Practice Joy & Rhubarb Mousse

On top of the pandemic, a wind whipped through the neighborhood last week. It took down trees and knocked the power out for about twenty-four hours. My first thought was, what’s next? I might have suggested locust but the black flies were already swarming. Alright now, take a moment, take a deep breath. Everything will be fine in the end and we certainly are not without our good days.

Yes, even in a pandemic, most days are good and some are fabulous. Good, bad or fabulous, it has a lot to do with attitude and luck. So, what makes for a good day? I’ll cast my vote for simple things. Sunshine along with time with people you care about, who care about you – that sounds like a a pretty good day to me.

Outside activities are now the best way to see if not touch friends and family. Thank goodness, longer days and warmer weather are making it easier to be out and about. Fresh air and connecting with the people who matter will raise your spirits. Embrace the joy of a beautiful day, the pleasure of conversation, the happiness of movement and exercise.

At my house, we’re doing our best to make the most of the good weather. Dad is back on the links at the local golf course. In spite of a bunch of new rules for golfing during the pandemic, he is delighted. Six feet apart is just fine. After a dreary stay-at-home spring, he’s happy to be out with his buddies. Low score or high, he’s relieved to be back out hitting little white balls up and down the fairway.

By the way, in case you’ve forgotten or maybe didn’t realize, my dad is ninety-three. He doesn’t look it but he is; just ask his knees. Dad now takes a cart and plays nine holes instead of eighteen. Arthritic joints and a pandemic may slow him down but they can’t stop him. 

For all that, I am grateful. Not only is he out of my hair for a few hours; he’s having fun with his friends and exercising. An added benefit, since he plays Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we finally have a better hold on what the heck day it is.

A solitary walk is easy. Or at least, it’s easy for me. I look at my schedule and check the weather forecast to find a good time and, well, just do it. A walk with a friend is more complicated. Along with the weather, two, often conflicting, schedules are in play. It took a few months but the stars, or at least schedules, have finally align for a Wednesday walk date. With two too busy lives, only perseverance could make it happen. Only luck can ensure perfect weather.

For good company and sunshine, I am grateful. These conversation-filled Wednesday walks provide a much-needed break from the humdrum of life with the coronavirus. They are wonderful opportunities to share and build friendship.

A walk, a game of golf, interesting conversations and sunshine, these are simple pleasures. Now more than ever, we need to open ourselves up to the joy of simple things. Each day is filled with opportunities to practice joy. Spotting a blue heron perched on a raft or hearing the call of the loons, these are fleeting moments to embrace with a smile. Bright red and yellow tulips in a garden, the sound of a child’s giggle or the happy wag of a dog’s tail, let’s embrace these moments of everyday life and be grateful for the joy they bring us.

Be well, be safe and be kind. Bon appétit!

Rhubarb Mousse

Rhubarb is the first of the local fruits and vegetables. Take advantage of this early crop with a sweet-tart dessert. Enjoy!

Serves 6-8

  • 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 pound rhubarb, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 cups very cold heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cold, cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
  • 2 cups very cold heavy cream
  • Garnish: fresh, sliced strawberries

Prepare an ice bath in a large, shallow bowl and set aside.

Place the rhubarb in a heavy saucepan with 2 tablespoons water, the lime juice and 1/4 cup sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until the rhubarb breaks down, about 15 minutes.

While the rhubarb cooks, place 2 tablespoons water in a cup, sprinkle with the gelatin and let stand to soften for 15 minutes. Remove the rhubarb from the heat and stir in the gelatin.

Let the rhubarb cool for about 10 minutes, transfer to a blender and process until smooth.

Put the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and the salt in a heavy saucepan and beat with an electric mixer on high until pale yellow. Reduce the mixer speed, slowly add 3/4 cup cream and beat until smooth. Stir in the lime zest and rosemary and cook, stirring constantly, over very low heat until the custard reaches 165 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove the pan from heat. Add the butter, 1 piece at a time, and whisk until fully incorporated. Pass through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Add the rhubarb purée and Grand Marnier and whisk to combine. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir frequently until cooled to room temperature. Cover and chill the custard in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Whip the remaining cream until medium-stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the custard. Divide the mousse among 6 or 8 dessert or wine glasses, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Serve garnished with fresh strawberries.

