This Is Spring? Weekend Special

I’m doing my sun dance and thinking positive thoughts for the weekend. It looks like the first weekend of spring may be a dreary bust. Ugh!

If nothing else, you can celebrate the celestial change of seasons with delicious a transitional feast. With one foot still in winter, do your best to shove the other into spring. Your friends will be delighted … especially if they’ve been sitting home watching an icy rain all day. Here are some winter-meets-spring suggestions!

Forget simple cheese and crackers, give my Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts a try. Or step it up another notch with my Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli or Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp.

Sit down to a salad. Perhaps you’d like to toss up my Fennel & Feta Salad or Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad.

For the main course, how about pasta with grilled veggies? My Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms will help you forget the cold … at least for a minute or two.

For dessert? My go-to almost-spring dessert is a bright and tasty Lemon Tart. If you don’t feel like baking, you might like my Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard.

Have a great weekend! 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

Spring Has Sprung? & Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms

Well, this is all rather odd isn’t it? Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere and just one short week before the first day of spring, snowmageddon dropped in. For everyone out there who is so over winter, I’m sorry. Well no, I’m not really sorry at all. In fact, I’m absolutely thrilled.

Between work, bitter cold, rain, gale force winds and who knows what else, I have not spent nearly enough days on the slopes this year. Then, like a miracle, a good old-fashioned snowstorm roars through the northeast. Just like that, it’s winter again.

If you were really looking forward to an early spring, you might be feeling a bit glum with all this fluffy white stuff. Take heart, there may be snow on the ground but you can revel in twelve wonderful hours of daylight. The long days of summer will be here before you know it.

While I’m skiing, here are a few things you can do to cheer up:

Plant seedlings. With two feet of new snow on the ground, it’s still a tad early to be planting in the garden. However, there is nothing to stop you from creating your own seedlings. Get some peat pots and medium and sow as many flats of seedlings as you have sunny windows. There is something quite cheering about watching little plants sprout and grow.

Listen to Vivaldi. It may be clique but I can’t help myself. Every spring, I find myself rustling through the CDs looking for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It you prefer, you can always listen to Frank Sinatra crooning “It Might as Well Be Spring” or Carly Simon sing “Spring Is Here”. Why not put together a whole spring playlist and dance through the day.

Go snowshoeing. In warmer climates, people will be pulling on their rubber boots and happily splashing in spring puddles. Not here. However, there are lots of beautiful trails open to the public. With the sun high in the sky, the snow will begin to melt faster than you would think. Great Brook will begin to babble and the birds will begin to sing. See, living in New Hampshire isn’t half bad.

Dress like an Easter egg. They’re not for everyone but a few pastels might brighten up your day. Trade in that grey sweater for something lemon yellow or lavender. You might be surprised by what you might find in the bottom of the sweater chest. If nothing else, that chartreuse number will stir up fun memories of your trip to Bermuda. As for that lilac turtleneck, it will remind you of your dear old aunt. Might be because she gave it to you or more likely, she always wore lilac.

Make spring rolls or some other spring-y dish. No, of course the veggies won’t be, can’t be local. It’s New Hampshire; there’s two feet of new snow on the ground. However, you can find artichokes and asparagus, peas and pineapples, mangoes, mushrooms, rhubarb and chives in the market. Add the ultimate early sign of spring – a pinch of saffron. This luxurious spice comes from our favorite spring flower, the ever-bright and cheery crocus. It will bring a taste of spring to your table.

Happy spring and bon appétit!

Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms
Pasta with a creamy saffron sauce and grilled veggies is a perfect dish for our not-really-spring season. Enjoy!
Serves 6

Quick Pickled Red Onion (do ahead – recipe follows)
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots or red onion
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 large pinches saffron
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces whole mushrooms, stemmed
Olive oil
Champagne or white wine vinegar
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed
1 3/4-2 pounds homemade, fresh or frozen ravioli
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Prepare the saffron cream sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the shallot, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the cream, saffron, thyme and bay leaf and heat until steaming. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10-15 minutes.

Grill the vegetables: preheat a grill pan or a gas or charcoal grill to medium high.

Toss the mushrooms with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Place the mushrooms on grill, cup-side up, and grill, turning once, until tender, 5–10 minutes. Remove from the grill, cut in quarters and keep warm.

