Life with Dad & Yankee Pot Roast

So, my ninety-three year old father moved in with me last week. Well, technically he moved in on January 2nd. However, he turned around and went to Florida on the 4th. It’s not our first rodeo. We lived in the same house for years when I was a kid. Mom, my brother and sister plus several dogs and a few turtles were in on it too.

More recently, we became roomies in 2012. That’s when all hell broke loose with my family’s Greatest Generation. Dad was in and out of hospitals, had several surgeries and was flat on his back for months. To complicate matters, my mother had Alzheimer’s and he was her caregiver. In a fast game of musical chairs, Mom moved into assisted care and I took care of Dad.

It took him almost two years to recover but, eventually, Dad was as good as new. Or as good as anyone ninety-something can get. Before long he got fed up with me and moved out. Until now. Now he’s back. He flew north on March 8th and was due to leave again on the 14th. Then, on a flight from New York to West Palm Beach, some wingnut got the news that he was COVID-19 positive.

Family and friends banded together to convince Dad to stay out of airplanes. My brother was a particularly enthusiastic campaigner and broke out his secret weapons – the girlies. Within minutes the girls were on the phone to their grandfather cajoling him into he staying put. Okay now, I admit it. While everyone was pushing hard for him to stay … I might have, maybe mentioned that I was kind of, sort of looking forward to having a few more weeks before he actually, truly moved back in. To which my brother shrugged and said, “That’s a first world problem.” Yah, sure, first world problem for him maybe.

Anyway, I’ve discovered a new game on Facebook. It helps you stay sane while working from home. Designed for parents with kids home from school, it also works if you have an old man and dog in the house. Did I mention Dad brought a seventeen year old West Highland Terrier with him? That’s one hundred and nineteen in human years. But back to the game. You post something, anything about your kids (or in my case, my ancient father and dog) but call them your co-workers.

Here’s a sample of some of my coworkers’ recent antics …

While I’m getting caught up with Morning Joe, my co-worker is reading his emails and the news feed on his phone. Yes, out loud. In case you need to know – down in Florida, his golf club has shuttered all services except take-out dining and kids are hanging out on sunny beaches. My co-worker insists I stop what I’m doing (making muffins) and look at his phone to see the hordes of kids ignoring social distancing.

My other co-worker watches the goings-on in the kitchen for a bit and gets bored. Or maybe she realizes that nothing else is going to fall on the floor for her to clean up. She moves to the conference room for a nap. She does that a lot.

My co-worker’s friend calls. I’m almost done with the muffins and still trying to half-watch/listen to the news. Assuming I’d like nothing more than to hear his half of the conversation, my co-worker speaks loudly into the phone. I tell him to take it in the conference room. My other co-worker sleeps through the banter.

Meanwhile, I continue to find peace in the Zen of everyday activities. The muffins are done and I start work on a pot roast for dinner.

Bon appétit!

Yankee Pot Roast

In times of stress, we need a bit of humor and some comfort food. Pot roast has always been a family favorite at my house. Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
  • About 3 1/2 pounds chuck roast
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
    4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-6 carrots, peeled and sliced about 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal
  • 4-6 parsnips, peeled and sliced about 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal
  • 6 celery stalks, sliced about 1 inch thick on the diagonal
  • 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 cups dry red wine
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a heavy casserole over medium. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Remove the bacon from the casserole, drain and reserve.

Drain the bacon fat from the pot, leaving just enough to lightly coat. Raise the heat to medium-high. Generously season the beef on all sides with salt and pepper, add the beef and brown each side for about 3 minutes. Remove from the pot and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, sprinkle with the herbs and spices, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.

Add the remaining vegetables and the bacon to the casserole and toss to combine. Add 1 cup each wine and chicken broth, the crushed tomatoes, mustard and bay leaf and stir to combine. Place the beef on top of the veggies. The liquid should come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pot roast. If necessary, add more wine and broth. Bring the liquid to a simmer over high heat, cover and transfer to the oven. Turning the roast midway, cook at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl. A few spoonfuls at time, add about 1 cup hot braising liquid to the sour cream, stirring after each addition. Add the sour cream to the pot and gently stir to combine. Add more wine or chicken broth if needed. Return the casserole to the oven and cook, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes or until the pot roast is very tender.

Remove the meat from the casserole, cut across the grain in thick slices and serve with generous spoonfuls of vegetables and sauce.

