A Cozy Dinner Party & Oven Braised Lemon-Rosemary Chicken with Vegetables

When was the last time you hosted a dinner party? Not a potluck or chili and beer on football night and definitely not a mountain of fast food piled up for a championship buffet. No, I’m asking about a real, honest to goodness, sit at the table and enjoy each other’s company dinner party. Perhaps you had the family over for Thanksgiving or Christmas but what about your friends and neighbors? In case it hasn’t occurred to you, winter is a great time for a dinner party.

Here are a few reasons why –

It’s been too long. A few weeks or a few years, I’ll let you define how long is too long since you set your table for an evening of good food, wine and conversation.

Baby, it’s cold outside. There’s been a definite chill in the air lately – as in hovering-around-zero-type chill. Can you think of a better time to spend a few hours in the kitchen?

Slow cooking, comfort foods are perfect for winter and entertaining. These dishes simmer in the oven allowing you to relax with your guests. A cozy classic is perfect on a cold night.

So why the hesitation? Perhaps you have visions of Elizabeth Taylor taunting Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I promise you, most guests are very well behaved. If you run across one who’s not, well then, don’t invite him next time. Or her.

Still hesitating? Don’t. You can do this; you can throw a fabulous dinner party. Here are a few suggestions –

Be realistic. Do you remember when cassoulet was all the rage at winter dinner parties? A big part of the allure was that it took three days to prepare. However, that was then and we are now well into the twenty-first century. Three days toiling in the kitchen is not (and never has been) a prerequisite for fabulous.

Less is more and balance is good. Yes, a beautifully prepared five course dinner is nothing short of spectacular. All those little plates are delightful. However, part of the magic of entertaining in the wintertime is that oh-so delicious and cozy one-pot supper. Keep it simple or simple-ish. When in doubt, pare down the menu. If you make a wonderfully complex stew, don’t follow it with your richest, most complicated dessert.

Make a plan and map out a timeline. Least you forget something – like shoveling the walk – grab a pen and piece of paper and write it done. Make a few notes on what to do when. Be honest. Don’t pretend you can get the stew prepped and in the oven in all of five minutes. Allow yourself ample time to relax and appreciate the Zen of chopping.

Wishing you delicious fun with friends, stay warm and bon appétit!

Oven Braised Lemon-Rosemary Chicken with Vegetables
Chicken simmered with vegetables in wine with lemon and rosemary are sure to become a favorite one-dish wonder. Enjoy!
Serves 8

8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, quartered
8 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, cut in thin wedges
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups or more chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup or more dry white wine
1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place it skin-side down in the hot roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, put the vegetables in a bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss to combine. Sprinkle with half of the rosemary and thyme, season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Put the mustard and lemon zest in a bowl, whisking constantly slowly add the lemon juice, stock and wine.

Remove the chicken from the oven, turn the pieces and sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and thyme. Add the liquid ingredients and the bay leaf and scatter the vegetables around the chicken. Return the pan to the oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting, adding more wine and broth if necessary, for 45 minutes-1 hour or until the chicken is cooked-through and golden and the vegetables are tender.

Transfer the vegetables to a large platter or individual plates, top with the chicken and serve.

You can time this dish to add the vegetables a few minutes before your guests arrive. Then, let dinner simmer while you catch up and enjoy a glass of wine. Or make ahead, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Adding more wine and broth if necessary, reheat in a 350-degree oven until bubbling and piping hot.

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

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

What are your favorite dishes to cook up on a cold winter day? Feel free to share!

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

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All About Christmas Eve Traditions & Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce

My family has always enjoyed a bit of pandemonium on Christmas Eve. In fact, I think we thrive on it. From one generation to the next, the one constant has been overexcited children. For little kids, the day always seems to move at glacial speed. I generally started the day by jumping up and down and dancing in front of the tree. It didn’t take long for Mom to toss me into my snowsuit and outside. Her message was clear – time to build a snowman or take my sled over to the neighborhood hill. That was fine; I had lots of company. Most of kids on the street had received similar instructions.

My grandparents would arrive in the late afternoon and whisk us into the back of their car for church. My sister Brenda and I never missed the opportunity to ride in Grandpa’s Lincoln with the fancy electric windows. Those rides might have been Grandpa’s greatest gift to his only daughter. With my baby brother snoozing in his car seat and Dad behind the wheel, Mom could sink into the passenger seat of the family station wagon, close her eyes and enjoy a few blessed minutes of peace.

