Cherry Cobbler on WMUR Cook’s Corner

WMUR_02Summer is here with warm sunshine and fruity desserts!  I’m on New Hampshire’s ABC affiliate WMUR/Channel 9 today, whipping up a great, dessert for you.Try  my Cherry Cobbler – it will be perfect at your cookout.this weekend!

Serve it as part of a tasty cookout menu with family and friend.

Want more choices? Click Here! for lots more pies, tarts, cobblers, crumbles and crisps. Or Here! for more seasonal menus. Or Finally Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog.

© Susan W. Nye, 2016

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Playlist & Cherry Cobbler

Alice_Cooper_School's_out_45Do you have a playlist in your head? Does it change with every crop of new hits? Or maybe, just maybe it’s a musical memoir covering the many phases of your life. If you are like me, the songs change with mood and season. Fall conjures up Carly Simon and Simon and Garfunkel. The holidays bring a handful of carols. Cooking, walking around the lake or wandering though the hardware store, each can prompt its own sets of tunes.

Right about now, I can’t get Alice Cooper out of my head. Mind you, I’m not a fan of Alice Cooper. His theatrical, horror-laced approach to music doesn’t work for me. When it comes to guillotines, electric chairs and blood, I’ll take a pass. So why Alice Cooper ? Why not some other raucous band? Okay, maybe Pink Floyd’s Wall has tumbled around my head a time or two recently but I’ll leave the wall building talk to others. Besides it is all very secondary to Alice Cooper bellowing, “Schools Out for Summer.” That song lives in my head every June. There’s no use trying to avoid it, whether I like it or not, “Schools Out” will always be part of my playlist.

It doesn’t last long. The last bell rang on Friday and school buses are off the road. The longest day was yesterday and summer has officially started. The Pointer Sisters, Martha & The Vandellas and The Supremes are due to take over any minute. (Truth be told, I love these girls year round. The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited” works when I find the perfect sweater or the first asparagus is at the farm stand. The Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” rolls around my brain whenever I get good news and “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes works when I’m feeling impatient.)

However, summer is made to boogie so Motown and anything danceable tends to take over my internal broadcast system. Bright sky and sunshine is all I need for an entire medley to resound in my brain. But hey, not just Motown and not just in my head. When the music demands it, I’m more than happy to roll down the car windows, slide back the moonroof and turn up the radio. You see, I just assume you want me to share my joyful music.

Of course, “I’m so Excited” doesn’t work with absolutely everything. Some victory celebrations demand Vangelis or maybe Queen. It may be a generational thing or a former runner’s thing. Anyway, Chariots of Fire is definitely on my list of favorite films. The title song has boomed across the starting line of countless fun runs and 10Ks. It’s a keeper on my playlist.

Let’s face it, life is not all fun runs and dancing in the street. When work frustrates me, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” seems like a reasonable response. For more contemplative times, there is nothing like Billie Holiday or Joni Mitchell. Joni hooked me during my freshman year in college; melancholy has to be her middle name.

While Joni will always have a special place in my heart, it is Sarah McLachlan I hear when I visit my mother. Mom’s memories have grown dim, confused and disjointed. It doesn’t matter because “I Will Remember You”. Of course, Mom has her own playlist. Perhaps this phenomenon is inherited. Mom frequently hums along with hers. Ol’ Blue Eyes and Sting are her long time favorites. It’s hard to tell but she may have added a few new top picks; the tunes she hums are rarely recognizable.

But that’s okay; let the music play and bon appétit!

Cherry Cobbler
Neil Diamond’s “Cherry Cherry” is not on my playlist but cherries are in season … so here goes! Enjoy.
Serves 8

Butter for the pan
About 2 pounds (about 8 cups pitted and halved) cherries
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1-2 tablespoons kirsch or Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pinches cloves
1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small bits
1/2-34 sour cream

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

Prepare the filling: working over a bowl to reserve the juice, pit the cherries. Add the brown sugar, cornstarch, lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and pinch each cloves and salt and stir to combine and set aside.

Make the biscuit dough: put the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and the remaining salt, cinnamon and cloves 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 cobble and bake: transfer the cherry mixture to the prepared baking dish, drop spoonfuls of biscuit dough onto the fruit and transfer the cobble 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 ice cream.

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One Year Ago – Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction
Two Years Ago – Strawberry Shortcakes with Cardamom Cream
Three Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Four Years Ago – Chocolate-Chocolate Sorbet
Five Years Ago – Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons
Six Years Ago – The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the History of my Kitchen
Seven Years Ago – Asian Slaw
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s on your playlist? Feel free to share.