This dish can be made ahead of time – several hours or a day or two. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove and then transfer to a 350-degree oven to cook until the meat is warmed through.

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Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2020

 

A Cozy Dinner Party & Oven Braised Lemon-Rosemary Chicken with Vegetables

When was the last time you hosted a dinner party? Not a potluck or chili and beer on football night and definitely not a mountain of fast food piled up for a championship buffet. No, I’m asking about a real, honest to goodness, sit at the table and enjoy each other’s company dinner party. Perhaps you had the family over for Thanksgiving or Christmas but what about your friends and neighbors? In case it hasn’t occurred to you, winter is a great time for a dinner party.

Here are a few reasons why –

It’s been too long. A few weeks or a few years, I’ll let you define how long is too long since you set your table for an evening of good food, wine and conversation.

Baby, it’s cold outside. There’s been a definite chill in the air lately – as in hovering-around-zero-type chill. Can you think of a better time to spend a few hours in the kitchen?

Slow cooking, comfort foods are perfect for winter and entertaining. These dishes simmer in the oven allowing you to relax with your guests. A cozy classic is perfect on a cold night.

So why the hesitation? Perhaps you have visions of Elizabeth Taylor taunting Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I promise you, most guests are very well behaved. If you run across one who’s not, well then, don’t invite him next time. Or her.

Still hesitating? Don’t. You can do this; you can throw a fabulous dinner party. Here are a few suggestions –

Be realistic. Do you remember when cassoulet was all the rage at winter dinner parties? A big part of the allure was that it took three days to prepare. However, that was then and we are now well into the twenty-first century. Three days toiling in the kitchen is not (and never has been) a prerequisite for fabulous.

Less is more and balance is good. Yes, a beautifully prepared five course dinner is nothing short of spectacular. All those little plates are delightful. However, part of the magic of entertaining in the wintertime is that oh-so delicious and cozy one-pot supper. Keep it simple or simple-ish. When in doubt, pare down the menu. If you make a wonderfully complex stew, don’t follow it with your richest, most complicated dessert.

Make a plan and map out a timeline. Least you forget something – like shoveling the walk – grab a pen and piece of paper and write it done. Make a few notes on what to do when. Be honest. Don’t pretend you can get the stew prepped and in the oven in all of five minutes. Allow yourself ample time to relax and appreciate the Zen of chopping.

Wishing you delicious fun with friends, stay warm and bon appétit!

Oven Braised Lemon-Rosemary Chicken with Vegetables
Chicken simmered with vegetables in wine with lemon and rosemary are sure to become a favorite one-dish wonder. Enjoy!
Serves 8

8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, quartered
8 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, cut in thin wedges
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups or more chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup or more dry white wine
1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place it skin-side down in the hot roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, put the vegetables in a bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss to combine. Sprinkle with half of the rosemary and thyme, season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Put the mustard and lemon zest in a bowl, whisking constantly slowly add the lemon juice, stock and wine.

Remove the chicken from the oven, turn the pieces and sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and thyme. Add the liquid ingredients and the bay leaf and scatter the vegetables around the chicken. Return the pan to the oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting, adding more wine and broth if necessary, for 45 minutes-1 hour or until the chicken is cooked-through and golden and the vegetables are tender.

Transfer the vegetables to a large platter or individual plates, top with the chicken and serve.

You can time this dish to add the vegetables a few minutes before your guests arrive. Then, let dinner simmer while you catch up and enjoy a glass of wine. Or make ahead, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Adding more wine and broth if necessary, reheat in a 350-degree oven until bubbling and piping hot.

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One Year Ago – Applesauce Muffins
Two Years Ago – Chocolate-Hazelnut Bars
Three Years Ago – Whole Grain Pilaf
Four Years Ago – Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks)
Five Years Ago – Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù
Six Years Ago – Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Seven Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Eight Years Ago – Fettuccine with Escarole, Radicchio & Mushrooms
Nine Years Ago – Cassoulet
Ten Years Ago – Caribbean Fish Stew

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

What are your favorite dishes to cook up on a cold winter day? Feel free to share!