Printer-friendly version of this recipe.

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

What simple things and everyday moments fill you with joy and gratitude? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2020

 

You’ve Got This & Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are uncertain times. As New Hampshire begins coronavirus stay-at-home 2.0, many of us are feeling daunted by concerns about our health, safety and economic wellbeing. Uncertainty will do that. In spite of whatever questions and doubts, you’ve got this. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Whether the coronavirus is causing you huge problems and complications or is simply an annoying inconvenience, you can do it. You can get to the other side of this pandemic. After all, you’ve proven your moxie hundreds, maybe even thousands, of times. Need a few reminders of your strength and resilience; here goes …

The moms in the neighborhood weren’t sure you could get up and out in time to make it to kindergarten. You did. Moreover, you graduated not only from kindergarten but from every other course of study, internship or apprenticeship you set your mind to.

Remember that time when you went toe-to-toe with the class bully to defend your best friend. How old were you? Maybe ten? You may have been shaking in your sneakers but you stood up for your friend and yourself.

.

Don’t forget the move you made to a new job in a new city. All by yourself, you didn’t know a soul but you did it. You found an apartment. You tackled your new responsibilities with aplomb. You roamed the town, exploring each and every neighborhood. Before long, you knew your favorite streets, parks and places to eat, shop and be entertained. You made friends; indeed, you made a life.

You didn’t only meet and survive a weekend with your future mother-in-law; you charmed her. Now, no one is sure who she loves best – you or your spouse? You won her over.

You try to forget it, but there was that time when you were laid off. We’ve all been laid off; or at least most of us have. Some of us have even been fired. You figured it out and went on to something better.

You have coped with the unmitigated fear of seeing a loved one fall ill. You have coped with the utter sadness of losing a loved one. Fear and loss have made you more human, a deeper, kinder person.

In classrooms, on playgrounds and at home, in workplaces, hospitals and maybe even a courtroom and/or police station, time and time again, you have stood your ground or lent a hand or made what many would consider a miracle happen.

You are stronger than you think. Take a deep breath and let it out. Try a few more, in and out. It’s okay to let your friends and family know what you’re feeling. It’s okay to voice your concerns out loud, to share your fears and anger. Chances are pretty good that the people who love you, will offer some sense of reassurance or share a different perspective. They’ll give you a hug or, maybe, a kick in the pants. And if they can’t be with you, well, they’ll give you a virtual hug or kick.

It may not always feel like it but you’ve got this. Don’t let anyone tell you different. After all, you’ve run marathons, climbed mountains and cooked dinner for one hundred. If not literally, then figuratively. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.”

Be well, be safe and be kind. Bon appétit!

 Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

You’ve got this but when in doubt – have a cookie. If you can’t find them so be it but mini chocolate chips work best with this recipe. Enjoy!

Makes 48 cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 ounces mini semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Set the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.

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

With an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter, butter and sugar on medium-high speed until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop tablespoons of dough (a mini ice-cream scoop works great) about 1-inch apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Turning the baking sheet at the midpoint, bake the cookies at 350 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes.

Cool slightly and eat the first cookie while it is still warm.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

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

How are you dealing with the time continuum during the pandemic? Coping or not, feel free to share!

 

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2020

 

 

 

 

Time for a Change & Oatmeal Whoopie Pies

Don’t forget to nudge your clocks ahead an hour before you go to bed this coming Saturday night. Yes, daylight savings time starts at two o’clock on Sunday morning. A whole lot of people are kicking up their heels in glee at this news. I’m not one of them. I think we should wait until at least the spring equinox. In case you’ve forgotten, that’s one of two times during the year when day and night are equal in length.

At this point, sunrise to sunset is about eleven and a half hours long. Mornings come early at my house so it is a relief to see the sun not too long after my alarm sounds. I can take my morning walk without tripping in a pothole or slipping on black ice in the dark.

That relief is short lived. Come Sunday, I’ll be sleepy-eyed as I fumble around getting ready for the day’s adventure. I suppose I should rejoice when the sun stays up into the early evening. Yes, I’m happy but I’d be happier with a little more light in the morning.

