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


Labor Day Weekend & Fresh Corn with Sriracha Aioli

Fall_Early_Morning_Pleasant_Lake_03If you live here, the dawning of September is nothing to fear. Labor Day will come and go but the suns will still shine and Pleasant Lake will stay put. The Summer People are not so lucky. If they haven’t already, they will soon be fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic on the drive south to cities and suburbia.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was one of those Summer People. Late on Labor Day afternoon, kids, dogs and turtles crammed into the station wagon with a small mountain of duffle bags. Reluctantly, we headed back to suburbia. I think my mother hated the end of summer migration even more than we three kids did. If it weren’t for Dad’s business, she would have moved to New Hampshire in a heartbeat. Instead, she bravely made sure that everything was packed, closed down the house and herded us into the car. Heaving a dramatic sigh, she proclaimed to any and all, “I am bereft,” and backed out the driveway.

So what’s in store for the Summer People this Labor Day Weekend?

If there is no justice, and there isn’t, they will be busy washing one last load of sheet and towels, storing beach toys and stowing paddleboards and kayaks under the deck. Business at the supermarket and farm stand will be brisk. Townies and Summer People alike will be stocking up for holiday cookouts. Activity at the boat launch will be nonstop. Fancy speedboats, fine looking sailboats and humble dinghies will be strapped onto trailers and hoisted out of the water. Rafts and docks will be dragged onto beaches.

However, Labor Day Weekend is not just about cleaning up and buttoning down. It is also the weekend for a last hurrah. It could be one last sail or one last waterski before hauling the boat out of the water. Maybe it’s a final hike (or finally a hike) up Kearsarge, a run around the lake or a bike ride to nowhere and back.

All of it, both the chores and the fun, is topped off with a festive cookout or two. That’s the thing about Labor Day Weekend. It’s both bitter and sweet. While there are tons of end-of-summer tasks to do, Summer People always do their best to balance the drudgery with fun and games.

However, if live here like me, you can focus on fun all weekend. There will be plenty of time to wash, fluff and fold that last load of beach towels. It will eventually turn cold or rainy or both. It always does. But, if we’re lucky, we can count on at least a month of warmish weather and sunshine.

September is a lovely in-between month; not really summer and not quite fall. The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts above average temperatures and below average rainfall this year. While we’d like this drought to end, it is good news for outdoor activities. Only the bravest will continue their early morning swim. The rest of us are content to row or kayak, hike or bike and enjoy the golden sunshine. While it may be a bit chilly for dinner al fresco, we can still enjoy a lunchtime picnic or an evening cocktail on the deck.

Here’s to the magic of September and bon appétit!

Corn with Sriracha Aioli
Corn_w_Sriracha_Aioli_01When it comes to corn, I’ve always been a purist – butter and a little salt. Then I tried it with spicy aioli. Now, I’m hooked. Whether the corn is steamed or grilled, it is a delicious combination. Enjoy!

1 ear corn per person
Sriracha Aioli
Sea salt (optional)

To steam the corn: fill a large pot with a few inches of water, add a steam basket and the corn, cover and bring the water to a boil. Steam the corn for 4-6 minutes or until tender crisp.

To grill the corn: preheat a charcoal or gas grill to high. Lightly coat the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the corn on the grill and cook on high heat for about 3 minutes per side.

To serve: invite everyone to grab an ear and pass the Sriracha Aioli and sea salt.

Sriracha Aioli
Not just for corn, this aioli is wonderful on a burger. It makes a delicious dip for French fries, fresh veggies or shrimp.
Makes about 2 cups

2-3 cloves garlic, choppedCorn_w_Sriracha_Aioli_08
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons or to taste sriracha or your favorite hot chili sauce
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt to taste
1 cup or to taste mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped mint

Put the garlic, olive oil, ketchup, lime juice and sriracha in a small food processor, season with cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and process until well combined and smooth.

Add the mayonnaise and process until well combined. Add the lime zest and herbs and pulse a few times to combine. Cover and chill for an hour or more to combine the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Romaine with Grilled Corn, Tomato & Avocado
Two Years Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Three Years Ago – Chocolate-Orange Tart
Four Years Ago – Chicken Liver Pâté
Five Years Ago – Blueberry Crisp
Six Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Cupcakes
Eight Years Ago – Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts

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

Lessons Learned at the Olympics & Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Cucumber & Feta

Olympics_2016_02Every four years we find ourselves indoors and glued to the television. It doesn’t matter that it is a brilliant summer evening. The Olympics are on and we can’t help ourselves. The next day’s highlights are not enough. We have to watch the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat live, as it happens.

