Thinking about Gratitude & Rhubarb Tarlets

A few years ago, I was asked to take a look at an early draft of a job description and share any thoughts or advice. I’m a sucker for that pitch. Tell me, who doesn’t like to spout an opinion or two? Anyway, the job description included an outline of key responsibilities. Nothing stuck out; it was pretty typical for the job at hand.

Next, it described the personal qualities needed to excel at the job. Excellent communication skills, the ability to work independently and problem solve topped the list. I don’t know about you but I’ve never seen a help wanted ad in search of a bad communicator. Furthermore, I’ve yet to hear of a company looking for someone totally dependent on minute-to-minute guidance and instruction. Of course, there was something about technology – like it or not computers are part of life and work.

In other words, it was all pretty standard … with one exception. The person was expected to be grateful. It was a bit vague but, along with a warm and friendly demeanor, something about gratitude was on the list. I immediately put on my contrarian hat or maybe it was my Bolshevik hat and asked, “Grateful for what?” It reminded me of my parents, insisting that I not only eat my peas but like them too. After all, children were starving in Africa.

Now this all happened a while ago – back when gratitude was all the rage. It might have been a sign of the times. The country was starting to find its way out of the mortgage debacle. While not great, the economy was steadily improving. With a sigh of relief, people were thanking their lucky stars that they had a roof over their heads, food on the table and a job to pay the bills.

Meanwhile, researchers discovered that feeling grateful was actually good for you. They figured out that gratitude led to happiness. Perhaps I was too quick to raise those hackles; what employer doesn’t want happy employees? They’re more productive and don’t quit in a huff. Then again, maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe happiness leads to gratitude. I’m not so sure about the whole cause and effect with this psychological stuff.

In any case, it seems to me that gratitude comes from within and can’t be dictated
by an employer. Hopefully, most of us can easily come up with any number of people, places and things we’re grateful for. Let’s start with the basics – a safe place to live, food and water. Now, a decent paying job is usually part of that. An interesting job, one you like or even love, takes it up a notch. I must say having the good fortune to live in beautiful New Hampshire is better than basic. Even when I am harried and rushed, the lake and surrounding hills bring me peace and fill me with happiness.

While they can drive us absolutely, positively crazy, most of us are grateful for our families. I suppose that, if all else fails, they are fodder for a great story or two or more (probably lots more.) Still and all, I don’t think I could do without mine. Same goes for friends. From a fun-filled day to a shoulder to cry on or a new perspective on an old problem, what would we do without our friends. Whether the circle is huge or just a few close besties, we are grateful for each and every one.

When it comes to people and gratitude, I hope that you are grateful for you. Don’t be shy, it’s okay to appreciate, to value and to give thanks to the wonderful person you are. Perhaps you make the world’s best cup of coffee, are a fantastic listener or can touch your nose with your tongue, any and all of that are worthy of thanks and gratitude. Let’s hope your boss agrees!

Feeling grateful for warmer and longer days – bon appétit!

Rhubarb Tartlets
I’m grateful that local rhubarb is ready for harvest. Enjoy!
Makes about 30 tartlets

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed and chopped very fine
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the sugar, corn starch and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the rhubarb, orange zest and Grand Marnier and toss to combine.

Spoon the filling into the tartlet shells, sprinkle the tops with Crunchy Topping and bake until the crusts are golden, about 30 minutes. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing. You may need to use a small knife to loosen the tartlets from the tins. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cream Cheese Pastry Dough
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
2-4 or more tablespoons ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the ice water and pulse until the dough comes together. Remove the dough from the food processor, pat into a ball, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls (about 1/2 ounce each). Place the balls in mini muffin tins and, using your fingers, shape each into a tartlet shell. Freeze the shells for at least 15 minutes.

Crunchy Topping
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Combine the flour, nuts, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine and finely chop the nuts. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand and starts to clump together.