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

November is National Caregiver Month & Oven Braised Moroccan Chicken & Vegetables

National Caregiver Month, what does that even mean? Throughout the year, more than forty million people care for a family member. More often than not, the person receiving the care is elderly. If your only grasp of multi-generational living is the Waltons, well, it’s not always that rosy a picture. Sure, the story of three generations living and loving under one roof was a huge hit. Who didn’t drop everything on Thursday night to watch? However, in today’s reality, multi-generation households often mean one grandparent or the other or both are troubled by Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease, stroke or heart issues.

Family members are then pressed into action. Most caregivers are women. They are wives, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, sisters and nieces. A few husbands, fathers, sons, grandsons, brothers and nephews pitch in for good measure. The only payment they receive are the smiles of appreciation from their loved one.

Why do these brave women and men deserve a month of recognition? And by the way, who says they’re all that brave anyway? Well, to steal from an old saying – you can’t truly understand the life of a caregiver until you walk a mile in her shoes.

After she developed Alzheimer’s Disease, my dad was my mother’s caregiver. In Mom’s case, it was a slow and steady decline over twenty years. The first ten years were difficult. The last ten were something else. As Mom’s infirmities worsened, Dad developed back problems and then a post-surgery infection. It is not at all uncommon for caregivers to fall ill with something or other. Stress can be quite devious.

Dad’s prognosis of six to eight weeks to heal stretched out to eight months. Then there was another year and a half to fully recover and get back on track. His caretaking days were over. Mom needed round-the-clock care and moved to assisted living. Since he couldn’t drive and could barely walk, I moved in with Dad to help. I can only describe those first few months as drinking from a firehose.

There are as many scenarios as there are families. Your loved one can have physical difficulties, cognitive issues or both. The problems can be mild or severe. Onslaught can be fast or slow but, in most cases, the situation doesn’t improve with age. Although, my mother did not recover (you don’t recover from Alzheimer’s Disease), my dad did. No matter what seemingly never-ending ups and downs, caretaking requires constant adjustment to an ever-changing new normal.

Some caregivers find that their new normal includes the unimaginable. No one ever expects to help a spouse or a parent shower, dress, use the bathroom or eat. Although rarely discussed, helping with these simple daily tasks is quite real. Add frequent trips to the doctor, pharmacy and emergency room and you’ll understand why the days are never ending.

Oh, and by the way, most caregivers have a day job, full or part time, along with caring for their loved one. Morning comes early and bedtime is late. There are no days off. Finding yourself exhausted, on deadline and the verge of tears at eleven o’clock at night is part of the new normal.

Some families, like mine, have the good fortune to be able to add professional help to the mix. Others go it alone. My heart goes out to all the families that go it alone. I can not imagine.

Hug a caregiver this month and bon appétit!

Oven Braised Moroccan Chicken and Vegetables
Cozy comfort food is perfect for the rainy days of November. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8-12 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
8-12 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
Olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 cup or more dry white wine
2 cups or more chicken broth
12-16 ounces baby spinach or kale
Lemon or lime wedges, for garnish (optional)
Basmati rice

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Put the oregano and spices in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the chicken with half of the spice mix. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the vegetables in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining spice mix and toss to coat and combine.

Turn the chicken, scatter the vegetables in the pan and add the wine and broth.

Return the pan to the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Adding more wine and broth if necessary, continue roasting until the chicken is cooked through and golden and the vegetables are tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes more.

While the chicken braises, cook the rice according to package directions.

Remove the chicken from the pan, lightly cover and reserve.

A few handfuls at a time, add the spinach to the pan and toss to combine and wilt. Add a little broth if necessary and return to the pan to the oven for 3-5 minutes or until piping hot.

Transfer the vegetables to a deep serving dish or individual shallow bowls, top with chicken and serve with basmati rice and lemon or lime wedges.

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One Year Ago – Warm Brie with Cranberry Chutney
Two Years Ago – Butternut Squash Tartlets
Three Years Ago – Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad
Four Years Ago – Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing
Five Years Ago – Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crostini
Six Years Ago – Pumpkin Cheesecake
Seven Years Ago – Rustic Apple Croustade
Eight Years Ago – Cranberry Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Decadent Cheesy Potatoes
Ten Years Ago – Broccoli Puree

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

What’s your favorite pasta and sauce? Feel free to share!

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

Surviving Mud Season & Vindaloo Chicken

A week ago Monday, the day dawned with about six inches of cement-like snow in the yard. Only the day before, cheery crocuses were blooming and an inch of two of daffodils had broken ground. It was a bit disheartening to say the least and I wasn’t alone in my dismay.