On the track, on the mats, on the beach, on and even in the water, these star athletes seem to fly without wings. So how do they do it?

Preparation matters. As innately talented and gifted as these world class athletes are, they couldn’t do it without years of training. Not just any training, their entire lives revolve around the practice of their sport. Preparing for the Olympics is not just hard physical work. It takes brains as well as brawn to reach the top.

Since the Olympics come only once every four years, strategy and timing are critical. Peak too early and the medal you’ve dreamed of may go to someone else. Even worse, an injury can thwart a lifetime of preparation and sacrifice. Whether you are training for a Labor Day fun run or looking for your next promotion, preparation matters for us mere mortals too.

Perseverance matters. Unlike many weekend warriors, Olympic athletes are committed. They don’t take the winter off because it’s too cold to train outdoors. They don’t skip a day or two when a heat wave turns the gym into a sauna. They don’t bail in the middle of race because they have no chance of winning.

Perseverance is about both the big and little things an athlete does every day. Same goes for us and the goals we pursue. Whether you’re fighting for the little league trophy or a science fair medal, a last ditch, Herculean effort is rarely enough. If you’re smart and fast, you might be able to wing it once, even twice. However, day-in and day-out discipline is more likely to take you to and keep you at the top.

Patience matters. The road to Rio was long and winding. These premiere athletes had a dream of what could be. They are stars because they have the courage to make it happen. These exceptional competitors have the confidence to believe in themselves and developed the strength and the stamina to make their goals a reality. You can too.

No matter what path we choose, few of us will have it straight and smooth from start to end. Patience, a willingness to rethink and try again and again, can make all the difference. Olympic athletes fight through pain, make choices and countless sacrifices. It’s unlikely that our picture will end up on a cereal box but we too make choices. To win, you must define your goals and determine the sacrifices you are willing to make.

Sportsmanship matters. Olympic athletes are committed to excellence in their sport. As spectators, we want even more from them. We want to see that decency and kindness has helped shape and define that commitment and excellence. Perhaps this summer, more than ever, for ourselves and for our children, we want our sports heroes to be shining examples of character and grace under pressure. Then, it is our turn to do the same.

Enjoy the games! Bon appétit!

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Cucumber & FetaTomatoes_Grilled_Corn_Cuke_Feta_07
This recipe borrows a little of this and that from a traditional Greek Salad and then takes it south of the border. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 ears corn, husks removed
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 4 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
2-3 small pickling cucumbers, peeled and finely chopped
1-2 scallions thinly sliced
Spicy Vinaigrette (recipes follows)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
About 4 ounces feta cheese, thinly sliced

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to high. Lightly coat the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the corn on the grill and cook on high heat for 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and, when the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob.

Arrange the tomatoes on a large platter or individual plates, top with the corn kernels, cucumbers and scallion and drizzle with Spicy Vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs, garnish with feta and serve.

Spicy Vinaigrette
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or to taste minced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Tiny pinch smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar, garlic and jalapeno in a bowl, season with cumin, paprika , salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the olive oil and whisk until smooth. Let sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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One Year Ago – Bluebree Grunt
Two Years Ago – Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache
Three Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Four Years Ago – Filet de Sole Meunière
Five Years Ago – Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp
Six Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Corn & Tomato Salad
Eight Years Ago – Summer Rolls

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

What lessons have you learned from this summer’s Olympics games? Feel free to share.

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

Summer Bucket List & Corncakes

adirondack_chair_bookLabor Day is late this year. The way I see it, we have an extra week of summer. Good thing; it’s been a busy time and I could use an extra week. The retail giants are already trying to lure us out of the sunshine and into their stores with the back-to-school and back-to-work ads. Don’t be fooled or tempted to waste even a minute inside. Forget the latest gadget or backpack, better to spend your precious time on a summer adventure. In case you haven’t noticed, the coolest kids always go back to real life with sand in their hair and a mile-wide smile.

Before the air turns crisp, cold even, take another crack at your summer bucket list. Here are a few ideas to motivate you:

1. Summer is the perfect time for a road trip. Get your playlist together, pack your bag and go. Or skip the bag; a day trip is okay too.

2. You might need to make that two road trips. You’ll want to visit the ocean. Watch the waves, walk the beach and body surf. Afterwards, find a great clam shack. Ever since I returned to New England, fried clams have been on my must-do, once-a-summer list.

3. Eat corn every night. And tomatoes. There is nothing like fresh, local vegetables.

4. Except maybe homemade ice cream. Give it a try, any flavor will do. While you’re at it, make a decadent sauce to go with it. Chocolate sounds good.

