Fall Foliage Weekend Special

autumn_pleasant_lakeOh my gosh and golly, New Hampshire is just stunning! Stunning, there is no other word for it. Chilly in the morning, a magical mist rises from the lake. By mid-morning, the sun is warm and the sky is blue, the perfect backdrop for the brilliant red and gold leaves.

At the end of the day, cozy up with a few good pals and a delicious bowl of chili! Here’s a yummy menu to try this weekend …

Forget the same-ol’ same-ol’. Start with a tasty crostini. If you haven’t yet, you try my Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts or Mushroom Crostini. Sound good?

Now for the main course. Chili is a great idea. Make it early and then enjoy the day. Forget that bowl o’ red (or not). It’s fall, embrace the flavors of the season. How about a batch of my Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans? It’s autumn in a bowl! Add a simple salad of greens with one of my Classic Vinaigrettes and my Double Corn & Cheddar Muffins.

What about dessert? Well, you can go fancy-cozy with Maple Mousse with Apple Compote or cozy-cozy with Apple Crisp. I’ll let you choose.

Have a colorful weekend and bon appétit!

What are your plans for the 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

Columbus Day Weekend Special

pleasant_lake_fall_04The long holiday weekend is upon us. The neighborhood is starting to fill up with summer people. The street and lake will hum with activity. My part-time neighbors will spend a few last days in paradise before heading south again. Beach chairs, kayaks and life jackets will be stowed and one last hike in the hills will be enjoyed. With sunshine, brilliant foliage and blue sky, it is a great time to enjoy life. After all, Columbus Day has strong ties to the Italian-American community. When I think of Italians, I can’t help but think of la dolce vita, the good life.

Here are a few ideas for a dolce vita harvest dinner:

Start with a beautiful antipasto platter. Set out some beautiful cheeses with a basket of tasty, artisanal crackers. Next, add some delicious Artichoke Pesto, Tapenade, Chicken Liver Pâté and/or Caponata for a delicious start to your feast.

Now to the table for a light and bright salad. Maybe you’d like to try my Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula Salad or Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad. Now for the main course – pasta of course! What to suggest? How about Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash, Italian Chicken Stew with Penne or Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes?

Now, what’s for dessert? Everyone loves a classic. For that you can’t beat Cardamom Plum Tort or Tiramisu.

Have a wonderful weekend and bon appétit!

What are your plans for the 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

Columbus Day Weekend & Cardamom Plum Tort

Elkins_Dam_Foliage_02The Columbus Day weekend is just days away. Although Columbus Day is a federal holiday, less than half the states celebrate and many companies treat it like any other Monday. As far as I can figure, Columbus Day has lost some of its luster. I could be wrong but the holiday seems to have regressed into not much more than a good excuse to buy a cheap mattress or shoes at a big discount.

Whoa bucko, let’s be careful there. Let’s not go disparaging Columbus Day. That goes double if your company gives you the day off or you’re married to an Italian. Columbus Day was a hard fought holiday. Although it was first celebrated in 1792, Columbus Day did not become a federal holiday until 1937. President Roosevelt’s proclamation was largely due to the tireless lobbying of the Knights of Columbus and Italian-Americans.

Admittedly, Columbus Day is fraught with controversy. From all or at least most accounts, Columbus was a nasty guy. His treatment of the indigenous people he met in the Caribbean as well as his crew was atrocious. Many cities and even a few states have changed the name and focus of the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day, Native American Day or Discovery Day. I’m good with that. Let’s settle this controversy quick because early to mid-October is a wonderful time for a long weekend.

For one thing, it’s still warm or at least warmish. Whether you want to march in or watch a parade, go for a marathon bike ride or visit a pumpkin patch, you can do it without dressing up like the Michelin man. For another, the leaves are starting to turn. No one but no one does fall foliage like New Hampshire.

Of course this year, we’ll have to contend with more than a few politicians making the rounds. With the election just weeks away, they’ll be at parades and harvest festivals. One or two might even show up in a pumpkin patch. I doubt any will make the mistake of checking out a corn maze. There’s too much at stake to risk the indignity of getting lost in a field of corn. Instead, the pols will be offering up sound bites, shaking hands and kissing babies. Let’s hope that the endless grind of campaigning doesn’t get the better of them. Heaven forbid someone starts biting hands and shaking babies.

For anyone living in New Hampshire, Columbus Day is a reminder that cold weather is coming and coming soon. As a midpoint between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, it is a good time to get your fall To-Do list together. Besides tracking down pumpkins, it’s not a bad idea to put the kayak away, run the weed-wacker around the garden and maybe plant some bulbs. While the long weekend is not a hard and fast deadline for these chores, I suspect we are all starting to feel the looming threat of an early snowfall. Those first flakes may not be hours or days away but the state is famous for Halloween ice and snow.

