All About Christmas Eve Traditions & Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce

My family has always enjoyed a bit of pandemonium on Christmas Eve. In fact, I think we thrive on it. From one generation to the next, the one constant has been overexcited children. For little kids, the day always seems to move at glacial speed. I generally started the day by jumping up and down and dancing in front of the tree. It didn’t take long for Mom to toss me into my snowsuit and outside. Her message was clear – time to build a snowman or take my sled over to the neighborhood hill. That was fine; I had lots of company. Most of kids on the street had received similar instructions.

My grandparents would arrive in the late afternoon and whisk us into the back of their car for church. My sister Brenda and I never missed the opportunity to ride in Grandpa’s Lincoln with the fancy electric windows. Those rides might have been Grandpa’s greatest gift to his only daughter. With my baby brother snoozing in his car seat and Dad behind the wheel, Mom could sink into the passenger seat of the family station wagon, close her eyes and enjoy a few blessed minutes of peace.

After church, excitement rose to a fevered pitch. Nana and Grandpa would stay for a quick visit but usually begged off dinner and headed home. They knew what was coming. For some unknown reason, or at least unknown to me, about half way through dinner, Santa stopped by. It was a neighborhood tradition. Each child received a small present and Santa’s promise that he’d be back with more if we cleaned our plates and went right to bed. The visit did nothing to slow down the dancing and prancing of the Nye sisters. After swallowing one or two more mouthfuls, Mom gave up and urged us into our jammies. Dad read the Night Before Christmas and we were off to bed.

My family is now in one of those in-between periods. In fact, we’ve been here for a while. There are no small children or babies to dance and prance with unbridled excitement and anticipation. That said, even without small children around, we do find ways to keep things hopping. Last year, it was a trip to the emergency room. Dad, I hope you’re listening when I suggest we skip the ER this year.

(By the way – the white haired gent is my dad … he had no interest in helping but couldn’t stay away from the fun.)

I think it was three maybe four years ago that we began a wonderful new Christmas Eve tradition. My twenty-something nieces come over to help me cook. I’m guessing Kaela’s move from the dorm to an apartment might have been the initial instigator. Her sister Emily did not want to be left out and joined the party. It is wonderful fun and, with two sous-chefs, the dinner is extra special. 

I love the idea of bonding in the kitchen – of passing recipes and stories from one generation to the next. The girls arrive around four, still a bit jet-lagged but filled with enthusiasm. We agree tasks and claim work spaces. There is a lot of laughter and more than a few questions. Music fills the air and, in keeping with the occasion, there is a little dancing and prancing plus a glass of wine or two.

When we started, Kaela described our time together as a cooking lesson. However, in just a few short years, both nieces have become quite accomplished. More than a lesson, it is a special time for us to share news and retell old stories.

Until the rest of the family arrives. Then we all we go into host mode. Kaela and Emily pass fresh-from-the-oven hors d’oeuvres and pour glasses of wine while I take care of any last minute dinner details. There is more laughter and lots of chatter. While there is no rush, dinner is served with plenty of time for everyone to get home and into bed before Santa arrives.

Have a wonderful holiday and bon appétit!

After dinner – Gramps and the Girlies

Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce
Although I fall far short of seven fishes, I like seafood on Christmas Eve. I usually start with gravlax or smoked salmon and then serve shrimp for the main course. It’s time to switch it up! Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 (about 3 pounds) salmon fillet
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 lemons, each cut into 4 wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Tarragon Sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Melt the butter and whisk in the juice of 1-2 lemon wedges. Let cool for a few minutes.

Place the salmon skin side down on a sheet pan and brush with lemon-butter. Arrange the remaining lemon wedges around the salmon, season everything with salt and pepper and slide the pan into the oven.

Roast the salmon at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until it is almost cooked through. Slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and, leaving the skin behind, carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter and loosely cover for 10 minutes. The fish will continue cooking while it rests.

Return the lemons to the oven and continue roasting while the salmon rests.

Serve the salmon with roasted lemon wedges and Tarragon Sauce.

