Change the World & Chili Con Carne

After weeks of daily prompting and too good to be true offers, I finally did it. What you ask? Buy a new car or swampland in Florida? No, I upgraded to Windows 10. Since I’ve been none too happy with Windows 8, I was in no big rush to make the leap. However, an article in one or another of the PC magazines convinced that I’d be better off. I figured, or maybe just hoped, that things couldn’t get any worse. So, one fateful morning when the little popup again popped up, I thought, what the heck, here goes nothing and hit yes!

After agreeing to give my house, sanity and first born over to the gnomes of Redmond, my laptop started to hum and a white bar began to ever so slowly turn green. I patiently watched for maybe a minute, maybe two, maybe less, before leaving my desk to fold laundry. I turned on the last of the morning news and what should I see but an ad for Windows 10.

It was as if Bill and his buddies were worried that I was having an attack of buyer’s remorse. Yes, I know the upgrade was free but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t regret my decision. The green bar continued its glacial crawl while happy children skipped across the television screen.

Gosh, how could I have hesitated? According to Microsoft, thanks to Windows 10, one of these adorable kids would change the world. Not only that, the future, was starting right then and there. Wow, I might not be a kid or adorable but I would not be left behind. I too could change the world!

I finished folding laundry and tucked everything, nice and neat, into their proper drawers. Returning to my PC, I discovered the slowly moving green bar was at ninety-something percent. Victory would soon be mine. Changing the world was just minutes away.

Following the instructions, I clicked yes and agree a few more times. Transformed, my dull old screen glowed midnight blue and was edged with silvery light. If nothing else, 10’s graphics were definitely more dashing. A friendly message invited me to relax and gently warned that the few final steps would take some time. A big round circle replaced the boring bar and clocked the minutes to what could only be an astonishing future. I took a shower, made several phone calls and dreamed of being amazing while contemplating another load of laundry.

Finally, I was up and running with a flashy new welcome screen. Although, I hadn’t morphed into a chubby cheeked toddler or a bucktoothed ten year old, I was ready, ready to be extraordinary!

Other than getting my start button back (thank you gnomes), I don’t see a big change between Windows 10 and 8. Perhaps the differences will become apparent in the next week or two. In the meantime, I suppose I can still reach for extraordinary.

How about I begin by being grateful? Hey, I have my start button back. I can show that gratitude by helping others. Between the slick new graphics and start button, there’s no telling what good stuff I can now cook up, write up or fess up.

Here’s to changing the world and new beginnings. Bon appétit!

Chili Con Carne
chili won’t change the world but it might help turn an ordinary evening into something extraordinary. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

Olive oil
12-16 ounces hot (or sweet) Italian sausage, casings removed
About 3 pounds chuck roast
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons (or more to taste) minced jalapeno pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon (or to taste) chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups beer, preferably dark beer
2-3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup sour cream
Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a little olive oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat. Breaking the sausage into pieces, sauté until cooked through, remove from the pan, drain and cool. When it is cool enough to handle, finely chop the sausage and reserve.

Pat the beef dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If needed, add a little more olive oil to the casserole; add the beef and brown well on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the beef and reserve.

Put the onion, carrot, bell pepper, jalapeno and spices in the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the tomatoes, beer, chicken broth, brown sugar, oregano and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer. Stir in the sausage, add the beef, bring to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Turning the beef once, cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl. A little at a time, whisk 1-2 cups of sauce to the sour cream. Turn the beef again, add more chicken broth if necessary and stir in the sour cream mixture. Return the casserole to the oven and cook for another hour or until the beef is very tender.

Transfer the beef to a cutting board and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Cut the beef into bite-sized pieces and add it back to the sauce. Spoon the chili into bowls and serve with a sprinkle of cilantro.

The chili is best when made ahead. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or up to 3 days. Gently reheat the chili on the stovetop over low heat or in a 350-degree oven.

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One Year Ago – Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard
Two Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Three Years Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Four Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Five Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Six Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Seven Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon

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

How will you show gratitude this fall? Let’s start a conversation.

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

A Cinco de Mayo Special

Fireworks_02Who cares if it’s Monday. Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo! And a great excuse for a little spice and tequila! Put on some Latino music, dust off your blender, start pouring the tequila and cook up some south of the border treats!

Here are a few ideas!

To Start:
A sure crowd pleaser is my Avocado, Black Bean and Tomato Tostaditas . Or maybe you would prefer to keep it simple with some chips, Salsa and Guacamole.

