The January Thaw & Dandan Noodles

Is there anything more frustrating that day after day of subzero weather? Ask any skier. You look out the window and it’s a winter wonderland of beautiful snow. Wonderland until you venture out. That’s when you realize that the bitter cold could rival Siberia. Of course, there are a lot of tough dudes and dudettes. They go out anyway but not me. I’ve been there and done that.

Now, don’t get confused here. I don’t stop exercising, I’m too much of a fanatic to quit cold turkey. You can still see me out and about walking around the lake or stomping up a hill on snowshoes. However, no way, no how, will you find me on a chairlift.

That’s not to say I haven’t tried it. I did, my first winter back in New Hampshire. It was one of the coldest Januarys on record. I figured I better get used to my new normal. Dressed like an onion, I threw my skis and boots in the car and headed for the mountain. It was awful. Not only was the temperature on the wrong side of zero but the wind gusts were so strong, I was literally stopped in my tracks. Two runs and I was out of there.

While some have tried to tempt me, I stand firm on my decision to stay close to home on the coldest days. Every time I hear about a chairlift breaking down, I know I made the right choice. Can you imagine the nightmare of being stranded midair in gale force winds and frigid temperatures? Just the thought creates uncontrollable shivers.

All that said, there is something even worse than a month of subzero temperatures. That something is the infamous January Thaw. No, that’s not a typo. It definitely thaw with a capital T. The only thing more heartbreaking than beautiful snow in bitter cold temperatures is watching it dissolve in a drenching downpour.

Not only does the January Thaw wreak havoc with the snow on the mountain, it creates a mess at home. Several years ago, I lost a porch to the Thaw. The weight of the water-drenched snow caused it to cave. On top of that, water tends to seep under the door of the garage in any heavy rain. Add melting snow and, armed with a push broom, I’m on flood watch.

Then again, the Thaw doesn’t stay long, not even a week. It tends to follow a set agenda. First, there’s the buildup. For a day, maybe two, the sun is brilliant in a bright blue sky. Still cold at night, daytime temperatures slowly inch up to maybe twenty-five. Then, there’s the tipping point. Warmer still, the skies cloud over. In spite of the thermometer’s mild reading, there is a chill dampness in the air. A foreboding fog rolls in; that’s when you know. Rain is imminent. Find the rubber boots and get out the push broom.

In less than twenty-four hours, the drenching downpour starts to taper off. Temperatures plummet as the heavy rain winds down. Roadways freeze over. Ski trails become downhill skating rinks. I don’t know about you but I start to wonder, “What did I do to deserve this? Tell me and I’ll never do it again.”

I need some serious cheering up. Bon appétit!

Dandan Noodles
Throughout the winter, frigid cold or chilly rain, I gravitate towards noodles. Far East flavors or Mediterranean flair, I love them all. Add these spicy Asian noodles to your quick supper list. Enjoy! 
Serves 4

8-12 ounces Chinese or udon noodles
Vegetable oil
1 pound ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1-inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons or to taste sriracha 2 tablespoons tahini or smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds or peanuts, toasted and finely chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions and/or cilantro

Lightly coat a large heavy skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high. Add the pork, season with salt and pepper, and cook, breaking the meat up into small pieces, for about 2 minutes. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and sriracha and continue cooking until the pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Add the tahini, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar and stir to combine. Stir in the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, 5-10 minutes.

While the pork simmers, cook the noodles according to package directions and drain well.

Transfer the noodles to a large platter or individual bowls. Stir the sesame oil to the pork. Top the noodles with pork, sprinkle with sesame seeds, scallions and/or cilantro and serve immediately.