Store extra topping in the refrigerator and sprinkle on your next fruit crisp or crumble.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Zucchini Tacos
Two Years Ago – Grilled Lamb with Fresh Mint
Three Years Ago – Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Four Years Ago – Greek Salad with Grilled Shrimp
Five Years Ago – Asparagus & Radish Salad
Six Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Seven Years Ago – Asian Noodle Salad
Eight Years Ago – Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart
Nine Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Ten Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

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

What are you grateful for? 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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Easter Bonnet & Easter Bunny Carrot Cake

Okay, now we all know that Thanksgiving is all about the turkey, Christmas is all about Santa and presents, Halloween is costumes and candy and Independence Day is fireworks. Now, what about Easter? With all respect, Easter is all about hats and dresses. I note with respect because Easter is often considered to be the holiest of day in the Christian calendar.

Easter marks the end of Holy Week, the end of Lent and the final day of the long Easter weekend. Holy Week commemorates the days and events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ. Easter celebrates the resurrection and the triumph of good over evil.

Like many Christian feast days, today’s Easter traditions are a mix and mingle of many ancient cultures. Centuries ago, Europeans celebrated the coming of spring and warm days with great joy. Warmer, longer days were a relief after months of cold darkness. For Anglo-Saxons and Celts, spring was a time of planting, fertility and renewal. As Christianity spread north, its beliefs, symbols, celebrations and rites collided with pagan traditions.

Over time, this collision created a strange combination. On the one hand, you have a history of fasting, prayer and serious worship. On the other, you find vestiges of pagan symbols of renewal with eggs, new clothing to welcome spring, parades, bunnies, lambs and baby chicks.

My mother was among the millions of America’s suburban women who took their children shopping for Easter clothes. I suppose mothers in urban and rural America took their kids shopping too but I didn’t see it with my own eyes. Like clockwork, back-to-school and Easter forced any and all moms to take a deep breath and, then, a hard look at their children’s clothing. More often than not, everyone had jumped a size, if not two.

Like most younger sisters, my wardrobe was mostly hand-me-downs. However, somehow or other, both my sister Brenda and I received a new outfit in time for Easter. Now, Easter is a strange holiday since it pops up anytime between the middle of March and late April. One year it’s a celebration of spring and the next you’re up early shoveling snow before church. Living in New England, our Easter outfits ranged from little wool suits to sweet cotton dresses. With full skirts, puffy sleeves and lace collars, the dresses were far superior to any chic little suit.

Thankfully, regardless of timing and weather, a bonnet was always included in our Easter ensembles. Bedecked with flowers and ribbons, those bonnets were the highlight of Easter shopping. I’m not sure if they were ever worn more than once but they stayed firmly on our heads throughout Easter Sunday.

I credit those bonnets to a lifelong love of hats. Funny enough, except for wool caps in winter, I rarely don one. Perhaps, I should change that this spring. Why, I could throw on a fascinator or wide brim and make every day a parade. Given the miserable weather we’ve been having, it might not be a bad idea.

New duds or not, have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

Easter Bunny Carrot Cake
For Easter or anytime – carrot cake is always a favorite. Enjoy!
Makes a 9×13-inch cake or about 24 cup cakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon dark rum

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan or line muffin tins with paper liners.

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

Put the carrots, coconut, walnuts and raisins in a bowl and toss to combine. Set aside.

Put the oil and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well combined. Add the rum and beat until well combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the carrots, coconut, walnuts and raisins.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan or fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake the cake for 45-60 minutes (cupcakes for 30-45 minutes) or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Generously slather with cream cheese frosting and serve.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Put the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the vanilla and beat until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and beat to combine. Increase the mixer speed and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Poverty Stew with Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde
Two Years Ago – Coq au Vin au Printemps
Three Years Ago– Moroccan Baked Cod
Four Years Ago– Artichoke Pesto
Five Years Ago– Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach
Six Years Ago– Runners’ Chicken with Spaghetti
Seven Years Ago– Bananas Foster
Eight Years Ago– Tapenade
Nine Years Ago – Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème
Ten Years Ago – Lemon Tart

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

How will you celebrate Easter this year? Feel free to share!

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

The First Day of Spring? & Maple Muffins

Tomorrow is the first day of spring. While the concept is not completely foreign, it will be awhile before we see spring in New Hampshire. Or at least the spring depicted in magazines. You know the one I mean. The spring that has flowers gently bobbing in a warm breeze.