So, who’s happy? Well, golfers are happy because they can play after work. Unless, they live New Hampshire. The golf course down the road and around the corner is still covered with snow. The course will stay closed for several more weeks. Same goes for anyone looking forward to taking their tennis game outside. A thick layer of snow sits on the courts. As for afternoon hikers, bikers and walkers, I suppose they are happy even if their morning counterparts are not.

Farmers are definitely not happy. It seems their cows don’t know how to tell time and see no reason to change their schedules. Same goes for pets. Just because you have to get a move on and out the door to work doesn’t mean your puppy wants to leap out of bed in the dark.

Okay then, it’s only Tuesday so we have some time to plan our strategies to cope with the lost hour. Here’s a little advice from some of the experts –

Take it easy this week and catch up on sleep before the time change.

After the time change, keep to your regular schedule. Go to bed at your usual time

Grin and bear it and get up at your regular time; even if it’s dark outside.

Get outside as soon as it’s light. Sunlight works wonders at changing your internal clock.

Avoid naps in the late afternoon or early evening. It will make it that much harder to fall asleep at bedtime … and that much harder to wake in the morning.

And when that alarm goes off next Monday morning; don’t for a minute stop and think – but it’s really only five or four-thirty or whatever time it would be without daylight savings time. Just stagger out of bed, brush your teeth and get on with the day.

Oh, one more thing – be kind. Be kind to yourself, to your family and friends, be nice to your colleagues at work and lady at the checkout at the grocery store. Many of us are having a hard time with the change; some more than others. A little kindness will go a long way.

Happy almost spring and bon appétit!

Oatmeal Whoopie Pies

As a precaution only – you might want to bake a batch of whoopie pies to help you through the first few days of daylight savings time. Who knows – maybe they’ll make you forget about a nap? Enjoy!

Make about 3 dozen

  • 2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Set the rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

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

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars with an electric mixture until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at time, and beat until well combined. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Turn the mixer down to low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Fold in raisins, chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop tablespoons of dough (a mini ice-cream scoop works great) about 3 inches apart onto cookie sheets lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper. With moistened fingers, flatten the cookies a little.

Turning the pan once for even baking and bake the cookies until they are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let the cookies set for a minute and then transfer to a rack to cool.

Spread a dollop of filling on the bottoms of half of the cookies, top with a second cookie and serve.

Can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated for 2-3 days. Serve at room temperature.

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 1-1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon rum

Sift 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar and spices together into a bowl. Set aside.

Put the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the maple syrup and rum and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated. If the filling seems runny, add more confectioners’ sugar. Increase the mixer speed and continue beating until creamy.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

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

Do you have a tip for dealing with the time change? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2020

Happy Birthday George & Chocolate Cherry Nut Brownies

Monday was Presidents Day. There’s a little confusion out there. Does the day celebrate George Washington, Washington and Abraham Lincoln or all presidents? If you look up federal holidays on one of those official dot-gov sites, the third Monday in February is listed as George Washington’s Birthday. However, turn on the television for five minutes and the long weekend is loudly lauded as Presidents Day and famous for big discounts on mattresses and winter coats.

I admit I was a bit chagrined when this whole third Monday in February began. In Massachusetts, we celebrated both Abraham Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthday with a day off from school. Of course, one or the other inevitably fell during February vacation. However, there was always a five in seven chance that we’d enjoy another day off to ski or sleep late or whatever.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act put an end to that. A handful of holidays were moved to Mondays so people could enjoy a nice, long weekend. That might have been all well and good except that Honest Abe’s commemoration got lost in the shuffle. While George might have been the first, our sixteenth president is more or less everyone’s favorite. As consolation, everybody, or at least everyone I knew, began calling the new Monday holiday – Presidents Day.

There is a certain logic to having these two great men share a Presidents Day. Check any survey; they’re always neck and neck, claiming the top spots for best president. In addition, the third Monday never falls on either birthday but somewhere between the two. In case you’ve forgotten, Washington was born on February 22 and Lincoln on February 12.

