choose to fume, forgive or forget. More often than not, being at peace is better than righteous indignation.

Life is better when you are happy. Happiness is not a deep secret or a profound mystery. You can find happiness by smiling more, laughing more and singing more. And don’t forget to dance.

Given a choice between an adventure and the same old-same old, choose adventure. No matter what happens, you will learn a whole lot along the way.

Don’t be an idiot. Open your mind to new people, possibilities and ideas.

Change is constant and all around us. If it wasn’t, you’d still be using a rotary phone. Heck, you’d know what a rotary phone was. Technology, fashion and opportunities change but love for family, for friends and a favorite place is constant. So embrace the latest smart phone but use it to call your grandmother on Sunday morning.

Keep kindness as a core value. Throughout your life, you will experiment and explore. You may investigate different beliefs or try new approaches to life. Through all those changes and evolutions, practice simple acts of kindness to connect to the people around you.

Hug your parents. Hug your grandparents. They won’t be here forever so appreciate them while you can.

Enjoy the ride and bon appétit!

Strawberry Tort
June is the month for graduations, weddings and strawberries. No, this tort can’t replace a five-tier wedding cake but celebrants will welcome it at almost any other festive feast. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1/2 cup butter, plus more for the pan, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About 1 pound strawberries, hulled and cut in half

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a deep dish pie plate.

Put the flour, baking powder and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined.

Add the dry ingredients and beat on low until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Arrange the strawberries cut side down on top of the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for at least 20 minutes, the tort can be served warm or at room temperature. Cut into wedges and serve plain or with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Two Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad
Three Years Ago – Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart
Four Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Five Years Ago – Blueberry Crumb Cake
Six Years Ago – Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce
SevenYears Ago – Strawberry Gelato
Eight Years Ago – Asparagus Soup

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

What about you? Do you have a favorite piece of advice for graduates? Feel free to share!

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

April Staycation & I Love Lime Pie

I love New Hampshire; I truly do. I love the snow in the winter and the red leaves in the fall. I love the summer and long, lazy evenings at the beach. But nothing is perfect, not even my love affair with New Hampshire. The blemish on the State’s almost flawless granite facade is spring. Or, to be more precise – the lack thereof.

While warmer climes are enjoying cherry blossoms, daffodils and tulips, we are enjoying sand, mud and potholes. Okay, I admit it; a few brave crocuses have popped their little heads up through the sand in my front garden. As for the buds on the trees, they are closed up tight. Most days, New Hampshire is shrouded in gray; gray skies, gray trees, gray sand.

It’s clear; it’s time for a vacation. The school district agrees. April vacation is this very week. All the lucky kids are in Florida or the Bahamas, Washington DC or maybe New York City. The rest of us are stuck here, surrounded by gray. (Okay, I confess. I already had my ten days in Florida at the beginning of the month. It was warm, sunny and green.)

For everyone stuck here, here are a few suggestions for an April stay-cation:

Dress like you are in sunny Florida or balmy Bermuda. It may be too chilly for shorts but you can dig into the closet for those fabulous pink sneakers or mellow yellow jeans.

Go for a swim. Think warm and sunny thoughts as you swim laps up and down the pool at Hogan. If you want to get in shape for swimsuit season, now is as good a time as any to start.

Have a spa day. Do-it-yourself or let the professionals pamper you. Massage, facial, manicure, pedicure, a day of luxury will help you forget the six-inch layer of sand in your front yard.

Get going on your garden. Start seedlings, clean out your beds and check your planters. If you have pots filled with herbs and other plants in the garage, move them outside. Just be prepared to move them back again. Temperatures could still plummet for a night or two.

Build a birdhouse. Welcome your feathered friends back with a cheery, new abode. Now, to paint or not to paint, that is the question. If you decorate your little house, be sure to stay away from toxic paints. In addition, the color scheme should blend with its surroundings. Otherwise, it could attract predators. Bright pink is fine in a colorful flower garden but not so great in a muted shade garden.

Cook as if the sun were shining. Roll out the grill, stock up on limes and have a party. Make it as plain or fancy as you like. You can keep it simple with burgers or throw a few shrimp on the barbie. Unless of course, you’d rather go nuts. Whip up a batch of amazing barbeque sauce for chicken or a fabulous salsa for beef or pork. As for limes, they’re good for everything from cocktails to a marinade or salsa and, of course, dessert!

Or forget the sunny south and spend a day in Paris. Sleep in, drink strong coffee and nibble a croissant. Go shopping, buy something fabulous and then enjoy a chatty (never gossipy) lunch with a friend. Take a stroll and imagine chestnuts in blossom. End the day with a long and lazy dinner with wonderful food, great wine and fascinating conversation.

Happy spring and bon appétit!

