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.

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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

What’s your Brand? & Chocolate-Hazelnut Bars

fabAlmost fifty years ago, Joe McGinnis wrote a book on the marketing and selling of Richard Nixon. At the time, the whole idea of branding a politician like a tube of toothpaste or a fast-food burger was revolutionary. It seemed more than a little strange. After all, we went to the polls to elect a president, not buy a can of soup.

For better or worse, we’ve come a long way. Throughout 2016, the pundits and newscasters talked a lot about the candidates’ brands. It didn’t shock or even surprise us. In fact, these branding discussions made sense. While a politician’s brand may be a simplistic measure, it gave us instant insight into his or her stance on a number of issues. Love him or hate him or something in between, our new president presented a brand that combined business success with brash, tell-it-like-it-is populism. Not everyone believed him but about sixty-three million voters bought into his brand.

But enough about politics; what about you? What’s your brand? And if you don’t know, how do you figure it out. (And, if you don’t like what you got; can you change it?)

Your personal brand combines what you do with how you do it. You’re not just a grandmother (among other things); you’re a fun loving and kind Nanna. You’re not just a plumber; you’re a trusted advisor when it comes to my pipes. Plus, you’re wicked cool and play a mean bass.

So, the first part is probably pretty easy. You know if you are a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker. You’re probably a bunch of other things as well, Mom or Dad, golfer, gourmet cook, poet, painter or volunteer. Next, and more difficult, is to figure out the how. Are you thoroughly dependable, happy-go-lucky, creative or analytical?

This last part, the dependable or creative part; it stays with you at work and play. It doesn’t matter if you are working with colleagues and customers or hanging out with friends and family, your brand will shine through. Of course, you will tone it down or amp it up based on the circumstances but you is what you is. If you’re a nasty son-of-a-gun at the office, you’re probably just as nasty on the golf course.

So now you may be wondering, “Is this brand thing set in stone?” Is it possible that you could be stuck – forever – playing the nasty son-of-a-gun, class clown or prim miss. I’m optimistic. I think anyone can change. Just so long as you realize, when it comes to your personal brand, you have to change from the inside out. If you want to become a tough guy; you have to earn it. As I understand it, the tough guy brand requires, among other things, wearing shorts in the middle of winter, never being wrong and lifting weights.

A few weeks ago, I suggested kindness might be a good 2017 resolution. Maybe you’re willing to go so far as to adopt a new kinder brand. You need to beware, the kindness brand requires more than a few nice words. You actually have to become a nice person. Otherwise, people will see right through you. But don’t worry it’s not that difficult. After all, you don’t need to wear shorts in a blizzard or spend hours at the gym. Be positive, smile and, when in doubt, assume the best about people.

That should get you started. Bon appétit!

Chocolate-Hazelnut Bars
Every baker needs a few brownies and bars. Perhaps you’ll add this one to your repertoire. Enjoy!
Makes 24 bars

Shortbread Base
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, cut in small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.

Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and process until small lumps form. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and firmly press into the bottom of the pan.

Bake the shortbread in the middle of the oven until golden, 15-20 minutes.

While shortbread is baking, prepare the topping.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Topping
1 egg
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1 cup (6 ounces) roughly chopped hazelnuts
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Put the egg, bourbon, vanilla and cream in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the brown sugar, honey and salt and whisk again until smooth. Stir in the hazelnuts.

Pour the nut mixture over the hot shortbread. Return the pan to the oven and bake until set, 15-20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle chopped chocolate evenly over the top. Return the pan to the oven for 1 minute. Spread the melted chocolate over the top. Cool in the pan and cut into bars.

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One Year Ago – Whole Grain Pilaf
Two Years Ago – Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks)
Three Years Ago – Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù
Four Years Ago – Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Five Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Six Years Ago – Fettuccine with Escarole, Radicchio & Mushrooms
Seven Years Ago – Cassoulet
Eight Years Ago – Caribbean Fish Stew

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

What about you? What’s your brand? Feel free to share!

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

Merry Christmas Mom & Bûche de Noël

mom_xmas_11My mother loved Christmas. As far as I can figure, she loved everything about it. She loved decorating the house, shopping for her family and gathering that family around her. Not too long ago, Mom lost her long fight with Alzheimer’s disease. Her battle gear was her beautiful smile, her infectious laugh and, most important, her kind heart.

