Spring Green

As I left for the airport in the early morning hours of late April, the cold morning air and leafless trees made me wonder if it would ever feel or look like spring here in New Hampshire. Returning home from Florida, after almost a month’s absence, it was a delight to see the trees all leafed out in Spring Green and the apple trees loaded with blossoms. Spring at our home in New Hampshire is such a welcomed season as buds burst into tender light yellow-green vegetation and the sweet smell of lilacs and apple blossoms fill the air.

Apple Blossoms Greet Us As We Return To Our New Hampshire Home And Orchard

Apple Blossoms Greet Us As We Return To Our New Hampshire Home And Orchard

Apple Trees Surrounded By A Carpet Of Grass And Dandelions

Apple Trees Surrounded By A Carpet Of Dandelions And Green Grass

Lilacs In Bloom Around The Old Rock Foundation

Lilacs In Bloom Around The Old Rock Foundation

During this beloved season, New Englanders try to search out and eat wild edibles such as ramps (a species of wild onion), fiddleheads (young, curled, edible fronds of certain types of ferns), morel mushrooms, and thin wild asparagus. While all these gourmet treats can be found by knowledgeable foragers, I’ve had no luck at all in my futile searches.

Green Ferns Line The Rock Walls That Surround Our Property

Green Ferns Line The Rock Walls That Surround Our Property

Wild asparagus does a good job of hiding itself from me among the wild flowers on our property and I don’t usually see their spears until after they have started to show their feathery fronds…would you believe there was one hiding right outside my front door. Over the years, I have searched in vain for ramps in the wetland areas around the perimeter of our orchard but to no avail. Ferns border the wonderful old rock walls that surround our property but they are not the ones that produce edible fronds. As to mushrooms, I’ll leave those to others to decide if they are edible or if they are poisonous.

To celebrate spring, one of the first meals I decided to create upon returning home was a Wild Garlic Pasta with Asparagus in a Lemon Cream Sauce. This simple to prepare pasta dish had a lovely spring green color and the earthy flavors were delicious. I had found a wild garlic pasta at a specialty market and it worked perfect in this recipe. Wild garlic, wild onions, or ramps, as they as they are called in New England, are reminiscent of very strong chives and if you can find them, you could certainly make your own fresh pasta for this dish and it would be extra special.

Wild Garlic Pasta In A Lemon Cream Sauce With Asparagus

Wild Garlic Pasta In A Lemon Cream Sauce With Asparagus

Wild Garlic Pasta In A Lemon Cream Sauce With Asparagus

Recipe serves 4, adjust accordingly

  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 12 oz. wild garlic pasta, store-bought or homemade
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1 c. cream, half and half, or milk*
  • 1 Tbsp. flour, I used Wondra*
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice or according to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano cheese, additional served alongside

*You can use heavy cream and eliminate the flour from the recipe. If you use half and half or milk, the flour will help keep the sauce from splitting when adding the lemon juice. When I prepared this dish, I used 1/2 c. half and half, 1/2 c.  of 1% milk, and 1 Tbsp. Wondra as that is what I had available.

Steam or microwave the asparagus pieces for about 2 to 3 minutes until they are tender crisp, drain and toss with a tablespoon of butter.

In a deep sauté pan, cook the shallots in the olive oil over moderate heat until softened, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the wine and let cook until reduced by about half. Add 2 Tbsp. butter and when melted sprinkle the Wondra over the mixture, whisk until well blended. Stir in the half and half, zest, salt and pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Stir in the lemon juice, remove the sauté pan from heat, cover and keep the sauce warm.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes or until al dente. Ladle out a cup of pasta water, reserve, then drain the pasta into a colander. Add the drained pasta and asparagus to the sauce and toss over moderate heat until heated through. Add the reserved pasta water, if needed a little at a time, to create a proper sauce like consistency. Sprinkle the pasta with cheese, serving more on the side at the table.

