Weekend Special – a Cozy Dinner in a Winter Wonderland

In the words of Mark Twain, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” Over the past week or two, we enjoyed(?) a typical January. Snow. Blistering cold. Wind. Drenching rain. More wind. More cold. Snow again. Most moms are going a little crazy with all the snow days. (My only advice – push the kids out the backdoor and tell them to build a snowman, go sledding or stomp around in snowshoes.)

When the weekend comes, enjoy a great day of sledding, skiing or snowshoeing. At the end of the day, kids and adults will both enjoy an Asian inspired feast! Here are a few suggestions to warm up at the end of the day:

Warm up by the fire with a mug of Mulled Cider. If you like, add a shot of rum for the grownup, try some warm sake or open a bottle of wine. For nibbling, try my Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce with fresh veggies and shrimp or my Lettuce Cups with Shrimp & Noodles. (If it seems like the evening is going to be too noodle-y, Lettuce Cups with Shrimp but no Noodles will be delicious. If everyone is chilled to the bone, enjoy tiny cups of my Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup.

When it’s time to move to the table, start dinner with my Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad. Next, grownups and kids alike will love my Dandan Noodles. (I’m addicted.)

For a snowy weekend dessert, what could be better than Frosty the Snowman Cupcakes? Well, how about Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart?

Have fun, stay warm and bon appétit!

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

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

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

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The January Thaw & Dandan Noodles

Is there anything more frustrating that day after day of subzero weather? Ask any skier. You look out the window and it’s a winter wonderland of beautiful snow. Wonderland until you venture out. That’s when you realize that the bitter cold could rival Siberia. Of course, there are a lot of tough dudes and dudettes. They go out anyway but not me. I’ve been there and done that.

Now, don’t get confused here. I don’t stop exercising, I’m too much of a fanatic to quit cold turkey. You can still see me out and about walking around the lake or stomping up a hill on snowshoes. However, no way, no how, will you find me on a chairlift.

That’s not to say I haven’t tried it. I did, my first winter back in New Hampshire. It was one of the coldest Januarys on record. I figured I better get used to my new normal. Dressed like an onion, I threw my skis and boots in the car and headed for the mountain. It was awful. Not only was the temperature on the wrong side of zero but the wind gusts were so strong, I was literally stopped in my tracks. Two runs and I was out of there.

While some have tried to tempt me, I stand firm on my decision to stay close to home on the coldest days. Every time I hear about a chairlift breaking down, I know I made the right choice. Can you imagine the nightmare of being stranded midair in gale force winds and frigid temperatures? Just the thought creates uncontrollable shivers.

All that said, there is something even worse than a month of subzero temperatures. That something is the infamous January Thaw. No, that’s not a typo. It definitely thaw with a capital T. The only thing more heartbreaking than beautiful snow in bitter cold temperatures is watching it dissolve in a drenching downpour.

Not only does the January Thaw wreak havoc with the snow on the mountain, it creates a mess at home. Several years ago, I lost a porch to the Thaw. The weight of the water-drenched snow caused it to cave. On top of that, water tends to seep under the door of the garage in any heavy rain. Add melting snow and, armed with a push broom, I’m on flood watch.

Then again, the Thaw doesn’t stay long, not even a week. It tends to follow a set agenda. First, there’s the buildup. For a day, maybe two, the sun is brilliant in a bright blue sky. Still cold at night, daytime temperatures slowly inch up to maybe twenty-five. Then, there’s the tipping point. Warmer still, the skies cloud over. In spite of the thermometer’s mild reading, there is a chill dampness in the air. A foreboding fog rolls in; that’s when you know. Rain is imminent. Find the rubber boots and get out the push broom.

In less than twenty-four hours, the drenching downpour starts to taper off. Temperatures plummet as the heavy rain winds down. Roadways freeze over. Ski trails become downhill skating rinks. I don’t know about you but I start to wonder, “What did I do to deserve this? Tell me and I’ll never do it again.”

I need some serious cheering up. Bon appétit!

Dandan Noodles
Throughout the winter, frigid cold or chilly rain, I gravitate towards noodles. Far East flavors or Mediterranean flair, I love them all. Add these spicy Asian noodles to your quick supper list. Enjoy! 
Serves 4

8-12 ounces Chinese or udon noodles
Vegetable oil
1 pound ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1-inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons or to taste sriracha 2 tablespoons tahini or smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds or peanuts, toasted and finely chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions and/or cilantro

Lightly coat a large heavy skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high. Add the pork, season with salt and pepper, and cook, breaking the meat up into small pieces, for about 2 minutes. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and sriracha and continue cooking until the pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Add the tahini, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar and stir to combine. Stir in the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, 5-10 minutes.

