Comfort Food for a Rainy Weekend Special

Yesterday was an absolutely miserable day and  more of the same is in the forecast. Well, we could pout, stamp our feet and whatever other petulant stuff you like to do. Or, we could have a go at some comfort food.

My kitchen is almost done and it is definitely usable. Last night, I was in an inventing mood. I was in a fusion mood and mixed it up with an interesting new dish. At least, I thought it was interesting. To start, Caribbean black beans met chorizo and cuddled up for a while. Then, I added a few shrimp. If you like, you could think of it as Caribbean Jambalaya. Staying with the Caribbean-Cajun fusion theme, I served it on top of a dollop of Sweet Potato Polenta. Just to continue the mix up, I added a little chipotle and cheddar to the polenta for a whiff of Tex-Mex. It was delicious, if I do say so myself. Happily, my guests agreed.

So, if you were ever wondering, the answer is yes. I do treat family and friends as guinea pigs when inventing new recipes. I also invite them to photo shoots. As soon as dinner is snapped for prosperity, the meal can begin. Unfortunately, my camera’s battery was dead so you’ll have to wait for pictures of my Caribbean-Cajun-Tex-Mex fusion.

With heavy rain headed to the northeast, I think this is going to be a good weekend to cook up some warm and cozy comfort food. Think soup or chili, pasta or stew. If you are more baker than cook, go for a great pie, coffee cake or cookies.

Whether you are sweet or savory, cook hearty with love and a dash of spice. Here are some suggestions:

For the cooks –

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Bake

Mediterranean Meatballs with Couscous

Hearty Black Bean Soup

Harira (Middle Eastern Soup with Chicken, Chick-Peas and Lentils)

Coq au Vin (French Chicken Stew)

Carbonnade á la Flamande (Beer Braised Beef & Onions)

For the bakers –

Apple-Oatmeal Cookies

Zucchini Muffins

Ginger Scones

Rustic Apple Croustade

Have a great weekend in the kitchen and bon appétit!!

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2017

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Rockin’, Rollin’ and Casserolin’ & Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Bake

As soon as I think it’s time to write about colder weather, a blast of warm tropical air comes rolling up from the south. We keep asking each other, “Can you believe this weather … in October?” If we’d only stop and think about for a minute, we’d realize it’s hardly unexpected. It’s hurricane season. A quartet of mass destruction, Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria have plagued countless lives and ruined even more property. Turning northward, they brought heat and humidity to New England. Fortunately, we were spared high winds and flooding.

Warm weather has postponed my semi-annual changing of the drawers. For those who don’t follow this tradition, it happens twice a year. In the fall, turtlenecks go in the drawer. T-shirts and shorts take their place in plastic storage bins. The reverse happens in the spring.

Anyway, the delay has been a good thing. What with the new kitchen coming together, I needed the extra time to wipe down cabinets and counters, wash dust-covered dishes and find places for everything. You’ll be happy to know, I’m down to the last few strays. The fondue stand needs a good spot by the weekend. Otherwise, it and all the other homeless bits and bobs are going to the freecycle table at the dump. I’ve already filled a couple of boxes.

As soon as that’s done, I can start rockin’ and rollin’ and casserolin’. A classic casserole sounds like the perfect dish to break in my new kitchen. After all, everyone loves them. Casseroles are a part of our heritage. Think back to all those hearty dinners after hiking, biking or skiing. Maybe it was raking leaves and shoveling snow at your house. There was a bit of both at mine.

Fast forward and who could forget all the casseroles we took to potlucks in our twenties? I was living in Vermont and then western Massachusetts. It was cold a good part of the year so a casserole made sense. Besides, let face it, if you are in your twenties, you’re probably broke. A good casserole is as cheap as it is filling and delicious.

Perhaps the best thing about casseroles is their versatility. From classic French or Italian to spicy Tex-Mex, there are no limits to possible combinations. However, there are a few basics when it comes to assembling a great casserole. Start with your starch of choice. They’re all good – spuds, rice, tortillas or my favorite, pasta. Next, you’ll need some protein and veggies. Don’t forget, the end result is a one pot meal. You need to cover all the bases. Think beans for a vegetarian treat; create a delicious surprise with leftover pot roast or sauté up some chicken. You probably have yours but my favorite vegetables to put in a casserole are mushrooms, broccoli and spinach along with the requisite onion and garlic.