The Main Event:
If you have a hankering for chili try my Tex-Mex Braised Beef, Black Beans & Fresh Corn or Chicken & Black Bean Chili. If you haven’t already guessed, black beans are my favorite. Chili not your thing? How about Pork Mole. I won’t verify its authenticity but it is full of flavor and delicious. Or if the rain clears, you might prefer some Spicy Chicken hot of the grill. Complete the main course with some steamed rice and crunchy Jicama Slaw.

Sweet Treats:
Chocolate was discovered in Mexico so keep dessert simple with a little coffee ice cream and some luscious Death by Chocolate Sauce. Add a pinch of cinnamon to the sauce for a little extra flavor.

Frozen Strawberry Margaritas

1/2 lime
Kosher salt
1 cup white tequila
Juice of 2-3 limes (about 1/4 cup)
Juice of 1 /2 orange
1/3 cup Triple Sec
2-3 cups frozen strawberries
Lime wedges

Rub the outside rims of six glasses with lime and dip each glass lightly into a plate of kosher salt.

Combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, Triple Sec in a blender. Add the strawberries 1 cup at a time and puree until smooth.

Garnish each glass with a lime wedge.

Have a fun and festive feast! Bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

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

Fourteen Things to Do in 2014 & Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup

14_in_2014_01While many people turn to resolutions at the start of a new year, others are taking stock of their bucket list. Some of these buckets are so full that I for one wonder what the heck they’ve been doing for the last ten or twenty or more years. How about you? Are you starting to think that hiking Kilimanjaro or swimming with dolphins is more pipedream than possibility?

Maybe it’s time to take a second or third look at that bucket list. If you need to win the lottery to accomplish your goals, it’s probably time to reconsider. (Especially if you don’t buy lottery tickets; even when the jackpot is over $600 million!) So how about a simple list of fourteen things to do in 2014? And then do them. I’m still working on my fourteen for fourteen but here are a few ideas:

1. Learn something new. Take a course or design your own self-study with a pile of library books.

2. Find a new favorite author. Read reviews, ask friends, family and strangers for recommendations or pick a book by its (gorgeous) (racy) (intriguing) (sophisticated) (you get the picture) cover.

3. Change your look with a pair of brightly colored socks or a new shade of lipstick.

4. Cut your hair or grow a beard. Afraid of the scissors; change your hair color or go back to natural, find a new style or wear a great hat.

5. Get a tattoo?!? Show it to friends or keep it a secret.

6. Dive in and do something that intimidates you. Write a letter to the editor. Send the letter. Hang glide. Go to a party alone. Make a soufflé, Beef Wellington or Baked Alaska from scratch. Wear bright red lipstick or florescent pink socks, out, in public. Talk to a stranger. (A nice compliment is a good way to start.)

7. Every day for a week, get up in time to see the sunrise and go for a long walk.

8. Whether it is a walk-in closet or a tiny cupboard, clean your pantry. Think of the delicious treasures you’ll find. Dried cherries? Israeli couscous? Black beans? Anchovies, Kalamata olives or capers? Whip up a few great dishes with your finds.

9. Slap a new coat of paint on your living room or bedroom walls. Or both.

10. Think positive. When it’s too cold or too rainy to go out, spend the day reading your new favorite author. If you look for the silver lining, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find it.

11. Make a new friend.

12. Celebrate the small wins. When your favorite song comes on the radio, sing at the top of your lungs. When someone holds the elevator for you, thank him with a beaming smile. When you’re running late and every light is green; join the radio in joyful song.

13. Be thankful … for new friends, old friends, strangers who hold elevators, favorite songs, and, and, and …

14. Be happy; maybe not every minute of every day but most of the time.

I wish everyone a wonderful 2014 and bon appétit!

Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
When the weather turns cold or rainy, a mug of soup will warm you to the core. Enjoy!
Serves 8sweet_potato_soup_02

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 carrots, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon or to taste minced chipotle chiles in adobo
1/2 cup dry sherry (optional)
6-8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
Garnish: sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and chopped cilantro or cilantro oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the vegetables in a large roasting pan, sprinkle with cumin, thyme, salt and pepper and drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat. Toss to combine and roast for 45 minutes.

Add the garlic, chipotle and sherry to the pan and toss to combine. Return to the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Let the vegetables cool for about 15 minutes. Working in batches, puree the vegetables with a little broth in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Put the vegetable puree in a large soup pot. Add the bay leaf and whisk in more or less broth for a thicker or thinner soup. Reheat on the stovetop on medium and simmer for on low for 15 minutes.

