A Sweetheart of a Weekend Special

valentine_roses_03Sunday is Valentine’s Day. How will you celebrate? Reservations at a favorite restaurant? A weekend away at a favorite country inn or an elegant hotel in the big city. Alternatively, maybe you’ll cook a cozy dinner for two at home. For singles, Valentine’s Day has become a favorite time for girls’ night out.

How about a romantic dinner for two! Grab aprons, pop open a bottle of champagne and have fun cooking together.

How to start? Toast a few slices of baguette and top them with my tasty Artichoke Pesto. Nibble and sip while you make a delicious dinner together.

Moving on to a sweet dinner menu. A colorful Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad will be a wonderful start your dinner. For you main course, how about Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic. You’ll have leftovers for a busy day later in the week, or cut the recipe in half. Serve the chicken with Whole Grain Pilaf (or keep it homey with Smashed Potatoes) and Roasted Beets with Sautéed Greens.

Now what about dessert? Traditional types will want to stick with chocolate. So how about Pot de Crème or Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème and a few strawberries. You might want to add a few airy and delicious Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache.

Now what about that girl’s night out idea? See above but … double or triple the recipes as/if needed. It all depends on how many single ladies will be joining you.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

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

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

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

Cooking Together – Valentine’s Night Special

roses_02Saturday night, date night – perfect for Valentine’s fun in the kitchen. Sure, you could go out and enjoy one of those special prix fixe menus … but cooking together is a delightfully delicious way to spend this romantic holiday. Plus, a blizzard is forecast for Saturday night. Better to snuggle safe at home than be out on slippery roads.

Start the evening with a glass of champagne or a Strawberry Tini. Nothing says I love you like a pink drink! Stay with the pink theme and nibble Smoked Salmon Mousse while you cook. Unless you’d prefer some Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam or adorable Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks).

For dinner, start with a beautiful salad of Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula or, just as delicious, Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese.Then it’s time to take inspiration from Lady and the Tramp with a bowl of pasta. But take it up a notch with lobster! Think luxurious with Capellini with Lobster & Caviar or homey with Lobster Mac & Cheese!

End the meal with a sweet, little bite. What could be better than Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache , Triple Threat Brownies or Chocolate Truffles?

Have a delicious Valentine’s Day and a great weekend. Bon appétit!

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

What about you? What are cooking this Valentine’s night? 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

Aphrodisiacs & Capellini with Lobster & Caviar

bleeding_heartsHappy Valentine’s Day! It’s a day to celebrate love with flowers, chocolates, sentimental cards and intimate dinners. In warmer climates, the first hints of spring have sprung. I lived in California for a short time and my garden was full of daffodils in February. Here in New Hampshire, well, daffodils are still months away. Oh well, if nothing else, the cold weather encourages cuddling. And the kid with wings and bow and arrow loves cuddling couples.

Since we are dressed from head to food in layers of wool and down, an aphrodisiac, maybe two, would not be out of line. Whatever you’ve heard about rhino horns, forget it. It’s all a myth so stay away from the poor endangered rhinoceros.

Instead, indulge in any and all of the wonderful, romantic foods out there. Who cares that it is mostly legend or urban myth with maybe just the tiniest smidgeon of science? There are a number of foods revered as aphrodisiacs. At least they are on Valentine’s Day. Go for it.

Made famous by Casanova, oysters are perhaps the best-known of all the aphrodisiacs. History’s most notorious womanizer, Casanova started each day with a breakfast of fifty oysters. But that’s just the start. History, or maybe it’s legend, suggests that the Queen of Sheba used cinnamon to seduce King Solomon. Cinnamon, ginger, chilies and garlic (yes garlic, as long as you both indulge) will warm you up and add spice to your romance. Not to mention, wonderful flavor and depth to any number of dishes. With arctic winds blowing a gale, adding a bit of spicy heat to your special Valentine dinner will be especially welcome these days.