I Love Lime Pie
If you would like to use Key limes and can find them, go for it. If not, supermarket limes will work just fine! Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
4 large egg yolks
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Grated zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2-3/4 cup very cold heavy cream
Fresh berries

Set a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a 9-inch glass pie plate and whisk with a fork to combine. Add the melted butter, mix until well combined and firmly press the crumbs into the pan. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 7 minutes and cool on a rack.

While the crust bakes and cools, put the yolks in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale yellow and thick. Add the condensed milk and lime zest and beat again until well-combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add the lime and orange juices, increase the speed and continue beating until smooth.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake in middle of oven for 15 minutes. Cool the pie on a rack to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve: whip the cream with an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks. Cut the pie into wedges, garnish with fresh berries and a dollop of whipped cream.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago – Latkes
Three Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Four Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Five Years Ago – Espresso Brownies
Six Years Ago – Lemon Scones
Seven Years Ago – Shrimp with Jicama Slaw
Eight Years Ago – Pork Mole

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

What about you? Is a spring vacation in your plans this year? Feel free to share!

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

Easter at Nana’s & Lemon Pound Cake

My grandmother was happy for any excuse to see her family. Thanksgiving, Independence Day, you name it. At her house or ours, in the dining room or backyard, she loved seeing her clan all together. So, after Mom and Dad built the little brown house in the New Hampshire woods, an early Easter became the bane of Nana’s existence. A March Easter increased the likelihood that we would be skiing instead of headed to Nana’s for baked ham, scalloped potatoes and green beans.

As much as we loved her and we truly did, Nana and her Easter ham could not entice us off the slopes. We’d be more than delighted to indulge in her scalloped potatoes and green beans once the snow was gone. For her part, although she liked to have her family around her table, Nana wasn’t fussy. She’d have come up to our house in the suburbs without hesitation. Why, she would have been more than pleased to bring the scalloped potatoes or a lemon cake or both. (New Hampshire was another matter. She preferred to visit the little house in the woods during the summer.)

When it came to cooking, Nana was old school and a true New Englander. She baked at least once a week or at least she did when her grandchildren were around. I can’t remember ever being at her house when there were not homemade cookies in the jar. My grandfather’s favorites were Hermit Bars and Molasses Cookies. She baked lots of pies, especially blueberry, as well as the occasional cake and pan of brownies.

Her kitchen was tiny, just large enough to hold the stove, refrigerator and the sink with flanking counters. Cheery, calico curtains hid the treasures inside the lower cabinets. The uppers were open and held mysteries not found in my mother’s kitchen. No, these shelves were not filled with exotic spices. After all, Nana was a classic New England cook. However, she had a glass jar of cream of tartar. It was not creamy and was nothing like the tartar sauce that came with our fried clams at the local fish shack. There was also a canister of cornmeal and jars of nuts and raisins, ground ginger, baking powder and a bottle of molasses. Not a single one of these obscurities could be found in my mother’s kitchen.

Apart from the countertops on either side of the sink, her only work space was a small table. My sister Brenda and I would sit at that table and ask her countless questions while she bustled about. My grandmother was a bustle-er. We were more than curious as to why she didn’t bake her cakes from a mix or buy her cookies ready-to-eat and lined up in a plastic tray. After all, that’s what our mother did.

Now, this was not the kitchen my dad grew up with, that one might have been larger but maybe not. The kitchen I connect with my grandmother was in their cozy retirement house on Buzzards Bay. Infrequent or not, it continues to amaze me that Nana prepared family dinners for eight, twelve or more in that tiny kitchen.

Although it might have happened at least once, maybe twice, I never saw even a hint of chaos when Nana cooked. When we arrived for dinner, Easter or otherwise, everything was under control and close to ready. The ham was roasting and the potatoes were bubbling in the oven. The beans were trimmed, snapped and ready for steaming. A lemony cake was sitting on the kitchen table and strawberries were ready in the refrigerator.

… and if Easter was early, well, there was always Mother’s Day. Bon appétit!

Lemon Pound Cake
Lemony cake with fresh berries is a bright and sunny dessert for Easter or any spring feast. Enjoy!
Serves 12

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for the pans
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Grated zest of 2 lemons
2 1/4 cups sugar
Juice of 3 lemons
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
Whipped Mascarpone & Cream (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8×4 1/2-inch (6-cup) loaf pans.

Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the lemon zest and whisk again.

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until fluffy. With the mixer running on medium-low, add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add the lemon juice and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat again.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Increase the mixer speed and beat until just smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the top and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Cool to room temperature and serve with a spoonful of fresh strawberries and a dollop of Whipped Mascarpone & Cream

Whipped Mascarpone & Cream
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
Grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Put the mascarpone, zest, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat until fluffy. With the mixer running, slowly add the cream and beat until well combined. Increase the mixer speed and continue beating until soft peaks form.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Lavender Scones
Two Years Ago – Calzones with Marinara Sauce
Three Years Ago – Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake
Four Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with Pasta
Five Years Ago – Steamed Artichokes with Bagna Cauda or Warm Lemon-Garlic Sauce
Six Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Cake
Seven Years Ago – Filet de Perche Meunière
Eight Years Ago – Chicken Provençal

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

What about you? How will you celebrate Easter this year? Feel free to share!