Tarragon Sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the sour cream, mayonnaise and mustard in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the tarragon, shallot, garlic and lemon zest, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Best if made ahead, covered and refrigerated for a few hours. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

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One Year Ago – Gingerbread Decorations
Two Years Ago – Sticky Buns
Three Years Ago –
Cranberry Coffee Cake

Four Years Ago –
Fish Stew Provençal

Five Years Ago –
Twice-Baked Potatoes

Six Years Ago – Baked French Toast
Seven Years Ago –
Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta

Eight Years Ago –
Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

Nine Years Ago – Potato, Leek & Kale Soup
Ten Years Ago – Salmon & Lentils

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

What are you serving this Christmas Eve? Feel free to share!

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

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Being Thankful & Spaghetti con Tacchino e Broccoli (Spaghetti with Turkey & Broccoli)

Still not sure about one or more dishes for your Thanksgiving feast? Okay then, before you start reading … ..if you are looking for Thanksgiving menus, click here. On the other hand, if you’d rather build your own menu by picking and choosing from a long list of Thanksgiving-friendly recipes, that list is here.

November is a dreary month. Most days dawn cold and rainy – or snowy. However, all is not lost; the month is saved by Thanksgiving. We can take comfort in the knowledge that family and friends will gather together at the end of the month. With a fabulous, harvest feast a few short days away, I can’t help but be a bit reflective. Alright, I admit it; my head is filled with thoughts and images of Thanksgivings past.

Early Thanksgiving dinners were at my grandmothers’ houses. Dressed in our Sunday best, we’d arrive around noontime. As cooks go, Nana Nye was the better of the two but it was hardly a contest. Nana Westland didn’t care one wit. She was more than happy to have Grandpa take us all out for Thanksgiving dinner.

I am thankful for my memories of these two very different women. I count myself lucky and grateful that all four of my grandparents were around throughout my childhood and well into my twenties.

After a couple of disastrous Thanksgivings in noisy, overcrowded restaurants, Mom put her foot down. She announced that she was cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Her mother and mother-in-law could bring a dish if they liked. It would be welcomed but wasn’t necessary. Now, Nana Nye was a staunch supporter of Cape Cod turnip. Unable to imagine a Thanksgiving dinner without it, she always mashed up a batch and brought it along. Since Nana Westland spent as little time as possible in the kitchen, she sent Grandpa to Captain Marden’s to pick up a couple of pounds of shrimp for the cocktail hour.

I am thankful that every year, without fail, Dad will ask if Cape Cod turnip is on the menu. It always makes me laugh. He also brings shrimp. Both are lovely reminders of my two grandmothers.

Like her mother, Mom didn’t really like to cook but she embraced Thanksgiving dinner with enthusiasm. No, she didn’t get all fancy and gourmet. We didn’t have tamarind glazed turkey or roasted carrots drizzled with tahini sauce. Her menu was the epitome of New England cooking.

I am thankful that I grew up with a mother full of good cheer, life and energy. Her exuberance made every holiday special.

Mom’s first Thanksgiving culinary coup left an indelible reminder of her spirited approach to the family feast. Mom chopped up an apple and threw it in the stuffing. As far as she was concerned, it was a culinary miracle and she was absolutely delighted with herself.

I am thankful for all the little things that tie us together as a family – like Mom’s Stuffing with the Apple. Yes, that is what we call it.

As popular as her stuffing was, Mom decided it wasn’t enough. Perhaps she was worried that we’d run out of food because she kept adding dishes. Oyster dressing, creamed onions and pecan pie joined the already groaning table.

I am thankful for Mom’s example of updating and evolving our New England traditions. I am even more thankful that Campbell’s green bean casserole never found its way onto our Thanksgiving table.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and bon appétit!

Spaghetti con Tacchino e Broccoli (Spaghetti with Turkey & Broccoli)
When you can’t eat another turkey sandwich, it’s time for a change of taste. Reinvent your leftover turkey with broccoli and spaghetti tossed with a generous hint of lemon, garlic and red pepper. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut in bite-sized florets and pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon Italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon or to taste crushed red pepper
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups bite-size pieces leftover turkey
1 ounce plus more to pass Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 ounce plus more to pass Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions less about 1 minute. About 5 minutes before the pasta is due to be done, add the broccoli.

While the pasta and broccoli cook, put the wine, olive oil, butter, garlic, anchovy paste, herbs and pepper flakes in a large skillet and, whisking frequently, cook on low. Remove from the heat when the garlic is fragrant and pale brown. Do not overcook. Sprinkle with lemon zest, drizzle with lemon juice and whisk again.