After church, excitement rose to a fevered pitch. Nana and Grandpa would stay for a quick visit but usually begged off dinner and headed home. They knew what was coming. For some unknown reason, or at least unknown to me, about half way through dinner, Santa stopped by. It was a neighborhood tradition. Each child received a small present and Santa’s promise that he’d be back with more if we cleaned our plates and went right to bed. The visit did nothing to slow down the dancing and prancing of the Nye sisters. After swallowing one or two more mouthfuls, Mom gave up and urged us into our jammies. Dad read the Night Before Christmas and we were off to bed.

My family is now in one of those in-between periods. In fact, we’ve been here for a while. There are no small children or babies to dance and prance with unbridled excitement and anticipation. That said, even without small children around, we do find ways to keep things hopping. Last year, it was a trip to the emergency room. Dad, I hope you’re listening when I suggest we skip the ER this year.

(By the way – the white haired gent is my dad … he had no interest in helping but couldn’t stay away from the fun.)

I think it was three maybe four years ago that we began a wonderful new Christmas Eve tradition. My twenty-something nieces come over to help me cook. I’m guessing Kaela’s move from the dorm to an apartment might have been the initial instigator. Her sister Emily did not want to be left out and joined the party. It is wonderful fun and, with two sous-chefs, the dinner is extra special. 

I love the idea of bonding in the kitchen – of passing recipes and stories from one generation to the next. The girls arrive around four, still a bit jet-lagged but filled with enthusiasm. We agree tasks and claim work spaces. There is a lot of laughter and more than a few questions. Music fills the air and, in keeping with the occasion, there is a little dancing and prancing plus a glass of wine or two.

When we started, Kaela described our time together as a cooking lesson. However, in just a few short years, both nieces have become quite accomplished. More than a lesson, it is a special time for us to share news and retell old stories.

Until the rest of the family arrives. Then we all we go into host mode. Kaela and Emily pass fresh-from-the-oven hors d’oeuvres and pour glasses of wine while I take care of any last minute dinner details. There is more laughter and lots of chatter. While there is no rush, dinner is served with plenty of time for everyone to get home and into bed before Santa arrives.

Have a wonderful holiday and bon appétit!

After dinner – Gramps and the Girlies

Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce
Although I fall far short of seven fishes, I like seafood on Christmas Eve. I usually start with gravlax or smoked salmon and then serve shrimp for the main course. It’s time to switch it up! Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 (about 3 pounds) salmon fillet
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 lemons, each cut into 4 wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Tarragon Sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Melt the butter and whisk in the juice of 1-2 lemon wedges. Let cool for a few minutes.

Place the salmon skin side down on a sheet pan and brush with lemon-butter. Arrange the remaining lemon wedges around the salmon, season everything with salt and pepper and slide the pan into the oven.

Roast the salmon at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until it is almost cooked through. Slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and, leaving the skin behind, carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter and loosely cover for 10 minutes. The fish will continue cooking while it rests.

Return the lemons to the oven and continue roasting while the salmon rests.

Serve the salmon with roasted lemon wedges and Tarragon Sauce.

Tarragon Sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the sour cream, mayonnaise and mustard in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the tarragon, shallot, garlic and lemon zest, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Best if made ahead, covered and refrigerated for a few hours. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

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One Year Ago – Gingerbread Decorations
Two Years Ago – Sticky Buns
Three Years Ago –
Cranberry Coffee Cake

Four Years Ago –
Fish Stew Provençal

Five Years Ago –
Twice-Baked Potatoes

Six Years Ago – Baked French Toast
Seven Years Ago –
Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta

Eight Years Ago –
Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

Nine Years Ago – Potato, Leek & Kale Soup
Ten Years Ago – Salmon & Lentils

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

What are you serving this Christmas Eve? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Twinkle, Twinkle Lights So Bright & Hearty Sausage Soup with Beans & Greens

When I was little, the holiday decorations in our yard never stopped traffic. Like the rest of the neighborhood, our display was pretty modest. A life-size Santa did not peek down our chimney. The entire house was not outlined in flashing bulbs. Instead, Mom put electric candles in the windows and hung a wreath with a big red bow on the front door. Then, under the watchful eyes of his two little girls, Dad untangled strings of colored bulbs. He carefully wound them around the rhododendrons that flanked the front stoop. Dad completed the tableau with a spot light aimed at Mom’s wreath. My sister Brenda and I generally pleaded for bigger and better but it was not to be.

