Spring Skiing & Spaghetti with Cauliflower & Olives

skiing_01Less than a month ago, a furry, little fellow popped out of a hole in Pennsylvania and saw his shadow. According to legend, the shadow meant we were in for six more weeks of winter. However, get this! This little pageant has been going on for more than one hundred years. Over all those decades, an early spring has been predicted all of seventeen times. (Nine years of records are missing so it could be a few more.) Now, some curious weather geeks did a few calculations to see how accurate that furry, little fellow is. Their discovery? Well, the groundhog was correct only thirty-nine per cent of the time.

That’s less than a coin toss!

Anyone living in New Hampshire can predict winter’s end with or without a furry friend or coin to toss. Here in the Granite State, winter hangs around until it’s good and ready to quit. Last week’s glorious few days of spring skiing could be the start of warmer things to come … or not. It’s just as likely that the magnificent spring-like weather was nothing more than a blip in northern New England’s decidedly fickle weather patterns.

New Hampshire skiers live for those wonderfully warm, end-of-the season days. We want nothing more than to ski in a t-shirt, even shorts. However, we all know that there are two sides to an early spring. We love the sun and curse the rain. Although we would happily greet one last blizzard, just the threat of a shower sends skiers into a tizzy.

To make matters worse, I was admittedly spoiled during all those years I lived in Switzerland. Spoiled rotten! Even in a mediocre snow year, the season lasted through the first or second weekend of April. In a spectacular year, skiing went on and on until mid-May. Of course, the elevations are a heck of a lot higher in the Alps; way up above the tree line higher.

This extended ski season did lead to a few misadventures. Most were due to the stubborn determination of my friends and I to ski from top to bottom. Just because the ski season lasted until Easter and beyond, did not mean there was snow cover on the bottom third or half of the mountain. By early April, skiers were advised to take the lift down from the mid-station. After a glorious day in the sun and snow, riding a chairlift to the bottom was nothing short of anticlimactic. A gondola was even worse. (The cliché packed in like sardines would be an apt description.)

I’m not one to let a TRAIL CLOSED sign stand in my way. Neither were my ski pals. After a quick peek left and right, we ducked under the rope and headed down. We had the trail to ourselves and it was fabulous. Well, fabulous until we hit a south facing, mud covered slope. Jumping from one small patch of snow to another, we clamored through trees and over a few rocks. Finally and inevitably, we ran out of snow. Off came the skis; we were in for a long slog to the car in our ski boots.

As the weather warms, on the slopes or not, enjoy some time outside! Bon appétit!

Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Olives
This recipe has its roots in sunny Spain and Sicily. It is a great dish when you are pining for a little sun and warm weather. Enjoy!cauliflower_05
Serves 4-6

1 head (about 2 pounds) cauliflower, cut into small florets
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2-1 onion, cut in thin wedges
1/4 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
8-12 ounces spaghetti
About 1/2 cup pitted and roughly chopped green olives
3 tablespoons capers
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
3-4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Grated pecorino Romano cheese

Toss the cauliflower with just enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and spread in a single layer in a roasting pan. Tossing once or twice, roast at 375 degrees until browned and tender, about 40 minutes.

(If you roast the cauliflower in advance, a delicious dinner will be ready in minutes.)

While the cauliflower roasts, heat a little olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the cauliflower, olives and capers, sprinkle with lemon zest and toss to combine. Cover and keep warm.

spaghetti_cauliflower_olives_03Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a little pasta water.

Toss the pasta with the vegetables. If the pasta seems dry, add a little pasta water and cook on low for 1 minute. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with grated pecorino Romano.

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One Year Ago – Flourless Chocolate Cake
Two Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs
Three Years Ago – Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Four Years Ago – Decadent Mac & Cheese
Five Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Six Years Ago – Creole Shrimp & Cheesy Grits
Seven Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Eight Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding

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

What about you? Now that the seasons are changing, how will you spend time outside? Feel free to share!

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

February Vacation & Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad

ski_patrol_01Oh my goodness, when we were kids, did we ever love February vacation. Then again, what’s not to love about a week away from school on New Hampshire’s sunny slopes? Although our ski weekends were wonderful, they were much too short. During vacation, we had a whole week to slow down. We could step off the treadmill, breathe a little deeper, sleep a little later (although not much!) and, best of all, ski.