5. Spend an entire day with a book; the one that you’ve been dying to read. If it’s already out at the library, treat yourself. You deserve it and the bookstore will thank you.

6. Enjoy music live and in person. Whether you take a road trip to the big city for a star-studded concert or spend an evening at your local bandstand, it’s all good. While you are at it, dance like no one is watching.

7. Spend an entire week technology-free. No cheating; love the ones you’re with.

8. Proclaim your favorite summer of 2015 song. If you have too many favorites to name just one, create a summer of 2015 playlist. You’ll need for your road trip(s).

9. Climb a mountain, maybe two.kayak_02

10. Go paddle boarding, kayaking or canoeing.

11. Have an all-out, no holds barred water fight. Squirt guns, water balloons, it’s all fair game.

12. Spend the next brilliant day on safari. Hike or stroll through some of your favorite places with a camera and capture the flora and fauna.

13. Do a good deed for someone you love or a neighbor or even a stranger. Being nice never gets old.

14. Go skinny-dipping. If you are shy, don’t wait too long. The full moon is at the end of the month.

15. Grab a second glass of wine or a mug of tea, pull up a lawn chair and star gaze. Bring a friend, tell tall tales and count shooting stars until the wee hours. If it gets chilly, feel free to build a campfire, roast marshmallows and make s’mores.

Don’t forget the sunscreen, have fun and bon appétit!

The season is short so you’ll want to enjoy corn every which way. Make larger corncakes and serve them as a side dish or make small ones for a tasty hors d’oeuvre. Enjoy!
Serves 8Corncakes_01

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
4 cups (4-6 ears) fresh corn kernels
2-3 scallions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Olive oil
Garnish: sour cream plus grilled corn kernels, small wedges of cherry tomato, finely chopped bell pepper and/or chives

Put the flour, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, rosemary, thyme, smoked paprika, baking powder and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the eggs and sour cream in a bowl and whisk until smooth.

Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Add the corn, scallions and garlic and stir until just combined.

Heat a little olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, drop spoonfuls (a small ice cream scoop works well) of corncake batter into the pan, gently flatten and fry until golden and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.

Top with small dollops of sour cream, sprinkle with grilled corn kernels, tomato, bell pepper and/or chives and serve.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Two Years Ago – Summer Salad with Green Beans, Blueberries & Goat Cheese
Three Years Ago – Shrimp Salad Niçoise
Four Years Ago – Insalata Caprese
Five Years Ago – Mojito Melons
Six Years Ago – Grilled Antipasto
Seven Years Ago – Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s on your summer bucket list. 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

Banker or Ballerina? Graduation Advice & Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction

John_Christmas_Eve_1964When we were kids we had dreams. Some were big, others were small, some fanciful and a few were even heroic. We weren’t afraid to reach for the stars. At five, the boys imagined their future selves as policemen and firemen or operating enormous bulldozers. The girls dreamed of becoming veterinarians or artists. If we liked our kindergarten teacher, then teacher was added to the list.

When did we become so unabashedly realistic? Few if any little kids ever dream of becoming an insurance agent or a marketing manager. Chances are good that bus driver or accountant is not on many lists of dream jobs. Better to invent a walking-talking-poker-playing robot or drive racecars. However, most of us ended up in the real world not dreamland. We don’t wear capes and are more likely to punch a clock than a dastardly villain.

Somewhere along the way, we turned our back on those glamorous careers and chose Plan B. There were lots of good reasons. For some, it was the realization that they just weren’t the type to run into a burning building. Others discovered that as much as they loved animals, they had little if any aptitude for veterinary science. Or maybe an uncle offered them a good paying internship between junior and senior year of college and twenty-five years later, they’re still there … making widgets or counting beans. Let’s face it; it’s hard to turn your back on a sure thing and reach for the stars. We all have a cousin or neighbor who reached and stumbled. Playing at the Grand Ole Opry or inventing the next Facebook is hardly a sure thing.

This spring, more than three million bright and happy seniors will graduate from high school in the US. A million or so more will earn associate degrees and close to two million will bring home a bachelor’s. What career advice would you, should you, will you give these kids?

No matter how long I live, I will not forget the scene in The Graduate when Benjamin Braddock receives a word of career advice. Plastics. Laughing on the outside, that one word sent shivers of dread and horror through millions of idealistic, young Americans. Like me. The scene evokes visions of cubicles, tyrannical bosses and boring meetings. It suggests a life sentence of bumper-to-bumper commutes and endless conference calls.

