Don’t Jinx It & Lettuce Cups with Stir-fried Chicken & Vegetables

I haven’t seen so many teeth in all my life. Okay, that might be an exaggeration but it’s been just about year since I’ve seen so many and such big smiles. More or less everyone was beaming last Wednesday. At least for a day, it was not just summery, it was a perfect summer day. Blue sky, low humidity and eighty-five degrees, you can’t beat it. And it was only May!

Now here’s the question – what exactly was that perfect summer day all about? Was it a harbinger of more to come, a tease or a blip on the National Weather Service radar? Who knows? It doesn’t really matter. The challenge is simple – DON’T JINX IT. Come on; don’t play innocent. You know what I’m talking about – we’ve all got a million examples, some more memorable than others.

Here’s one … the first time I dressed down for casual Friday. To set the scene – it was long before I reinvented myself and became a plucky freelancer. Only a small handful of women executives worked in my employer’s European operations. I was one of them. On that particular Friday morning, I’d been out the office for at least a week and I was dragging. Half asleep, I grabbed a mug of coffee, threw on a pair shorts and headed out the door. Yes shorts, take your pick; you can blame it on the nineties or jetlag. Anyway, I was no sooner at my desk that a colleague asks me to meet with his client. Oh, and not just any client, a stuffy, British, pinstripe-type and I’m dressed like Gidget on her way to a pep rally.

Need more proof? Well, a few years later I was on the fence, dithering back and forth on whether to stay or leave Geneva. I ferreted around, investigated a few job leads but nothing looked promising. Deciding it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, I upgraded and bought new stereo equipment. Within three months, I was house hunting in California and the stereo was on the Swiss equivalent of Craig’s list.

The list goes on. You finally get the car washed and it rains on the drive home. There’s six inches of new powder and it’s still snowing. You lie, call in sick and head to the mountain. A half mile from the ski slopes, you slide off the road and wreck the car. It’s overcast but you don’t bother bring an umbrella to your kid’s soccer game. It doesn’t rain; it snows. You only run into your arch nemesis or an old flame on bad hair days. You sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000 and wait eighty-four years before winning another World Series. Like I said, the list goes on and on and on.

So what does all this jinx stuff have to do with summer weather in May? Simple, if you want it to last; don’t jinx it! In other words, don’t go running to the hardware store to buy a new air conditioner. Don’t drag the grill out of the garage and onto the patio. Leave the lawn furniture on the screen porch. Don’t swap out your winter and summer clothes. Sure, it’s a pain but day-by-day, dig through your storage containers to find a t-shirt, a pair of shorts and those sandals you love. If you want good weather to hold, you’ll keep tripping over that plastic box at least through Memorial Day. Flag Day, even the summer solstice, would be safer.

For the next month, maybe two, always bring your umbrella and bon appétit!

Lettuce Cups with Stir-fried Chicken and Vegetables
One of my after-the-movies, go-to restaurants took this off the menu a year or so ago. It is a great addition to any tapas-type meal. Time to add it to my regular repertoire. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth or a mix of both
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon or to taste sambal oelek or sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, finely chopped*
1 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
About 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1/4 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
About 1/2 cup roughly chopped toasted cashews
Inner leaves – Boston or romaine lettuce, trimmed

Make the sauce: put the wine, hoisin sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, sambal oelek, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Heat a little vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high heat,
add the onion and carrot and sauté for 1 minute,
add the mushroom and sauté 2-3 minutes,
add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute,
add the chicken and sauté for 3-5 minutes.

Add the water chestnuts and sauce and cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has been reduced down and absorbed, 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and sprinkle with cilantro, sliced scallions, cucumber and cashews. Let everyone help themselves to lettuce and spoon chicken and veggies into the leaves. Fold the lettuce leaf around filling and enjoy.

* You can use ground chicken if you want to save a little time.

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One Year Ago – Crostini with Cucumber, Radish & Feta
Two Years Ago – Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts
Three Years Ago – Rhubarb Crumb Cake
Four Years Ago – A Duo of Aiolis
Five Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Mushrooms & Mustard Sauce
Six Years Ago – Crunch Salad with Apples & Grapes
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Mustard Pork Chops
Eight Years Ago – Rhubarb Crisp
Nine Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Steak

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

What will you do to ensure the sun keeps shining? Feel free to share!