Regardless of how you spend the day, biking, weed-wacking or shopping, you’ll want to end it with a great meal. Both the holiday and the harvest can inspire you. Let your taste buds travel around the world and back again. After all, Columbus was from Italy and he was trying to get to the Far East when he landed in the Bahamas. Take your pick of any of these great cuisines or mix it up.

Have a fabulous weekend and bon appétit!

Cardamom Plum Tort
This melting pot dessert combines plums from Italy and cardamom from India. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Butter and flour for the pan
1 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
10-12 Italian prune plums or other purple plums
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a deep dish pie plate.

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

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined.

Add the dry ingredients and beat on low until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Cut the plums in half lengthwise, remove the pits and quarter, again lengthwise. Put the plums in a bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice and toss to combine. Add a little sugar if the plums are particularly tart.

Arrange the plums skin side up in concentric circles on top of the batter. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm, plain or with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Easy Microwave Popcorn
Two Years Ago – Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil
Three Years Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Four Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Five Years Ago – Lobster Mac & Cheese
Six Years Ago – Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup
Seven Years Ago – Soupe au Pistou
Eight Years Ago – Mulled Cider

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

How will you spend the long holiday weekend? Feel free to share.

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

Welcome Autumn & Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing

Fall_Early_Morning_Pleasant_Lake_03Thursday is the first day of autumn. While winter often feels interminable, summer is fleeting in New Hampshire. Spring can best summed up in two ugly words: mud and blackflies. On the other hand, autumn is our shining glory. Fall is a great time to be a tourist in your own town and state.

Not sure how to go about being a tourist at home? Here are a few suggestions:

Climb a mountain – or a hill if you prefer. Enjoy our beautiful foliage up close and personal. Stay close to home or try one of the mighty 4,000-Footers. You are sure to discover all sorts of interesting flora and, perhaps, some fauna as well.

Pick some apples – Fall and apples, the two just go together. Pick a bushel or a peck; you’ll want plenty for applesauce, apple cake, pie, crisp, pancakes, muffins … apple just about everything!

Take a covered bridge tour – With a grand total of fifty-four, there are lots of bridges to choose from. Whether you decide to see them all or a just a few, they are an interesting part of our architectural and engineering history. (Besides, many are located near excellent restaurants and/or superb ice cream parlors.)

Visit a country fair – Has it been years (or never) since you admired a prize pig or giant pumpkin? Don’t worry; the fair season is not over yet. There is still plenty of time to enjoy this age-old tradition.

Take in a festival – Then again, maybe craft beers or an excellent chili is more to your liking. If that’s the case, bring your appetite to one of the many festive, fall, foodie events around the state.

One last swim? – Mornings are chilly but the lake is still surprisingly warm. This combination of warm and cold creates a thick layer of fog. When the rising sun starts to burn through the mist, the lake is magical.

Well, maybe just one last paddle – If you’ve put your speedo away for the season, you might want to tour the lake in your canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard.

Hit the outlets – Our outlet shopping is world famous. Whether you desperately need a new pair of warm boots for winter or desperately deserve a gorgeous cashmere sweater, you’ll find it all at the outlets … at bargain prices!

Learn some history – Enjoy the sunshine and a little of our past at one of New Hampshire’s historic villages. Interested in rural life? Stroll through the grounds of the New London Historical Society or Muster Field Farm. Want to learn more about the Shakers? Head to Enfield or Canterbury.

Visit the farmers market – You still have a few weeks to meet some modern day farmers at one of the local markets. While you’re there, pick out a pumpkin, stock up on squash and Brussels sprouts and enjoy the last of the corn.

Have a fabulous fall and bon appétit!

Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing
Who knows? This tasty cake may become your new fall favorite. Enjoy!
12-16 servings

Butter and flour for the pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup homemade or unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
Brown Butter Icing (recipe follows)
Garnish: vanilla or ginger ice cream

Set the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch springform pan, line the bottom of with parchment paper and butter the paper. Dust the pan with flour and tap out any excess.

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

Put the butter and brown sugar in large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on high speed until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the flour mixture in 2 batches and mix until just combined. Add the applesauce and mix until just combined. Fold in the walnuts and raisins and pour into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan onto a wire rack. Carefully remove the springform collar. If you like, you can flip the cake, remove the springform base and parchment paper and then flip the cake onto a platter. If all that flipping makes you nervous, slide the cake with the springform base onto a platter.

