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

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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

You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again & Shrimp & Cucumber Bites

The school bell rang for the last time on Friday, not forever but for this school year. By now, many families have packed the car, locked the backdoor and headed off for a favorite place or parts unknown. The rest? Well, they realize they already live in a favorite place so they’re relaxing at the town beach or climbing Mount Kearsarge.

My mother was one of the car packers. With Independence Day approaching, she loaded up the trunk, tossed us in the back with the dog and headed to Cape Cod. Now mind you, as families go, we weren’t very good on long car trips. By long, I mean anything more than a half hour was a problem. When I was very little, our starting point was Connecticut and that trip took forever. I don’t know why. It’s not like we took side trips to see giant balls of twine or stopped for selfies with dinosaurs.

For some reason, my grandmother traveled with us. It’s not terribly clear why. We were in Connecticut and my grandparents lived just outside of Boston. As best I can figure, Grandpa drove Nana down, spent the weekend and then went back to work. Nana stayed and hung out with us. I’m sure she applauded my sister’s end of kindergarten extravaganza. She probably babysat while Mom ran last minute errands. However, I believe her key role was to provide moral support on the long drive to the Cape. I can’t be absolutely certain about that; I was only two or three years old at the time.

Finally, the car was packed and a few toys were tossed in the backseat. Everyone made one last trip to the bathroom and we were off. Without air conditioning, we tootled along with the windows open wide. A paper doll or stuffed animal frequently caught the breeze and took flight. Tears and wails ensued but there was no turning back. The Connecticut Turnpike was littered with the flotsam and jetsam of countless children.

Except when it rained, then the windows were rolled up to all but an inch or two. It was miserably muggy. Instead of bereft over a lost toy, we were hot and fussy in the steamy car. Of course, the dog would fart not once but a few times because that’s what dogs do. It was more than enough to make a little girl queasy.

That was just the beginning. It was before the age of enlightenment and Mom smoked cigarette after cigarette. I guess I can’t blame her. Rain was pelting, the dog was smelly and my sister and I were whiny. Nana was not all that good at the moral support thing. (Don’t get me wrong. I loved my grandmother dearly. However, she was not the first person you’d choose in an emergency. Nana was loving and lovely but … resourceful, well, not so much.) Anyway, the cigarettes only made matters worse, sending me into full-blown carsick mode.

Eventually, a combination of cranky kids and hunger compelled Mom to think about stopping for lunch. Ben and Mildred’s Chicken House, a beacon of cheer with greasy food and friendly waitresses was on the way. Alas, Mom could think about it but could not act. Ben and Mildred along with a dozen hot dog stands, burger joints and diners were looking for hungry travelers but not for us. Their culinary delights were all off limits to the Nyes. It seems that a small, curly-headed child had an uncanny habit of throwing up as soon as the family sat down.

Have a happy, healthy summer and bon appétit!

p.s. In case you are worried or wondering, while dogs still fart, Mom eventually quit smoking and, like most kids, the curly-headed child outgrew motion sickness.

Shrimp & Cucumber Bites
Just in time for summer, an easy but elegant hors d’oeuvre to pass at your next cookout. Enjoy!
Makes 40-50 bite sized hors d’oeuvres

Sun-dried Tomato Dip (recipe follows)
1 pound medium (40-50 pieces) shrimp
1-2 English cucumbers

Make the Sun-dried Tomato Dip.

Peel the cucumbers and cut them into about 1/4-inch thick rounds.

Dab a little Sun-dried Tomato Dip on each cucumber slice and top with a shrimp.

Arrange the Shrimp & Cucumber Bites on a platter and pass.

Sun-dried Tomato Dip
Makes about 1 cup

6-8 halves oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Pinch cayenne pepper
About 1/3 cup mayonnaise
About 1/3 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, herbs and cayenne in a small food processor and process until the tomatoes and garlic are chopped fine and well combined.

Add the mayonnaise and sour cream and process until smooth. Let the dip sit for 30 minutes or more to combine the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries
Two Years Ago – Berry Flag Cake
Three Years Ago – A Hint of Asia Barbecue Chicken or Pork
Four Years Ago – Potato Salad Niçoise
Five Years Ago – Grilled Scallop & Asparagus Salad
Six Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Eight Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

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

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

Forget the Necktie & Grilled Vietnamese Beef

You’ve got five days to get it together, so, don’t blow it. And by it, I mean Father’s Day. If you are suddenly caught unawares, don’t worry you are not alone. Father’s Day is probably the most overlooked or just plain forgotten holiday in the whole panoply of fêtes, festivals and celebrations. Mom gets brunch, cards and flowers. If we remember, Dad gets another necktie.