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

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Surviving Mud Season & Vindaloo Chicken

A week ago Monday, the day dawned with about six inches of cement-like snow in the yard. Only the day before, cheery crocuses were blooming and an inch of two of daffodils had broken ground. It was a bit disheartening to say the least and I wasn’t alone in my dismay.

Everyone had a joke. Mother Nature forgot to tell Father Time it was spring. It’s not the 15th of April, it’s 106th of January. After all, if we don’t laugh we might cry. The snow did raise a few hopes. Would it put a damper on next month’s black flies? (Unfortunately no, a hard frost in May will do that but not snow in April.)

I don’t know why these April storms surprise us. Perhaps we are in denial and only pretend to be surprised. After a few decades away, I admit I more or less had forgotten about New Hampshire’s snowy Aprils. However, my return to reality was swift and sure. The last one hundred or so miles of my journey home were in a snowstorm – it was  April 22.

Let’s face it; we live in a land known for its many seasons. In late October or early November, almost-winter begins. It is followed by winter. Winter is a great time for those of us who like to ski or snowshoe. Unfortunately, around the time the lifts close, still-winter or mud season begins. Spring, for all intents and purposes, is nonexistent.

Okay, I will grudgingly admit it. Sometime in late May or early June, we are not-so-blessed with a few days of black fly infested spring. Finally, there is a wonderful burst of summer, followed by a glorious fall. As lovely as these two mini seasons are, they are just that – mini. Together they barely make up a third of the year.

When it comes to surviving mud season, here’s what I got. It ain’t much but it’s about the best I can offer:

Defy all logic and smile. Smile, even if your car gets stuck in the slush or you loose a sneaker in the mud. It’s hard to be unhappy when you are smiling. If you don’t believe me, try it. Still not convinced? Well, then leaf through a pile of old Scientific Americans; the proof is in there somewhere.

Buy a ridiculously colorful raincoat and an even brighter pair of wellies (also known as rain boots.) It’s okay if they don’t match. Both will keep you dry and make you laugh. It’s hard to be unhappy when you are laughing. (See above for proof.)

If you can, get out of town, if only for a weekend or a day. You don’t need to go all the way to the Bahamas or Hawaii for a change. Spend some time in the city – any city will do. When was the last time you visited a museum? It’s been a while hasn’t it? How about shopping and lunch in a smart café? Indulge a bit; you deserve it.

Happy mud season and bon appétit!

Vindaloo Chicken
When New Hampshire turns muddy, I have a yearning for dishes from warmer climates. Curry is one of my favorites. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

6-8 bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil
6-8 tablespoons Vindaloo Paste*
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 carrots, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups (14-15 ounce can) unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup or more chicken stock
1 pound baby spinach
1 1/2-2 cups basmati rice
1/2 cup chopped cashews, toasted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a little oil a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Starting skin-side down, sear the chicken for about 2 minutes per each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve.

Put the Vindaloo Paste in the pan and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Add the bay leaf, stir in the white wine and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

Return the chicken to the pan with any juices and wiggle the pieces down into the vegetables.
Transfer the pan to the oven and cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked-through and nicely browned. Check the pan after about 30 minutes and add more chicken stock if necessary.

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

Remove the chicken from the pan, arrange in a deep serving platter and cover to keep warm.

Return the skillet to the stove and place over medium-high heat. Add the spinach in handfuls, toss to coat with sauce and cook, stirring, until all the spinach has wilted, 2-3 minutes.

Spoon the vegetables and sauce around and over the chicken, sprinkle with cashews and serve with basmati rice.

* You can find Vindaloo Paste in specialty stores, online and in some larger supermarkets … or you can make your own.

Vindaloo Paste
Makes about 1 cup

1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cloves
6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2-4 or to taste fresh bird’s eye chilies, chopped
1 cup loosely pack fresh cilantro
1/4 cup crushed tomatoes
About 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Put the spices and seeds in a small food processor and pulse to combine and grind the seeds.

Add the garlic, ginger, chilies and cilantro and pulse to chop and combine. Add the crushed tomatoes and process to combine.