While the pork simmers, cook the noodles according to package directions and drain well.

Transfer the noodles to a large platter or individual bowls. Stir the sesame oil to the pork. Top the noodles with pork, sprinkle with sesame seeds, scallions and/or cilantro and serve immediately.

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One Year Ago – Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup
Two Years Ago – Tomato Soup
Three Years Ago – Savory Galette with Spinach, Mushrooms & Manchego
Four Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Roasted Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomatoes
Five Years Ago – Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash
Six Years Ago – Piri Piri Prawns
Seven Years Ago – French Lentil Soup
Eight Years Ago – Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup
Nine Years Ago – My Favorite Chili

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

How are you coping with the cold, rain, ice and snow? Feel free to share!

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

Spring Has Sprung? & Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms

Well, this is all rather odd isn’t it? Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere and just one short week before the first day of spring, snowmageddon dropped in. For everyone out there who is so over winter, I’m sorry. Well no, I’m not really sorry at all. In fact, I’m absolutely thrilled.

Between work, bitter cold, rain, gale force winds and who knows what else, I have not spent nearly enough days on the slopes this year. Then, like a miracle, a good old-fashioned snowstorm roars through the northeast. Just like that, it’s winter again.

If you were really looking forward to an early spring, you might be feeling a bit glum with all this fluffy white stuff. Take heart, there may be snow on the ground but you can revel in twelve wonderful hours of daylight. The long days of summer will be here before you know it.

While I’m skiing, here are a few things you can do to cheer up:

Plant seedlings. With two feet of new snow on the ground, it’s still a tad early to be planting in the garden. However, there is nothing to stop you from creating your own seedlings. Get some peat pots and medium and sow as many flats of seedlings as you have sunny windows. There is something quite cheering about watching little plants sprout and grow.

Listen to Vivaldi. It may be clique but I can’t help myself. Every spring, I find myself rustling through the CDs looking for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It you prefer, you can always listen to Frank Sinatra crooning “It Might as Well Be Spring” or Carly Simon sing “Spring Is Here”. Why not put together a whole spring playlist and dance through the day.

Go snowshoeing. In warmer climates, people will be pulling on their rubber boots and happily splashing in spring puddles. Not here. However, there are lots of beautiful trails open to the public. With the sun high in the sky, the snow will begin to melt faster than you would think. Great Brook will begin to babble and the birds will begin to sing. See, living in New Hampshire isn’t half bad.

Dress like an Easter egg. They’re not for everyone but a few pastels might brighten up your day. Trade in that grey sweater for something lemon yellow or lavender. You might be surprised by what you might find in the bottom of the sweater chest. If nothing else, that chartreuse number will stir up fun memories of your trip to Bermuda. As for that lilac turtleneck, it will remind you of your dear old aunt. Might be because she gave it to you or more likely, she always wore lilac.

Make spring rolls or some other spring-y dish. No, of course the veggies won’t be, can’t be local. It’s New Hampshire; there’s two feet of new snow on the ground. However, you can find artichokes and asparagus, peas and pineapples, mangoes, mushrooms, rhubarb and chives in the market. Add the ultimate early sign of spring – a pinch of saffron. This luxurious spice comes from our favorite spring flower, the ever-bright and cheery crocus. It will bring a taste of spring to your table.

Happy spring and bon appétit!

Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms
Pasta with a creamy saffron sauce and grilled veggies is a perfect dish for our not-really-spring season. Enjoy!
Serves 6

Quick Pickled Red Onion (do ahead – recipe follows)
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots or red onion
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 large pinches saffron
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces whole mushrooms, stemmed
Olive oil
Champagne or white wine vinegar
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed
1 3/4-2 pounds homemade, fresh or frozen ravioli
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Prepare the saffron cream sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the shallot, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the cream, saffron, thyme and bay leaf and heat until steaming. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10-15 minutes.

Grill the vegetables: preheat a grill pan or a gas or charcoal grill to medium high.

Toss the mushrooms with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Place the mushrooms on grill, cup-side up, and grill, turning once, until tender, 5–10 minutes. Remove from the grill, cut in quarters and keep warm.

Toss the asparagus with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Grill the asparagus for 1-2 minutes, turn and grill 1 minute more. Remove from the grill, roughly chop and keep warm.

Prepare the ravioli and put it all together: cook the ravioli according to recipe or package directions less 2 minutes. Reserving a little pasta water, drain the pasta.