Everyone had a joke. Mother Nature forgot to tell Father Time it was spring. It’s not the 15th of April, it’s 106th of January. After all, if we don’t laugh we might cry. The snow did raise a few hopes. Would it put a damper on next month’s black flies? (Unfortunately no, a hard frost in May will do that but not snow in April.)

I don’t know why these April storms surprise us. Perhaps we are in denial and only pretend to be surprised. After a few decades away, I admit I more or less had forgotten about New Hampshire’s snowy Aprils. However, my return to reality was swift and sure. The last one hundred or so miles of my journey home were in a snowstorm – it was  April 22.

Let’s face it; we live in a land known for its many seasons. In late October or early November, almost-winter begins. It is followed by winter. Winter is a great time for those of us who like to ski or snowshoe. Unfortunately, around the time the lifts close, still-winter or mud season begins. Spring, for all intents and purposes, is nonexistent.

Okay, I will grudgingly admit it. Sometime in late May or early June, we are not-so-blessed with a few days of black fly infested spring. Finally, there is a wonderful burst of summer, followed by a glorious fall. As lovely as these two mini seasons are, they are just that – mini. Together they barely make up a third of the year.

When it comes to surviving mud season, here’s what I got. It ain’t much but it’s about the best I can offer:

Defy all logic and smile. Smile, even if your car gets stuck in the slush or you loose a sneaker in the mud. It’s hard to be unhappy when you are smiling. If you don’t believe me, try it. Still not convinced? Well, then leaf through a pile of old Scientific Americans; the proof is in there somewhere.

Buy a ridiculously colorful raincoat and an even brighter pair of wellies (also known as rain boots.) It’s okay if they don’t match. Both will keep you dry and make you laugh. It’s hard to be unhappy when you are laughing. (See above for proof.)

If you can, get out of town, if only for a weekend or a day. You don’t need to go all the way to the Bahamas or Hawaii for a change. Spend some time in the city – any city will do. When was the last time you visited a museum? It’s been a while hasn’t it? How about shopping and lunch in a smart café? Indulge a bit; you deserve it.

Happy mud season and bon appétit!

Vindaloo Chicken
When New Hampshire turns muddy, I have a yearning for dishes from warmer climates. Curry is one of my favorites. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

6-8 bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil
6-8 tablespoons Vindaloo Paste*
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 carrots, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups (14-15 ounce can) unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup or more chicken stock
1 pound baby spinach
1 1/2-2 cups basmati rice
1/2 cup chopped cashews, toasted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a little oil a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Starting skin-side down, sear the chicken for about 2 minutes per each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve.

Put the Vindaloo Paste in the pan and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Add the bay leaf, stir in the white wine and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

Return the chicken to the pan with any juices and wiggle the pieces down into the vegetables.
Transfer the pan to the oven and cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked-through and nicely browned. Check the pan after about 30 minutes and add more chicken stock if necessary.

While the chicken braises, cook the rice according to package directions.

Remove the chicken from the pan, arrange in a deep serving platter and cover to keep warm.

Return the skillet to the stove and place over medium-high heat. Add the spinach in handfuls, toss to coat with sauce and cook, stirring, until all the spinach has wilted, 2-3 minutes.

Spoon the vegetables and sauce around and over the chicken, sprinkle with cashews and serve with basmati rice.

* You can find Vindaloo Paste in specialty stores, online and in some larger supermarkets … or you can make your own.

Vindaloo Paste
Makes about 1 cup

1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cloves
6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2-4 or to taste fresh bird’s eye chilies, chopped
1 cup loosely pack fresh cilantro
1/4 cup crushed tomatoes
About 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Put the spices and seeds in a small food processor and pulse to combine and grind the seeds.

Add the garlic, ginger, chilies and cilantro and pulse to chop and combine. Add the crushed tomatoes and process to combine.

Add the vegetable oil and process until the mixture forms a smooth paste.

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One Year Ago – I Love Lime Pie
Two Years Ago – Quinoa Salad
Three Years Ago – Latkes
Four Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Five Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Six Years Ago – Espresso Brownies
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Scones
Eight Years Ago – Shrimp with Jicama Slaw
Nine Years Ago – Pork Mole
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have a plastic pollution solution? Feel free to share!