If you have the time, the soup is best if cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated for several hours. Reheat on medium-low until piping hot.

Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls, stir in a dollop of sour cream, sprinkle with cheddar and cilantro or drizzle with cilantro oil and serve.

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One Year Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnutst
Two Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Three Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Four Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Five Years Ago – Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do your have 14 for 14? 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, 2014

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

A Moveable Feast & Chicken Chili

autumn_leaves_close-upColorful leaves are starting to fall from the trees. There is a bit of a nip in the air and the threat of frost at night. The kids are back at school and football season has begun. From professional teams all the way down to little pee-wee leaguers every weekend is filled with blocks and tackles and all that other football stuff.

Our social calendars have not just changed but been turned inside out and upside down. In many towns Friday night is football night at the high school. Saturdays are filled with college ball, either at the stadium or on television. Sunday night football is sacrosanct. Nothing can come between football fans and the big game, unless it’s a football party.

When it comes to football parties there is nothing like a fabulous moveable feast. Yes, it’s time for tailgating. When I was a teenager we headed up to Hanover at least once during the fall to tailgate and watch Dartmouth play. We had no particular affiliation to Dartmouth except a few friends and neighbors but it was fun to spend a sunny afternoon in Hanover.

Parking in Hanover has always been a challenge, and more so on game day. Our alumni friends always had a secret spot, just large enough to hold a few cars and the people in them. The adults would chat and sip Bloody Mary’s. My brother and his friends would throw around a football. My sister and I and any other teenage girls would find an excuse to drift away. We would wander around the quaint college town, check out the shops and the book store, find an ice cream cone and engage in some boy watching. It was still a year or two before Dartmouth went coed so the town was overflowing with young men.

It’s been a while since I dodged my parents’ tailgating parties. Since those days, tailgating has changed and reached what can only be described as high culinary art. A simple picnic basket with a jug of Bloody Mary’s and a few sandwiches is no longer adequate. Tailgaters now travel with grills, picnic tables and enough party food to feed several hungry football teams. Stadium parking lots are turned into one big block party. It’s sort of like the old fashioned neighborhood you always wanted to call home. The kind of neighborhood where no one locks their doors and everyone is happy to see you.

So what’s in your picnic basket on game day? Do you wrestle with grills, coolers, tables and chairs? Does it take you at least an hour, maybe two, to pack the car and yet another to unpack? If you are looking for a delicious, warm and cozy game day lunch, why not try chili. You can simmer up a big pot at home. Wrap up the chili pot nice and tight in a couple of old beach towels and then slide it into a cooler. The towels will keep the pot from melting the plastic cooler. And regardless of its name, the cooler will keep the chili piping hot. When you get to the stadium, pass around big mugs of steaming chili. Dress it up with a sprinkle of cilantro, a dollop of sour cream and a little cheese. Add a few corn muffins and a batch of your famous brownies and you’ll have a wonderful football feast without a lot of fuss and bother.

Word is that Dartmouth still lacks a giant parking lot near the football stadium and the college has never developed the kind of tailgating culture found at other colleges. I guess it’s hard for a big party to develop spontaneously when you are stuck with on-street parking. I suppose the neighbors might disapprove.

However you spend game day, in the stadium or parked in front of the television, enjoy the game and have fun with the rest of the fans!

Bon appétit!

Chicken  Chili
Make the chili a day ahead and refrigerate overnight to allow its flavors to mellow and mingle. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3 pounds boneless chicken breasts
Spicy Lime Marinade for the chicken (recipe follows)
3 yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
1/2 -1 jalapeño pepper, or to taste, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (28 ounce) can ground plum tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil
Garnish: fresh chopped cilantro, chopped onions, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and corn chips

Marinade the chicken, recipe follows.

Heat a little olive oil in a large flame-proof casserole over medium-high heat. Add the onions, peppers, jalapeño, chili flakes, cumin, cayenne and season with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring frequently,  until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two.

Add the tomatoes, white wine and bay leaf to the casserole and simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the marinade. Grill over medium-high heat or cook in a large skillet over medium high heat until just cooked through; do not over cook. Set aside to cool.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into bite size chunks. Add the chicken to the vegetables. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate over night.

To reheat, set on medium-high heat, cook until it starts to bubble, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve in large soup mugs with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and pass the toppings.

Spicy Lime Marinade
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Grated peel of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime
4 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all the ingredients. Pour over chicken and marinade, turning frequently for 2-4 hours or overnight.

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Do you have a question? An idea, a few thoughts or an opinion you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010