Add the vegetable oil and process until the mixture forms a smooth paste.

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One Year Ago – I Love Lime Pie
Two Years Ago – Quinoa Salad
Three Years Ago – Latkes
Four Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Five Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Six Years Ago – Espresso Brownies
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Scones
Eight Years Ago – Shrimp with Jicama Slaw
Nine Years Ago – Pork Mole
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The Cruelest Month & Pasta Primavera

In northern New England, April is truly the cruelest month. It is not, to steal from T.S. Eliot, because the month breeds lilacs and stirs dull roots with spring rain. It is because it doesn’t. April is cruel because the chairlift grinds to a final halt, dirty snow lines the highways and byways and cold rain stirs up sand and mud.

Throughout the northern hemisphere, spring has sprung but not in New Hampshire. Here mud season has arrived with a resounding splat. I suppose I could, I should, embrace mud season. After all, April is also tax season. With all that muck, there is nothing to distract me from the mire of all those tax forms.

Hopefully, your situation is not so complex that you will have your nose in your taxes for the next two weeks. April and all its muddy grayness, shouts for an audacious revolt. And by the way, if your taxes are really that complex, it’s time to call in a professional.

So, how audacious is audacious and what kind of mutiny? If you have enough pennies in your bank, the easiest answer is to pack your bag and go somewhere warm. A trip to Florida would probably count as mutinous but hardly daring. A trip to Morocco could be both and at the very least, very interesting. On the other hand, a trip to Finland wouldn’t solve anything.

However, if you are stuck in the New Hampshire drizzle, April is not without hope. Forget your inclination to hibernate. Or if you do stay in, invite a crowd to join you. I imagine that back in the eighties, Martha Stewart encouraged her fans to chase away the mud season blues with a spectacular party.

Martha would cook a wonderful three, make that five, course dinner. The care and details of her table setting would rival a Buckingham Palace butler. Flowers would fill every room of her grand Connecticut farmhouse. She would dress herself in a fabulous little black dress and then-husband Andrew in an impeccable tuxedo. Champagne would flow. Serious talk and laughter would find the right balance for a stimulating and fun evening.

So you see, April doesn’t have to be the cruelest month. Sure it can be soggy; it can make you groggy and more than a little bit cranky. It doesn’t have to. Gray days and drizzly nights can turn you into a hermit. Don’t let them. Brightly colored rain boots are all the rage with the shop-til-you-drop crowd. Treat yourself; they’re cheaper than a trip to Cabo San Lucas and you’ll need them to go shopping for that dinner.

Yes, dinner! In the spirit of WWMD (what would Martha do), how about you fight the April blues by hosting a spectacular dinner party? Of course, you’ll want to skip the big hair and black tie. Times have changed and no one wants to worry about fancy shoes during mud season. Think wonderful food in a relaxed atmosphere. Maybe you’ll try one of those more complicated recipes, something awe-inspiring that you’ve been dying to try but avoiding for lack of time and courage. Or maybe not!

Happy mud season and bon appétit!

Pasta Primavera (Spring Pasta)
A delightful pasta dish to celebrate spring in relaxed twenty-first century style. Enjoy!
Serves 8 for dinner and twice that as an appetizer

 

1-1 1/2 pounds linguine
Olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2-1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into match sticks
1/4-1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed
3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cook the linguine according to package directions, less 1 minute. Prepare the vegetables while the water heats and the pasta cooks.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Add a little more olive oil and the onion to the pan and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and 1/2 of the lemon juice and continue to cook until almost dry.

 

Add the bell pepper and asparagus to the pan, season with salt and pepper and toss and cook for 2 minutes. Return the mushrooms to the pan and toss to combine.

Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the pasta.

Add the pasta, snow peas, lemon zest, remaining lemon juice and a little pasta water to the skillet and toss to combine. Cover and cook on low for 1 minute. Sprinkle with basil, parsley and scallions and toss to combine.

Transfer the pasta to a deep serving platter or individual shallow bowls, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

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

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

Do you love the snow or are you so over it? Feel free to share!

