Traditions & Stories plus Roasted & Mashed Butternut Squash

THANKS_03It is the season of thanks and giving. The timing could not be more apropos. Smart people tell us that if you’re feeling blue or out of sorts, both giving and gratitude are wonderful cures. On the other hand, if life is good for you right now, embrace those feelings with gratitude and give back graciously.

I am a big believer in the power of small things. That’s why I’m grateful for kind words. Give one or receive one; it doesn’t matter. Let the kind words fly in all directions. They make the world an infinitely better place. Don’t be shy; blurt out that compliment to the stranger in the supermarket. After all, it is a fabulous haircut. Don’t just say hello to that friend you haven’t seen in weeks. Greet him with, “I’m so happy to see you.”

I also believe in the power of big things. While a cynic might brush them off as inconsequential, family traditions are big, powerful things. Thanksgiving, in particular, is filled with traditions. It doesn’t matter that many have changed a bit; some have grown and others have disappeared. Family traditions are the threads that bind us together across distance, time and generations.

From the first post-election debate in 1796 to the green bean casserole that debuted in the mid-fifties, Thanksgiving follows a familiar if sometimes uncomfortable routine. But make no mistake, even the most awkward moment can bring comfort. Once again, at some point during the feast, we will take a deep breath and resist the almost uncontrollable urge to strangle that knuckleheaded cousin. However, while his obstinacy may frustrate us, the inevitability of his knuckleheaded-ness also grounds us. In a way, I guess we love him in spite of his stubbornness and because of it.

The predictable menu we serve may not actually be the best we have to offer but continuity brings us peace. And so, even if tempted, I will not stir up Butternut Squash Risotto, grill burgers or simmer black beans for Thanksgiving dinner. Okay, I confess I’ll roast the squash instead of boil it like my mother did. Traditions bend with each new generation and blend with new additions to the family.

Along with the discussion and debate, the drama and pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving is filled with family stories. Throughout the day, we create them; relive them and share them. Few families have heroic tales to tell. Not many can reminisce about the year Uncle Pete missed the party because of a moon landing or cousin Wilt was busy at a record-breaking basketball game.

Our family stories may be rather ordinary, even mundane, but they are ours. We recount the time Mom didn’t realize the turkey was double wrapped and popped it in oven, cellophane and all. We remember Thanksgiving blizzards, even power outages, as well as the time our eighty-some year old aunt had two too many Manhattans. As for you and your family, perhaps you tell of the time the dog stole the turkey or your uncle nodded off and did a faceplant in the mashed potatoes.

While the events may be ordinary, the stories are not. Each story gives a glimpse into one or more of the unique characters that somehow came together and formed a family. These tales share love and loss, laughter and tears. Family stories remind us of the people and personalities who came before us. Part comedy, part tragedy, part legend, our family stories connect us to the past and give us strength and courage for the future. They are very powerful indeed.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with tradition, stories and love. Bon appétit!

Roasted & Mashed Butternut Squash
My mother always boiled, drained and mashed her squash with butter and a little brown Butternut_Squashsugar or maple syrup. I’ve ramped up the flavor by roasting it. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3-4 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
1-2 pinches cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Apple cider vinegar
Olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
About 1 cup cream or chicken or vegetable broth
2-3 tablespoons butter plus more for the pan
About 2 ounces each Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
About 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Put the squash in a single layer on rimmed baking sheets. Sprinkle with cayenne, salt and pepper, drizzle with enough equal parts vinegar and oil to lightly coat and toss to combine. Roast at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Add the onions and more oil and vinegar if necessary and toss to combine. Roast for 15 minutes more or until lightly browned and tender. Remove from the oven, add the herbs and toss to combine. Let cool for about 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Generously butter a large baking dish.

Working in batches if necessary, transfer the vegetables to a food processor, add the cream, butter and cheeses and pulse to combine and puree. If the mixture seems dry, add a little more cream or broth. Transfer the squash to the prepared baking dish.

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

Bake the butternut squash uncovered at 350 degrees until piping hot. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and serve.