You’ll need a sauce. Any of the basics will do – Béchamel or the lighter Velouté, cream sauce, pesto or tomato sauce. Use any one in a multitude of variations or combinations. You can find most of them in a jar but give homemade a try. I promise the result will be worth the extra trouble. Finally, there is the cheese. From the king of cheeses, Parmigiano-Reggiano, to a humble cheddar, a great casserole is all about the cheese. Goat cheese, feta, ricotta, gruyere and fontina, we love them all.

With the last of the tropical heat and humidity surely gone, there is no excuse … it’s time to get rockin’, rollin’ and casserolin’. Bon appétit!

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Bake
Try this warm and cozy casserole the next time you have a crowd over. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
Classic Velouté Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2-1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup dry Sherry
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
About 8 ounces (2 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese
About 1 ounce (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
12 ounces pasta – cavatappi, penne or rigatoni
1 – 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut in bite-sized florets

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium-high. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the skillet. Reduce the temperature to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn the chicken, add the white wine and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature and cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place the chicken in a large bowl and reserve.

Make the Velouté Sauce. (Recipe follows.)

Put the sour cream, sherry and herbs in a bowl and whisk to combine. A little at a time, whisk the Velouté Sauce into the sour cream. Return the sauce to the saucepan.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil, add the onion, season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Add the onion and garlic to the sauce.

If necessary, add a little more olive oil to the skillet. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté until golden. Add the mushrooms and 2/3rds of the cheeses to the sauce and, stirring frequently, bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a large casserole.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, less 2 minutes. When the pasta has about 3 minutes of cooking time left, add the broccoli. Drain the pasta and broccoli and add it to the bowl with the chicken.

Add sauce to the chicken, pasta and broccoli and toss to combine. Transfer everything to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

You can make ahead to this point, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Cover and bake the casserole at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until piping hot and golden, about 15 minutes more.

Velouté Sauce
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking continuously, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste.

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One Year Ago – Cheddar Ale Soup
Two Years Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Three Years Ago – Gorgonzola & Walnut Shortbread with Savory Fig Jam
Four Years Ago – Soupe de Poisson Provençal
Five Years Ago – Hearty Black Bean Soup
Six Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna
Seven Years Ago – Gingerbread Cupcakes
Eight Years Ago – Buttery Chocolate Almond Brittle
Ninet Years Ago – Pork Stew PaprikaOr Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite casserole recipe? Feel free to share!

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

Cozy Weekend Special

books_coffeeThere are a whole lot of reasons to get cozy this weekend. The election results could be bumming you out … or maybe you are celebrating or figuring it all out and cautiously contemplating the future. One thing is for sure, in northern New England, we’ll be doing the whole chilly and partly cloudy thing. It seems like a great time to take a break from politics and make some soup.

Celebration, commiseration or contemplation, feel free to invite friends in for a cozy evening by the fire. Here are a few thoughts if you’d like help with the menu:

Pour a glass of wine and pass some delicious appetizers. I can suggest Butternut Squash Tartlets or Mushroom Crostini. Or let your friends help themselves to Gorgonzola & Walnut Shortbread with Savory Fig Jam.

stirring_the_potNow, what about that soup? With chilly air and cloudy skies, I’m thinking hearty. If you are too, you must try my French Lentil Soup with Chicken and Sausage, Harira (Middle Eastern Soup with Chicken, Chick-Peas and Lentils) or Raviolis in Broth with Turkey Meatballs & Greens.They are all full of flavors and delicious at the end of late autumn day.

If you’d like to add a salad, I can suggest a couple of my favorites. Roasted vegetables make a great addition to the greens in my Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad and Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Goat Cheese.

For a cheery dessert, think mini. A sweet little treat might be a Pumpkin Cupcake or Mini Tarte Tatin.

Have a cozy weekend and bon appétit!

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

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2016

Comfy and Cozy – Comfort Food & Cassoulet

When you hear the words comfort and food; what comes to mind? Do you think of something savory or sweet? When you need a little tender, loving care do you hunger for something hot, bubbling and fragrant with herbs and spice? Or maybe you crave something sugary, warm and gooey or seek solace in a cold and creamy or soft and chewy treat.

Or all of the above.

Comfort food is the food of our childhood. You slurp it or spoon it and savor it slowly. If you need a sharp knife to cut it, it’s probably not comfort food. These are the dishes that warm us on snowy evenings, cheer us up on rainy days and console us when we are feeling blue.

