Hurricane Season & Grilled Ratatouille

It’s been all over the news. Hurricane season is up and running fast in the Atlantic. From the Caribbean over to Texas and up to Maine, we are all ears when it comes to storm warnings. Last week, Florence unleashed her fury on the southern Atlantic coast. One of the early forecast models suggested she might hug the coast and head north. Lucky for us, she decided to go inland. I’m sure Ohio is lovely this time of year.

Spared for now, let’s not forget that somewhere out there in the Atlantic, Helene (not Helen), Isaac and Joyce are swirling around. In spite of our northern location, New England is not immune to hurricanes. Although, they are admittedly few and far between. Most blow themselves out before they can reach us.

Not so the Great New England Hurricane of 1938; my dad still talks about that one. He even has a book about it somewhere. With 140 mile per hour wind gusts, it unleashed its wrath on every state in New England. Hundreds died, thousands were injured and damages were in the hundreds of millions. More recently, Irene wreaked havoc in New England, most particularly Vermont. Sandy did a number on New York and gave us a bit of rain and wind as well. Lucky for us, last year’s deadly trio of Harvey, Irma and Maria stayed to the south.

I admit as a small child, hurricanes seemed terribly exciting. In those days, we spent August on Cape Cod. While I can’t verify, I suspect that my sister Brenda and I labeled any downpour with the least bit of wind a hurricane. After all, rain is boring but a hurricane – that’s something to talk about.

One rainy August afternoon, Brenda and I were encamped on the porch with paper dolls and sticker books. It didn’t take long for boredom to set in. The air was hot and muggy so we talked Mom into letting go outside. It wasn’t that difficult a negotiation. Stuck in a ramshackle cottage with two bored little girls – of course, she said yes. I suppose she would have turned us down if we’d tried to go out in the Great New England Hurricane. However, we hadn’t been born yet. Heck, my parents hadn’t even met, let alone finished elementary school in 1938.

Anyway, Brenda and I gleefully threw on our swimsuits, ran outside and danced around. I believe loud and joyous singing was involved but I don’t remember the tune. I cannot speak for Brenda but I, for one, felt wonderfully adventurous. While the street was more or less empty, most of the porches were filled with bored vacationers.

They sat and watched two silly little girls giggle, dance and sing. I’m sure they were jealous. While they huddled with their paperbacks and puzzles, we were the only ones brave enough to defy the hurricane. It didn’t matter that, at most, it was the last vestiges of some minor tropical storm. It didn’t matter then and it still doesn’t. As far as I’m concerned, my sister and I splashed, danced and sang in the street during a hurricane. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Here’s a toast to sunny days and clear nights. Bon appétit!

Grilled Ratatouille
A delicious end of summer dish. You can even make it if the power goes out. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1-2 red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed and roughly chopped
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound cherry tomatoes
2 eggplants (about 2 pounds), sliced about 3/4-inch thick
3-4 zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the peppers and onion in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Working in batches if necessary, put the vegetables in a grill basket and grill for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Remove the vegetables from the grill basket and return them to the bowl. Add the garlic to the warm vegetables and toss to combine.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Working in batches if necessary, put the tomatoes in a grill basket and grill for 4-6 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the tomatoes to the peppers and onion.

Brush the eggplant and zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant and zucchini for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until nicely browned and tender.

Remove the vegetables from the grill. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, chop the veggies in bite-size pieces. Add them to the tomatoes, peppers and onion. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and toss to combine.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Can be prepared in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving

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One Year Ago – Cod, Corn & White Bean Soup
Two Years Ago – Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing
Three Years Ago – Applesauce Scones
Four Years Ago – Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts
Five Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Six Years Ago – Chicken Parmagiana with Spaghetti Marinara
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Eight Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Nine Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Ten Years Ago – Brie & Sundried Tomato Omelette

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

How do you keep fit? 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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Back on Cook’s Corner – Roasted Cauliflower

With temperatures cooling down … it will soon be time to take cooking back indoors. I’m back on ABC affiliate WMUR’s Cook’s Corner today roasting cauliflower.