I will keep my mother in my heart at Christmas and throughout the year with memories and stories. Here are some of my favorite images of Mom at Christmas:

Baking cookies. I’m sure that other mothers on Jackson Road baked dozens and dozens of cookies in a multitude of varieties. At our house, Mom, my sister Brenda and I rolled out and baked a batch of sugar cookies. If one existed at the time, we probably made them from a mix. We did not turn out a cornucopia of magnificent cookies but the afternoon was filled with laughter and singing. What Mom lacked in enthusiasm for baking, she made up in her enthusiasm for life.

Tree shopping. Mom was quite particular about our Christmas tree. Most years we went tree shopping as a family. The year my brother John was born, she decided to stay home with the baby. She entrusted this critical task to her husband and two little girls. The three of us bought and returned not one tree but two before she gave up. She bundled Johnny into his snowsuit and back we went to the garden shop. She perused, she studied, rejected and perused some more, until, she did indeed find the perfect tree.

The annual lights tour. Dad strung lights in and around the rhododendrons and Mom hung a wreath with a big red bow on the front door. As displays go it was pretty simple; no sleighs on the roof or flashing lights. For that, the Nye family jumped in the car for a rambling tour of the neighborhood. A week or two before Christmas, usually on a Sunday evening, we would twist and turn down one street and then another in search of spectacular lights. Without a doubt, Mom was the world’s best audience. I can still hear her enthusiastic oohs and aahs.

Santa_bookChristmas story time. In early December, Mom pulled out The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus to read to Brenda and me. Worn from countless readings, my mother was a tiny girl when Santa left the book under her tree. Its sixteen wonderful chapters chronicle the life of Nicholas the Woodcarver. The story is filled with love, kindness and generosity. It will make you cry, make you smile and fill you with goodwill. At five, I was convinced that it was all true. I still am.

Lipstick and coffee. We were that family. On Christmas morning, our lights were on before the sun began to think about rising. In spite of or maybe because of our predawn start, Mom insisted on two things – lipstick and coffee. Hopping from one foot to the next, we impatiently waited for Dad to make the coffee and Mom to put on her bright red lipstick. It seemed like forever but, finally, we could pile down the stairs.

Dancing with delight. Bows flew, paper ripped and tags were lost. Finally, it was Mom’s turn and Dad handed her an enormous box. She tore in (we were not a save-the-paper family) and let out shriek. Inside, swathed in a thick layer of tissue was a mink stole from Alfred M. Alexander Furs of Boston. It was another time, before it was politically incorrect to wear fur. Mom immediately pulled it from the box, threw it over her shoulders and danced around the living room – red lipstick, bathrobe, slippers, mink stole and all.

I wish you a holiday season filled with peace and wonderful memories. Bon appétit!

Bûche de Noël
I baked my first Bûche de Noël in high school. With little interest in baking, Mom limited her participation to wholehearted encouragement and enthusiastic appreciation. Enjoy!
Serves 12buche_de_noel_06

Parchment paper, butter and flour for the pan
2-3 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup cocoa powder
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon espresso or instant coffee powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
White Chocolate Cream Frosting (recipe follows)
Chocolate Cream Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 15-1/2×10-1/2×1-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper. Sprinkle a clean dishtowel with 2-3 tablespoons cocoa powder.

Beat the egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form, gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Beat the egg yolks and vanilla in bowl on medium speed for 3 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar and beat for 2 minutes more.

Put the remaining cocoa into a bowl, add the flour, espresso powder, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and whisk to combine.

Add half the dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture and beat on low speed to combine. Add the orange juice and beat until smooth. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat until smooth.

Add 1/4 of the egg whites to the batter and stir to combine. Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the bather. Evenly spread the batter in the prepared pan.

Bake the cake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched in the center. Carefully invert the cake onto the prepared towel and peel off the parchment paper. Immediately roll the warm cake and towel from the narrow end and cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cake cools, make the White Chocolate Frosting.

Carefully unroll the cooled cake and remove the towel. Spread White Chocolate Cream Frosting on the cake, leaving a 1-inch border on all edges. Reroll the cake, cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

While the cake sets, make the Chocolate Cream Frosting.