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

Celebrate Pi Day! March 14th

Happy Pi Day! It’s a day to celebrate mathematics and … eat pie! I can‘t give any advice when it comes to mathematics but I’ve got a few ideas for PIE.

Let’s start with savory pies … from pizza and flatbread to quiche and all its tasty asparagus tart 01renditions:
Greek Pizza
Calzones with Marinara Sauce
Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Spinach Ricotta Pie
Quiche
Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart
Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart
Roasted Beet Tatin (Tart) with Goat Cheese & Walnuts
Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks)

Now, how about a sweet? Apple, blueberry, chocolate and more!blueberry_crostata_05
Mini Tarte Tatin
Rustic Apple Croustade
Rustic Apple Tart
Blueberry Crostata
Blueberry Pie
Chocolate-Orange Tart
Lemon Tart
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart
Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie

Enjoy your pi … or is that pie! Bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Pi Day? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2016

International Women’s Day & Mini Tarte Tatin

Nana_Grant_Mom_Nana_Westland

Today is International Women’s Day. “What’s that?” you may ask. Well, it’s a day to celebrate women; particularly working women. Although it started more than a century ago in New York, IWD is far from top of mind. Gift shops and pharmacies haven’t put up special racks of IWD cards. It will be business as usual at the post office and the banks. Don’t expect your male colleagues to organize a special lunch, drinks after work or even a cake. Although, this international holiday is celebrated all over the world, you’ll find little if any hoopla in this country. Too bad, there’s a lot to celebrate.

Anyway, fifteen thousand garment workers, many of them newly arrived immigrants, launched the first International Women’s Day. They marched through the Lower East Side and rallied at Union Square on March 8, 1908. Their goal was equal economic and political rights. By today’s standards, their demands seem more than reasonable. Days were long and life was tough for garment workers. They spent sixty, eighty or more hours per week in crowded, poorly lit factories with no heat in the winter and no air conditioning in the summer. In spite of the long hours and awful conditions, women earned $7 maybe $8 per week; about half of what men earned. On the political side, suffragettes had been asking for the vote for more than fifty years. In 1908, the Nineteenth Amendment was still more than a decade from ratification.

I don’t plan any demonstrations or marches today. Instead, I’d like to celebrate some of the women in my life. First, there is the great grandmother who built and ran her own business. Nana Grant was an immigrant with a few years of elementary school education when she moved to Boston. Widowed at a young age, she had a three-year-old to provide for. She opened a tiny store and sold penny candy, buttons, ribbons, needles and thread. She sold enough buttons and bows to send her daughter to private school and college. My niece Gillian must take after her great-great grandmother. She too runs a small shop but she sells wellness in the form of herbs and tinctures.

Then there is my mother, who battles late stage Alzheimer’s disease. Every day, she provides a lesson in resilience and grace. Quite simply, Mom is the kindness person I know. In spite of her disabilities, and they are significant, she greets everyone with a smile. Her laughter and smile are wonderful medicines. They won’t cure her Alzheimer’s but they always makes me feel better.

Another niece, Michaela, begins her first post-college job this week. It’s not as if she’s never worked. She’s weeded gardens, babysat, served beer in a sports bar but, with this new adventure, she starts her career. And an admirable one at that; Kaela will be working in alternative energy.

Whom will you salute today? What acts of courage and determination, what achievements will you celebrate? Perhaps you will toast women who have risen to the top of their field: powerful CEOs and politicians, talented athletes, actors and musicians or brilliant authors and artists.

Or perhaps, like me, you will raise a glass or word of praise to someone closer to home. The sister who helped a generation of children learn to care for the earth along with their letters and numbers. The grandmother who made jam tarts with you and sparked a lifelong interest in cooking. Our lives are filled with family, friends, teachers and neighbors. They offer support, all kinds of lessons, hugs and reality checks. Some stay a short time, while others are, at least in spirit, with us forever.

Young and old, here and gone, I raise my glass to my women friends and family, may you each thrive and revel in a life well lived. Bon appétit!

Mini Tarte Tatin
While this recipe has its origins in French baking, I’ve made it my own by combining the spirit of my Nana Nye’s jam tarts with my mother’s apple pie. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 tablespoons butter
8 tablespoons sugar
2-3 pounds apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8ths
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Sweet Pastry (recipe follows)
8 (6-8-ounce) custard cups

Make the Sweet Pastry dough (recipe follows).

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put 1/2 tablespoon each butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in the bottom each custard cup. Toss the apples with spices. Arrange the apples in the cups, packing them tightly in concentric circles. It’s okay if the apples stick up above the rim of the cups.

