October & Autumn Vegetable Chili

Octo from the Latin meaning eight and ber from the universal meaning it’s getting chilly outside. Elkins_Dam_Foliage_02Wait a minute, back up the train. An octopus has eight legs, an octagon eight sides but October is the tenth not the eighth month of the year


In spite of the confusing name, October has a lot going for it. With fall foliage at its peak, this is especially true in New England. Above and beyond the crimson and gold landscape, October is a great month for foodies.
. What’s up? Blame it on Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome. He made eight the new ten around 700 BC by adding January and February to the start of the calendar year. As far as I’m concerned, he is also responsible for any septo-, octo- , novem and decem errors I made on my SAT’s. If it weren’t for Numa, I’d be a Harvard graduate and a billionaire with long legs and fabulous hair.

Someone or other has declared October Applejack Month so you might want to think about inventing a new cocktail. Something with cider and applejack sounds fall-ish and festive. Debut your cocktail on the 11th, also known as It’s My Party Day.

Speaking of parties, Columbus Day on the 14th gives many people a day off and a long weekend. The fall foliage will be at its peak and it’s a great time to bring friends and family together for a celebration. After all, you’ll have an extra day to recover!

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, October is also Cookie Month. Why not bake a batch of your (or my) favorite cookies

and celebrate Mad Hatter Day with a fabulous tea party on the 6th? If that doesn’t work out, you can try again with a National Dessert Day gala on the 14th.

When you need a break from cooking, feel free to call for take-out. October is National Pizza Month. That said with endless possibilities, it’s fun to make your own. Consider throwing a pizza party. If you choose the 18th, be sure to end with chocolate cupcakes. Yes, the 18th is Chocolate Cupcake Day. Who would have guessed?

With beautiful squash, parsnips, beets, broccoli and cool weather greens in the market, it will be easy to celebrate National Vegetarian Month. Some linguine or penne tossed with your favorite fall vegetables will be delicious on World Pasta Day, the 25th. If eating your vegetables makes you feel a little too pure, indulge a bit on the 21st with National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day.

It’s also Seafood Month. Make plans to grill up some shrimp or swordfish before it gets too cold to cook outdoors. If it turns cold and rainy, you can always sauté or roast your favorite seafood or make a cozy chowder. Sounds delicious.

A bunch of new films hit theaters this month. All the better to enjoy National Popcorn Popping Month. Forget the milk duds and jujubes, munch on some popcorn and let the magic of Hollywood take you away.

And finally, drum roll please, one of my favorite holidays – Halloween comes at the end of the month. But more about that later …

… in the meantime, happy October and bon appétit

Autumn Vegetable Chili
Bring a batch of spicy chili to your next tailgate party or potluck supper. Enjoy!
Serves 12

autumn_vegetable_chili_021 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 celery stalks, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
6 cups cooked small white beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried chipotle chili flakes or to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1-2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup dry white wine
1-2 bunches (about 1 pound) Swiss chard, roughly chopped
Garnish: toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh chopped cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Working in batches, sauté the vegetables in a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned.

Transfer the vegetables to a large casserole and add the beans, spices and herbs. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock and wine. Bring the chili to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover and cook in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Bring to a simmer over medium heat on the stovetop and continue with the recipe.

Add the Swiss chard to the chili and stir to combine. Return to the oven and cook for 5-10 minutes more.

Serve the chili in shallow bowls garnished with pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Two Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Three Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Four Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Five Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? Where will you take a child this week? 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, 2013

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Singing Praises for Stews & Braises & Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions

It’s taken a while for summer to throw in the towel and call it quits. Except for the more-than-too-much rain, the warm weather has been great. But of course it had to end. After wondering if the leaves would ever change, a few cold nights have turned the hills from green to crimson and gold. The first frost has come and gone and there will be many more before the first snow flies. It looks like it may finally be time to put away the shorts and t-shirts until next summer.

And for foodies, chilly nights can only mean one thing. It’s time to find your favorite stew pot, casserole or Dutch oven and whip up some warm and cozy comfort food. Who doesn’t love a homey dinner of low-and-slow cooked goodness?

