Valentine Fun Facts & Ruby Sparkler

Happy Valentine’s Day! This week marks our annual celebration of sweethearts and love. But wait a minute – is the middle of winter really the best time for romance? And what’s with the cards, chocolate and roses? Here are a few fun facts to sort out Valentine’s Day:

  • While New Hampshire is still in a deep freeze, February heralds the start of spring in warmer climates. For the ancient Romans, it was a time for love and fertility. Festivals for Juno (the goddess of women and marriage) and Lupercus (the god of health and fertility) were celebrated in mid-February.
  • So then, why not Juno Day? Who was Valentine? Not much is known except that he was an ancient priest, martyr and saint. To add to the mystery, there are a couple of saints by the same name. Their stories are vague and time has mingled and muddled the details.
  • These shadowy figures share one thing – their support of love and marriage. Legend has it that one or the other Valentine boldly defied Emperor Claudius II. In an effort to boost army enlistment, the expansion-minded Roman ruler outlawed marriage. Unable to stand by while young lovers’ hearts were breaking, Valentine performed secret wedding cermonies. He was beheaded for his romantic deeds. Is it a coincident that he was executed on February 14?
  • Legend suggests that Valentine fell head over heels for his jailor’s daughter. On the morning of his execution, the smitten priest sent a note to his sweetheart and signed it, “Love from your Valentine.” Whether the story is true or not, it started something. These days, Americans send close to 200 million Valentine’s Day cards every year.
  • Speaking of cards, the industrious Esther Howland founded the first commercial Valentine’s card company in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1849. Her elaborate, handmade cards helped her grow the business to $100,00 in annual sales.
  • Roses are a lovely Valentine’s Day gift. Perhaps it is because red roses were the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Millions, as in 224 million, roses find their way into bouquets on this romantic holiday.
  • Long considered an aphrodisiac, chocolate is a delicious gift choice. The brilliant idea of selling chocolates in heart shaped boxed began in the 19th century with British chocolatier Richard Cadbury. This year, thirty-six million sweethearts will be happy to receive a heart shaped box of chocolates.
  • Or forget the chocolate. Jewelry ranks high on the list of favorite Valentine’s Day gifts. As for diamonds – they are a girl’s best Valentine. About six million future grooms will pop the question on February 14.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and bon appétit!

Ruby Sparkler
Start your intimate evening with your Valentine with a special cocktail and let the sparks fly. Enjoy!
Makes 2 cocktails

2 ounces pomegranate juice, chilled
2 ounces Grand Marnier, chilled
8 ounces champagne or prosecco, chilled

Combine the pomegranate juice and Grand Marnier in small pitcher or mason jar and stir or shake to combine.

Divide the mix between two champagne flutes.

Carefully fill each glass with champagne and serve.

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One Year Ago – Quick Braised Asian Vegetables
Two Years Ago – Scrod Florentine
Three Years Ago – Lemon Risotto with Spinach & Herbs
Four Years Ago – Black Bean & Beef Chili
Five Years Ago – Coq au Vin
Six Years Ago – Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton
Seven Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Eight Years Ago – Lemon Cheesecake
Nine Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Ten Years Ago – Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole

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

How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Feel free to share!

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

Another Weekend Special – Holiday Cocktails

Will you invite friends in for cocktails this holiday season? A great way to entertain a crowd, a cocktail party lets your friends meet each other, mix and mingle. Whether you sport an ugly sweater or the classic little black dress, a cocktail party is a wonderful excuse to celebrate the season in your party best.

I’ll leave the fashion advice to someone else but here are a few foodie ideas …

Start with a cocktail … what could be more festive than a rosy red tini.

Serves 8

1 cup vodka
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
2 1/2 cups or to taste pomegranate juice
Seltzer water, cold (optional)
Garnish: orange twist

Combine the vodka, Grand Marnier and pomegranate juice in a pitcher or jar, stir or shake and store in the refrigerator or freezer until very cold.

Stir again, pour into martini glasses, add a splash of seltzer and garnish with a twist of orange.

For a large party, quart Mason jars are a perfect fit for each batch of martinis. Keep them cold in the refrigerator or frosty in the freezer or out in the snow until ready to serve.