I love roasted vegetables. From Brussels Sprouts to Parsnips, they are wonderful. One of my favorites is the very versatile Roasted Cauliflower.

This delicious side dish pairs beautifully with roasted anything – chicken, lamb, beef or salmon. If you have leftovers, toss them with pasta, a drizzle of fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Two Countries Separated by a Common Language & Grilled Asparagus with Lemony Tarragon Butter Sauce

Let’s face it, there’s a lot to love about a royal wedding, especially this most recent one. For starters, the bride is American. Across America, loads of little girls dream of becoming a princess but it rarely happens. In case you haven’t been counting, Meghan Markle is only the twelfth American to find a real live prince. She seems truly delighted with him and he with her.

Having moved to the other side of the pond last November, Meghan should be used to all things British. Well, more or less. Alternatively, the newness and excitement may have just about worn off. That could mean she’s good and ready for a major culture shock meltdown. I had one about five months after landing in Switzerland. I remember it well, it wasn’t pretty and, no, I won’t share.

Now, I am hardly an expert but I did know quite a few British people when I lived in Switzerland. (There are a lot of foreigners in Geneva, more than forty percent of the population. Imagine that.) One English friend liked to kid me about my Americanisms. He loved to quote or misquote George Bernard Shaw saying, “America and England – two countries separated by a common language.”

So Meghan, here are a few tips. In case any of the following comes up … just remember –

I’m knackered means that you are very tired. After the weekend you’ve had, you’re probably feeling that about now. It’s shorthand for being ready for the knacker’s yard or slaughterhouse. It’s not particularly polite, so, you might not want to use it in front of your new grandmother-in-law.

This next one is good, especially if you feel a meltdown coming on. Don’t get your knickers in a twist; it’s a fun way to say don’t get all riled up. Again, it might be best to avoid using this one in front of the Queen.

Before you drive off for the honeymoon, don’t forget the storage compartment at the back of the car, it’s called a boot. The bonnet is in front and covers the engine. The windscreen is the thing with the wipers. The whole thing is still a car but a zebra is a crosswalk and the British drive on the wrong side of the road.

Since you are known for your fashion sense, you’ll need to remember a jumper is a sweater as long as it isn’t a cardigan and then it’s a cardigan. Trainers are sneakers. Braces are suspenders and suspenders are garters, the sexy kind.

As a foodie, you’ll want to shop the local farmers market. Take note, an aubergine is an eggplant, a courgette is a zucchini, maize is corn and a tomato is a tomato but pronounced tomahto. In addition, a biscuit is a cookie, a scone is not unlike a biscuit and double cream is heavy cream. Crisps are chips and chips are French fries but, more important if you’re knackered, takeaway is takeout.

This next one can be tricky. The ground floor is the first floor, the first floor is the second, the second floor is the third and up and up you go. Don’t get lost. Homely is homey so don’t be miffed if someone uses it as a compliment for your flat (that’s your new apartment at Kensington).

Finally, a chinwag or natter is what you do when you sit around with friends and a cuppa (tea) or glass of wine. However, if you drink too much wine, you may get pissed as in drunk not angry.

Congratulations, good luck and bon appétit!

Grilled Asparagus with Lemony Tarragon Sauce
Meghan and Harry’s wedding menu was all about local, seasonal fare. I was delighted to find the first spears of local asparagus a few days ago. Enjoy!
Serves 8 as a starter or side dish

2 pounds (more for fanatics) asparagus*, trimmed
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high. Put the asparagus in a large dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Arrange the asparagus on the grill and, depending on thickness, cook for 1-3 minutes. Do not overcook, the asparagus should be tender-crisp.

Remove from the grill, arrange on a large platter or individual plates. Serve with Lemony Tarragon Sauce.

* Forget the pencil thin asparagus; get the nice thick ones if you can.
They are perfect for the grill.

Lemony Tarragon Sauce
Makes about 1 cup

1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter cut into small cubes
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped tarragon

Put the wine and shallots in a heavy saucepan, season with salt and pepper and simmer over medium heat until the wine has reduced by 3/4, about 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and, a few cubes at a time, whisk in 1/4 cup butter. Add the garlic and cayenne and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Continue whisking and adding butter, a few cubes at a time.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon zest and juice, vinegar and mustard. Add the tarragon, give everything a final whisk and serve.