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This flavorful pasta is simple to prepare and will definitely remind you of all the wonderful little treasures that nature provides us during the spring. The fresh asparagus added a subtle crunch to this hearty spring pasta but it would also be great made with tender spring peas or tiny green beans. Fresh mushrooms would also add a delicious earthy flavor to the dish.  I hope this recipe inspires you to create a meal with ingredients that are fresh and only available during each short growing season.

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Chicken Avocado Suiza

Chicken Avocado Suiza is a delicious pan seared chicken breast topped with melted cheese,  creamy avocado and a fragrant roasted tomatillo sauce. This recipe was inspired by the flavors of one of my favorite Mexican comfort meals, chicken enchiladas Suizas. I love them so much that I’ve been known to eat them for breakfast while on vacation in the Yucatán. The enchiladas are a good meal anytime of the day but very filling.

I’ve been trying to lose a few pounds and wanted something lighter in calories and carbs but with similar flavors. I eliminated the tortillas, pan seared the chicken breasts and topped them with cheese, avocados and tomatillo sauce. I was pleased with the healthier result and thought I would share my recipe for Chicken Avocado Suiza.

Chicken With Avocado

Chicken With Avocado Chicken Avocado Suiza

Chicken Avocado Suiza

Recipe serves two, adjust accordingly

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • juice of half a lime
  • flour for dusting (I use Wondra)
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1/4 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 c. tomatillo salsa* (Recipe found below)
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheese, swiss, Monterey jack or other good melting cheese
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

*If you don’t want to take the time to make the salsa verde, there are some good jarred versions in the salsa or Mexican food section of your grocery store. Santa Clara or Rick Bayless roasted tomatillo sauces are both very good.

Season chicken with salt, pepper, cumin and garlic powder. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. oil and lime juice, turn to coat the chicken and let marinate for thirty minutes. Pat breasts dry with paper towel and sprinkle each side with flour, dusting off any excess.

Heat 1 to 2 Tbsp. oil in a ovenproof sauté pan, add the chicken breasts and cook on medium high heat until golden, about 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Top each breast with shredded cheese and place in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes for the cheese to melt. Remove from the oven, place on a plate and keep warm.

Add the wine to the sauté pan and deglaze, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until starting to reduce, add chicken stock and salsa. Cook until reduced to a sauce like consistency. Taste for additional seasoning, if necessary. To serve, top the chicken breasts with sliced avocado, drizzle with tomatillo sauce, garnish with cilantro.

Roasted Salsa Verde

Roasted Salsa Verde

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa/Charred Salsa Verde

  • 4 tomatillos, papery skin removed, and halved
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 Serrano chilies, halved and seeded
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • a handful of cilantro, thick stems removed
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

Place onions, chilies and garlic cloves on a foil lined baking sheet and place 4 inches under the broiler and cook until softened and starting to get a few black spots, about 5 minutes, stir and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. When cooked, place in a food processor with the water and oil, blend until a salsa consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

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If you visit Mexico, you will notice that almost every meal is accompanied by avocado in some form or the other. Instead of using it as a side, I decided to feature this healthy, creamy fruit as one of the main ingredients with the chicken. The dish I created was flavorful and much lighter in calories and carbs than enchiladas Suiza which are typically made of corn tortillas wrapped around a chicken filling, topped with salsa verde, and covered with swiss cheese and baked, then sprinkled with queso fresco. I served the chicken with a lettuce and tomato salad but if you are not watching calories like I am, you could also serve it with sour cream, rice and refried beans on the side.  This meal would be perfect for Cinco de Mayo at the beginning of May.