Now, what to munch? Why not cook up a few of my favorite appetizers. If you aren’t hosting but heading to a potluck, any one of these delightful little treats will be welcomed by your host.

You’ll want to start with a savory or two to pass. Here are a few ideas:
Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce
Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks
Spanakopita Triangles

You’ll also want a platter, maybe two:
Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce
Three to five of your favorite artisanal cheeses, thinly sliced sausage and Spicy Olives
Add some delicious artisanal crackers and toasted banquette.

A nice spread will make a nice addition …. how about
Chicken Liver Pâté
Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts
Artichoke Pesto

When it’s time to kiss everyone goodnight, pass a tray of sweet treats. Think …
Chocolate Mousse or White Chocolate Mousse served in tiny dessert glasses (even a shot glass) and top with a raspberry
Gingerbread Cupcakes or Coconut Cupcakes
Snowy Pecan Balls or Sweet Dream Bars

Happy holidays and have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

Check out the list of all the recipes with links on this blog!

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

Want more? or create your own. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

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

Want more? Try one of my seasonal menus or create your own with the help of my extensive recipe index. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

A Holiday Cocktail Party Special

Are you one of those people who think about but never get it together to throw a holiday cocktail party? I don’t blame you. With all that is going on, it can be daunting. Well, let this be the year you throw caution to the window and plunge in. I’ve got some tasty treats to suggest as well as some hopefully helpful Party Planning Tips.

A special cocktail is always a hit! Think sparkling with a Kir Royale. Too traditional? How about fun and festive with my Berry Merry Martni?

And now for the nibbles! For a small group, keep it simple. A nice platter, and perhaps a warm and tasty mug of soup. Let’s face, big or small, no one will be eating dinner after your party. For a larger do, you’ll want a nice selection of tasty treats to pass and a platter or two for grazing.

Delicious platters…
Put out a basket, a platter or two. Your guests can wander, chat with old friends and make new ones while they nibble to their hearts content. May I suggest …

Beautiful cheeses with fruit or some lovely slices of prosciutto and dried sausages, add a basket of artisanal crackers and Cheddar-Sage Biscuits and bowl or two of Roasted Almonds and Spicy Olives.

Fresh veggies with a great dip or three. Try my Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus or Chipotle Sweet Potato & White Bean Hummus. If you like, add small bowls of my Artichoke Pesto, Roasted Red Pepper Dip and/or Tapenade

Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce – what could be more festive?

Or go retro with a bubbling pot of Fondue.

For a nice touch, set stacks of small plates (tea and espresso cup saucers work well) next to your platters. Instead of a traffic jam at the buffet table, your friends can help themselves to a nibble or two and then move on to mingle and munch.

Not your Nana’s canapés …
Warm or cold, everyone enjoys a tasty hors d’oeuvre, so why not pass a few delectable little bites. Without a doubt, the two top fan favorites from my treasure chest of treats are Beef Tenderloin & Stilton Crostini and/or Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli … or if you prefer Lemon-Basil Aioli.

And by the way, speaking of retro and fondue, anything with melty cheese will please most guests. I’ve got lots to choose from – how about Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks),Spanish Stuffed MushroomsButternut Squash Tartlets? or Spanakopita?

For sipping … Served in shot glasses or espresso cups or a big old mug, what could be more welcoming than piping hot soup. Keep it easy, skip the spoons and stick to purées like my Roasted Butternut Squash, Tomato Soup ( with wedges of Grilled Cheese?) or Wild Mushroom.

A sweet finish …
One or two sweet bites are a great way to end the evening. Delight your guests with mini Gingerbread Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, Sweet Dream Bars and/or Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache.

rosemary_cashews_03Say good-night with a gift bag …
Send everyone home with a little treat. Leave a happy holiday basket at the door with little bags filled with my addictive Chocolate Almond Brittle or go savory with Rosemary Cashews!

Cheers and bon appétit!