Spread the Brown Butter Icing onto the top of the cake and let it drip down the sides. Serve at room temperature with a scoop of ice cream.

Brown Butter Icing
4 tablespoons butter
About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 or more tablespoons sour cream

Put the butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

While the butter bubbles, sift the confectioners’ sugar and spices together.

Leaving any burned bits behind, pour the brown butter over the sugar and spices, add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon sour cream and whisk until smooth. A little at a time, add more sour cream if necessary. The icing should be thick and smooth but a little runny so it will drip down the sides of the cake. Cool for 5 minutes and then use immediately.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Applesauce Scones
Two Years Ago – Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts
Three Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Four Years Ago – Chicken Parmagiana with Spaghetti Marinara
Five Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Six Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Seven Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Eight Years Ago – Oktoberfest Sausages & Sauerkraut

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

How will you vacation in your hometown? Feel free to share.

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

What We Like about Hospital Days & Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus

Hospital_Days_Fair_Rides_04My mother always said it was better than the 4th of July and second only to Christmas. What could it be? Certainly not Presidents’ Day, although it did offer up a long, ski weekend. In spite of the lovely foliage, it wasn’t Columbus Day. And no, it wasn’t Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Halloween or even Thanksgiving. It was Hospital Day!

By some odd coincidence or maybe it was fate, Hospital Day fell in the first week of our first summer vacation on Pleasant Lake. Between the lake, the view of Mount Kearsarge and Hospital Day, my mother thought she’d died and gone to heaven.

While the lake is still crystal clear, the mountain is as majestic as ever, Hospital Day has seen many changes. For instance, Hospital Day was just that one day and it was always on a Tuesday. Now it starts on Thursday and goes clear through Sunday with a triathlon. For our first Hospital Day, there was no midway or triathlon or battle of the bands. However, there was a bride doll raffle, a white elephant table and an auction.

So, while my mom may sorely miss the white elephant table, there is a lot to like about these always new, always changing and improving Hospital Days.

First and foremost, most mothers (and mine would agree) like Hospital Days because that they don’t have to cook. After all, it is summer and vacation time. You can start your day at the Pancake Breakfast, enjoy hot dogs and burgers with the Rotary Club at lunch and supper with the Lions Club at their barbeque. Besides not cooking, moms can shop ‘til they drop at the craft show and jewelry sale. Even better, they can dance ‘til they drop at Band Night and swim, bike and run the triathlon.

On top of pancakes, fair food and barbeque, Dads will like the great cars at the Car Nutz Cruise-In. There will be raffles, giveaways, live music and great company at the Meet the Chamber event. The few that like to dance will go for Band Night; the rest will be dragged along by their wives. Athletic types will participate in the triathlon. Less athletic types will rue the day they signed up for the triathlon.

Kids pretty much like everything about Hospital Days. And what’s not to like? There are rides on the midway and carnival games as well as cotton candy and way too many wonderfully awful treats to mention. Or is that awfully wonderful? I’ll let their mothers decide.

Little littles can bring their Teddies to a clinic. All kids can dance and bigger ones can be embarrassed by their parents at Band Night. There will be alpacas to pet and Humane Society animals to meet and greet. Speaking of meet and greet, kids can tour the firehouse, climb on the engines and visit with the firefighters.

Everyone loves the parade. I may be prejudice but the Hospital Days parade is definitely better than most. It is everything a small town parade should be. With a marching band, a team of unicyclists, homemade floats galore and lots of antique cars, fire engines and a motorcycle or two, it is the definition of old fashioned fun and schmaltz. It’s my favorite part of Hospital Days.

Enjoy all the great fun summer has to offer. Bon appétit!

Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus
Delicious with fresh veggies or pita chips, this hummus might just become your new favorite hors d’oeuvre. Enjoy!
Makes about 3 cups

beets2 medium, about 8 ounces, beets, peeled and roughly chopped
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon each finely chopped thyme and rosemary
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2-3 drops or to taste sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
1 can (about 2 cups) white beans
Extra virgin olive oil

.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Beet_White_Bean_Hummus_04Put the beets on a sheet pan in a single layer, drizzle with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the beets for about 10 minutes.

Add the onion and garlic and more olive oil and balsamic vinegar if necessary. Toss to coat and, stirring once or twice, continue to roast for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly caramelized and tender.

Transfer the vegetables to a mini food processor, add the herbs and let the veggies cool for about 10 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and the lemon juice and pulse to chop and combine.

Add the beans and pulse to combine. 1-2 tablespoons at a time, add extra virgin olive oil and process until more or less smooth and well combined. Check for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper to taste.