My childhood fondness for holiday decorations was not limited to our front yard. One of my favorite Christmas rituals was driving around town to see the lights and decorations. Of course, I wasn’t doing the driving; I was only five. I was in the back seat with Brenda, our noses pressed against the windows A week or two before Christmas, usually with little or no warning, Mom and Dad loaded us into our big blue station wagon and the treasure hunt began.

After circling the neighborhood, we’d widen our net. Never satisfied, we’d twist and turn away from familiar streets in search of the best and the brightest. Our philosophy was the bigger the better. We gave no points for subtlety or quiet, tasteful decorations.

Bouncing from one side of the car to the other for a better view Brenda and I giggled, oohed and ahhed. Most houses sported a few strings of lights wrapped around bushes or a tree. Others were more extravagant with lights wound around front porch railings or along roof lines. We drove all over town in search of spectacular. The truly remarkable displays combined a ton of lights with life-size wooden cutouts of snowmen or Santa in his sleigh.

When it came to lights, we all had our favorites. Brenda and I preferred the big, fat multicolored bulbs. Big and brash we loved all that color. On the other hand, Mom liked the icy glow of all blue lights. Dad drove and more or less agreed with everyone.

To blink or not to blink was an annual topic of conversation. Far from a debate, we were all in agreement. To our shock and dismay, we’d turn the corner and face a riot of flashing color. To our New England eyes, there was done and overdone. Santa and eight reindeer on the roof elicited enthusiastic applause. Flashing lights got nothing more than a disgusted ugh.

About the time I started high school, I stumbled down the path of discreet, good taste. I no longer dreamed of a plywood snowman on our front lawn. I had no desire to encourage Dad to bring out the extension ladder and hang colorful bulbs along every edge of the house and roof.

Instead, I clamored for little white twinkle lights and was more than happy with the spot lit wreath. At about the same time, I noticed a few big, old colonials with small wreaths on every window. Oh my goodness, l thought they were fabulous. That said, I didn’t want to press my luck and kept my eye on the prize of little white lights. It took a few years to convince my parents. After all, what self-respecting frugal Yankee is going to toss out perfectly good decorations in order to replace them with some newfangled invention?

Enjoy the lights and bon appétit!

Hearty Sausage Soup with Beans & Greens
A hearty soup is the perfect supper after your lights tour or tree trimming, Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
2 pounds precooked garlic sausage or smoked kielbasa, cut in bitesize pieces
About 3 cups cooked small white beans – 2 (15 ounce) cans or 8 ounces dried
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind* (optional)
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
6-8 or more cups chicken stock or broth
1 pound baby kale or spinach
Parmesan Crostini (optional)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

Lightly coat a soup pot with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the onion, carrots and celery and season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent, add the garlic and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the sausage, beans, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Add more or less stock depending how you like your soup – more like a stew or nice and soupy.  Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

If you have the time, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Stir in the spinach and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the greens wilt, about 5 minutes. Remove the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, thyme twigs and bay leaf, ladle into bowls or mugs, top with Parmesan Crostini, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

* Adding a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind will add flavor and richness to your soup. 

Parmesan Crostini
1/2-1 baguette, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly brush both sides of each baguette slice with olive oil. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

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

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

What are you serving this Thanksgiving? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Plastic Pollution Solution & Lemony Tarragon Pistou

The snow is receding. The lumps of dirty snow that line my driveway are no longer ten feet tall. Cheery crocuses (or is it croci, I can never remember) are doing their best to pop up and greet the spring. They are not alone. Plastic bottles, cups and whatnots are popping up everywhere. Each layer of melting snow reveals more plastic.

Invented in 1907, plastic was a major modern breakthrough. Plastic is strong. It weighs almost nothing. It’s cheap. It comes in an endless rainbow of colors. If it slips your hands, it won’t land on the kitchen floor in a million pieces. A myriad of uses have been developed for this miracle product.

Unfortunately, this miracle has a decided downside. It is the gift that never goes away. Since its invention, the world has produced more than 9 billion tons of plastic. That’s the virgin, not the recycled, stuff. About 80 percent of it is in the landfill. That’s 5.5 billion, yes billion, tons of plastic. It can take decades, even centuries for plastic to decompose. That mountain of plastic will be sitting around for a long, long time.

