The Costumes We Keep & Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes

I love a good costume. Maybe that’s why I love Halloween so much. However, you don’t have to wait until Halloween to have fun with dress ups. If you keep your eyes open, there are costumes everywhere. Unfortunately you are most likely to see the under-six set wearing them. Think little girls in fluffy pink, tutus-like skirts and boys in Batman t-shirts.

When he was a little boy, my brother John dressed in costume almost every day. His favorite was Superman. Due to some miscommunication, both grandmothers gave him a Superman suit for his birthday. Not a problem, Johnny was just fine with that. If one was in the wash, he could still suit up.

Along with the man of steel, at least once a week he would appear at breakfast in full Daniel Boone or cowboy regalia. Sporting a coonskin cap or cowboy hat, fringed shirt and jeans, he would swagger into the kitchen. Although it was clearly never first or even second choice, when there were no other options, Batman graced our presence.

Then there was that dreadful day. I’m glad I’d already left for school and didn’t witness the trauma. Whether the story is nothing more than family legend or true, I’ll never know. Anyway, John showed up at his friend Richard’s house in jeans and t-shirt. Since she’d rarely, maybe never, seen him in civilian clothes, Richard’s mom asked him, “Where’s Superman today?” Without missing a beat, Johnny replied, “Both my Superman suits are in the wash. My mother told me I had to be Clark Kent today.”

When he started kindergarten or maybe it was nursery school, John gave up his costumes. There was no particular drama. After hundreds of wearings and washings, I’m guessing they fell apart. Maybe the dog ate his coonskin cap or he lost his cowboy hat at the playground. Then again, he might have simply outgrown them – physically or metaphorically or both. These things happen. While I hope not, it’s possible some school administrator put the kybosh on super heroes in the classroom. Although they later reneged, I can confirm that those very same administrators outlawed miniskirts at the high school.

Maybe we never actually give up costumes. Instead, we change the characters we play. Could it be that a hungry dog or bureaucrat does nothing more than nudge us into the inevitable next rendition of ourselves? Wonder Woman changes into bookish nerd or cool bohemian and then morphs again into corporate lawyer. Batman becomes an athlete and prom king, transforms into a Peace Corp volunteer and changes once more into an engineer.

Whether you’re a teenager in a ratty t-shirt or a Wall Street type in an Armani suit, your clothing sends a message. Admit it; you could just as easily don a pair of jeans as yoga pants, a button-down shirt as a mock turtleneck. Whether it’s true or not, yoga pants tell the world you are sporty and fit – or just so busy you don’t have time to change your clothes after class. The mock turtleneck? It’s your proclamation that you will indeed be the next Steve Jobs.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and my kitchen all but done, it’s time for me to put on my red apron. What does that say about me?

Happy cooking and bon appétit!

Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes
It’s not too early to start thinking about Thanksgiving. I’ve never been a fan of sweet potatoes with marshmallows. If you are of the same mind, add this savory dish to your Thanksgiving menu. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces plus more for the pan
About 3 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and cut in small pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Generously butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Prick each potato several times with a knife, place them on the baking sheet and in the oven. Reduce the heat and bake at 375 degrees until soft, 1-1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and set aside.

When cool enough to handle but still warm, halve potatoes and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons butter, the cream cheese and sour cream, sprinkle with the cheeses and season with salt and pepper. Use a masher to smash the potatoes and combine the ingredients. Spread the sweet potatoes in the prepared baking dish and dot with the remaining butter.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated. Bring the potatoes to room temperature before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the sweet potatoes at 350 degrees until piping hot, about 30 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Creamy Polenta with Mushroom & Kale Ragù
Two Years Ago – Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
Three Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous
Four Years Ago – Smashed or Mashed Potatoes
Five Years Ago – Apple Muffins
Six Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash
Seven Years Ago – Spinach Ricotta Pie
Eight Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Lentils
Ninet Years Ago – Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart

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

My current costume is the monochromatic look, black in cold weather and white/beige/khaki in warm. What about you? Feel free to share!