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

Is it spring yet? & Cheesy Eggplant Parmigiana with Spaghetti Marinara

Is it spring yet? As a matter of fact, it is. Don’t believe me? Check your calendar, March 20 is the vernal equinox. I’m sure you figured it out long ago but vernal is just a fancy name for spring; like autumn is for fall. Anyway, the equinox is when the sun is directly over the equator. It happens twice a year, on the first day of spring and the first day of fall. On these two days, daytime and nighttime are each twelve hours long. Well, approximately and somewhere but not here. My sunrise/sunset guide tells me we’ll have twelve hours and eleven minutes of sunshine today. Think of it as a reward for living in northern New England.

Anyway, I’ve started to notice something in recent weeks. While not everyone agrees, there seems to be two types of people who, by chance or design, spend the winter in New Hampshire.

The first group absolutely, positively loves it here. They live to ski, snowshoe and ice skate. These intrepid chionophiles throw caution to the wind and head to the slopes in the middle of a nor’easter. If there is fresh powdah, they are fearless when it comes to slippery highways and byways.

While some might think them brazen or reckless, they can’t contain themselves. There they go, posting selfies on the first chairlift. Do they realize it’s a Thursday? I guess they must. Otherwise, why shout to the world; make that flout that they are working out of the Danbury (or Sunapee) office. (And by the way boys and girls, the world includes that green-eyed tattletale of a colleague and your boss.) In any case, their joy is infectious and their smiles wonders to behold.

The second group stays away from gleeful selfies in the snow. They post pictures of beaches with blue skies and bluer water. Wistful captions read, “Wish I was here!” Sometimes, in a total funk, they share the view from their kitchen windows – a photograph of the fifteen-foot snow bank at the end of the driveway or a video of Sisyphus shoveling the deck. Oh wait, that’s not Sisyphus. That’s their fourteen year old.

Instead of shouting or flouting, they rail and rant, pout and sulk. One minute they are howling, “ENOUGH” and ordering the snow gods back to Siberia. Then, only minutes later, fearing reprisal, they try a new tact and beseech Mother Nature, Jack Frost and Old Man Winter to have pity. Throughout the winter, they ask time and time again, “Why do I live here?”

A few days ago, I shared my Two Types Theory with a couple of friends. They protested and disagreed. Although neither are skiers, both professed to loving New Hampshire in winter. They have no desire to take flight with the snowbirds. A six-month stint in Florida is not on their winter wish list. However, … there’s always a but in there isn’t there … they suggested that a shorter winter without those awful subzero temperatures in January would be nice.

So, here is where I am betwixt and between. I agree that we could all do without the polar vortex or arctic cyclone or whatever you want to call the beastly cold that comes down from Canada. I’m more than delighted with sunny days that make it feel warmer than the thermometer’s readout. However, … here’s my predictable but … I’d be happy if the ski season went until the first of May. There is nothing better than spring skiing when the days are long and the sun is shining.

See you on the slopes and après ski! Bon appétit!

Cheesy Eggplant Parmigiana with Spaghetti Marinara
The calendar says it’s spring but the thermometer and snow in the yard tell a different story. There is still plenty of time to gather friends and family for cozy comfort food. Enjoy!
Serves 10-12

2-3 cups Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)
4 medium eggplants (about 4 pounds), trimmed and cut in rounds
Olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
About 4 ounces mozzarella, shredded
About 4 ounces fontina, shredded
About 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
About 1 ounce Pecorino Romano, grated
24 ounces spaghetti
Additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for the spaghetti 

Make the Marinara Sauce (recipe follows).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the eggplant with thyme, season with salt and pepper and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Turn the eggplant and continue baking until tender and browned. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

While the eggplant bakes, put the cheeses in a bowl, toss to combine and set aside.

Top each round of eggplant with a generous tablespoonful or 2 or 3 Marinara Sauce and sprinkle with the cheeses.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake the eggplant at 375 degrees until the cheeses are bubbling and golden, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot with enough Marinara Sauce to coat. Don’t drown the pasta in sauce. Cover the pot and let the spaghetti sit for about 1 minute to absorb some of the sauce.

Divide the spaghetti among shallow bowls, top each with 2-3 slices of eggplant and serve. Pass additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for the pasta.