Sunday is Earth Day. The first Earth Day in 1970 motivated millions of Americans to think and act differently. The passage of the Clean Air Act was an early victory. The work continued with the Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act and Superfunds to clean up hazardous waste sites. This year, the Earth Day Network is asking all of us to think and do something about plastic. They are asking us to be part of the plastic pollution solution.

We’re all guilty so let’s start with an inventory. To find out how plastic gets into the house, we need to check our pantries, cupboards, counters and garage. When and how do we use this not so miraculous product? At my house, it comes in with my groceries, especially in the winter. It holds fresh produce and milk, it is wrapped around meats and poultry and it holds nuts and grains. All that packaging adds up. The average American throws out about 185 pounds of plastic every year.

It doesn’t end there. My dishwashing soap, laundry detergent, lotion, shampoo and deodorant are packed in plastic bottles and jars. I have plastic storage containers. I love my lightweight prep and mixing bowls. Should I mention the half dozen pairs of cheap reading glasses with plastic frames and lens scattered around the house?

In the garage, the blade and handle of my snow shovel are plastic. Looking further, there are several buckets, the dishes I take to the beach in the summer and some adorable but very uncomfortable rain clogs. For heaven sake, even the fenders on the cars are plastic. Most of these things aren’t going anywhere soon. They will remain in the garage until they wear out or break.

For the earth’s sake, let’s all take one small step, maybe two. If you don’t already recycle, start. If you do just a little, do a lot. Even better, stop bringing plastic home. Think about shopping for need and not for entertainment. Image the free time you will have, the savings and the reduction in clutter. When you must shop, bring your own bags. Many, maybe most, of us bring bags to the supermarket. What about the hardware store, pharmacy and everywhere else? I’m also thinking it’s past time I bring re-usable bags to the produce aisle. One small step … maybe two, if we all do it, it adds up. And who knows? Maybe next year we can commit to a zero waste household.

Happy Earth Day and bon appétit!

Lemony Tarragon Pistou
Pistou, pesto and salsa verte – they are all variations of delicious herbs and olive oil. Pesto Genovese is the classic basil sauce, pistou is the French cousin. Fabulously French, tarragon is perfect for an Earth Day sauce. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 cups

Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch or to taste chili pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups loosely packed tarragon leaves
1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Put the lemon juice, garlic and mustard in the bowl of a small food processor, season with the chili pepper flakes, salt and pepper and pulse to combine and finely chopped.

Working in batches, add the tarragon, parsley, chives and thyme and pulse to roughly chop. Add the olive oil, walnuts and lemon zest and pulse to combine. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes to combine the flavors.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Freeze leftover pistou for future meals.

Serving Suggestions:

Drizzle Lemony Tarragon Pistou on any of the following:

Grilled, steamed or roasted asparagus, carrots, green beans, potatoes or zucchini
Grilled swordfish, salmon or shrimp
Roasted salmon, cod or shrimp
Steamed lobster
Grilled or roasted chicken or lamb

Add a spoonful or two of mayonnaise to 1/4 cup Lemony Tarragon Pistou for a creamy sauce for chicken, lobster or potato salad.

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One Year Ago – Asparagus Salad with Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette
Two Years Ago – Homemade Personal Pizzas
Three Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Chimichurri
Four Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Grilled Ham & Swiss Cheese Sandwiches
Five Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Six Years Ago – Thai Curried Shrimp and Green Beans
Seven Years Ago – Asparagus Risotto
Eight Years Ago – Fennel & Feta Salad
Nine Years Ago – Dandelion Salad with Grilled Steak, Potatoes & Asparagus

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

Do you have a plastic pollution solution? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Persisting Women Pork Stew with Beans & Greens

It began with a simple grassroots effort. A school district in California realized that their kids had little if any knowledge of women’s contributions to the state, to the country and to the world. So, they dedicated a week to women’s history. There were special programs and curriculum. The grand finale was a parade and celebration. It was 1978.

In 1979, educators and activists got together at The Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. A teacher from Sonoma shared her district’s success and it lit a fire. Spreading to schools and colleges across the country, Women’s History Week took off. Unable to contain the enthusiasm to just seven days, there were soon calls for a month of education and celebration. National Women’s History Month was declared in 1987.

This year’s theme is Nevertheless, She Persisted. The goal is to honor women who persist in fighting all forms of discrimination against women. Persistence, it is an amazing word. Could it be the secret to women’s success?