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One Year Ago – Lemony Green Rice
Two Years Ago – Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatziki & Greek Salad
Three Years Ago – Ginger Shortcakes with Rhubarb Compote
Four Years Ago – Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
Five Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Six Years Ago – Asparagus Crostini with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese
Seven Years Ago – Wheat Berry Salad
Eight Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Nine Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

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

What’s your favorite mismatch of American and British English? Feel free to share!

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

Two Kinds of Easter & Roasted Moroccan Carrots

While there could be more, it seems to me that there are two kinds of Easters. The first is the Madison Avenue Easter. To see this one, all you need do is open a glossy magazine. Almost any one will do. If you don’t subscribe or have a dentist appointment in the next week, go to the glossy magazines’ websites. A bevy of beautiful photographs awaits you.

A veritable rainbow of pastels adorns every page. Cherry blossoms and forsythia, tulips and daffodils remind us that Easter is synonymous with spring. Adorable children dressed in pink and yellow, white and pale blue hold hands and search for eggs on smooth green lawns. Turn the page and these same cherubs are petting sweet baby lambs, pink-nosed bunnies and fluffy yellow chicks. There are no tears and not a single grass stain. We can only ask, “Who are these children?”

Turn the page again for the Easter feast. A mile long table is set to welcome a crowd of all ages in a beautiful garden. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins by the dozens admire the gorgeous spread. Overflowing platters are strategically placed up and down the table. Beautifully coifed women in sleeveless dresses, pastel of course, make last minute adjustments. Men in bright polo shirts stand around looking handsome. The children never cry and never spill juice on their sparkling outfits.

The second, the one I know very well, is the New Hampshire Easter. It is just as nice but nowhere near as gracious. The forsythia buds are closed up tight. Daffodils and tulips are buried under a foot or more of snow. The calendar may have proclaimed spring but a glance outside confirms that it’s winter in transition to mud season. The skiing has never been better.

Beautifully manicured or not, lawns are still covered with snow. Unless you don’t mind wallowing waist deep in it, you’ll need a pair of snowshoes to hide or find eggs. As for those pretty, pastel dresses and polo shirts, they’ll stay well hidden under parkas and snow pants. There will be no grass stains, but I don’t know about tears. There’s nothing like getting stuck in a snowbank to open the floodgates.

As for a petting zoo, wildlife abounds. There have been several bear sightings in the last few weeks. I saw a fisher-cat the other day. At least, I think it was a fisher-cat and not my neighbor’s barn cat. Raccoons are around but they only come out at night. On the other hand, squirrels are everywhere all the time. However, petting is not advised with any of these animals.

Now, what about a sumptuous picnic brunch or lunch in the garden? A long leisurely midday meal on the deck of a slope side café is a spring skiing classic and wonderful treat. That said; I’m not altogether convinced that lunch in a snowy backyard is a good idea. What with all that stamping down snow and dragging out the tables and chairs … hmmm. Maybe we should leave that photo opportunity to Madison Avenue.

Instead, how about we have dinner inside … after skiing, of course. If it’s not too cold, I have a well-weathered green fleece I can wear on the slopes. It’s faded enough to qualify as pastel.

Happy Easter and bon appétit!

Roasted Moroccan Carrots
Whether you serve your Easter dinner in the backyard or inside, these carrots are a great side dish for grilled or roast lamb. Enjoy!
Serves 8
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
1/2-1 sweet onion, cut in half and then in thin wedges
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the spices in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the carrots and onion in a large bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the spice mix and toss again. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on baking sheets and roast uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with garlic and toss to combine. Return to the oven for another 3-5 minutes.

While the vegetables roast, combine the lemon zest and fresh herbs.

Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl, drizzle with lemon juice and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the herbs and lemon zest and serve.

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One Year Ago – Maple Crème Brûlée
Two Years Ago – Mini Chocolate-Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies
Three Years Ago – Tiramisu
Four Years Ago – Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce
Five Years Ago – Confetti Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Six Years Ago – Magret de Canard Provencal
Seven Years Ago – Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool Parfaits
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Lamb & Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Nine Years Ago – Spicy Olives

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

Do you love the snow or are you so over it? Feel free to share!

