Graduating Advice & Strawberries in Cointreau

It’s graduation season. Politicians, celebrities and the wisest among us take to podiums and blather on about one thing or another. In most cases, they offer some kind of advice. These important people extol the virtues of goal setting and hard work. They like to use phrases like dream big, dare to fail and never give up. They hope to inspire the next generation to climb mountains, reach for the stars and seek the truth … or some such thing.

My advice is simpler, much simpler. Learn to cook. In an age of fast food and microwave dinners, it’s tempting to give the kitchen a pass. Don’t. Cooking is both creative and calming. As you gain knowledge and confidence, you will delight in combining ingredients in new and different ways. Plus, the rhythmic stirring and chopping will calm you after a busy day. Knowing how to cook will feed your stomach and your soul. (It will also help you save money to pay off those student loans.)

When I look at life and work, cooking stands out for one particular reason. It can bring almost instant gratification. For so much of what we do, progress is not measured in hours but in weeks, months or years. A book can take years to write, rewrite and write again. A teacher will work for months hoping for a breakthrough with reluctant students. Complicated business projects take weeks or months to complete. As for raising kids, tending a garden, building and maintain strong and happy relationships – these are never-ending works in progress.

But cooking – even Thanksgiving, the biggest of all holiday feasts is prepped, cooked and served in a couple of days. With a little planning, a weekend dinner party can be tossed together in an afternoon and an any-day-of-the-week meal is done in an hour. As for the reward – you will taste it immediately. Better yet, you will see it in the smiles and hear it in the animated chatter and laughter around the table. A good meal with people you love will make your heart sing.

Which brings me to my next point – invite friends and family to eat with you. Food is more than sustenance; eating is a communal rite. A meal is meant to be shared. Food tastes better when served with a side of stimulating conversation, harmless banter and silly jokes.

Perhaps a dinner party, even the idea, scares the bejeebers out of you. Don’t let it. In the words of Julia Child, “No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize,” So what if the soup is a little spicy or the dog steals the turkey? If anyone remembers, it will be another great story to tell and retell. Sure, you’ll look back at some of your mishaps with a grimace but, more important, you’ll also look back with a giggle.

To close, I have two utterly practical suggestions. First, get a big bowl. Only the most timid of cooks can make do with one of those nesting sets of three. You won’t use that giant bowl every day but you’ll be happy to have it. I have a couple, a big one at eight quarts and a really big one at fourteen. Cooking requires a lot of tossing and mixing – give yourself plenty of room to do it with gusto.

Second, start every party with an empty dishwasher. Like it or not, even the loveliest of evenings do come to an end. Eventually, you must clear the table. Cleanup is faster and easier if you can immediately stack all those dishes in the dishwasher. Oh, and yes, I know many first (even second) apartments don’t have dishwashers. This rule also applies to the sink. It should be empty of dirty dishes when your guests arrive.

Have a wonderful life filled with happy friends around table. Bon appétit!

Strawberries in Cointreau
Sometimes the simplest of desserts can be the most delicious – especially when local strawberries are coming into season. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pounds strawberries, hulled and quartered or halved, depending on size
About 2 ounces Cointreau
Zest of 1 orange
Brown sugar to taste
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)

Place the strawberries in a bowl large enough for tossing. Drizzle with Cointreau, sprinkle with orange zest and gently toss. If necessary, add a little brown sugar and toss again.

Let the strawberries sit for about 10 minutes while you put the dinner dishes in the sink to soak or fill the dishwasher.

Toss again and serve the strawberries with a spoonful of whipped cream or ice cream.

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One Year Ago – Southwest Turkey Burgers
Two Years Ago – Cherry Cobbler
Three Years Ago – Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction
Four Years Ago – Strawberry Shortcakes with Cardamom Cream
Five Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Six Years Ago – Chocolate-Chocolate Sorbet
Seven Years Ago – Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons
Eight Years Ago – The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the History of my Kitchen
Nine Years Ago – Asian Slaw

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

What advice would you give to this year’s new graduates? Feel free to share!

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

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Thankful for Leftovers Special

After the feast of feasts, the refrigerator is filled with Thanksgiving leftovers. If you didn’t do it yesterday, it’s time to make turkey stock. You’ll also want to organize the rest of the leftovers. If you have room in the freezer, you won’t have to cook for a week, maybe two.