That young, idealistic me knew there had to be something better. Most days I seesawed between ace reporter and artist. At the time, my list of personal champions was pretty diverse and included both the oh-so glamorous Brenda Starr and fearless Georgia O’Keefe.

But that was then and now is now. What career advice will you give the bright young graduates among your friends and family? Before you answer; stop and think. Is there another path you wish you’d taken? Sure, you can tow the party line and suggest healthcare, insurance or telecommunications but, maybe just maybe, you’ll take a step back and channel the voice of your younger, more adventurous self. You remember that one, the idealist.

So what wise words will you offer? Banker or ballerina? Computer analyst or cowboy? Doctor or DJ? It’s up to you. Before you decide, ask yourself (and answer honestly), “Is there anything you’d rather be?” Then, go ahead and advise those eager young people to follow the straight and narrow … or share the dream you set aside. Who knows, you might convince yourself it’s time for a new start.

Here’s to new beginnings and bon appétit!

Balsamic Reduction with Heirloom Tomatoes
Not just for tomatoes, drizzle Balsamic Reduction on other veggies, grilled meats and chicken or your favorite brie or goat cheese. Enjoy!
Serves 12

1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 small clove garlic, minced
2-3 springs thyme
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon or to taste honey
1/4-1/2 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 pounds heirloom tomatoes
1 loaf country bread, thickly sliced (if making bruschetta)

Put the vinegar in small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil the over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the shallot, garlic and thyme and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Using a rubber spatula to press on the solids, strain the vinegar through a sieve into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in the mustard and honey. Continue whisking and slowly add the olive oil until thick and well combined.

heirloom_tomatoes_02Slice the tomatoes or cut into wedges, arrange on a large platter or individual plates and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle sparingly with Balsamic Reduction and serve.

Alternatively, make bruschetta. Grill slices of country bread and, while the bread is still warm, top with tomato and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle sparingly with Balsamic Reduction, cut into wedges and serve.

Cover and store extra Balsamic Reduction in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Strawberry Shortcakes with Cardamom Cream
Two Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Three Years Ago – Chocolate-Chocolate Sorbet
Four Years Ago – Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons
Five Years Ago – The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the History of my Kitchen
Six Years Ago – Asian Slaw

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

What advice will you give your favorite graduate? Something you hear at least a couple of times a year? 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

October & Autumn Vegetable Chili

Octo from the Latin meaning eight and ber from the universal meaning it’s getting chilly outside. Elkins_Dam_Foliage_02Wait a minute, back up the train. An octopus has eight legs, an octagon eight sides but October is the tenth not the eighth month of the year

In spite of the confusing name, October has a lot going for it. With fall foliage at its peak, this is especially true in New England. Above and beyond the crimson and gold landscape, October is a great month for foodies.
. What’s up? Blame it on Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome. He made eight the new ten around 700 BC by adding January and February to the start of the calendar year. As far as I’m concerned, he is also responsible for any septo-, octo- , novem and decem errors I made on my SAT’s. If it weren’t for Numa, I’d be a Harvard graduate and a billionaire with long legs and fabulous hair.

Someone or other has declared October Applejack Month so you might want to think about inventing a new cocktail. Something with cider and applejack sounds fall-ish and festive. Debut your cocktail on the 11th, also known as It’s My Party Day.

Speaking of parties, Columbus Day on the 14th gives many people a day off and a long weekend. The fall foliage will be at its peak and it’s a great time to bring friends and family together for a celebration. After all, you’ll have an extra day to recover!

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, October is also Cookie Month. Why not bake a batch of your (or my) favorite cookies

and celebrate Mad Hatter Day with a fabulous tea party on the 6th? If that doesn’t work out, you can try again with a National Dessert Day gala on the 14th.

When you need a break from cooking, feel free to call for take-out. October is National Pizza Month. That said with endless possibilities, it’s fun to make your own. Consider throwing a pizza party. If you choose the 18th, be sure to end with chocolate cupcakes. Yes, the 18th is Chocolate Cupcake Day. Who would have guessed?

With beautiful squash, parsnips, beets, broccoli and cool weather greens in the market, it will be easy to celebrate National Vegetarian Month. Some linguine or penne tossed with your favorite fall vegetables will be delicious on World Pasta Day, the 25th. If eating your vegetables makes you feel a little too pure, indulge a bit on the 21st with National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day.

It’s also Seafood Month. Make plans to grill up some shrimp or swordfish before it gets too cold to cook outdoors. If it turns cold and rainy, you can always sauté or roast your favorite seafood or make a cozy chowder. Sounds delicious.