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

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Halloween on Pleasant Lake & Apple Oatmeal Cookies

What’s Halloween like in rural New Hampshire? Well except for the coyotes, pretty quiet. Yes, I know. There’s plenty going on up on Main Street. But nothing, zip, nada in my neighborhood. Down by Pleasant Lake, we’re a mix of year-round and summer people. By mid-October, most of the leaves have faded, it’s dark before six and more than half of houses are empty. We are not a hub of Halloween festivities, far from it.

It was summer and the neighborhood very busy when I moved into my house several years ago. Up until the Columbus Day, there was still a fair amount of weekend activity. That’s when the summer people closed up their cottages. About the same time, the snowbirds disappeared. That said, down at my end of the road, there were a few kids. Not many mind you but enough to know they were there. From time to time, I’d see them with their heavy backpacks on their way to or from the bus.

Knowing there were kids in the neighborhood, I dutifully bought a bag of fun-sized Milky Way®. About that name, what’s up with that? No not Milky Way, I get that. The candy bar was named after a milkshake. The milkshake was named after the galaxy. Why? Well, the story starts to get murky so that’s about all I can tell you.

No, the part I don’t get is why the teeny tiniest candy bars are called fun size. Where’s the fun in these one-bite wonders? Moreover, and please correct me if I’m wrong, those fun size bars seem to be shrinking every year. Who are the candy manufacturers trying to kid?

The fun moniker would be more appropriate for one of those supersized bars. I ask you, what’s more fun – a teeny tiny drop of chocolate or a big honkin’ bar? Come to think of it, a more fitting label might be fun-while-it-lasted. Eating one of those giant candies in one sitting is an invitation to a tummy-ache. But hey, you’re only a kid once.

All right, enough digressing, let’s get back to my Halloween preparations. Although I dutifully stocked up on miniature Milky Way® bars, I forgot to stop at the bank. So I went through every pocket and purse for loose change for Unicef. I put on my orange t-shirt, the one with the jack-o-lantern. I tasted a couple of the mini-chocolates. (Only a few, I needed to make sure they were safe for the children.) And I waited. Then, I waited some more. And some more. When it started raining, I figured that was that.

About eight-thirty, maybe nine o’clock, I was ready to turn off the outside lights and change out of my silly t-shirt. That’s when a car drove in the driveway. What’s with that, I thought. The parents on Jackson Road never chauffeured their kids around on Halloween. Rain, sleet or snow, we walked from house to house. However, I didn’t judge. Instead, I picked up my bowls of candy and coins and headed to the door.

Hands in his pockets, a hunched over middle schooler shuffled through the rain. He didn’t shout trick or treat and I was none too sure of his costume. However, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he was going for subtlety – Clark Kent on casual Friday. Beyond the headlights, I could see the driver’s silhouette and maybe another person. On second thought, maybe it was a simple ploy by his nitwit older brothers to collect candy. You know – send in the kid. After helping himself to a handful of fun, the boy shuffled back to the car. He was my first, last and only trick or treater.

Hey, wait a minute. Maybe they were lost or Russian spies trying to figure out this bizarre American custom. I’ll never know. Bon appétit!

Apple Cookies
Loaded with fruit, nuts and oatmeal, if you like you can pretend these cookies are good for you. Enjoy!
Makes about 5 dozen cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup instant oatmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and ginger
1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and allspice
1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1-2 apples, about 1 cup finely chopped or coarsely grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Set 2 racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with silicon liners or parchment paper.

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

In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. Turn the mixer down to low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Fold in the apple, raisins, nuts and chocolate chips

Drop tablespoons of dough about 3 inches apart (a mini ice-cream scoop works great) onto the prepared baking sheets. If you like, you can flatten the cookies slightly with moistened fingers. Switching racks and turning the pans midway through baking, bake the cookies until they are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let the cookies set for a minute and then transfer to a rack to cool.

