Life in a Small New England Town & Pumpkin-Sausage Ragù

A bunch of years ago, some friends were visiting from Switzerland. It was the Summer of the Gnus. I did what everyone else in town did with guests that summer. I took them on a walking tour of Main Street to see the colorful cows. It was a lovely day, warm and sunny. We parked at the top of the town green, stopped for coffee along the way and turned around at the farm. We chatted and admired and chatted some more.

About the time we turned around to head back to the car, Bob remarked, “At least a dozen people have greeted you by name.” I’m pretty sure he was exaggerating but he continued, “I could walk up and down the Rue du Rhone all day and not see anyone I knew.” Or maybe he mentioned the Rue de l’Hotel-de-Ville, it was a while ago. Anyway, there is nothing anonymous about living in a small town. No, not everyone knows your name but a good many do. And for those that don’t, there’s a pretty good chance they know someone in your family.

With or without houseguests, October is a wonderful time to meander up and down Main Street. Just about now, the foliage is at its peak. It’s cool enough to wear a sweater but you don’t need to pile on a parka and heavy boots. If you grew up in New England, a sweater has got to be your favorite piece of clothing. Southern girls can have their fluffy, flowery dresses, Californians – their bikinis and let those Midwest farm girls wear their jeans or overalls or whatever. Gimme a cozy sweater any day. Cotton, wool or cashmere, they’re all good.

Today, only a handful of gnus continue to strut their stuff on Main Street. The majority were adopted and are now hidden away in backyards. Luckily, October brings a brand new diversion – the invasion of the Pumpkin People. So please, you must take an hour to wander up and down Main Street. If you want; you can make a few stops along the way and support the local economy. Buy yet another sweater or sip a coffee in the sunshine. It’s all good.

If you’re feeling particularly energized, you can take it around the bend. There are a few more Pumpkin People on Newport Road. While nothing was up as I rushed to meet my deadline, the hospital can usually be counted on for a nice display. For anyone counting steps, the round trip from the top of the Town Green to the hospital and back is about three miles.

It’s more than worth the trip. The creativity of our merchants is impressive and you will be absolutely charmed by the Cub Scouts’ delightful display. From Dorothy and her three friends sashaying down the yellow brook road to Cookie Monster and Elmo, there something for everyone.

As important, you’ll see lots of smiling people. Real people that is, not the pumpkin head kind. There’s a very good chance that at least one real person will compliment your sweater. The combination of wonderful foliage, pumpkins and smiles will remind you of why small New England towns are so special.

Happy fall and bon appétit!

Pumpkin-Sausage Ragù

This cozy, country-style ragù is great with pasta on a chilly night. Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • 2 pounds eating pumpkin* or winter squash, seeded, peeled and cut in small dice (3-4 cups)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, cut in small dice
  • 1 1/2-2 pounds Italian sausage – sweet or hot or a mix, casings removed and cut into small pieces
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups or more chicken broth
  • 1-2 tablespoons cognac
  • 1 cup or more half and half
  • 1 pound hearty short or long pasta, try rigatoni, fettucine or tortellini
  • Garnish: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the pumpkin in a large skillet, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes.

Add the onion and sausage to pumpkin and toss to combine. Return to the oven for 15 minutes.

Add the garlic, herbs and nutmeg to the pan and toss to combine. Stir in the white wine, 1 cup chicken broth and the cognac and return to the oven.

After 15 minutes, give the ragù a stir, add more chicken broth if necessary and return to the oven. After another 15 minutes, stir in the half and half and return to the oven for a final 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to package directions.

Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the ragù and toss to combine. If the pasta seems dry, add a little of the pasta water or more chicken broth or cream. Cover and cook on low for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to a deep platter or individual shallow bowls and serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano.

* The pumpkins you carve for Halloween are stringy and tasteless, not good for eating. Try a sugar, cheese or peek-a-boo pumpkin. Then again, you can’t go wrong with butternut squash.