A bunch of new films hit theaters this month. All the better to enjoy National Popcorn Popping Month. Forget the milk duds and jujubes, munch on some popcorn and let the magic of Hollywood take you away.

And finally, drum roll please, one of my favorite holidays – Halloween comes at the end of the month. But more about that later …

… in the meantime, happy October and bon appétit

Autumn Vegetable Chili
Bring a batch of spicy chili to your next tailgate party or potluck supper. Enjoy!
Serves 12

autumn_vegetable_chili_021 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 celery stalks, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
6 cups cooked small white beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried chipotle chili flakes or to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1-2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup dry white wine
1-2 bunches (about 1 pound) Swiss chard, roughly chopped
Garnish: toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh chopped cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Working in batches, sauté the vegetables in a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned.

Transfer the vegetables to a large casserole and add the beans, spices and herbs. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock and wine. Bring the chili to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover and cook in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Bring to a simmer over medium heat on the stovetop and continue with the recipe.

Add the Swiss chard to the chili and stir to combine. Return to the oven and cook for 5-10 minutes more.

Serve the chili in shallow bowls garnished with pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Two Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Three Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Four Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Five Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? Where will you take a child this week? 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

Take a Child Outside Week & Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes

Yes, there is a week for everything. Who doesn’t celebrate Organize Your Files Week or Email Week? Filing and email not high on your list of celebrations; how about Take a Child Outside Week? The timing certainly couldn’t be better – the 24th through the 30th of September. Cool and sunny, late September is a great time for outdoor activities in New England.

So what to do with the little nippers?kayaking_on_Pleasant Lake

Kayak or canoe on your favorite lake. As you glide across the water, watch the geese fly overhead and say a fond farewell to the loons. They’ll both be gone soon.

Take a hike in the woods. Close to home, there are plenty of options for a short hike after school. Consider exploring further afield on the weekend; there are lots of public trails throughout the State.

Visit a historic garden. True summer’s floral bounty is gone but don’t let that stop you. Visit the sculpture gardens at Saint-Gaudens or the rock garden at The Fells .

Bicycle down a country road. With or without a destination in mind, it’s a great time to explore. Find a covered bridge or discover a new favorite haunt for homemade ice cream.

Fly kites on the beach. If it’s been a while since you visited the seacoast, grab your coat, hat and kite and spend a day at the beach.

Speaking of the beach, build a sand castle. It won’t be long before the sand and water will be too cold for play. Enjoy it while you can!

Children love to collect things. Take the kids on a nature walk to collect branches, bits of bark, leaves, rocks, acorns and moss. But don’t shove those treasures into pockets to forget and later send through the washing machine. Turn those bits and bobs into snug little fairy houses. With winter on the way, the fairies will be forever grateful.

Get lost in a corn maze. Wander through a maze and see how many dead ends you hit before popping out the other end. Local corn is delicious right now, so be sure to bring a few ears home for supper.

Pick apples, visit a pumpkin patch or both. Crisp and juicy, there is nothing like a freshly picked, local apple. They are also great in pies, cakes and crisps. Try some fresh pumpkin or squash in a soup on a chilly evening. An added plus, pumpkins and gourds make beautiful fall decorations.

Count the stars and watch the moon. The Harvest Moon may be waning but it is still beautiful. Clear September nights are cool, if not downright cold, but the view of the heavens is spectacular. Dress warmly, lie back and enjoy the night sky.

Bon appétit!

Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
They won’t last long so feast on the local corn and tomatoes while you can! Enjoy!
Serves 4
2-3 ears corn, shucked and kernels removed
Olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
1 tablespoon butter, cut in small pieces
About 8 ounces fettuccine
2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons pistou (recipe follows)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the corn cobs and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the corn cobs from the simmering pot, return the water to a boil and cook the fettuccine according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Add the wine and chicken stock, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the corn kernels, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the butter and whisk until melted and combined.

Add the pasta to the vegetables and toss to combine. If the pasta seems dry, add some pasta cooking water a little at a time. Cover and let pasta and sauce simmer together on low heat for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and toss again.

Serve the pasta immediately in shallow bowls, garnish each with a drizzle of pistou and a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pine nuts. Pass additional cheese.

3 cloves garlic
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat leaf parsley leavesFettuccine_Fresh_Corn_Tomatoes_03
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
About 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the garlic, basil and parsley in the bowl of a small food processor, season with salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil to the herbs and garlic until you have a smooth, deep green sauce.
Cover and store leftover pistou in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Chicken Parmagiana with Spaghetti Marinara
Two Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Three Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Four Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Five Years Ago – Oktoberfest Sausages & Sauerkraut

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

What about you? Where will you take a child this week? 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