More Winter Weekend Special

Sun on Tuesday, raining on Wednesday, blustery winds on Thursday and polar express weekend – it’s a typical almost spring week in New Hampshire. It seems that every time I get a free morning to ski – either it’s blistering cold or the wind is blowing an arctic gale. It’s making me cranky!

What to do? Last weekend I spent some time in the kitchen experimenting with shrimp curry and making black bean soup.

With frostbiting temperature, I guess I’ll be back in the kitchen this weekend. What about you? Would you like to come over for a kitchen party? No one ever accused my kitchen of being spacious so maybe a potluck is a better idea? Maybe you’ll host your own. Host or guest, here are a few suggestions:

Appetizers to bring along or make together! Dip into some Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus while you flip Savory Blinis and then top with smoked salmon and caviar or whip up some Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard.

Salads to toss! Roasted veggies are a great addition to winter salads. Roast the vegetables and make the vinaigrette in advance. A helpful friend is sure to step forward to put it all together. Choose from my Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad, Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad or Mixed Greens with Roasted Mushrooms.

Bring on the casseroles! Definitely make ahead, a casserole bubbling in the oven will cut down on the kitchen chaos. My Poverty Casserole gets high marks from hungry skiers. Maybe you’ll go with a classic like Decadent Mac & Cheese or Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach (or maybe … Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna).

When in doubt, ask your favorite baker to bring dessert. You might suggest a simply delicious Carrot Cake, an over the top Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake or a fabulous Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart.

Have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2017

A Magical Turn on the Ice & Tortellini en Brodo con Spinaci

pl_ice_17Looking back, we can all recall magical times. It could have been a day or a year when by some fantastic good fortune, everything came together. It could be as fleeting as a happy night on the beach, drinking beer with friends while the northern lights danced above. Perhaps a year in Spain or Montana still makes you smile. Maybe it was one unforgettable winter when your love life, job, haircut and the ski conditions were all spectacular.

About this time every year, I remember a few magical weeks on Pleasant Lake. It all started to come together in December. I was a senior in college. After taking my last final, I headed home to our little brown house in the woods near Pleasant Lake. Unlike past Christmas vacations, the week was not filled with glorious snow and fun on the ski slope. Snowmaking was still on the wish list at King Ridge and December reigned cold, calm and dry.

Like many schools, mine had what was called the January Plan. For about three weeks, at school or away, students worked on a special project. Some stayed on campus and watched movies; others went to Florida to count alligators or studied flora and fauna from a chairlift in France. Students loved it; their parents not so much. Dad still rants about the waste of time and money.

Anyway, it took three projects to graduate. Having done my three, I had a few extra weeks of vacation. I picked up a few bucks working the holiday rush and after-Christmas sale at a local clothing store. I slept late. Mom and I took a quick trip to Florida to check on my grandparents. All in all, it should have added up to a rather boring month.

Would have; except for the lake. While the snow drought put the kibosh on skiing, that combination of cold, calm and dry created something wonderful on Pleasant Lake. It was so cold that the lake quickly developed a thick layer of ice. It was so calm that the ice was as shiny and smooth as glass. It was so dry that there wasn’t a flake of snow or drop of rain to mottle the smooth surface. It was perfect.

A day or two after New Year’s, I found my skates and headed down to the beach. Mount Kearsarge loomed majestically over a massive expanse of ice. Almost two miles long and close to a mile wide, it was bigger than any rink and I had it all to myself.

Although cold, the sun was shining when I stepped onto the ice. After a few tentative glides, I found my skating legs and took off. It was exhilarating. Taking a turn around Blueberry Island, I skated from one end of the lake to the other. I explored nooks and crannies along the shore. The ice was so clear, I could almost see, or at least imagined I could see, trout swimming under my feet.

As beautiful as it was, the huge expanse of ice was also a bit terrifying. The ice warbled, creaked and groaned. Was something happening? Something I should know about? As I made my way down the lake, I came across long cracks in the ice. An art major, I knew nothing of the shifts that ice makes with changing temperatures. My active imagination wondered if one of those cracks might expand and swallow me. Active imagination or not, it was too glorious to stop so I continued skating.

The start of the new semester and the inevitable January thaw came much too soon. I headed back to school on a foggy, gray day. But somewhere packed among the clean clothes, Bean boots and ice skates, I brought along the lasting awe and wonder of a few magical weeks on the ice on Pleasant Lake.

Here’s to a magical New Year. Bon appétit!

Tortellini en Brodo con Spinaci
Pasta in a hearty broth is the perfect supper after a day on the ice. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1-2 carrots, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
About 12 cups chicken stock
1 rind from a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano* (optional)
2 pounds tortellini
12-16 ounces baby spinach
Garnish: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat a little olive oil in a soup kettle over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté until the onion starts to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, season with paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes more.

Raise the heat to medium-high, stir in the wine and cook, stirring frequently until the wine has reduced by about half. Stir in the stock, add the herbs and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or longer.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated.

Bring the broth to a rapid boil, add the tortellini and cook according to package directions.

Carefully transfer the tortellini to shallow bowls. Stir the spinach into the broth and cook until it wilts, 1-2 minutes. Ladle the broth and spinach over the tortellini and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

* While the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind is optional, it makes a world of difference!

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One Year Ago – Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
Two Years Ago – White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens
Three Years Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnuts
Five Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Six Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Seven Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Eight 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 are your New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

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

Enjoy the Peak & Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans

fall_leaves_02There is a closely guarded secret in northern New England. It’s not like one of those deep, dark family secrets. You know the type – maybe your uncle is ex-KGB or your grandparents were illegal aliens. Heck, maybe you haven’t paid taxes in a couple of decades or have an email server in your basement. Whatever it is, you’re probably okay as long as you don’t run for office.

