First Day of School & Dilly Beans

Susie_1st_day_schoolOver the past few weeks, the pages of Facebook and Instagram have been filled with first day of school pictures. It started with the big kids who were off to college. With anxious smiles, freshmen posed in front of their new dorms and bravely waved goodbye to mom, dad and the dog. Next, there came a flood of photographs with everyone else. This jumble included everything from sweet little kindergarteners to confident fifth graders, nervous middle schoolers and bored high school seniors.

Since I didn’t have an innocent, confident, anxious or bored student in my house, I didn’t take any pictures. Rather than mope or feel sorry for myself, I posted my first day of school photograph. At least I’m pretty sure that it was my first day of kindergarten. In the days before cameras-ready cell phones and easily posted digital images, most moms, mine included, didn’t document all of their children’s comings and goings. If for no other reason than they couldn’t find the camera. Or maybe they ran out of film. You remember film don’t you?

Anyway, I’m standing on our front step on Jackson Road looking adorable in a smocked dress and Buster Brown shoes. My smile is sweet and only a tad anxious. Brenda, my older sister, was already in the third grade. Since she seemed to be doing okay, I must have figured there wasn’t too much to worry about.

Nowadays, most schools teach kindergarteners a few reading fundamentals and a little arithmetic. Not my teacher, she focused on the basics. If nothing else, it reinforced much of what Mom and Dad were already trying to teach their two little girls.

So, in the spirit of Robert Fulghum and his legendary book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten here are ten things I learned in kindergarten:

Be nice.
Play fair.
Tell the truth.
Put things back where you found them.
If it’s not yours, don’t take it.
Don’t hit.
Wash your hands.
Look both ways.
Don’t wander off.

I’m doing pretty well with the majority of these lessons. Okay, I admit it; I’m terrible at putting my things away. And while I generally look both ways when crossing the street, I’ve made several metaphorical leaps without really looking. But no, I don’t regret them. Otherwise, I’d be in an office somewhere right now. Instead, I’m delight to be writing at my messy desk in my messy upstairs hall.

As for wandering off, all I can do is shrug and admit to being guilty. If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on a lot of fun, frustrating, interesting, challenging and wonderful times. Just think; I never would have wandered over to Switzerland. I can’t imagine my life without that fun, frustrating, interesting, challenging and wonderful chapter.

Here’s to the first day of whatever is next for you and bon appétit!

Dilly Beans
A little spicy and a little tart, these beans are a great addition to a late summer cookout … or anytime. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 quarts

About 2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 red onion, cut in half length-wise and then in thin wedges
1 clove garlic for each mason jar, smashed and peeled
1-2 bunches dill
1 bay leaf for each mason jar
2 sprigs thyme for each mason jar
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons dill seeds
2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water

Standing them up, pack the beans into pint or quart mason jars, adding the onion, garlic and herbs as you go.

Put the salt, sugar, mustard seeds, dill seeds and peppercorns in saucepan. Add the vinegar and water and, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Ladle the pickling liquid and spices into the jars and cool to room temperature. Cover the jars tightly and refrigerate for one week before serving.

The beans can keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 months.

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One Year Ago – All Grown Up Grilled Cheese
One Year Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Two Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Three Years Ago – Curried Green Bean Pickles
Four Years Ago – Grilled Ratatouille Stacks
Five Years Ago – Apple Crisp
Six Years Ago – Ravioli with Sage Pesto
Seven Years Ago – Brie & Sun-dried Tomato Omelet

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

What do you love about late summer? Feel free to share.

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

Labor Day Weekend & Fresh Corn with Sriracha Aioli

Fall_Early_Morning_Pleasant_Lake_03If you live here, the dawning of September is nothing to fear. Labor Day will come and go but the suns will still shine and Pleasant Lake will stay put. The Summer People are not so lucky. If they haven’t already, they will soon be fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic on the drive south to cities and suburbia.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was one of those Summer People. Late on Labor Day afternoon, kids, dogs and turtles crammed into the station wagon with a small mountain of duffle bags. Reluctantly, we headed back to suburbia. I think my mother hated the end of summer migration even more than we three kids did. If it weren’t for Dad’s business, she would have moved to New Hampshire in a heartbeat. Instead, she bravely made sure that everything was packed, closed down the house and herded us into the car. Heaving a dramatic sigh, she proclaimed to any and all, “I am bereft,” and backed out the driveway.