Looking for the perfect comfort food? Well there is no one answer, it all depends on the kind comfort you need. Broken heart? Rocky-Road, cookie dough or butter pecan can’t mend a broken heart but it might just ease the pain for an hour or two. Head cold? For those times when you wonder if you will ever breathe again, the best medicine might very well be a steaming bowl of chicken soup. And if a day on the slopes leaves you frozen to core, a piping hot stew with fork tender beef and vegetables is a great solution.

I was certainly in need of a little comfort last week when a torrential rain storm blew in. At midmorning it was almost as dark as the middle of the night. It stayed grey and murky all day. The storm did not blow in from the north with the brittle cold of an arctic gale. It blew in from California bringing the January Thaw with buckets of rain, fog and a damp, dreary, bone-chilling cold.

In spite of its annual or almost annual return, the January Thaw is an unexplained weather phenomenon. Most years the Thaw comes right smack in the middle of coldest days of the year. For weeks we shiver and shake bundled up in layers of wool and fleece and then suddenly the air is well ok it’s not exactly balmy but it’s at least ten degrees above normal. It could be my imagination but it seems to me that it always rains during the Thaw. Not a little shower, no, it’s never a light, gentle rain. The January Thaw always seems to trigger a rip-roaring deluge.

Which of course makes the annual Thaw the bane of every skier’s existence. One day it’s sunny and seasonably cold. The snow is perfect or close to it. You’re not sure if you’ve died and landed in heaven or if you’re dreaming. Suddenly, the dream becomes a nightmare and the nightmare becomes a reality. The basement floods, the porch roof collapses and worse, much worse, all that nice soft snow is washed away. It may stay warm for a day or two but before long the cold returns and the slopes become a vertical skating rink.

Is it any wonder I needed comfort? I thought about ice cream but not without chocolate sauce. In the end I found consolation in front of a cheery fire with a steaming mug of homemade soup and splurged on a lovely piece of soft brie and a nice glass of cabernet.

What dishes bring you comfort when your heart is breaking or the day turns dreary?

Stay warm and dry and bon appétit!

Easy Cassoulet

In the ‘80’s, foodies discovered cassoulet and spent three days making it. Try this simplified version and forget your miseries with family and friends around the table. With its origins in French farm kitchens, cassoulet is an absolutely delicious alternative to an old New England favorite – pork and beans. Enjoy!

Serves 12

4 ounces slab or thick cut bacon, roughly chopped *
12 ounces boneless, skinless turkey breast, cut into 2-inch cubes
12 ounces boneless pork, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Flour
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (15-16 ounces each) white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup dry vermouth
1-2 cup beef stock
1 can (14-16 ounces) crushed tomatoes
12 ounces pre-cooked kielbasa sausage, cut into 2-inch slices
1/2-1 cup bread crumbs
Garnish: fresh, chopped parsley

  1. Cook the bacon until crispy in a heavy stovetop and ovenproof casserole over medium-low heat.  Remove the bacon and reserve.
  2. Season the turkey and pork with salt and pepper, lightly dust with flour and shake off the excess.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the casserole and reserve. Raise the heat to medium-high. Brown the turkey and pork, adding more bacon fat to the pan as required. Remove from the casserole and reserve.
  3. Reduce heat to medium; add a little more bacon fat and the onion, carrot and celery to the pot, sprinkle with salt and chili pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes. If you run out of bacon fat, substitute with olive oil.
  4. Add the bacon, turkey, pork, beans, thyme, bay leaf, allspice, vermouth, beef stock and crushed tomatoes to the vegetables. Gently toss to combine, bring to a simmer and transfer to the oven.
  5. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Add the sausage to the pot.
  6. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and bake for an additional 30-45 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

The cassoulet is best made through step 5, cooled to room temperature and then refrigerated for several hours or overnight.  Bring to room temperature, sprinkle with the bread crumbs and then bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbling.

* For a slimmed down version of this recipe, skip the bacon and use a little olive oil to brown the meat and sauté the vegetables. Substitute regular kielbasa with a leaner turkey version.