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

How are you spending the long holiday weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2016

These are the Dog Days of Summer & Cucumber-Mint Agua Fresca

swimming_Pleasant_Lake_02Just when I thought it would be one of those cooler, dryer than normal summers, the heavy humidity hit and the mercury soared. The Romans called these the dog days of summer. During ancient times, Sirius, the Dog Star, rose at dawn during the hottest part of the summer. The Romans blamed the star for the sultry weather. I’m sure there is a better metrological explanation but I don’t know it.

Last week as the temperature headed into the stratosphere, my mood turned grumpy and my brain stalled. There was no denying it; it was time to break down and break out the air conditioners. My tall, strapping nephews would be here in a few days but, alas, it was too hot to wait. I wrestled two of the cumbersome machines off the shelf in the garage and into a bedroom and den window. Did I mention that I’ve finally added a little strength training to my fitness regime? Well, little is the operative word. Whatever I’ve accomplished, it is far from enough.

In my defense, I do have short arms. I know that because it is becoming close to impossible to read caller ID without my glasses. Anyway, it was no easy feat to wrap my arms around those big boxes, lift them off the shelf and on to a hand truck to wheel into the house. Wheeling was easy; picking them up again and hoisting them into the windows was not.

The rising heat bolstered my determination. By the time I finished the installation, it was even hotter. Naturally, I stood in front of one and then the other for a good half hour to admire my handiwork. It’s important to recognize these little accomplishments, don’t you agree?

What are you doing to keep your cool during these hotter than hot, dog days of summer? Need help? Here are ten tips to help you stay cool:

1. If you don’t have an air conditioner, hang out in frozen food aisle at the supermarket.

2. Hydrate; drink lots and lots of ice water. Or try some agua fresca – Spanish for cool waters.

3. Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. While you are at it, stick to natural fibers.

4. Stick to the shade. Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.

5. Think cool thoughts. Take a nap and dream of icebergs and glaciers.

6. If you walk, run, hike or bike, move your exercise routine to the early morning. Better yet, take up swimming for the duration.

7. Find an old inner tube and spend the afternoon on the lake.

8. Keep the stove turned off. It will only heat up the kitchen. Same goes for the dishwasher; wait until you are ready to go to bed before you turn it on.

9. Take a cool shower. And another and another and another …

10. And finally, two words … ice cream, lots of ice cream.

Stay cool and bon appétit!

Cucumber-Mint Agua Fresca
You’ll stay cool as a cucumber with this refreshing drink from south of the border. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

5-6 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup or to taste fresh lime juice
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup or to taste sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Garnish: fresh mint and/or thin slices of cucumber and/or lime

Put the cucumber, lime juice, mint, sugar and salt in a food processor or blender and

process until very smooth. Add 3 cups water and process until smooth. Refrigerate for 30 minutes

Strain the agua fresca into a pitcher and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve: fill glasses with ice, add agua fresca and garnish with mint, cucumber and/or lime.

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One Year Ago – Double Corn & Cheddar Muffins
Two Years Ago – Blueberry Clafouti
Three Years Ago – Blackberry Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt
Four Years Ago – Brown Sugar Yogurt Gelato
Five Years Ago – Red Pepper Dip
Six Years Ago – Grilled Chicken, Shallots & New Potatoes
Seven Years Ago – Barbecue Chicken

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

How are you keeping cool during this hot weather. Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

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

No Excuses & Spiced Chai

no_excusesIf it’s the New Year, it’s time to make resolutions. Maybe it’s those few extra pounds you packed on during the rainy days of December. Or the undeniable fact that you haven’t done a lick of exercise since Memorial Day. Or you still have half a dozen boxes waiting to be unpacked in the garage. And oh, you moved to New Hampshire in 1997. Or, or, or …

Perhaps 2015 should be the year of no excuses. You don’t have to tackle the whole world or even your little piece of it. Just choose three things. Heck, take it down to one thing for that matter. Then, make a plan and make the time.

The difficulty with New Year’s resolutions is that they are, for the most part, all about deprivation. And perhaps more important, draconian in scale. After all those lovely holiday sweets and treats, we vow to spend the month of January subsisting on water and celery sticks. We promise ourselves that we’ll get up at five to run five miles before breakfast. We swear to spend every weekend from now until eternity, cleaning out closets, emptying boxes and taking trip after trip to the dump.