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

Fun Facts – Winter Olympics Edition & Quick Braised Asian Vegetables

The Olympics trace their origin back to 776 BC in Olympia, Greece. The first celebration honored Zeus and featured only one athletic contest, a 600-foot run. Adding competitions along the way, the festival continued for almost twelve centuries. After a 1,503 year break, the modern Olympics debuted in Athens in 1896. Feeling a bit left out, snow and ice enthusiasts put together the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix in 1924.

A lot has changed since then. Sixteen nations competed in Chamonix; there will be ninety-two at PyeongChang. Nigeria is making history with two firsts at the Winter Olympics. Competing in the bobsled and skeleton, the team of three will be both the first Nigerians and the first women to represent Africa at a Winter Olympics. Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia and Singapore will also compete in their first Winter Games. Meanwhile, a doping scandal has banned Russia. Clean athletes can participate under the generic Olympic flag.

There will be a few new events at the PyeongChang Games taking it over the top with more than 100 medal events. When it comes to winter medals, you can’t beat Norway. In spite of its small population, just over five million people, little Norway has earned 329 winter medals. That’s more than any other country.

The estimated cost for the PyeongChang Games is a hefty $12.9 billion. Yes, that’s billion with a B. As impressive as the number is, it doesn’t compare to the cost of the Sochi Olympics, a whopping $51 billion. Only one city has had the audacity to reject the honor of hosting the Olympics. Denver won the bid for the 1976 Winter Games but, after looking at the price tag, the people of Colorado voted it down.

Athletes from the divided peninsula of North and South Korea will join forces for a joint Olympic team. They will march together under a unified flag in the opening ceremony. Athletes from both sides of the demilitarized zone will train together. The women’s hockey team will take it one step further and send a unified team out onto the ice. It is not the first time an Olympics has united a divided country. West and East Germany competed together in 1956, 1960 and 1964.

Fielding the largest winter team ever, the US is sending 242 Olympians to South Korea. These athletes hail from coast to coast and thirty-one different states. Four are from our very own New Hampshire. Four more are immigrants from Ghana, South Korea, England and Canada. The youngest member of Team USA is Vincent Zhou, one of six seventeen year olds and a figure skater. The oldest US Olympian, Brian Gionta, is still playing hockey at thirty-nine. Speaking of hockey, anyone who remembers the miracle on ice at Lake Placid in 1980, stay tuned. The National Hockey League will not break for the games so NHL players will not skate at PyeongChang.

The Olympics can be a family affair. Seven sets of US siblings will compete in PyeongChang. Twins Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux play hockey for the US while the Brandt sisters are on different teams. Hannah is a forward for the US and Marissa plays defense for the unified Korean team. Adopted and brought to the US at four months, Marissa will play under her birth name Park Yoon-Jung. Seven more athletes are following their parent’s footsteps, including skiing great Barbara Cochran’s son Ryan. Then there is the Caldwell cross-country ski dynasty. Patrick will be at PyeongChang, his father competed in 1972, 1976, 1980 and 1984 and grandfather in 1952.

Enjoy the games! Wishing all of our athletes the joy of victory and bon appétit!

Quick Braised Asian Vegetables
A great side dish for your Olympics viewing party. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Vegetable oil
8-12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or to taste sriracha
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 cup chicken stock
About 1 1/2 pounds bok choy, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut in match sticks
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
Cilantro leaves

Lightly coat a large wok or skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Add a little more oil to the skillet. Add the onion and carrot and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the ginger, garlic and sriracha and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Raise the heat to medium-high, return the mushrooms to the pan, add the bok choy and bell pepper and toss to combine. Stirring frequently, cook until the vegetable are tender, 3-5 minutes.

Drizzle with sesame oil and toss to combine, garnish with scallions and cilantro and serve immediately.