Reserving a little pasta water, drain the spaghetti and broccoli.

Add the pasta, broccoli and turkey to the garlic and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the grated cheeses, stir in a little pasta water and toss again. Cover and cook on medium for 1-2 minutes to combine the flavors.

Transfer to a deep serving platter or individual shallow bowls and serve with more grated cheeses.

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One Year Ago – Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
Two Years Ago – Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Butter
Three Years Ago – Thanksgiving Leftovers
Four Years Ago – Cranberry Clafoutis
Five Years Ago – Black Friday Enchiladas (Enchiladas with Turkey & Black Beans)
Six Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Seven Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Eight Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Ten Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens

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

How do you use up those yummy Thanksgiving leftovers? Feel free to share!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hug a caregiver this month and bon appétit!

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

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

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hurricane Season & Grilled Ratatouille

It’s been all over the news. Hurricane season is up and running fast in the Atlantic. From the Caribbean over to Texas and up to Maine, we are all ears when it comes to storm warnings. Last week, Florence unleashed her fury on the southern Atlantic coast. One of the early forecast models suggested she might hug the coast and head north. Lucky for us, she decided to go inland. I’m sure Ohio is lovely this time of year.

Spared for now, let’s not forget that somewhere out there in the Atlantic, Helene (not Helen), Isaac and Joyce are swirling around. In spite of our northern location, New England is not immune to hurricanes. Although, they are admittedly few and far between. Most blow themselves out before they can reach us.

Not so the Great New England Hurricane of 1938; my dad still talks about that one. He even has a book about it somewhere. With 140 mile per hour wind gusts, it unleashed its wrath on every state in New England. Hundreds died, thousands were injured and damages were in the hundreds of millions. More recently, Irene wreaked havoc in New England, most particularly Vermont. Sandy did a number on New York and gave us a bit of rain and wind as well. Lucky for us, last year’s deadly trio of Harvey, Irma and Maria stayed to the south.

I admit as a small child, hurricanes seemed terribly exciting. In those days, we spent August on Cape Cod. While I can’t verify, I suspect that my sister Brenda and I labeled any downpour with the least bit of wind a hurricane. After all, rain is boring but a hurricane – that’s something to talk about.

One rainy August afternoon, Brenda and I were encamped on the porch with paper dolls and sticker books. It didn’t take long for boredom to set in. The air was hot and muggy so we talked Mom into letting go outside. It wasn’t that difficult a negotiation. Stuck in a ramshackle cottage with two bored little girls – of course, she said yes. I suppose she would have turned us down if we’d tried to go out in the Great New England Hurricane. However, we hadn’t been born yet. Heck, my parents hadn’t even met, let alone finished elementary school in 1938.

Anyway, Brenda and I gleefully threw on our swimsuits, ran outside and danced around. I believe loud and joyous singing was involved but I don’t remember the tune. I cannot speak for Brenda but I, for one, felt wonderfully adventurous. While the street was more or less empty, most of the porches were filled with bored vacationers.

They sat and watched two silly little girls giggle, dance and sing. I’m sure they were jealous. While they huddled with their paperbacks and puzzles, we were the only ones brave enough to defy the hurricane. It didn’t matter that, at most, it was the last vestiges of some minor tropical storm. It didn’t matter then and it still doesn’t. As far as I’m concerned, my sister and I splashed, danced and sang in the street during a hurricane. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Here’s a toast to sunny days and clear nights. Bon appétit!

Grilled Ratatouille
A delicious end of summer dish. You can even make it if the power goes out. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1-2 red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed and roughly chopped
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound cherry tomatoes
2 eggplants (about 2 pounds), sliced about 3/4-inch thick
3-4 zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the peppers and onion in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Working in batches if necessary, put the vegetables in a grill basket and grill for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Remove the vegetables from the grill basket and return them to the bowl. Add the garlic to the warm vegetables and toss to combine.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Working in batches if necessary, put the tomatoes in a grill basket and grill for 4-6 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the tomatoes to the peppers and onion.

Brush the eggplant and zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant and zucchini for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until nicely browned and tender.