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One Year Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato & White Bean Hummus
Two Years Ago – Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares
Three Years Ago – Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Four Years Ago Ago – Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Five Years Ago – Chicken in Every Pot
Six Years Ago – Roasted Carrots & Pearl Onions
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pearl Onions
Nine Years Ago – Mexican Chicken Soup

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

How many trick or treaters will be at your house on Halloween? Feel free to share!

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

First Day of School & Dilly Beans

Susie_1st_day_schoolOver the past few weeks, the pages of Facebook and Instagram have been filled with first day of school pictures. It started with the big kids who were off to college. With anxious smiles, freshmen posed in front of their new dorms and bravely waved goodbye to mom, dad and the dog. Next, there came a flood of photographs with everyone else. This jumble included everything from sweet little kindergarteners to confident fifth graders, nervous middle schoolers and bored high school seniors.

Since I didn’t have an innocent, confident, anxious or bored student in my house, I didn’t take any pictures. Rather than mope or feel sorry for myself, I posted my first day of school photograph. At least I’m pretty sure that it was my first day of kindergarten. In the days before cameras-ready cell phones and easily posted digital images, most moms, mine included, didn’t document all of their children’s comings and goings. If for no other reason than they couldn’t find the camera. Or maybe they ran out of film. You remember film don’t you?

Anyway, I’m standing on our front step on Jackson Road looking adorable in a smocked dress and Buster Brown shoes. My smile is sweet and only a tad anxious. Brenda, my older sister, was already in the third grade. Since she seemed to be doing okay, I must have figured there wasn’t too much to worry about.

Nowadays, most schools teach kindergarteners a few reading fundamentals and a little arithmetic. Not my teacher, she focused on the basics. If nothing else, it reinforced much of what Mom and Dad were already trying to teach their two little girls.

So, in the spirit of Robert Fulghum and his legendary book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten here are ten things I learned in kindergarten:

Be nice.
Share.
Play fair.
Tell the truth.
Put things back where you found them.
If it’s not yours, don’t take it.
Don’t hit.
Wash your hands.
Look both ways.
Don’t wander off.

I’m doing pretty well with the majority of these lessons. Okay, I admit it; I’m terrible at putting my things away. And while I generally look both ways when crossing the street, I’ve made several metaphorical leaps without really looking. But no, I don’t regret them. Otherwise, I’d be in an office somewhere right now. Instead, I’m delight to be writing at my messy desk in my messy upstairs hall.

As for wandering off, all I can do is shrug and admit to being guilty. If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on a lot of fun, frustrating, interesting, challenging and wonderful times. Just think; I never would have wandered over to Switzerland. I can’t imagine my life without that fun, frustrating, interesting, challenging and wonderful chapter.

Here’s to the first day of whatever is next for you and bon appétit!

Dilly Beans
A little spicy and a little tart, these beans are a great addition to a late summer cookout … or anytime. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 quarts

About 2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 red onion, cut in half length-wise and then in thin wedges
1 clove garlic for each mason jar, smashed and peeled
1-2 bunches dill
1 bay leaf for each mason jar
2 sprigs thyme for each mason jar
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons dill seeds
2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water

Standing them up, pack the beans into pint or quart mason jars, adding the onion, garlic and herbs as you go.

Put the salt, sugar, mustard seeds, dill seeds and peppercorns in saucepan. Add the vinegar and water and, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Ladle the pickling liquid and spices into the jars and cool to room temperature. Cover the jars tightly and refrigerate for one week before serving.

The beans can keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 months.

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One Year Ago – All Grown Up Grilled Cheese
One Year Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Two Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Three Years Ago – Curried Green Bean Pickles
Four Years Ago – Grilled Ratatouille Stacks
Five Years Ago – Apple Crisp
Six Years Ago – Ravioli with Sage Pesto
Seven Years Ago – Brie & Sun-dried Tomato Omelet

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

Pizza Party Weekend Special

If there are kids in the house, there is nothing better than a Spinach_Pizza_03pizza party. Make your own and you’ve got dinner and entertainment all rolled into one. BTW, it’s also fun for the young at heart. After all, who doesn’t love a good pizza?