What’s the fun in that? Is it any wonder that less than half of us succeed in keeping our resolve?

So here’s the deal. If you want to tackle your resolution without excuses, you need to figure out what works for you. This winter and well into the future.

Neither man nor woman can live on celery alone but you can probably exist without that fancy coffee drink you indulge in every afternoon. Swap it out for a brisk walk around the block or a set of jumping jacks followed by a few deep breaths and a lovely cup of tea. If your undoing is that heavenly dish of gelato after dinner, stop buying it and change your after-dinner ritual. Do a crossword puzzle or learn to knit. You might be surprised at how easy it is to make one small change and, more important, what one small change can bring – a healthier, slimmer you.

Now ask yourself, will you really hit the icy streets when it is still dark and the mercury is hovering around zero? If not add a lunchtime or end of day Zumba class to your schedule. You’ll dance, laugh and maybe make a new friend or two. Or try a spin class or drumming. Choose an exercise routine you’ll love and you’ll be hooked for life – and a fitter life at that.

What about those old boxes in the garage? If you haven’t needed, let alone wanted, the contents in five, ten or a lot more years, you probably won’t need or want them … ever. Donate them. Find a rummage sale, a jumble or yard sale and hand them over. Don’t bother open them; just drop them off. Ignore that nagging feeling, the worry that there might be something important inside at least one of those boxes. Just stop by the sale as soon as it opens. Give a look around and buy back that almost forgotten treasure. The price will be small compared to the hours of unpacking and sorting you saved. Moreover, the nonprofit who received your boxes will be more than grateful for the money you helped them raise.

So, let 2015 be the year of no excuses. Think small when you make your resolutions. Think realistic when you set those goals. Think creative when it comes to solving a problem.

Have a wonderful 2015 and bon appétit!

Spiced Chai
mugThe spices and tea will give you a lift and that little bit of protein from the milk will keep you going for the rest of the afternoon. Enjoy!
Serves 2-3

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups water
4 teaspoons loose black tea (or 4 tea bags)
About 1/3 cup nonfat milk per cup
Brown sugar or honey to taste

Put the cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, allspice, pepper, cloves and salt in a small saucepan, stir in the water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. (You can do jumping jacks, stretches or sit-ups while the spices brew if you like.)

Return the pot to the stove and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the tea, cover and steep for 3 minutes.

While the tea brews, heat the milk to steaming on the stove or in the microwave.

Strain the chai through a fine mesh sieve into mugs and discard the tealeaves and spices. Add hot milk and sugar or honey to taste to each mug.Spiced_Chai_04

A similar sized Caramel Brûlée Latte at a well-known coffee shop will set you back about 370 calories. Keep it to a teaspoon of sugar or honey and this tasty chai can be enjoyed for about 50 calories. If all you do is switch out that afternoon latte for this chai every day, you could lose about thirty pounds in 2015.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
Two Years Ago – Old Fashioned Pot Roast
Three Years Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
Four Years Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
Five Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
Six Years Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? What’ are your smart strategies to keep them? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

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

A Summer Picnic & Watermelon-Limeade

beach_binWith bright days, crisp nights, and yes, the occasional (and sometimes not so occasional) rain shower, summer is winding down. The big department stores are already bragging about their back-to-school sales but not to worry. There is still plenty of time for some outdoor fun, including a great summer picnic.

Of course you could make up a stack of tuna fish sandwiches, grab a few Oreos and a bottle of juice and call it a picnic lunch. Or you could try for something a bit more inventive.

How about a breakfast picnic? Early mornings are a very special time on the lake, peaceful and serene. The cool morning air hits the water and a delicate mist floats above the surface. More often than not, the lake is as smooth as glass and perfect for rowing, canoeing or kayaking. And just as perfect for a quiet mug of coffee on the beach.

Pack up a thermos of your favorite morning brew, add some fruit and a delicious muffin and enjoy the early morning quiet. Bring along a friend or savor the peaceful morning alone. Either way, it promises a good start to a good start to a great summer day.