Remove the vegetables from the grill. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, chop the veggies in bite-size pieces. Add them to the tomatoes, peppers and onion. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and toss to combine.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Can be prepared in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving

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One Year Ago – Cod, Corn & White Bean Soup
Two Years Ago – Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing
Three Years Ago – Applesauce Scones
Four Years Ago – Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts
Five Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Six Years Ago – Chicken Parmagiana with Spaghetti Marinara
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Eight Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Nine Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Ten Years Ago – Brie & Sundried Tomato Omelette

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

How do you keep fit? Feel free to share!

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

Stuck in the Middle & Almost Nana Nye’s Blueberry Cake

There are all kinds of silly holidays spread throughout the year. Emma M. Nutt Day is coming up on the first of September. Why do we celebrate Emma? Why not – after all, she was the first woman telephone operator in America. Don’t forget Mad Hatter Day on October 6. No, it’s not a day devoted to finding the perfect hat. Forget shopping and enjoy a topsy-turvy day filled with Through the Looking Glass riddles and contradictions.

Anyway, along with the list of excuses to eat pie and fly kites, is one holiday I can get behind. Yes, Middle Child Day and it’s this coming Sunday, August 12. In case you missed it, I am one of those poor, pitiful, stuck in the middle children. (By the way, you don’t need the calendar to tell you to eat pie or fly a kite. You can do either or both on most any day you like.)

So, what’s up with middle children and our ridiculous attachment to Middle Child Syndrome? First of all, let be clear: all sorts of child experts and psychologists confirm that MCS is real. I don’t know if they call it MCS or not but I just did and here’s how it works:

First borns are anxiously awaited and then celebrated with the greatest joy. At least for a year or three, she has her doting parents all to herself. She enjoys the riches of unfettered attention, new toys and never-before-worn onesies. Youngest children aren’t so much celebrated as coddled. Ask any older sibling, the baby of the family is not only spoiled; he gets away with everything. Middle borns are just that – stuck in the middle.

Unlike the first born, a middle child is not heaped with praise at every turn. Take for instance, the first time she ties her shoe or rides a bike. Mom and Dad don’t immediately jump on phone with grandparents, post videos for all the world to see or suggest a parade down Main Street. They’ve seen it all before. Besides, the baby is crying and demanding to be fed or changed. In case you’ve forgotten, that crying baby – he’s the one who stole that poor middle child’s bedroom.

The experts tell us that,although surrounded by siblings, middle children tend to be the most independent. Crowded on all sides, sometimes the best, the only, thing to do is get out. That could mean joining your neighborhood pals at the swings or finding some peace and quiet in the basement. As a child, I did both with regular frequency. When I hit my twenties, I did more than wander out into the neighborhood. I moved half way around the world.

Along with independence, middle children are known for being agreeable and diplomatic. We are the great compromisers. We just want everyone to be happy and get along. That said; I did inherit a bit of a stubborn streak from my mother. She was an only child. Some might disagree but I tend to think that I have an inordinately long fuse. I comply and compromise again and again until, BAM, that’s IT. I’ve had enough. As of right now, I’m no longer listening, no longer negotiating. I want my way … otherwise; I’m taking marbles and going home.

If you are a middle child, be sure to indulge yourself this coming Sunday. If you have a middle sibling or are the parent with a middle child, feel free to shower that her with a little extra attention and unmitigated praise.

Have fun and bon appétit!

Almost Nana Nye’s Blueberry Cake
Although I’ve made a few changes (that’s the cook’s prerogative isn’t it?), this cake comes from my grandmother’s recipe box. Since we have many summer birthdays in our family, our blueberry cakes are generally slathered with cream cheese frosting, decorated with blueberries and topped with candles. Enjoy!

2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided plus more for the pan
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature plus more for the pan
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1 overflowing cup fresh blueberries plus more for garnish

Butter and flour 2 (8-inch) cake pans or a 9×13-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put 2 1/4 cups flour, the baking powder, spices and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the lemon zest and whisk again. Set aside.

Put the butter and sugars in a bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat on medium high until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat again until smooth.

With mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and continue beating until just combined.

Toss the blueberries with the remaining flour and, using a rubber spatula, fold the blueberries into batter. Spread the batter in the prepared pan(s) and bake at 350 degrees until golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached, about 35 minutes.

Cool the cake completely. If you like, slather with Cream Cheese Frosting and decorate with more blueberries.