Traditional Marinara Sauce
Makes about 3 quarts*

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch or to taste dried chili pepper flakes (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
9-10 cups (three 28-ounce cans) crushed tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons each chopped, fresh basil and parsley

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.

Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the crushed tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and parsley and simmer for a minute or two more.

* You’ll want to make plenty of sauce. It freezes beautifully and can always come in handy.

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One Year Ago – Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms
Two Years Ago – Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
Three Years Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Four Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Five Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Six Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Seven Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you love the snow or are you so over it? Feel free to share!

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

Snow Day & Applesauce Muffins

Who doesn’t love a good snow day? As kids, just the hint of a storm was enough to glue us to the local evening news. We were desperate to hear Don Kent proclaim a Snowmageddon. Back in the day, Don Kent was something of a local hero in the suburbs around Boston. It wasn’t so much his accuracy. I’m sure he got it right (or wrong) as often as anyone else did. It was his enthusiasm. Weather guys love weather, the bigger the better, and Don Kent loved it more than anyone.

Of course, Don Kent didn’t use the term Snowmageddon. He talked about nor’easters and snow showers. The more theatrical terms – Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse and Snowzilla – have only finagled their way into our vocabulary in the past decade. I don’t know about Don Kent but I must say, I kind of like them. And what about the recent bomb cyclone? Certainly, the magnitude of the storm would have been excited Don Kent. I wonder if he would have embraced the colorful, new moniker or stuck with the proper term – explosive cyclogenesis.

Depending on Don Kent’s prognosis, we spent the evening peeking out the windows looking for flakes. My bedroom was well located for storm watching. My window looked out onto the streetlight on the corner. It was perfect for illuminating the falling snow or lack thereof. Throughout the evening, I bounced from homework to window. Little was accomplished and, eventually, it was time for bed. I tried to sleep but the smallest noise had me bolt upright. Was that a plow?

In the morning, Don Kent was back, this time on the radio. We figured he hadn’t slept a wink, but then, neither had I. He’d report snowfall amounts, offer the day’s forecast and finally announce the school closings. Or maybe it was his cohort Arch MacDonald who plowed through all those towns, private schools and daycare closings. Andover, Boston, Cambridge, Framingham, Humpty Dumpty Daycare, Lexington, Our Lady of the Saints, Peabody, Somerville, Watertown, Weston … wait a minute! Did he say Wellesley? He must have! I didn’t hear it.

And so, we were forced to listen to the litany all over again. Only this time a dozen or more cancellations had been added. The list went on forever, a Montessori school in Haverhill, Mother Goose Nursery School, Natick, Wayland and, finally, Wellesley. Phew!

Armed with a PC and linked to the world by the internet, snow days aren’t quite what they used to be. It doesn’t matter; I still love a snow day. It’s still dark outside when I slip into what I like to call my daytime pajamas – leggings, an old turtleneck and an even older sweater. After shoveling snow away from the garage doors and making coffee, I spend the morning doing all those things I would have done at the office. Doing it from home doesn’t change the work just the mood.

Just like a kid, I sneak constant peeks out the window at the falling snow. As the fluffy white stuff piles up outside, the world seems to slow down. Snow muffles the tread of the few cars out on the road. A sporadic plow rumbles by. It passes the house heading west. Minutes later is comes by again, this time going east. A peaceful quiet settles over the neighborhood. It will be a few hours before the plow comes by again.

Whatever needs doing gets done – lots of email, website and social media updates, a few phone calls – they know where I live, a press release and more. While still good, thanks to the internet, snow days aren’t what they used to be.

Have fun in the snow and bon appétit!

Applesauce Muffins
Baking is a great activity on a snowy day. Warm up the kitchen with the delicious aroma of apples and spice. Enjoy!
Makes about 20 muffins

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 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, preferably homemade but store-bought is okay
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Set the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners.

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 until smooth. Add the applesauce and sour cream and beat until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the walnuts and raisins.

Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full with batter. A 2-ounce ice cream scoop is perfect for standard size muffins.

Slide the muffin tins into the oven, bake at 375 degrees for 5 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes more.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Chocolate-Hazelnut Bars
Two Years Ago – Whole Grain Pilaf
Three Years Ago – Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks)
Four Years Ago – Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù
Fove Years Ago – Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Six Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Seven Years Ago – Fettuccine with Escarole, Radicchio & Mushrooms
Eight Years Ago – Cassoulet
Nine Years Ago – Caribbean Fish Stew

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

What do while away the hours on a snow day? Feel free to share!