Whether it’s beef that’s braising or chicken stewing, these one-pot wonders are perfect for overworked, multitasking mavens. Once dinner is in the oven you’ll have plenty of time to take care of any one of the countless tasks that fill your days (and nights.) While the pot bubbles you can you finish the laundry, answer emails and make or take one last phone call. If you like, double the recipe and cross another dinner off your to-do list later in the week.

Braises and stews are also great for entertaining. As much as we all love a summer cookout, there’s always a last minute juggle and mad dash to make sure everyone is well-fed and happy. Let’s face it; getting dinner on and off the grill can be a bit of an adventure when you’ve got a big, hungry crowd to feed. Half your guests want their steaks rare and the other half medium. And there’s always one odd duck who insists you cook it until it’s almost cinders and tough as shoe leather.

Happily, there are no special orders to worry about when you are serving, Nana’s Yankee Pot Roast, coq au vin or a vegetarian tagine. Unless of course, you mixed up your guest lists and invited your vegetarian cousin for pot roast or carnivorous neighbor for veggie stew. But that’s a whole ‘nother mess to figure out.

While dinner gently bubbles in the oven, you can have fun at your own dinner party. Gather around the fire for a chat or pile in front of the television to watch the game. Or maybe a little bit both. With little or no last minute rush and bother, you can relax and enjoy your guests. It’s great not to worry about the game going into overtime or a late arrival ruining dinner. Just turn the oven way down and add a touch more cooking liquid (beer for today’s recipe) to the pot if needed. Your beautiful braise or stew can almost always wait until that last touchdown has been scored or a late guest breezes in.

Make no mistake; comfort food doesn’t have to be ordinary or timid. As much as everyone loves your old fashioned chicken and dumplings, it’s fun to flex your culinary muscles. You can find inspiration in every corner of the globe. Why not fill your kitchen with the warmth and spice of a Belgian, Moroccan or Indian feast?

Celebrate the change of seasons by tracking down your favorite tried and true recipes or experimenting with a new one. Enjoy a relaxing evening with friends and family and bon appétit!

Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Relax with your guests while traditional Belgian comfort food simmers in the oven. This dish is even better made a day or two ahead. Enjoy!
Serves 8-10

4 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped*
About 5 pounds boneless chuck or London broil, about 2-inches thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3-4 large onions, cut in half and then into 1/4-inch wedges
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3-4 cups beer
1-2 cups chicken stock
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
2 bay leaves

Cook the bacon in a heavy casserole over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon and reserve. Pour off all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon fat and reserve.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high and brown the beef, 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the beef and reserve.

Add a little more bacon fat to the pot if necessary. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Season with allspice, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Stir in the garlic, mustard, sugar and vinegar and cook for 5 minutes more.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Add 3 cups of beer, 1 cup of chicken stock and the thyme and bay leaves to the onions. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Return the beef and bacon to the pot and bring to a simmer. The beef should be completely submerged in the liquid, add more beer and/or stock it’s not.

Cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Turning the meat once or twice, cook at 325 degrees until the meat is very tender, 2-2 1/2 hours. Add more beer and/or chicken stock if necessary.

Transfer the beef to a cutting board and let it sit, loosely covered, for 20 minutes. Skim the excess fat from the sauce and discard the thyme twigs and bay leaves. Return the pot to the oven to keep the onions and sauce warm. Slice the beef and serve with onions and sauce.

* If you like, you can skip the bacon. Sear the beef and sauté vegetables in a little olive oil.

You can make this dish in advance (up to 3 days). Cool to room temperature, skim the excess fat and store covered in the refrigerator. Bring the pot to a simmer over medium heat and then transfer to a 325 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the beef is warmed through.