Nibble while you work. Set out some raw veggies and a dip or two before you start. You can’t go wrong with White Bean Hummus or Roasted Red Pepper Dip.

Add a tasty salad. Set out some raw veggies and a dip or two before you start. You can’t go wrong with Asparagus & Radish Salad has a light and bright citrus vinaigrette which is sure to please. If you don’t mind firing up the grill, Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado is a wonderful combination. Fussy kids? How about mixed greens with a Classic Vinaigrette?

Sausage_Pizza_03Now, what about the pizzas? Buy or make up a batch of your favorite pizza dough and let everyone have a whirl and twirl with Make Your Own Personal Pizzas. For those that can’t be bothered (and what fun are they), whip up a Greek Pizza. Or, for a bit of a change, try pizza’s favorite cousin and my Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach.

For dessert, think ahead and spend part of the afternoon keeping the kids happy and busy baking cookies. Perhaps you’d like to try my Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies or my Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies. Both are terrific. For something a little more special, try my Mini Chocolate-Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies.

Have a wonderful weekend and a great pizza party. Bon appétit!

What are you cooking this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2016

Spring Vacation & Homemade Personal Pizzas

dreary_day_Elkins_DamApril vacation is upon us. As a kid, I never quite got the point of a week off in early spring. Yes, in New England mid to late April still qualifies as early spring. In northern New England, it often qualifies as late winter. Anyway, it always rained. Not just for a day or two, it seemed like it rained every day for the entire week.

Although, I didn’t complain about the extra hour or so of sleep in the morning, the week was filled with a fair amount of grumbling. The weekend-to-weekend, nine day stretch could best be described as boring. It’s a pretty sure bet that I complained about being cooped up inside. I would have much preferred two weeks in February for skiing. Alternatively, it would have been nice to leave our stuffy classrooms a week early in June.

Of course, lots of kids embraced April vacation. They’re the ones who hopped on a plane and spent the week in the pool at their grandparents’ condo in Boca or West Palm Beach. My grandparents were smart enough to live in a one-bedroom apartment and so avoided the onslaught of three boisterous children.

Mom countered any attempt at a pity party with a reminder of our wonderful February ski vacation in New Hampshire. No, we were not exactly deprived. And yes, at least deep down inside, we knew how lucky we were. Still and all, it was hard to feel your good fortune when each day dawned rainy and you’d already seen “It’s a Mad, Mad World” and “Sword in the Stone” … twice. By Wednesday, Mom was probably more than ready to throw the three of us into a packing crate and ship us to her mother in Florida but she refrained.

If you’re stuck at home with kids or grandkids on a rainy day or, heaven forbid, week, here are a few ideas to keep them happy and you sane:

Bake cookies. Sure, it’s the go-to standby for rainy day entertainment but baking never gets old. Everyone but everyone loves cookies, especially if they are loaded up with chocolate chips.

Host a tea party. You don’t want to eat all those delicious cookies by yourself – do you? Share them with family, friends and neighbors.

Organize a film festival. Forget going out in the cold and wet; cuddle up on the sofa with your favorite on-demand provider or a stack of DVDs. Don’t forget the popcorn.

Get moving. After all those cookies and popcorn, you’ll want to get some exercise. Turn on your favorite tunes and dance or crank up the karaoke machine to sing and dance. Next, play charades, Mother May I or Pictionary, extra points for exaggerated gestures and enthusiasm!

Tackle that craft project. Turn a color copy of a favorite photo into a jigsaw puzzle, make a video or build fairy houses. When in doubt, Google rainy day crafts with kids!

Make your own pizza. Get everyone involved. Cut the dough for individual sized pizzas, offer a variety of toppings and let everyone assemble their own delicious pie.

Stay dry, have fun and bon appétit!

