Turn on the Heat & Maple-Ginger Apple Crisp

The autumnal equinox assured one and all that fall was here. It’s only been a few weeks, but the weather has not been particularly fall-ish. Although there’s been a couple of frosty mornings and a few cool days, for the most part, it feels a lot like August. I tend to let my early walks gage the change of season. It is an annual cycle of shorts to leggings to double leggings then back to a single pair and shorts again. Except for a one-day blip, I’m still in shorts.

The shift to leggings is only one of a good many sign of the changing seasons. A few fall indicators, maybe more than a few, kick off before the equinox. I’m not sure if that’s quite right but who am I to judge. Anyway, there is a long list of clues to let you know it’s fall. For some, it’s the first flash of foliage. For others; it’s when Halloween candy hits supermarket shelves. Football fanatics loudly applaud the first game and, yes, preseason counts – ask any fan.

Then again, perhaps the first pumpkin spice drink is your harbinger of autumn. In case you are wondering, no, I don’t imbibe in pumpkin spice lattes or pumpkin spice martinis. Yes, I know they are wildly popular. But don’t look to me to embrace all things fall with a frou-frou drink in one hand and a pumpkin in the other. I need both hands for the pumpkin.

That’s not to say that I am without wicked indulgences. I bake a fabulous (if I do say so myself) pumpkin cheesecake every Thanksgiving. And yes, it’s packed with traditional pumpkin pie spices plus a tablespoon of cognac. If you don’t have cognac you can substitute rum.

Anyway, after a summer in shorts and T-shirts, most fall firsts are about cooler temperatures and getting cozy. While I stick to my basic skim-milk-no-foam latte, I do look forward to the first fire in the fireplace. I’m also happy to slide the first plump chicken into the oven to roast. Of course, I’m delighted to bring home the first local apples and bake up something wonderful. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include stirring up the first pots of soup and chili as well as marinara and/or Bolognese.

As much as I love cozy, there is one first I do my best to avoid for as long as possible. That’s the first time I put on socks. As for chilly evenings by the lake, well, I’ve been known to sport naked ankles while wearing a down parka.

Perhaps the toughest fall first decision is WHEN TO TURN ON THE HEAT. I avoid the inevitable acceptance that it is no longer summer or Indian summer or early fall for as long as possible. It was easier when I lived abroad in rented apartments. True or not, the rumor among expatriates was that the Swiss powers-that-be had decreed a standing date. Every October, it might have been the third Monday or the twentieth or sometime around then, the heat came on.

September could be record breaking cold or October unseasonably warm; it didn’t matter. The radiator began to clang right on schedule, never a day early and never a day late. Make the mistake of timidly asking for heat before the designated day and the landlord would simply tell you to put on a sweater. Too hot? Well, open the window.

Back in New Hampshire, I have no landlord to regulate the thermostat. My bank balance determines when I finally click the heat on. For now, I’m putting on a sweater.

Have a cozy fall and bon appétit!

Maple-Ginger Apple Crisp

Everyone loves apple crisp and (pardon me while I pat myself on the back) my latest version is incredible! Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • Crumble Topping, recipe follows
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5-6arge, firm-tart apples – I like Granny Smith, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2-3/4 cup (more or less depending on your sweet tooth) maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons calvados or apple jack or rum

Make the Crumble Topping. Refrigerate the topping while you prepare the fruit.

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

Put the apples, raisins and ginger in a large bowl, sprinkle with the spices and toss to combine. Drizzle with maple syrup and calvados and toss again until well combined.

Transfer the apples to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with Crumble Topping. Put the dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 1 hour or until the top is brown and the apples are tender and bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla or ginger ice cream.

Crumble Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold, butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

Put the flour, brown sugar, salt and spices in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the oatmeal and continue pulsing until the topping comes together in little lumps.

I like to make a triple or quadruple batch of Crumble Topping and freeze the extra. For a last minute dessert, I prep fruit and sprinkle with topping. It’s in the oven in minutes.