The weather always cooperated. It only snowed at night and the days were always sunny. Of course, that’s not true but it feels like it almost could have been true. I think it did actually happen once, maybe even twice!

Dad usually took at least part of the school vacation week off. When he was around, mornings started early. It wasn’t dark outside but it was hardly the crack of noon when he rousted us out of bed. He tried to soften the blow by making pancakes. There’s nothing like a sugar rush to get you moving in the morning.

Then we were off to ski. A proud New Englander, Dad demanded that we get the biggest bang for our buck. Well, not really our buck, it was his buck. Every November, he bought us each a ski pass. If you can imagine, all he actually needed was one hundred and eight bucks. That was the price for a season ticket for a family of five. Today that might get you a day of skiing, a greasy burger and some fries. If you’re lucky, you might have enough left over for a beer at the end of the day.

Anyway, the bang for Dad’s buck was measured by the number of runs we took. Even on the coldest of days, he would chase us out of the lodge. He hadn’t spent his hard-earned money for us to sit around all day. Luckily, the weather was already starting to change by the time February vacation rolled around. The days were a little longer, the sun was a little higher in the sky and temperatures were not so brutally cold. We were only too happy to be out on the slopes.

We never left the mountain before the last T-bar had come to a stop at four o’clock. Exhausted, we tumbled into the car. However, kids being kids, more often than not, by the time our big blue station wagon had pulled into the driveway, we had a second wind.

At the time, we didn’t have snowshoes but we did have ice skates, sleds and cross country skis. A dry pair of mittens and we were back outside. Some days we trudged up the hill across the street with our sleds. Sledding down that hill was something akin to a kamikaze mission. It wasn’t just steep; from top to bottom, it was strewn with rocks and boulders. Other times, we headed out to cross-country ski across the lake or to the neighborhood pond to skate.

As the sun set and darkness fell, we finally headed home for the night. Starving and really, truly exhausted, we gathered around the table for a family dinner. More often than not, my brother fell asleep and slowly slid under the table. Although a few years older, my sister and I were not far behind.

Have a wonderful winter vacation! Bon appétit!

Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad
romaine_radicchio_caesar_03When local farms are under two feet of snow and produce comes from thousands of miles away, this is one of my easy, go-to winter salads. Enjoy!
Serves 6

About 1 heart romaine lettuce, chopped, washed and dried
About 1/2 head radicchio, chopped, washed and dried
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
Caesar Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Garnish: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Garlic Croutons (recipe follows)

Put the chopped romaine and radicchio in a bowl, add the scallion and cucumber and toss to combine. Add enough Caesar Vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss again.

Use a vegetable peeler or grater to create thin shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Add the cheese and croutons to the salad, toss and serve.

Garlic Croutons
About 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
About 1/2 loaf ciabatta bread or baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the garlic and oil in a mini food processor and process until smooth.

Put the bread cubes on a baking sheet, drizzle with garlic oil and toss to evenly coat. Spread the bread cubes in an even layer and sprinkle with salt. Bake the bread, stirring once or twice for about 10 minutes or until golden.

If not using immediately, cool the croutons to room temperature and store in an airtight container. Extra croutons will be a delicious garnish on tomorrow night’s soup or salad.

Caesar Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise *
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic
1 (about 1/8-inch thick) slice red onion, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) hot pepper sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup (or to taste) extra virgin olive oil

Put the lemon juice, vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, anchovy paste, garlic, onion, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce in a mini food processor or blender and season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth and the garlic and onion are finely chopped. Add the olive oil and process until thick and creamy. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and pulse to combine.

Transfer the vinaigrette to a storage container with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, give the container a good long, vigorous shake to recombine the ingredients.

* A classic Caesar Vinaigrette calls for raw eggs. I’m not comfortable using raw eggs these days so (even though Julia and Martha would be horrified) I substitute the raw egg with a little mayonnaise.

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One Year Ago – Sausages with White Beans
Two Years Ago – Chocolate Panna Cotta
Three Years Ago – Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage
Four Years Ago – Cheese Fondue
Five Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Six Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Seven Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Eight Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello

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

What about you? Do you have a winter vacation coming up? Feel free to share!