Now, you’re asking … what the heck do I do with it all? Here are a few suggestions:

There is everyone’s favorite … soup:

My Favorite Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup

Curried Thai Soup with Noodles, Turkey & Vegetables

Turkey Noodle Soup with Spinach

Not feeling soupy? How about:

Leftover Turkey Stir Fry

Black Friday Enchiladas (Turkey & Black Beans Enchiladas)

Cheesy Gratin with Thanksgiving Leftovers

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Bake

Poverty Casserole (Swap out the sausage with leftover turkey.)

Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans (Replace the ground turkey with bite sized pieces of leftover turkey.)

If you love roasted vegetables, there’s a chance you made too many. Regardless of the mix – butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, beets or whatever … you can –

Whirl them into soup – use my Roasted Butternut Squash Soup recipe as a guide. Or pile them onto crostini and top with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction. Try them in salad of Kale and Radicchio.

Any and all your roasted veggies will be delicious with Ravioli and Brown Butter, layered in Lasagna or stirred into Risotto.

Have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

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

How are you spending the long holiday weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! target=”_blank”>Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Edible Holiday Gifts Special

Sugar_Spice_NutsStocking stuffers or a gift for your host, if you have the time, I have the recipes! Here are some of my favorites!

Ah Nuts! Serious or silly, all of your friends will love a little crunch for Christmas.
Rosemary Cashews
Roasted Almonds
Sugar & Spiced Pecans

Olives, Artichokes & More! Just perfect with a glass of wine and a lively chat.
Spicy Olives
Tapenade
Artichoke Pesto
Sundried Tomato Pesto

Make that a savory biscuit and (or) a dab of jam for the cocktail hour.
Gorgonzola & Walnut Shortbread with Savory Fig Jam or Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam.

Skip the savory and go for sweet.
Death by Chocolate Sauce
Maple Sauce
Caramel Sauce.

Snowflake_Sugar_CookieDid someone say Christmas cookies?
Citrus & Spice Sugar Cookies
Peppermint Bark Cookies
Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
Ginger Shortbread
Macadamia Nut Shortbread 
Snowy Pecan Balls
.

Or fabulous Christmas chocolates?
Chocolate Almond Buttery Brittle
Chocolate Dipped Orange Caramels Chocolate Truffles.

Happy holidays and bon appétit!

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

Will you be making any gifts this year? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going.

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

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Multitasking & Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verde

swiss_armyAfter the lazy, hazy days of summer, it’s time to get down to business. With cooler air, we feel the need to move faster and stretch the time further. Although rarely successful, multitasking is one of the ways we try to jam more into every day.

Successful or not, we all brag about our ability to do seven things at once. How long has it been since you gave a phone call your undivided attention? Months? Never? Whether driving or loading the dishwasher, answering emails, coaching little league, folding laundry or running on the treadmill, no one drops what they’re doing to answer the phone. And that’s not all. Knitters binge watch their favorite drama while clacking out miles of scarves and dozens of mittens. Neatniks get their exercise and keep in rhythm by doing a samba with the vacuum cleaner.

When we’re not doing three things at once, we’re flitting back and forth from one task to another and another. Take this article; just as I was getting started, my email pinged. Of course, I checked it out. Next thing you know I’m paying a bill and then emptying the dishwasher. Finally, I get back to the article. Now, what was that terribly clever anecdote I wanted to add?

To distract ourselves further we search far and wide for multifunction gizmos and gadgets. Remember the days when we marveled at a Swiss Army knife. How innocent we were. A knife that whittles, opens bottles (both beer and wine) and tightens screws (both Philips- and flat-head) is an excellent addition to any pocket. But alas, it’s nothing compared to a phone that surfs the net, receives and sends email and text messages, takes pictures, guides you to your destination, sends you moneysaving coupons, tells the time and temperature, takes a message, finds you a date and plays both music and games.

Putting the phone aside … if you can. What are your favorite multitasking machines? I ran into a couple when I lived in Europe. I guess necessity was the mother of many of these clever inventions. For one thing, apartments were generally compact. For another, people did seem at least a bit more concerned about their carbon footprint than the average American.

My favorite multitasker was something called a robot. It was nothing more than a combination food processor, blender, mini food processor and coffee grinder. Any cook would love to have one. I can’t believe they don’t exist on this side of the Atlantic. There was a base with a decent motor and three maybe four processing bowls in different sizes and shapes. The robot came with a bunch of different blades and attachments. It could chop, slice, dice, blend, knead, grind and probably more that I’ve forgotten. When I returned to the US, I had to buy three, make that four, different machines to do the same work.