Let the hummus sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to combine the flavors. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Cucumber-Mint Agua Fresca
Two Years Ago – Double Corn & Cheddar Muffins
Three Years Ago – Blueberry Clafouti
Four Years Ago – Blackberry Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt
Five Years Ago – Brown Sugar Yogurt Gelato
Six Years Ago – Red Pepper Dip
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Chicken, Shallots & New Potatoes
Eight Years Ago – Barbecue Chicken

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

What is your favorite sound of summer? Feel free to share.

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

International Women’s Day & Mini Tarte Tatin

Nana_Grant_Mom_Nana_Westland

Today is International Women’s Day. “What’s that?” you may ask. Well, it’s a day to celebrate women; particularly working women. Although it started more than a century ago in New York, IWD is far from top of mind. Gift shops and pharmacies haven’t put up special racks of IWD cards. It will be business as usual at the post office and the banks. Don’t expect your male colleagues to organize a special lunch, drinks after work or even a cake. Although, this international holiday is celebrated all over the world, you’ll find little if any hoopla in this country. Too bad, there’s a lot to celebrate.

Anyway, fifteen thousand garment workers, many of them newly arrived immigrants, launched the first International Women’s Day. They marched through the Lower East Side and rallied at Union Square on March 8, 1908. Their goal was equal economic and political rights. By today’s standards, their demands seem more than reasonable. Days were long and life was tough for garment workers. They spent sixty, eighty or more hours per week in crowded, poorly lit factories with no heat in the winter and no air conditioning in the summer. In spite of the long hours and awful conditions, women earned $7 maybe $8 per week; about half of what men earned. On the political side, suffragettes had been asking for the vote for more than fifty years. In 1908, the Nineteenth Amendment was still more than a decade from ratification.

I don’t plan any demonstrations or marches today. Instead, I’d like to celebrate some of the women in my life. First, there is the great grandmother who built and ran her own business. Nana Grant was an immigrant with a few years of elementary school education when she moved to Boston. Widowed at a young age, she had a three-year-old to provide for. She opened a tiny store and sold penny candy, buttons, ribbons, needles and thread. She sold enough buttons and bows to send her daughter to private school and college. My niece Gillian must take after her great-great grandmother. She too runs a small shop but she sells wellness in the form of herbs and tinctures.

Then there is my mother, who battles late stage Alzheimer’s disease. Every day, she provides a lesson in resilience and grace. Quite simply, Mom is the kindness person I know. In spite of her disabilities, and they are significant, she greets everyone with a smile. Her laughter and smile are wonderful medicines. They won’t cure her Alzheimer’s but they always makes me feel better.

Another niece, Michaela, begins her first post-college job this week. It’s not as if she’s never worked. She’s weeded gardens, babysat, served beer in a sports bar but, with this new adventure, she starts her career. And an admirable one at that; Kaela will be working in alternative energy.

Whom will you salute today? What acts of courage and determination, what achievements will you celebrate? Perhaps you will toast women who have risen to the top of their field: powerful CEOs and politicians, talented athletes, actors and musicians or brilliant authors and artists.

Or perhaps, like me, you will raise a glass or word of praise to someone closer to home. The sister who helped a generation of children learn to care for the earth along with their letters and numbers. The grandmother who made jam tarts with you and sparked a lifelong interest in cooking. Our lives are filled with family, friends, teachers and neighbors. They offer support, all kinds of lessons, hugs and reality checks. Some stay a short time, while others are, at least in spirit, with us forever.

Young and old, here and gone, I raise my glass to my women friends and family, may you each thrive and revel in a life well lived. Bon appétit!

Mini Tarte Tatin
While this recipe has its origins in French baking, I’ve made it my own by combining the spirit of my Nana Nye’s jam tarts with my mother’s apple pie. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 tablespoons butter
8 tablespoons sugar
2-3 pounds apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8ths
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Sweet Pastry (recipe follows)
8 (6-8-ounce) custard cups

Make the Sweet Pastry dough (recipe follows).

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put 1/2 tablespoon each butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in the bottom each custard cup. Toss the apples with spices. Arrange the apples in the cups, packing them tightly in concentric circles. It’s okay if the apples stick up above the rim of the cups.

Put the cups on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes (the fruit will settle slightly). While the apples bake, roll out the dough and cut in rounds about an inch larger than the custard cups. Refrigerate the rounds until ready to use.

Remove the tarts from oven and lay a pastry round on top of each. Return the tarts to the oven and continue baking until the pastry is golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the tarts to a rack and cool for 10 minutes.