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

Merry Christmas Vacation & Sticky Buns

King_RidgeHow could we have been so lucky? I don’t know how it happened (maybe it didn’t). When we were kids, we didn’t have to dream it, EVERY Christmas was white. By mid-December, the snow would start to fly. All rain and even the threat of a thaw were postponed until mid-to-late January.

Our winter wonderland made Santa’s job easy. From one year to the next, there was always some combination of Flexible Flyers, Flying Saucers, ice skates and skis under the tree. Oh and by the way, the Flying Saucers were not filled with little green men and did not whirl high overhead like a drone. They were aluminum disks that were perfect for flying down a hill at top speed. Flexible Flyers were made for hard packed, icy snow. Flying Saucers were made for the fluffy stuff.

Christmas vacations were filled with outdoor fun. There were plenty of little hills for sliding on Jackson Road. If we felt more ambitious, the country club was less than a mile away. Longfellow Pond was at the end of the street for skating.

Then, our already more than satisfactory Christmas vacations improved at least tenfold. Mom and Dad built a little brown house in the New Hampshire woods. After that, we spent all of our Christmas vacations whizzing up and down the slopes at King Ridge.

For the sake of our grandparents, we continued to celebrate Christmas Eve and Day in suburbia but we couldn’t get out of town fast enough. In the beginning, we headed north the day after Christmas. Then, we realized that most grandparents, including ours, don’t like to drive after dark. So, we’d have Christmas dinner at noon and they’d be out the door by two, maybe three o’clock. One year, I think they were barely out of the driveway before we were in our big blue station wagon and heading north.

King Ridge was a wonderful place for families. While it admittedly lacked vertical challenge, it made up for it with homey charm. Parents liked it because it was almost impossible to lose your kids. I’m sure a few kids managed to slip away for an hour or two but it took some doing. You couldn’t turn around without bumping into your mom or dad or one of your friends’ parents.

Kids liked King Ridge in spite of the ever-present village of adults. Ever-present, ever-vigilant and ever-ready to keep us from doing anything fun or stupid. Whether our actions were fun or stupid depended entirely on your perspective. If Mom and Dad were within eyeshot, we diplomatically agreed that jump was dangerous and bushwhacking through the woods was a bad idea. But as soon as they turned their backs, well, let’s just say that a kid’s gotta do what a kid’s gotta do.

Besides, you didn’t have to be a kid to do something silly. Take, just for-instance, the time our friends the McCauleys came up from Connecticut. Skip was a teenager and was delighted to have a few ski lessons. Dad was just as delighted to teach him. An athletic kid, Skip made amazing progress, deftly getting from top to bottom in one piece. As for Dad, he was not so deft.

Sometime, around mid-morning on the second or maybe third day of the McCauley’s visit, Skip passed Dad and joined us about three-quarters of the way down the hill. Showing off, Dad swooped down with plans for a dramatic stop and a magnificent rooster tail of light fluffy snow. Rather than dowse his friends and family, he pitched over … and broke his leg.

It looks like we’ll have a beautiful white Christmas this year. Have a safe holiday and bon appétit!

Sticky Buns
A special, old-fashioned treat for Christmas breakfast or any morning during the holiday week. Bakers will want to use their favorite white bread dough. If you’re not a baker, feel free to cheat with frozen dough. Either way, enjoy!
Makes 12-16 bunssticky_buns_02

3-5 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup currants
About 1 pound of your favorite homemade white bread dough or frozen, store-bought dough, thawed
Creamy Icing (recipe follows)

Generously butter the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch or 8×10-inch baking dish.

Put the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a bowl and stir to combine. Add the nuts and currants and toss to combine.

If using homemade bread dough, follow your recipe through the first rise.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 16×6-inch rectangle. Leaving a 1/2-inch border along one long side, generously butter the dough. Evenly sprinkle the sugar mixture over the dough.

Roll up the dough, jelly-roll style, forming a 16-inch long log and pinch the seam to seal. Cut the log into 12 or 16 equal pieces. Spacing them evenly, arrange the buns, cut side down, in the baking dish.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for a slow rise, 8-12 hours or overnight. (If you’re in a hurry, let the buns rise in a warm area until puffed, about 45 minutes.)

