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

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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

Anticipation Turns to Despair & Zucchini Pancakes

Pleasant_Lake_Winter_Mist_02Oh, that fickle Möûll! Once again, the Viking snow goddess has all but ignored us. To make matters worse, she delivered a beautiful blanket of white to the west and north. For days, meteorologists were almost dancing with excitement. They promised up to a foot, no eighteen inches, wait, make that two feet of snow. Snowmageddon was coming! The news filled skiers with joyful anticipation. The kind of anticipation that makes it difficult to think, read, write, eat or sleep. Restless but with hope in our hearts, we searched the sky for clouds and the first flakes.

Finally, exhaustion took over and we fell into bed. We dreamed of snow but woke to rain. Yes, that steady pitter-patter on the skylight was cold, miserable rain. As the day slipped into midmorning, always the tease, Möûll offers a glimmer of hope. No not sunshine, but the rain turned to big, fat flakes of snow. Optimism and goodwill abounded in this skier’s heart. It didn’t last long, my high hopes were dashed an hour or two later when those big, fat flakes turned back to rain.

Yet again, anticipation turned to despair. During one of the coldest winters in history, it rained and rained some more. Sometime in the middle of the night, the temperature finally plummeted and snow began to fall. Too little, too late, we missed out on the foot or more so eagerly promised by the weatherheads. What little snow we had, piled up into massive drifts under the force of twenty-five-mile-an-hour winds. Yes indeed, after a miserable wet day, the dreaded polar vortex returned.

To summarize, here’s what we got: first lots of rain, followed by not much snow and, finally, adjusting for wind-chill, seriously cold, way-below-zero temperatures. So Möûll, to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan, what did we do to offend you?

And just like that the answer came to me. Obviously, we are not following the six easy steps to ensure a snow day. It’s something that most kids know but do you? Here goes:

1. Do your very best snow dance. Nothing halfway, dance like no one is watching!

2. Do your homework. Whatever the commitment, act like it will happen and prepare as usual. If it’s book club, read the book. If it’s an important sales call, review your pitch. Volunteering at the thrift shop, fill the car with that load of gently worn clothing. If you have kids, make sure they do their homework too.

3. Flush at least six ice cubes down the toilet. More if you are really serious, which you should be. (Stick to six if you have temperamental plumbing. In any case, if you end up with a problem, don’t call me, call your plumber.)

4. Wear your pajamas inside out and backwards. You must do both, inside out and backwards, or the charm doesn’t work. If you work from home, keep those jammies on all day.

5. Brush your teeth with the opposite hand.

6. Sleep with a spoon under your pillow.

I don’t know why or if these steps work but kids across the northeast swear by them. The penalty for not following these six simple rules; the storm will blow to the north or south and miss us or fall as rain. If you hate the snow, don’t worry, we’ll be putting away our skis in early April. After that, we can all beseech Idun or Freya, Artio, Brigit, Flora or Persephone for sunny days and the first flowers.

In the meantime, dream of snow and bon appétit!

Zucchini Pancakes
Wonderfully versatile, serve these pancakes as a main course or appetizer. They’re delicious at dinner with pasta or for lunch with a fresh, green salad. Alternatively, make smaller, one or two bite pancakes for your next cocktail party. Enjoy!
Makes about 24 cocktail-sized pancakes or 12-16 large pancakeszucchini_pancakes_01

1 1/2 pounds zucchini, coarsely shredded
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped, fresh mint
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon or to taste hot sauce
Olive oil
Garnish: Tapenade and/or sour cream or yogurt

Make the Tapenade and let is sit for at least a couple of hours to mix and meld the flavors. Click here! for the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Put the zucchini in a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and toss to combine. Let the zucchini sit for 5 minutes, squeeze out as much liquid as possible and transfer the zucchini to a large bowl. Add the scallions, garlic and herbs, season with pepper and toss to combine.

Whisk the baking powder into the flour. Add the flour and cheeses to the zucchini and toss to combine. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk in the hot sauce. Add the eggs to the zucchini and stir to combine.

Heat a little olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, working in batches add spoonfuls (a small ice cream scoop works well) of zucchini batter to the skillet and fry for about 3 minutes on each side or until golden and cooked through.

Drain on paper towels, transfer to an ovenproof platter and place in a 200 degree oven to keep warm. Serve with small dollops of sour cream or yogurt and/or tapenade.