Toss the asparagus with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Grill the asparagus for 1-2 minutes, turn and grill 1 minute more. Remove from the grill, roughly chop and keep warm.

Prepare the ravioli and put it all together: cook the ravioli according to recipe or package directions less 2 minutes. Reserving a little pasta water, drain the pasta.

Remove the bay leaf and thyme twig from the saffron cream. Add the ravioli to the cream with some or all of the pasta water as necessary and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the ravioli to a large platter or individual shallow bowls, top with mushrooms and asparagus, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, garnish with pickled onions and serve.

Quick Pickled Red Onion
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
6 pepper corns
1 bay leaf

Put the sugar, salt and vinegar in Mason jar, let everything sit for a minute or two to dissolve and give it a good shake. Add 1 cup of water and shake again.

Add the onion, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. If necessary, add a little more vinegar and water to cover the onion. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to two weeks. Drain before using.

Refrigerate the extra onion –it is delicious in salads and on burgers.

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One Year Ago – Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
Two Years Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Three Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Four Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Five Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Six Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata

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

What about you? How do you cope when the calendar says spring but meteorologist says winter? Feel free to share!

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

Happy Saint Paddy’s Day Weekend Special

Éirinn go Brách! Happy Saint Paddy’s Day! Time to celebrate with a jig, a pint of Guinness and a delicious Irish dinner.

Need some help with the menu? Here goes:

Get your green on with tasty appetizers! Give my Artichoke Crostini, Asparagus Crostini with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese or Zucchini Pancakes a try.

Next, a great green salad. For a whole lot of crunch try my Crunchy Salad with Apples & Grapes. For something a little different, there is my Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes.

For the main course, there is nothing better than a one-pot, no worries, braise in the oven Irish Lamb Stew. Don’t forget to add a freshly baked loaf of Irish Soda Bread.

Now for dessert. Staying with a green theme, a few drops of food coloring in the frosting will turn my Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting Irish. However, I’m thinking an Irish Coffee with a scoop of ice cream is a delicious idea. You’ll love my Affogato with an Irish Accent.

Have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

Get Your Green On & Irish Lamb Stew

So … Friday is Saint Patrick’s Day. The Irish and those that wish they were Irish will celebrate the day. It began as a religious feast day for Ireland’s patron saint. It has evolved into a celebration of all things Irish with parades, dancing, festive foods and a whole lot of green.

Unless you live in Ireland, you’ll still need to report to work as usual. However, the timing isn’t half-bad. It’s nice to know you can sleep in the next morning if you drink one too many green beers. Although my memory is a little hazy, I seem to remember Saint Paddy’s Day pub crawls when I was in college. It’s been a while.

Now, if you aren’t into crawling or you town has few if any pubs, how should you celebrate?

First and foremost, you must wear green. It’s not a problem for me. I like green; I drive a green car and have for years. If you’re not exactly partial to this verdant hue, start digging through your closet. There must be a green sweater or turtleneck in there somewhere. If you can’t find a thing, take a trip to a dollar store and pick up a green bandana. It will have to do.

Now that you’ve got your green on, you should march in a parade. If you like tradition, the first Saint Paddy’s parade took place in 1762. The only problem for those of us in the wilds of New Hampshire, the closest parade is in Manchester. Even then, it’s not until the 26th. There is a parade in South Boston this Sunday. If you can’t wait or want to stay closer to home, make your own parade. With any luck, the weather will be nice. Take a stroll up and down Main Street and show your colors. If you’d like, paint a little green shamrock on each check. Just remember, shamrocks have three leaves not four.

During your stroll, you could search for leprechauns. Then again, leprechaun hunts might be one of those silly things you do after drinking too much green beer. Anyway, I’m not sure I’d really recommend it. The odds of finding a leprechaun and his pot of gold must be what? About even with winning the lottery? Particularly this year! It’s been a blustery month, it wouldn’t surprise me if the little fellows got swept up and blown back to the Emerald Isle.

Next, enjoy an Irish feast. All across the United States, especially in New England, people will be boiling up corned beef and cabbage. However, if you think it is an Irish tradition, you’d be wrong. Historically, you’d be more likely to find pork or lamb than beef on an Irish table. The Irish are famous for their stew. Why not stir up a pot?