Homemade Personal Pizzas
More than dinner, homemade pizza is a great project to share with kids. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6

personal_pizza16-20 ounces pizza dough (your favorite recipe, store-bought or from your favorite pizzeria)
Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)

Your favorite cheese(s)

Mozzarella
Fontina
Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano
Feta
Goat cheese
Gorgonzola

Your favorite toppings

Caramelized onions or onions and peppers
Sautéed mushrooms, zucchini and/or eggplant
Sliced artichokes, sundried tomatoes, jalapenos, olives or capers
Pesto (spoon over a freshly baked pizza)
Fresh spinach tossed with a dash of olive oil and hint of balsamic vinegar
Crumbled sausage, pepperoni and/or chopped and cooked bacon
Sliced or cubed cooked chicken
Shrimp (to avoid over cooking, add after 3-4 minutes)
Thinly sliced prosciutto (drape over a freshly baked pizza)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you’re using one, place your pizza stone in the oven before turning on the heat. A pizza stone will cook your pizza evenly and give you a nice crispy crust.

Cut the pizza dough into 4-6 pieces. Let everyone stretch a piece of dough, give it a spin or roll out into rounds. Place the rounds on parchment paper.

Invite everyone to spread a little sauce to their pizza and then sprinkle with their favorite cheese(s) and toppings. Transfer the pizzas, parchment and all, to the baking stone or to baking sheets and slide the pizzas into the oven.

Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly, about 10 minutes with a baking sheet and about 8 minutes with a pizza stone. The crust’s thickness and the toppings determine how long it takes.

Marinara Sauce
Makes about 4 cups of sauce – you’ll need 3-4 tablespoons for each individual-sized pizzaSausage_Pizza_01

Olive Oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 small carrot, finely shredded
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes or to taste
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 cups (28-ounce can) crushed tomatoes

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the herbs, garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Optional – cool the sauce for about 20 minutes and put it in the blender and process until smooth.

Freeze leftover sauce for the next rainy day pizza party.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Chimichurri
Two Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Grilled Ham & Swiss Cheese Sandwiches
Three Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Four Years Ago – Thai Curried Shrimp and Green Beans
Five Years Ago – Asparagus Risotto
Six Years Ago – Fennel & Feta Salad
Seven 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!

What’s your favorite combinations of cheese and toppings on a pizza? Feel free to share.

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

Back-to-School Shopping & All Grown Up Grilled Cheese

Susie_1st_day_schoolYikes! What happened to summer? Labor Day has come and gone. Except for a stray flip-flop, the beach is empty. Squawking geese fill the sky and the first red leaves are dotting a big maple up by the college. When we were kids, the end of summer meant that it was time to go back to the reality of suburbia and back to school. We traded in long lazy days on the beach, hikes in the woods and fresh air for stuffy classrooms and chalk dust.

When first my sister and then I started kindergarten, an annual ritual began. Mom took us downtown for school clothes and shoes. We would visit Filene’s in search of that perfect first day of school dress. Although more often than not, the first day of school had come and gone by the time we embarked on our back-to-school shopping. It was simple physics, the space–time continuum. We couldn’t be in two places, the beach and suburbia, at the same time.

Anyway, these shopping trips were early lessons in dress for success. What is it about a new outfit? Or an old favorite for that matter? When it fits well and the color is right, it just inspires confidence. Whether we’re striding across the playground or the boardroom, our back’s a little straighter and our step’s a little surer when we know we look good. Don’t be modest, go ahead and admit it. Every closet has its stash of superhero garb. Maybe it’s your lucky jeans or a favorite power suit but once you put them on, you are invincible.

As any baby boomer knows, a Polly Flinder is the perfect dress to start kindergarten or the first grade. These cotton dresses were pure confection with smocking across the front, puffed sleeves, Peter Pan colors and full skirts that swirled when you twirled. At Easter, the dresses came in soft flowery pastels. For back-to-school, they came in darker, fall colors and tartans. Between a few of my own and my sister’s hand-me-downs, I had several. And yes, I looked absolutely adorable.

