February Vacation & Baked Mac & Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

Now it’s New Hampshire’s turn. Last week, the ski slopes were filled with families from Massachusetts and further south. Finally, local kids and teachers are having a break from the daily grind. However, February vacation can present a bit of conundrum for parents. Do you take the week off and play in the snow … or wait and take the family south in April?

The Nye family always chose the ski slopes. I have, still to this day, never been to Disney World and it doesn’t bother me one little bit. Minutes after the school bell rang on Friday afternoon, we piled into the family station wagon and headed north. Mom spent the week with us in the little red house in the woods and Dad took a long weekend at either end. Mom-time was always a bit more relaxed than when Dad was around. He had this thing about maximizing our season passes. We had to be on the slopes at nine and stay out, no matter how cold it was, until the lift closed at four. Okay, we were allowed a short lunch break at noon.

Life with Mom was more fluid. After all, it was vacation. A ten o’clock start was fine. Make that ten-thirty if it was particularly cold. If it was snowing so hard you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, Mom was happy to head home at lunchtime. If one of us wanted to stay, that was fine too as long as we could find a ride home.

Yes, my mother would leave one or all of her kids at King Ridge for hours at a time. In case you’ve forgotten, our upbringing was based on what we now fondly refer to as The Joe and Libby Nye School of Negligent Parenting. Love meant giving you space to grow, make mistakes and make amends. That said, it was a small mountain and there were lots of friends and neighbors around. The parents in my neighborhood stuck together. They didn’t mind telling any one of us to knock it off if we were skiing out of control or cutting in the lift line.

Back at the little red house in the woods, there was always something to do. If we hadn’t had enough of the ice and snow, there was a suicidal sledding hill across the road and a skating pond about a half mile away. If one or the other of us made the mistake of complaining about boredom, the culprit was handed a shovel and told to clear the deck. It wasn’t all that bad a chore. The distance from the deck to the ground was about eight feet, maybe ten. Jumping and somersaults off the deck was a favorite pastime once a nice pile of snow provided a soft landing.

When we had enough of the cold, there was a fire in the fireplace and as many books as we’d bothered to haul up from the suburbs. I always assumed it would be a two or three book week. The television was only good for one station and, except to check the weather forecast, was rarely on. A jigsaw puzzle was always in progress on an old card table. Mom and I were the puzzle fanatics and assembled at least a couple during February break. In addition, we might offer to bake something. There was usually a brownie mix in the cupboard and, as long as we promised to cleanup, Mom could be persuaded to pick up a bag of chocolate chips for cookies.

All in all, those vacations were just what we needed.

Here’s wishing one and all a wonderful winter break and bon appétit!

Baked Mac & Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

Who doesn’t likes Mac & Cheese, especially after a day outside in the cold? If your kids are of the age and inclination, maybe they’ll make dinner for you. Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • 5-6 tablespoons butter or a mix of olive oil and butter, divided
  • 8 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 cups whole milk or half and half
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 pound your favorite short pasta – cavatappi, penne, macaroni …
  • 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

Lightly butter or oil a large casserole dish.

Heat a skillet over medium, add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently until lightly browned. Remove the bacon from the pan, drain and reserve.

Add the onion to the skillet, season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat, add back the bacon and stir in the spinach.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan over medium. Add the flour, season with paprika, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook, whisking, for 1-2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add the milk and heat to steaming. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking, until the sauce thickens.

Put the sour cream and mustard in a bowl and whisk to combine. Gradually whisk in the warm sauce. Add the cheddar and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir to combine.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions, less 1 minute. Drain the pasta, saving a little of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot, add the bacon mixture and toss to combine. Add the sauce and toss again. If the pasta seems dry, add a little pasta water. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish.

Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, add 1-2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil and toss to combine. Add the remaining the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss again. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the mac & cheese.

You can make ahead to this point, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until piping hot and golden.

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How will you spend your winter vacation? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2020

Getting Ready to Give Thanks & Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes

There is a light at the end of the Blahvember tunnel. Dull or shining, that light is Thanksgiving and it will be here in just a few short weeks. Nothing beats Thanksgiving for inspiring both gratitude and conflict. Think about it. What other holiday inspires joy in some while unleashing fear or dread in others? Host or guest, it doesn’t matter – contrary feelings persist around tables across America.

Thanksgiving fans embrace the day. A good many of them love to cook. For those that prefer life outside the kitchen, they have workarounds like potlucks and restaurants. No matter the circumstance or place, Thanksgiving fans are absolutely delighted to spend the holiday with a tableful of friends and family.

To both borrow and mangle a line from W.C. Fields, Thanksgiving detractors would rather be in Philadelphia. For them, Thanksgiving is a highly combustible gathering of gripes and grumbles. Siblings, cousins, ex-s and in-laws, these relationships can be fraught with rivalry, disdain or both. Add a few too many glasses of wine and an explosion of one kind or another is more or less guaranteed.

Now, it’s upon us. Whether you meant to or not, you raised your hand over Labor Day weekend and agreed to host Turkey Day. That means, it’s time to get organized. And no, you can’t go back and pretend you were kidding or swatting a nonexistent mosquito.

Start by letting everyone know that Thanksgiving is still on and you’re still hosting. Give them an arrival time and turn a deaf ear to complaints. It’s an age-old fact, no matter what time you choose, afternoon – early or late – or wait until evening, some big football game will kick off at just the wrong minute. Ignore the complaints, cue the DVR and have a lovely dinner. By the way, it’s always nice to encourage your guests to bring along any Thanksgiving orphans.