Take for instance, the right to vote. Today, most of us take that right for granted. Not my grandmother. In her time, the voting age was twenty-one. However, she could not go down to town hall and register to vote on her birthday. Women did not have that right. She was twenty-five when the Nineteenth Amendment was finally ratified into law. The fight for suffrage began as one of twelve resolutions at the Seneca Falls Convention in the summer of 1848. Success took seventy-two years of persistence.

I remember when one of the credit card companies turned my mother down. Whether it was a holdover from laws limiting women’s property rights or misguided custom, it doesn’t matter. Mom was incensed. The person at the other end of the phone told her they would be more than happy to grant a joint card with my dad. She just couldn’t have one in her own name. Mrs. Nye was fine; Elizabeth was not. She finally got her card a few years later. I’m guessing it was after the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974.

At about the same time, I was appalled to learn that wage disparity of women to men was fifty-nine cents to the dollar. It didn’t matter that I was a teenager earning minimum wage at my summer job. Or that the busboys were also earning minimum wage. It was the principle. Since then, the wage gap has narrowed to seventy-nine cents. Persistence continues.

Throughout the month, let’s celebrate the women who came before us. Let’s honor the women in both our personal and collective histories. We’ll thank our mothers and grandmothers, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman and Amelia Earhart. We shouldn’t forget our favorite aunts, cousins and neighbors along with Shirley Chisolm, Ella Fitzgerald, Margaret Sanger, Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Julia Child, Billy Jean King, the 1996 Women’s Soccer Team and the 2018 Women’s Hockey Team. Because of them, we stand stronger, we are better educated and our lives are freer, richer and safer.

Armed with persistence and patience, women have fought and won the right to vote, to education, to work and to own property. The path has rarely been easy and the journey continues. In spite of a rapidly changing world, we still measure the timeline to equal rights for women not in days or even years but in decades.

With a toast of gratitude to brave and persistent women, I wish you bon appétit!

Pork Stew with Beans & Greens
Invite friends over for a cozy dinner and celebration of women. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
2 ounces slab or thick cut bacon, roughly chopped
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups cooked white beans, drained and rinsed (about 12 ounces dried beans)
4-6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry vermouth
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 bay leaf
1 pound pre-cooked kielbasa sausage, cut into 2-inch slices
16 ounces baby kale or spinach

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a heavy casserole over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon and reserve.

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the pork and cook for a minute or two per side. Remove from the casserole and reserve.

Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, carrot and celery, sprinkle with thyme, allspice and chili flakes, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.

Return the pork and bacon to the pot and add the beans, 4 cups stock, vermouth, mustard and bay leaf. Gently toss and stir to combine, bring to a simmer and transfer to the oven.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Add the sausage and, if necessary, more stock to the pot, return to the oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Add the kale in handfuls and stir or toss until it wilts. Return the pot to the oven for 5 minutes.

Spoon the stew into shallow bowls and serve with a chunk of crusty bread.

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One Year Ago – Shrimp Curry with Spinach
Two Years Ago – Mini Tarte Tatin
Three Years Ago – Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette
Four Years Ago – Potato & Cheddar Soup
Five Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Six Years Ago – Guinness Lamb Shanks
Seven Years Ago – Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Eight Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Nine Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding

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

During National Women’s History Month, who are the heroes you most want to celebrate? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Christmas Red & Greenery & Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce

The Fourth of July has its parades and fireworks. Thanksgiving has turkey. When it comes to traditions, Christmas has cornered the market. We bake dozens of cookies and roam the streets serenading the neighbors with seasonal ditties. We hang our stocks on the fireplace, wait only somewhat-patiently for reindeer to fly and a jolly old elf to arrive. Hmm, if you stop and think about it, some of our favorite Christmas traditions can best be described as, well, odd. Take, just for instance, the foliage we bring into the house for the holidays.

First, there’s the tree. Forget settling for a houseplant or flower-filled vase. No indeed, we cut down a full-grown evergreen and drag it into the living room. If that’s not strange enough, we then foolishly think that the dog and cat won’t notice. Really? Even the most standoffish of felines can’t help but observe a tree in the middle of living room. Perhaps, we think our furry friends will just ignore it. Could that explain our astonishment when the puppy lifts his leg? As for our show of surprise at the cat racing up the tree and then refusing climb down; just who are we trying to kid?

Speaking of bringing the outside in, mistletoe could be an even odder choice to deck the halls. First of all, it’s a parasite. New Hampshire is too cold for mistletoe but I used to see it all the time in Geneva. It latches on to a tree and grows into a massive ball. As that ball of greenery and white berries grows, it robs the tree of moisture and nutrients and eventually kills it.