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Bake uncovered until the tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes and drizzle with Creamy Icing. Serve warm.

Creamy Icing
2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
About 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 or more tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy; slowly add the powdered sugar and continue beating until well combined. Add the sour cream, maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. If necessary, add more sour cream until the icing is perfect for a nice, thick drizzle.

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One Year Ago – Cranberry Coffee Cake
Two Years Ago – Fish Stew Provençal
Three Years Ago – Twice-Baked Potatoes
Four Years Ago – Baked French ToastFive Years Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Six Years Ago – Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Potato, Leek & Kale Soup
Eight Years Ago – Salmon & Lentils

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

What about you? How will you spend the week between Christmas and New Year? Feel free to share!

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

Snow, Sun and Fun – February Vacation & Sausages with White Beans

King_RidgeWhen I was seven, my sister, Brenda, and I took up skiing. It was Brenda’s idea or maybe my father’s. In any case, we both received shiny, new skis for Christmas. Before long, we were hooked. About the time he turned three, my little brother joined us on the slopes.

February was our favorite month. January started cold and ended with a soggy thaw. Perhaps it was the ground hog but the weather took a decidedly better turn in February. The days grew longer and weren’t quite so frigid. School let out for vacation and carloads of flatlanders fled north to the mountains. Leaving within minutes of the last school bell, my family was at the head of that horde of suburbanites.

Our February ski vacations were always glorious. There must have been an unwritten rule decreeing perfect weather and snow for school vacations. It snowed every night but the days always dawned with perfect bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine. The snow gods didn’t tease us by dumping a foot of beautiful, fluffy white powder and then douse it with an inch of rain. The lift lines could be long and sluggish but there were lots of kids around and the skiing was outstanding. It might not have been perfect but it came pretty darn close.

Dad insisted on getting us up and out on our skis early. As far as he was concerned, we could sleep late and laze around in our pajamas after the snow melted. He yanked us out of bed as soon as it was light. We complained half-heartedly but to no avail. Determined to get us out on the slopes sooner rather than later, he rushed around making pancakes and hot chocolate.

As we climbed into the back of our big, blue station wagon my father always asked, “Do you have everything?” Invariably, I had forgotten my mittens or hat. In truth, I could have forgotten my head except that it was firmly attached to my neck. Hey, there’s one in every family and I was it. I would run back in the house and race around searching for gloves or goggles. Some mornings it took a couple of trips back and forth before I was ready to go. Finally, we pulled out of the driveway and were off for a day of snow, sun and fun. Except for the many mornings when, a half mile down the road, we turned around for a missing season pass. Unusually mine; my sister never forgot anything.

After a long day on the slopes, we headed home to ice skate or sled, cross country ski or jump off the deck. By dinnertime, we were cold, wet and wind burned, not to mention completely exhausted and starving. I think that it was all part of my parents’ grand plan. They figured if our days were filled with snow and sport, we couldn’t get into mischief. After a hearty dinner, we would fall into bed, looking forward to doing it all over again the next day.

With more rain than snow, winter has been far from typical this year. Thankfully, ski areas have been making snow. The skiing may not be stellar but fresh air abounds. Après ski, there is enough snow to cover hills for sledding and the local rink is waiting for you and your skates. Unless you’d rather strap on your snowshoes for a hike in the woods.

Whether you ski or not, enjoy a wonderful winter vacation with family and friends. Bon appétit!

Sausages with White Beans
A hearty casserole is the perfect dinner for family and friends after a busy day on the slopes. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound dried small white or cannellini beans (about 6 cups cooked beans)
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
1 1/2 large onion, cut the half onion in half again and finely chop the whole
5 stalks celery, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 4
4 carrots, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 3
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme


2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup dry white wine
3-4 cups chicken broth
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2-2 1/2 pounds cooked garlic sausage or smoked kielbasa

Soak the beans overnight. Drain and rinse the beans.

Put the beans, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, half onion, celery and carrot chunks, 1 sprig thyme and 1 bay leaf in a large pot, add cold water to cover plus 2 inches and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until the beans are almost tender, about 1 hour.