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

April in Paris & Coq au Vin au Printemps

April in New Hampshire … the ski slopes close down, frost heaves hit new heights and mud season is at its peak. Time to get away to someplace like … Paris! Now, April in Paris, that’s a whole different story. I’ve had the good fortune to spend an April weekend or two in Paris. The chestnut trees are in bloom and beds of daffodils bob in the breeze. The air is spring-like and a whole lot warmer than New Hampshire. Indeed, unlike New Hampshire, a foot of new snow isn’t blanketing the town. Parisians can thank the Gulf Stream for that.

Don’t tell me you were asleep the day your science teacher gave his illuminating lecture on this wondrous current? Without going into detail, let’s just say the Gulf Stream is the reason that April in Paris is a good bit warmer than the Granite State. If all this snow and mud has got you feeling glum, how about we take a tour of the City of Light?

Paris is a city for walkers so you will need comfortable shoes. Let’s start the tour by taking in the magnificence of the Champs-Élysées and the Jardin des Tuileries. Then we can wander over to the Seine and contemplate the river with all its grandeur. You’ll want to pause to enjoy the ancient architecture as we cross a few of its many bridges. While we’re out and about, let’s stop in and see the beautiful rose window at Notre-Dame Cathedral and marvel at the Church of Saint-Sulpice.

Next, it’s time to delight in Paris’ old world charm. We’ll wander over cobblestones and down narrow streets. You never know what charming bistro or amazing shop you will discover. When you need a break, we can stop for a leisurely coffee at a sidewalk café. If it’s a sunny day, we can probably sit outside. People-watching is one of my favorite activities in Paris.

When mid-day hunger pains strike, we’ll pick up an elegant picnic at the Marché St-Germain. The fruits and vegetables are gorgeous. The beautiful breads and cheeses take an ordinary picnic to a whole new level. We’ll add a view of the Seine or the Eiffel Tower or more people-watching at the luxurious Luxembourg Garden. Our picnic will be a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach!

Paris is not immune to April showers so if it rains during the trip, and it probably will, we can visit the museum. From the ancient Egyptians to the Mona Lisa, you can easily spend an entire week or more at the Louvre. The Musée d’Orsay is a must for fans of impressionism and post-impressionism. Built in a beaux arts railway station, it makes for a fascinating afternoon. Rain or shine, the Centre Georges Pompidou is a fun place to visit. From the jugglers and musicians out front to the cinemas and National Museum of Modern Art inside, the Centre Pompidou is not-to-be-missed.

At the end of a busy day, there is nothing better than dinner in a cozy bistro. No need to rush, take it easy and relax over a long, leisurely meal. The food and wine in Paris are nothing short of wonderful. After all that walking, feel free to indulge in a traditional five-course dinner. Each course will be loaded with flavor but you shouldn’t worry about overindulging. Portions are smaller than a typical American restaurant.

Oops, daydream and tour over. Don’t despair; instead, enjoy a walk around Pleasant Lake and a beautiful bistro dinner at home. Pick up a bunch of daffodils, download Ella Fitzgerald’s version of April in Paris and gather friends and family around your table for a taste of Paris.

Here’s to a little Parisian spring charm and bon appétit!

Eiffel Tower photo credit: Thank you Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Coq au Vin au Printemps
Roast chicken is a typical bistro meal. Add veggies for a typical spring bistro meal! Enjoy!
Serves 8

8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups or more chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup or more dry white wine
1 pound whole mushrooms, trimmed and halved or quartered
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces fresh (peeled and trimmed) or frozen pearl onions
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and chopped
1 pound baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoons herb and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the mushrooms in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Add the onions, sprinkle with the remaining herbs, season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Put the mustard and garlic in a measuring cup, whisking constantly slowly add the lemon juice, stock and wine.

Turn the chicken, add the wine and broth mixture and scatter the mushrooms and onions around the pan. Return the pan to the oven. Continue roasting, adding more wine and broth if necessary, for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked-through and golden and the vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl. A few spoonfuls at a time, whisk 1/2-1 cup of the hot braising liquid into the sour cream. Moving the chicken around if necessary, stir the sour cream and asparagus into the vegetables and around the chicken. Return the pan to the oven for about 5 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. Add the spinach and toss to combine. Return the pan to the oven for 2-3 minutes or until the spinach has wilted.