Use a serrated knife to cut a 1-2 inch slice of cake from one end. Arrange the cake, seam side down, on a platter. Spread Chocolate Cream Frosting on the cut side of the slice and place it frosting side down on the log. Cover the cake with frosting. Smooth the frosting on the ends and then use a fork to draw concentric circles. Use a spatula or fork to create a bark-like texture on the rest of the cake.

The cake can be made 1 day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator about 1 hour before serving.

White Chocolate Cream Frosting
1/2 cup heavy cream
Grated zest of 1 orange
Pinch salt
6 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat the cream, orange zest and salt in a heavy saucepan over low heat until it is almost a simmer. Remove from the heat and immediately add the chocolate to the warm cream to and let it stand for a few minutes. Whisk until smooth, add the Grand Marnier and vanilla and whisk again to combine.

Transfer the chocolate to a bowl, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until cold.

With an electric mixer, beat the chocolate cream until thick and fluffy.

Chocolate Cream Frosting
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon espresso or instant coffee powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces dark chocolate (or a 50/50 mix of dark and milk) chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon and salt in a heavy saucepan and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the cream. Whisking frequently, heat the cream over low heat until it is almost a simmer and the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and immediately add the chocolate to the warm cream to and let it stand for a few minutes. Whisk until smooth, add the vanilla and whisk again to combine.

Transfer the chocolate to a bowl, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

With an electric mixer, beat the chocolate cream until thick and fluffy.

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

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

What about you? What are your favorite family traditions? Feel free to share!

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

Getting in the Spirit & Chocolate Walnut Tart

Christmas_StockingHopefully, you’re feeling all warm and cozy after Thanksgiving. There were probably a few not too subtle and not too quiet words spoken at some point between the shrimp cocktail and pumpkin pie. It would not be Thanksgiving if there were not at least one blowup. I’m sure all is forgiven or at least forgotten by now. Anyway, let’s turn that Thanksgiving afterglow into some big old, no strings, no limits holiday spirit. I’m sure you have a few ideas but these will help you get started:

First and foremost, take down any political signs that are still in your yard. Replace them with sparkling lights and a snowman or two. Hang a wreath on the door and fill an old planter with evergreens, holly and more lights.

Drive around town and look at other people’s Christmas lights. Revive an old tradition of a special dinner out after the Christmas lights tour. If your family has never celebrated the lights tour tradition, start it. You deserve a night out.

Dig through all your old boxes of decorations and ornaments. Don’t stop there; look through your mom’s old boxes too. These treasures will bring back special memories. Embrace and revel in the nostalgia of Christmas.

Get a tree and fill it with lights, baubles and bows. If it seems like too much trouble … get one anyway. If it really, really, really seems like too much trouble, cover the mantle with greens and decorate them with lights, baubles and bows. It will get you in the spirit and send you over to the farm for a tree.

Whether you favor Bing or Bruce, crank up some holiday tunes. It’s a wonderful time of year and music is a big part of it. Find one of those all Christmas stations on the radio and let it play throughout the day. Music will lift your spirits on a dark and cloudy afternoon and make any task easier. In the coming weeks, make it a point to attend a community concert, go caroling and hum your way through the supermarket.

Bake something. Anything; it doesn’t matter whether you bake dozens of cookies, a tart or a pan of brownies. By all means, get the children or grandkids involved. They can help you measure and mix and keep you company. If you don’t have any kids available, borrow one or two from a neighbor. I’m sure their parents will be delighted to have some free time to wrap gifts, do some shopping or just sit quietly for a minute.

Baking done; now, it’s time to make something. Craft a tree ornament, knit a scarf or decorate a wreath; the list is endless. ‘Tis the season to take a workshop at the library or community center, search the internet for clever projects or ask your creative friends for help. Remember, when in doubt – a can of gold spray paint can turn almost anything into something magical.

Do you have a favorite book that your parents read you every year at Christmas? Even if it’s been years, hunt it down, cuddle up on the couch and read it again. From the transformations of Ebenezer and Grinch to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, these stories share themes of love and kindness.

Happy holidays and bon appétit!