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One Year Ago – Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup
Two Years Ago – Tomato Soup
Three Years Ago – Savory Galette with Spinach, Mushrooms & Manchego
Four Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Roasted Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomatoes
Five Years Ago – Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash
Six Years Ago – Piri Piri Prawns
Seven Years Ago – French Lentil Soup
Eight Years Ago – Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup
Nine Years Ago – My Favorite Chili

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

How are you coping with the cold, rain, ice and snow? 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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Weekend Special – a Cozy Dinner to Face the Rain and Ice

Right on schedule, it’s the January Thaw. After weeks of subzero weather, it would feel pretty good … if it didn’t bring rain … and ice. It may be above freezing but it’s wet and still chilly. Outside there will be a mess of slush and ice but, thankfully, inside it will be cozy and warm. Why not invite friends over for a game or movie night and dinner?

Here are a few suggestions for a cozy meal:

Set up the Jenga tower and invite everyone to gather by the fire. Pass a plate of warm and toasty Mushroom Crostini, sip a glass and hold your breath until the tower falls.

Start dinner with a hearty salad. Many of us grew up with pale tomatoes and paler lettuce. Now we lean towards vibrant colors. Kale, radicchio, arugula, roasted veggies and more come together in all their glory. Give my Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash or Romaine & Radicchio Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Walnuts a try. You’ll be glad you did.

For a cozy main course, enjoy a spoonful of Sweet Potato Polenta topped with delicious Roasted Shrimp & Andouille Sausage.

For dessert, load that Oscar contender that you missed in the theatres and enjoy it with my Mini Tarte Tatins. Be sure to add a spoonful of your favorite vanilla or ginger ice cream.

Stay dry and bon appétit!

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

How will you spend this rainy-icy-snowy weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Dress like an Onion & Roasted Shrimp & Andouille Sausage

It’s hard to be glamorous when you live in a cold climate. If you’ve ever doubted this undeniable truth, just spend ten minutes watching the Golden Globes or Oscars. Heck, you don’t have to stay up for the awards, just watch the preshow parade on the red carpet.

There’s you, wrapped in a blanket, wearing a double layer of leggings, a turtleneck and a ratty old fleece. Out in Los Angeles, Saoirse, Emma, Meryl and Michelle saunter down the red carpet. They are sleek and beautiful in perfectly fitted gowns. Their hair, long and loose or wound into a fabulous twist, is impeccably coiffed. Back on the sofa in New Hampshire, if you’re not wearing a wool cap, your hair is pulled back in an ancient scrunchie.

Now, it’s all well and good to look like a ragtag bundle of fleece and wool in the privacy of your own home. However, whether you like it or not, you’ll eventually need to go out – if for no other reason than to stock up on milk and cocoa. Plus it’s a good bet that, in spite of the cold, you’re still expected to show up for work.

As if life wasn’t busy enough, we now have to worry about getting to work on time in spite of the deep freeze. Hopefully, your boss understands that everything takes longer in the winter in New Hampshire.

Somewhere in my travels, I was given the excellent advice to dress like an onion. I think it might have been in Italy … as in vestiti come’ una cipolla. Whoever offered this sage advice neglected to add that all those layers take time. Not just putting them on but scrounging around to find them.

Take for instance; the long johns I bought the year I returned to New Hampshire. I rarely wear them but when I need them, I really need them. Then, since nothing seems to fit over those heavy long johns, I need to figure out where I stashed the too baggy pants. The ones I bought by mistake. Let’s hope I didn’t finally toss them in the donate pile. Thankfully, the top layers are easier. First, I pull on one of my many turtlenecks, then add a pullover and finally top everything with big, heavy sweater and scarf.

Of course, those are just my inside clothes. Next comes the adorable hat my niece knitted for me, jacket and gloves. Shoes go into the bottomless bag I call a purse and warm boots go on my feet. In my wishful thoughts, my layering has made me look like a well put together Milanese. In reality, I look like the female version on the Michelin man.

Next, it’s time to get the car started and warmed up. If you are one of those crazy people who parks your car outside in spite of the cold, you need to brush the snow off first. By the way, sorry to call you crazy but, I confess, I don’t get it. You have a garage; why don’t you use it? What on earth is so important that it’s inside while your car faces the elements?