Meanwhile, you can measure the snow in my yard in feet not inches. Instead of spring, the vernal equinox kicks off mud season in New Hampshire. In spite of the calendar, mud season more or less began about a week ago. After what may or may not have been the final snowstorm of the season, temperatures began to climb. Giant snowbanks are starting to shrink. Throughout the winter, slabs of sand-embedded ice have managed to cover every shady stretch of road. Those slabs are now crumbling.

Sit quietly for a moment and you can hear the first sounds of a New Hampshire spring. No, not a flock of red red robins bobbin’ bob bobbin’ along, they’re still waiting for the snow to disappear. The sounds you hear are the constant drip, trickle and even rush of melting snow and ice. Every dip in the road and driveway is now home to a murky pool. Run off flows freely into seasonal creeks. Small, usually slow-moving brooks are gushing with icy water.

Of course, sand and mud are everywhere. Otherwise, we couldn’t or wouldn’t call it mud season. Hardy country people, we rarely bother with fancy shoes. Throughout the winter, we make sure we have a good tread to keep from slipping and sliding on the ice and snow. With the snowmelt, those same shoes and boots keep our feet dry. Only problem, that tread picks up everything in its path and then tracks it all into the house. When it’s cold, that’s a little snow. It melts and we mop it up with an old towel. Now, a trail of sand and mud follows us inside.

Let’s face it, in spite of the mud, we love the change of seasons. It doesn’t matter if it’s messy, we still smile when the weather starts to warm. And yes, warm is a relative term. Every day the temperature is above freezing and the sun is out is a good day. Speaking of sun, we applaud every extra minute of daylight. Pun or not, there’s an extra spring in our step as well as some additional cheer to our greetings.

There’s plenty to make you cheerful. If you haven’t been out, the skiing is fantastic. (Or so I hear, my ankle took the winter off.) There’s smoke coming out of the sap house chimney. Who needs flowers when the sweet smell of maple syrup fills the air? Bets are being placed on the day and time for ice out on the lake. Forget the lottery – you could win a bundle on the Ice Out Challenge!

In addition, while I don’t want to jinx it, when it comes to chores, mud season is one of those in between times. The garden and lawn are covered with snow so no weeding or mowing. As for shoveling, there’s a fifty-fifty chance or better that any precipitation will fall as rain instead of snow. And besides, once mid-March comes around, I’ve been known to leave the snow where if falls. After all, why shovel when warmer temperatures and the sun will (eventually) take care of it?

Here’s to the longer, warmer days and bon appétit!

Maple Muffins
Mud season is also maple season in New Hampshire. A batch of maple muffins will make a wonderful addition to an afternoon cup of tea or Sunday brunch. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 dozen muffins

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup currents
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon dark rum

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the walnuts and whisk again. Set aside.

Put the butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. With the mixer running, slowly add the maple syrup. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and rum and beat until smooth.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.

Use an ice cream scoop or two spoons to fill each muffin cup about 2/3 with batter. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Carrot Salad
Two Years Ago – Irish Lamb Stew
Three Years Ago – Roasted Parsnips with Rosemary
Four Years Ago – Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin
Five Years Ago – Zucchini Pancakes
Six Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Seven Three Years Ago – Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant
Ten Years Ago – Fettuccine with Classic Bolognese Sauce

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

Are you for or against or … the time change? Feel free to share!

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

A Cooking Marathon & Roasted Cauliflower-Cheddar Soup

What a strange winter it has been? Well, strange so far, it ain’t over yet. Yes, we New Englanders like to joke about snowsuits at Halloween. However, what we don’t tell the rest of the world, the snow rarely piles up and it usually melts within a day, maybe two. This year the snow held off until November but it kept coming and coming and coming. Kept coming until December which was unusually warm and rainy instead of snowy.

Now, what will the rest of the winter bring us? Mercifully, January has not given us a whole lot of it’s typical frozen tundra-type temperatures. That said, it could be me but, so far at least, it feels like the month has brought way too many cloudy days. Sure, we’ve had some sun and a couple of real, plowable storms but, mostly, we’ve been plagued with gray skies and what I call nuisance snow.

Since I’m a skier, you might wonder how I could consider any snow a nuisance. Let me explain. Nuisance snow is that inch of fluffy white stuff. It comes with a miserable dampness that makes it feel colder than the actual temperature. Furthermore, that skim of snow is quickly beaten into the pavement and is as slick as ice. In other words, it’s both uncomfortable and an accident waiting to happen.