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How do you get cozy? Feel free to share!

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

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Thoughts on Independence Day & Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Alright now, we know that the 4th of July is a day of parades, cookouts and fireworks. But what about the real story? What’s behind all the hoopla? In case you’ve forgotten your history lessons, the then-colonists, subjects of the King of England declared independence on the 4th of July, 1776. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that’s what July 4th, Independence Day, is all about.

This declaration did not happen overnight or without warning. Tension over a laundry list of issues had been brewing for years. Taxes were a particularly hot dispute. From documents to tea, the cash strapped British King tried to impose one tax after another on the colonists. Heated protests turned to rebellion before the all-out demand for independence.

Each and every one of the original thirteen colonies were represented when the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and approved the Declaration of Independence. Hardly wild-eyed rabble-rousers, these congressmen were men of means, educated landowners and professionals. In defiance of the King, Congress pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in pursuit of freedom and independence. Enough was enough, it was finally time to end the crushing tyranny of British rule.

The Colonists’ political and economic complaints were numerous and grave. Not only were they forced to pay taxes without representation, the courts were hopelessly biased and an army of red coats and mercenaries had invaded their shores. The colonists complained that the King had not only cut off trade with the rest of the world, he had, “plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.” In addition, they raised an oddly contemporary issue – immigration, stating “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither …”

And so, the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence renounced any last shreds of allegiance to King and crown. The colonies united into free and independent states. Today, we see it as a heroic declaration of freedom. However, at the time, it was treason. Or, at least, treasonous in the eyes of the British government. It was no small thing when the signers closed with a mutual pledge to stake their lives, fortunes and sacred honor on freedom and independence.

This holiday week, let’s all take a moment to reflect on the freedom fighters who helped create our great American story. Not just the revolutionaries of 1776 but the heroes of the Civil War, World Wars I and II and every conflict in our long history. While you’re at it, don’t forget the champions of the women’s, civil and LGBT rights movements.

A constant work in progress, our American story is far from perfect. Democracy is hard and our great experiment has been known to wobble and waiver occasionally. It will probably continue to do so. Am I alone in thinking that things are particularly wobble-y and waiver-y right now?

So, yes, thank the revolutionaries who laid the foundations for our democracy. Then, let’s ask more of ourselves to help safeguard life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for future generations. Together we can smooth out some of those wobbles and straighten a few more waivers.

Thank you, Happy Independence Day and bon appétit!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp
A perfect dessert to help celebrate an old fashioned, red hot 4th of July or any early summer party. Enjoy!
8-12 servings

Butter for the pan(s)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 – 2 pounds rhubarb, washed trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 – 2 pounds strawberries, washed trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 3 quart baking dish or individual ramekins.

Put the sugar, cornstarch and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the rhubarb, strawberries, orange zest and Grand Marnier and gently toss to combine. Pour the fruit into the baking dish or ramekins and sprinkle with the crumble topping.

Put the pan(s) on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly, 45-60 minutes for a large baking dish and 20-30 minutes for ramekins. Serve warm or at room temperate with vanilla ice cream.

Pistachio Crumble Topping
1 cup pistachios
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

Combine the pistachios, flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine and roughly chop the nuts. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the oatmeal and pulse until the topping comes together in little lumps.

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One Year Ago – Vietnamese Salad
Two Years Ago – Tomato & Burrata Salad with Grilled Bread
Three Years Ago – Grilled Shrimp & Vegetable Salad
Four Years Ago – Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard
Five Years Ago – Grilled Tomato Crostini
Six Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Seven Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Nine Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Ten Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

What is (are) your favorite summer fruit(s)/dessert(s)? Feel free to share!