For anyone with the misfortune to live in the northeast without a garage, you have my unbounded sympathies. I’ve been there and it’s not fun. A garage is a relatively recent thing for me but I could never go back. The worst was when I lived on the top of a very cold and windy hill in Vermont. Luckily, I could walk to work. More January days than not, the engine refused to turn over and my car stayed put, admiring the frosty view. Is it possible a car needs to dress like an onion too?

Stay warm and bon appétit!

Roasted Shrimp & Andouille Sausage
Unlike a lot of winter comfort food, this cozy dish doesn’t need to bubble in the oven for hours. It comes together in about 30 minutes and pairs beautifully Sweet Potato Polenta. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound cherry tomatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon or to taste ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Olive oil
1 pound smoked andouille sausage, quartered lengthwise and roughly chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup dry white wine
2-2 1/2 pounds extra jumbo (16-20 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined

Put the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Put the tomatoes, onion and bell peppers in a bowl, sprinkle with 2 cloves minced garlic, the cumin and half of the chili powder and herbs, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss again.

Add the sausage to the vegetables and toss to combine. Divide the sausage and vegetables and spread evenly onto two baking sheets. Roast at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, turn the pans and switch oven positions and roast 10 minutes more.

While the sausage and vegetables roast, prepare the shrimp. Put the remaining garlic, chili powder, herbs and the cumin in a bowl, add 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice and white wine and whisk to combine. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Tossing a few times, marinate for 15 minutes.

Add the shrimp to the sausage and vegetables, drizzle with the marinade and spread everything in a single layer. Return to the oven and roast until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook.

Transfer to a platter or individual plates and serve immediately. The shrimp are a delicious with Sweet Potato Polenta.

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One Year Ago – Tortellini en Brodo con Spinaci
Two Years Ago – Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
Three Years Ago – White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens
Four Years Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Five Years Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnuts
Six Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Seven Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Eight Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Nine Years Ago – Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies

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

How are you dealing with the miserable cold? Feel free to share!

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

A Cozy Dinner for a Numbing Cold Weekend Special

The snow is piling up outside but it’s warm and cozy inside. (Knock wood that power stays on!) It is a great day to cuddle up at home with a cup of tea, a blanket and a book. Before I get to that, I have a few suggestions for a cozy dinner this weekend. (Unfortunately, today’s relatively balmy temperature – 15°F – will be short lived. The weekend promises another blast of numbing cold.

Whether you stay in by the fire or bundle up for a ski, skate or snowshoe, it’s going to be a cold weekend. Here are a few suggestions to warm up at the end of the day:

Start the evening in front of the fire. Warm up with a nice glass of red wine and mug of soup. You’ll love my Wild Mushroom Soup. Add a wedge of your favorite cheese and crackers and the hors d’oeuvres are done. Take your time, relax and enjoy.

Eventually, you’ll want to move to the table. For a cozy main course, you can’t beat my Braised Short Ribs. Serve them with my Sweet Potato Polenta and a spoonful of Roasted Carrots with Pearl Onions and/or Roasted Parsnips.

Staying with the cozy theme, enjoy my Bananas Foster for dessert. Serve the fiery bananas with a spoonful of your favorite vanilla, banana or rum raisin ice cream.

Stay warm and bon appétit!

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

How will you celebrate the New Year? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © 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

Holiday Special – New Year’s Day Brunch

Some would say it’s too cold to ski or ice skate. If you agree, why not invite family and friends in for an impromptu brunch? That said, it’s been a long week and, maybe just maybe, you’re getting to a little tired of cooking (say it ain’t so). If that’s the case, make it a potluck.

Here are few dishes to help you get motivated:

If it’s quiche you want, try my almost traditional Quiche. If you prefer some variation of brunch’s favorite cheese and egg pie, turn to my Spinach Ricotta Pie or Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart).