But when the going gets rough, the tough get cooking! And when it’s really rough, it’s time for a cooking marathon.

Take for instance the other day. I was headed to the supermarket for a gallon of milk. That’s all I really needed. It was snowing so it was slowing going up the hill. As I inched my way to town, a whole bunch of tasty would-be recipes began floating around head. By the time I pulled into the snowy parking lot, I had a list a mile long. In the less than ten minute drive, I developed a hankering for both eggplant and cauliflower. I was betwixt and between curry, an over-indulgent Greek casserole and New England style soup.

Lucky for me, eggplant was on sale and the cauliflower was a beautiful, creamy white. No need to choose, I bought them both plus some greens, a couple of onions and garlic. I remembered the cilantro for curry but forgot the ginger root. And oops, the cheddar for the cauliflower soup. It’s tough to keep track when you shop without a list. A second trip to the supermarket and I was ready to spend a few afternoons in the kitchen.

Here’s how these marathons usually work. First, I get two or three interesting dishes or ideas stuck in my head. Then, I buy too much food. Next, I mull over ingredients and spices and whether to roast, braise, sauté or simmer. More often than not, it’s usually a combination.

At some point, the mulling stops and chopping begins. For the next few days, usually a weekend, I’ll cook enough to feed an army of foodies. As I put things together, I scribble out the list of ingredients and make notes of temperatures and timings. That’s one of the challenges of sharing recipes. You have to write them down.

On the other hand, the best part is inviting guinea pigs over to sample the results. Of course, they generally have to put up with a mini photoshoot. I like to photograph new recipes. Plus, not every dish is a brilliant success. Hopefully, the wine and company make up for any flops.

Wishing you a delicious 2019, stay warm and bon appétit!

Roasted Cauliflower-Cheddar Soup
What could be better than soup on a cold winter evening. Roasting the vegetables gives this soup a rich, deep flavor. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 1 1/2 pounds cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
1-2 red potatoes, about 8 ounces, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, cut in thirds
1 large onion, cut in eighths
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8-12 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
1 cup half and half (optional)
1 bay leaf
About 6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
Garnish: fresh chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the vegetables in a large roasting pan, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with thyme and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and coat.

Stirring and tossing 2-3 times, roast at 375 for about 30 minutes. Add 4 cups of stock, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and return to the oven for 15 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Remove from the oven and cool for about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the vegetables with a little stock in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Put the cauliflower puree into a soup pot, add the remaining stock and bay leaf and place on the stovetop. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the half and half and cheddar and reheat to steaming.

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

To serve: ladle the soup into bowls or mugs, garnish with chives and serve.

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One Year Ago – Dandan Noodles
Two Years Ago – Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup
Three Years Ago – Tomato Soup
Four Years Ago – Savory Galette with Spinach, Mushrooms & Manchego
Five Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Roasted Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomatoes
Six Years Ago – Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash
Seven Years Ago – Piri Piri Prawns
Eight Years Ago – French Lentil Soup
Nine Years Ago – Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup
Ten Years Ago – My Favorite Chili

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

Thanksgiving – Still a Marathon & Roasted Sweet Dumpling Squash

Before you start reading …
..if you are looking for Thanksgiving menus, click here. On the other hand, if you’d rather build your own menu by picking and choosing from a long list of Thanksgiving-friendly recipes, that list is here.

Recently a friend reminded me of a piece of advice she’d once received from a food writer. She noted that the timing had been uncanny. In the run up to Thanksgiving, her guest list kept growing. From six to nine and then another four and another two. There seemed to be no end to hungry friends and family looking for a spot to land. If you haven’t guessed already, the food writer was me. The advice? Thanksgiving is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.

I developed this philosophy ages ago. Over the years, I’ve thrown a bunch of Thanksgiving dinners. At least a handful of times, I was both surprised and pleased that every single invitation was accepted – and then some. No one had a conflict, another commitment or somewhere else to be. Not only that, they all seemed to have a brother or cousin or old family friend in town.

