Christmas Traditions & Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes

Like most people, I have many cherished Christmas traditions. Some have changed and evolved; others have become treasured memories. When I was little, my sister and I visited Santa every year. We would patiently or not so patiently stand in line to give him the rundown on our hearts’ desire. Both Brenda and I were always dressed in our party best. Seeing Santa was an event, in and of itself, not a last minute afterthought on an already busy day. When we got older, we’d followed up with a letter. After all Santa’s a busy guy, we didn’t want to assume he’d remember every detail of our long lists.

Every December, my mother brought out a slightly worn but hardly forlorn book from her childhood. I love books and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is one of my all time favorites. Each night Mom would read a chapter or two. We might beg for more but she had a plan and her timing was impeccable. She always finished a day or two before Christmas Eve because one and only one story could be read on The Night Before Christmas. Excited beyond imagination, my sister and I cuddled up with Dad in his big armchair for the reading and rereading of Mr. Moore’s famous poem. Luckily my brother John came along about the time we got too old or too cool to listen and we could eavesdrop. Now I eavesdrop while John reads the poem to his girls … and I think I’m about due for a rereading of Santa’s life and adventures.

Last month, I headed down to Florida to celebrate Thanksgiving and spend a few weeks in the sun. While I was there, my dad resurrected an old family tradition, the annual lights tour. A few flamingos were mixed in with the reindeer but it was a wonderful flashback.

Every year, a week or two before Christmas, Dad piled us into the family station wagon for a drive through town. We wove our way through the neighborhood and then checked out the brightly lit window displays downtown. Next we explored strange streets and unknown neighborhoods, winding our way throughout town. It was like a treasure hunt. We’d make a turn and hit an extravaganza of light and color; take another and get next to nothing. My sister and I were partial to splendiferous displays of multicolor lights and Santa riding high in a sleigh pulled by eight, tiny reindeer. Mom preferred the cool icy look of all blue lights. We would ooh and awe and constantly change our vote for best house. After the lights tour we always headed down Route 9 for a special family dinner at Ken’s. Ken’s was the site of most if not all of our out-to-dinner celebrations.

The decorations in our own yard were quite modest. Dad kept it simple with a spot lit wreath on the door and a couple of strings of multicolor lights draped over the bushes. Except for one year. That was the year, my grandfather decided that he’d had enough with decorating in the cold and snow and gave us all his outdoor lights. We had quite a display, truly spectacular, if only for a minute or two. Instead of going for breadth, Dad went for depth. The bushes and front doorway were laden with brightly colored bulbs. We all stood in the yard to watch the unveiling, he hit the switch and snap, crackle, POP, most of Grandpa’s ancient bulbs exploded. It was a very good show while it lasted.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions and memories? Have a wonderful holiday with family and friends! Bon appétit!

Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes, Olives & Feta
This salad is a wonderful combination of sweet and savory. It is the perfect start to a special holiday dinner. It’s on my menu for Christmas Eve this year. Enjoy!
Serves 12

1 – 1 1/2 pounds seedless red grapes, stemmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Champagne vinegar
1 small red onion, cut in thin wedges
12 ounces mixed greens
Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
24 Sicilian green olives, pitted and quartered
4 ounces feta, crumbled
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the grapes in a large, nonstick, ovenproof skillet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon champagne vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange the grapes in single layer and transfer to the oven. Roast the grapes for about 30 minutes or until they are shriveled and lightly caramelized. Reserve the grapes and liquid from the pan separately. You’ll use the liquid in the vinaigrette.

Put the onion in a small, nonstick, ovenproof skillet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon champagne vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast the onions for about 15 minutes or until they are tender crisp and lightly caramelized. Reserve.

Put the greens in a large bowl and toss with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Arrange on a large deep platter or divide among individual plates. Top with grapes, olives and onions; sprinkle with feta and toasted pecans and serve.

It’s best to prep the vinaigrette, grapes, olives, feta and pecans in advance. At the last minute, toss the greens with the vinaigrette and assemble the salad.

Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

1 shallot, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic
Pinch dried thyme
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 – 1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the shallot, garlic and thyme in a small oven proof baking dish (I use a custard cup), drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the garlic and shallot are very soft, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Put the roasted shallot and garlic, liquid from the roasted grapes, vinegar, mustard, honey and Worcestershire sauce in a blender; season with salt and pepper and process until smooth. With the machine running, add 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil or to taste and process until smooth.

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The nice people at Olivia’s Organics (they sponsor my Eat Well – Do Good dinners) would like to offer all Around the Table readers a coupon good for $1.00 toward the purchase of their favorite Olivia’s product.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions and memories? 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

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Mad Hatter Day & Ginger Scones

Free Picture of the Mad Hatter Engaging in Rhetoric with the Tea Party Guests. Click Here to Get Free Images at Clipart Guide.com

Break Free from Habit and Convention

Calling all contrarians! Lovers of the unthinkable, preposterous and absurd, October 6th is Mad Hatter Day. You remember the Mad Hatter from Alice and Wonderland. He always seemed to be in trouble with the Queen of Hearts. Although I guess he was only one of many who raised her ire and cries, “Off with his head.” Alice met him at afternoon tea which he shared with the March Hare. The tea totaling twosome drove her to distraction by talking in riddles. Truth be told, we can’t really blame the poor Mad Hatter for his foolish stuff and nonsense. Assuming he really was a hatter, he was most likely crazed by mercury poisoning.

Mad Hatter Day was started by a bunch of computer geeks in Boulder, Colorado in the mid-eighties. Not as a grand gesture or political statement but because they had nothing better to do. Mad Hatter Day is autumn’s answer to April Fools’ Day, but without the pranks. It is a day when everything is turned topsy-turvy. When in is out and out is in; up is down and down is up.

Throughout the year we all smile, accept and even openly champion all sorts of crazy, cockeyed or ridiculous ideas and activities. Why? Because that’s the way we do things! It doesn’t matter if deep down inside it seems ridiculous, it’s the status quo.

So we:

1.  Drive to the gym to exercise,
2.  Wear a necktie to work on a sweltering day,
3.  Work when we are on vacation,
4.  Clip coupons to save money on things we don’t need or really even want but have to buy because of all the money we save!
5.  And spend billions and billions on our hair to make it look natural.

Then again, we:

6.  Drink our morning coffee or tea from a bunch of ugly, mixed-and-unmatched freebie mugs that we’ve collected at conferences, gas station openings and various and sundry events and occasions.
7.  And hang onto an old jacket (or skirt or pants or whatever) in case it comes back in style, even though it hasn’t fit in a decade or two.

Finally, in our hustling and bustling world, we never have time to relax, sit and chat over a cup of coffee or glass of wine because we are too busy:

8.  Multitasking and simultaneously communicating with dozens of people or more with instant messages, Tweets, voicemails and emails,
9.  Not to mention the cell phone which is permanently glued to our ear,
10. Or our addiction to reality television even though there is nothing real about it.

This Mad Hatter Day, take a deep breath, throw caution to the wind and denounce at least one or two of the absurdities you endure the other 364 days of the year. Take a long walk. Leave your necktie at home. Let your hair go natural. Invite someone to tea, use the good china, turn off your cell phone and enjoy a real conversation. Smile and celebrate a day free of some of the ridiculous habits of modern life. Have a wonderful Mad Hatter Day,

Bon appétit!

Ginger Scones
The perfect autumn teatime treat. Call your best pals or that interesting new acquaintance, get out your teapot, the good cups and enjoy!
Makes 12-24 scones

2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Grated peel of 1/2 orange
2/3 cup crystallized ginger, diced
10 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Spiced Cream Cheese Icing (optional) recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter a large baking sheet.

Put the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, spices and orange peel in the food processor and pulse to combine. Add the crystallized ginger and pulse to combine.

Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3/4 cup heavy cream; pulse until the dough starts to come together in a ball. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, pat together into a ball and knead gently until smooth, 8-12 turns.