 

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Spring Is Late, Mud Season Has Arrived

After enduring New England’s harsh winters, I believe springtime is one of the most beautiful and must longed for seasons that comes our way but spring is late this year. Usually in April, the green floor of our orchard is interspersed with pastel colors of wild strawberry and viola blossoms and large swatches of brilliant yellow dandelions. Around the base of our colonial home, daffodils nod their yellow heads in the warm spring breeze. Neighboring homes have colorful trees in bloom while we await the fragrant blossoms of pear and apple trees which will start to bloom in late April or the early part of May.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” – Anne Bradstreet

Unfortunately this year, spring isn’t giving us the usual beautiful blossoms that gladden our hearts. After one of the coldest and snowiest winters ever, springlike weather has been slow to arrive in New Hampshire. With chilly daytime temperatures and nights below freezing, there is snow still on the ground in our area. I am growing ever so impatient for warmer days that will finish melting the snow and bring green back to our world. In the meantime, we are experiencing the ugly side of spring.

More Than A Foot Of Snow Still Covers The Orchard The First Week Of April

More Than A Foot Of Snow Still Covers The Orchard The First Week Of April

If you live in a temperate climate, you might not know about spring’s ugly side. It is the squishy, messy time of the year when rising temperatures melt the snow and mud abounds. New Englanders and others that live in snow country call it “mud season”. Let me explain how we manage during this annual early spring event.

On the fashion front, dressing is a mixed bag. I no longer have to wear my winter down coat that is so puffy it made me look like the “Michelin man” and that is a huge improvement.  Instead, I now wear a light down jacket that can be folded into a package about the size of a well stuffed sandwich when not in use.  Wool slacks have been traded for jeans…the better to hide dirty water stains that splash up on pants legs as you go about your daily outside activities.

To ensure that my feet stay nice and dry, I wear Clarks “Muckers”. Certainly not stylish, the lower half of the leather shoes are encased in rubber. They are very practical though when it comes to removing accumulated mud. If going out to dinner or to a friend’s home, I carry a second pair of shoes in a plastic bag. I can look nice after changing into pretty shoes and the muddy ones are stored in their “mud room” until I’m ready to leave.

My Car Is Coated In Winter "Salt Grime White"

My Car Is Coated In Winter “Salt Grime White”

When driving during this season, you must make sure your car has a full supply of windshield washing fluid. This is to insure that you can see where you are driving after a passing motorist sprays your car with the accumulated water from snow runoff on the roads. The water is quite dirty from the salt and sand mixture that was spread on the roads during all the winter snowstorms. At the end of a day of driving, my car goes from a shiny silver to “salt grime white”. When loading or unloading packages from the back of my car, I have to remember to stay a good distance away or my clothes will become filthy.

Pruning The Apple Trees Is Postponed This Year Because Of The Snow

Pruning The Apple Trees Is Postponed This Year Because Of The Snow

The apple trees would normally be pruned by now but that job has been postponed because of the snow still on the ground. As for the trees themselves, they will more than likely bloom late. Our magnificent stand of rhododendrons were hard hit by the record-breaking cold winter weather and I’ll be amazed if they make a comeback. I’ll prune off all the dead wood as soon as possible but that also means loosing this year’s buds.

Rhododendrons Damaged By Crushing Snow And Harsh Temperatures Below Zero

Rhododendrons Damaged By Crushing Snow And Harsh Temperatures Below Zero

Since we are putting our home and orchard up for sale, I’m not planting tomatoes this year. Instead, I’ll plant flower seeds in place of vegetables in our garden when the snow melts, the ground thaws and the soil dries up. With snow from plowing our drive piled so high by the garden gate, I’ll have to wait until the snow is gone to see how the herbs in the raised garden bed did. They had lots of snow insulating them against the below freezing weather so they should come back.

Snow Blocks The Garden Gate, No Planting Any Time Soon

Snow Blocks The Garden Gate, No Planting Any Time Soon

As the old saying goes, hope springs eternal, so I know that this messy mud season will soon be replaced by natures beauty just waiting to sprout and unfurl. In the meantime, I’m in the midst of “spring cleaning” and packing up part of our household goods for the move to Florida. I hope all my readers will understand why I have not visited lately and my posts have been further apart. Let’s all make the most of each passing day, no matter the weather or season.