Cooking dinner for twenty in a tiny kitchen, leaves you with two choices. Freak out or pace yourself. I chose to pace myself. Over the years, I moved to bigger digs with better kitchens but I still paced myself. Now, I have my beautiful dream kitchen and, yes, I still pace myself.

It all comes down to a realistic menu and comprehensive shopping and to-do lists. And by comprehensive, I mean absolutely everything. Yes, set aside a time to set the table. Yes, include the obvious on your shopping list. If you’re like me, you can forget to buy milk if it’s not on the list. So, unless you have a crush on the produce guy and want go back time and time again – write it down.

By the way, you’ll need two shopping lists, one for each trip. That’s right, two shopping trips. Make the first one in the next few days. That’s when you buy anything with a long or long-ish sell-by date like flour, hardy vegetables and wine. A day or two before Thanksgiving, do a quick fly-by for the turkey, perishables and whatever you forgot on the first go-round.

As for that to-do list, be sure to be realistic with timing and deadlines. Once you map everything out, the reality of the space-time continuum will be clear. Sorry, no matter how good you are at multi-tasking, you can’t singlehandedly run the local 5K Turkey Trot, set the table, bake three pies, peel the potatoes and make the stuffing between seven and ten on Thanksgiving morning.

Anything you can do ahead – do ahead – way, way, way ahead. If you can freeze it, cook it now. Not to brag but I whipped up my family’s favorite Butternut Squash Soup last weekend. Five quarts are ready to go in the freezer. Set the table on the Sunday. Make the cranberry sauce on Monday. If you are making a veggie casserole or two, get them done on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. If your brother loves to smash potatoes, let him have at it. He can peel them too. If your neighbor is famous for her apple pie, invite her to bring one along. She’ll be flattered. Thanksgiving is all about sharing. Sharing a meal and sharing at least some of the joy of cooking it.

Revise your plan if the situation changes. Wait a minute, make that when the situation changes. Have you ever known a Thanksgiving to go without a hitch? The dog will steal the turkey. The supermarket will run out of butternut squash or cranberries or whatever. Your uncle’s car will break down and he’ll need a lift. Out of blue, a long-lost cousin will show up on your doorstep. Meanwhile, your niece’s kids will get the flu and they’ll cancel at the last minute. You’ll break your ankle. (I’ve got that one covered – did it a few weeks ago.) It will snow and the power will go out … or something like that.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and bon appétit!

Roasted Sweet Dumpling Squash & Onion
A quick and easy squash recipe to add to your Thanksgiving repertoire and beyond. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 3 pounds Sweet Dumpling Squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 medium red onions, halved and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar

Arrange the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.

Put the rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and paprika in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the squash in a large bowl, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat and toss. Sprinkle with half of the herb-spice mix and toss again.

Spread the squash in a single layer onto rimmed baking sheets. Roast the squash for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees.

While the squash roasts, put the onion in a large bowl, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat and toss. Sprinkle with the remaining the herb-spice mix and toss again.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven, give the squash a toss and arrange the onion around the squash. Switching pan positions from top to bottom and vice versa, return the vegetables to the oven. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and roast for 15 minutes or until tender and browned.

Can be prepared in advance, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until piping hot.

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One Year Ago – Cheesy Pumpkin-Sage Biscuits
Two Years Ago – Butternut Squash Tartlets
Three Years Ago – Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad
Four Years Ago – Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing
Five Years Ago – Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crostini
Six Years Ago – Pumpkin Cheesecake
Seven Years Ago – Rustic Apple Croustade
Eight Years Ago – Cranberry Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Decadent Cheesy Potatoes
Ten Years Ago – Broccoli Puree

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

Are you a host or a guest this Thanksgiving? Either way, do you have a plan? Feel free to share!

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

November is National Caregiver Month & Oven Braised Moroccan Chicken & Vegetables

National Caregiver Month, what does that even mean? Throughout the year, more than forty million people care for a family member. More often than not, the person receiving the care is elderly. If your only grasp of multi-generational living is the Waltons, well, it’s not always that rosy a picture. Sure, the story of three generations living and loving under one roof was a huge hit. Who didn’t drop everything on Thursday night to watch? However, in today’s reality, multi-generation households often mean one grandparent or the other or both are troubled by Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease, stroke or heart issues.