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

 

Thinking about Gratitude & Rhubarb Tarlets

A few years ago, I was asked to take a look at an early draft of a job description and share any thoughts or advice. I’m a sucker for that pitch. Tell me, who doesn’t like to spout an opinion or two? Anyway, the job description included an outline of key responsibilities. Nothing stuck out; it was pretty typical for the job at hand.

Next, it described the personal qualities needed to excel at the job. Excellent communication skills, the ability to work independently and problem solve topped the list. I don’t know about you but I’ve never seen a help wanted ad in search of a bad communicator. Furthermore, I’ve yet to hear of a company looking for someone totally dependent on minute-to-minute guidance and instruction. Of course, there was something about technology – like it or not computers are part of life and work.

In other words, it was all pretty standard … with one exception. The person was expected to be grateful. It was a bit vague but, along with a warm and friendly demeanor, something about gratitude was on the list. I immediately put on my contrarian hat or maybe it was my Bolshevik hat and asked, “Grateful for what?” It reminded me of my parents, insisting that I not only eat my peas but like them too. After all, children were starving in Africa.

Now this all happened a while ago – back when gratitude was all the rage. It might have been a sign of the times. The country was starting to find its way out of the mortgage debacle. While not great, the economy was steadily improving. With a sigh of relief, people were thanking their lucky stars that they had a roof over their heads, food on the table and a job to pay the bills.

Meanwhile, researchers discovered that feeling grateful was actually good for you. They figured out that gratitude led to happiness. Perhaps I was too quick to raise those hackles; what employer doesn’t want happy employees? They’re more productive and don’t quit in a huff. Then again, maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe happiness leads to gratitude. I’m not so sure about the whole cause and effect with this psychological stuff.

In any case, it seems to me that gratitude comes from within and can’t be dictated
by an employer. Hopefully, most of us can easily come up with any number of people, places and things we’re grateful for. Let’s start with the basics – a safe place to live, food and water. Now, a decent paying job is usually part of that. An interesting job, one you like or even love, takes it up a notch. I must say having the good fortune to live in beautiful New Hampshire is better than basic. Even when I am harried and rushed, the lake and surrounding hills bring me peace and fill me with happiness.

While they can drive us absolutely, positively crazy, most of us are grateful for our families. I suppose that, if all else fails, they are fodder for a great story or two or more (probably lots more.) Still and all, I don’t think I could do without mine. Same goes for friends. From a fun-filled day to a shoulder to cry on or a new perspective on an old problem, what would we do without our friends. Whether the circle is huge or just a few close besties, we are grateful for each and every one.

When it comes to people and gratitude, I hope that you are grateful for you. Don’t be shy, it’s okay to appreciate, to value and to give thanks to the wonderful person you are. Perhaps you make the world’s best cup of coffee, are a fantastic listener or can touch your nose with your tongue, any and all of that are worthy of thanks and gratitude. Let’s hope your boss agrees!

Feeling grateful for warmer and longer days – bon appétit!

Rhubarb Tartlets
I’m grateful that local rhubarb is ready for harvest. Enjoy!
Makes about 30 tartlets

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed and chopped very fine
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the sugar, corn starch and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the rhubarb, orange zest and Grand Marnier and toss to combine.

Spoon the filling into the tartlet shells, sprinkle the tops with Crunchy Topping and bake until the crusts are golden, about 30 minutes. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing. You may need to use a small knife to loosen the tartlets from the tins. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cream Cheese Pastry Dough
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
2-4 or more tablespoons ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the ice water and pulse until the dough comes together. Remove the dough from the food processor, pat into a ball, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls (about 1/2 ounce each). Place the balls in mini muffin tins and, using your fingers, shape each into a tartlet shell. Freeze the shells for at least 15 minutes.

Crunchy Topping
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Combine the flour, nuts, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine and finely chop the nuts. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand and starts to clump together.