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

Put the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the vanilla and beat until well combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until well combined. Increase mixer speed and continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Blueberry-Ginger Cobbler
Two Years Ago – Grilled Filets Mignons with Salsa Verde
Three Years Ago – Corncakes
Four Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Five Years Ago – Summer Salad with Green Beans, Blueberries & Goat Cheese
Six Years Ago – Shrimp Salad Niçoise
Seven Years Ago – Insalata Caprese
Eight Years Ago – Mojito Melons
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Antipasto
Ten Years Ago – Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder

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

Are you a first born, middle child or baby of the family? Feel free to share!

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

Free-Range Rambling & Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Ketchup

Summer is a special time in New England. Long days and warm weather invite children to explore the world or at least the patch outside their backdoor … and out into the neighborhood. Unencumbered by jackets and boots, children are free to ride bikes, climb trees and ramble through the woods.

There’s a good bet that more than one child will bring home a nasty case of poison ivy and another will slip and slide into the frog pond. There will be scraped knees and possibly a broken bone or two. It’s all part of growing up in the country. Now, if you are concerned about these bumps, and scrapes; don’t be. Yes, there will be tears but they never last long. Besides, each scar will be a wonderful reminder of a fabulous adventure. They are badges of fun, bravery and honor. My generation continues to wear those scars with pride; this generation of kids will too.

In today’s lingo, children who wander about, seeking and finding their own entertainment are called free-range kids. It’s how I grew up. You probably grew up the same way. In our day, we were just called kids. Now, perhaps you’ve wondered, where can these free-range kids roam? If they live in my neighborhood, there is plenty to explore. A hike in the woods will lead them to the remnants of old stone walls, massive boulders and ancient orchards. Every child needs a favorite rock or tree to climb, a special perch to contemplate the world and all its ambiguities.

Most children are collectors. If they weren’t, tiny cars, cuddly stuffed animals, dolls and action figures would not fill toy baskets or get lost at the beach. Rambling young collectors will find a multitude of treasures to fill their pockets. Pinecones, sticks, bits of bark, stones, wild flowers, ferns and what not – there are loads of interesting finds.

But don’t worry. All that flotsam and jetsam will not clutter up the house. Those bits and twigs won’t join the already overflowing baskets of toys. They won’t even cross the threshold. Children know better than anyone that nature’s collectibles are exactly what’s needed to build fairy houses.

Least you think otherwise, free-range kids aren’t constantly on the move. Every child seeks a quiet corner from time to time. Everyone is different: some children need a lot of alone space while others are good with just a little. Even the most enthusiastic ramblers want a break now and then – to read, draw or take a nap. One of the many delights of summer is the freedom to enjoy a book that’s not on the reading list or write your own stories. Without a tightly regimented schedule, kids can explore new music, color and line, arts and crafts. Perhaps they’ll invent a new game or create a new dance.

Now, this practice of raising free-range children is not particularly well appreciated in some circles. I find this both astounding and sad. Why would anyone deny their children the fun and freedom they themselves enjoyed as kids?

So … Mommas and Poppas, do let your children go out and play cowboys. Let them be pirates, ballerinas and such. Let them ramble and wander and gaze at the stars. Encourage them to read, sing and draw. Most of all inspire them to dream. Summer may be short but childhood is even shorter; embrace the freedom to make the most of both.

Have fun and bon appétit!

Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Ketchup
Summertime is burger time; make yours special with spicy homemade ketchup. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 cups

1 pound cherry tomatoes
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon or to taste pureed chipotle in adobo*
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon or to taste brown sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Juice of 1/2-1 lime

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the tomatoes, onion, garlic and chipotle purée in a large ovenproof skillet or roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and vinegar and toss to combine. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cumin and paprika, season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Roast for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and caramelized. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a small food processor or blender, add the lime juice and process until very smooth.

* Take a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and toss them, sauce and all, in a small food processor. Process until smooth and transfer to a clean glass jar. Store the chipotle purée in the refrigerator and use as needed.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette
Two Years Ago – Fresh Tomato Crostini
Three Years Ago – Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad
Four Years Ago – Watermelon Sorbet
Five Years Ago – Caramel Sundaes with Sweet & Salty Pecans
Six Years Ago – Gazpacho
Seven Years Ago – Mousse au Citron
Eight Years Ago– Thai Salad
Nine Years Ago – Sweet Dream Bars
Ten Years Ago – Lobster Salad

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

Were you a free-range kid? What was your favorite place to roam? Feel free to share!