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

April Foolish & Maple Crème Brûlée

Sandwiched between Saint Patrick’s Day on one side and Tax Day on the other, April Fools’ Day doesn’t come off too badly. On the one hand, you won’t find any green beer. On the other, there are no confusing forms to fill out. That said, I doubt that April Fools’ Day has the draw of Halloween or even Cinco de Mayo.

Unlike Halloween, April first is celebrated throughout most of the western world. Some historians speculate that it started back to 1582. That is when France switched calendars and moved the new year from the first of April to the first of January. I tend to think that January is a pretty foolish time to start anything, let alone a new year. Without the internet, it took a while for everyone to get the news. Celebrants of the passé new year became the butt of jokes and pranks.

With all its silliness, it is a fun day for kids. I will always think of April Fools’ as the day my sister woke up early to switch the salt and sugar. We would then laugh uproariously when Dad deftly sprinkled a teaspoon of salt on his cereal. Consider yourself warned if there are kids or grandkids in your kitchen on Saturday morning.

Now, not everyone has an eight year old in the house. Please, don’t let that stop you! You can still find ways to celebrate.

For bordering-on-evil mischief, you could perpetrate a Berners Street hoax. Back in 1810, a rakish Londoner created havoc by sending hundreds of tradespeople and even a dignitary or two to the home of a Mrs. Tottenham at 54 Berners Street. However, beware! In an age when credit cards and prepayment rule, you will need to drop a pretty penny to deliver a mountainous pile of packaged pandemonium.

For those that aren’t afraid of a little jail time, you could write the autobiography of an infamous recluse. That’s what Clifford Irving did back in the 1970’s. He wrongly assumed that Howard Hughes would maintain his low profile when the fraudulent autobiography hit the shelves. HH didn’t and Irving went to jail. Irving then wrote a book about the caper, aptly named The Hoax.

With all the snow on the ground, it is too early for crop circles but you can keep this idea in mind if you’d like to pull a mid-summer prank. These fantastic designs of flattened wheat and barley have popped up in the US and Europe. While some point to aliens and legend gives credit to fairies, the actual perpetrators are mere mortals, artistic and with a sense of humor, but definitely mortal.

If it weren’t for the pesky ice and snow, you might be able to pull off a Loch Ness Monster-type ruse. I know Lake Champlain claims to have a monster. The locals call it Champ or Champy. He, or maybe she, is a bit of a tourist draw. I think it will be at least a couple of weeks before a monster can break through the ice on Pleasant Lake. Anyway, keep that thought. It could make for a little intrigue at ice out.

However, neither ice nor snow will get in the way of pulling off a Big Foot stunt. Find your tallest friend, throw him into a hairy suit and let him wander around in the woods. A few grunts will add a nice touch. Make sure he stays off the path. Close up, that costume you find online isn’t going to fool anyone. And by the way, be careful – the bears will be waking soon and they’ll be hungry!

Wishing you a mischievous April Fools’ and bon appétit!

Maple Crème Brûlée
It’s sugaring season and there is nothing foolish about this creamy and delicious dessert. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

3 cups heavy cream
1 large egg
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup maple syrup (grade B if you can find it)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
1-2 teaspoons sugar for each serving

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Stirring occasionally, bring the cream to steaming in a heavy saucepan over low heat.

While the cream heats, combine the egg, egg yolks, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg with an electric mixer on medium speed.

Tin buckets collect sap for maple syrup – Main Street, New London, New Hampshire

With the mixer on low, very slowly add the warm cream to the eggs. (If you add it too quickly or in one go, the warm cream could scramble the eggs.) Stir in the vanilla and rum. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup. Pour the custard into 4- or 6-ounce ramekins until almost full.

Arrange the ramekins in a baking or roasting pan. Carefully pour boiling water into the pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the custards are set. Add more water to the pan if needed.

Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath, cool to room temperature and refrigerate for at least two hours.

To serve, sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons sugar evenly over the top of each custard and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes. Let the crème brûlées sit for a minute or two until the caramelized sugar hardens and serve.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Mini Chocolate-Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies
Two Years Ago – Tiramisu
Three Years Ago – Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce
Four Years Ago – Confetti Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Five Years Ago – Magret de Canard Provencal
Six Years Ago – Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool Parfaits
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Lamb & Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Eight Years Ago – Spicy Olives
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? What is your favorite hoax, prank or April’s Day? Feel free to share!

Image: The Berners Street Hoax. Lithography by Alfred Concanen (1883). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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