Store extra topping in the refrigerator and sprinkle on your next fruit crisp or crumble.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Zucchini Tacos
Two Years Ago – Grilled Lamb with Fresh Mint
Three Years Ago – Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Four Years Ago – Greek Salad with Grilled Shrimp
Five Years Ago – Asparagus & Radish Salad
Six Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Seven Years Ago – Asian Noodle Salad
Eight Years Ago – Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart
Nine Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Ten Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

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

What are you grateful for? Feel free to share!

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

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

More Summer Camp & Blueberry Bread Pudding

Last week I wrote a little bit about my first year at Camp Four Winds. A Girl Scout camp, it offered an escape from the hot, stuffy suburbs. Four Winds was basic to say the least, little cabins and tents in the woods, latrines and a big old dining hall. I’m not exactly sure if there were showers. While I sort of remember waiting in line for a shower, it might be my imagination. On the other hand, I have a clear vision of soaping up in the pond on Saturday night. You know the drill, once a week whether you need it or not.

Our days were not packed with fancy lessons or special programs. There was no horseback riding, tennis lessons, golf, dance classes or archery. At some point, we must have made a rope bracelet or gimp lanyard. We went on a hike, maybe two. Although I’d have denied it at the time, the hikes were none too arduous. One was planned as an overnight. We wimped out and returned to our little cabins when it started to rain. However, as luck would have it, the rain stopped in time for s’mores.

Come to think of it, camp was not all that different from what we did at home. We got up, we had breakfast and did chores. Of course, the chores were more onerous than those Mom gave us. My sister and I did not clean latrines back on Jackson Road. However, we did make our beds and could yield a broom. Brenda was the neater of the two. If pushed, I would eventually pick up my half of our room.

At home, we waited impatiently for Mom to do whatever needed doing before taking us to the town beach. At camp, the counselors corralled us down to the waterfront as soon as our beds were made and cabins swept. Starting with swimming lessons, most of the day was spent in and on the pond. Rain or shine, we stayed in the water until our lips were blue and our teeth chattered. Then we rowed boats and paddle canoes.

At the end of the morning, we were hustled back to our cabins to change into shorts and shirts. Bathing suits were not permitted in the dining hall. The food was unremarkable but kids gathered on the dining hall steps before and after lunch to sing camp songs. I can still sing a couple although I might mess up a verse of two.

After lunch was quiet time. Then and now, it seems rather silly. At seven or eight or however old I was, I was well past needing an afternoon nap. However, we were expected to rest or write letters home to our parents. I guess it was okay to read a book. Mostly, we whispered and giggled.

I’m pretty sure that quiet time was invented to give the counselors a break. How much do you want to bet that they spent the hour smoking cigarettes and writing love letters to their boyfriends? After resting, we were back at the pond. The remainder of the afternoon was filled with more swimming, more blue lips and more chattering teeth followed by rowboats and canoes. If you sense a pattern, you’d be right. It was not for naught. At the end of the two weeks, there was a swim meet. My crawl was hopeless but I came in second with my speedy backstroke.

Thankfully, there were more camp songs before and after dinner because the meal was as unremarkable as breakfast and lunch. At night, there were campfires, s’mores, ghost stories and more giggling. Little girls like to giggle and I was particularly good at it.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Blueberry Bread Pudding

You can call this Baked Blueberry French Toast and serve it for breakfast. Otherwise, call it delicious and serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

Butter for the pan
1 day-old* baguette (about 16-ounce), cubed
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 whole eggs
3 cups half and half or whole milk
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Generously butter a 13- x 9-inch pan. Arrange half of the bread cubes in the pan in a single layer. Sprinkle with half of the blueberries. Top with the remaining bread cubes and blueberries.

Put the cream cheese, sugar and spices in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at time, beating to incorporate. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the half and half. Gradually increase the mixer speed and beat until well combined.

Pour the custard pour over the bread and blueberries. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until lightly browned and set, about 30 minutes more.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve with or without vanilla ice cream.

* It is okay to use a fresh baguette. Just spread the cubes on baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes before prepping the pudding.