While the beans are cooking, put the bacon in a large casserole and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot, drain and reserve. Leaving just enough to coat the pot, drain any excess bacon fat.

Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots to the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent, 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the mustard and wine, add the remaining thyme, rosemary and bay leaf and simmer until the wine has reduced by half. Add 2-3 cups chicken broth and the crushed tomatoes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the beans and remove any large pieces of onion, carrot and celery as well as the thyme twig and bay leaf.

Add the beans and bacon to the casserole. Bring everything to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, adding more chicken broth if the beans seem dry.

Cut the sausage on the diagonal into 1-inch-thick pieces. Add the sausage to the beans, return the pot to the oven and continue cooking until the sausage is heated through and the beans are bubbling, about 30-45 minutes. Ladle the beans and sausage into shallow bowls and serve.

If you have the time, cool the beans to room temperature before adding the sausage. Then, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator about an hour before baking. Cook the casserole in a 350 degree oven until the sausage is heated through and the beans are bubbling, 45-60 minutes. Ladle the beans and sausage into shallow bowls and serve.

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One Year Ago – Chocolate Panna Cotta
Two Years Ago – Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage
Three Years Ago – Cheese Fondue
Four Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Five Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Six Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Seven Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have any special plans for a winter vacation? Feel free to share!

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

Spring Has Sprung?!? & New Hampshire Mud Pie

mud_seasonAccording to the calendar, spring has sprung. For anyone living in New Hampshire, spring is a somewhat relative term. You’ve heard the saying – March comes in like a lion and goes out like lamb. Well, not here. As far as I can figure, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lion. If you want, you can change that last part to out like raging rhinoceros/. With snow on the first day of spring, the weather is hardly lamb-like.

Some people refer to this time of year as mud season. I usually think of it as still winter and not in a good way. The good kind of winter is jolly with skiing, skating, après festivities and general all-round frivolity. The bad kind of winter is the fed-up kind with ugly piles of dirty snow on the side of the road. Mud and sand are everywhere. Dirt roads are nothing but muck, trapping cars in their sticky mire. Paved roads are no better. An abundance of frost heaves and potholes turn them into roller coasters.

When it snows, instead of light and fluffy, a nasty mix of snow, sleet and rain falls from the sky. Alternating rain and frigid temperatures turn the mountain into an ice-skating rink one day and slush puddle the next. Then again, a lot of people are past caring. When the first gently falling flakes came down in December, they waxed poetic and then grabbed their skis, snowshoes or sled. Now they’re fed up and don’t mind telling you. What they once called magical is now are just a pain in the you know what.

Of course, it’s not all bad news. Whether you are in desperate need of a break or not, there’s a pretty good chance you gave the last of your pennies to the snowplow guy. A spa day seems out of the question until you get stuck on the shortcut you always take to the ski hill. You are utterly bereft until it hits you. Just below your spinning wheels is a seemingly endless supply of mud! Forget a simple facial, there’s enough for everyone in the state to enjoy a full body mud wrap. And it’s organic!

And that’s not all. At least once, possibly twice or three times, we’ll have that delightful combination of sunshine and warmish temperatures. Those are the days when a morning on the slopes is sheer delight. Instead of hard packed powder (generally known as ice to the rest of the world), the snow is soft and granular. Even better, you can put aside your Michelin man getup and sport your favorite Norwegian or fisherman’s knit sweater. The one your mom got for Christmas in 1952 and you borrowed twenty-five years later. Has it really been that long since you’ve not returned it?

Slush_Cup_Ragged_01Even if you don’t like to ski, you can go to the mountain and hangout. There will be lots of music and end of season festivities. A favorite is watching skiers and snowboarders attempt to skim across an ice-cold pond of slush. Some even make it.

Sound like too much frivolity; how about a peaceful walk around the lake? The road around Pleasant Lake may have its share of cracks and craters but its dry and the woods are abuzz with wild turkeys and other feathered friends. After a winter of arctic temperatures and hurricane-force winds, it’s good to be outside.

Enjoy mud season, after all the black flies will be here sooner than you think! Bon appétit!