End the evening with a jig. It doesn’t matter if you know what you are doing. The point is to have some fun. Find some fiddle music and kick up your heels. Don’t be shy; no one expects you to go all Riverdance. Let go, embrace the music and enjoy the laughter.

Éirinn go Brách, have fun and bon appétit!

Irish Lamb Stew
The epitome of comfort food, a traditional Irish stew is the perfect meal on a blustery March day. Enjoy!
Serves 6
2-3 ounces slab or thick cut bacon, chopped
Flour for dusting the lamb
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
About 2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon or to taste dried chili flakes
4-6 carrots cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup Guinness or other dark beer
3 cups chicken stock
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 pound new potatoes
5-6 stalks celery cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 leeks, cut in 1-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon in a heavy casserole over medium-low heat until crisp and brown. Remove the bacon and reserve.

Season the flour with salt and pepper. Lightly dust the lamb cubes with the seasoned flour. Brown the lamb in the bacon fat over medium-high heat a few minutes per side. Remove the lamb and add it to the reserved bacon.

Reduce the heat to medium. If necessary, add a little butter or olive oil to the bacon fat, add the onion, sprinkle with dried chili flakes and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.

Put the lamb and bacon back into the stew pot. Add the carrot, beer and chicken stock and season with the herbs, salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven and cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Stir in the potatoes, celery and leeks, return the pot to the oven and continue cooking, covered, until the vegetables and lamb are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If the stew seems dry, add more beer and/or stock.

Ladle into shallow bowls and serve.

Can be made ahead, cooled to room temperature and refrigerated overnight. Reheat in a 350 degree oven until bubbling.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Parsnips with Rosemary
Two Years Ago – Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin
Three Years Ago – Zucchini Pancakes
Four Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Five Three Years Ago – Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons
Six Years Ago – Grilled Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant
Eight Years Ago – Fettuccine with Classic Bolognese Sauce
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? Now that the seasons are changing, how will you spend time outside? Feel free to share!

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

More Winter Weekend Special

Sun on Tuesday, raining on Wednesday, blustery winds on Thursday and polar express weekend – it’s a typical almost spring week in New Hampshire. It seems that every time I get a free morning to ski – either it’s blistering cold or the wind is blowing an arctic gale. It’s making me cranky!

What to do? Last weekend I spent some time in the kitchen experimenting with shrimp curry and making black bean soup.

With frostbiting temperature, I guess I’ll be back in the kitchen this weekend. What about you? Would you like to come over for a kitchen party? No one ever accused my kitchen of being spacious so maybe a potluck is a better idea? Maybe you’ll host your own. Host or guest, here are a few suggestions:

Appetizers to bring along or make together! Dip into some Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus while you flip Savory Blinis and then top with smoked salmon and caviar or whip up some Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard.

Salads to toss! Roasted veggies are a great addition to winter salads. Roast the vegetables and make the vinaigrette in advance. A helpful friend is sure to step forward to put it all together. Choose from my Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad, Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad or Mixed Greens with Roasted Mushrooms.

Bring on the casseroles! Definitely make ahead, a casserole bubbling in the oven will cut down on the kitchen chaos. My Poverty Casserole gets high marks from hungry skiers. Maybe you’ll go with a classic like Decadent Mac & Cheese or Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach (or maybe … Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna).

When in doubt, ask your favorite baker to bring dessert. You might suggest a simply delicious Carrot Cake, an over the top Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake or a fabulous Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart.

Have a great weekend! 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

Be Bold for Change & Shrimp Curry with Spinach

International Women’s Day is tomorrow. Although it has been around for more than a century, IWD is not particularly well known in the United States. I doubt you’ll find a large stock of cards to choose from at the Colonial Pharmacy or even your favorite gift shop. However, after the historic Women’s March in January, there might be a bit more interest and excitement this year.

So what’s it all about? A National Women’s Day was declared in the early days of the last century to honor the Garment Workers’ Strike of 1908. It quickly went international. From Armenia and Azerbaijan to Chile, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Romania, Zambia and more, people around the world observe International Women’s Day on March 8. It is a day to celebrate women’s achievement s and push for gender equality.

How can you, should you celebrate International Women’s Day? Be bold, be bold for change. IWD is a call to action to help make a better working world, a gender equal world. Think of it as an opportunity to commit yourself to change. Overwhelmed? Don’t be; it’s okay to take one simple step. And please, don’t be shy. Feel free to declare what you will do to help accelerate gender parity in your home, in your state or across the world.