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

Jump In – The Water’s Fine Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli

I am nothing if not lucky. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, I’m absolutely, utterly and totally lucky. Growing up, my sister, brother and I had all sorts of wonderful opportunities. In the summer, we spent two weeks impatiently waiting for a ride to the town beach, two weeks at camp and a month on the Cape. Between the town beach and camp, we learned to swim. While they are now long gone, at least for a while, Mom had the certificates to prove it.

Whether at camp or the town beach, swimming lessons were serious business. For one thing, our instructors wore uniforms – red Speedos with a special lifeguard patch. Regardless of the weather, classes were held first thing in the morning. In addition to the red Speedos, these tyrants sported a whistle and did not hesitate to blow it. Every morning, they’d bark orders and toot the whistle as they put us through our drills: crawl, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and sidestroke.

All those swimming lessons were endured for one reason and one reason only – to pass the raft test. Without a doubt, passing the raft test was an important rite of passage. By important, I mean it was right up there with birth, death and marriage. Although, at seven or eight, I’m not sure we paid much attention to these milestones. In any case, swimming to the raft was certainly more important than a first haircut or high school diploma. Swimming to the raft meant that you were one of the big kids.

The town beach had two rafts. Both required a swimming test. The first was more than difficult. The second was almost beyond endurance. However, it was worth the struggle. As we all know, there is not a little kid alive who doesn’t vie for the privileges of older siblings and neighbors. In the scheme of life, earning a driver’s license is perhaps the only challenge on par with (and possibly more significant than) passing the raft test. That said; a three-point turn on a hill is nothing compared to the hundreds of laps required to exit the baby area and join the big kids on that elusive raft. Okay, so maybe it was only eight or twelve laps but it seemed like hundreds.

For a long time, I thought everyone knew how to swim. When you grow up in New England, in spite of our short summers, swimming is part of life. From the ice-cold ocean to a somewhat tepid pond, opportunities abound. As added insurance, our school district mandated swimming lessons for all sixth graders. Once a week, we hopped on a bus and headed to a pool for swimming lessons. No kid was going slip through the cracks.

Eventually, life took me outside of my familiar New England boundaries. On my quest for adventure, my horizons expanded and I met all sorts of wonderful people. Imagine my surprise to learn that a good many of them could barely swim a stroke. Meeting these non-swimmers reminded me of the charmed existence I lived as a child.

When you’re young, swimming is all about the joy of diving under the lines that keep your little brother and his friends safe in shallow water. It’s the wonderful sense of freedom from swimming away from the crowded beach. It’s the feeling of strength and accomplishment as you climb out of the cool lake and on the raft. It’s the fun and silliness when that cute boy throws you back in.

News stories of a dozen young boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave is a powerful reminder of my fabulously lucky life. So, to those Speedo-clad tyrants, their whistles and drills, I say thank you. My crawl may be weak but I can do a decent breaststroke for about a mile, maybe more.

Enjoy the water, stay safe and have a wonderful summer. Bon appétit!

Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli
A taste of Provençal sunshine – hot off the grill. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 – 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 ounces goat cheese, sliced
8 burger buns

Make the Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium hot.

Divide the turkey into 8 pieces and gently pat into patties, brush both sides with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the turkey burgers on the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip and continue grilling for 2 minutes. Top each burger with sliced goat cheese and grill for 1 minute more.

Place the buns on the grill, turning once, and toast for 1 minute or less. Pop each turkey burger onto a bun, add a dollop of Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli and serve.

Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli
Makes about 1 cup

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2/3 cup prepared mayonnaise
1/3 cup tapenade (recipe follows)

Put the garlic, rosemary and lemon juice into the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until finely chopped and combined. Add the mayonnaise and tapenade and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Tapenade
Makes about 1 cup

Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes or to taste
About 8 ounces dry pack, oil cured black olives, pitted

Throw everything except the olives into the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until well chopped and combined. About a quarter at a time, add the olives and process until smooth. You may need to add a little more olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or more to combine the flavors.

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

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

What’s your summer beach story? Feel free to share!

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