Transfer the vegetables to a large platter or individual plates, top with the chicken and serve.

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One Year Ago – Moroccan Baked Cod
Two Years Ago – Artichoke Pesto
Three Years Ago – Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach
Four Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with
Five Years Ago – Bananas Foster
Six Years Ago – Tapenade
Seven Year Ago – Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème
Eight Years Ago – Lemon Tart

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

What about you? What is your favorite spring destination? Feel free to share!

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

Get Your Green On & Irish Lamb Stew

So … Friday is Saint Patrick’s Day. The Irish and those that wish they were Irish will celebrate the day. It began as a religious feast day for Ireland’s patron saint. It has evolved into a celebration of all things Irish with parades, dancing, festive foods and a whole lot of green.

Unless you live in Ireland, you’ll still need to report to work as usual. However, the timing isn’t half-bad. It’s nice to know you can sleep in the next morning if you drink one too many green beers. Although my memory is a little hazy, I seem to remember Saint Paddy’s Day pub crawls when I was in college. It’s been a while.

Now, if you aren’t into crawling or you town has few if any pubs, how should you celebrate?

First and foremost, you must wear green. It’s not a problem for me. I like green; I drive a green car and have for years. If you’re not exactly partial to this verdant hue, start digging through your closet. There must be a green sweater or turtleneck in there somewhere. If you can’t find a thing, take a trip to a dollar store and pick up a green bandana. It will have to do.

Now that you’ve got your green on, you should march in a parade. If you like tradition, the first Saint Paddy’s parade took place in 1762. The only problem for those of us in the wilds of New Hampshire, the closest parade is in Manchester. Even then, it’s not until the 26th. There is a parade in South Boston this Sunday. If you can’t wait or want to stay closer to home, make your own parade. With any luck, the weather will be nice. Take a stroll up and down Main Street and show your colors. If you’d like, paint a little green shamrock on each check. Just remember, shamrocks have three leaves not four.

During your stroll, you could search for leprechauns. Then again, leprechaun hunts might be one of those silly things you do after drinking too much green beer. Anyway, I’m not sure I’d really recommend it. The odds of finding a leprechaun and his pot of gold must be what? About even with winning the lottery? Particularly this year! It’s been a blustery month, it wouldn’t surprise me if the little fellows got swept up and blown back to the Emerald Isle.

Next, enjoy an Irish feast. All across the United States, especially in New England, people will be boiling up corned beef and cabbage. However, if you think it is an Irish tradition, you’d be wrong. Historically, you’d be more likely to find pork or lamb than beef on an Irish table. The Irish are famous for their stew. Why not stir up a pot?

End the evening with a jig. It doesn’t matter if you know what you are doing. The point is to have some fun. Find some fiddle music and kick up your heels. Don’t be shy; no one expects you to go all Riverdance. Let go, embrace the music and enjoy the laughter.

Éirinn go Brách, have fun and bon appétit!

Irish Lamb Stew
The epitome of comfort food, a traditional Irish stew is the perfect meal on a blustery March day. Enjoy!
Serves 6
2-3 ounces slab or thick cut bacon, chopped
Flour for dusting the lamb
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
About 2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon or to taste dried chili flakes
4-6 carrots cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup Guinness or other dark beer
3 cups chicken stock
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 pound new potatoes
5-6 stalks celery cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 leeks, cut in 1-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon in a heavy casserole over medium-low heat until crisp and brown. Remove the bacon and reserve.

Season the flour with salt and pepper. Lightly dust the lamb cubes with the seasoned flour. Brown the lamb in the bacon fat over medium-high heat a few minutes per side. Remove the lamb and add it to the reserved bacon.

Reduce the heat to medium. If necessary, add a little butter or olive oil to the bacon fat, add the onion, sprinkle with dried chili flakes and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.

Put the lamb and bacon back into the stew pot. Add the carrot, beer and chicken stock and season with the herbs, salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven and cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Stir in the potatoes, celery and leeks, return the pot to the oven and continue cooking, covered, until the vegetables and lamb are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If the stew seems dry, add more beer and/or stock.

Ladle into shallow bowls and serve.