©Susan W. Nye, 2010

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One Year Ago –  Caribbean Fish Stew

I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my photoblog, Susan Nye 365 or my cleverly named other blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

Surviving a Head Cold & Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup

Last Wednesday I woke up feeling out of sorts. Lying in bed I took a few moments to access the situation. First I noticed a little scratchy feeling in my throat, then I realized only one side of my nose was working and finally I noted a few aches and pains. In spite of the fuzzy wuzzy feeling in my brain, I figured it out. I had a head cold. Given my fragile state, this assessment took an almost Herculean effort and was all followed by a fierce desire to roll over and burrow under the covers. Which I did, at least for a little while. While sometimes referred to as the common cold, as far as I’m concerned my colds are anything but common.

For many years I spent a lot of time in airports and on airplanes. While a small child may be the most effective Petri dish for breeding and spreading cold and flu germs, an airplane takes a close second. To make matters worse, airports are notoriously cold and drafty. Schlepping through miles and miles of chilly, subterranean corridors is enough to wear down anyone’s resistance, including mine. Passing the winter with a series of colds was part of the territory. Most were minor, the take-two-aspirins-go-to-bed-early-and-you-won’t-need-to-call-me-in-the-morning variety. But about once a year, the stars misaligned and I came down with one of those absolutely-wretched-put-me-out-of-my-misery colds.

Now that I am rarely on airplanes, I usually manage to avoid most of the nasty viruses that lurk around looking for innocent noses to attack. Until last week. I have no idea where I caught it. Did someone sneeze on me in the super market? Could it have been one of the nieces? They seemed healthy enough when I skied with them on the weekend, but who knows? Or maybe with all the racing around before, during and after the holidays, my luck or resistance ran out.

When it comes to treating my colds, I tend to be a bit haphazard. I can never remember if it is starve a cold and feed a fever or feed a cold and starve a fever. It must be feed a cold since soup, especially chicken noodle, is my all time favorite cold remedy. Regardless of old wives tales, the care and feeding of my colds can best be described as alternatively coddling and ignoring them.

I eventually managed to roll out of bed on that Wednesday morning. I had no soup on hand so I kicked off the morning by searching the medicine cabinet for anything with a sell-by date after 2003. Luck was with me, I dosed myself with vitamin C, some decongestant and pain reliever.  I then went about my day pretending that all was right with the world although I’m pretty sure I grumbled a bit and complained to anyone who would listen (or not).

I was delighted to surrender to my stuffy nose, aches and pains on Thursday. I spent the entire day cuddled up on the couch in front of the fire. My self-indulgence was cut short and I was up early on Friday for a bunch of phone calls and then raced out the door to run errands and make soup on the noon news. (If you missed my live performance you can watch the video clip on www.youtube.com/susannye.)

I was tempted to retreat to the couch again on the weekend but ignored the impulse and skied both Saturday and Sunday mornings. However, I was ever so happy to spend both afternoons prone in front of the fire. I seriously considered a return trip to the sofa on Monday and again on Tuesday. Unfortunately both days were already booked. And today, one week later, the good news is I’m breathing freely again. And the bad news? Well if I want to languish on the sofa I’ll need to find another excuse!

Take care, stay well and bon appétit!

My Favorite Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup

The perfect cold remedy – the steaming broth clears my nose and the jalapeño and spices wake up my foggy brain. You can also make this soup with your leftover Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey. Enjoy!

Serves 8

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 leaks, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or to taste jalapeño pepper, minced
1/4 teaspoon or to taste dried chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
12 cups chicken or turkey stock – homemade or store bought
2 cups cooked chicken or turkey in bite size pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4-6 ounces Chinese noodles
Garnish:  1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)

  1. Put a little olive oil in a soup kettle.  Add the onion, garlic, jalapeño, chili pepper and thyme and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.  Add the leaks, carrots and celery and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to medium high.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken and reduce heat to low. Simmer until vegetables are tender, 30-45 minutes.
  3. Cook the Chinese noodles in a separate pot according to package directions less 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water to remove excess starch. Shake off excess water.
  4. Add the noodles to the soup; return the soup to a simmer and cook for 1 minute.  Serve immediately, garnished with chopped cilantro.

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One Year Ago
 – My Favorite Chili

© Susan W. Nye, 2010

Feel free to make a comment; I’d love to hear from you. Just click on Leave a Comment below. To subscribe to my blog, just scroll back up and click on the Sign Me Up button.

You can learn about my new project Eat Well – Do Good and find lots more recipes on my website: www.susannye.com.