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

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Turn on the Heat & Maple-Ginger Apple Crisp

The autumnal equinox assured one and all that fall was here. It’s only been a few weeks, but the weather has not been particularly fall-ish. Although there’s been a couple of frosty mornings and a few cool days, for the most part, it feels a lot like August. I tend to let my early walks gage the change of season. It is an annual cycle of shorts to leggings to double leggings then back to a single pair and shorts again. Except for a one-day blip, I’m still in shorts.

The shift to leggings is only one of a good many sign of the changing seasons. A few fall indicators, maybe more than a few, kick off before the equinox. I’m not sure if that’s quite right but who am I to judge. Anyway, there is a long list of clues to let you know it’s fall. For some, it’s the first flash of foliage. For others; it’s when Halloween candy hits supermarket shelves. Football fanatics loudly applaud the first game and, yes, preseason counts – ask any fan.

Then again, perhaps the first pumpkin spice drink is your harbinger of autumn. In case you are wondering, no, I don’t imbibe in pumpkin spice lattes or pumpkin spice martinis. Yes, I know they are wildly popular. But don’t look to me to embrace all things fall with a frou-frou drink in one hand and a pumpkin in the other. I need both hands for the pumpkin.

That’s not to say that I am without wicked indulgences. I bake a fabulous (if I do say so myself) pumpkin cheesecake every Thanksgiving. And yes, it’s packed with traditional pumpkin pie spices plus a tablespoon of cognac. If you don’t have cognac you can substitute rum.

Anyway, after a summer in shorts and T-shirts, most fall firsts are about cooler temperatures and getting cozy. While I stick to my basic skim-milk-no-foam latte, I do look forward to the first fire in the fireplace. I’m also happy to slide the first plump chicken into the oven to roast. Of course, I’m delighted to bring home the first local apples and bake up something wonderful. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include stirring up the first pots of soup and chili as well as marinara and/or Bolognese.

As much as I love cozy, there is one first I do my best to avoid for as long as possible. That’s the first time I put on socks. As for chilly evenings by the lake, well, I’ve been known to sport naked ankles while wearing a down parka.

Perhaps the toughest fall first decision is WHEN TO TURN ON THE HEAT. I avoid the inevitable acceptance that it is no longer summer or Indian summer or early fall for as long as possible. It was easier when I lived abroad in rented apartments. True or not, the rumor among expatriates was that the Swiss powers-that-be had decreed a standing date. Every October, it might have been the third Monday or the twentieth or sometime around then, the heat came on.

September could be record breaking cold or October unseasonably warm; it didn’t matter. The radiator began to clang right on schedule, never a day early and never a day late. Make the mistake of timidly asking for heat before the designated day and the landlord would simply tell you to put on a sweater. Too hot? Well, open the window.

Back in New Hampshire, I have no landlord to regulate the thermostat. My bank balance determines when I finally click the heat on. For now, I’m putting on a sweater.

Have a cozy fall and bon appétit!

Maple-Ginger Apple Crisp

Everyone loves apple crisp and (pardon me while I pat myself on the back) my latest version is incredible! Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • Crumble Topping, recipe follows
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5-6arge, firm-tart apples – I like Granny Smith, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2-3/4 cup (more or less depending on your sweet tooth) maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons calvados or apple jack or rum

Make the Crumble Topping. Refrigerate the topping while you prepare the fruit.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 2 quart baking dish.

Put the apples, raisins and ginger in a large bowl, sprinkle with the spices and toss to combine. Drizzle with maple syrup and calvados and toss again until well combined.

Transfer the apples to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with Crumble Topping. Put the dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 1 hour or until the top is brown and the apples are tender and bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla or ginger ice cream.

Crumble Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold, butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

Put the flour, brown sugar, salt and spices in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the oatmeal and continue pulsing until the topping comes together in little lumps.

I like to make a triple or quadruple batch of Crumble Topping and freeze the extra. For a last minute dessert, I prep fruit and sprinkle with topping. It’s in the oven in minutes.