Chocolate Walnut Tart
A delicious change from the traditional Pecan Pie, this tart is perfect for chocoholics. Enjoy!baking_01
Makes one tart

Flaky Pastry (recipe follows)
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 cups (about 8 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)
Garnish: unsweetened whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough and fit it into a 9- or 10-inch glass or ceramic tart pan. Trim and crimp the edge. Cover and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter and rum. Whisk in the sugar and maple syrup. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the walnuts and allspice.

Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake until set, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 2 hours. Pour the glaze over the tart and spread evenly to cover the top. Cool completely and serve garnished with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

Chocolate Glaze
8 ounces dark chocolate
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Put the chocolate, butter and cream in a heavy saucepan and, stirring frequently, heat on very low until about 2/3 melted. Remove the pan from the heat, let sit for 5-10 minutes and stir until smooth.

Flaky Pastry
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.

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One Year Ago – Citrus & Spice Sugar Cookies
Two Years Ago – Peppermint Bark Cookies
Three Years Ago – Mixed Reds & Greens Holiday Salad
Four Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Five Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Six Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Eight Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens

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

What about you? How do you get in the holiday spirit? Feel free to share!

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

Columbus Day Weekend & Cardamom Plum Tort

Elkins_Dam_Foliage_02The Columbus Day weekend is just days away. Although Columbus Day is a federal holiday, less than half the states celebrate and many companies treat it like any other Monday. As far as I can figure, Columbus Day has lost some of its luster. I could be wrong but the holiday seems to have regressed into not much more than a good excuse to buy a cheap mattress or shoes at a big discount.

Whoa bucko, let’s be careful there. Let’s not go disparaging Columbus Day. That goes double if your company gives you the day off or you’re married to an Italian. Columbus Day was a hard fought holiday. Although it was first celebrated in 1792, Columbus Day did not become a federal holiday until 1937. President Roosevelt’s proclamation was largely due to the tireless lobbying of the Knights of Columbus and Italian-Americans.

Admittedly, Columbus Day is fraught with controversy. From all or at least most accounts, Columbus was a nasty guy. His treatment of the indigenous people he met in the Caribbean as well as his crew was atrocious. Many cities and even a few states have changed the name and focus of the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day, Native American Day or Discovery Day. I’m good with that. Let’s settle this controversy quick because early to mid-October is a wonderful time for a long weekend.

For one thing, it’s still warm or at least warmish. Whether you want to march in or watch a parade, go for a marathon bike ride or visit a pumpkin patch, you can do it without dressing up like the Michelin man. For another, the leaves are starting to turn. No one but no one does fall foliage like New Hampshire.

Of course this year, we’ll have to contend with more than a few politicians making the rounds. With the election just weeks away, they’ll be at parades and harvest festivals. One or two might even show up in a pumpkin patch. I doubt any will make the mistake of checking out a corn maze. There’s too much at stake to risk the indignity of getting lost in a field of corn. Instead, the pols will be offering up sound bites, shaking hands and kissing babies. Let’s hope that the endless grind of campaigning doesn’t get the better of them. Heaven forbid someone starts biting hands and shaking babies.

For anyone living in New Hampshire, Columbus Day is a reminder that cold weather is coming and coming soon. As a midpoint between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, it is a good time to get your fall To-Do list together. Besides tracking down pumpkins, it’s not a bad idea to put the kayak away, run the weed-wacker around the garden and maybe plant some bulbs. While the long weekend is not a hard and fast deadline for these chores, I suspect we are all starting to feel the looming threat of an early snowfall. Those first flakes may not be hours or days away but the state is famous for Halloween ice and snow.

Regardless of how you spend the day, biking, weed-wacking or shopping, you’ll want to end it with a great meal. Both the holiday and the harvest can inspire you. Let your taste buds travel around the world and back again. After all, Columbus was from Italy and he was trying to get to the Far East when he landed in the Bahamas. Take your pick of any of these great cuisines or mix it up.

Have a fabulous weekend and bon appétit!

Cardamom Plum Tort
This melting pot dessert combines plums from Italy and cardamom from India. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Butter and flour for the pan
1 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
10-12 Italian prune plums or other purple plums
Juice of 1/2 lemon

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.

Cut the plums in half lengthwise, remove the pits and quarter, again lengthwise. Put the plums in a bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice and toss to combine. Add a little sugar if the plums are particularly tart.