On the other hand, something luxurious can certainly spark romance. Perhaps a luscious avocado, beautiful, ripe fig or rich lobster and caviar will add intrigue and more than a hint seduction to your special dinner. Add some out-of-season cherries, always in-season whipped cream and champagne and you won’t be sure if you are in love with your date or the dinner. We’ll just assume it’s your date, helped along by the beautiful food.

Or better yet, make strawberries part of the deal. This beautiful red, heart-shape fruit with its wonderful taste, aroma and texture is the perfect love food. Not convinced? Well, take a moment to remember Richard Gere feeding Julia Roberts strawberries and champagne in Pretty Woman. Get it now? (Your morning cornflakes and strawberries will never be the same, will they?)

And don’t forget chocolate. There is loads of science explaining the passion power of chocolate. Please ignore it and let the mystery live on. Whether it’s a beautiful, heart-shaped box of chocolates or a single, scrumptious truffle, nothing says love and Valentine’s Day like chocolate.

So, what are your plans this Valentine’s Day? Will you cuddle by a fire in a cozy country inn? Maybe you’ll take your sweetie uptown for a spectacular view from the top floor of a big city hotel? Then again, there’s nothing like an intimate evening at home. Whatever you do, it is the perfect night for a romantic dinner. Include lots of beautiful dishes (and at least one or two aphrodisiacs), don’t forget the champagne and let the sparks fly.

Happy Valentine’s Day and bon appétit!

Capellini with Lobster & Caviar
A cozy dish on a cold night, the luxurious ingredients are sure to spark a bit of romance. Enjoy!Capellini_w_Lobster_Caviar_06
Serves 2

1 tablespoon butter
1 leek, white and tender green parts, finely chopped
1 scant teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine
1-2 tablespoons Pernod
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
1/4 cup heavy cream
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 lobsters, cooked, the meat removed and cut into bite-sized pieces – about 8 ounces lobster meat
4 ounces capellini
1-2 tablespoons caviar
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the leek, season with salt and pepper and, stirring occasionally, cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the wine and Pernod and simmer until reduced by 3/4. Stir in the cream, cover and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the tarragon and cover to keep warm.

lobsterCook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until barely al dente. Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the capellini.

Add the pasta, 2-3 tablespoons pasta water and lobster to the saucepan with the leeks and toss to combine. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 minute.

To serve: divide the pasta and lobster into 2 shallow bowls and garnish with caviar and grated lemon zest.

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One Year Ago – Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Two Years Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Three Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Four Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Five Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Six Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies

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

Do you have plans for Valentine’s Day? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

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

Valentine’s Night Special

cooking_pastaFriday night and it’s time for some Valentine fun. You could go out and enjoy one of those special prix fixe menus … or you could stay home and cook up your own special menu and a little romance.

Start the evening with a glass of champagne or a Strawberry Margarita. Nothing says Be My Valentine like a pink drink! Add a simple and delicious aphrodisiac for nibbling … Roasted Almonds would be perfect.

For dinner, Start with a salad of beautiful Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese or delicious Fennel & Feta?

Take inspiration from Lady and the Tramp and stir up some fun with a bowl of pasta. Think spicy with Linguine alla Puttanesca or tart with Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers.

sour_cream_cupcake_08End the meal with a pretty and delicious little cupcake. What could be sweeter than Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting?

Have a delicious Valentine’s Day and a great weekend. Bon appétit!

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

What about you? What are your Valentine’s plan? 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, 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day! & Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting

valentine_roses_03Okay, so maybe it is one of those Hallmark holidays. The newspaper and airwaves are full of ads touting cards, flowers, chocolates and special dinners. But hey, don’t let the commercial side of Valentine’s Day turn you cynical. After all, it has been around in some form or another for centuries. Long before Hallmark, FTD and Godiva Chocolates, February, yes February, was a time for romance.