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One Year Ago – Scrod Florentine
Two Years Ago – Lemon Risotto with Spinach & Herbs
Three Years Ago – Black Bean & Beef Chili
Four Years Ago – Coq au Vin
Five Years Ago – Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton
Six Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Cheesecake
Eight Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Nine Years Ago – Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole

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

What is your favorite winter Olympic event? Feel free to share!

Opening ceremony photography courtesy of www.olympic.org.

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

Set the Scene for a Positive 2018 & Sweet Potato Polenta

Happy New Year everyone. It’s been a tumultuous few years. Does anybody think that will change in the foreseeable future? No? I didn’t think so. I don’t either. Alright then, is there anything we can do beyond a seat belt for the proverbial bumpy ride? Since I’m thinking figuratively, that seat belt could come in a couple of different styles. Setting the scene for a wonderful 2018 could be as simple as …

Be kind. You don’t need to get all caught up in some elaborate scheme to change someone’s life. Although it would certainly be kind and then some, no one expects you to build a new house for a neighbor in need or buy a bus for the local orphanage. Being kind can be as simple as holding the door for someone at the post office, smiling at a stranger in the supermarket or buying coffee for the next in line … particularly if the next in line is wearing scrubs.

As powerful as they are simple, small acts of kindness can stave off an inclination towards absentminded selfishness. They might even blunt the horror of craven greed. Okay, that might be reaching. Perhaps I saw too many Hallmark movies this holiday season. In any case, small gestures of kindness can go a long way during this cold and dark time of year.

Don’t forget, it’s not enough to be kind to others, be kind to you too. If you’re having trouble getting out of bed on a Saturday morning, stay there. Your body needs the rest. Your brain needs the rest. The world will not flounder and fold if you turn off your phone for one day. Find some soup in the freezer, curl up with a blanket and take a day. You deserve it.

Tell the truth. False impressions, half-truths, whole lies, and fake news, it could be my imagination but honesty and integrity seems to have taken a backseat. Maybe they have lost their seats altogether. From truthful hyperbole to pants on fire, we seem to find reality distorted at almost every turn. Just sorting through it all is exhausting.

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all (I know I am), just know – not a one of us needs to join the fray. Remember when your mom told you she didn’t care if everyone was doing IT. It didn’t matter what IT was. As far as she was concerned you should not dye your hair purple, skip school or smoke pot. If you’d told her everyone lied, she still would have insisted you tell the truth.

So, even if it feels like lying liars and flaming pants surround you, you can do it. You can be honest. It’s just that easy and just that hard. No, the dog didn’t eat that report – I ran out of time and will finish it by the end of the week.

Embrace gratitude. Stuck in a bubble of subzero temperatures, grateful might not be the first word to come to mind these days. It’s okay to go off on a little rant and stamp your feet. Both might help you stay warm. However, envy towards those friends in Florida could swallow you up. Don’t let it. Instead, be grateful for your four walls, warm coat and cap. Oh, and mittens, don’t forget your mittens.

Let gratitude lift you up. Enjoy the warm sun through the window and snow for the skiers. Marvel at the clear sky and stars at night. Be happy for your sense of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste, they bring you everything the world has to offer. Most of all, give thanks for family, friends and the love they share with you.

Have a wonder-filled 2018 and bon appétit!

Sweet Potato Polenta
We could all use a cozy dish to warm up to this January. Sweet Potato Polenta is delicious with everything from braised short ribs to Creole shrimp. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 large sweet potato
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and cut in small pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon or to taste chipotle in adobo purée* (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth or water
1 cup instant polenta
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
2-3 tablespoons butter

Put the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Prick the sweet potato several times with a knife, place it on the baking sheet and in the oven. Bake at 375 degrees until soft, 1-1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and set aside for a few minutes.

When cool enough to handle but still warm, halve the sweet potato and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add the cream cheese and sour cream and season with chipotle, salt and pepper. Use a masher to smash the potato and combine the ingredients.

The sweet potato can be prepped in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before adding to the polenta.

Meanwhile, bring the milk, broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a simmer in a heavy saucepan. Stirring constantly, slowly add the polenta. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the polenta starts to thicken, 2-3 minutes.

Add the sweet potato, cheese and butter and continue to stir until the cheese and butter have melted, 2-3 minutes more. If the polenta seems too thick, add some more broth or milk. Serve immediately.