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

Fireflies & Other Fragments & Sriracha Aioli

Summers past and present are a kaleidoscope of this and that. Snapshots of ordinary life and historic events fill both real and imaginary scrapbooks. Or in the case of my family, instead of scrapbooks, we have decades of photographs jumbled together in an old pine chest. On top the pictures, each of us has hundreds, maybe thousands, of mental images of summer days and nights. From the July night when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon to an afternoon catching tadpoles, we each have a vast collection of stories. Some are filled with intricate details; others are mere fragments.

When you are little, there is something inexplicable thrilling about being outside after dark on a warm summer night. I suppose it’s the natural byproduct of living under the cardinal rules of suburban life. Close to the top, if not the top, was – drop whatever you’re doing and go home as soon as the streetlights come on.

On weekends and during vacations on the Cape, that rule was suspended. We did our best to spend every waking minute outside. Forget the kitchen. Still in our jammies, we ate our morning cereal on the backsteps. Lunch was a picnic on the beach. Every night was a cookout with dinners hot off the grill. Soon after the s’mores or blueberry pie were finished, the grownups were driven inside by the mosquitos. No, not to the living room, it was too hot and stuffy. Instead, they settled onto the screen porch to catch a breeze and wait, in vain hope, for the house to cool down.

Meanwhile, we kids were told to stay outside and play. Yes, during the school year, the exact same parents threaten to ground us for life if we didn’t report home the minute the streetlights came on. There is something quite magical about summer. Normal rules are suspended and everyone relaxes. Anyway, before you go thinking that we were somehow imperiled or neglected, forget about it. We were within easy earshot of the porch. Malaria does not creep that far north and, if they existed in New England at the time, no one had ever heard of West Nile virus or zika. For our part, mosquitos or not, we were more than delighted to be out under a starry sky.

Besides Nana always gave us each a punk. No, I’m not talking about some yahoo hoodlum or one of those wild bands from the seventies. This is my Nana, we’re talking about. No, she gave each of us one of those incense sticks that are supposed to keep the mosquitos away. We would run around, waving them in the air. If luck was with us, no one got burned and mosquito bites were few.

Some nights we skipped the punks and hunted fireflies instead. Fireflies don’t like punks. However, they did like to flit and flirt in the seagrasses down the road. Nana gave us mason jars and Pop used an old awl to punch holes in the lids. In our excitement, someone was sure to trip over a piece of drift wood or something or other and end up sprawling. Even so, a summer didn’t go by that we didn’t catch a few fireflies

The thrill was in the catch so we set them free before gathering up our stuff and trudging home. Grateful for their freedom, some of our fireflies showed their appreciation by tagging along. Just as my eyes were about close for the night, a little green light would blink and bring me back from the edge of slumber. If I was lucky, two or three would wink back and forth until I finally fell asleep.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Sriracha Aioli
Aioli is the perfect condiment or dip for summer cookouts. Skip the ketchup and try aioli on your next burger or slather it on grilled corn. Use it instead of tartar sauce with seafood or as a dip for fresh veggies. The list goes on and on. Enjoy!
Makes about 1 1/4 cups

2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-3 tablespoons Sriracha
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cup mayonnaise
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the garlic, sriracha, lime zest and juice in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Add the mayonnaise and whisk until smooth. Season with salt and whisk again.

Let the aioli sit for 30 minutes at room temperature to combine the flavors. If it’s a hot day or you’re making ahead, let the flavors mix and mingle in the refrigerator.

Cover and store left over aioli in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli
Two Years Ago – Blueberry Bread Pudding
Three Years Ago – Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Four Years Ago – Cheesecake Brownies
Five Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Six Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Eight Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Nine Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Ten Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

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

What do you put on your burger? Ketchup? or something else? Feel free to share!