So what’s in store for the Summer People this Labor Day Weekend?

If there is no justice, and there isn’t, they will be busy washing one last load of sheet and towels, storing beach toys and stowing paddleboards and kayaks under the deck. Business at the supermarket and farm stand will be brisk. Townies and Summer People alike will be stocking up for holiday cookouts. Activity at the boat launch will be nonstop. Fancy speedboats, fine looking sailboats and humble dinghies will be strapped onto trailers and hoisted out of the water. Rafts and docks will be dragged onto beaches.

However, Labor Day Weekend is not just about cleaning up and buttoning down. It is also the weekend for a last hurrah. It could be one last sail or one last waterski before hauling the boat out of the water. Maybe it’s a final hike (or finally a hike) up Kearsarge, a run around the lake or a bike ride to nowhere and back.

All of it, both the chores and the fun, is topped off with a festive cookout or two. That’s the thing about Labor Day Weekend. It’s both bitter and sweet. While there are tons of end-of-summer tasks to do, Summer People always do their best to balance the drudgery with fun and games.

However, if live here like me, you can focus on fun all weekend. There will be plenty of time to wash, fluff and fold that last load of beach towels. It will eventually turn cold or rainy or both. It always does. But, if we’re lucky, we can count on at least a month of warmish weather and sunshine.

September is a lovely in-between month; not really summer and not quite fall. The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts above average temperatures and below average rainfall this year. While we’d like this drought to end, it is good news for outdoor activities. Only the bravest will continue their early morning swim. The rest of us are content to row or kayak, hike or bike and enjoy the golden sunshine. While it may be a bit chilly for dinner al fresco, we can still enjoy a lunchtime picnic or an evening cocktail on the deck.

Here’s to the magic of September and bon appétit!

Corn with Sriracha Aioli
Corn_w_Sriracha_Aioli_01When it comes to corn, I’ve always been a purist – butter and a little salt. Then I tried it with spicy aioli. Now, I’m hooked. Whether the corn is steamed or grilled, it is a delicious combination. Enjoy!

1 ear corn per person
Sriracha Aioli
Sea salt (optional)

To steam the corn: fill a large pot with a few inches of water, add a steam basket and the corn, cover and bring the water to a boil. Steam the corn for 4-6 minutes or until tender crisp.

To grill the corn: preheat a charcoal or gas grill to high. Lightly coat the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the corn on the grill and cook on high heat for about 3 minutes per side.

To serve: invite everyone to grab an ear and pass the Sriracha Aioli and sea salt.

Sriracha Aioli
Not just for corn, this aioli is wonderful on a burger. It makes a delicious dip for French fries, fresh veggies or shrimp.
Makes about 2 cups

2-3 cloves garlic, choppedCorn_w_Sriracha_Aioli_08
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons or to taste sriracha or your favorite hot chili sauce
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt to taste
1 cup or to taste mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped mint

Put the garlic, olive oil, ketchup, lime juice and sriracha in a small food processor, season with cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and process until well combined and smooth.

Add the mayonnaise and process until well combined. Add the lime zest and herbs and pulse a few times to combine. Cover and chill for an hour or more to combine the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Romaine with Grilled Corn, Tomato & Avocado
Two Years Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Three Years Ago – Chocolate-Orange Tart
Four Years Ago – Chicken Liver Pâté
Five Years Ago – Blueberry Crisp
Six Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Cupcakes
Eight Years Ago – Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts

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

What do you love about late summer? Feel free to share.

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

How to Be a Great Cook without Really Trying & Grilled Potato Salad

beach chairs on pleasant lake_ACGotcha! You thought I’d be giving you a bunch of hacks to whip up a chef-worthy meal in thirty minutes. Nope, I’m just reeling you in with a bait and switch. Truth is, like most skills, cooking takes at least a modicum of time and effort. Yes, you can buy a rotisserie chicken in the supermarket or sauce in a jar and whip either or both into any number of concoctions. However, they will still taste like supermarket chicken and jar sauce.