That’s right; Washington wasn’t born yesterday. His birthday isn’t until Saturday. So, you still have plenty of time to celebrate. If you’re tempted to bake a cherry pie, feel free to do so. However, in the off chance that you haven’t heard – the story about Washington and the cherry tree, well, sorry to be the one to tell you but it’s a myth.

While the cherry tree story never actually happened, Washington’s first presidential residence was at 1 Cherry Street in New York. How’s that for a funny coincident? That’s right Washington is the only president not to live in the White House. It is a big house and took quite a while to plan and build. It wasn’t ready until 1800. That’s when John Adams, the nation’s second president, and his wife Abigail took up residency on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Although Washington wasn’t a skier (or at least as far as anyone knows – he wasn’t), an après-ski party would be an excellent way to toast George on his actual birthday. A cozy supper with friends by the fire is a wonderful way to spend a cold, winter evening. If it was in George’s time, you might serve a steak and kidney pie or fish muddle. Modern Americans aren’t much for kidneys but a nice beef stew might do. As for the muddle, it’s a wonderful mix of shellfish and a delicious option for sure. Alternatively, you could stir up a chowder. Otherwise, a casserole of some sort or the other would be perfect after a day on the slopes.

So, raise your glasses to George and bon appétit!

Chocolate Cherry Nut Brownies

Instead of birthday cake, give these brownies a try. They are perfect for midmorning coffee, afternoon tea or dessert after a casual dinner. Enjoy!

Makes 24 brownies

  • Butter and flour for the pan
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

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

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

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, cherries and nuts.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake the brownies at 350 degrees until the edges begin to pull away from sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, about 20 minutes.

Cool in the pan, cut and serve.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

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

How will you celebrate George’s birthday? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2020

Peace & Joy for the Holidays plus Rosemary-Lemon Biscotti

Thanksgiving was late this year. Well, actually, it was on right on time. As always, it was the fourth Thursday of November. However, Turkey Day can fall as early as the twenty-second and as late as the twenty-eighth. This year, it fell on the latter. With fewer days, the Christmas season promises to be hustle-ier and bustle-ier.

In anticipation of a whole lot of running around, I wish you peace this Christmas. I wish you peace of mind, peace of spirit and peace in your heart. And, after what might have been a lively but somewhat contentious Thanksgiving feast, I wish you peace in your family, peace in your home and peace in your friendships.

Christmas is a joyful time. It seems to me that joy should come without strings or pressure. By all means, it’s fine to create a holiday bucket list. However, if that list is suddenly two or three pages long … it’s more than fine to let a few things slide. There is always next year and the year after that. And if you never take your children or grandchildren on one of those Polar Express train rides or make a turducken or build a miniature, snow-covered village … well, that’s okay too.

My mother loved Christmas. She loved everything about it – gathering with family and friends, shopping and decorating. Never an enthusiastic cook, she didn’t seem to begrudge the extra time in the kitchen. Once in a while, the enormity seemed to drive her a little nuts.

As a child, I never really noticed. It wasn’t until later when I was a teenager, or maybe it wasn’t until I reached my twenties. Although, she was quite fussy about her tree; it was never about the decorations. She rolled with any and all punches when it came to holiday feasts. No, her biggest worry was that she’d miss someone or come up short on a gift.

Even in the days before internet shopping, Mom seemed to find the time to get it all together. Of course, on top of loving Christmas, she liked to shop. Still, there were days, make that middle of the nights, when she was convinced that she’d forgotten something or someone. You know the feeling. It’s 3 a.m., two days before Christmas and you’re suddenly bolt upright in bed realizing that there is no present for Aunt Bess. Or maybe it’s Uncle Henry you forgot or, worst, your father-in-law.

Anyway, time is always at a premium but particularly during the holidays. You have a choice, go crazy, develop coping strategies or set priorities. Let’s avoid crazy and …

Take a moment to breathe and enjoy the wonder and beauty around us. Instead of cursing the snow, admire how it frosts the evergreens. Let nature heal any stress.

Make lists. Check them twice and, then, cut them in half. It’s okay to roll back the madness. Clear eyed and calm beats frazzled and crazed any holiday.