Although I was forced into buying a closet full of equipment to replace my robot, I have discovered a few hacks to turn some of my favorite kitchen tools into multitasking miracles. You probably already know these tips but here goes nothing. The easiest way to peel ginger is with a regular old spoon. An ice cream scoop is perfect for filling muffin tins. A melon baller can core an apple in a flash. And finally, when in doubt; grab the tongs. They work for just about everything. Flip steaks, stir soup, toss a salad and, my favorite, use them to grab something off the top shelf.

Whether you save time or not, have fun in the kitchen this fall. Bon appétit!

Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verdepork_bean_stew_salsa_verde_01
Although it requires a fair amount of multitasking, this Brazilian-inspired stew is worth every delicious step. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

1 pound dried black beans
12-16 ounces hot (or sweet) Italian sausage, casings removed
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
Olive oil
About 3 pounds pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons (or more to taste) minced jalapeno
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup espresso or strong coffee
1/4 cup rum
2 bay leaves
4-6 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup sour cream
1/3-1/2 cup per person white, basmati or brown rice
Salsa Verde (recipes follows)

Rinse and soak the beans overnight in 10-12 cups water.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the sausage in a large ovenproof skillet, add the sherry and 1/2 cup water and, turning once or twice, roast at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Cut the sausage into chunks and then, in 2 or 3 batches, transfer to a food processor and pulse to finely chop. Reserve.

While the sausage is cooking, pat the pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat, add the pork and brown well on all sides. Remove the pork from the casserole and reserve.

Put the vegetables, spices and oregano in the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the sausage and brown sugar, add the orange zest and juice, lime juice, espresso and rum and stir to combine. Add the pork, 1 bay leaf and enough chicken stock to come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pork.

Bring everything to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and turning the pork a few times, cook for about 2 hours.

After the pork has been cooking for about 45 minutes, drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans in a large pot, add water to cover by 3-4 inches and the remaining bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until almost tender, about 45 minutes.

Drain the beans and add them to the pork. If necessary, add more chicken stock. Return the stew to the oven and cook for another 30-45 minutes or until both the pork and beans are very tender.

Remove the stew from the oven and cool to room temperature. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and cut or shred into bite-sized pieces.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl and a little at a time, stir 1-2 cups of sauce to the sour cream.

Stir the pork and the sour cream back into the beans. Cover and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Reheat the stew in a 350-degree oven until bubbling, about 45 minutes or 1 hour. While the stew reheats, cook the rice according to package directions. Serve the stew in shallow bowls with rice and a spoonful of Salsa Verde.

Salsa Verde
2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 scallions, sliced
About 1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
About 1 cup cilantro leaves
About 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar and lime juice in the bowl of a small food processor, add the lime zest, scallions, garlic and herbs, season with salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until finely chopped and well combined.

Let sit the salsa for at least 30 minutes before serving. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Serve at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Applesauce Scones
Two Years Ago – Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard
Three Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Four Years Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Five Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Six Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Seven Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Eight Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon

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

Wha’s your favorite multifunction gadget? Feel free to share.

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

Christmas Hacks & Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale

I seem to be acquiring a fascination with life hacks. Now, you ask, “What exactly is a life hack and what does it have to do with having a sane Christmas?” Well, a hack is any simple tip that changes your life for the better … or at least some tiny aspect of it. These clever, little tricks won’t change the world; they just make day to day life easier. Especially during the holidays.

Here are a few thoughts and tips for a saner Christmas:

1. Do you have a passel of grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and/or friends’ kids hoping for gifts? More important, is shopping for them impossible at best? I get it. Who can remember who loves pink (did she mean Pink!) and who will or won’t wear Converse? Not to mention sizes.

Take it easy on yourself; get them all the same thing. Fun and funky socks, hand warmers or caps for skating and sledding. Beanbag chairs or popcorn poppers for dorm rooms. Don’t forget, music gift cards (or almost any gift card for that matter). They fit every shape, size and taste.

2. While we’re on presents, remember two important words – GIFT BAGS. Instead of spending hours and hours wrapping, slip everything into a cute and colorful bag. Okay, you’re right; they are more expensive so don’t throw them away. A new tag and they’ll be just as beautiful and easy next year and the year after.