That said, summer is coming and the beach is calling. Most people, including me, are looking for shortcuts to get them in and out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. Our northern New England summers are short, we don’t want to waste a minute of it indoors. Complicated cooking is fine when it’s cold and dark at three o’clock in the afternoon but not when temperatures soar and the days are long.

So, how can you enjoy a delicious summer with only sort of trying?

Whether you’re getting together for a special celebration or just another Saturday night, your quick and easy dinner demands a grill. Buy a great steak or piece of fish, drizzle it with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and throw it on the grill. And for those more casual occasions? Heck, everybody looks forward to a good hot dog or hamburger now and then.

But that’s just the start to a terrific summer meal. One or two fabulous side dishes can make all the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. Yes, you heard me; sides can make all the difference. Sure, it’s tempting to stop by the deli counter and pick up a pound of potato salad. Only trouble is – knows when and where that potato salad was made. It’s not so much a safety issue. The store is bound to have plenty of safeguards in place. No, it’s a matter of taste. I bet that your homemade spuds are tastier by a factor of ten. No, wait; make that one hundred or a thousand!

Same goes for pasta salads, coleslaw and anything else you want to throw in a bowl. Fresh ingredients tossed with your delicious vinaigrettes or drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a little vinegar are bound to taste better. An added plus, hearty potato and pasta salads and slaws can be thrown together in the morning, leaving you the rest of the day to play.

Anything last minute must be quick as well as delicious. To accomplish both, use great ingredients and let them speak for themselves. Slice heirloom tomatoes and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar for a superb last minute dish. Want something green? Arugula tossed with olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkle of parmesan is wonderfully easy. If you want to get a little fancy, grill asparagus and scallions and serve them warm on a bed of greens.

Now, what about dessert? You can follow my mother’s lead and bake brownies first thing in the morning. Or, just as delicious and better for you, pile perfectly ripe fruit in a bowl and let everyone help themselves. For particularly hot nights, there is nothing like ice cream. Make sure you have a jar of your favorite chocolate sauce on hand.

Have a simply delicious summer. Bon appétit!

Grilled Potato Salad
Make this potato salad in the morning and it will have plenty of time to mix and meld in the refrigerator while you play in the sunshine. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2-3 cloves garlic
1-inch chunk red onion, chopped
1/4 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
About 2 pounds medium potatoes, red or Yukon gold, halved
Olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons drained capers

Make the vinaigrette: put the mustard, garlic and onion in a small food processor and pulse to combine and finely chop. Add the vinegar, season with salt and pepper and process until smooth. With the motor running, add extra virgin olive oil to taste and process until smooth.

Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium high. Brush or toss the potatoes with enough olive oil to lightly coat and season with salt and pepper.

Put the potatoes cut side down on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes or until the potatoes have nice grill marks. Turn the potatoes and, either turn down the grill to low or transfer the spuds to a cooler part of the grill. Continue to cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Transfer the potatoes to a cutting board and cut into 1-2 bite pieces. Workingrilled_potato_salad_01g quickly, put the still-warm potatoes in a bowl, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme, drizzle with vinaigrette to lightly coat and gently toss. Tossing from time to time, cool to room temperature.

When the potatoes have cooled to room temperature, sprinkle with scallions and capers, add more vinaigrette if necessary and toss again.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Cover and store any leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator as well.

Serve the potato salad at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago – Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart
Three Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Four Years Ago – Blueberry Crumb Cake
Five Years Ago – Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce
Six Years Ago – Strawberry Gelato
Seven Years Ago – Asparagus Soup

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

What’s your best advice for the class of 2016? Feel free to share.

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

Saint Patrick’s Day & Roasted Parsnips with Rosemary

pint_of_guinnessThursday is Saint Patrick’s Day. From green beer and pub crawls to parades and toe-tapping music, it is a day to celebrate all things Irish. Or at least all the things that we think of as Irish. More than thirty-four million Americans claim ties to the Emerald Isle. That’s a whole lot more than you’ll find in Ireland these days where the population is about four and a half million.