Put the cups on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes (the fruit will settle slightly). While the apples bake, roll out the dough and cut in rounds about an inch larger than the custard cups. Refrigerate the rounds until ready to use.

Remove the tarts from oven and lay a pastry round on top of each. Return the tarts to the oven and continue baking until the pastry is golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the tarts to a rack and cool for 10 minutes.

To serve: place a plate on top of each custard cup and using potholders to hold the cup and plate tightly together, invert each tart onto a plate. An apple slice or two might stick to the cup; carefully unstick them and place them on the tart. Serve warm with vanilla or ginger ice cream.

Sweet Pastry
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold
2-4 tablespoons ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and shortening and process 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 – Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette
Two Years Ago – Potato & Cheddar Soup
Three Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Four Years Ago – Guinness Lamb Shanks
Five Years Ago – Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Six Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Seven Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding

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

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

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

A Gift for Dad on His Day & Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart

Dad_2011Let’s share a few moments of sympathy for dad. Father’s Day is on Sunday and while most dads won’t be forgotten, they’ll probably be shortchanged. At least they’ll be jipped when compared to Mom. Last month, Americans spent nearly $20 billion (yes, that’s a b) for Mother’s Day. This week, we may hit $12.5 billion for dad.

So what’s up? Do we love our mothers more than our dads? To celebrate mom, we shower her with gifts, spend her to a spa and take her out for a fancy brunch or dinner. And dad? Well not so much. For his day, we send a card or, if it’s not too far out of our way, we might stop by the hardware store and pick up a gift card.

So what’s Dad doing wrong?

Maybe it’s not his fault. After a long snowy winter, Mother’s Day is a celebration of spring. The jewelry and department stores, boutiques and florists flood the media with suggestions. Besides, it’s easy to shop for mom. She’s always more than happy with a pair of funky earrings or fashionable new cardigan. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers.

With special menus and a free glass of champagne, restaurants vie for mom’s attention as well. Between the surge of advertising and her helpful suggestions, choosing a gift and/or a restaurant is a no brainer. There’s no way you can even begin to pretend that you forgot mom on her day.

Father’s Day is a different story. With a bounty of graduation parties, wedding and anniversary celebrations and end of school festivities, dads get lost in the merriment of June.

Since you finally figured out that dad hasn’t worn a tie in ten years, when it comes to a present, you’re stumped. He mumbled something about a cookout on Sunday, so in desperation, you head to the hardware store. Truth be told, he only suggested a cookout because he’s afraid you’ll get him another tie. He probably figured he could leave it in the box. No one wants to see a tie dangerously dangling over hot coals.

Wandering through the hardware store, you think, “maybe a grill?” Unfortunately, his dream model is twice the price of your first car. After checking your bank balance, you look at the alternatives. Finally! Could this be the one, the answer to your Father’s Day gift conundrum? It’s a bit more modest than his dream machine but still has a few bells and a couple of whistles. After a second look, you realize it is more or less identical to the one already sitting on his deck.

Feeling defeated, you grab a bundle of fancy, long-handled grill tools. Back home, you find a gift bag and some ribbon. As you wrap the tools, guilt over your lame gift continues to gnaw. Even worst, you begin to wonder, did you give him the same set last year? Mom was delighted to add another cardigan to the dozens that make up her knitted rainbow. You can only hope that Barbecue Bob will be as happy to add yet another set to his multiple versions of long handled spatulas, spoons, forks and tongs. At least this latest batch has those high tech silicon handles.

Happy Day Dad and bon appétit!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart
chocolate_peanut_butter_tart_04It’s too early for local blueberries (my dad’s favorite pie) but this nutty desert is a delicious alternative. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Chocolate Cookie Crust
7-8 ounces chocolate wafer cookies, about 1 3/4 cups crumbs
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the cookies in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the sugar, espresso powder and salt and pulse to combine. Drizzle the crumbs with the melted butter and pulse to combine.

Put the cookies crumbs in a 10-inch tart pan or deep dish 9-inch pie plate and press evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake just until set, about 8 minutes. Cool the crust and prepare the filling.

Peanut Butter Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, very cold

Put the cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until well combined.

Put the cream in a bowl and whip with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add one quarter of the whipped cream to the peanut butter mixture and gently stir to combine. Gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the filling.

Spoon the filling into the crust, smooth the surface and refrigerate the pie for 4 hours.