The pancakes can be made in advance and reheated on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.

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Print-friendly version of the Tapenade recipe.

One Year Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Two Years Ago – Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons
Three Years Ago – Grilled Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Four Years Ago – Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant
Five Years Ago – Fettuccine with Classic Bolognese Sauce
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your thoughts on the record cold and, in some parts of the country, record snowfall? 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

February Vacation! & Coq Au Vin

skiing_at_RaggedFor young skiers, nothing beats February vacation. As kids, some of our friends went to Florida for the sunshine or New York for the arts. The Nyes were more than happy to head to New Hampshire. By mid-February, the brutally cold winds of January had blown back to the North Pole. Even if the longest day was still months away, the sun waited until at least five to set. Every year the Nye kids looked forward to the break and a wonderful week in New Hampshire.

As soon as school got out on Friday afternoon, we headed home to grab duffels and cram bags of groceries into the station wagon. Dad was expected to leave the office early. If he wasn’t home by four, his phone would start to ring. Instead of potential customers looking for quotes, it was his children demanding he head home. Since he was as excited as we were, Dad didn’t argue. Dogs, turtles and kids piled into the car and we headed north.

With an entire week to explore every slope and hidden glade, the pace was a little more relaxed. Especially if Dad headed back to the office for a day or two! If Mom was in charge, it was okay to hit the slopes at the crack of ten, even ten-thirty. Without Dad, there was less pressure to get in our daily quota of twenty-five (or was it more?) runs. Mom didn’t mind if we left before the last chair dropped its final load of skiers on top of the mountain. Heck, when Mom was in charge, we could leave at lunchtime if a nor’easter was blowing. We just couldn’t tell Dad that we spent the afternoon putting jigsaw puzzles together or baking brownies.

In any case, sitting around the house didn’t last long. As soon as we got a second wind, it was back outside for sledding or deck jumping. There was a fairly steep hill across the street from our house and most of the trees had been cleared for sledding. In a very snowy year, the stumps and boulders were not a problem. What you can’t see; can’t hurt you. Can it? Although no limbs were lost or broken, at some point, someone’s parents, not mine, must have taken a second look at those rocks. That was that and we were banished from the hill. The trees and scrub soon grew back. Today, you’d never know that a death-defying run was hidden among the rocks and under the trees. To make up for the loss, we tried a little cross-country skiing. While fun, cross-country couldn’t quite match the dangerous thrill of careening through the dark on the sledding hill.

With a ten or fifteen foot drop, deck jumping also required a fair amount of snow. Mother Nature usually complied by mid-February. Every weekend throughout December and January, we shoveled the deck, slowly but surely adding to the pile below. That first jump provided a wonderful combination of sheer terror and utter exhilaration. As teenagers, my sister and I discovered that it was a great opportunity for sixteen year old boys to show off. It still is.

I hope that you are enjoying the thrills, spills and fun of winter. Or at least sitting back and enjoying fond memories of winter wonderland vacations.

Bon appétit!

Coq Au Vin
Warm and cozy, coq au vin is the perfect dinner after a day on the slopes. Add a salad and serve the stew with warm crusty bread or smashed potatoes. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6coq_au_vin_02

2-3 ounces bacon, chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 chicken thighs or a combination of thighs and legs
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup cognac or brandy
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 bay leaf
16 ounces mushrooms
8 ounces frozen pearl onions
Garnish: fresh, chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain and reserve.

While the bacon browns, season the flour with salt and pepper and lightly coat the chicken. Raise the heat to medium-high and brown the chicken, about 3 minutes per side. Reserve.

Put the onion, celery and carrots in the pot, sprinkle with herbs, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from heat, add the cognac and mustard and stir to combine.

Return the pot to the heat and gradually stir in the wine and stock. Add back the bacon and chicken and bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer the casserole to the oven. Cook at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, heat a little olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden.

Add the pearl onions and mushrooms to the chicken, return the casserole to the oven and continue cooking for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove the chicken and vegetables from the pot and arrange on a large serving platter. Cover and keep warm.

Return the pot to the stovetop and reduce the cooking liquid by about half over high heat. Ladle some sauce over the chicken and vegetables, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve. Pass any extra sauce.

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One Year Ago – Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton
Two Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Three Years Ago – Lemon Cheesecake
Four Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Five 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!

What are your favorite winter vacation memories – ski, food or otherwise? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

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