The potato famine drove hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants to the US in the mid 1800’s. With these great numbers, the Irish both changed the country and were changed by it. Poor farmers in Ireland, they came to cities and towns, destitute with little or no education. They took whatever work they could find and became a considerable force in American life.

Conditions in nineteenth century factories and mines were abhorrent. Many Irish immigrants supported and became leaders in the labor movement. Born in Cork, immigrant Mary Harris, later known as Mother Jones, committed more than fifty years of her life to unionizing workers.

Able organizers, the Irish soon conquered politics. In 1893, John Hopkins became the first of nine Irish American mayors to rule Chicago. Jimmy Walker served in the State Assembly and Senate before becoming mayor of New York in 1926. Walker was part of the infamous Tammany Hall. With strong support from Irish immigrants, the powerful society controlled much of the city’s politics from the mid-nineteenth century to the early 1930’s.

Irish politicians didn’t end with Tammany Hall. Countless judges, representatives, senators and governors have ancestral roots in Ireland. James Byrnes from South Carolina enjoyed a political career that spanned more than forty years and all three branches of government. New Englanders know well the powerful impact the Kennedy family has had on American politics. Today, our Vice President, Secretary of State and even the President have roots in Ireland.

Journalists Nellie Bly and Jimmy Breslin followed politics and more. Nellie’s 1887 exposé of the horrible conditions at the Blackwell’s Island insane asylum gained her acclaim and sparked wide-scale reform. A self-described street reporter, Breslin covered crime in scrappy, colloquial style. He became part of the Son of Sam story when David Berkowitz wrote him a taunting letter stating, “I appreciate your interest in those recent and horrendous .44 killings. I also want to tell you that I read your column daily and find it quite informative.”

Along with journalism, Ireland has a rich literary tradition. Irish Americans F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, Flannery O’Connor, Frank McCourt and Alice McDermott continued that tradition on this side of the Atlantic. Not just letters, talented Irish Americans have enriched our world in many ways. Famed trombonist and bandleader Tommy Dorsey filled the air with swing and jazz. The innovative work of painter Georgia O’Keefe continues to intrigue and beguile us.

Finally, or finally for now, let’s not forget the Hollywood heartthrobs. Tyrone Power, Gregory Peck and George Clooney are just a few to make grown women sigh. Plus, we don’t want to overlook the gorgeous Grace Kelly, multitalented Judy Garland, or George’s aunt, Rosemary Clooney.

The list goes on. So this Saint Patrick’s Day, raise a glass of fine whisky or a pint of Guinness to the Irish and Irish Americans who have unraveled the truth, governed and enriched our lives. The catalog of Irish toasts is long but I offer this one: May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and bon appétit!

Roasted Parsnips with Rosemary
Look for spring-harvested parsnips in your local farmers market. A winter underground produces a sweeter and somewhat spicier parsnip. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 3 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the parsnips on baking sheets in a single layer. Using a 2-to-1 ratio, drizzle with just enough olive oil and cider vinegar to lightly coat and toss. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper and toss again. Re-spread the vegetables in a single layer.

Roast uncovered at 375 degrees, stirring once or twice, for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are browned and tender. Immediately sprinkle with the rosemary and toss to combine. Let sit for a minute or two, toss again and serve.

Can be made ahead. Cool to room temperature, cover and store in the refrigerator. Transfer to a baking dish and reheat at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin
Two Years Ago – Zucchini Pancakes
Three Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Four Three Years Ago – Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons
Five Years Ago – Grilled Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Six Years Ago – Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant
Seven Years Ago – Fettuccine with Classic Bolognese Sauce

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

Do you have any special plans for a Saint Patrick’s Day? Feel free to share!

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

Resolute or Not? & Whole Grain Pilaf

Can you believe it? It’s been almost a month since you vowed to exercise more, drink more water, drink less wine or coffee or both, call your mom every Sunday or eat more vegetables. Sound familiar. No? Maybe you wanted to start a journal, practice yoga, get out of debt or a myriad of other self-improvements.