New Hampshire Mud Pie
A very easy dessert, Mud Pie is a favorite at my house. What about yours? Enjoy!
Serves 12-16

Cookie Crust
9 ounces chocolate wafers or Oreo cookies (about 2 cups crumbs)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamonmud_pie_06
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Put the cookies in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the sugar, cinnamon, espresso powder and salt and pulse to combine.

Put the cookie crumbs in a bowl, drizzle with the melted butter and toss to combine. Put the buttery crumbs in the springform pan and firmly press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and about 1-2 inches up the sides of the pan.

Bake the crust until set, about 7 minutes. Cool completely.

Ice Cream Filling
2 quarts ice cream or gelato, your favorite flavor(s)
Your favorite add-ins: chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, crushed candies and cookies

Put the ice cream in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes to soften.

Scoop 1 quart of ice cream into the springform pan and spread it evenly over the cookie crust. Sprinkle liberally with chocolate chips, nuts, coconut and/or crushed candies and cookies and gently press into the ice cream.

Repeat with the second quart of ice cream and more toppings. Cover and freeze for several hours or overnight.

I recommend coffee and vanilla ice cream with crushed Oreo cookies and Heath bars.

Chocolate Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

1/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
14 ounces dark chocolate* or a mix of dark and milk chocolate, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, salt and orange juice in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and, swirling the pan occasionally, boil until it is a deep amber color, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the cream, the mixture will bubble, and whisk until smooth. Heat over low heat until the cream is hot but not boiling. Whisk in the espresso powder and Grand Marnier.

Turn off the heat, add the chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes to melt. Whisk until smooth. Add the vanilla and whisk again until smooth and combined.

Serve warm. If making ahead, warm the chocolate sauce in a heavy saucepan over very low heat or in a double boiler over simmering water.

* Forget chocolate chips for this recipe. Having lived in Switzerland for almost two decades, I always use Swiss chocolate for this sauce. It melts beautifully and is worth the extra expense.

To servemud_pie_02
Move the Mud Pie to the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before serving. Gently release the collar on the springform pan.

Decoratively drizzle individual plates with chocolate sauce (pretend you are the pastry chef in an elegant restaurant).

Slice the pie and place each slice on a plate on top of the chocolate sauce. If you insist, you can drizzle each slice with more chocolate sauce.

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One Year Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Two Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Three Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Four Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Five Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Six Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will survive Mud Season? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Snow Daze & Black Bean & Beef Chili

snowy_day_New_London_02It’s been a snowy February. While the snowbanks in front of my house are not yet up to the roofline, all sorts of all-time records have been broken. And it’s not over yet! There’s still plenty of time before winter calls it quits. In the meantime, school has been cancelled left and right.

Growing up, snow days were a special treat, an unexpected and welcome holiday. Life was put on hold for a day. We slept in and then played outside in the snow. Eventually the cold drove us back inside for hot chocolate, old movies, books, jigsaw puzzles and marathon matches of Scrabble.

When I was in the eighth grade, February turned into a month of snow days. Okay, that might not be strictly accurate but it’s how my mother and I like to remember it. It started on a Sunday. We spent a snowy morning on the ski slopes. By noon, several inches of fluffy, new powder had fallen. Regretfully, we grabbed our skis and headed back to our little house in the woods to pack up and return to Massachusetts. The roads were slippery and the visibility nonexistent. That’s when my parents, Mom in particular, decided that the next day was sure to be a snow day. She decreed an extra night in New Hampshire.

One could say her insistence was for our safety. One would be wrong. Pure and simple, we stayed in New Hampshire because, snow or sunshine, Mom loved being there. That said, it was the right call. While we were hunkering, more than a foot of snow fell. Boston and its suburbs were wiped out. There were countless stories of stranded motorists, abandoned cars and impassable highways and byways.

Even worst, New York was an absolute disaster. Fifteen inches of snow coupled with the city’s broken down plows brought New York to its knees. Mom’s joy of spending extra time in New Hampshire was tempered by her dismay. The Big Apple’s mayor, John Lindsay, was her favorite politician. Not necessarily for his politics, she had what could best be described as a schoolgirl crush on the handsome mayor. The snow debacle destroyed his presidential ambitions.