* To make chipotle puree – take a can of chipotle in adobo and toss the peppers and the adobo sauce in a small food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a clean glass jar and store in the refrigerator. Use as needed.

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One Year Ago – Spicy Shrimp Chowder
Two Years Ago – Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower
Three Years Ago – Spiced Chai
Four Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
Five Years Ago – Old Fashioned Pot Roast
Six Years Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
Seven Years Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
Eight Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
Nine Years Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup

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

What are your thoughts on the new year? Feel free to share!

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

The Costumes We Keep & Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes

I love a good costume. Maybe that’s why I love Halloween so much. However, you don’t have to wait until Halloween to have fun with dress ups. If you keep your eyes open, there are costumes everywhere. Unfortunately you are most likely to see the under-six set wearing them. Think little girls in fluffy pink, tutus-like skirts and boys in Batman t-shirts.

When he was a little boy, my brother John dressed in costume almost every day. His favorite was Superman. Due to some miscommunication, both grandmothers gave him a Superman suit for his birthday. Not a problem, Johnny was just fine with that. If one was in the wash, he could still suit up.

Along with the man of steel, at least once a week he would appear at breakfast in full Daniel Boone or cowboy regalia. Sporting a coonskin cap or cowboy hat, fringed shirt and jeans, he would swagger into the kitchen. Although it was clearly never first or even second choice, when there were no other options, Batman graced our presence.

Then there was that dreadful day. I’m glad I’d already left for school and didn’t witness the trauma. Whether the story is nothing more than family legend or true, I’ll never know. Anyway, John showed up at his friend Richard’s house in jeans and t-shirt. Since she’d rarely, maybe never, seen him in civilian clothes, Richard’s mom asked him, “Where’s Superman today?” Without missing a beat, Johnny replied, “Both my Superman suits are in the wash. My mother told me I had to be Clark Kent today.”

When he started kindergarten or maybe it was nursery school, John gave up his costumes. There was no particular drama. After hundreds of wearings and washings, I’m guessing they fell apart. Maybe the dog ate his coonskin cap or he lost his cowboy hat at the playground. Then again, he might have simply outgrown them – physically or metaphorically or both. These things happen. While I hope not, it’s possible some school administrator put the kybosh on super heroes in the classroom. Although they later reneged, I can confirm that those very same administrators outlawed miniskirts at the high school.

Maybe we never actually give up costumes. Instead, we change the characters we play. Could it be that a hungry dog or bureaucrat does nothing more than nudge us into the inevitable next rendition of ourselves? Wonder Woman changes into bookish nerd or cool bohemian and then morphs again into corporate lawyer. Batman becomes an athlete and prom king, transforms into a Peace Corp volunteer and changes once more into an engineer.

Whether you’re a teenager in a ratty t-shirt or a Wall Street type in an Armani suit, your clothing sends a message. Admit it; you could just as easily don a pair of jeans as yoga pants, a button-down shirt as a mock turtleneck. Whether it’s true or not, yoga pants tell the world you are sporty and fit – or just so busy you don’t have time to change your clothes after class. The mock turtleneck? It’s your proclamation that you will indeed be the next Steve Jobs.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and my kitchen all but done, it’s time for me to put on my red apron. What does that say about me?

Happy cooking and bon appétit!

Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes
It’s not too early to start thinking about Thanksgiving. I’ve never been a fan of sweet potatoes with marshmallows. If you are of the same mind, add this savory dish to your Thanksgiving menu. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces plus more for the pan
About 3 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and cut in small pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Generously butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Prick each potato several times with a knife, place them on the baking sheet and in the oven. Reduce the heat and bake at 375 degrees until soft, 1-1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and set aside.

When cool enough to handle but still warm, halve potatoes and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons butter, the cream cheese and sour cream, sprinkle with the cheeses and season with salt and pepper. Use a masher to smash the potatoes and combine the ingredients. Spread the sweet potatoes in the prepared baking dish and dot with the remaining butter.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated. Bring the potatoes to room temperature before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the sweet potatoes at 350 degrees until piping hot, about 30 minutes.

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