Can be made ahead, cooled to room temperature and refrigerated overnight. Reheat in a 350 degree oven until bubbling.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Parsnips with Rosemary
Two Years Ago – Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin
Three Years Ago – Zucchini Pancakes
Four Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Five Three Years Ago – Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons
Six Years Ago – Grilled Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant
Eight 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 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

Get Out & Vote! & Creamy Polenta with Mushroom & Kale Ragù

An open letter to my nieces and nephews,

vote_02Finally, the 2016 election is headed into the homestretch. Fed up with the rancor, some (probably most) Americans are heaving a huge sigh of relief. Few would disagree that the tone of the election is disturbing, even horrifying. It worries me. More than a few people are threatening to skip the whole thing. I’m sure you’d never stay home from the polls but just in case you’re thinking about it … please don’t. Cast your vote, if for no other reason than it will make Meme proud.

Perhaps she is naïve or unduly patriotic but your grandmother believes in voting. The first time I voted, Mom waited to cast her ballot until I got home from school so we could go to the polls together. It has never mattered that our views often differ, that our votes cancel each other out. For Meme, voting is important, an important right and responsibility.

Maybe it is because my grandmother, Meme’s mom, was born before women had the right to vote. Nana was of voting age and shoulda, coulda, woulda voted the year Woodrow Wilson was elected president. Instead, she had to wait another four years for the 19th amendment to pass.

The candidates tell us, “This is the most important election ever.” Maybe they are right, maybe not. Many of the talking heads, pundits and pollsters say that millennials could decide the 2016 election. That’s you and that’s a good thing. Who better to decide the future than the generation who will be around to see it? Don’t forget, a Supreme Court position is at stake. Appointing a supreme is a big deal with long lasting effect. The average tenure on the court is sixteen years. The longest serving justice was on the bench for more than thirty-six years.

Anyway, that’s the argument I used with Gramps. Discouraged by his choices, your grandfather threatened to stay home from the polls. That’s a pretty big deal. As far as I know, Gramps has never skipped an election. Okay, maybe he missed a few of those local elections over referenda that almost no one understands. (Sorry – Mom, I’ve missed a few of those as well.)

And so, I had a heart to heart with your disheartened grandfather. I suggested that he vote for the candidate who best represented the interests and needs of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Especially you, the youngest generation of Nyes. I think it worked. At least, he cast his ballot.

It’s okay to be a little selfish about this. Think of your future, your beliefs and values when you ponder this election. Look beyond the melodrama and vote for the issues that matter to you. Wave away the stunts and theater. Determine what’s best for the economy, foreign policy, health care and education. Reflect on your positions on the environment, gun policy, terrorism and trade. Consider where you stand on immigration, marriage equality, treatment of minorities and women’s rights. It’s not easy. There has never been a perfect candidate. There never will be.

Alzheimer’s disease has robbed Meme of her ability to vote. Go in her stead. Know she loves you and make her proud. I love you too.

Bon appétit!

Creamy Polenta with Mushroom & Kale Ragù
For anyone following the election, a little comfort food is probably in order about now. Enjoy!polenta_mushrooms_kale_01
Serves 6-8

4-6 ounces pancetta or bacon
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
Pinch or to taste red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms*, trimmed and sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/4 cup dry Madeira or sherry wine
4 cups chicken stock or broth
1 pound baby kale, stemmed
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 cup instant polenta
4 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
1-2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/2-1 cup half & half
Garnish: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Prepare the mushrooms and kale: Lightly coat a heavy skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the pancetta and sauté until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta and drain.

Add the onion to the skillet, season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper and sauté until it starts to become translucent, add the mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon each rosemary and thyme and sauté for 2-3 minutes more.

Add the wine and reduce by half, stir in 1/2 cup stock, add the pancetta and kale and simmer until the kale wilts. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. Add the butter and stir to combine.

polenta_mushrooms_kale_05While the mushrooms and kale cooks, make the polenta: Bring the remaining stock to a boil in heavy saucepan, add the polenta and remaining herbs and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the polenta thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir in the half & half, add the cheeses and stir until melted and smooth.

To serve: spoon the polenta into shallow bowls, top with mushrooms and kale and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

* If you can find them, use a mix of chanterelles, oyster and shiitake mushrooms.

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One Year Ago – Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
Two Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous
Three Years Ago – Smashed or Mashed Potatoes
Four Years Ago – Apple Muffins
Five Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash
Six Years Ago – Spinach Ricotta Pie
Seven Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Lentils
Eight Years Ago – Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart

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

Dare I ask … what are your thoughts on the election? Feel free to share.

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