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One Year Ago – Pumpkin-Ginger Mousse
Two Years Ago – Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula Salad
Three Years Ago – Roasted Mushrooms, Leeks, Shallots & Pearl Onions
Four Years Ago – Turkey Noodle Soup with Spinach
Five Years Ago – Curried Thai Soup with Turkey, Vegetables & Noodles
Six Years Ago – Roast Turkey with Mom’s Stuffing & Giblet Gravy
Seven Years Ago – Penne Gratin with Leftover Turkey
Eight Years Ago – Leftover Turkey Stir-fry

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

What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions and stories? Feel free to share.

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

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First of May Cookout Special

daffodils_april_10_03_edited We say goodbye to April on Sunday and give three cheers for the merry month of May.
In spite of the surprise snowstorm on Tuesday, the first of May means that it really, finally is spring. Roll out the grill and enjoy the first cookout of the season.

Uh oh – spring or not, it looks like the first of May will be a washout. Not a problem … just move your cookout to Saturday. Hooray, hooray, the thirtieth of April doesn’t rhyme but you can still have a good time!

Start with something delicious to nibble. I’m very fond of my
Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp. Or you could try my Greek Stuffed Mushrooms.

Next, sit down to a salad. Since you are getting out the grill, why not try my Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado. On the other hand, my Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula Salad is also very good.

What about the main course? How about chops? Lamb or pork, take your choice! I’m partial to my Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce but my dad is a big fan of my Grilled Mustard Pork Chops. Either way, serve the chops with a spoonful of my Quinoa Salad and a few slices of my Grilled Zucchini.

Top off your spring feast with something sweet and delicious. You can’t miss with my Flourless Chocolate Cake or my all-time spring favorite Lemon Tart.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What are you cooking this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2016

A Fading Autumn Weekend Special

fall_leaves_02If you haven’t done the New Hampshire foliage tour yet … well hurry up! The leaves are fading fast. Dropping too, so, those of us who live here have our work cut out for us. Grab a rake and get to it!

Once you’ve put the rake away, invite some of your favorite people over for a great dinner. Dinner comes together quickly and easily with the help of a few, great kitchen hacks. It also helps when someone brings an appetizer, someone else brings a salad and a third brings dessert! Perhaps saying YES to the question, “Can I bring something?” is the ultimate hack!

Whether you fix everything from soup to nuts or your friends pitch in, here are a few ideas:

First you’ll want a tasty appetizer. If the wind biting and the air cold, there is nothing like itty bitty soup shots. Butternut Squash Soup would be perfect. Or get some really good artisanal crackers and try my warm and oh so yummy Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts. Then again, my Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crostini are pretty darn good too.

Now, for a great main course. You’ve got to try my Chicken with Onions & Olives. If not this weekend, then sometime soon. Serve the chicken with Lemon Roasted Potatoes or Israeli Couscous and Roasted Cauliflower.

A nice alternative and staying with chicken, my Spicy Chicken Stew with Vegetables and Chick Peas is a great one pot supper. Well, almost one pot. You’ll want to serve it with rice or Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts.

Now for a little something sweet. Enjoy an espresso (decaf is okay), a cup of tea or snifter of cognac by the fire. Of course you’ll want something to nibble. Maybe my Pumpkin & Spice Cookies or Pumpkin Whoopee Pies. If you think you’d like something a bit more elegant, well, how about Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti?

Enjoy the weekend and bon appétit!

What are your plans for the weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

Still Summer Weekend Special

Pleasant Lake cloudsIf you are holding onto summer with brute force and white knuckles, you can relax. The equinox and official start to fall will not be here for another couple of weeks. Last week’s heat wave proved it, it’s still summer. Even if clouds and showers hide the sun for a good bit of the weekend.

Anyway, it will be a good weekend for a movie or invite friends over to watch football. Or forget about football, hang out in the kitchen and make pickles.

When it comes to dinner, enjoy a bit of cozy, comfort food. Here are a few ideas:

To start, pick up some fresh eggplant in the farmers’ market and give my Baba Ganoush or Caponata a try. Add a bowl of Roasted Almonds and another of Spicy Olives.

roasted_tomato_soup_w_fresh_corn_01Moving on to the main course, who says you can’t have soup and sandwiches for dinner? You can’t beat my All Grown Up Grilled Cheese. Add a mug of my Roasted Tomato Soup with Fresh Corn. Yum!