Unfortunately, if you’re like most people with good intentions to improve, your resolve has already started to crumble. Let me guess, your running shoes have been sitting in the closet since the second or third week in January. The last time you called your mom was New Year’s weekend. Your journal has four entries and your eating habits, well, they’re more or less unchanged.

Is it time to feel like a failure? Absolutely NOT! Depending on what study you read, as few as eight percent of us actually keep our resolutions. If you’ve slipped, you aren’t alone. And, if that resolution is really important to you, you’ll get back on track.

A lot of people don’t bother make resolutions. Some, definitely not me, don’t need to. They are perfect. Or at least they think they are. I’d guess another group is tired of making the same-old, same-old promises that they can’t/won’t/don’t keep. They’ve given up. As for the rest? Since I’m often among them, I’d like to think that we have become more or less comfortable with our imperfections. Isn’t there some line about being perfectly imperfect. Or is it imperfectly perfect?

Why am I so haphazard when it comes to resolutions? It’s not that I don’t want to improve; I do. If pressed, I’ll even come up with an answer. Take this year. A deadline was looming and I felt the need to write something (anything) down. I did a little research and joined the popular table. I claimed I would enjoy life to the fullest in 2016. Hardly original, enjoying life was this year’s number one resolution.

I should have gone with sit-ups, push-ups and weight training three times a week but I wasn’t ready to commit; at least not in public. Instead I took on this big idea which means lots of different things to as many people. If I’m serious, and I’m not sure that I am, I’ve got some thinking to do.

For starters, what does living life to the fullest even mean; or at least what does it mean for me. Do I join a motorcycle gang, skydive or take an exotic trip? Should I gather up a bunch of lists of must-read books, tackle any I’ve missed and reread my favorites? Do I look inward and meditate twice a day or surround myself with vibrant, interesting people or both? Maybe it’s as simple as eat, drink and be merry. Nah, it must more than that.

My life is good now but, heck, it could be better. Coming clean, I confess my resolution was both expedient and glib. To make it more, to make it real, I’ll need some time to figure it out. That said, I’m not starting from scratch. There are a couple of things that I’ve determined already. First, full is not busy; I’ve got plenty of busy. Next and in the same vein, a huge bucket list is not the answer. At least not for me. Finally, one thing is more or less certain in my full life. With apologies to Harley fans, there is very little chance that motorcycles will be involved.

Here’s to a full life and bon appétit!

Whole Grain Pilaf
Rich in protein and fiber, whole grains and nuts make a hearty and healthy pilaf. If one of your resolutions was to eat healthy, try this delicious side dish. If not, try it anyway! It’s that good. Enjoy.
Serves 4-6

1/4 cup wheat berries
1/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup wild rice
1/4 cup red quinoa
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
Garnish: fresh chopped parsley

Put the wheat berries in a jar, add 3/4 cup water, cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Put the wheat berries, brown rice and wild rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse well under cold water.

Put 4 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the wheat berries, brown rice and wild rice, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 30 minutes.

Put the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse well under cold water. Add the quinoa to the wheat berries and rice and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes or until tender.

Strain the grains through a fine mesh sieve and drain well. Depending on how well you rinsed them to begin with, the grains could be sticky. If you like, rinse them under cold water and drain well. Reserve.

While the grains cook, lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the onion, carrot and celery, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

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

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One Year Ago – Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks)
Two Years Ago – Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù
Three Years Ago – Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Four Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Five Years Ago – Fettuccine with Escarole, Radicchio & Mushrooms
Six Years Ago – Cassoulet
Seven Years Ago – Caribbean Fish Stew

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

How are you doing with your resolutions? Are you resolute or not? Feel free to share!

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

Resolved & Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower

veggies_03Alright then, here we are in 2016. The last twelve months just flew by. The dawning of the new year means it is time to come up with some resolutions. Decisions, decisions, to resolve or not resolve. Such dilemmas! Okay, let’s take a stab at it. Here goes:

Thankfully, there’s a whole slew of bad or silly habits that I’ve managed to avoid. That means I don’t need to give up twerking, fast food or smoking.

Plus, I already live a pretty healthy life. I could pledge to eat my vegetables, walk every day, drink more water and practice yoga. But I already do those things, so I don’t think they’d count as 2016 resolutions.