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

The January Thaw & Dandan Noodles

Is there anything more frustrating that day after day of subzero weather? Ask any skier. You look out the window and it’s a winter wonderland of beautiful snow. Wonderland until you venture out. That’s when you realize that the bitter cold could rival Siberia. Of course, there are a lot of tough dudes and dudettes. They go out anyway but not me. I’ve been there and done that.

Now, don’t get confused here. I don’t stop exercising, I’m too much of a fanatic to quit cold turkey. You can still see me out and about walking around the lake or stomping up a hill on snowshoes. However, no way, no how, will you find me on a chairlift.

That’s not to say I haven’t tried it. I did, my first winter back in New Hampshire. It was one of the coldest Januarys on record. I figured I better get used to my new normal. Dressed like an onion, I threw my skis and boots in the car and headed for the mountain. It was awful. Not only was the temperature on the wrong side of zero but the wind gusts were so strong, I was literally stopped in my tracks. Two runs and I was out of there.

While some have tried to tempt me, I stand firm on my decision to stay close to home on the coldest days. Every time I hear about a chairlift breaking down, I know I made the right choice. Can you imagine the nightmare of being stranded midair in gale force winds and frigid temperatures? Just the thought creates uncontrollable shivers.

All that said, there is something even worse than a month of subzero temperatures. That something is the infamous January Thaw. No, that’s not a typo. It definitely thaw with a capital T. The only thing more heartbreaking than beautiful snow in bitter cold temperatures is watching it dissolve in a drenching downpour.

Not only does the January Thaw wreak havoc with the snow on the mountain, it creates a mess at home. Several years ago, I lost a porch to the Thaw. The weight of the water-drenched snow caused it to cave. On top of that, water tends to seep under the door of the garage in any heavy rain. Add melting snow and, armed with a push broom, I’m on flood watch.

Then again, the Thaw doesn’t stay long, not even a week. It tends to follow a set agenda. First, there’s the buildup. For a day, maybe two, the sun is brilliant in a bright blue sky. Still cold at night, daytime temperatures slowly inch up to maybe twenty-five. Then, there’s the tipping point. Warmer still, the skies cloud over. In spite of the thermometer’s mild reading, there is a chill dampness in the air. A foreboding fog rolls in; that’s when you know. Rain is imminent. Find the rubber boots and get out the push broom.

In less than twenty-four hours, the drenching downpour starts to taper off. Temperatures plummet as the heavy rain winds down. Roadways freeze over. Ski trails become downhill skating rinks. I don’t know about you but I start to wonder, “What did I do to deserve this? Tell me and I’ll never do it again.”

I need some serious cheering up. Bon appétit!

Dandan Noodles
Throughout the winter, frigid cold or chilly rain, I gravitate towards noodles. Far East flavors or Mediterranean flair, I love them all. Add these spicy Asian noodles to your quick supper list. Enjoy! 
Serves 4

8-12 ounces Chinese or udon noodles
Vegetable oil
1 pound ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1-inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons or to taste sriracha 2 tablespoons tahini or smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds or peanuts, toasted and finely chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions and/or cilantro

Lightly coat a large heavy skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high. Add the pork, season with salt and pepper, and cook, breaking the meat up into small pieces, for about 2 minutes. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and sriracha and continue cooking until the pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Add the tahini, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar and stir to combine. Stir in the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, 5-10 minutes.

While the pork simmers, cook the noodles according to package directions and drain well.

Transfer the noodles to a large platter or individual bowls. Stir the sesame oil to the pork. Top the noodles with pork, sprinkle with sesame seeds, scallions and/or cilantro and serve immediately.

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

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

How are you coping with the cold, rain, ice and snow? Feel free to share!

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

Dress like an Onion & Roasted Shrimp & Andouille Sausage

It’s hard to be glamorous when you live in a cold climate. If you’ve ever doubted this undeniable truth, just spend ten minutes watching the Golden Globes or Oscars. Heck, you don’t have to stay up for the awards, just watch the preshow parade on the red carpet.