3. Save a trip to the florist. Instead, take a walk in the woods for greens for the mantle and door. (The fresh air will do you a world of good.) Fill bowls with shiny ornaments and hang more decorations from the chandelier for a festive table. Combine children’s blocks or Scrabble tiles to spell out festive notes of holiday cheer. Add lights; lots and lots of sparkling, little white lights.

4. Make choices. If you love to bake then have at it with cookie after cookie, batches of brownies and pies to die for. If not, head for the nearest cookie walk. You’ll find them at craft fairs and church jumbles. Order pies from your favorite bakery or let your sister bring dessert.

If cooking truly is your thing, don’t hesitate. Go for it with a Christmas Eve feast of the seven fishes, a fabulous Christmas breakfast and/or even more fabulous dinner. But, if you are like my mother, choose your dishes wisely or organize a potluck.

I still remember the shocked look on my grandmother’s face when Mom threw caution to the wind and announced she was serving rib roast for Christmas dinner. Turkey with all the trimmings is a loads of work and she’d just done it for Thanksgiving. A roast beast, beef or pork, is a lot easier and just as delicious. Although Mom tossed a longstanding tradition to the curb, no one stayed home to protest. Dinner was absolutely delicious and fixed in half the time. Go Mom!

It’s okay to share the work with family and friends. Invite everyone to bring a dish. Just let them know your plans and suggest an appetizer, side dish or dessert to bring. If your cousin can’t cook to save her life, ask her to bring wine or a pie from the bakery.

5. Give yourself a gift. The gourmet coffee you love but is too expensive for every day. A new scarf because, as we all know, you can’t have too many scarves. Indulge in a great hat, a favorite artist’s new CD or a facial at your favorite spa. Enjoy a guilt-free nap, take a walk, meet an old friend for tea and a chat … you get the picture.

Have fun and enjoy a great holiday! Bon appétit!

Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale
Take your pick – this festive side dish is great with beef, pork, lamb or poultry. Enjoy!
Serves 8-10

4 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups mix of wild, brown and red rice
2-3 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds whole mushrooms, stems removed
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
About 1 pound baby kale, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
Garnish: fresh chopped parsley and chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the chicken stock in a pot, bring to a boil, add the rice and 1 tablespoon butter, season with salt and pepper and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Reserve.

While the rice cooks, put the mushrooms in a roasting pan, lightly coat with equal parts olive oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the mushrooms at 400 degrees, cup side up, for 15 minutes. Turn the caps and roast for an additional 10 minutes or until nicely browned.

Set aside until the mushrooms are cool enough to handle and then chop and reserve.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion, carrot and celery until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the kale and continue cooking until it wilts. Add the white wine, raise the heat to medium high and simmer until reduced by half. Add the mushrooms and toss to combine.

Can be made ahead to this point, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate separately for up to a day. If prepping ahead, reheat the vegetables in a large skillet before continuing.

Add 1-2 tablespoons butter to the vegetables, melt and stir to combine.

Add the rice to the skillet and toss to combine and sauté until piping hot. Transfer to a serving dish or individual plates, sprinkle with fresh parsley and pecans and serve.

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One Year Ago – Maple-Nut Sundaes
Two Years Ago – Rosemary Cashews
Three Years Ago – Greek Stuffed Mushrooms
Four Years Ago – Ginger Crème Brûlée
Five Years Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Six Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Seven Years Ago – Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Penne

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

What are your favorite sanity saving holiday tips? Feel free to share!

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

In the Spirit & Citrus & Spice Sugar Cookies

 Once Thanksgiving has come and gone, it’s time to get in the Christmas spirit. Depending on what else is going on … well, getting in the spirit can be a snap or close to impossible. We’ve all had those times when suddenly it is Christmas Eve. Where did the time go? Why is the tree still in the garage? What happened to that wreath I bought the day after Thanksgiving? The stockings haven’t been hung by the chimney with care. And oh my gosh, I still have to wrap the presents or bigger gosh … I haven’t even bought them yet!

If you are having trouble getting into the holiday spirit, here are a few tricks:

1. Get an advent calendar. Make sure it’s the kind with a chocolate behind every door. As the days lead up to Christmas, the calendar will help you keep track of time. The chocolate will give you a lift on a cold winter day.