Pack up a seaworthy lunch, even if you spend the afternoon on dry land. So what if a sail upon the ocean blue is not on your calendar. Simply imagine, and then create, an elegant lunch worthy of a luxurious yacht. A delicate lobster salad or maybe smoked salmon with a dab of caviar. Definitely not a PB and J. A crisp chardonnay sounds like a delightful addition to this magical lunch.

And if a day sail on the ocean is in your plans, so much the better. Thank the captain with a basket filled with wonderful goodies.

Cocktails anyone? There is no need (and little desire) to head indoors when a rosy glow colors the evening sky. Invite a few pals around and relax on the back porch. Swap stories of special days gone by or share dreams of days to come. Celebrate the occasion with a special cocktail or your favorite artisanal ale or lager. You won’t want to leave the deck anytime soon so add a few fabulous nibbles. Make up a batch of your favorite hors d’oeuvre or unwrap a wedge sinfully good cheese.

Rock the block with a neighborhood party. With back-to-school looming, people head home after a well-deserved vacation. Neighborhoods will start to bustle again. Get together and share your summer adventures. Whether you crossed the sea, scaled mountains or enjoyed a week in the hammock, there must be a story to tell. Forget fancy; let everyone bring their favorite dish to share. And the more the merrier.

Or perhaps you’d prefer a romantic dinner under the stars. Enjoy a glass of champagne as you watch the sun slip behind the hills. Fire up the grill and throw on a steak or some chicken and your favorite veggies. After dinner? Better than dessert, cool late summer evenings are perfect for a cuddle. Forget the phone or email for one night. Watch the moon rise and focus on each other.

Before long, these wonderful warm days of summer will be gone for another year. The sun will rise later and later and set earlier and earlier. Don’t let summer end without a few more delicious meals in the open air. Bon appétit!

A great thirst quencher … add a splash of rum or tequila and your summer refresher watermelon-limeadebecomes a delicious cocktail. Enjoy!
Makes about 1 1/4 quart

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup sugar or to taste
8 cups cubed seedless watermelon
Tequila or rum (optional)
Garnish: lime slices or mint leaves

Put the lime juice, ginger and sugar in a blender and process until smooth. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Working in batches, put the watermelon cubes in a blender and process until smooth. Strain the watermelon puree through a fine mesh sieve. You should have about 1 quart of watermelon juice.

Strain the lime juice mixture through a fine mesh sieve, add it to the watermelon juice and stir to combine. Store the watermelon-limeade in a nonreactive pitcher in the refrigerator until chilled.

Serve over ice with a slice of lime or sprig of mint. Add a splash of tequila or rum for a lovely summer cocktail.

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One Year Ago – Filet de Sole Meunière
Two Years Ago – Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp
Three Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Chicken
Four Years Ago – Corn & Tomato Salad
Five Years Ago – Summer Rolls

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

How do you picnic? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013

Weekend Special – Dark & Stormy!

WOW! The potential is real for the strongest hurricane hit on the Northeast in at least a couple decades this weekend! Forget dinner parties and entertaining, it sounds like we’ll be battling high winds and torrential rain.

Still, ya gotta eat! If the power goes out you may need to do some Cooking Straight from the Pantry. (Of course I’m assuming you have a gas stove like I do.) Then again, with no power, you may need to clean out the freezer! I’ve got a couple of strip steaks in my freezer. (‘m not sure but I think I have a nice chunk of gorgonzola, so I can make one of my favorite sauces to go with it. There is a beautiful Pork Tenderloin in there as well. It will be perfect hot off the grill.

What to go with it? With all the excitement, I’d keep it simple. Grilled Zucchini or Corn and a Green Salad should do it. If the powers out, dessert’s easy – whatever ice cream or Gelato is rapidly melting in the freezer!

And finally, what to drink? A Dark & Stormy of course!

Dark & Stormy

1- 2 ounces dark rum
4-6 ounces ginger beer
Lime wedge

Fill a tall glass with ice cubes, stir in the rum and the ginger beer. Top it off with a squirt of lime and enjoy!

Stay safe and dry this weekend and bon appétit!

How will you ride out the storm? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2011