Soon Spring Warmth And Sunshine

Soon Spring Warmth And Sunshine Will Give Birth To Nature’s Beauty

 

 

 

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Small Plates Or Tapas, Let’s Party

In today’s restaurant scene, you can’t help but notice the growing number of restaurants that feature small plates, tapas, meze or antipasti on their menu. Bistros, wine bars, and gastropubs often suggest that you make a meal from several small, savory plates and forego an entrée altogether. If you are with another couple, your waiter may encourage your table to share several dishes…perhaps ordering two, three or four small plates per person to pass around family style.

Sampling beautifully composed, delicious little morsels of food that have bold flavors, surprising food combinations, or ingredients you might not have tried before, is a great way to judge the kitchen’s talent. Ordering a selection of small plates at a restaurant can often lead to a fun night of good food, good wine and stimulating food conversations.

Small Plate Of Mediterranean Lamb Meatballs  On A Bed Of Takziki With Warm Almonds And Olives

A Small Plate Of Keftedes (Greek Meatballs)  On A Bed Of Tzatziki With Warm Olives And Almonds

You don’t have to limit this experience to a restaurant. Why not plan a party with small plates of food shared with a few of your friends. Select a country such as Spain, China, Mexico or Greece and serve several little plates based around the country’s cuisine. It is a wonderful way to introduce your “not so adventurous” friends to new foods and flavors. Whereas they might not want a full portion of something they haven’t heard of, your friends will more than likely be willing to try a small bite or two.

If you are thinking about serving Mediterranean food at your party, you might want to consider a small plate of  keftedes, which are lamb meatballs seasoned with mint and oregano, served on a bed of tzatziki sauce alongside warm marinated olives and almonds.  It would be a wonderful introduction into Greek food that some of your guests might not have experienced.

Keftedes (Greek Meatballs)

These recipes, as part of a small plate will serve four, adjust the recipes accordingly.

  • 1/2 – 3/4 lb. ground lamb (beef or pork may be substituted)
  • 1/2  small onion, diced small or grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I use fresh)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped mint
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil for sautéing the meatballs

Mix all the ingredients (except the oil) together until combined and form into meatballs about 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch in size. Heat the oil over medium high heat, add the meatballs and cook until golden. (They may also be baked in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes, depending on size, or until done).

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

Lightly salt the diced cucumber. Let drain in a sieve for about 5 minutes, discard the liquid. Warm the olive oil and minced garlic (I do this to mellow the flavor of the garlic but it is not necessary) then let cool. Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for 30 minutes while the flavors meld. Taste for additional seasoning.

 Warm Marinated Olives and Almonds

Take a selection of olives (about 2 cups) such as Gaeta, Niçois, Kalamata or Picholine and rinse to remove some of the salt, then drain well. Skip this step if using oil cured olives.  Warm 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a small sauté pan, add 1 peeled garlic clove that has been flattened , 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. fennel seeds, 1 tsp. each of chopped fresh thyme and rosemary, and the zest of a lemon. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Add the olives (can be prepared ahead of time up to this point, refrigerated and then brought to room temperature before continuing). Add a cup of almonds and toss well. Heat for about 5 minutes until the mixture is warm and fragrant.

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The recipes above can also be served as a regular dinner. Increase the size of the meatballs and serve them with orzo, rice pilaf or couscous. Add stuffed grape leaves, baba ganoush or a salad and you will have a lovely Greek dinner. However, for a change of pace, I suggest serving them at your next party. I believe that nibbling one’s way through several small plates of food will make for a fun evening for both you and your friends.

Now tell me, do you enjoy sharing little taste bites among friends at a restaurant? Do you like to start with an appetizer, go on to a main entrée, then end the meal with a dessert? Have you ever been to a tapas party? I would love to know your thoughts.