January – The Coldest Month & Lasagna

After almost seventeen years in Switzerland and another three on the west coast, I drove 3,000 miles across the country to New Hampshire in late April 2003. It was snowing as I slipped and slid into the State, exhausted but happy to be home. From the time I was ten, New Hampshire had always been my home-away-from-home. It was a place filled with happy memories of summer and ski vacations.

I decided to take some time to get my bearings. I did a little consulting and a lot of kayaking and skiing. I reconnected with family and friends, cooked a lot and became famous for, among other things, an incredibly rich and decadent chocolate birthday cake. I rediscovered the seasons as only New England has them.

Most if not all of the daffodils and tulips were wilted and gone when I pulled out of Seattle on Easter weekend. Four or five days later when I arrived in New Hampshire, the ground was covered with snow. Eventually spring came, bringing frost heaves, mud and black flies, as well as my favorite daffodils, tulips and lilacs. Spring turned to summer, the black flies disappeared and Pleasant Lake was as magical as ever. Fall was brilliant; the Technicolor spectacle was as good if not better than I remembered.

And then winter came.  I knew that New Hampshire winters were cold but I had forgotten how cold. I tried to adapt. I began dressing-like-an-onion in layers of long underwear, flannel and wool. To answer the question that I’m sure is on your lips … no it is not this cold in Switzerland. Winter temperatures hover between 30 and 40 degrees in Geneva. It doesn’t snow a whole lot; it’s mostly grey and rainy. Yes, there is lots and lots of glorious snow in the Alps but it rarely turns as bitterly cold as a typical January day in northern New England.

From a young age, I was taught to ignore the cold and get my money’s worth out of my season ski pass. Our family skied in arctic temperatures, gale winds and blizzards. When I lived in Switzerland I was hard pressed to find anyone to join me on bitter cold or stormy days. Frigid days were for snuggling up by the fire with a good book. It was wonderful!

Returning to New England triggered something. It might have been old guilt or just a return to old habits. The far-away voice of my father rattled around in my head, telling me to get out on the slopes! And so, in early January of my first winter back I headed for the mountain on a colder than cold morning.

No surprise, the mountain was mostly deserted on that frigid Friday. By the time my chairlift reached the top, I was a block of ice. Given the temperature and the gale force winds, I didn’t hang around to admire the view. I immediately started down the trail. About half way down I came to an abrupt stop. No, I didn’t need to rest or catch my breath. The wind was blowing so hard up the side of the hill that it stopped me dead in my tracks. I froze through a few more runs and then reminded myself that my Dad was playing golf in sunny Florida and rushed home to a hot shower and warm fire.

Perhaps it’s the wisdom of age or a fear of frostbite but since that day I have become something of a fair-weather skier. When the wind is howling and the temperature plummets below zero, I leave the mountain to the true die-hards. And just in case my Dad checks up on me, I still figure I took about 800 runs last year at about 50 cents apiece!

Bon appétit!

Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach

Lasagna is great when you have a houseful of hungry skiers. This classic comfort food is perfect after a cold day on the slopes. Enjoy!
Serves 12 or more

About 6 cups of Bolognese sauce (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups Béchamel sauce (recipe follows)
15 ounces ricotta cheese
12 ounces shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
4 ounces grated Parmesan
4 ounces grated Pecorino Romano
1 pound frozen leaf spinach, thawed and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 8 ounces lasagna noodles –12 noodles, enough for 4 layers

Make the Bolognese and Béchamel sauces and set aside.

Combine the mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheeses and toss.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. (Noodles sticking together? Check out my tip to keep lasagna noodles from sticking.

Spread 1- 2 cups of Bolognese sauce in the bottom of a large, deep ceramic or glass baking pan (about 13 by 10 by 3-inches). Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Top the noodles with 1/3 of the ricotta, 1/3 of the spinach and 1-2 cups of Bolognese sauce.  Sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese mixture.  Repeat with a second and third layer of noodles-ricotta-spinach-Bolognese sauce- cheeses.

Arrange remaining noodles on top and spread with Béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.  Tightly cover the baking dish with foil. You can store in the refrigerator for several hours or bake immediately.

When you are ready to bake the lasagna, position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the lasagna for 45-60 minutes, if the lasagna is cold from the refrigerator it will take longer.  Remove foil, continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, about15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Classic Bolognese Sauce
Makes about 4 quarts, for at least 2 or 3 lasagnas, you can freeze the extra sauce.