If we didn’t lollygag or misbehave, Mom took us to Bailey’s for a post-shopping ice cream. Bailey’s was part of a long-standing back-to-school tradition. When my grandmother outfitted Mom for back-to-school, she included both Filene’s and Bailey’s on their itinerary. Bailey’s was always cool on a warm Indian summer afternoon and the hot fudge sauce was thick and devilishly rich. Our little town’s premier ice cream emporium, Bailey’s was reserved for the special-est of occasions. The new school year definitely merited a trip to Bailey’s.

You can imagine my surprise when, bought out or gone bust, all three of these venerable companies from my childhood upped and vanished. Yes, Filene’s, Polly Flinder and Bailey’s are now nothing more than a fond memory and a few lines in Wikipedia. It’s a good thing that after some trial and error, I developed my own decadent chocolate sauce. As for sweet little dresses with smocking and Peter Pan collars, I think I’m more of a jeans and turtleneck kind of girl these days.

Okay, it may have been years since we graduated from anywhere but we can still celebrate September with any and all of our favorite back-to-school traditions. Bon appétit!

All Grown Up Grilled Cheese
Even if it’s been a decade (or more!) since you spent your days in stuffy classrooms, celebrate back-to-school with this grown up version of every kid’s favorite lunch! Enjoy!
Serves 4

8 slices really good artisan bread
Butter, at room temperature
Arugula Pesto (recipe follows)
About 4 ounce fontina cheese, grated or thinly sliced
4-8 thin slices Prosciutto de Parma ham
Pickled Onions*(recipe follows)

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Generously butter one side of each bread slice. Smear the other side with a generous dollop of Arugula Pesto and place the bread butter side down in a large skillet(s). Evenly distribute the cheese across the bread. Cook over medium-low heat until the cheese has melted and the bread is nicely browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Top half the bread with prosciutto and sprinkle the other halves with pickled onions.

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Carefully flip one half of the sandwich onto the other, let sit for a minute, cut into wedges and serve.

* I always add some onion to my homemade pickles. If you do too, use them in sandwiches, including this one. Otherwise, my Quick Pickled Onions will do the job.

Arugula Pesto
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
5-6 ounces baby arugula
Extra virgin olive oil
About 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Put the walnuts, garlic and vinegar in a small food processor, season with salt and pepper and pulse until finely chopped. Add the arugula in batches and pulse until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil and process smooth. Add the cheese and pulse to combine.

Cover and refrigerate the leftover pesto. Try it with pasta or spread it on pizza or sandwiches.

Quick Pickled Onions
1/2 Vidalia or red onion, halve the onion length-wise and then cut in thin wedges
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Put the onion and thyme in a small bowl.All_Grown_Up_Grilled_Cheese_08

Put the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a saucepan. Stirring until the sugar and salt dissolves, bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cover the onions with pickling liquid. Let the onions sit for at least 20 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cover and refrigerate the leftover pickled onions. Try them on any and all of your favorite sandwiches.

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One Year Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Two Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Three Years Ago – Curried Green Bean Pickles
Four Years Ago – Grilled Ratatouille Stacks
Five Years Ago – Apple Crisp
Six Years Ago – Ravioli with Sage Pesto
Seven Years Ago – Brie & Sun-dried Tomato Omelet
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What is your favorite back-to-school shopping story? 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

Grubby, Little Boys & Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard

Within minutes of the bell on the last day of school, we were in my mother’s big, blue station wagon and headed north. It would be the first of many long, lazy summers on Pleasant Lake. It would also be the inaugural year of the Grubby, Little Boys Club.

This rambunctious group of four, five and six year olds were just the right age to appreciate all that New Hampshire had to offer. With only a few exceptions, they were from one or another tidy suburb outside of Boston. Plucked from a world of green lawns and hard-topped playgrounds, they were in heaven. They had the lake. They had the woods, complete with a little brook. They even had a pond brimming with frogs and tadpoles. What more could a little boy ask for?