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The Burger Bar

The Burger Bar is not your usual hamburger joint, far from it. Located in the attractive Donald Ross Village Plaza in Palm Beach Gardens, the Burger Bar is pure Florida fun…sophisticated yet funky, gourmet but casual.

The Burger Bar, Not Your Usual Hamburger Joint

The Burger Bar, Not Your Usual Hamburger Joint

Red And Black Interior Of The Burger Bar

The Striking Black And Red Interior Of The Burger Bar…Sophisticated Yet Funky

With its striking black and red interior, a wall of meat grinders used as a room divider, wood topped tables with industrial looking metal chairs, a huge retro picture of a man and woman riding an antique motorcycle leaning against one of the restaurant’s walls and lots of large screen TVs mounted above the bar, you know you are in for a good time.

Meat Grinders Make A Clever Room Divider

Meat Grinders Create A Clever Room Divider

A Large Retro Picture Of A Man And Woman On An Antique Motorcycle Leans Against One Wall Of The Burger Bar

A Large Retro Picture Of A Man And Woman On An Antique Motorcycle Leans Against One Wall Of The Burger Bar

Sitting inside would have been nice, but after recently escaping New England’s cold and snow for the warmth of Florida, my husband and I decided to have lunch outside on their pretty courtyard. I’d call it outdoor dining at its best with tables surrounding a large gurgling fountain and tropical palms. Again the decor reflects the black and red theme. You can’t help but notice the chandeliers made from wine bottles that hang over the large bar that must be a favorite place for locals to enjoy a cocktail and watch sports on four large screen TVs on a pleasant afternoon or an evening under the stars.

The Outdoor Courtyard And Bar Of The Burger Bar

The Outdoor Courtyard And Bar Of The Burger Bar

Service was prompt and friendly. We ordered drinks while we looked over the large and varied “gastropub” menu. Of course, handcrafted burgers are the main feature…you will find beef, buffalo, lamb, turkey, chicken, tuna and mahi mahi listed. Vegetarians are not left out either with choices such as black bean, Portobello and even a caesar salad burger. If you are not in the mood for a burger, don’t worry, as there is a nice choice of salads, wraps, and wings.  There is also an array of small dishes under the heading quick picks such as beer battered corn dog bites, lobster mac-n-cheese, and panko crusted pickle spears with mustard aioli which we couldn’t wait to try as the Burger Bar makes their own pickles…they were crispy and flavorful.

Panko Crusted Fried Pickle Spears

Panko Crusted Fried Pickle Spears With Mustard Aioli

For our burgers, my husband ordered the Beach Burger with applewood smoked bacon, swiss cheese, pickles and a “beach sauce” made with mustard and mayo on a pretzel bun. I enjoy spicy food and ordered the Hot Mess Burger with applewood smoked bacon, cheddar and swiss cheese, jalapeño peppers and their “blasting sauce”, which tasted of citrus and chipotle peppers on a challah bun. Both burgers were served with lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickle chips. Once assembled, they were a huge mouthful of beefy goodness. The hamburgers both came with a side of fries. We tried their house cut white truffle oil and parmesan fries and the sweet potato fries which were served in a cute miniature deep fry basket…hot, crispy and good.

Gourmet Burgers And Fries At The Burger Bar

Gourmet Burgers And Fries At The Burger Bar

After our meal, executive chef Matt Miller, who is originally from our part of the world down in Weymouth, Mass., stopped by our table to see how we enjoyed our meal. He told us that he has been at the restaurant since its inception and approved of what we ordered, saying that the burgers were two of his favorites.

What can I say about the Burger Bar…it certainly isn’t like any hamburger joint in my rural area of New England. With prices ranging from $9.50 for their Great Burger to $19 for their “top shelf” Prime Steak Burger, I would say prices are about what you would expect for a gourmet burger that was so big, I couldn’t finish it.  Certainly more than you would pay for a frozen beef patty that has been cooked, served on a plain bun, wrapped in paper and passed to you from a drive through window but well worth it. This was a filling meal made with quality ingredients, served on dishes and presented in a cleaver way at a fun restaurant in beautiful surroundings.