9 cups (3 cans – 28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
Pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
1 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound Italian sausage; hot, sweet or a mix, casings removed
1/2 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive Oil

Heat a heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and ground beef to the pot, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces, cook until brown about 5 minutes.

Remove from the pan. Drain the fat and reserve.

Add a little olive oil in the pot and heat over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, pepper and garlic, sprinkle with Italian herbs, red pepper, salt and pepper. Sauté until vegetables are tender.

Return the meat to the pot. Add the crushed tomatoes, wine and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in the chopped basil.

Béchamel Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and herbs; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

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One Year Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup

What’s your favorite cold weather dishes? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my photoblog, Susan Nye 365 or my cleverly named other blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

A Joyful Resolution & Potato, Leek & Kale Soup

It’s that time of year when we scratch our heads and figure out our New Year’s resolutions. For some it will be easy. They make and break the same promises every year. Get fit, quit smoking, learn a new language, you name it they have promised to do it; not once but many times. I’d say I’m hit and miss on New Year’s resolutions. I’ve kept a few and broken many but more often than not I forget to make them.

But not this year. I’ve been thinking about the kind of year I want to have in 2010. There is nothing like a new decade to give me the sense that something grand, something special should happen. Maybe it’s the holidays; maybe it’s the Christmas carols that keep spinning around in my head but I’ve resolved to fill 2010 with joy. 

You remember joy. It was the feeling you had when a nor’easter blew in and you celebrated with a glorious snow day. It was the smell of spring and the first daffodils after a long winter. It was the first time you got up on water skis or hit a home run. It was the fireworks on the Fourth of July and playing hide and seek until after 10 o’clock on a warm summer night. And it was jumping in a huge pile of leaves on a crisp fall afternoon.

I came to this momentous decision a few weeks ago on one of my walks around the lake. It was one of those days when it’s dark before you know it and the air is bone-chilling cold and damp. I was striding along at full speed to keep from freezing and tunelessly humming the Twelve days of Christmas. As I was trying to sort out that confusing mix of too much poultry, I had a bit of epiphany. Or maybe my brain froze. In any case, I decided that 2010 should be filled with joy.

Not a good year. Not a year filled with fun or interesting times or success. No, pure and simple I want it to be a year filled with joy.  At this point I’m still a bit hazy on what it means to live a joyful life. It may be wishful thinking, or maybe hoping, but I don’t suppose it will be all that difficult. No matter how easy or tough the process, you can’t beat the results. I’m sure there are tons of self-help books that I could read. For better or worse, I think I’ll just fumble around and figure it out on my own. The exploration and the journey will be part of the adventure.

If I have any hope of finding joy, I will need to dump some of the baggage I’ve been carrying around, all those shoulda’s, coulda’s and woulda’s. I’m resolving to close the book on any nagging what-if’s, especially those attached to ancient disappointments, dilemmas and, yes, even failures. Learn from them yes, dwell on them no.

Next, I will make time to enjoy the here and now. Sure, I will still keep a calendar, make plans and follow up on to-do lists. I’ll still dream. However, I won’t cloud a perfect afternoon with troublesome guilt over an impending deadline. I’ll enjoy the sunshine and return to my keyboard refreshed and energized. I won’t bring anxious worries into my kitchen just beautiful, fresh ingredients. I’ll relax by the fire with friends or a good book, not worrisome doubts. Whew, I’m already starting to feel pretty joyful!

Wishing you a wonderful, joy filled New Year! Bon appétit!

Potato, Leek & Kale Soup

The cold and wind can be brutal in January. A hearty soup is the perfect solution. Enjoy!

Serves 8

2 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half and sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch kale, tough core removed and chopped
4 potatoes
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: fresh chopped parsley

  1. Put the bacon in a large stockpot and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain off most of the fat.
  2. Add the onions, carrots, celery and leek; cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes more.
  3. Add the kale, potatoes, herbs, wine and chicken stock; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender.
  4. Taste for seasoning and serve hot in large bowls sprinkled with fresh parsley.

Chef’s tip: If you have a piece of parmesan cheese rind, add it to the soup along with the chicken stock. It adds a wonderful flavor and depth to your soup.

This soup is best made the day before. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Remove the bay leaf and parmesan rind before serving.

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©Susan W. Nye, 2009