Arrange the plums skin side up in concentric circles on top of the batter. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm, plain or with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream.

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One Year Ago – Easy Microwave Popcorn
Two Years Ago – Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil
Three Years Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Four Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Five Years Ago – Lobster Mac & Cheese
Six Years Ago – Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup
Seven Years Ago – Soupe au Pistou
Eight Years Ago – Mulled Cider

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

How will you spend the long holiday weekend? Feel free to share.

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

Welcome Autumn & Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing

Fall_Early_Morning_Pleasant_Lake_03Thursday is the first day of autumn. While winter often feels interminable, summer is fleeting in New Hampshire. Spring can best summed up in two ugly words: mud and blackflies. On the other hand, autumn is our shining glory. Fall is a great time to be a tourist in your own town and state.

Not sure how to go about being a tourist at home? Here are a few suggestions:

Climb a mountain – or a hill if you prefer. Enjoy our beautiful foliage up close and personal. Stay close to home or try one of the mighty 4,000-Footers. You are sure to discover all sorts of interesting flora and, perhaps, some fauna as well.

Pick some apples – Fall and apples, the two just go together. Pick a bushel or a peck; you’ll want plenty for applesauce, apple cake, pie, crisp, pancakes, muffins … apple just about everything!

Take a covered bridge tour – With a grand total of fifty-four, there are lots of bridges to choose from. Whether you decide to see them all or a just a few, they are an interesting part of our architectural and engineering history. (Besides, many are located near excellent restaurants and/or superb ice cream parlors.)

Visit a country fair – Has it been years (or never) since you admired a prize pig or giant pumpkin? Don’t worry; the fair season is not over yet. There is still plenty of time to enjoy this age-old tradition.

Take in a festival – Then again, maybe craft beers or an excellent chili is more to your liking. If that’s the case, bring your appetite to one of the many festive, fall, foodie events around the state.

One last swim? – Mornings are chilly but the lake is still surprisingly warm. This combination of warm and cold creates a thick layer of fog. When the rising sun starts to burn through the mist, the lake is magical.

Well, maybe just one last paddle – If you’ve put your speedo away for the season, you might want to tour the lake in your canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard.

Hit the outlets – Our outlet shopping is world famous. Whether you desperately need a new pair of warm boots for winter or desperately deserve a gorgeous cashmere sweater, you’ll find it all at the outlets … at bargain prices!

Learn some history – Enjoy the sunshine and a little of our past at one of New Hampshire’s historic villages. Interested in rural life? Stroll through the grounds of the New London Historical Society or Muster Field Farm. Want to learn more about the Shakers? Head to Enfield or Canterbury.

Visit the farmers market – You still have a few weeks to meet some modern day farmers at one of the local markets. While you’re there, pick out a pumpkin, stock up on squash and Brussels sprouts and enjoy the last of the corn.

Have a fabulous fall and bon appétit!

Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing
Who knows? This tasty cake may become your new fall favorite. Enjoy!
12-16 servings

Butter and flour for the pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup homemade or unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
Brown Butter Icing (recipe follows)
Garnish: vanilla or ginger ice cream

Set the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch springform pan, line the bottom of with parchment paper and butter the paper. Dust the pan with flour and tap out any excess.

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

Put the butter and brown sugar in large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on high speed until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the flour mixture in 2 batches and mix until just combined. Add the applesauce and mix until just combined. Fold in the walnuts and raisins and pour into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan onto a wire rack. Carefully remove the springform collar. If you like, you can flip the cake, remove the springform base and parchment paper and then flip the cake onto a platter. If all that flipping makes you nervous, slide the cake with the springform base onto a platter.

Spread the Brown Butter Icing onto the top of the cake and let it drip down the sides. Serve at room temperature with a scoop of ice cream.

Brown Butter Icing
4 tablespoons butter
About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 or more tablespoons sour cream

Put the butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

While the butter bubbles, sift the confectioners’ sugar and spices together.

Leaving any burned bits behind, pour the brown butter over the sugar and spices, add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon sour cream and whisk until smooth. A little at a time, add more sour cream if necessary. The icing should be thick and smooth but a little runny so it will drip down the sides of the cake. Cool for 5 minutes and then use immediately.