Remember being present is the greatest gift. Hug the people you love and tell them what they mean to you.

Wishing you a peaceful and joyful holiday and bon appétit!

Rosemary-Lemon Biscotti

A not-so-sweet cookie to enjoy with mid-morning coffee or afternoon tea. Celebrate the holidays with friends and family by sharing a simple treat and a good long chin wag. Enjoy!

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

  • 2 3/4 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Put the flour, nuts, lemon zest, rosemary, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs, lemon juice and vanilla and beat until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until a soft dough forms.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Dust your hands with a little flour, pat the dough into 2 logs about 12-inches long and set the dough on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten the logs to form loaves about 2-inches wide.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and cool for about 20 minutes. While still warm, cut 1/2-inch slices on the bias with a serrated knife.

Lay the biscotti on baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Flip and bake 5-6 minutes more. Transfer the biscotti to a rack to cool completely before serving or storing.

Printer-friendly version of this recipe.

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

How do you beat holiday stress? Feel free to share your favorite tips!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

We’re Better Than That & Another Peanut Butter Brownie

Feeling achy and slightly dizzy from a head cold, I was stunned last Thursday to learn that Elijah Cummings had died. As head of the Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives, clips of him at work were regularly featured on the morning and evening news. Elijah Cummings had been in my kitchen cross-examining Homeland Security officials while I cooked dinner. He had been in my bedroom speaking with Michael Cohen as I got ready for the day.

I have little if anything in common with Representative Cummings. He was a child of south, the son of sharecroppers. He was a brilliant student, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, who went on to become a lawyer and statesman. I have no ties to Baltimore or Maryland. I’m a child of the northeast, of suburbia, who now lives in rural New Hampshire. My dad was in sales; my mother a homemaker. There was never any question that I would go to college. My career path has had its twists and turns – teaching, business and writing. In college and beyond, I have always done well. However, I have rarely, if ever, been accused of brilliance.

Even with so little in common learning of his death took my breath away. He was so young. I come from long lines of octogenarians and nonagenarians so sixty-eight seems barely middle age. Today, life expectancy in the United States is 78.7. Why, he was still in his prime with more battles to wage and win. Along with relative youth, he was an inspiring orator. Through his words, he brought compassion and humanity to the Hill.

In particular, I was taken by two things he said in the last year or so. The first was to Michael Cohen. At the end of a hearing with Cohen, Representative Cummings passed along words that were both moving and empathetic. He challenged all of us, “When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?”

It is a fascinating question. One that doesn’t just apply to 2019 or to the current chaos in Washington. Perhaps, when that day comes, when we are dancing with the angels, we should all ask ourselves, “What did I do, to make the world a better place.”

I’m sure that each and every one of us has a laundry list of good deeds. For a few of us, not me, some of those deeds are huge – saving a life, rescuing a damsel in distress or puppy from a storm drain. For most of us, our good deeds are quite small. Perhaps you made someone smile today or picked up trash along the road. Maybe you spent the afternoon baking brownies with or for a loved one. No matter how small, never, ever think of these deeds as inconsequential.

The second quote, this one I’ve heard more than once. It was a comment made anywhere and anytime that lawmakers seemed to have forgotten their humanity. That’s when Representative Cummings would assert, “We are better than that.” There are variations on this theme, including “We can do better.”

We all have our evil twins. Most of us do our best to keep that part of ourselves hidden. If, or perhaps I should say when – When you feel yourself slipping into that mean persona, gently pull yourself back and remember; I am better than this. It’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of negativity, even cruelty. Don’t; instead, always remember – you are better than that.

Rest in peace Elijah Cummings. Thank you for helping us find our better selves and bon appétit!

Another Peanut Butter Brownie Recipe

I baked these brownies for my niece and her boyfriend a week or two ago. We drank tea, ate brownies and read old love letters. Letters that my grandfather had written to my grandmother from France during World War I. All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon and, once again, proved an event doesn’t have to be big to be special. Enjoy!

Makes 24 brownies

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

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

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

With an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter, butter and sugar on medium-high speed until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake the brownies at 350 degrees until the edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, about 20 minutes.