Throughout New Hampshire, the plows were out all night and the roads were quickly cleared. We spent a carefree Monday on the ski slopes. Meanwhile, the news from the Commonwealth was bleak. Overwhelmed by the snow, it took the Bay State almost a week to dig out. We stayed put and enjoyed our winter wonderland. Finally, late Thursday afternoon, the awful announcement: school would resume on Friday.

My wise mother insisted that little if anything would be accomplished in those few hours. After all, it was a Friday and the following week was February vacation. She saw no good reason to pack up and head south. We all agreed; mother knew best.

It was a terrific vacation; the snow was great and the sun was shining. Shining until Sunday morning when clouds drifted in and weathermen began spouting dire warnings of another nor’easter. Having heard the horror stories of that first storm, we took no chances and stayed in New Hampshire, safe and warm. Heavy snow on top of heavy snow was a recipe for trouble. It took Boston and the suburbs several days to dig out again. Meanwhile, the Nyes enjoyed another glorious ski week with another foot of new snow and no lift lines.

Although she never really liked to ski, Mom loves New Hampshire. Years later, she’d smile and reminisce about that February. It was the perfect vacation. Well, almost, she’d wistfully amend; perfect except for the handsome mayor’s fall from grace.

Enjoy the snow and bon appétit!

Black Bean & Beef Chili
A great dish for February vacation. It feeds a crowd of hungry skiers, skaters or sliders. Enjoy!
Serves 10-12Black_Bean_Beef_Chili_02

Start the Beans
1 pound black beans
1/2 large onion, trimmed and cut in half
1 carrot, peeled and cut in 3-4 chunks
1 stalk celery, cut in 3-4 chunks
1 bay leaf

Pick over the beans and discard any stones or shriveled beans. Rinse and toss in a pot with enough water to cover by 3-4 inches. Add the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until the beans are almost tender 1 – 1 1/4 hours. You may need to add more water as the beans cook.

What? No soaking? After reading several articles with clever titles like – To Soak or Not to Soak – I did some experimenting with black and small white beans. My conclusion; there is no need to soak the beans before cooking. You may need to add 15-30 minutes to the cooking time.

While the beans simmer …

Begin the Beef
Olive oil
About 3 pounds chuck roast
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 large onions, trimmed and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon or to taste dried chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or to taste minced jalapeno pepper
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine
1-2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup espresso or very strong coffee
1 bay leaf

Garnish: grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy casserole over medium-high. Generously season the beef on all sides with salt and pepper and brown each side for about 3 minutes. Remove the beef from the pot and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium. Put the onion, carrots and bell pepper in the pot, sprinkle with the spices and herbs, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and jalapeno and sauté 2 minutes more.

Return the beef to the casserole. Stir in the wine, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, espresso and bay leaf. The vegetables and liquid should come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pot roast. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook at 350 degrees, turning the roast once or twice, for 1 hour.

Combine the beans and beef
By now, the beans have been simmering for about an hour, drain them, pick out the bay leaf and as much of the carrot, celery and onion as you can and add the beans to the beef. Turn and wiggle the beef around so the beans are submerged in liquid, season the beans with salt and pepper and add more chicken stock if necessary. The vegetables and liquid should still come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the beef. Return the casserole to the oven and continue cooking, covered, until beef is very tender about 1 hour more.

Remove the meat from the casserole and let it sit until cool enough to handle. Cut and/or tear the beef into bite-sized pieces and return it to the pot with the beans. Give everything a good stir, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Bring the chili to a simmer on top of the stove over low heat. Transfer to a 350 degree oven or continue simmering on the stovetop on very low heat for 15-30 minutes. To serve: ladle the chili into bowls and garnish with a little cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro.

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One Year Ago – Coq au Vin
Two Years Ago – Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton
Three Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Four Years Ago – Lemon Cheesecake
Five Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Six Years Ago – Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole

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

Do you have a favorite vacation memory? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

Discovering Skiing in the Alps & Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux

Geneva_02I will always think of Geneva as my second home. Oh, that’s Switzerland, not New York or Illinois or a lake in Wisconsin. One of the best things about living in Geneva is the proximity to the mountains. Not any little hills mind you, the Alps.