Divide the dough into thirds. Pat each portion into a 3/4-inch thick round.  Cut each round into wedges; 4 for large scones and 8 for small. Place the scones about 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with cream.

Bake the scones until light brown, 15-18 minutes. Drizzle with Spiced Cream Cheese Icing and serve warm or at room temperature.

Spiced Cream Cheese Icing
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons cream cheese at room temperature
1 tablespoon sour cream

Whisk together the powdered sugar and ginger in a medium bowl. Add the cream cheese and sour cream and stir with a fork until smooth and creamy.

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What’s your favorite teatime treat? 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 other, cleverly named 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

It’s Apple Picking Time & Apple Crisp

I am a bookworm. Whether it’s the latest best seller or something more serious, I love getting lost in a book. When I went off to first grade I soon discovered that the best thing about school was not recess but trips to the library and learning to read. Of course picture books were great but I became absolutely, positively hooked when I graduated to “chapter books”. It was wonderful to escape into new, interesting, even magical worlds. Life in my quiet suburban neighborhood was nothing but dull compared to the fascinating lives of Pippi Longstocking, Nancy Drew and Mary Poppins.

By the time I was in the fourth grade, the Upham School library was one of my favorite haunts. That’s where I discovered history. There were at least a couple of shelves devoted to the biographies of famous and not-quite-so famous Americans. I’m pretty sure I read them all from Louisa May Alcott to Booker T. Washington. Thanks to those books I aced the history questions in Trivial Pursuit. I read about humanitarians, inventors, patriots, politicians, soldiers, activists, artists, educators and writers. I learned about the revolution, George Washington and Paul Revere. I read about fascinating inventions and Eli Whitney, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington Carver. I was particularly interested in the stories of famous and a few not-so famous women. There were the nurses, Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale. There were the reformers, including the likes of Betsy Ross, Lucretia Mott and Helen Keller. And there were even a few colorful divas; the courageous and ever so lively Dolly Madison, the unsinkable Molly Brown and the charming Juliette Gordon Low.

I always had a special fondness for anyone who chose an unusual path, a road less traveled. I still do. Johnny Appleseed certainly fell into that category. Before I read his biography, I think I might have assumed that Johnny Appleseed was a myth or fictional character, the Jolly Green Giant of all things apple. Truth be told, Johnny Appleseed’s story sounds a bit more legend than fact. However, unlike Paul Bunyan, the Headless Horseman and Rip Van Winkle, Johnny Appleseed was a real-live folk hero. At eighteen he left New England and headed west to become an itinerant horticulturist and preacher. For sixty years he wandered barefoot through the countryside sowing apple seeds, cultivating orchards and preaching. Rumor has it that some of his orchards still exist today.

While apples are available from China and South America throughout the year, there is nothing like a tart, juicy, locally grown apple. Along with the spectacular foliage, a crisp, McIntosh or Cortland is the very definition of fall in New England. Picking-your-own is a wonderful way to enjoy an afternoon outdoors. Family farms can be found throughout New Hampshire and many open their orchards to the public in September and October. While you are there, don’t forget the apple cider. It’s wonderful cold and just as wonderful mulled with a little cinnamon, cloves and ginger.

Enjoy apple season. Take a long walk through an old orchard and pick a bushel or a peck. Next fill your kitchen with the fragrant perfume of apples, cinnamon and nutmeg and delight your friends and family with a delicious old fashioned crumble or pie. If you don’t feel like baking, grab one of those just picked crispy apples and settle down with a book in your favorite armchair for a good read.

Bon appétit!

Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp with Cranberry Coulis
Apple Crisp is great for fall, an easy crowd pleaser and a favorite of young and old alike. Enjoy.
Serves 10-12

5 pounds Macoun, Granny Smith or McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and cut in wedges
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons calvados or Apple Jack
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a large baking dish.
2. Combine the apples with the zests, lemon juice, calvados, brown sugar and spices. Pour into the buttered baking dish.
3. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the apples. Put the crisp on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 1 hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly. Serve warm with a spoonful of cranberry coulis and vanilla ice cream.

Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature and cut in pieces
1 cup oatmeal

1. Combine flour, sugar, salt and spices in a food processor; pulse to combine. Add the butter, pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the oatmeal and pulse a few times to combine.

Cranberry Coulis
2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 cups apple cider
1 tablespoon calvados or apple jack
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch nutmeg

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool.
2. Transfer the cranberry sauce to a blender and process until smooth. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little more cider. Strain through a sieve into a bowl; discard the seeds and skins.
3. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Freeze any leftover coulis in a plastic container for up to 1 month.

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One Year Ago – Ravioli with Sage Pesto
Two Years Ago – Brie & Sun-dried Tomato Omelet  

What is your favorite apple recipe? 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 other, cleverly named 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

Right of Way & Crostini with Goat Cheese

Throughout my childhood and teenage years my Mother was determined to keep me busy. I’m not sure what delinquent activities or criminal behaviors she was trying to save me from, but she succeeded. Throughout the school year, she was more or less satisfied that the demands of the public school system were enough to keep me out of trouble. She felt no overwhelming need to extend the day and send my klutzy self to ballet or my tone deaf self to piano lessons. Pre-Title IX, girls were excluded from the town soccer league, so I was not drafted onto a team.

But the summer, that was a different story. I would have been perfectly content to while away the hours sitting on the beach. A perfect day would have included friends to chat with, a book to read and a few swims out to the raft. That agenda did not work for Mom.

She had me in swimming lessons forever. I didn’t just learn to swim, I earned all my life saving certificates. She signed me up for a golf class and tennis lessons. Golf didn’t last long but she enlisted me in any and every tennis tournament and round-robin she could find. Imagine the worst tennis player ever; I was worse than that.

My Dad taught us to sail. A longtime passion, he began sailing at the age of five. Neither my sister, brother nor I had a choice; we were all in and around boats from an early age. Pleasant Lake and its fickle winds provided a few fun and many challenging, even frustrating, afternoons.

Every Wednesday or Thursday, weather and wind permitting, there was a kids’ Sunfish race. My Mother was delighted. Here was yet another activity to keep me busy. Participation in the weekly event was not negotiable. My racing record was far from stellar. I never won a race; the closest I came to victory was fourth. In my defense, I’m one of those people who can’t tell their right from their left or their left from their right. Change that to port and starboard, add a bunch of rules and right of ways and I was a nervous wreck.

One race in particular stands out in my mind.

For once, a steady wind was blowing and it was the perfect day for a sail. Hoping for an advantage, we began to circle our boats around the start line. It was all pretty chaotic with too many boats in too a small space. Just minutes before the horn was due to blast I sailed right into the Mann’s boat. Maybe I got my ports and starboards mixed up or forgot who had right of way (it wasn’t me). Then again, I might have confused the dance around the start line with a watery game of chicken. I can’t really remember. Whatever it was … POW! I made a direct hit at full speed.

Thanks to me, Roger had a ginormous hole in the side of his boat. Off he limped to shore. I followed. I figure the least I could do was offer him my boat for the race. He didn’t seem particularly bothered, declined and went off to play tennis or something. Somewhat reminiscent of Scarlett O’Hara, I quietly vowed to never, ever sail again.

The damages were quickly repaired and within a day or two the Mann’s Sunfish was back in the water winning races. As for me, I spent the rest of the summer thinking up excuses to stay off the boat. I’m not sure but it seems to me that Mom might have relaxed a little on all the lessons and tournaments. After all Labor Day was still a few weeks away, who knew what additional havoc I might have wrought?

Hoping your summer is packed with fun.

Bon appétit!

Crostini with Goat Cheese, Roasted Tomatoes & Olives
These crostini are always a huge hit! Enjoy!
Makes about 25 pieces

2 pints grape tomatoes
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced – ask the bakery to slice it for you
4 ounces (1 stick) butter
11 ounces soft goat cheese, at room temperature
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
About 25 oil-cured black olives, pitted and chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the tomatoes, onion and pepper in a heavy ovenproof skillet. Add the olive oil, vinegar and herbs, season with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Roast in the oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Add the garlic, toss to combine and continue roasting until the vegetables are soft and the edges start to brown, about 10 minutes more. Let cool slightly.

Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and pulse to roughly chop and combine.

Put the goat cheese and cream in a small bowl. Use a fork to mash the goat cheese and combine it with the cream. Stir until the goat cheese is smooth and spreadable, adding a little more cream if necessary.

Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread a thick layer of goat cheese onto the other side, top with a spoonful of the roasted and chopped tomatoes and a few pieces of olive.

Bake at 375 degrees until the buttered side of the bread is golden brown and the cheese is piping hot, 10-15 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Corn & Chicken Chowder
Two Years Ago – Joe Nye’s Perfect Lobster 

Do you have a favorite summer story? 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 other, cleverly named 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 Trip to Memory Lane & Greek Green Beans

When was the last time you returned to your old neighborhood? The one you left when you were eight or nine or ten. Unless it’s all been torn down, I’m guessing that the houses and the yards have miraculously shrunk since the last time you visited. Hopefully it’s not gotten shabbier.

Last summer I took a quick one day trip to Cape Cod with my Mom and Dad. They met on the Cape and sent the first ten or twelve summers of their married-with-children life back in the old neighborhood. Even though it was a long day, we took a little time to do the Memory Lane thing before heading back north.

First we drove through the little town, past the bandstand, past the snack bar with the salt water taffy and the fish market with the lobster tank. I loved going to the fish market when I was little. I was always the brave kid in the bunch. I’d plunge my whole arm right into the tank and pull out my lobster and anyone else’s. I suppose that’s not allowed any more, probably breaks a health code.

Next we drove over to Mom’s old beach cottage. I couldn’t believe how narrow the roads had become. They were no wider than a goat trail. I don’t know how my grandfather navigated his big old Lincoln through those little lanes. Nana and Grandpa’s yard was definitely a lot sunnier when I was eight and Nana’s big, bright blue hydrangea has disappeared.

The yard I remembered was not just sunnier, it was a lot bigger. I’m sure there’d been plenty of room for the Lincoln, the hydrangea and games of tag and hide-and-go-seek. Now there is barely enough room for the pile of bicycles jumbled up on the lawn. The house has shrunk as well and must have been moved. It was never so close to the road. Finally, the front porch has disappeared and the house is no longer white but these changes probably have nothing to do with my capricious memory.

After the slow drive by the Westland’s, we snaked through the narrow roads to get to Dad’s old house. This house has always had a special place in our hearts. The Westland’s house was their summer vacation home. It had a certain charm but it was just a house when compared to the gem that Pop Nye build down the street and around the corner. My grandfather was a master carpenter and the little red cottage on Bayberry Road was a masterpiece. On the outside it was a lovely little cape. On the inside it was filled with wonderful details and woodwork.

It was Nana and Pop’s retirement home, built for two with an occasional visitor. Even when we were little we knew it was compact. Now it’s positively dwarfed by the neighboring house. An oversized McMansion now swamps the tiny, postage stamp-sized lot next door. Thank goodness Nana is gone because this new house blocks her view of the water. Nana always kept her binoculars handy in the living room to watch the ships in the canal andapproaching storms.

We were sad to see that Pop’s pristinely kept house and garden were no longer pristinely kept. The house was still red but everything looked a little shabby and Pop’s roses were gone. In the evening, he used to pick Japanese beetles off the roses and drop them into a jar of kerosene. Always the brave one, I helped him do it. Looking at the slightly ratty-tatty house we knew it was time to go, and quickly, before any of these new sites replaced our fond old memories.

Enjoy your summer and fill it up with lots of special memories with family and friends!

Bon appétit!