New Hampshire may be covered with snow but in Rome, warmer days and the first spring flowers turn thoughts to love and romance. To welcome the first signs of spring, ancient Romans honored Juno, the goddess of women and marriage, on February 14th. Celebrations continued on the 15th with Lupercalia, a festival of health and fertility. Later, in early Christian times, a kindly priest named Valentine was beheaded on February 14th. His crime; the tenderhearted priest performed secret wedding ceremonies in defiance of the emperor’s ban on marriage. After his death, he was canonized and became the Patron Saint of engaged couples, happy marriages, love and lovers.

How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Will you shower your sweetie with cards, flowers and chocolates or spend some special time together? A day for just the two of you may be the best gift you can give to one another. Turn off the phones, texts, email and any other distractions and give each other the gift of your undivided attention.

Start the day right with breakfast in bed. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate feast. A perfect cup of coffee along with bagels or blinis with smoked salmon are sure to please.

Enjoy the fresh air with a romantic walk by the sea or get your blood pumping with a snowshoe romp in the woods. Or spend a few hours on the slopes; what could be better than a cuddle on the chairlift on a cold day?

When you’re ready for a break, find a sunny spot out of the wind for a winter picnic. If it’s too cold, take your lunch indoors by the fire. Keep it simple and delicious with a wedge of your favorite cheese, a great loaf of bread, some fruit and a glass of wine. To end the meal on a sweet note, bring along some imported or artisanal chocolate to share.

What next? A busy morning and delicious lunch can only lead to one thing – an afternoon nap! Relax, you’ve earned it.

Refreshed and ready to go, you can change into your best finery and head out to dinner. Or maybe you’d prefer to stay home and cook together. Slip on your aprons and stir up some romance along with your favorite dishes. Just be sure to include an aphrodisiac or two. Legendary lover, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova had a particular fondness for oysters but you might prefer asparagus with truffle oil, anything made with chili peppers and, of course, chocolate.

Whether you spend an evening in or enjoy dinner at a romantic restaurant,

Happy Valentine’s Day and bon appétit!

Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
sour_cream_cupcake_06You can bake the cakes ahead of time and frost them together. Be sure to add a few drops of red food coloring to the frosting for a fun and festive touch! Enjoy.
Makes about 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners

Put the flour, zest, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk to combine. Reserve.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl until fluffy. Add the eggs, sour cream, Grand Marnier and vanilla and beat until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.

Fill the muffin tins 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes completely and then generously frost with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting.

White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sour cream
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled

Put the butter, cream cheese and sour cream in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed together until well combined. Reduce the speed to low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until just combined. Add the Grand Marnier, vanilla and white chocolate and beat on medium-high until smooth.

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One Year Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Two Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Three Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Four Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Five Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies
Or
Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

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

Valentine’s Special – A Romantic Dinner

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Will you be making reservations or cooking a romantic dinner for two tonight. What could be better than cooking and sharing a leisurely dinner with your sweetie?

Roll up your sleeves, tie on matching aprons and open a great bottle of wine or champagne. Spend the evening cooking and nibbling at your kitchen party for two. To start, try my Goat Cheese Crostini with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives or set out some veggies and pita chips and nibble Tapenade.

Next enjoy a lovely salad. Sweet and salty, my Crunchy Salad with Apples & Grapes is a great choice for your romantic dinner.

For the main course, what country and food just purrs l’amour? Enjoy a beautiful French dinner with Magret de Canard Provençal (Duck Breast Provençal). Serve the duck with Israeli Couscous and Roasted Asparagus.

Nothing says Be My Valentine like chocolate. And nothing could be more special and romantic that a rich and luxurious mousse. Try my White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries for a sweet finish to your romantic dinner.

Have a wonderful evening and bon appétit!

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? 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 Valentine’s Tips, Here for more seasonal menus or Here for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

I invite you to take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013

Romantic Gestures & White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries

Are you planning one of those big romantic gestures for Valentine’s Day? They seem to be quite the rage on YouTube and the morning news programs. You know what I’m talking about. Love declared and marriage proposed with brass bands, enough dancers to rival a Super Bowl half-time show, sky-writing, balloons and really big signs. Then there are the more intimate gestures. The kind that don’t make the morning news. Quiet but still grand, a rose petal path leads to a flower-filled, candle-lit bedroom. Romantic music floats in the background, champagne chills in an elegant ice bucket and plump strawberries fill a silver bowl. Or maybe that’s just in the movies?!? I hope not.