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

Silver Lining & Hoisin Roasted or Grilled Salmon

There’s been a lot of grumbling over the past several weeks. That whole April showers thing got old really fast. I think I heard or read somewhere that it was the rainiest or at least one of the rainiest Aprils in history or in the last ten years or something like that. May hasn’t been much better. Then of course, it snowed last week. Not at my house, I’m below the magical 1,000 feet. Still, snow covered every roof, lawn and field up in town.

I can’t help but think that there is something wrong with that picture. There’s got to be. The long Memorial Day weekend is just days away. Memorial Day is when the summer people come up and sweep out their cottages. It’s when everyone puts their boats in the water. It marks the first cookout of the season. It’s when a few crazy kids dare to see who will take the first swim.

With all the clouds overhead, there has got to be a silver lining or two in all this cold and damp. So, as they say in kindergarten, let’s turn those frowns upside down and find that silver lining.

First and foremost, I don’t know if you noticed but the cold has kept those despicable black flies at bay. By now, packs of males are usually in your face and driving you mad. As for the females, they normally would have taken a chunk or two out of arms, legs – any bare bit of skin. So far, I’ve seen the odd fly buzzing about but with no real purpose. One rag-tag bunch was clustered around my car the other day. However, they seemed too cold or despondent to swarm.

Second, fire danger is down. Before new leaves pop, last year’s dead grass and leaves provide great fuel for fire. All this wet and damp is keeping the woods and our houses safe.

Third, I found a wonderful new pair of rain shoes – polka dot. An added bonus, they are very comfortable. I have another pair that are fabulous to look at but not so great for walking around. Who knew that rain shoes were a thing and that you might actually need them? If you prefer, you can go with rubber boots. They are also wonderful and come in a variety of fantastic colors and prints.

Fourth, a rainy day is a great excuse for some downtime. Leave those great looking, new, rain shoes by the door, put your feet up and read a book. If that seems too decadent, maybe you have a bag of yarn that’s begging to be knit into a sweater or a several boxes of old photographs that need to be scanned.

Fifth and final, in spite of the chilly weather, the peepers are out! They bring glorious memories of spring evenings of days gone by. If you haven’t done so already, bundle up some evening soon, make yourself a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine and sit on porch and listen to the chorus of tiny frogs. While you are at it, take a moment to reflect on childhood games of kick-the can and hide-and-go-seek played in the waning light of early evening to the song of the peepers.

Enjoy springtime in New Hampshire – or whatever this is and bon appétit!

Hoisin Roasted or Grilled Salmon
Whether you cook in or out, this sweet and savory fish dish will be perfect for the holiday weekend. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon sriracha
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 salmon fillet(s) (about 3 pounds)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Toasted sesame seeds
Lime wedges

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Put the hoisin and soy sauces in a bowl, add the wine, honey, sriracha and garlic and whisk to combine.

Place the salmon skin side down on a sheet pan and season with salt and pepper. Spoon about half the hoisin mixture onto the salmon and spread over the fish. Slide the pan into the oven.

Roast the salmon at 450 degrees for 6-8 minutes, spoon and spread the remaining sauce over the fish. Roast until cooked through, an additional 6-8 minutes.

Slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and, leaving the skin behind and carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter. Sprinkle the salmon with toasted sesame seeds and serve with lime wedges.

Alternatively,

Preheat the grill to high.

Brush the flesh side of the salmon with the hoisin mixture, season with salt and pepper and place the fish, skin side up, on the grill.

Depending on the thickness of the fish, grill for 5-6 minutes. Carefully turn the salmon with a wide spatula, brush with more of the hoisin mixture and grill for 3-5 minutes more or until cooked through but not dry.

Remove the salmon from the grill and place it on a cutting board. Slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and, leaving the skin behind and carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter. Drizzle with the remaining hoisin mixture, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with lime wedges.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Asparagus with Lemony Tarragon Butter
Two Years Ago – Lemony Green Rice
Three Years Ago – Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatziki & Greek Salad
Four Years Ago – Ginger Shortcakes with Rhubarb Compote
Five Years Ago – Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
Six Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Seven Years Ago – Asparagus Crostini with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese
Eight Years Ago – Wheat Berry Salad
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’s your silver lining this rainy spring? Feel free to share!