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One Year Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Two Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Three Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Do you have a favorite stew or braise recipe? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

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

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2011

Be Counted – Vote November 4th & Pork Stew Paprika

Is it really possible that Election Day is here? Well almost here. Presidential hopefuls began invading New Hampshire almost two years ago. Early in the long primary season the parade of candidates seemed endless. Both parties offered up a bunch of guys in blue suits. There was the governor with a whole lot of money. Whatever he spent, he still couldn’t capture our interest or our confidence. There was the senator with a whole lot of good looks and charm. He wasn’t able to charm us into voting for him. Then there was that pastor turned governor who soared high in the polls for a minute or two. After a short time in the limelight he faded from view. Now we can barely remember their names let alone their platforms. Except for Hillary. She wasn’t able to win a spot on the ballot but she sure put a lot of cracks in America’s political glass ceiling. So now, to paraphrase Agatha Christie, now there are two. And soon there will be one.

In my typical American family … I say that having no idea what a typical American family looks like … In my typical American family we have voters of almost every persuasion. We have registered Republicans, confirmed Democrats and several Independents. The Independents all have definite, and different, leanings but take too much pride in their independence to register with a party. Plus if you register as an Independent you have the good luck and fortune to get robocalls from both parties.

This cross section of conservative and liberal views has meant years of lively debate and conversation. Conventional wisdom might suggest we leave any conflicting opinions at the door for the sake of family peace and harmony. But heck, then we would miss all the fun of discussing and dissecting the politicians and political issues. Even when we all agree on an issue or a candidate, we rarely see the need to curb our enthusiasm.

I blame it on my mother. My mother takes elections and voting very seriously and always has. She grew up close to the homes of four Presidents. From the time we were little, we were encouraged to have opinions and not be shy about sharing them. While she does not like to see any of us argue or fight, she loves to see her family engaged in rigorous debate. As soon as we reached our eighteenth birthdays, she insisted that my sister, brother and I register to vote. Her contention, if we wanted to take part in the discussion we had to participate in the process. Not wanting to be left out, I went down to the town hall and registered to vote on my eighteenth birthday. Okay, maybe it was a day or two later.

For many years I lived in Switzerland, but, not wanting to disappoint my mother, I still managed to vote in most major elections. It was sometimes touch and go but I usually sent my absentee ballot back to the States just in time for it to be counted. Many of my expatriate friends gave up on absentee voting. Others had good intentions but tended to forget to request their ballots in time to vote. I always felt quite virtuous (thank you Mom) for voting even though I was an ocean away.

It wasn’t until 2000 that I discovered that no one actually counts the absentee ballots. It seems that these ballots are only counted when the results are so close that they could actually change an election’s outcome. And here I thought the 2000 results were close.

As we head into the final stretch, the candidates are calling the 2008 Presidential race the most important election “in our lifetime” or “in a century or more”. A few years and a little history will let us know if their predictions are correct. For now, well I guess we can all agree that it is indeed the most important election in 2008. Regardless of your political leanings, enjoy the discussion and the debate and don’t forget to vote!

Bon appétit!

Pork Stew Paprika
With polls showing a close race, election night it may be a long one. Invite friends in and spice up the evening with lively conversation and a bubbling stew. Enjoy!
Serves 6

2 slices thick-cut bacon
2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 sweet onions, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon Hungarian hot paprika
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup ground tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup sour cream
1 pound baby spinach
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a Dutch oven or heavy casserole, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until crispy. Remove the bacon and reserve.

Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown in hot bacon fat, working in batches if necessary. Remove the pork from the pan and reserve.

Add the carrots, celery and onions to the casserole and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the paprika and garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.

Return the pork and bacon to the pan. Stir in the tomato sauce and chicken stock. Add the bay leaves, rosemary and thyme. Bring to a simmer over high heat.

Cover, transfer the casserole to the oven and cook at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the sour cream. Stir in the spinach; check for seasoning. As soon as the spinach has wilted, serve with buttered noodles or rice.

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Do you have a question? An idea, a few thoughts or an opinion you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

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

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

A Moveable Feast & Chicken Chili

autumn_leaves_close-upColorful leaves are starting to fall from the trees. There is a bit of a nip in the air and the threat of frost at night. The kids are back at school and football season has begun. From professional teams all the way down to little pee-wee leaguers every weekend is filled with blocks and tackles and all that other football stuff.