Photos:
Top from left to right – me, my cousin Wally and sister Brenda
Bottom: Mom & Dad with Nana Nye in front of the little red house

Greek Green Beans
Enjoy this delicious alternative to plain old steamed green beans at your next family cookout.
Serves 12

3 pounds green beans, trimmed
2 medium red onions, cut into thin wedges
2 pints grape tomatoes
Olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup Niçoise, Kalamata or oil cured Greek olives
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
4 ounces feta cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Put the beans, tomatoes and onions on a couple of rimmed baking sheets, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Distribute in an even layer. Roast for 10 minutes. Stir and toss the vegetables. Cook for 10-15 minutes longer. Beans will be dark golden brown in spots and slightly shriveled.

While the beans are roasting, pit the olives and quarter lengthwise.

Remove the beans from the oven, sprinkle with oregano and toss. Top with the olives and crumbled feta and serve.

Serve hot or at room temperature. If serving at room temperature, this dish can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve. About a half hour before serving, remove from refrigerator.

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One Year Ago –  Blueberry Pie
Two Years Ago – Grilled Lamb

Have you been back to your old neighborhood? What did you find? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

To join my growing list of blog subscribers. : 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, my other, cleverly named 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

The Heat Is On & Thai Salad

How is it that 78 feels positively sweltering or at least very, very warm in the middle of April but delightfully cool and breezy in July? That was the temperature early this morning as I headed out for a walk around Pleasant Lake. By the time I got home again the digits had reversed. It was 87. The mercury has continued to climb without mercy. It’s now a sultry 97. Except with the humidity, it feels like 102. Who figures that out anyway? I’m not sure how he or she arrived at that particularly number. I just know it’s darn hot.

The heat and humidity make me nostalgic and more than a little bit envious of the lazy days we spent growing up on (and in) Pleasant Lake. By midmorning my sister, brother and I would be out the door and on our way to the beach. My brother spent the entire day in the water, much of it under water. My sister and I parked ourselves in the shade. Periodically we would dash across the hot sand to the water and dive in for a swim to the raft and back.

My mother always thought that busy children were happy children. At least that’s what she told us. She believed that it didn’t take long for idle children to become bored children. And as far as she was concerned, boredom leads to nowhere and nothing but trouble. She would try to convince us to play tennis. In the simmering heat we usually managed to convince her that tomorrow was another day. If there was a bit of wind we could sometimes be persuaded to take the sunfish out for a sail. At least on a sailboat, we would abandon ship from time to time to cool off in the lake.

In general, the most strenuous activity I wanted to pursue on very hot days was to hunker down under the trees and read a Nancy Drew mystery or some other ‘tween book. In fact it seems like a pretty good idea right now! I was bookworm as a kid and still am today.

A good book is one of life’s great escapes. It can take you anywhere from the jungles of Malaysia to Arizona’s deserts. Or better yet, on a day like today, a book can take you to the snowfields of Alaska or the top of Kilimanjaro or Zermatt. You can visit luxurious palaces or swanky Manhattan apartments, even ordinary houses in ordinary towns.

A good book invites you into the lives of all sorts of interesting people from the wonderfully heroic to the terribly clever and dreadfully devious. It can also introduce you to quirky individuals, funny characters and just plain silly types. Real or imagined, I have met some of my favorite characters in books. After all, what ten year old girl doesn’t want to be as clever as Nancy Drew or drive a shiny, new roadster? Even when I didn’t know what a roadster was, I wanted to drive one. I think I still do.

Stay cool and enjoy the summer!  Bon appétit!

Thai Salad
This salad is perfect on a hot night. It’s a great one dish supper and makes fast work of leftovers. It is also wonderful as an appetizer or side dish with the veggies only.  Very refreshing with lots of crunch! Enjoy.
Serves 4-6

1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
3-6 radishes, cut in julienne
1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut in julienne
2 cups bean sprouts
1 carrot, cut into curls (use a peeler)
1 avocado diced
1/2 – 1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut in julienne
2-3 green onions thinly sliced or 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
12-16 ounces thinly sliced steak, chicken or shrimp (don’t cook, use last night’s leftovers)
Garnish: sesame seeds

Toss together all the vegetables and herbs in a large bowl.

Just before serving, add the steak, chicken or shrimp and toss the salad with enough dressing to lightly coat. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve.