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

Shoo Flies & Asparagus with Lemony Aioli

The street sweeper came by in the middle of last week. With all the rain in April, I think it was a bit behind schedule. Anyway, the combination of the sweeper and Mother’s Day signals the end of mud season. Unfortunately, that means black fly season has arrived. In other words, hardly-spring has morphed into sort-of-like-spring or, maybe, spring-bites.

Mud and flies are fundamental to our two-part spring. Sounds awful but it’s not too bad. With longer and warmer days, it’s a happy time. Or at least mostly happy. Okay, make that happy when/if it doesn’t rain every day for a month. Anyway, moving on. With mud season in the review mirror, trees are budding, daffodils and tulips are bobbing in the breeze and people are sneezing.

The second phase of spring in New Hampshire raises a big question – how to cope with those d#$%m black flies? There are two parts to the issue. The first is the females. These vampires really know how to take a bite out of life. Bloodthirsty dames, they will attack any exposed skin. Depending on your luck or lack of, you are left with itchy bumps or oversized welts.

Now, stop for a minute and think of the tragedy here. After months wrapped in layers of fleece and down, it’s finally warm enough, or almost, for T-shirts and shorts. We are soooo ready to soak up a little natural vitamin D. Sorry, the black flies have a different idea. Instead of the cold, we need to cover up against these beasts. By the way, pants and a long sleeve shirt aren’t enough. Covering up includes your ankles, wrists, hands, face, neck and scalp. If you don’t have one, be sure to get one of those nets that goes over your head. Believe me, it’s a wonderful look.

Now for the male black flies. Happily, they don’t bite. Instead, they flit from flower to flower, sipping nectar. Unfortunately, they do not have an insatiable appetite. Once they’ve had enough, they look around for someone to pester. Like silly boys in middle school, they buzz around and get in your face. Annoyance, sometimes to the point of insanity, rather than pain is the operative word here.

So, here’s the scenario, it’s finally warmed up. If you’re lucky, the sun is out. All you want to do is spend the day outside – hiking, gardening, paddling your kayak, sitting in a café – the list goes on and on. Stepping outside, you are met by a swarm of biting and buzzing flies. What to do? Here are a few hints –

  • Go out in the middle of the day. The flies are apt to be napping or whatever they do when they aren’t pestering you.
  • Black flies congregate in and around running streams. Unlike mosquitos, they like moving water so take your paddling to a quiet pond or lake.
  • They’re not that fast, so trade in your hiking boots for a bicycle and out run them.
  • Wind is your friend. Flies have trouble tracking you down on a breezy day. If you are planning a few hours outdoors and have some flexibility, check the weather report.
  • Stick with light colored clothing. Not only is it more spring-like but dark colors attack flies.
  • Try a natural repellant and reapply frequently. I like lavender but some people swear by vanilla. About lavender, it’s not infallible. At some point, the flies will figure out that you’re a person and come back to bite, buzz and annoy.

Happy spring and bon appétit!

Asparagus with Lemony Aioli
One of the first vegetables of the season, who doesn’t love asparagus? Steamed, roasted or grilled, add a quick and easy aioli for a delicious first course or side dish. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pounds (more for fanatics) asparagus, trimmed
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Forget the pencil thin asparagus. Sure, they look elegant but the nice, fat spears have the best flavor and texture. Steamed, roasted or grilled, asparagus are best cooked until tender-crisp. Cooking time will vary depending on thickness.

To steam: put about 2-inches of salted water in a large skillet or sauté pan and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes.

To roast: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast in the oven for 8-12 minutes.

To grill: Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high. Put the asparagus in a large dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange the asparagus on the grill, cook for 1-3 minutes.

To Serve: Arrange the asparagus on a platter or individual plates. Serve warm or at room temperature with Lemony Aioli.