2. Bake cookies. An afternoon of warm, sugary aromas will take you back to your childhood; baking with Mom and Nana. Nothing says Christmas memories like a batch of cookies.

3. Deck the halls and trim the tree. Spend a Saturday or Sunday pulling out the nutcrackers and filing bowls with shiny, glass ornaments. The smell of the tree and the greens on the mantle will blend beautifully with the cookies.

4. Check out the lights. A drive through the town to see the lights is a time-honored tradition in my family. Every town has their prime spots for decorations. Perhaps it’s Main Street where the Inn, is all done up in shining glory. Or that junction with the post office and community center. Take your pick and enjoy.

5. Make a gift. Knit a scarf, roast some nuts or decorate a tote bag. Psychologist tell us that creating and giving a special present brings joy to the gifter as well as the recipient. It really is more fun to give than receive.

6. Host a Christmas movie marathon. Pop some popcorn and settle in with Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby and/or Tim Allen for a relaxing good time. If you think you don’t have time for a Christmas movie, you can knit or wrap presents while you watch.

7. Play Christmas carols. Whether it’s your favorite radio station in the car, a stack of CD’s you’ve been collecting for years or Pandora … have yourself a merry little musical time.

8. Re-read a Christmas classic. Dickens or Seuss or something else entirely, an old favorite will fill you with the joy of the season. Share that story by reading aloud to an elderly loved one with failing eyesight. Or ask a child who loves books to read it to you.

9. See a holiday spectacular. You don’t need to go to New York to see the Rockettes. (Although a trip to the Big Apple could be fun!) You’ll find Christmas revels, dancing nutcrackers and great concerts much closer to home. From a sing along at your local church to something a bit more professional at a nearby arts center, there are holiday performances everywhere.

10. Invite friends over. No one says it has to be a big, fancy do. Host a cookie swap or a skating party, sing a few carols and sip hot chocolate or something stronger.

Have fun and enjoy the spirit of the holidays! Bon appétit!

Citrus & Spice Sugar Cookies
sugar_cookies_03These aren’t your same old-same old sugar cookies. They are buttery delicious with just the right touch of citrus and spice. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Grated zest of 1/2 lime
Grated zest of 1/3 orange
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon each lemon, lime and orange juice
Sanding or colored sugars or Citrus Icing (optional)
Garnish: sprinkles, chocolate chips, candies or colored sugars (optional)

Put the flour, grated citrus zest and spices in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the brown sugar and beat 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.

Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the dry ingredients. Divide the dough into a 2 balls and then flatten into disks. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

Evenly space the racks in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Put the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough and cut into cookies with decorative cutters. Transfer the cookies to a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Press excess dough together, roll and cut more cookies. You may want to stick the dough in the freezer for a few minutes to re-chill it.

If you like, sprinkle the cookies with sanding or colored sugar before baking. Bake until the cookies’ edges are golden, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Ice the cookies with Citrus Icing and decorate with sprinkles, chocolate chips or candies. Let sit until the icing sets, about 30 minutes.

Citrus Icing
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered eggs whites or meringue powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt
4 – 6 tablespoons mix of lemon, lime and orange juices
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted (optional)
Food coloring (optional)

Put the confectioners’ sugar in a medium mixing bowl, add the powdered eggs, cinnamon and salt and whisk to combine. Whisk in the citrus juices until the icing reaches the desired consistency for painting, piping or drizzling. Whisk in the melted butter.

Transfer the icing to small bowls and add drops of different color food coloring.

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One Year Ago – Peppermint Bark Cookies
Two Years Ago – Mixed Reds & Greens Holiday Salad
Three Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Four Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Five Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Six Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Seven Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? How do you get in the holiday spirit? Feel free to share!

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

Thanksgiving Tips, Tricks & Hacks & Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction

Thanksgiving is the foodiest holiday of the year. Did you invite the whole famdamily and half the neighborhood to feast at your house this year? Moreover, are you cursing that moment of weakness? Blame it on the euphoria of another Patriots’ victory or the extra glass of wine but you invited everyone, yes EVERYONE, for Thanksgiving. In the cold light of a rainy day, it now seems a bit daunting. Don’t despair it’s all in the planning plus a few tricks and a hack or two.