Lucky for me, the medical community goes back and forth on coffee and wine. I won’t give up either but continue to drink the two in moderation. What’s moderation? Well, I’m decidedly independent, so I guess that’s for me to decide.

As a decidedly independent type, I can’t promise to become more fashionable. Although I’m not exactly stuck in a time warp, I discovered my own personal style several years ago. While, they may move at glacial speed, my fashion preferences have evolved. My jeans have gotten skinnier but I don’t think I will ever give up turtlenecks, Bermuda shorts or the little black dress. You might find my look dull, even boring. I think of it as classic and it suits me.

The latest and greatest new phone is not on my list of must-haves so I can cross – stop texting while driving – off the list of potential resolutions. Okay, I admit my friends’ shiny gadgets generate sporadic twinges of phone envy. It’s not that I’m a Luddite. Truly, I’m not. Of course, I own a cell phone and, yes, it works. I even remember to charge it a few times a year. But hey, I work from home. I’m nothing if not easy to find.

While I have little interest in a new phone, I am intrigued to meet new people, learn new things and acquire new skills. That said, unless someone sends me a fact-a-day calendar as a belated Christmas gift, I can’t promise to learn something new every day. Nor can I promise to meet 366 (it’s a leap year) people in 2016. Remember, I work from home and live in a small town. My little life is not teaming with strangers. Then again, I could always introduce myself to random tourists in the supermarket. Somehow, I don’t think I will.

Many might be shocked to learn that I don’t keep a journal. Don’t all writers keep journals or morning papers? Perhaps that one should go on my list of resolutions. Well, I tried it once. I had just moved to Switzerland and figured it would be a good idea to chronicle my adventures. I even had a clever name for the journal – Notes from a-Broad. I kept it up for two maybe three months. Even with a new country, new job, new friends and a fair amount of travel my day-to-day musings were not that interesting. I prefer to let my thoughts and memories steep and age a bit before putting them to paper.

So, don’t expect me to get a tattoo, take up the saxophone or switch to green tea. Instead, I’ll side with the popular choice for once and take up the number one resolution for 2016. What is it? Enjoy life to the fullest. After all, 45.7 per cent of Americans can’t be wrong; can they?

Happy New Year and bon appétit!

Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower
Along with greens and grapes, lentils are one of the lucky foods popular at New Year. Main event or side dish, lentils are a delicious and healthy way to start 2016. Enjoy!
Serves 6

veggies_032 cups red or brown lentils
Vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon mustard seed
3-4 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Roasted Cauliflower (recipe follows)
Garnish: roughly chopped cilantro leaves

Pick through the lentils and remove any stones. Rinse well with cold water and drain.

Heat a little oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and carrot and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, jalapeno and spices and sauté for 2-3 minutes more. Add the lentils and enough stock or water to cover by 1-2 inches and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. You may need to add more stock or water. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the roasted cauliflower to the lentils, toss to combine and serve immediately garnished with chopped cilantro.

Enjoy lentils as a main dish on Meatless Mondays with basmati rice and sautéed greens or as a side dish at your next Indian inspired dinner.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
Vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the cauliflower on a baking sheet, drizzle with just enough oil to lightly coat, sprinkle with turmeric, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread the cauliflower in a single layer and roast, stirring once or twice, until browned and tender, 20-25 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Spiced Chai
Two Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
Three Years Ago – Old Fashioned Pot Roast
Fourhree Years Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
Fiveour Years Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
Six Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
Seven 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 about you? Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share!

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

Gifts for Foodies & Roasted Beets with Sautéed Greens

Christmas_Presents_02Do you panic when it’s time to shop for your favorite cook? I don’t blame you. The treats dancing in our heads can be a tad more unusual and a lot pricier than sugarplums. We dream of truffles and saffron and shiny, red enamel pots or maybe a fancy espresso machine. Some years it might be all of the above and more!

Before you make your list and check it twice, I have a few suggestions to help you shop for the culinary types on your list. First, stay away from processed anything. Give the trio of Francis Ford Coppola sauces in the fancy gift box to your neighbor who hates to cook. Foodies make their own sauce. In addition, with few exceptions, you should probably stay away from highly specialized gizmos and gadgets. They take up too much space in already crowded cupboards and counters.