Unless you’d prefer a pancake. How about my Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa or Zucchini Pancakes with a dab of Tapenade. If you haven’t had enough smoked salmon or Gravlax, then try my Savory Blinis or Latkes with a dab of sour cream, a sliver of salmon and a bit of caviar. Then again, you can trade the pancakes for a toasted bagel with that lox.

A baked good or two is nice touch. For savory, try my Irish Soda Bread or Cheesy Pumpkin-Sage Biscuits. Want something sweet? How about Cranberry Coffee Cake or Gingerbread Muffins.

Brew some coffee, whip up a batch of Mimosas or Mango Sparklers and have a lovely brunch.

Happy New Year and bon appétit!

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

How will you celebrate the New Year? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

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

What Cooking on New Year’s Eve?

There are lots of  ways to welcome in the New Year.

Some will celebrate with a raucous buffet or potluck and others with an elegant sit down dinner. I’ll be off to a low-key gathering with tapas and champagne. As long as there is a fire in the fireplace, it sounds good to me. The cold was brutal today – I don’t think the temperature broke zero. (For my Swiss friends that’s 0°F or -18°C.) More cold is promised for at least a week.

Tapas for New Year’s Eve

Whether you are doing it all or you need to bring a dish to a tapas potluck … here are my suggestions:
Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce or Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli
Spanakopita Triangles or Greek Stuffed Mushrooms or … Savory Galette with Spinach, Mushrooms & Manchego
Butternut Squash Tartlets or Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts or Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton or Mushroom Crostini

Fill out the menu with a beautiful platter or two. Try smoked salmon with all the fixings or Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce and some a delicious artisanal cheese and charcuterie board.

Say goodnight (before or after midnight) with a sweet treat:
Triple Chocolate Parfait in tiny dessert glasses, Pot de Crème (Chocolate Cream) or White Hot Chocolate
Pumpkin-Ginger Mousse or Maple Mousse with Apple Compote
Citrus & Spice Sugar Cookies or Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache or Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies or Macadamia Nut Shortbread (or all of the above!)

=o=o=o=

A Festive Buffet or Potluck for New Year’s Eve

Start with a lovely salad:
Crunchy Salad with Apples & Grapes or Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons or Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad
Mixed Greens with Gorgonzola & Walnuts or Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette or Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula Salad

Unless you’re thinking something hearty like Quinoa Salad or Wheat Berry Salad – either or both be a great addition to the buffet table.

A heart soup or chili will be welcome on a brutally cold night:
Hearty Black Bean Soup or White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens
Cheddar Ale Soup or Potato & Cheddar Soup or Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup
Harira (Middle Eastern Soup with Chicken, Chick-Peas and Lentils) or Curried Chicken & Lentil Soup or French Lentil Soup with Chicken & Sausage
Nana Nye’s Prize-Winning Fish Chowder or Spicy Shrimp Chowder
Chili Con Carne or Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash or my favorite Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans

Now, for dessert? How about …
Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing or Apple Bread Pudding  
Double Trouble Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes or Frosty the Snowman Cupcakes or
Gingerbread Cupcakes or Mini Chocolate-Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies
Cheesecake Brownies or Espresso Brownies or Triple Threat Brownies

=o=o=o=

And How About a Cozy but Elegant Dinner Party?

Pass Savory Blinis with Smoked Salmon & Caviar
Come to the table for Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
Move on to Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom SauceTwice-Baked Potatoes and Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Pearl Onions …or… the simplicity of an almost one-dish wonder Braised Lamb with Artichokes & Mushrooms & Creamy Polenta

Something ligher? How about starting with Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
Followed by a Fennel & Feta Salad
and then move on to Fish Stew Provençal with Whole Grain Pilaf and Grilled Ratatouille Stacks

Either way … try my White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle for a grand finish.

However you spend it, have a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration and bon appétit!

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menusFor a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here! © Susan W. Nye, 2017