Here goes:

Make your lists early, like now. Check them twice. You need two lists. The first is the all-important shopping list of what to buy, when and where. The second is the just as important To Do list. Follow both as if your life depended on it. Your life doesn’t but your sanity might.

Start early, now would be good. You have your lists, so, anything that can be done in advance; do it. I like to begin my Thanksgiving feast with Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. If you do too, make it this weekend and freeze it. Same goes for the lovely pie dough we all like so much. Make and roll out the pastry and freeze it in the pie plate or flat on a cookie sheet.

If someone offers to bring a dish, say yes. But remember, as chief cook and bottle washer, you call the shots. Be polite but firm. If you have enough sweet potato casserole to mortar a large chimney but need another pie, say so. Stay strong. If no one offers, the bakery is there for a reason.

In addition, as dinner comes down to the wire, a handful of helpful Hannahs will flock to your kitchen. Have a list of simple tasks, things like opening wine, pouring water and tossing salad, and be ready to delegate. It will help get dinner on the table faster and the Hannahs out of your hair.

It’s the chopping-ist time of the year. What with onions and celery for stuffing, squash for roasting and potatoes for mashing, it seems endless. Begin early and store chopped veggies in the refrigerator. If a recipes calls for a boatload of finely chopped or diced veggies, your food processor can be your best friend. Cut the vegetables in chunks, throw them in the food processor and pulse to chop. Don’t overdo it, you want finely chopped not purée.

Speaking of recipes, don’t clutter the counters with cookbooks, laptops and tablets. Photocopy your favorite recipes or print from the web. Then, use painter’s tape to stick them onto the kitchen cabinets. It’s a win-win; more counter space and your recipes are at eye level.

Speaking of clutter, unless you have an extra refrigerator in the garage, chances are good that you’ll run out of cold storage. If the weather cooperates, store goodies on the screened porch. But watch out! If temperatures plummet into the teens overnight, well, iceberg lettuce anyone? To keep food from freezing, store it in a cooler. If it’s really cold, wrap the cooler in an old blanket or quilt. On Thanksgiving Day, use those same coolers for ice and drinks.

If you don’t have an instant-read food thermometer, now is the time to buy one. For less than $10, you can finally, once and for all, end the “is it done yet?” debate. Just stick the thermometer in the thickest part of the bird and get a reading of 165 degrees before pulling it out of the oven.

And to keep everything warm? As long as you don’t carve it immediately (and please don’t, it should rest for thirty minutes), that big old turkey will stay warm for at least an hour. Loosely cover with foil and set it out of the dog’s reach. Use the time to heat up the Broccoli Purée, bake the Decadent Cheesy Potatoes (my niece Emily’s favorite) and make the gravy. By the way, a thermos is perfect for keeping the gravy nice and hot.

Here’s to a happy and sane Thanksgiving! Bon appétit!

Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
You can’t celebrate Thanksgiving without at least a little butternut squash and/or pumpkin. Enjoy!
Serves 12

About 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh chopped sage
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon cognac
1 baguette, sliced on the diagonal about 1/2-inch-thick and toasted
10-12 ounces goat cheese
Garnish: Balsamic Reduction (recipe follows), toasted hazelnuts and chopped chives

Butternut_Squash _Crostini_w_Goat_Cheese_Balsamic_Reduction_01Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Divide the squash onto 2 rimmed baking sheets, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread the squash in a single layer. Roast at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Add the shallot, toss to combine and roast 15-20 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender.

Combine the squash on 1 pan, sprinkle with sage and thyme, drizzle with cognac and toss to combine.

The squash can be prepared in advance, cooled, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

To assemble and serve: spread a layer of goat cheese on the toasted baguette slices and top with butternut squash. If you like, you can warm the crostini in a 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Drizzle sparingly with Balsamic Reduction and sprinkle with hazelnuts and chives.

Balsamic Reduction
Makes about 3/4 cup

1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon finely chopped sage
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon or to taste honey
1/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the vinegar in small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil the over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and stir in the shallot, garlic and herbs. Cool to room temperature.

Remove the bay leaf and, using a rubber spatula to press on the remaining solids, strain the vinegar through a sieve into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in the mustard and honey. Continue whisking and slowly add the olive oil until thick and well combined. Serve at room temperature.

Coverr and store extra Balsamic Reduction in the refrigerator.

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

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

What about you? What your favorite kitchen tip, trick or hack for Thanksgiving? Feel free to share!

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