Now for a few specifics:

Gifts for the host with the most. You usually bring wine or flowers but what if your host is a kitchen wizard? Thank him with some lovely first press olive oil, a beautiful handmade wooden spoon or a gorgeous rosemary plant.

Stocking stuffers. Beginner or longtime cook, you can never have too many silicon spatulas, kitchen tongs or whisks. Start with a few key limes in the toe. Then, toss in small bottles of exotic spices and a favorite kitchen tool or two. Need more? Add a potholder and wine stopper.

Little gadgets. Next time you’re together, snoop around the kitchen. Perhaps your friend needs a new corkscrew, silicon mat for baking or a digital scale. Assuming she doesn’t have one, a mini food processor would top my list as the gift to give. Leave the avocado slicer or corn stripper in the store. He already has a knife and it works just fine.

Bigger gadgets. Depending on your definition of big, I suppose it could be a new stove with double ovens. I’m thinking more along the lines of a stand mixer or ice cream maker, even that bright and shiny expresso machine. Before you head to the store, feel free to spend an evening with your loved one, sipping wine and asking questions like, “If you could have any grill (or wine cooler or …), what would it be?” Afraid you’ll give yourself away? Camouflage your intent with a bunch of other what-ifs … dream vacation, diamonds or pearls and Mercedes or Mini.

Great ingredients. Truffles, beluga caviar or one-hundred-year-old balsamic vinegar; unless you have a few hundred dollars lying around, this one can be tricky. Whether we can afford them or not, foodies can be snobs when it comes to ingredients. Forget the beluga and buy the best you can find in a category you can afford. Instead of Tuscan truffles, go with gorgeous homemade bonbons from a New Hampshire chocolatier, a bottle of pure vanilla bean paste or a jar of French fleur de sel.

Homespun. If your giftee wears aprons, you’ve got it made. Plain and simple, funky or frilly, an apron is a great gift. Great until the tally reaches a couple dozen and your friend shouts uncle. That’s when it’s time to switch to sturdy but still good-looking potholders and kitchen towels or a unique new cookie cutter. Yard sale fanatics should keep foodie friends in mind when foraging for treasures. Vintage potato mashers, citrus juicers and rolling pins make lovely gifts.

Gifts for foodies who like to eat but not cook. This one is too easy; gift certificates to their favorite restaurants. Too pricey? How about gift certificates to a favorite coffee or gelato shop?

Have a joyous and delicious holiday! Bon appétit!

Roasted Beets with Sautéed Greens
beets_03Festive red, green and gold side dish for your holiday dinner! Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 2 pounds beets, red or gold or a mix, peeled and cut into wedges
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 red onion, cut in half and then in thin wedges
About 2 pounds mixed greens – use the beet greens plus Swiss chard, baby kale and/or spinach
1/4 cup shelled, chopped and toasted pistachios
Grated zest of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the beets on sheet pans in a single layer, drizzle with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Stirring occasionally, roast the beets for about 30 minutes or until lightly caramelized and tender.

Put the onion on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Stirring occasionally, roast the onion for about 15 minutes or until lightly caramelized and tender. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and toss to combine.

The beets and onion can be roasted in advance and reheated just before serving.

Roasted_Beets_w_Sautéed_Greens_03Meanwhile prepare the greens by chopping the stems and roughly chopping the leafy greens. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet or casserole over medium high heat, add the chopped stems, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the greens, toss to coat with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stirring frequently, sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with grated zest of 1/2 orange and toss again.

Arrange the greens on a large platter or individual plates, top with the beets and onion, sprinkle with pistachios and remaining orange zest and serve.

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One Year Ago – Peppermint Bark Cookies
Two Years Ago – Ginger Shortbread
Three Years Ago – Baked French Toast
Four Years Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Five Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes
Six Years Ago – Savory Bread Pudding
Seven Years Ago – Triple Chocolate Parfait

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

What about you? What’s on your wish list for Christmas? Feel free to share!

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