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One Year Ago – Applesauce Scones
Two Years Ago – Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts
Three Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Four Years Ago – Chicken Parmagiana with Spaghetti Marinara
Five Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Six Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Seven Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Eight Years Ago – Oktoberfest Sausages & Sauerkraut

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

How will you vacation in your hometown? Feel free to share.

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

What to Love about Late August & Berry Peachy Crisp

corn_field_06As kids, we greeted the end of August with mixed feelings. The start of the school year was looming. After a long, lazy summer, we were almost looking forward to going back to school. Almost. Sure, we’d get to see all the kids we’d missed since June but a return to suburbia and the classroom meant the end of carefree fun and freedom.

Rather than grumble, we mostly went into denial. A whole day or more could go by without a single thought of our imminent return to suburbia. Then we’d trip over one of our summer reading books and realize it was almost over. Or we’d need to put on a sweater first thing in the morning. Shrugging into a pullover, our thoughts might turn ever so briefly to the bitter and sweet of back-to-school shopping. Let’s face it; back-to-school or not, what girl doesn’t love a new pair of shoes?

With September in our sights, we don’t need to grumble or go into denial. Here are more than a few things to love about late August:

In spite of needing a sweater at either end of the day, shorts and a t-shirt, flip-flops and those cute, little sundresses still dominate our wardrobes.

The dog has stopped panting. Grab a Frisbee and let Fido run and jump to his heart’s content.

Local corn and tomatoes are not just plentiful; they are at their best. Slice and dice them into salsas and salads, stir the tomatoes into soup and the corn into chowder. Just remember; in New England, we never put tomatoes in the chowder.

You can bake again. In an effort to keep the house from overheating, you’ve probably kept the oven off limits for weeks. How does a warm blueberry muffin or peach crisp sound?

In spite of an earlier sunset, you can still enjoy dinner alfresco. No need to hurry, there is a reason we New Englanders leave our Christmas lights up all year long. Throw on a sweater and bask in the glow of twinkle lights while you nibble a fruity dessert or s’more.

Speaking of which, those earlier sunsets and cooler evenings are perfect for bonfires and s’mores.

No more tossing and turning in the heat or trying to sleep with noisy fans or deafening air conditioners. Throw open the windows to the cool night air and sleep in luxurious peace.

Even if we are still donning our light and breezy summer wardrobes, old habits die hard. So what if you’re not going back to school this September? That little detail shouldn’t stop you from hitting the shops. The summer stuff is on sale and new fall fashions are starting to arrive.

Although sunrise is a little later, you still needn’t worry about finding a flashlight for your morning walk. Sure, the air has a bit of a chill but pick up the pace. Heck, you might score a personal best.

As much as we love them, the summer people start to leave. The long lines at the supermarket shorten and the seemingly endless wait time for a table at our favorite café disappears.

Enjoy the end of summer! Bon appétit!

Berry Peachy Crisp
Berry_Peachy_Crisp_02Who doesn’t love a fruity crisp? The air is cooling down so turn the oven back on and enjoy!
Serves 8

Butter
1/2 cup or to taste brown sugar
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
3-4 pounds peaches
1 pint blueberries
Crumble Topping (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter a 2 quart baking dish.

Put the sugar, ginger, zest, cornstarch and spices in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Peel the peaches and cut them into thick wedges. (To peel peaches with ease – first dunk them in boiling water for 20-30 seconds and then immerse them in ice water. The skins will slip off easily.)

Add the peaches, blueberries and lime juice to the sugar mixture and toss to combine. Pour the fruit into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle evenly with Crumble Topping.

Put the crisp on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for about 30 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla or ginger ice cream.

You can also bake the crisp early in the day and warm it up in a 275 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Crumble Topping
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pinch nutmeg
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

Combine the flour, sugar, salt and spices in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the oatmeal and pulse until the topping comes together in little lumps.

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One Year Ago – Spicy Refrigerator Pickles
Two Years Ago – Double Trouble Chocolate-Oragne Cupcakes
Three Years Ago – Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad
Four Years Ago – Blueberry Soup with Mascarpone Cream
Five Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa
Six Years Ago – Crostini with Goat Cheese
Seven Years Ago – Corn & Chicken Chowder
Eight Years Ago – Joe Nye’s Perfect Lobster

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

What do you love about late summer? Feel free to share.

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