And for dessert? Stick with the warm and cozy theme. The first local apples are in the market and everyone but everyone loves Apple Crisp. Or go with cool, creamy and chocolaty and give my Chocolate Panna Cotta a go.

Have a great weekend, stay dry and bon appétit!

What are you planning for the long holiday weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

A Toe Tapping Summer Weekend Special

What a beautiful day! Let’s hope it lasts through the weekend so we can continue to live the outdoor life. That’s what summer is all about … sun, sports and celebrations, at least on the weekends. So what’s up with you? Golf or tennis, sand castles and waterskiing, shopping at the farmers’ market and dancing at the bandstand?

We New Englanders have a long tradition of summer evenings at the bandstand. There are three within minutes of my house most summer weekends. If you’re tied up with other plans on Saturday, well, there’s always Friday and Sunday night. A picnic and some toe-tapping is a great way to spend a summer evening. That said, you’ll need a picnic.

To start you evening of delicious, toe-tapping fun, think tomato … or is it tomahto? I can’t think of a better way to start the evening than locally grown tomatoes. You’ll be in heaven with my Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil . Next dish up some tasty Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables and top the salad with my Grilled Shrimp.

What’s your favorite portable dessert. I’m guessing brownies top your list. Looking for a bit of change, give my rich and oh so wonderful Cheesecake Brownies a try.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What are you planning for the weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

Another Summer Weekend Special & the Days Are Just Packed

Do you feel it? That feverish drive to start the day on the top of Kearsarge (or a mountain near you). That’s not all. There is also the serious need to bike from one end of the Rail Trail to the other and back again. It doesn’t quit but is followed by an almost urgent compulsion to waterski on whatever body of water is handy, play a round of golf and hit a tennis ball. It’s summer and you’re doing your best to make sure the days are just packed.

sunset_pleasant_lake_03A picnic supper sounds like a good way to end a busy summer day. Take a couple of hours to relax and watch the loons or the fireflies. Sip a Shandy , your favorite microbrew or a glass of wine while you enjoy a few nibblies. My Rosemary Cashews are always a hit. Thinking you’d like something a bit more substantial? How about a big crowd, add some fresh veggies and my White Bean Hummus or Baba Ganoush with fresh veggies and pita chips. Or take it easy with a few great cheeses and artisanal crackers.

For the main event, how about a seafood feast. Fire up the grill and enjoy my Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce or Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli? Maybe both. Add a couple of great salads like my colorful Potato Salad Niçoise and everyone’s favorite Caesar Salad.

The pick-your-own strawberry farm is still open for dessert. You’ll love my sweet and tart Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What’s keeping you busy this summer? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

Welcome Summer Weekend Special

run_for_the_lake_2012_06Schools out and droves of summer people are spilling into our little town. It will be a busy weekend. The flares and fireworks are on Saturday night – yes, a week early. We’ll need to throw together a family cookout of some sort. Sunday morning is the fun Run/Walk for the Lake. It will be an early start but I’ll be done, showered and ready for brunch around 10!

We’ll kick off summer with a cookout on the beach before the fireworks. You must try my Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction. Serve them up on grilled country bread for a starter or enjoy them as a salad. Either way, they are delicious. Need another appetizer or two? How about Artichoke Pesto and/or Feta & Walnut Spread with pita chips or crostini.

For the main event, it’s time to get grilling. Nothing says welcome summer like a burger. Give my Not Your Ordinary Burger a try or lighten up with my Turkey Burgers with Greek Salsa. Add a couple of great salads like my Orzo Salad with Lemony Pesto & Grilled Tomatoes or New Potato Salad Dijon. Plus, something green like a traditional
Caesar Salad or my oh-so colorful Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette. Delicious!

If you want to take it up a notch, try my Grilled Scallop & Asparagus Salad. Not just elegant, it’s summer’s answer to the one-dish supper.

NYE_ASLPT_Springledge_Farm_Strawberry_FieldsWhen it comes to dessert, strawberries are in season. The pick-your-own fields at the end of my street is open and the berries are wonderful. Why not enjoy the quintessential early summer dessert Strawberry Shortcakes with Cardamom Cream. For a lighter dessert, try my Strawberries with Yogurt Cream or enjoy the last of the rhubarb in my Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What will you throw on the grill this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2015