In the era of business casual, most men, spend their days in Dockers and button-down shirts. The pants are always navy blue. Although the shirts are always light blue, they generally come in a variety of strips, checks and plaids. If he’s retired, your dad has probably traded in his navy blue trousers for khaki and button-downs for golf shirts. Working or retired, most dads have not worn a necktie more than a handful of times since 1998. Of course, there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. While politicians, talk show hosts, bankers and Wall Street wonders are the most obvious tie wearers, there could be others.

That’s not to say that a beautiful necktie is not appreciated. In fact, I’m proud to say, I gave my dad his favorite tie, pale yellow with light blue catboats. However, it was ages ago, 1998 or maybe 1997, and it wasn’t for Father’s Day. It was a Christmas gift. I can’t say for certain, but there is a good chance I neglected him that Father’s Day. (In my defense, I was living an ocean away.)

Anyway, about that favorite tie, it may be twenty years old but he still likes it enough to find an excuse to wear it once if not twice a year. I suspect that it would be near impossible to find one to replace it. Any new necktie would just join the pile he never wears but refuses to throw away. Most are boring navy blue with equally boring stripes. One has catboats but they sail across a dark, drab background.

All right then, if ties are out, what’s in?

How about socks? Think ridiculously bright colors, stars, stripes or polka dots. A beautiful pair of socks will add a little life to dad’s wardrobe. If he’s the conservative type, you might point to Bush 41. The former president has a spectacular collection of socks. My oldest niece gave Dad a couple of fun pairs for Christmas a few years ago. They are his party socks and he loves them.

Something to eat or drink? Here you have an endless list of possibilities from a bottle of dad’s favorite bourbon to a trio of intriguing hot sauces or mustards. If he can’t start the day without a great cup of Joe, then a pound of really good coffee sounds like a plan. Then again, you can help him get his grill on by signing him up for the steak of the month club.

Maybe you should give him the gift of time together? Instead of a book he’s already read or a shirt that doesn’t fit, plan an experience you can share together. Think about what your dad might like to do or see and make it happen. If he loves baseball, take him to Fenway. Fine wines – find a tasting and spend an evening sipping and spitting together. Wannabe chef – sign the two of you up for a cooking class. History buff – walk the Freedom Trail with him. You see, it’s not so hard.

Happy Father’s Day and bon appétit!

Grilled Vietnamese Beef
Give your favorite steak-and-potatoes man a taste of Asia this Father’s Day. Trying new things will keep dad young. Serve the beef with jasmine rice. Enjoy!

Serves 8
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5-6 limes
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 pounds tenderloin filets or sirloin steaks, trimmed
1-2 red onions, cut in half and then in 1/4-inch wedges
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces arugula
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves, cut in julienne

Make the marinade: put the garlic, juice and zest of 2 limes, soy sauce, fish sauce, olive oil and brown sugar in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Put the beef in a large flat dish and the onion in a bowl. Add about 3/4 of the marinade to the beef and the remainder to the onions. Flip the beef to coat and toss the onions. Flipping and tossing once or twice, cover and refrigerate both for up to 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill; the fire should be medium hot.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and shake off any excess. Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side for rare and 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board, let the beef rest for 5-10 minutes and then cut across the grain in thin slices.

While the beef rests, drain and transfer the onions to a grill basket. Grill, stirring from time to time, until tender-crisp, 4-6 minutes.

Put the juice of 1 lime and the extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the arugula, cilantro and mint and toss to combine.

Cut the remaining limes into wedges.

Transfer the greens to a large platter or individual plates, top with beef and onions, garnish with lime wedges and serve.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Steak with Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic & Rosemary-Balsamic Glaze
Two Years Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Three Years Ago – Maple-Bourbon Pork Ribs
Four Years Ago – Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce
Five Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Six Years Ago – Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro, Mint & Peanuts
Seven Years Ago – New Potato Salad with Gorgonzola
Eight Years Ago – Spicy Hoisin Wings
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Steak & Potato Salad

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

How will you celebrate Father’s Day? Feel free to share!

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

Mother’s Day Weekend Special

Inviting my mother over for dinner was always joy. She had little – probably no – interest in cooking but she appreciated a good meal. Not just the food, she appreciated the company, the conversation, the laughter, the give, the take and all the frivolity.

Mom was an easy guest. If I cooked it; she liked it – or at least it seemed that way. That said, she did have some favorites. Here are a few ideas to share with your mom this Mother’s Day weekend.