Family members are then pressed into action. Most caregivers are women. They are wives, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, sisters and nieces. A few husbands, fathers, sons, grandsons, brothers and nephews pitch in for good measure. The only payment they receive are the smiles of appreciation from their loved one.

Why do these brave women and men deserve a month of recognition? And by the way, who says they’re all that brave anyway? Well, to steal from an old saying – you can’t truly understand the life of a caregiver until you walk a mile in her shoes.

After she developed Alzheimer’s Disease, my dad was my mother’s caregiver. In Mom’s case, it was a slow and steady decline over twenty years. The first ten years were difficult. The last ten were something else. As Mom’s infirmities worsened, Dad developed back problems and then a post-surgery infection. It is not at all uncommon for caregivers to fall ill with something or other. Stress can be quite devious.

Dad’s prognosis of six to eight weeks to heal stretched out to eight months. Then there was another year and a half to fully recover and get back on track. His caretaking days were over. Mom needed round-the-clock care and moved to assisted living. Since he couldn’t drive and could barely walk, I moved in with Dad to help. I can only describe those first few months as drinking from a firehose.

There are as many scenarios as there are families. Your loved one can have physical difficulties, cognitive issues or both. The problems can be mild or severe. Onslaught can be fast or slow but, in most cases, the situation doesn’t improve with age. Although, my mother did not recover (you don’t recover from Alzheimer’s Disease), my dad did. No matter what seemingly never-ending ups and downs, caretaking requires constant adjustment to an ever-changing new normal.

Some caregivers find that their new normal includes the unimaginable. No one ever expects to help a spouse or a parent shower, dress, use the bathroom or eat. Although rarely discussed, helping with these simple daily tasks is quite real. Add frequent trips to the doctor, pharmacy and emergency room and you’ll understand why the days are never ending.

Oh, and by the way, most caregivers have a day job, full or part time, along with caring for their loved one. Morning comes early and bedtime is late. There are no days off. Finding yourself exhausted, on deadline and the verge of tears at eleven o’clock at night is part of the new normal.

Some families, like mine, have the good fortune to be able to add professional help to the mix. Others go it alone. My heart goes out to all the families that go it alone. I can not imagine.

Hug a caregiver this month and bon appétit!

Oven Braised Moroccan Chicken and Vegetables
Cozy comfort food is perfect for the rainy days of November. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8-12 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
8-12 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
Olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 cup or more dry white wine
2 cups or more chicken broth
12-16 ounces baby spinach or kale
Lemon or lime wedges, for garnish (optional)
Basmati rice

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.

Put the oregano and spices in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the chicken with half of the spice mix. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the vegetables in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining spice mix and toss to coat and combine.

Turn the chicken, scatter the vegetables in the pan and add the wine and broth.

Return the pan to the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Adding more wine and broth if necessary, continue roasting until the chicken is cooked through and golden and the vegetables are tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes more.

While the chicken braises, cook the rice according to package directions.

Remove the chicken from the pan, lightly cover and reserve.

A few handfuls at a time, add the spinach to the pan and toss to combine and wilt. Add a little broth if necessary and return to the pan to the oven for 3-5 minutes or until piping hot.

Transfer the vegetables to a deep serving dish or individual shallow bowls, top with chicken and serve with basmati rice and lemon or lime wedges.

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One Year Ago – Warm Brie with Cranberry Chutney
Two Years Ago – Butternut Squash Tartlets
Three Years Ago – Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad
Four Years Ago – Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing
Five Years Ago – Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crostini
Six Years Ago – Pumpkin Cheesecake
Seven Years Ago – Rustic Apple Croustade
Eight Years Ago – Cranberry Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Decadent Cheesy Potatoes
Ten Years Ago – Broccoli Puree

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

What’s your favorite pasta and sauce? Feel free to share!

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

Back on Cook’s Corner – Cheesy Polenta with Fresh Corn

Looking for a cozy side dish for fall? I’m back on Cook’s Corner today with a delicious suggestion.

Quick before it’s all gone, give my Cheesy Polenta with Fresh Corn. (You can use frozen corn if you can’t find fresh.)

If you missed me live – you can watch the clip!