Chocolate Glaze
4 ounces good milk chocolate, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup or more heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped salted roasted peanuts

Put the chocolate and cream in a microwave safe bowl and zap on high at 20-second intervals until the chocolate starts to melt and the cream is warm. Add the espresso powder and let the chocolate and cream sit for a minute. Add the vanilla, whisk to combine and cool the chocolate for 10 minutes.

If necessary, add a little more cream and drizzle the chocolate glaze over the peanut butter filling. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to set. The tart can be made in advance. Remove from the refrigerator 15-30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with peanuts and serve.

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One Year Ago – Salsa Verde
Two Years Ago – Blueberry Crumb Cake
Three Years Ago – Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce
Four Years Ago – Strawberry Gelato
Five Years Ago – Asparagus Soup
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your bright gift idea for dad this year? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

My First Thanksgiving & Rustic Apple Croustade

For the better part of two decades, I lived in Switzerland. Before settling down in Geneva, I spent a year in Bienne. While many know it as the country’s watch-making capital, Bienne’s true historical significance has little to do with time pieces. This picturesque lakeside town is the birth place of an annual tradition, Thanksgiving Dinner at Susan’s.

Having grown up in Massachusetts, I have a special affinity for the harvest celebration. My family spent a lot of time on Cape Cod when I was a kid. Nana Nye took my sister and me to Plymouth to see the Rock and the Pilgrim Village at least once or three times over the years. In his day, Pop Nye made an important contribution to Thanksgiving tables across the country. After he retired, one of his many odd jobs was harvesting cranberries.

So even half a world away from Plymouth Plantation, there was no way I could ignore the harvest feast. I invited a dozen of my new friends and colleagues for dinner and promised them an authentic, New England Thanksgiving.

About a week before the party, I sat down with paper, pencil, Fanny Farmer and the Joy of Cooking. Figuring out my menu was easy. I would serve the very same dinner that my mother, and grandmothers before her, had been making for years. As I finished up my shopping list, it dawned on me that I had never cooked a turkey before. Or a butternut squash or turnip or creamed onions. I’m not sure it I had mashed a potato or not.

Then I realized that I had yet to see a butternut squash in the market. I was happy to improvise with my favorite acorn squash but they were nowhere to be found either. I wondered if the Cinderella pumpkins I’d seen in the market were for eating or decoration. At least an American friend had assured me that frozen turkeys would appear in the market five or six days before Thanksgiving. By lucky coincidence, the Swiss garnish their favorite fall feast of venison with cranberries. I’d already seen familiar bags of Cape Cod berries piled high in my local super market. But was the French word for turnip? Maybe I’d skip those.

Fresh from the land of fast food, weak beer and bad coffee, the new girl in town was going to dive in and cook a tradtional Yankee Thanksgiving dinner. I’m not sure why but I was not particularly worried. With the optimism of youth, I  decided that what I lacked in experience, I could make up with enthusiasm.

The night of the party I nervously greeted my guests. My twelve-pound turkey was taking up every square inch of my tiny oven. Both Fanny and Joy had given all sorts of advice on how to tell when the turkey was done. I poked and prodded the turkey several times. I called my mother. Eventually I decided it was about time to eat, took it out of the oven and prayed it was done.

The holiday fairies must have been looking out for me. The Yankee feast was greeted with avid curiousity. The table buzzed with questions, stories and laughter – a wonderful a celebration of welcome and new friendship.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and bon appétit!

.

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Rustic Apple Croustade
My version of a French country classic was such a big hit last Thanksgiving that I think I will bake one again this year. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12
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5-6 Cortland or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons Calvados or Cognac
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces phyllo leaves, fully defrosted
6-8 ounces (1 1/2–2 sticks) butter, melted
About 2 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces

Put the apples, brown sugar, orange zest and juice, Calvados, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl and toss to combine. Reserve.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly brush a 10-12 inch quiche pan or pie plate with butter. Unwrap the phyllo, stack and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Remove the first phyllo sheet and re-place the damp towel. Place the first sheet so it is about two-thirds-in and one-third-overlapping the pan; brush lightly with butter. Continue to line the pan with 1/2 of the phyllo, lightly brushing the sheets with butter.

Mound the apples in the pan. Dot the apples with the cold butter. Stack the remaining phyllo leaves on top of the apples, lightly brushing each with butter. Gently turn the edges of the phyllo up and pinch lightly to seal. Cut a few vents in the phyllo to let the steam escape.

Bake at 400 degrees until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is tender, about 40 minutes. If the phyllo gets too brown, cover it loosely with foil. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve. If making ahead, reheat for 10-15 minutes in a warm oven before serving.