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

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

What about you? How will you celebrate the first days of summer vacation and the longest day? Feel free to share!

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

April Staycation & I Love Lime Pie

I love New Hampshire; I truly do. I love the snow in the winter and the red leaves in the fall. I love the summer and long, lazy evenings at the beach. But nothing is perfect, not even my love affair with New Hampshire. The blemish on the State’s almost flawless granite facade is spring. Or, to be more precise – the lack thereof.

While warmer climes are enjoying cherry blossoms, daffodils and tulips, we are enjoying sand, mud and potholes. Okay, I admit it; a few brave crocuses have popped their little heads up through the sand in my front garden. As for the buds on the trees, they are closed up tight. Most days, New Hampshire is shrouded in gray; gray skies, gray trees, gray sand.

It’s clear; it’s time for a vacation. The school district agrees. April vacation is this very week. All the lucky kids are in Florida or the Bahamas, Washington DC or maybe New York City. The rest of us are stuck here, surrounded by gray. (Okay, I confess. I already had my ten days in Florida at the beginning of the month. It was warm, sunny and green.)

For everyone stuck here, here are a few suggestions for an April stay-cation:

Dress like you are in sunny Florida or balmy Bermuda. It may be too chilly for shorts but you can dig into the closet for those fabulous pink sneakers or mellow yellow jeans.

Go for a swim. Think warm and sunny thoughts as you swim laps up and down the pool at Hogan. If you want to get in shape for swimsuit season, now is as good a time as any to start.

Have a spa day. Do-it-yourself or let the professionals pamper you. Massage, facial, manicure, pedicure, a day of luxury will help you forget the six-inch layer of sand in your front yard.

Get going on your garden. Start seedlings, clean out your beds and check your planters. If you have pots filled with herbs and other plants in the garage, move them outside. Just be prepared to move them back again. Temperatures could still plummet for a night or two.

Build a birdhouse. Welcome your feathered friends back with a cheery, new abode. Now, to paint or not to paint, that is the question. If you decorate your little house, be sure to stay away from toxic paints. In addition, the color scheme should blend with its surroundings. Otherwise, it could attract predators. Bright pink is fine in a colorful flower garden but not so great in a muted shade garden.

Cook as if the sun were shining. Roll out the grill, stock up on limes and have a party. Make it as plain or fancy as you like. You can keep it simple with burgers or throw a few shrimp on the barbie. Unless of course, you’d rather go nuts. Whip up a batch of amazing barbeque sauce for chicken or a fabulous salsa for beef or pork. As for limes, they’re good for everything from cocktails to a marinade or salsa and, of course, dessert!

Or forget the sunny south and spend a day in Paris. Sleep in, drink strong coffee and nibble a croissant. Go shopping, buy something fabulous and then enjoy a chatty (never gossipy) lunch with a friend. Take a stroll and imagine chestnuts in blossom. End the day with a long and lazy dinner with wonderful food, great wine and fascinating conversation.

Happy spring and bon appétit!

I Love Lime Pie
If you would like to use Key limes and can find them, go for it. If not, supermarket limes will work just fine! Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
4 large egg yolks
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Grated zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2-3/4 cup very cold heavy cream
Fresh berries

Set a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a 9-inch glass pie plate and whisk with a fork to combine. Add the melted butter, mix until well combined and firmly press the crumbs into the pan. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 7 minutes and cool on a rack.

While the crust bakes and cools, put the yolks in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale yellow and thick. Add the condensed milk and lime zest and beat again until well-combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add the lime and orange juices, increase the speed and continue beating until smooth.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake in middle of oven for 15 minutes. Cool the pie on a rack to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve: whip the cream with an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks. Cut the pie into wedges, garnish with fresh berries and a dollop of whipped cream.