Cool in the pan, cut and serve.

.

Printer-friendly version of this recipe.

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

What are your thoughts and memories of Elijah Cummings? Is anything holding you back? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn on the Heat & Maple-Ginger Apple Crisp

The autumnal equinox assured one and all that fall was here. It’s only been a few weeks, but the weather has not been particularly fall-ish. Although there’s been a couple of frosty mornings and a few cool days, for the most part, it feels a lot like August. I tend to let my early walks gage the change of season. It is an annual cycle of shorts to leggings to double leggings then back to a single pair and shorts again. Except for a one-day blip, I’m still in shorts.

The shift to leggings is only one of a good many sign of the changing seasons. A few fall indicators, maybe more than a few, kick off before the equinox. I’m not sure if that’s quite right but who am I to judge. Anyway, there is a long list of clues to let you know it’s fall. For some, it’s the first flash of foliage. For others; it’s when Halloween candy hits supermarket shelves. Football fanatics loudly applaud the first game and, yes, preseason counts – ask any fan.

Then again, perhaps the first pumpkin spice drink is your harbinger of autumn. In case you are wondering, no, I don’t imbibe in pumpkin spice lattes or pumpkin spice martinis. Yes, I know they are wildly popular. But don’t look to me to embrace all things fall with a frou-frou drink in one hand and a pumpkin in the other. I need both hands for the pumpkin.

That’s not to say that I am without wicked indulgences. I bake a fabulous (if I do say so myself) pumpkin cheesecake every Thanksgiving. And yes, it’s packed with traditional pumpkin pie spices plus a tablespoon of cognac. If you don’t have cognac you can substitute rum.

Anyway, after a summer in shorts and T-shirts, most fall firsts are about cooler temperatures and getting cozy. While I stick to my basic skim-milk-no-foam latte, I do look forward to the first fire in the fireplace. I’m also happy to slide the first plump chicken into the oven to roast. Of course, I’m delighted to bring home the first local apples and bake up something wonderful. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include stirring up the first pots of soup and chili as well as marinara and/or Bolognese.

As much as I love cozy, there is one first I do my best to avoid for as long as possible. That’s the first time I put on socks. As for chilly evenings by the lake, well, I’ve been known to sport naked ankles while wearing a down parka.

Perhaps the toughest fall first decision is WHEN TO TURN ON THE HEAT. I avoid the inevitable acceptance that it is no longer summer or Indian summer or early fall for as long as possible. It was easier when I lived abroad in rented apartments. True or not, the rumor among expatriates was that the Swiss powers-that-be had decreed a standing date. Every October, it might have been the third Monday or the twentieth or sometime around then, the heat came on.

September could be record breaking cold or October unseasonably warm; it didn’t matter. The radiator began to clang right on schedule, never a day early and never a day late. Make the mistake of timidly asking for heat before the designated day and the landlord would simply tell you to put on a sweater. Too hot? Well, open the window.

Back in New Hampshire, I have no landlord to regulate the thermostat. My bank balance determines when I finally click the heat on. For now, I’m putting on a sweater.

Have a cozy fall and bon appétit!

Maple-Ginger Apple Crisp

Everyone loves apple crisp and (pardon me while I pat myself on the back) my latest version is incredible! Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • Crumble Topping, recipe follows
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5-6arge, firm-tart apples – I like Granny Smith, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2-3/4 cup (more or less depending on your sweet tooth) maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons calvados or apple jack or rum

Make the Crumble Topping. Refrigerate the topping while you prepare the fruit.

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

Put the apples, raisins and ginger in a large bowl, sprinkle with the spices and toss to combine. Drizzle with maple syrup and calvados and toss again until well combined.

Transfer the apples to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with Crumble Topping. Put the dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 1 hour or until the top is brown and the apples are tender and bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla or ginger ice cream.

Crumble Topping

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

Put the flour, brown 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 continue pulsing until the topping comes together in little lumps.

I like to make a triple or quadruple batch of Crumble Topping and freeze the extra. For a last minute dessert, I prep fruit and sprinkle with topping. It’s in the oven in minutes.

Printer-friendly version of this post.

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

How do you get cozy? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019