 

 

 

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What A Winter

What A Winterfour snowstorms in less than a month! Thank goodness, that my husband and I could get away for a couple of weeks. Each February, weary of the winter cold and snow, we head south to celebrate our anniversary in the warmth of the Florida sunshine instead of the bitter cold and snow of New Hampshire. After a blizzard dumped three feet of snow on the ground at the end of January, we were very happy to be able make our annual escape to Florida.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

Looking at the photos above, where would you like to be in February.

As usual, we had a lovely anniversary. We also got to spend time with our children and grandchildren in south Florida before heading up the coast to check on the progress of our new home being built in Vero Beach. After two weeks of warm weather and delicious food, it was time to pack our bags and fly back home.

When traveling in the winter, we always keep track of the weather up north. Just before checking out of our hotel in Vero Beach and heading to the airport in West Palm Beach on Valentine’s day, I decided to check with our airline and it is a good thing I did. The fourth snowstorm in less than a month was heading toward New England. Snow and the threat of dangerously high winds caused the airlines to cancel hundreds of flights in and out of Logan Airport, the Boston Transit Authority shut down all their trains and buses, and people were advised to stay off the snowy roads because of the impending blizzard. Our hotel in Vero could only extend our stay for one night. Luckily, we were able to get a room at one of the airport hotels in West Palm Beach for an additional three days until we could fly home. Needless to say, we didn’t get home for a romantic Valentine’s dinner but we did get to enjoy warm weather for an extra four days.

I’m sure that most of my readers have seen what Boston looks like on your local or world news. Unfortunately, it is the same here in New Hampshire. All I can say is, if every winter was like what we are having this year, all New Englanders might just call it quits and move south. After you see my photos, I think you might see why we will be doing exactly that, later this year.

Our Long Drive With High Piled Snow

Our Long Drive Lined With High Piles Of Snow

We are lucky to have wonderful friends who look after our home when we travel. After each punishing snowstorm that occurred while we were gone, our drive was plowed and our walk shoveled. Our porch roof had to be shoveled off for a second time in less than a month as snow piled so high, it entirely covered the front windows on the second floor of our home. Good friends are priceless and we are thankful for their help when needed.

Our New Hampshire Home After Four Snowstorms In Less Than One Month

Our New Hampshire Home After Four Snowstorms In Less Than One Month

The Porch Roof Has Been Shoveled Twice This Month Because The Second Story Windows Were Totally Covered

The Porch Roof Has Been Shoveled Twice This Month Because The Second Story Windows Were Totally Covered

Our Truck And Plow Waiting For The Next Snowstorm

Our Truck And Plow Waiting For The Next Snowstorm

Pretty High Snow Piles…Snow Boots, Pants, And Coat, Where Is My Shovel

Pretty High Snow Piles…Snow Boots, Pants, Coat, And Gloves, Now Where Is My Shovel

One thing that none of us knew was that while we were gone, one of our home’s thermostats stopping working because of a bad battery. The result caused a pipe in my potting shed to freeze. Wednesday, as the weather warmed above freezing, the frozen pipe melted. We were greeted by the sound of water flowing down into the basement when we arrived home. Thank goodness, we only had about an inch of water in part of our basement. The water in the basement has now been cleaned up, fans are blowing to dry everything up and life can return to normal.

Frost Obscures The Light And View Outdoors  But The Patterns Are Beautiful

Frost Obscures The Light And View Outdoors But The Patterns Are Beautiful

By normal, I mean another day of bone chilling temperatures, staring out the window at a black and white world as snow continues to fall (95 inches have already fallen this winter), plowing and shoveling snow. We are quickly running out of places to put the snow and this is only the middle of February…what a winter.