Thai Vinaigrette 

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Thai or other chili sauce, or to taste
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3-3/4 cup olive, canola or vegetable oil

Combine the lime juice, honey, soy sauce, chili sauce, garlic, sesame oil, salt and pepper in a blender and process to combine.

With the blender running, slowly add the oil and continue to process until combined.

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One Year Ago – Sweet Dream Bars
Two Years Ago – Lobster Salad

The nice people at Olivia’s Organics (they sponsor my Eat Well – Do Good dinners) would like to offer all Around the Table readers a coupon good for $1.00 toward the purchase of their favorite Olivia’s product.

Do you have a question? An idea, a few thoughts or an opinion you’d like to share? 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 other, cleverly named 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

Summer Breakfast & Blueberry Muffins

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy. Or at least for the week or two or three when you leave the rat race behind and head for the beach or mountains. It’s lovely to say goodbye to schedules, back-to-back meetings and carpools. It’s wonderful to relax, breathe some clean country air and take it slow.

With no alarm to blast you out of a sound sleep, taking it slow may include an extra hour or two of shuteye. Or maybe you prefer to get up with the sun and then spend a long lazy morning on the porch with an extra cup of coffee and time to actually read the newspaper. If you’re lucky, maybe, just maybe, someone will cook you up a big country breakfast.

My Dad is famous from coast to coast for his waffles. Dad’s waffles have become a special tradition with the youngest Nyes. His three youngest granddaughters leave the Boston suburbs behind and spend most of the summer on Pleasant Lake. They frequently charm their grandfather into making them waffles, at least once a week, sometimes more. His great-grandsons visit from California every year or two. They look forward to swimming, kayaking, sailing and Grampa’s waffles. Not necessarily in that order.

These are not fresh from-the-freezer-to-the-toaster waffles but are made-to-order and served hot off the waffle iron. They are universally known as Grampa’s awful waffles because they are awfully good. Some mornings they deserve the name because it is awfully chaotic as he tries, with limited success, to feed five or six or more kids simultaneously. Dad’s waffles have become so famous that other people’s grandchildren sometimes stop by, as if by chance, as soon as the iron is hot.

I have to accept at least some of the blame for this mayhem. Sometime in the early nineties, I bought Dad his first waffle iron. He is one of those guys who have everything. Finding Christmas and birthday gifts for him is generally impossible, or at the least very difficult. So from time to time, I skip the gloves, wallet, sweater or golf balls and go for something a bit more creative. Or as some might argue, a bit more foolish. The waffle iron was for one of those Christmases. You may disagree, he may have disagreed, but I thought I was terribly clever.

My two older nephews, who are now twenty-something, thought it was a terrific idea. Thanks to them, the waffle iron did not end up at the church rummage sale or in the back of the closet. It was put to work almost immediately and Dad has been making waffles ever since.

His secret recipe? Easy. Buy some Bisquick, eggs and milk and follow the directions on the box. Serve hot, smothered in butter and drenched in pure, sweet New Hampshire maple syrup. But these festive and chaotic mornings are more than a buttery sweet and syrupy breakfast. Kids grow up fast and before long Grampa’s awful waffles will be one of many special memories of summer on Pleasant Lake for this youngest generation of Nyes.

Enjoy and bon appétit!

Blueberry Muffins
Since you don’t need a recipe for Dad’s awful waffles, here’s another breakfast treat. Get an extra cup of coffee, pull up a chair on the porch and enjoy!
Makes about 32 muffins

3 1/2 cup sifted flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
Grated peel 1 lemon
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 12/ cup milk
1 pint blueberries tossed in 1 tablespoon flour

Line muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, stir in grated lemon peel.

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and beat on high speed until smooth. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and milk alternately in 2 batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing until just combined.

Toss blueberries with a little flour and fold into batter.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with the batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

What’s your favorite summer breakfast? Or summer morning memory? 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 other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog for tales of an optimistic baby boomer or Susan Nye 365 for daily snapshots of life in New Hampshire. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more on my website. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2010