Let’s start with a great appetizer. My parents visited me at least a handful of times when I lived in Switzerland. Mom loved it all – the scenery, the food and the adventures. She may or may not have tried Pissaladière. It will be a good start to your Mother’s Day dinner. Alternatively, you might like to go with a tasty dip. How about my Artichoke Pesto? I know Mom liked artichokes. Serve the pesto with a few raw veggies, your favorite crackers and a wedge of fabulous cheese.

Now, to the table and a lovely salad. You will love my Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette.

For the main course, how about shrimp? It was one of Mom’s favorites. I’d consider Roasted Shrimp & Andouille Sausage – but it might be a little spicy for her … but maybe not. Serve the shrimp and andouille with rice or Sweet Potato Polenta. Another delicious possibility is Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn, Tomatoes & Salsa Verde. You can rev up the heat in the salsa or tone it down. In case of clouds or rain, a cozy Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers sounds good. Mom loved lemon and pasta.

Mom did have a sweet tooth. Her two favorite flavors were chocolate and, you guessed it, lemon. Here are a few possibilities … for chocolatey delicious try my Flourless Chocolate Cake or Chocolate Pana Cotta. Lemon lovers will love my Lemon Cheesecake or Lemon Tart.

This will be the second Mother’s Day without my mom. Like all mothers, she continues to keep an eye on me – last night in a dream. She was as beautiful and generous as always. My mother didn’t have a mean bone in her body. In spite of my sadness that she is gone and for all she suffered with Alzheimer’s disease, I will be happy to remember and celebrate her kindest this weekend.

In spirit or in person, have a lovely weekend with your mom and 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.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

The Costumes We Keep & Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes

I love a good costume. Maybe that’s why I love Halloween so much. However, you don’t have to wait until Halloween to have fun with dress ups. If you keep your eyes open, there are costumes everywhere. Unfortunately you are most likely to see the under-six set wearing them. Think little girls in fluffy pink, tutus-like skirts and boys in Batman t-shirts.

When he was a little boy, my brother John dressed in costume almost every day. His favorite was Superman. Due to some miscommunication, both grandmothers gave him a Superman suit for his birthday. Not a problem, Johnny was just fine with that. If one was in the wash, he could still suit up.

Along with the man of steel, at least once a week he would appear at breakfast in full Daniel Boone or cowboy regalia. Sporting a coonskin cap or cowboy hat, fringed shirt and jeans, he would swagger into the kitchen. Although it was clearly never first or even second choice, when there were no other options, Batman graced our presence.

Then there was that dreadful day. I’m glad I’d already left for school and didn’t witness the trauma. Whether the story is nothing more than family legend or true, I’ll never know. Anyway, John showed up at his friend Richard’s house in jeans and t-shirt. Since she’d rarely, maybe never, seen him in civilian clothes, Richard’s mom asked him, “Where’s Superman today?” Without missing a beat, Johnny replied, “Both my Superman suits are in the wash. My mother told me I had to be Clark Kent today.”

When he started kindergarten or maybe it was nursery school, John gave up his costumes. There was no particular drama. After hundreds of wearings and washings, I’m guessing they fell apart. Maybe the dog ate his coonskin cap or he lost his cowboy hat at the playground. Then again, he might have simply outgrown them – physically or metaphorically or both. These things happen. While I hope not, it’s possible some school administrator put the kybosh on super heroes in the classroom. Although they later reneged, I can confirm that those very same administrators outlawed miniskirts at the high school.

Maybe we never actually give up costumes. Instead, we change the characters we play. Could it be that a hungry dog or bureaucrat does nothing more than nudge us into the inevitable next rendition of ourselves? Wonder Woman changes into bookish nerd or cool bohemian and then morphs again into corporate lawyer. Batman becomes an athlete and prom king, transforms into a Peace Corp volunteer and changes once more into an engineer.

Whether you’re a teenager in a ratty t-shirt or a Wall Street type in an Armani suit, your clothing sends a message. Admit it; you could just as easily don a pair of jeans as yoga pants, a button-down shirt as a mock turtleneck. Whether it’s true or not, yoga pants tell the world you are sporty and fit – or just so busy you don’t have time to change your clothes after class. The mock turtleneck? It’s your proclamation that you will indeed be the next Steve Jobs.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and my kitchen all but done, it’s time for me to put on my red apron. What does that say about me?

Happy cooking and bon appétit!

Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes
It’s not too early to start thinking about Thanksgiving. I’ve never been a fan of sweet potatoes with marshmallows. If you are of the same mind, add this savory dish to your Thanksgiving menu. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces plus more for the pan
About 3 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and cut in small pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Generously butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Prick each potato several times with a knife, place them on the baking sheet and in the oven. Reduce the heat and bake at 375 degrees until soft, 1-1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and set aside.