Remove the bay leaf and thyme twig from the saffron cream. Add the ravioli to the cream with some or all of the pasta water as necessary and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the ravioli to a large platter or individual shallow bowls, top with mushrooms and asparagus, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, garnish with pickled onions and serve.

Quick Pickled Red Onion
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
6 pepper corns
1 bay leaf

Put the sugar, salt and vinegar in Mason jar, let everything sit for a minute or two to dissolve and give it a good shake. Add 1 cup of water and shake again.

Add the onion, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. If necessary, add a little more vinegar and water to cover the onion. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to two weeks. Drain before using.

Refrigerate the extra onion –it is delicious in salads and on burgers.

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One Year Ago – Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
Two Years Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Three Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Four Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Five Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Six Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata

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

What about you? How do you cope when the calendar says spring but meteorologist says winter? Feel free to share!

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

There’s Nothing Like a Snow Day & Spaghetti with Mushrooms & Bacon

snowy_day_New_London_02Say what you will, nothing but nothing compares to a snow day. It’s like a gift from the snow gods. Instead of another crazy day, you get to relax, hang out in your PJs and watch the snow fall. If you’re particularly lucky, the snow will stop around 10:30 and you can go play in it. Find your snowshoes and bushwhack through the woods, tour the neighborhood on your cross-country skis or build a snowman. At least that was what it was like when we were kids. No school. No after-school activities. No homework. Of course, there was no internet, so there were no emails sending new assignments our way.

So what’s it like now. Now, that we’re no longer kids with a surprise holiday? Well, the internet came along so we can stay connected. Then, telecommuting was invented to make sure we are always connected and always working. That suggests that there’s no rest for the wicked even if it is a snow day. I suppose for me it doesn’t really matter. I do most of my work from home anyway. So, you’d think that a snow day was no big deal. You’d be wrong.

Don’t ask me why, I can’t explain it. Life just slows down when the snow flies and piles up high on the doorstep. There are fewer cars on the road. Sounds seem muffled. Except for the rumbling of the snowplow that periodically breaks the calm, there is this wonderful quiet. The phone doesn’t ring. Email doesn’t ping. People are too busy shoveling their walks or playing endless card games to bother with you.

Suddenly, you can work on that project, the one that requires at least a little quiet and concentration. The one you never seem to get to because … well, you probably know why. Anyway, all cozy in your jammies with a mug of really good coffee, today is the day. Your brain is prepped and ready to solve one of those big, gnarly problems. Of course, your solution will be nothing short of spectacular.

If you’re not careful, you might start to think you’re a genius. You’re not. You just have time to breathe and think things through – logically, creatively, thoughtfully. Your brain hums. You get another cup of really good coffee. You might even find a muffin in the freezer to warm up. Another piece falls into place. The snowplow passes again and then peace and calm. A few more pieces fall into place.

Eventually the snow stops and wonder of wonders the sun comes out. You grab a shovel and clear the walk. The air is fresh and clean and a few more ideas hit you. Back at the keyboard or drawing board or whatever board, still a few more pieces fit into the puzzle. You’re really humming along.

With the sun high in a blue sky, you better grab those snowshoes and go for a hike, ramble down to the beaver dam on your cross-country skis or build a snowman. If anyone asks, it’s important to clear your head periodically. You’ll be brilliant when you get back to that project.

All that work and play will build an appetite. Brilliance in the kitchen should not be problem. Even if you didn’t have a chance to get to the store, you can create a beautiful supper with whatever’s on hand. Pasta from the pantry always works. Add some sundried tomatoes, olives and capers or toss that spaghetti with a few veggies and sprinkle with cheese. Maybe you are a genius!

Have a happy snow day! Bon appétit!

Spaghetti with Mushrooms & Baconspaghetti_mushrooms_bacon_06
I always have a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano in the refrigerator. The last time it snowed, I also found some bacon, a few mushrooms and cream. Dinner was ready in about 20 minutes. Enjoy!
Serves 2

2-4 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
About 1/2 teaspoon thyme
About 1/3 onion, cut in thin wedges
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 ounces whole mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cognac
4-6 ounces spaghetti
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Put the bacon in a skillet and place over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, cook until the bacon releases some fat and starts to brown. Add the onion, sprinkle with thyme, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushroom and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half.

Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and cognac. Place the mushrooms over very low heat to keep warm and stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to directions less 1-2 minutes.

Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the spaghetti, add it to the mushrooms with a little pasta water and toss to combine. (If you have it, feel free to add a handful of baby spinach!) Cover and cook on low for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to shallow bowls, sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

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One Year Ago – Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic
Two Years Ago – Capellini with Lobster & Caviar
Three Years Ago – Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Four Years Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Five Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Six Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Seven Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Eight Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies

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

What about you? What’s the change you want to make this Groundhog Day? Feel free to share!

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

El What? & Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms

foggy_morning_PLWell, this certainly is very odd, isn’t it? This time last year, we were shivering and shaking. Not with fear, mind you. It was the unbearably cold polar vortex giving us the shakes. This year El Niño has taken over. I for one am wondering when, if ever, we’ll get some snow. Yes, I know we had a slick and slippery ice- and snowstorm a week or so ago. Call me selfish but I’d like some more. Please.

Now as I understand it, El Niño means the boy in Spanish. Since this funny weather generally starts in the weeks leading up to Christmas, some say it refers to the birth of Christ. I don’t believe it. For snow- and ski-loving New Englanders, El Niño is hardly a benevolent spirit. Schoolyard bully would be a more fitting description.

Beyond the simple translation, El Niño refers to a periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean and the meteorological havoc it causes. The warm Pacific waters lead to above average temperatures out west. Both California and the Gulf Coast tend to be wet; as in very, very wet. Temperatures are also higher to the north, including New England. Doubters may protest, noting the handful of cold days over the last month or so. However, it’s only been a handful and even the chilliest days have been far from the blistering, don’t-even-think-about-going-outside-bitter-cold of last winter.

Anyway, my California nieces are happy for rain after four years of drought. On the other hand, my snowbird, golf-playing dad in Florida is not so tickled. Frankly, I’m a jumble of mixed emotions. Our local ski areas are doing their best to make snow but almost balmy temperatures and worst, rain, continues to thwart them.

However, in the spirit of living on the bright side, this strange and unseasonable weather is certainly good for …

My daily walks are definitely more pleasant, especially when the sun is shining. Without needing to don layer after layer to keep warm, I’m out the door faster. Why, I even wore shorts (bright red of course) on my walk around Pleasant Lake on Christmas day. The roads are clear so no worries about an inelegant slip or fall. Why there is hardly enough ice to cover the lake! Could a midwinter cruise in the kayak be next?

Paying the propane bill is no longer a cause for nightmares. And no, it’s not because I’m wearing my ski parka and three pairs of sweatpants in the house. Yes, I know that oil and gas prices are down but it’s more than that. A warmer winter means we need fewer gallons of propane to stay nice and toasty.

Finally, after pushing the snow blower around my driveway for ten years, I decided to take a break this winter (and every other winter from now on). Yes, I threw my usual frugal caution to the wind and hired someone to plow the driveway. Far from a budget buster, the plow has only been by twice. Since he cleared out a messy mix of snow, ice and rain, I was very happy to stay inside, safe and warm. An added bonus: my brand new, bright yellow, hardly-used shovel is sure to last an extra season, maybe two.

Think snow and bon appétit!

Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
In case you are planning an El Niño themed celebration, these stuffed mushrooms will make a great addition to your next tapas or dinner party. Enjoy!


Makes about 3 dozen

About 6 ounces Spanish chorizo*, casings removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
About 3 1/2 ounces (1 cup) finely grated Manchego cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
36 mushrooms (large enough for 1-2 bites), wiped free of dirt and stems removed
Freshly chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil 1-2 baking sheets.

Put the chorizo in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high. Add the onion to the skillet and sauté until translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.

Add the onion and spinach to the chorizo and toss to combine. Let sit for a few minutes for the onion to cool. Add 3/4 cup grated Manchego and toss again.

While the onion cools, put the breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup Manchego and thyme in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add 1-2 teaspoons olive oil to the breadcrumb mixture and stir to combine.

Assemble the mushrooms: season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Generously fill the mushrooms with the sausage mixture. Set the mushrooms on the prepared baking sheets and sprinkle with the cheesy breadcrumbs.

Can be done ahead to this point, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake at 400 degrees until the mushrooms are tender and the tops are lightly brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a serving platter, let sit for about 5 minutes, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

* You can use hot Italian sausage if you cannot find Spanish Chorizo. Remove the casings, put the sausage in a small ovenproof skillet with a little water, chicken broth or white wine. Roast the sausage at 375 degrees, turning once or twice, until cooked through and lightly browned, 20-30 minutes. Cool completely before pulsing in the food processor.