Even though I’d been on the slopes for years, since I was seven, I didn’t really learn to ski until I moved to Switzerland. There is something both thrilling and terrifying about a really big mountain. And by big, we’re talking above-the-tree-line-and-trails-that-go-on-for-miles-and-miles big. For a girl who learned to ski at King Ridge, it was more than a bit daunting at first.

As a proud New England skier, a few things came as a surprise. First of all, there was a lot of snow; like ten or fifteen feet of snow. While late autumn in Geneva was one wet day after another, rain in town meant snow in the mountains. The season usually started by the first week in December and continued on to May. Unlike the areas I grew up with, alpine resorts didn’t brag about huge investments in snowmaking equipment and awards for grooming. They didn’t have to.

My early ventures onto the slopes are a bit of a blur. However, one December day stands out. It began with me lugging my skis to the train station through the quiet, early morning streets of Geneva. A gentle drizzle did not bode well. Ignoring my friend John’s enthusiast assurances, I caught a snooze on the train to Champéry. Once there, we lugged our skis through the bustling streets of the village to the lift.

Perfectly picturesque, a gentle snow was falling as we began our first descent. Unfortunately, that’s were picturesque ended and I began. To say that my form could easily have been mistaken for a lame rhinoceros is not an exaggeration. To make matters worse, I had yet to adopt the alpine-chic style of a European skier. Even though he’d been in Switzerland for three, maybe four, years John hadn’t adopted alpine-chic either.

John was not from New England but Canada. However, we both sported what I came to think of as northeast scruffy. Perhaps it was a holdover of a more bohemian time. My carefully combined ensemble was designed to project an image of someone too laidback and interesting to worry about anything as silly as clothes. That said, the outfit was just as easily the product of New England frugality or grad school debt. I don’t know John’s excuse.

Still December, the temperature hovered around freezing but the snow never turned to rain. It was a long day. The snow was heavy and the slopes were steep and long. Much steeper and much longer than the Queen’s Run and Knave of Hearts at family-friendly King Ridge. While John was no fashion plate, he was a superb skier. Graceful and strong, he was poetry in motion.

With brute force (picture that poor, lame rhinoceros), I plowed my way through the heavy snow. I don’t know what kept me going; grit, determination or plain, stinking pride. Whatever it was, I was more than a little grateful for my daily running habit. Running didn’t make me a better skier but, thankfully, it made me fit and strong. And yes, skiing the alps did get easier and better with time and practice. Lots of time and lots of practice.

Anyway, enjoy the latest snowfall and a day on the slopes. Bon appétit!

Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux
(Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks)

These earthy little tartlets are perfect for passing at your next cocktail party or before a cozy après ski dinner. Enjoy!
Tartelettes_au_Fromage_avec_Saucisse_et_Poireaux_06Makes 30 tartlets

Savory Tartlet Pastry (recipe follows)
1-2 tablespoons butter
1-2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 clove garlic, minced
4-5 ounces Italian or other fresh sausage, sweet or hot or a mix, casings removed
5-6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup half &half

Make the Savory Pastry Dough. Cut the dough into 24 rounds, press the dough into nonstick mini muffin tin cups and freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until tender, 5-10 minutes. add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl, cool and reserve.

Raise the heat to medium-high and put the sausage in the skillet. Breaking the meat up into small pieces, sauté until lightly browned. Drain and cool the sausage on paper towels. Add the sausage and cheese to the leeks and toss to combine.

Put the eggs in a bowl, add the mustard and spices and whisk until smooth. Add the half & half and whisk again.

In one bowl or the other, combine the wet ingredients with the leeks, sausage and cheese.

Spoon the filling into the pastry shells and bake until the filling sets and the top and crusts are golden, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing and serving. You may need to use a small knife to loosen the tartlets.

Can be made up to 1 day in advance. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate in the muffin tins. Reheat, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Savory Tartlet Pastry
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
3 or more tablespoons ice water

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the ice water and pulse until the dough comes together in large clumps.

Remove the dough from the food processor, pat into a log about 12-inches long and wrap in plastic or parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

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One Year Ago – Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù
Two Years Ago – Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Three Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Four Years Ago – Fettuccine with Escarole, Radicchio & Mushrooms
Five Years Ago – Cassoulet
Six Years Ago – Caribbean Fish Stew

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

Do you have a ski story? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015