Lemony Aioli
Makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in small bowl and whisk to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to combine the flavors. Whisk again and serve.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Moroccan Chicken with Chickpea Salsa
Two Years Ago – Pissaladière
Three Years Ago – Tabbouleh
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado
Five Years Ago – Grilled Balsamic Vegetables
Six Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Seven Years Ago – Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Eight Years Ago – Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Nine Years Ago – Feta Walnut Spread
Ten Years Ago – Bruschetta with Grilled Vegetables & Gorgonzola

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

How do you deal with black flies? 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

How to Avoid a Power Outage & Chicken Soup Florentine

When we were little kids, an approaching snowstorm was cause for excitement. With any luck, school would be cancelled. Yes, we did love those snow days. As it so happens, I still do. Com’on, who doesn’t like to spend the day in leggings and a ratty, no-longer-allowed-in-public turtleneck?

Now, I grew up in suburbia where power outages were rare. A snow day meant we could hang out in our PJs and watch television or read books until Mom sent us outside to build a snowman. As a would-be grownup, I can still hang out but a movie binge only works if the power stays on.

My neighborhood generally loses power a couple times a year. It happens when heavy snow takes down a tree which in turn takes down a power line. Sometime, instead of snow, a monster wind knocks them down. Or a frigid rain leaves a thick coat of ice on the lines, causing them to snap. Finally, and thankfully less frequently, some yahoo drives too fast and takes out a pole.

Just like a kid with inside-out and backwards PJs and ice cubes down the toilet, I’ve developed a series of rituals to ensure the lights stay on in spite of an approaching storm. I suppose none of this would be necessary if I invested in a generator but what’s the fun in that?

These rituals are not foolproof but, heck, they worked for the last two storms. Feel free to join me. For any hope of success, you must complete all the steps. The order doesn’t matter but completeness does. Just think, you might save your neighborhood from a power outage. Here goes:

Have the power company’s number handy so you’re ready to call the minute the lights go out.

Fill at least three large buckets with water. You’ll need it to refill the toilet after flushing. Fill several jugs or pitchers with water for drinking and cooking.

Run the dishwasher – even half-full. You’ll want plenty of clean dishes if the power goes out.

Do any urgent laundry. Of course, you define urgent but, if it were me and I was down to my last pair of leggings, I’d do a load.

Take a nice long shower. You want to be clean too.

Rummage around and locate every flashlight in the house. Check the batteries and stock up as needed.

Have candles ready as well as matches. Dinner, even in a power outage, tastes better by candlelight.

Don’t be left incommunicado – charge your phone. While you’re at it, charge your tablet and laptop.

Make soup. Whether the snow is gently falling or the wind is howling, there is nothing like curling up in front of the fire with a good book and a mug of soup.

And, just in case the power stays out for a couple of day … have plenty of wine on hand.

It worked last week. Hopefully, it will next time! Bon appétit!

Chicken Soup Florentine
Lights on or off, this delicious soup is great on a cold, winter evening. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
1 1/2-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch or to taste dried pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 or more quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind* (optional)
1 pound whole mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1 pound baby spinach

Heat a little olive oil in a large soup kettle over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from the pot and reserve.

If necessary, add a little more olive oil to the pot. Add the onion, celery and carrot, sprinkle with thyme and pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.

Return the chicken to the pot, add the stock, wine and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut or shred it into bitesize pieces.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a skillet, add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned.

Return the chicken to the pot and add the mushrooms. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

This soup is best when made in advance to this point. If you have the time, cool the soup to room temperature and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

If the soup is too thick, add more stock. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the spinach and stir to combine and wilt. Simmer for 2-3 minutes and serve.

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

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One Year Ago – Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon
Two Years Ago – Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad
Three Years Ago – Sausages with White Beans
Four Years Ago – Chocolate Panna Cotta
Five Years Ago – Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage
Six Years Ago – Cheese Fondue
Seven Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Eight Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Nine Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Ten Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello

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

What are your favorite snow day rituals? Feel free to share!

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