When cool enough to handle but still warm, halve potatoes and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons butter, the cream cheese and sour cream, sprinkle with the cheeses and season with salt and pepper. Use a masher to smash the potatoes and combine the ingredients. Spread the sweet potatoes in the prepared baking dish and dot with the remaining butter.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated. Bring the potatoes to room temperature before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the sweet potatoes at 350 degrees until piping hot, about 30 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Creamy Polenta with Mushroom & Kale Ragù
Two Years Ago – Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
Three Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous
Four Years Ago – Smashed or Mashed Potatoes
Five Years Ago – Apple Muffins
Six Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash
Seven Years Ago – Spinach Ricotta Pie
Eight Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Lentils
Ninet Years Ago – Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart

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

My current costume is the monochromatic look, black in cold weather and white/beige/khaki in warm. What about you? Feel free to share!

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

Second Half & Blueberry-Ginger Cobbler

It’s the second half of summer. We need to make the most of it. There will be no grousing about the rain or heat or anything else. Until we built the little brown house in the woods, my family always spent August on Cape Cod. From the time they were babies, my parents vacationed on the Cape in August. The tradition continued.

July was a crazy quilt of long weekends on the Cape at one or the other grandparents’ cottage, a day trip to the north shore and summer camp. When all else failed, we spent the afternoon at the town beach. August was a rickety rental a stone’s throw from the ocean.

I don’t know why but I never questioned the August vacation rule. For that matter, I doubt I thought much about it. However, I did find it decidedly strange when some of my friends went off to the beach in July.

My mother was pretty good at declarations. When I told her of friends heading to the Cape or New Hampshire or Maine in July, her reply was something akin to, “some people just don’t know any better.” If you didn’t know her, from that remark, you might think Mom was a snob or at least very opinionated. While Mom loved a good opinion, she was never a snob.

I admit at some point, probably when I was a teenager, I was vaguely uncomfortable with her pronouncement. I think I had just read the Great Gatsby. I hated to think that we were the kind of people who fled the city in August. Was it possible that we were among those careless people with more money than sense?

I needn’t have worried. Our family was neither fabulously wealthy nor remarkably careless. We lived in the suburbs. We didn’t lie around all day in white dresses surrounded by billowing curtains and complain about the heat. We wore shorts and t-shirts. We road bikes, climbed trees and ran through the sprinkler when Mom couldn’t take us to Morses Pond.

Anyway, except for my Great Gatsby moment, once we were ensconced in the little brown house in the woods, the subject was moot. Mom and we kids left the suburbs within minutes of the final school bell in June and returned late in the afternoon of Labor Day. Dad took the 4th of July holiday week off and came up weekends. We still wore shorts and t-shirts. We left our bikes at home but climbed trees and hiked in the hills. We swam, sailed and made a feeble attempt to learn tennis. If it rained, we played Monopoly and did jigsaw puzzles. We didn’t wear white dresses and the little brown house did not have billowing, floor-to-ceiling curtains.

It wasn’t until fairly recently, like maybe in the last few years that it finally dawned on me as to why the Nyes took their vacation in August. (It was one of those duh rather than ah ha moments.) The Atlantic Ocean was too cold for swimming in July. Or so said, generation after generation of adults. Ocean or lake, salt water or fresh, you name it, kids will swim anytime from Mother’s Day to Columbus Day. Unless there’s an El Niño (or is it La Niña), then they’ll swim on Christmas Day too.

Anyway, it is just about time for my father to greet the second half of summer with a swim in Pleasant Lake. While July is definitely the warmer of the two months, Dad’s now ninety-year-old bones prefer to wait until the lake reaches a more balmy 75 degrees or at least a refreshing 65. Who needs a calendar when you’ve got family traditions?

Wishing you a lovely August and bon appétit!

Blueberry-Ginger Cobbler
Pick-your-own or pick up a couple of quarts at the farm, it’s blueberry season. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Blueberry filling:
6 cups picked over blueberries
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Biscuit dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small bits
1/2-3/4 cup sour cream

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

Prepare the filling: put the blueberries in a bowl, add the brown sugar, cornstarch, ginger, lime zest, cinnamon and salt and toss to combine. Add the lime juice and toss again. Set aside.

Make the biscuit dough: put the flour, crystallized ginger, brown sugar, baking powder and soda and salt and cinnamon in food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and process again until the mixture resembles fine meal. Transfer to a bowl, add the sour cream and stir until the dough comes together.

Assemble the cobbler and bake: transfer the blueberry mixture to the prepared baking dish, drop spoonfuls of biscuit dough onto the fruit and transfer the cobbler to the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden. Serve warm with vanilla or ginger ice cream.

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

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

What about you? Do you have a summer vacation story to tell? Feel free to share!

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