If that’s not bad enough, mistletoe is poisonous. It’s not so bad for humans. Rather than kill you, it might make you drowsy, blur your vision or cause vomiting, maybe even seizures. However, it can be very dangerous for the hamster, cat and dog. In spite of all that, we hang it in doorways throughout the house. Not because we want a stash of poison handy but to induce loved ones and strangers to kiss under it. What’s next? Hemlock wreaths.

However, when it comes to poison, poinsettias get a bit of a bad rap. By the way, what’s with the name? If it wasn’t for spellcheck, I couldn’t even write about these bright red beauties. Although no one sings about it, poinsettia is another one of those tomato-tomahto kind of words.

Growing up, everyone had a grandmother or aunt or a fancy-pants neighbor who pronounced it poin-set-ee-ah. The rest of us, and by that I mean everyone at my house including both Nanas, pronounced it poin-set-ah. Although, come to think of it, I think some of us added a -t- along with dropping the -ee- for point-set-ah. All that said; my Grandfather Westland might have used the la-di-da pronunciation once or twice. The family comedian, he delighted in making us giggle with, among other things, fancy-pants accents and pronunciations.

Anyway, regardless of an extra t, ee-ah or ah, poinsettias are barely toxic. There’s little reason to worry about kids or grandkids keeling over. They’d need to chow down about 500 leaves to become ill. That would be quite some salad for a little one. Given the awful taste, there’s little chance the children will indulge.

Enjoy the holiday season with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce
My grandfather always brought cocktail shrimp to family celebrations. Dad continues the tradition. He serves boiled shrimp with ketchup-based cocktail sauce. I like to shake it up a little. Enjoy!
Makes about 36 pieces

Rémoulade Sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1-2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons capers, drained and finely chopped
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 finely chopped scallion
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Put the mustards, vinegar, garlic, lemon juice and zest, capers and anchovy paste in a bowl, season with the spices, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the mayonnaise, scallion and herbs and whisk again. Let sit for at least 20 minutes to mix and meld the flavors.

Makes about 1 cup. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Roasted Shrimp
2 pounds extra-jumbo (16-20 per pound) shrimp
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Olive oil

Put the shrimp in a bowl, sprinkle with the garlic and lemon zest and toss to combine. Drizzle with the lemon juice and enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss again. Let the shrimp marinade for about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place the shrimp on rimmed baking sheets in a single layer and roast at 450 degrees for 5 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through and opaque. Don’t overcook.

Serve immediately or at room temperature with Rémoulade Sauce.

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

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

How will you decorate for the Holidays? Feel free to share!

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

Celebrate Bastille Day Weekend Special

On July 14, 1789, anti-monarchist forces stormed the infamous Bastille Prison in Paris. Ruled by an excessive king and self-indulgent queen, France was in deep economic and political crisis. The storming of the Bastille began the revolution and the pursuit of liberty, equality and fraternity for the French people.

Zut alors! Let’s celebrate! Drink champagne and make some of your favorite French dishes. Here are some of mine:

For nibbling … first you should know that the French don’t do heavy apps like Americans. Try my Tapenade with crisp crackers or veggies. Even easier, set out a bowls of my Spicy Olives.Then again, a batch of Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam sounds good. Don’t forget the nuts … my Roasted Almonds or Rosemary Cashews will be perfect.

Next, move to the table. Remember, the French love a long and leisurely dinner. Why not start with a few Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli. Want something a bit lighter? How about Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction?

Now for the main course. I can’t think of anything better for a Bastille Day dinner than Filet de Perche. (I don’t know about you but perch is hard to find where I live. A few weeks ago, I made this recipe with haddock filets and it was delicious.) Serve the fish with steamed new potatoes or rice and Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts.

Unless you are in the mood for a roast chicken dinner. Typically French, throw a chicken in the oven and roast it to golden perfection. Add a dollop of Smashed or Mashed Potatoes. Don’t forget the Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts.

Now it’s time for the salad. (Yes, the French eat their salads after the main course.) Keep it simple (and very French) with beautiful baby greens tossed a little Classic Vinaigrette. Serve the salad with a few of your favorite cheeses and warm baguette.

For dessert … lets go with something warm and custard-y. Think French toast and give my Blueberry Bread Pudding a try. (In France, French toast is called pain perdu.) On the other hand, Blueberry Clafouti is creamy delicious and very French.

Tous à la Bastille! Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

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

What’s up with you 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? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2017