New Hampshire’s secret is the foliage. Not the fact that we have it and it’s glorious. No, our secret is all about timing. All those people who crowded our highways and byways over the long weekend; they missed it. The peak, at least in my neighborhood, is rarely if ever on the second weekend of October. As long as Hurricane Matthew doesn’t take a turn and strip all the leaves from the trees, the colors should be at their most glorious this coming weekend.

Now that you know the truth, what are you going to do about it? How will you celebrate our bright and brilliant countryside? The peak comes and goes in what seems like instant so you don’t have a lot of time to ponder. Before you know it, the golden days of October will disappear. Is there any debate that New Hampshire is at its worst in November?

First and foremost, get out and about. Take a walk through the woods for an up close and personal foliage tour. Nervous about ticks? Take a walk through town, any town. Is there anything more New England than an old white church framed in scarlet and gold again a bright blue sky? The lake is magic this time of year. When the water is still, it is like glass. A canoe or kayak paddle is definitely in order. Maybe you’d prefer to hop on your bike and cover more ground. Or get in the car and go further still. However you travel, bring a festive picnic or plan to stop at your favorite bistro.

In addition to that bistro, you might want to wander through some of your favorite shops. Admire some antiques, find the perfect pumpkin and splurge on the latest novel by your favorite author. It’s probably due to all those years of back- to- school shopping but there’s something about fall. It makes us want to buy a new sweater, a pair of boots or new pillows for the sofa. Maybe even a new sofa?

While you are wandering around the farmstand looking for pumpkins, don’t forget to stock up on cider, apples, squash and a basket of gnarly gourds. It’s time to bake your first apple pie of the season. I guess anything apple will do – a cake, muffins – you choose! As for that lovely squash or sugar pumpkin, you’ll want to get cozy after a day outside with soup, risotto or chili.

And what about those gnarly gourds? They are for decorating. After Christmas, fall is the most decorated season. Create a festive display of mums, pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks on your front porch. Perhaps you’d like to use some of those pumpkins to build fanciful scarecrows. Whether you go elegant or whimsical, there’s still a bit of time left for outdoor living. Be sure to invite a few friends over to enjoy a cup of afternoon tea or an early evening cocktail surrounded by your creativity.

Enjoy the peak and bon appétit!

Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans
Make this delicious chili in advance for an easy feast after an adventure-filled day. Enjoy!
Serves 12pumpkins_gords_02

1 pound dried black beans
2 bay leaves
Olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2-2 large onions, chopped
1 (or more to taste) chipotle pepper(s) in adobo, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 pounds ground turkey
2-3 cups homemade (or canned) pumpkin puree
2-3 cups chicken or turkey stock or broth
1 1/2 cups beer, preferably dark beer
3/4 cup sour cream
Garnish: toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh chopped cilantro

Rinse the beans, put them in a bowl, add water to cover by about 4 inches and soak overnight.

Drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans and 1 bay leaf in large pot, add water to cover by 3-4 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

While the beans are cooking, heat a little olive oil in a large casserole and heat over medium. Add the carrots, onions, chipotle, spices and herbs, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Add a little more olive oil to the casserole, add the turkey, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Return the vegetables to the pot and stir to combine.

Stir in the pumpkin puree, 1-2 cups stock, the beer and remaining bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Simmer on very low until the beans are ready to add to the chili.

After the beans have been cooking for about 45 minutes, drain and add them to the chili. Cover and transfer the chili to the oven. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Stirring a few times and adding more chicken stock if necessary, cook for about 1 hour.

Put the sour cream in a bowl. A little at a time, whisk 2 cups of chili into the sour cream. Stir the sour cream mixture into the chili, add more chicken stock if necessary and return the chili to the oven for about 1 hour.

Serve the chili in shallow bowls garnished with pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro.

Best if made ahead, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated for serval hours or overnight. To reheat: bring to a simmer over low heat on the stovetop or in a 350-degree oven.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree
1 or more sugar pumpkin(s)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the pumpkin(s) in half and scoop and scrape out the seeds. Quarter each of the halves and place the pieces on a baking sheet.

Roast the pumpkin at 350 degrees until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and put it in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse and process until the pumpkin is smooth.

Put the puree in a sieve lined with coffee filters or cheesecloth and drain for several hours or overnight.

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One Year Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Two Years Ago – Hearty White Bean & Tomato Soup
Three Years Ago – Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
Four Years Ago – Tagliatelle alla Carbonara
Five Years Ago – Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Six Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Seven Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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

What’s your secret? Feel free to share.

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

I Love Fall Weekend Special

Oh my gosh! It’s the first day of fall … and it’s nothing short of glorious. The weekend promises more of the same! I’ve got a ton of writing to do but that shouldn’t stop you from getting out and about. Bike, hike or enjoy one last swim! I saw a water skier early this morning.

No matter how you spend the day, a delicious evening with friends and family sounds like a good idea. Here are a few ideas:

Celebrate the start of fall with a tasty appetizer. Given the season, my Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction would be perfect. On the other hand, local tomatoes will not be here forever. Perhaps you should indulge in my Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil.

Next, to the table and a great salad. For something sort of fall-ish, try my Crunchy Salad with Apples & Grapes or Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad.

And for the main course … the possibilities are endless. With no worries about cold or rain, you still work the grill. However with cooler weather, you can break out your favorite braising pan or soup kettle. What’s your preference … a final taste of summer or an early taste of fall? How about a compromise? You will love my Lobster-Corn Chowder. It’s warm and cozy but filled with summer favorites. Then again … it might be time for Lobster Mac & Cheese? Talk about cozy!

And finally, what about dessert? if it’s fall it’s time for apples. You can’t go wrong with my Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing. If you are feeling pie-ish try my Rustic Apple Tart.

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

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.

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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