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One Year Ago – Cranberry Sauce
Two Years Ago – Decadent Cheesy Potatoes
Three Years Ago – Broccoli Puree

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

I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new stories and recipes.

Want more? Feel free to visit my photoblog Susan Nye 365 or click here for more recipes and magazine articles or here to watch me cook!I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good© Susan W. Nye, 2011

Christmas Presents Past & Pecan Pie

What was the best Christmas present you ever received, could ever receive? Maybe it was “an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.” Hopefully you didn’t shoot your eye out. Or it could be the Teddy that slept with you until you went to college. (Maybe you smuggled him into the dorm and kept him handy to help you through bouts of homesickness, midterm jitters and other important emergencies.) Then again, it could be any or all of the 101 boxes of Legos that came your way or the train set that took over your bedroom floor.

Perhaps a baby doll won you over. Some were beautiful, others bizarre. There was that one that bore a striking and disconcerting resemblance to a head of cabbage. But maybe it was Barbie who stole your heart. Were you one of those kids with a legion of the leggy beauties, enough to field several soccer teams or invade a small country?

Looking back, my memories of Santa’s generosity are a bit hazy. I vaguely remember lots of dolls and many party dresses. However, two Christmases stand out for very different reasons.

I was seven or eight the year I received the pink plastic office with the pink telephones. The office was at the top of my list to Santa. Looking back, I’m not sure what possessed me. I suspect the pink telephones got me. They worked like a cheap and cheerful intercom system. I think I somehow or other I envisioned having the world at my beck and call at the other end of the phone. Still, what seven year old wants to play office? If you know one, quickly send her out to play in the snow. Hopefully the cold air will distract her and bring her to her senses. There’s plenty of time for paperwork later.

My cousins from Buffalo spent Christmas with us that year. We were too many to fit in the dining room so a kids’ table was set up in the kitchen. Our parents and grandparents were just on the other side of the wall but I insisted we stay connected with my new, pink phones. We called them not once, not twice but incessantly throughout the meal. And God love him, Grandpa Westland answered not once, not twice but every single time we called the grownups’ table. He patiently answered our calls, each time using a different, silly voice.

Grandpa kept me giggling throughout the entire feast. Christmas dinner was probably the first, last and only time I played with the pink telephones. Still, they were one of the best presents ever.

When I was eleven or twelve, my parents gave me a blue, three-speed bicycle. I’m sure it was a Schwinn. It was my first brand new, not ridden by someone else, bicycle. To this day I have no idea how or why it appeared under the tree. On the other hand, my parents continue to insist that I campaigned diligently for that bike. Sure, at one point I dreamed of having my very own, not second hand, bike. But that was all in the past, I’d moved on to other things. I was right in the middle of that icky ‘tween stage. None of my friends rode bicycles anymore. What did I want with a bike? Especially in the middle of winter?

The bike gathered dust in the garage for five or six years. Finally, bikes became cool again during high school. For two years, I rode that bike to school and all over town. I took it to college and rode it all over campus. It moved to the Berkshires with me where I taught school. It regularly coasted down into Connecticut and traveled north as far as Lenox. It was, eventually, one of the best presents ever.

What was the best Christmas present you ever received, could ever receive? Have a wonderful holiday with family and friends! Bon appétit!

Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
My Nana Westland hated to cook. As far as I know, she never baked, even at Christmas. Her dear friend Anna Foss was famous for her pecan pie and passed the recipe on to my mother. For many, many years, Mom made Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie at Christmas. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light Karo syrup
3 eggs
1 cup nuts, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
Flakey pastry – recipe follows
For garish: 1 cup heavy cream, whipped with 1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a large bowl beat the eggs until light and frothy. Add the brown sugar, Karo syrup, vanilla, salt and flour; whisk to combine. Stir in the pecans.
3. Pour into the chilled pie crust. Bake in the center of the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking for 30 minutes or until firm.
4. Cool completely and serve with whipped cream.

Flakey Pastry
Aunt Anna did not pass on her pastry recipe but I use this one with great success. It is light and flakey, just delicious. Enjoy!
Enough for 1 crust

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water

1. Blend the flour, sugar and salt a food processor. Add the butter and shortening; and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
2. Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. Remove the dough from the food processor and flatten into disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a round about 11 inches in diameter. Drape the pastry over the rolling pin and ease it into a 9 inch pie plate, pressing it into the bottom and sides. Trim and crimp the edges. Freeze for 30 minutes.

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What was the best Christmas present you ever received, could ever receive? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my photoblog, Susan Nye 365 or my cleverly named other blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010