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One Year Ago – White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens
Two Years Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Three Years Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnutst
Four Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Five Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Six Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Seven Years Ago – Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies

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

What about you? What do you think of this crazy El Niño? Feel free to share!

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

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

Eeyore & Roasted Cauliflower

eeyore_snowEeyore was a great dog. Perfect really. At least he was perfect for the kind of life my sister and I led on Jackson Road and later near Pleasant Lake. He never yipped and rarely barked. He wasn’t the kind of dog that demanded that you constantly throw a ball or Frisbee or otherwise entertain him. That said, he did like to retrieve sticks from the lake. As long as you agreed to throw them, he’d swim out and bring them back. After all, he was a Labrador Retriever. Except for the thing with the sticks, as far as I know, he didn’t have a single trick.

A very loyal friend, Eeyore didn’t so much as play with my sister Brenda and me as hang out with us. No matter where we went, he would lope along. He was happy to join us for an adventure in the woods and just as happy lie in the grass while we read a book. If a bunch of kids got together to play dodge ball or kick the can, he’d patiently wait on the sidelines until we were done. He never tried to intercept a ball or steal the can. Believe me; he was fast. If he’d wanted to take that ball and run with it, he could have.

During the cold, winter months, Eeyore was in his element. He didn’t just tolerate the cold; he adored it. Maybe it’s because he was born at the end of November, in New Hampshire, no less. Nothing made him happier than sitting, face to the wind, in a howling blizzard. Whenever a nor’easter blew in, he would beg to go out. Then, he would sit on the deck for hours; a big grin on his face.

It generally took several appeals to convince him to come inside and warm up. Finally, he would shrug, stretch and saunter into the house. It became quite worrisome in his later years. In spite of his gray beard and arthritic limbs, he still loved the cold. On the coldest day of the year, he’d hobble outside, find a snowdrift and plunk himself down. After indulging his love of the cold, my mother would coax him in and feed him an aspirin to sooth his creaky joints.

But that was much later.

Longfellow Pond was a big neighborhood attraction when I was a kid, especially in winter. After school and on weekends, all the kids in the neighborhood skated down on the pond. We stayed down there for hours. Meanwhile, Eeyore would lie quietly in the snow and observe the action. He never stole the boys’ hockey pucks or ran across the ice, tripping young skaters. If one of us fell, he would come over to lick a face and make sure all was okay. When the streetlights came on, it was time to go home. Eyeore would reluctantly return with us. I’m pretty sure it was his rumbling stomach that convinced him that it was time to go and not his little girls.

When we weren’t on Longfellow Pond, we were with the rest of the kids, zipping down the Dosdall’s hill on our sleds. It would never have crossed Eeyore’s mind to chase the sleds or get in the way. It would be, well, unseemly. He’d have been absolutely mortified if we’d ever had to drag him home in shame like some of the other dogs in the neighborhood.

If we weren’t skating or sledding, we were building snow slides and forts out of the giant snow banks in front of our house. Eeyore would calmly observe. He was more than happy to sit quietly in a snowdrift and watch the action.

I think of Eeyore on nights like this, when the wind is howling and the cold is bone chilling. Many people imagine their best loved dogs are chasing tennis balls or rabbits in heaven. Not Eeyore. If there is a heaven, it is filled with snowdrifts and he sits calmly, watching kids twirl on their skates and fly on their sleds.

Enjoy the latest snowfall and the love (or memory) of a good dog. Bon appétit!

Roasted CauliflowerRoasted_Cauliflower_03
A perfect side dish for a cozy dinner after sledding or skating. This versatile vegetable is good with roasted anything – chicken, lamb, beef or salmon. Enjoy!

Serves 4

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, cut on the horizontal and then in thin wedges
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup or to taste grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the rack in the upper and lower third of the oven.

Spread the cauliflower onto a large rimmed baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with just enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat and toss. Roast the cauliflower at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Add the onion and garlic, drizzle with a little more oil and vinegar if necessary and, tossing occasionally, continue roasting until almost tender, another 15-20 minutes.

Sprinkle the cauliflower with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and roast until the cauliflower is tender and the cheese is golden, 5-10 minutes more.

While the cauliflower roasts, combine the parsley, thyme and lemon zest.

To serve: transfer the cauliflower, onions and garlic to a large platter or individual plates and sprinkle with herbs and zest.

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One Year Ago – Savory Blinis
Two Years Ago – Lettuce Cups with Shrimp & Noodles
Three Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Four Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower & Bacon
Five Years Ago – Chocolate Mousse
Six Years Ago – Shrimp & Feta

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

Do you have a story about a good dog? 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