But what if you are too shy to declare your love before a cast of thousands or worried that all those candles will set the house on fire. Or at the very least trigger the smoke alarm and ruin the mood. Not to worry. Instead of big, lavish declarations of devotion, think about practicing small romantic gestures on February 14th and every day of the year. Here are a few suggestions:

Hug and hold hands. If asked to name a romantic couple, I would wager that few people would mention their grandparents. But well into their seventies and eighties, my mother’s parents were like young lovebirds. When I picture them together my grandfather’s arm is either gently wrapped around my grandmother’s shoulders or waist or they’re holding hands. Activities which encourage handholding or snuggling are always a good bet for kindling romance. Try a walk on a windswept beach, ice skating or cuddling in front of the fire.

flower_bouquetGive flowers. When I lived in Switzerland I was on airplanes almost every week. From time to time my boyfriend surprised me at the airport. I was delighted to find him waiting in the arrivals hall with a single red rose. He did it once or twice a month and it was always a lovely surprise.

Keep those cards and letters coming. Charlie Brown agonized over sending a Valentine to the little red-haired girl. Don’t agonize, don’t hesitate; send a card. It can be sweet, funny or sentimental; even sappy. On Valentine’s or any day, tuck a card or note in your sweetheart’s briefcase or lunchbox. Heck, when life gets crazy busy, a sweet note on a Post-It will do.

Dance. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet. It’s not a competition and there are no judges. Learn to tango or take ballroom dance classes. If it all sounds too complicated, or too public, just sway to your favorite music in your living room or under the stars. After all, dancing is just hugging with music.

Find the time. Is your life too busy to spend an evening alone together? Try lunch in a special restaurant or enjoy a picnic in the park, by the lake or in a sunny meadow. Any time of year is a great time for a picnic, even winter. Hike or cross country ski to a beautiful, sunny spot. Share a loaf of crusty bread, a little cheese and fruit and a bottle of wine in the sunshine. A decadent chocolate truffle is the perfect, crowning touch for your romantic picnic. Not the outdoorsy type, bring it all inside and enjoy your feast in front of a roaring fire.

Have a wonderful celebration with your Valentine and,

Bon appétit!

White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Want a sweet finish to your romantic dinner for two! Enjoy!
Serves 4-6

White-Chocolate_Mousse_017-8 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped
3 egg yolks
1-2 tablespoons honey
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Pinch salt
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cloves
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 cup very cold heavy cream
Raspberry Coulis (recipe follows)
Fresh raspberries for garnish

Prepare an ice bath in a large, shallow bowl and set aside.

Put the chocolate in a large, microwave safe bowl and cook on high in the microwave for 30 seconds. Continue to zap the chocolate at 10 second intervals until it starts to melt. Set aside.

Whisk the yolks, honey, orange juice, spices and salt together in a small, heavy saucepan until light and frothy. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the custard registers 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard through a mesh sieve into the bowl with the warm chocolate. Let the custard sit for a few minutes to melt the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add the Grand Marnier, vanilla and orange zest and whisk to combine.

Set the bowl of custard in the ice bath and stir frequently until completely cooled.

Beat the mascarpone in a large bowl with an electric mixer, slowly add the cream and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled custard, cover and chill for several hours.

To serve: drizzle Raspberry Coulis onto individual plates, add dollops of mousse and garnish with fresh raspberries.

Raspberry Coulis
Make about 1 cup

12 ounces fresh or frozen raspberries
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons sugar or to taste
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

If using frozen raspberries, thaw the berries.

Put the citrus juices, sugar and Grand Marnier in a blender and process to combine. Let sit for several minutes until the sugar dissolves. Add the berries and process until smooth.

Strain the coulis through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the seeds. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Two Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Three Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Four Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies

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

How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day? 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