From first light to dusk, they were busy, in and out of the lake, slip sliding into the muddy pond and exploring the woods. More often than not, they fell asleep in the middle of dinner. Not willing to wake them for a shower, their mothers shrugged and put their grubby, little boys to bed.

Along with my brother Johnny, this rat pack included Richard, Rip and Randy as well as Scott and Chip. There was at least one Peter, possibly two. I’m not quite sure. There was Swizzy but his family didn’t stay long after he lost part of his finger playing in the brook. There were two Davids, O’Donnell and White.

Each of these grubby little boys had some claim to fame, some more interesting than others. As noted, Swizzy lost part of his finger. One of the boys, I’m not sure which, had a seemingly endless supply of cherry bombs and bottle rockets. David White had wheels. Or rather, his dad had a collection of interesting vehicles and was pretty relaxed about sharing. By the time most of the boys were eight or nine, okay, maybe ten, they had driven the Mini Moke around the White’s field.

To say that these boys were intrigued by anything with a motor would be an understatement. All of these grubby, little boys had a man crush on Mr. Jewell. Unlike their fathers, Mr. Jewell didn’t put on a white shirt and tie and go to an office every morning. Mr. Jewell wore jeans, t-shirts and big, heavy work boots and drove huge bulldozers and dump trucks. Since he was building the roads in our still-new neighborhood, the boys saw him often. At least once or twice a day, they’d stop their play and jealously watch Mr. Jewell riding high atop one of his giant earthmoving machines.

About four o’clock most days, Mr. Jewell climbed down from one giant machine or another and headed home. His oversized Tonka toys sat in a field overnight, admired and often climbed upon by grubby, little boys on their way home from the beach. It was on one of those late afternoons that the other David, David O’Donnell, gained his claim to fame. Sitting high on one of Mr. Jewell’s bulldozers, he somehow managed to turn it on. Delight and panic erupted as David hung on for dear life and a bunch of grubby, little boys leaped around in glee and awe. The blissful panic was cut all too short. Someone’s father, probably in a white shirt and tie, happened by, saw the commotion and rescued David by turning off the bulldozer.

Have a wonderful summer filled with both glee and awe. Bon appétit!

Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard
A refreshing dessert for boys and girls of all ages. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Lime Curd, store bought or homemade (recipe follows)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
1/2 cup very cold heavy cream
About 2 pounds fresh berries – whatever is in season!
Brown sugar to taste (optional)

Make the Lime Curd and refrigerate until cold.

Put the cream cheese and 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier in a bowl, beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Increase the mixer speed to high and very slowly add the heavy cream. Continue beating until soft peaks form. Add the cream slowly or it will splatter everywhere.

Fold the cream-cream cheese mixture into the chilled Lime Curd, cover and refrigerate the custard for several hours.

To serve: gently rinse and dry the berries, hull and chop strawberries, leave everything else whole. Put the berries in a large bowl, add 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier and brown sugar to taste. Spoon the berries into dessert or wine glasses, add a generous spoonful or two of Creamy Lime Custard and serve. The custard is also delicious with peaches or nectarines.

Lime Curd
Makes about 1 cup

4 large egg yolks
Zest of 2 limes
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 6 limes)
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cold, cut into small pieces

Create an ice bath by filling an oversized bowl halfway with ice and water. Put half of the lime zest in a small bowl and set the bowl in the ice water. Reserve.

Put the yolks, remaining zest, juice and sugar in a small saucepan and whisk until smooth and well combined. Set over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the curd registers 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove the pan from heat and, 1 piece at a time, whisk in the butter until smooth. Pass the curd through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl in the ice bath. Stirring frequently, let cool. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.

The Lime Curd can be made ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Tomato Crostini
Two Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Three Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Four Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Five Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
SixYears Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

Do you have any special summer memories with one or more of your siblings? 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