There’s you, wrapped in a blanket, wearing a double layer of leggings, a turtleneck and a ratty old fleece. Out in Los Angeles, Saoirse, Emma, Meryl and Michelle saunter down the red carpet. They are sleek and beautiful in perfectly fitted gowns. Their hair, long and loose or wound into a fabulous twist, is impeccably coiffed. Back on the sofa in New Hampshire, if you’re not wearing a wool cap, your hair is pulled back in an ancient scrunchie.

Now, it’s all well and good to look like a ragtag bundle of fleece and wool in the privacy of your own home. However, whether you like it or not, you’ll eventually need to go out – if for no other reason than to stock up on milk and cocoa. Plus it’s a good bet that, in spite of the cold, you’re still expected to show up for work.

As if life wasn’t busy enough, we now have to worry about getting to work on time in spite of the deep freeze. Hopefully, your boss understands that everything takes longer in the winter in New Hampshire.

Somewhere in my travels, I was given the excellent advice to dress like an onion. I think it might have been in Italy … as in vestiti come’ una cipolla. Whoever offered this sage advice neglected to add that all those layers take time. Not just putting them on but scrounging around to find them.

Take for instance; the long johns I bought the year I returned to New Hampshire. I rarely wear them but when I need them, I really need them. Then, since nothing seems to fit over those heavy long johns, I need to figure out where I stashed the too baggy pants. The ones I bought by mistake. Let’s hope I didn’t finally toss them in the donate pile. Thankfully, the top layers are easier. First, I pull on one of my many turtlenecks, then add a pullover and finally top everything with big, heavy sweater and scarf.

Of course, those are just my inside clothes. Next comes the adorable hat my niece knitted for me, jacket and gloves. Shoes go into the bottomless bag I call a purse and warm boots go on my feet. In my wishful thoughts, my layering has made me look like a well put together Milanese. In reality, I look like the female version on the Michelin man.

Next, it’s time to get the car started and warmed up. If you are one of those crazy people who parks your car outside in spite of the cold, you need to brush the snow off first. By the way, sorry to call you crazy but, I confess, I don’t get it. You have a garage; why don’t you use it? What on earth is so important that it’s inside while your car faces the elements?

For anyone with the misfortune to live in the northeast without a garage, you have my unbounded sympathies. I’ve been there and it’s not fun. A garage is a relatively recent thing for me but I could never go back. The worst was when I lived on the top of a very cold and windy hill in Vermont. Luckily, I could walk to work. More January days than not, the engine refused to turn over and my car stayed put, admiring the frosty view. Is it possible a car needs to dress like an onion too?

Stay warm and bon appétit!

Roasted Shrimp & Andouille Sausage
Unlike a lot of winter comfort food, this cozy dish doesn’t need to bubble in the oven for hours. It comes together in about 30 minutes and pairs beautifully Sweet Potato Polenta. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound cherry tomatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon or to taste ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Olive oil
1 pound smoked andouille sausage, quartered lengthwise and roughly chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup dry white wine
2-2 1/2 pounds extra jumbo (16-20 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined

Put the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Put the tomatoes, onion and bell peppers in a bowl, sprinkle with 2 cloves minced garlic, the cumin and half of the chili powder and herbs, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss again.

Add the sausage to the vegetables and toss to combine. Divide the sausage and vegetables and spread evenly onto two baking sheets. Roast at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, turn the pans and switch oven positions and roast 10 minutes more.

While the sausage and vegetables roast, prepare the shrimp. Put the remaining garlic, chili powder, herbs and the cumin in a bowl, add 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice and white wine and whisk to combine. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Tossing a few times, marinate for 15 minutes.

Add the shrimp to the sausage and vegetables, drizzle with the marinade and spread everything in a single layer. Return to the oven and roast until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook.

Transfer to a platter or individual plates and serve immediately. The shrimp are a delicious with Sweet Potato Polenta.

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One Year Ago – Tortellini en Brodo con Spinaci
Two Years Ago – Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
Three Years Ago – White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens
Four Years Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Five Years Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnuts
Six Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Seven Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Eight Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Nine 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!

How are you dealing with the miserable cold? Feel free to share!

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