Invitations done; the menu is next. Unless of course, you have one of those families. You know the type. They insist on the same menu every year. A few might even admit that they don’t really like great-grandma Annabel’s stuffing or great-great-aunt Betty’s yams. They just like the sense of tradition that a decades old menu brings.

My family is one of those types. If it wasn’t on Nana’s Thanksgiving table, they don’t particularly want it on theirs. Except for me. Makes you wonder; was I somehow switched at birth? Anyway, I haven’t exactly ignored them – just reinvented an old dish or three. Okay, maybe I have ignored them but I like to think of it as gently nudging my nearest and dearest out of an antiquated food rut.

My reinventions are not all that dramatic. Instead of boiling, I roast the vegetables and have amped up the decadence on the smashed potatoes. No one but no one is complaining about the spuds. That said, although he loves my Roasted Butternut Soup, my brother is still accusing me of heresy for dropping Mom’s stuffing. On a more positive note, everyone seems delighted that pumpkin cheesecake has replaced pie.

If you’ve hesitated to change things up, stop worrying. While they may threaten, your family won’t disown you over a few Brussels sprouts.

Happy planning, happy cooking and bon appétit!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes

Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes were not part of my childhood Thanksgiving. However, I like them as does about half of my family. So, last year, I added them to our Thanksgiving table. Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • 12 ounces thick cut bacon, cut in small pieces*
  • About 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
  • About 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • About 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat a skillet with over medium, add the bacon and cook until it starts to brown. Remove from the pan and reserve. Reserve the rendered bacon fat as well.

Put the Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and onion in a roasting pan, drizzle with enough equal parts bacon fat and vinegar to lightly coat and toss to combine. Sprinkle with thyme and sage, season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Tossing at the midpoint, roast the vegetables at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Add the bacon, garlic and chicken broth, toss to combine and roast for 15 minutes. Give the vegetables another toss and continue roasting until tender, another 10-15 minutes

Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl, sprinkle with toasted walnuts and serve.

*  If you have a few vegetarians at your table, you may want to skip the bacon. Instead of bacon fat, toss the veggies in olive oil. Along with the toasted walnuts, sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and serve.

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

Tell Your Story & Grilled Broccolini with Tahini Vinaigrette

I don’t know about you, but I missed Grandparents Day this year. It was a few Sundays back. Before you get your knickers in a twist, Grandparents Day isn’t just another excuse to send a card or flowers. Instead, it’s about connecting across generations. It’s about spending time, not cash.

I was extremely lucky to have all four of my grandparents around until I was well into my twenties. Even when I was little, most of my friends had one or maybe two grandparents. In addition to the fearsome foursome, we were blessed with a great-great aunt and a couple of my grandfather’s cousins. Knowing these amazing oldsters was a true gift.

If you are a grandparent, make the effort to share your story with your grandchildren. If you’re not, then share your story with nieces and nephews or the kid next door. Senior family members are important links between past and present and the world around us. Personal stories put historic events in human context and make them real.

Don’t be shy; sharing your personal stories can be surprisingly easy, especially when you have a willing ear. Write them down if you want. If not, take a walk with your favorite kids. As you mark the miles, tell them about your childhood, your school days, your first job … the list is more or less endless. Even if you think they aren’t interested, give it a try. They’ll probably surprise you.

And by the way, don’t worry about keeping everything in perfect chronological order. It’s okay to share a tale about your first day of college today and, then tomorrow, skip back in time to childhood games on the ice. Eventually, all the bits and pieces will come together. In spite of the jumbled time line, a pretty good picture of the various people, places and events in your life will shine through. Your loved ones will get a sense of how all these pieces came together to create you.

What to tell? If you remember a certain person or event; if the memory makes you smile or laugh or cry, it’s probably meaningful. Focus on information that can’t be found in the history books and, yes, details matter. Pertinent details will bring your story to life but be careful. Irrelevant details will bog down your story and might even make it tedious.

Where to start? Why not with your nearest and dearest. For example, my dad was very close to his grandfather and loves to tell stories about him. Born on the same day as Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, my great-grandfather was a carpenter. As a teenager, he left home to learn his trade. Earning a pittance as an apprentice, he signed up for the night shift at the fire department to have a place to sleep. From that inauspicious start, he became the epitome of the American success story. He built a business and a good many double-deckers. A formidable patriarch, most of the family was afraid of him. Knowing full well that he put his socks on before his shoes, his daughter-in-law, my grandmother, refused to be intimidated. He loved her for it.

A few fun facts, Great-Grandpa Nye had two wives, a bunch of girlfriends, grew gladioli and drove big sedans. He adored my dad, his only grandson, and made a point of taking him along on his various adventures, wheelings and dealings. That’s the tiniest of mini-snapshots. Dad has the details so you’ll have to talk to him if you want more.

Bon appétit!

Grilled Broccolini with Tahini Vinaigrette

Broccolini makes a delicious first course as a substitute for a leafy green salad. It is just as good as a side dish. Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • About 2 pounds broccolini, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

Put the broccolini in a large bowl, drizzle with just enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat and toss. Season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Arrange the broccolini on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn and grill until tender and lightly charred, 2-3 minutes more.

Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates, drizzle with Tahini Vinaigrette and serve

Tahini Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch chunk red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon or to taste harissa
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
  • 2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons water

Put the garlic, onion, spices, lime juice and zest and vinegar in a small food processor and pulse to combine and finely chop. Add the tahini and olive oil and process until smooth. A tablespoon at a time, add the water and process until smooth and creamy.

Let the vinaigrette sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or longer in the refrigerator to combine the flavors. Bring to room temperature and give it a good shake before serving.

Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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

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

Do you have stories to tell? What’s holding you back? Feel free to share!

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

 

 

 

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

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
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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