To serve: place a plate on top of each custard cup and using potholders to hold the cup and plate tightly together, invert each tart onto a plate. An apple slice or two might stick to the cup; carefully unstick them and place them on the tart. Serve warm with vanilla or ginger ice cream.

Sweet Pastry
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold
2-4 tablespoons ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and shortening and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.

Print-friendly version of this post.

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

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

How will you celebrate International Women’s Day? Feel free to share!

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

El What? & Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms

foggy_morning_PLWell, this certainly is very odd, isn’t it? This time last year, we were shivering and shaking. Not with fear, mind you. It was the unbearably cold polar vortex giving us the shakes. This year El Niño has taken over. I for one am wondering when, if ever, we’ll get some snow. Yes, I know we had a slick and slippery ice- and snowstorm a week or so ago. Call me selfish but I’d like some more. Please.

Now as I understand it, El Niño means the boy in Spanish. Since this funny weather generally starts in the weeks leading up to Christmas, some say it refers to the birth of Christ. I don’t believe it. For snow- and ski-loving New Englanders, El Niño is hardly a benevolent spirit. Schoolyard bully would be a more fitting description.

Beyond the simple translation, El Niño refers to a periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean and the meteorological havoc it causes. The warm Pacific waters lead to above average temperatures out west. Both California and the Gulf Coast tend to be wet; as in very, very wet. Temperatures are also higher to the north, including New England. Doubters may protest, noting the handful of cold days over the last month or so. However, it’s only been a handful and even the chilliest days have been far from the blistering, don’t-even-think-about-going-outside-bitter-cold of last winter.

Anyway, my California nieces are happy for rain after four years of drought. On the other hand, my snowbird, golf-playing dad in Florida is not so tickled. Frankly, I’m a jumble of mixed emotions. Our local ski areas are doing their best to make snow but almost balmy temperatures and worst, rain, continues to thwart them.

However, in the spirit of living on the bright side, this strange and unseasonable weather is certainly good for …

My daily walks are definitely more pleasant, especially when the sun is shining. Without needing to don layer after layer to keep warm, I’m out the door faster. Why, I even wore shorts (bright red of course) on my walk around Pleasant Lake on Christmas day. The roads are clear so no worries about an inelegant slip or fall. Why there is hardly enough ice to cover the lake! Could a midwinter cruise in the kayak be next?

Paying the propane bill is no longer a cause for nightmares. And no, it’s not because I’m wearing my ski parka and three pairs of sweatpants in the house. Yes, I know that oil and gas prices are down but it’s more than that. A warmer winter means we need fewer gallons of propane to stay nice and toasty.

Finally, after pushing the snow blower around my driveway for ten years, I decided to take a break this winter (and every other winter from now on). Yes, I threw my usual frugal caution to the wind and hired someone to plow the driveway. Far from a budget buster, the plow has only been by twice. Since he cleared out a messy mix of snow, ice and rain, I was very happy to stay inside, safe and warm. An added bonus: my brand new, bright yellow, hardly-used shovel is sure to last an extra season, maybe two.

Think snow and bon appétit!

Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
In case you are planning an El Niño themed celebration, these stuffed mushrooms will make a great addition to your next tapas or dinner party. Enjoy!


Makes about 3 dozen

About 6 ounces Spanish chorizo*, casings removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
About 3 1/2 ounces (1 cup) finely grated Manchego cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
36 mushrooms (large enough for 1-2 bites), wiped free of dirt and stems removed
Freshly chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil 1-2 baking sheets.

Put the chorizo in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high. Add the onion to the skillet and sauté until translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.

Add the onion and spinach to the chorizo and toss to combine. Let sit for a few minutes for the onion to cool. Add 3/4 cup grated Manchego and toss again.

While the onion cools, put the breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup Manchego and thyme in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add 1-2 teaspoons olive oil to the breadcrumb mixture and stir to combine.

Assemble the mushrooms: season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Generously fill the mushrooms with the sausage mixture. Set the mushrooms on the prepared baking sheets and sprinkle with the cheesy breadcrumbs.

Can be done ahead to this point, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake at 400 degrees until the mushrooms are tender and the tops are lightly brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a serving platter, let sit for about 5 minutes, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

* You can use hot Italian sausage if you cannot find Spanish Chorizo. Remove the casings, put the sausage in a small ovenproof skillet with a little water, chicken broth or white wine. Roast the sausage at 375 degrees, turning once or twice, until cooked through and lightly browned, 20-30 minutes. Cool completely before pulsing in the food processor.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens
Two Years Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Three Years Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnutst
Four Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Five Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Six Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Seven 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!

What about you? What do you think of this crazy El Niño? Feel free to share!

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