The leaders of the Women’s March have suggested that, if they can, women should take the day off from work. More than forty years ago, the women of Iceland went on one-day strike and it changed the course of history. They skipped the office as well as the never-ending pile of laundry, cooking and childcare. They took to the streets for a massive demonstration and brought the country to a standstill. Schools, shops and offices closed. The businesses that remained open were bedlam with harried fathers trying to get some work done and keep their children entertained.

Next, women can exercise their economic power and stay out of the stores. Women drive seventy to eighty percent of all buying decisions in the United States. Decide to buy nothing on March 8. If you feel you can’t possible stay out of the shops for even one day, stick to small, local women- or minority-owned businesses.

And finally, you can put your pink hat away. The color of International Women’s Day is red. There may not be a march up Main Street in your town or mine. However, when you stroll into the local bookstore or visit a friend in the hospital, your red sweater will show your support.

Don’t forget to celebrate. Read a book by your favorite woman author, visit the Soo Sunny Park exhibition at the Currier Museum or see the stars at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. International Women’s Day is a time to honor women and feel inspired by their long list of social, economic, cultural and political achievements.

Be bold, celebrate and bon appétit!

Shrimp Curry with Spinach
Perhaps you will end your day with a gathering of friends to celebrate your own accomplishments, friendship and solidarity. Enjoy!
Serves 6

About 1/4 cup your favorite curry paste*
Olive oil
1/2 onion, cut in thin wedges
1 carrot, cut in small dice
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1/2-1 cup shrimp or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups Basmati rice
1-2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1 1/2-2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
8-10 ounces fresh baby spinach
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Chopped cilantro

Heat the curry paste in a saucepan over medium high. If the paste is stiff, add a little olive oil. Add the onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper and stir to evenly coat the vegetables. Sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté 2 minutes more.

Stir in the coconut milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool the sauce to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.

While the sauce simmers, cook the rice. Bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil. Add the rice and cook for 15 minutes. Drain the rice and return it to the pot. Stir in the butter, cover and let the rice sit for 10 minutes.

Transfer the sauce to a large skillet and raise the heat to high. When the sauce is bubbling, add the shrimp and toss to coat. Add the spinach in handfuls and toss to coat and wilt. Continue tossing until the shrimp are pink and all the spinach has wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime zest and juice.

To serve: spoon the rice into shallow bowls, top with shrimp and spinach and generously sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

* Curry paste combines many different and all wonderful spices. You can make your own or find a jar in specialty food stores and some large supermarkets. Look for curry paste NOT curry sauce. You don’t want to overpower the shrimp so start with a mild paste and continue experimenting from there.

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One Year Ago – Mini Tarte Tatin
Two Years Ago – Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago – Potato & Cheddar Soup
Four Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Five Years Ago – Guinness Lamb Shanks
Six Years Ago – Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Seven Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Eight Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding

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

What about you? Now that the seasons are changing, how will you spend time outside? Feel free to share!

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

Winter Is Back Weekend Special

buoys_snow_02March comes in like a lion. This year is no exception. After a delightful taste of spring the cold and wind is back. With any bit of luck, there will be enough sun to encourage all of us out the door for a little skiing, snowshoeing or a walk around the lake. Even if you end up at the gym, do try to get some exercise.

A little cooking might also be in order. Call a few friends and invite them over for a delicious dinner or suggest a potluck. Here are a few suggestions:

Let the wind blow while you cozy up to the fire with a glass of wine. Invite your friends help themselves to Artichoke Crostini or Zucchini Pancakes with Tapenade.

When you are ready to gather around the table, think colorful with a great salad. You and your friends will love my Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula Salad. If you’d prefer cozy soup to start, give my Homemade Tomato Soup a try.

Follow up with my current favorite pasta. As you know, I have a new favorite at least two or three times a year! Fickle or not, this one is wonderful. If not this weekend, try my Spaghetti with Cauliflower & Olives soon. For a delicious alternative, consider my Creamy Polenta with Mushroom & Kale Ragù.

End the evening on a sweet note. You earned it on the slopes or gym! Perhaps you’ll think spring and bake a Lemon Tart. If you’re short on time, then give my Bananas Foster a try.

Have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

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

How are you spending the long holiday 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