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One Year Ago – Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago – Latkes
Three Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Four Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Five Years Ago – Espresso Brownies
Six Years Ago – Lemon Scones
Seven Years Ago – Shrimp with Jicama Slaw
Eight Years Ago – Pork Mole

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

What about you? Is a spring vacation in your plans this year? Feel free to share!

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

Getting in the Spirit & Chocolate Walnut Tart

Christmas_StockingHopefully, you’re feeling all warm and cozy after Thanksgiving. There were probably a few not too subtle and not too quiet words spoken at some point between the shrimp cocktail and pumpkin pie. It would not be Thanksgiving if there were not at least one blowup. I’m sure all is forgiven or at least forgotten by now. Anyway, let’s turn that Thanksgiving afterglow into some big old, no strings, no limits holiday spirit. I’m sure you have a few ideas but these will help you get started:

First and foremost, take down any political signs that are still in your yard. Replace them with sparkling lights and a snowman or two. Hang a wreath on the door and fill an old planter with evergreens, holly and more lights.

Drive around town and look at other people’s Christmas lights. Revive an old tradition of a special dinner out after the Christmas lights tour. If your family has never celebrated the lights tour tradition, start it. You deserve a night out.

Dig through all your old boxes of decorations and ornaments. Don’t stop there; look through your mom’s old boxes too. These treasures will bring back special memories. Embrace and revel in the nostalgia of Christmas.

Get a tree and fill it with lights, baubles and bows. If it seems like too much trouble … get one anyway. If it really, really, really seems like too much trouble, cover the mantle with greens and decorate them with lights, baubles and bows. It will get you in the spirit and send you over to the farm for a tree.

Whether you favor Bing or Bruce, crank up some holiday tunes. It’s a wonderful time of year and music is a big part of it. Find one of those all Christmas stations on the radio and let it play throughout the day. Music will lift your spirits on a dark and cloudy afternoon and make any task easier. In the coming weeks, make it a point to attend a community concert, go caroling and hum your way through the supermarket.

Bake something. Anything; it doesn’t matter whether you bake dozens of cookies, a tart or a pan of brownies. By all means, get the children or grandkids involved. They can help you measure and mix and keep you company. If you don’t have any kids available, borrow one or two from a neighbor. I’m sure their parents will be delighted to have some free time to wrap gifts, do some shopping or just sit quietly for a minute.

Baking done; now, it’s time to make something. Craft a tree ornament, knit a scarf or decorate a wreath; the list is endless. ‘Tis the season to take a workshop at the library or community center, search the internet for clever projects or ask your creative friends for help. Remember, when in doubt – a can of gold spray paint can turn almost anything into something magical.

Do you have a favorite book that your parents read you every year at Christmas? Even if it’s been years, hunt it down, cuddle up on the couch and read it again. From the transformations of Ebenezer and Grinch to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, these stories share themes of love and kindness.

Happy holidays and bon appétit!

Chocolate Walnut Tart
A delicious change from the traditional Pecan Pie, this tart is perfect for chocoholics. Enjoy!baking_01
Makes one tart

Flaky Pastry (recipe follows)
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 cups (about 8 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)
Garnish: unsweetened whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough and fit it into a 9- or 10-inch glass or ceramic tart pan. Trim and crimp the edge. Cover and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter and rum. Whisk in the sugar and maple syrup. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the walnuts and allspice.

Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake until set, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 2 hours. Pour the glaze over the tart and spread evenly to cover the top. Cool completely and serve garnished with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

Chocolate Glaze
8 ounces dark chocolate
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Put the chocolate, butter and cream in a heavy saucepan and, stirring frequently, heat on very low until about 2/3 melted. Remove the pan from the heat, let sit for 5-10 minutes and stir until smooth.

Flaky Pastry
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.

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One Year Ago – Citrus & Spice Sugar Cookies
Two Years Ago – Peppermint Bark Cookies
Three Years Ago – Mixed Reds & Greens Holiday Salad
Four Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Five Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Six Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Eight 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!

What about you? How do you get in the holiday spirit? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016