Our social calendars have not just changed but been turned inside out and upside down. In many towns Friday night is football night at the high school. Saturdays are filled with college ball, either at the stadium or on television. Sunday night football is sacrosanct. Nothing can come between football fans and the big game, unless it’s a football party.

When it comes to football parties there is nothing like a fabulous moveable feast. Yes, it’s time for tailgating. When I was a teenager we headed up to Hanover at least once during the fall to tailgate and watch Dartmouth play. We had no particular affiliation to Dartmouth except a few friends and neighbors but it was fun to spend a sunny afternoon in Hanover.

Parking in Hanover has always been a challenge, and more so on game day. Our alumni friends always had a secret spot, just large enough to hold a few cars and the people in them. The adults would chat and sip Bloody Mary’s. My brother and his friends would throw around a football. My sister and I and any other teenage girls would find an excuse to drift away. We would wander around the quaint college town, check out the shops and the book store, find an ice cream cone and engage in some boy watching. It was still a year or two before Dartmouth went coed so the town was overflowing with young men.

It’s been a while since I dodged my parents’ tailgating parties. Since those days, tailgating has changed and reached what can only be described as high culinary art. A simple picnic basket with a jug of Bloody Mary’s and a few sandwiches is no longer adequate. Tailgaters now travel with grills, picnic tables and enough party food to feed several hungry football teams. Stadium parking lots are turned into one big block party. It’s sort of like the old fashioned neighborhood you always wanted to call home. The kind of neighborhood where no one locks their doors and everyone is happy to see you.

So what’s in your picnic basket on game day? Do you wrestle with grills, coolers, tables and chairs? Does it take you at least an hour, maybe two, to pack the car and yet another to unpack? If you are looking for a delicious, warm and cozy game day lunch, why not try chili. You can simmer up a big pot at home. Wrap up the chili pot nice and tight in a couple of old beach towels and then slide it into a cooler. The towels will keep the pot from melting the plastic cooler. And regardless of its name, the cooler will keep the chili piping hot. When you get to the stadium, pass around big mugs of steaming chili. Dress it up with a sprinkle of cilantro, a dollop of sour cream and a little cheese. Add a few corn muffins and a batch of your famous brownies and you’ll have a wonderful football feast without a lot of fuss and bother.

Word is that Dartmouth still lacks a giant parking lot near the football stadium and the college has never developed the kind of tailgating culture found at other colleges. I guess it’s hard for a big party to develop spontaneously when you are stuck with on-street parking. I suppose the neighbors might disapprove.

However you spend game day, in the stadium or parked in front of the television, enjoy the game and have fun with the rest of the fans!

Bon appétit!

Chicken  Chili
Make the chili a day ahead and refrigerate overnight to allow its flavors to mellow and mingle. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3 pounds boneless chicken breasts
Spicy Lime Marinade for the chicken (recipe follows)
3 yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
1/2 -1 jalapeño pepper, or to taste, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (28 ounce) can ground plum tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil
Garnish: fresh chopped cilantro, chopped onions, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and corn chips

Marinade the chicken, recipe follows.

Heat a little olive oil in a large flame-proof casserole over medium-high heat. Add the onions, peppers, jalapeño, chili flakes, cumin, cayenne and season with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring frequently,  until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two.

Add the tomatoes, white wine and bay leaf to the casserole and simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the marinade. Grill over medium-high heat or cook in a large skillet over medium high heat until just cooked through; do not over cook. Set aside to cool.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into bite size chunks. Add the chicken to the vegetables. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate over night.

To reheat, set on medium-high heat, cook until it starts to bubble, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve in large soup mugs with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and pass the toppings.

Spicy Lime Marinade
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Grated peel of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime
4 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all the ingredients. Pour over chicken and marinade, turning frequently for 2-4 hours or overnight.

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Do you have a question? An idea, a few thoughts or an opinion you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

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

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