We thought of ourselves as hardy souls when we decided to leave Florida twenty years ago and move to New Hampshire. Most people who live here are but after this winter, we are so happy that we have decided to move back south. Perhaps in future years, we will come back to New Hampshire but I can guarantee it won’t be in the winter.

 

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Warm Lentil Salad With Merguez…A French Bistro Meal

A Warm Lentil Salad, an item found on many French bistro menus, is a simple but flavorful dish when topped with spicy lamb Merguez sausages. Old fashioned French comfort food at its best, it’s perfect for either lunch or your evening meal. If you don’t care for sausages, you could top the warm lentil salad with confit duck legs, pan seared salmon or even a runny poached egg. Enjoyed with a crisp baguette and a glass of red wine, this dish will transport you to one of the cozy, unpretentious French bistros hidden along the back streets of Paris.

Warm Lentil Salad Topped With Merguez Sausage…A French Bistro Meal

Warm Lentil Salad Topped With Lamb Merguez Sausage…A French Bistro Meal

I used dark green Lentils de Puy for my salad. These delicious little legumes, known for their exceptional flavor and texture, are from the Auvergne region of France but are also grown in Italy and North America. They cost more than other lentils and may be hard to find in some areas, but I think they are worth searching out as they hold their shape well and have a nice nutty flavor. If you can’t find the green lentils, you can substitute brown lentils but the texture and taste of the salad will be very different. If you use brown lentils, simmer very gently and don’t overcook them or you will have a mushy dish.

 Warm Lentil Salad With Merguez Sausage

Serves two, adjust the recipe accordingly

Vinaigrette

  • 2  Tbsp. of either sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • a good pinch of sea salt (about 1/8 tsp.)
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. finely minced shallot
  • 2 tsp. of a good Dijon mustard (whole grain mustard can be substituted)
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, prepare the vinaigrette by mixing the vinegar, salt, pepper and the minced shallots. Let sit for about 5 minutes so that the shallots soften a little. Stir in the mustard and then whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream. Taste and adjust the vinaigrette, if needed. If it’s too sharp, add some more oil. If it seems too bland, add more vinegar, mustard or salt to your own taste.

Salad

  • 2 spicy lamb Merguez sausages (Saucisse de Toulouse, Chorizo or other well seasoned  sausages of your choice can be substituted)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1/2 small bulb of fennel, diced (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 c. green Lentils de Puy, checked for small stones and rinsed well
  • 1 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • water
  • a few sprigs of fresh parsley and thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 potato (I used Yukon Gold), peeled and diced*
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced*
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh chopped thyme or parsley for garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the sausages and cook until done and a little crispy. Remove from the pan and keep warm. In the same saucepan, add the onions, celery and fennel, sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add the lentils, broth, and water to cover by about 2 to 3 inches. Add the parsley and thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium high, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Partially cover the pan with a lid and simmer the lentils until they are just tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover the diced potatoes and carrots with cold, salted water. Cook over moderately high heat until the potatoes and carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well and place in a large bowl, toss with a little of the vinaigrette. *To save time, you can simmer the potatoes and carrots along with the lentils but their color will be a little dark.

When the lentils are done, drain well, place in the bowl with the cooked potatoes and carrots. Discard the bay leaf, parsley and thyme sprigs. Add the rest of the vinaigrette and toss well. Let sit for a few minutes until the vinaigrette is absorbed, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. If the lentils seem dry, you can drizzle with a little olive oil. To serve, transfer the lentils to individual plates or bowls and top with the sausages.

The important thing to remember when making this recipe is to add the vinaigrette while the lentils and vegetables are hot so that they can absorb all the flavors.

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This classic French bistro meal is quick to prepare and very flavorful. The lentils are delicious warm but are equally good cold. They would make a nice accompaniment to a simple roast chicken packed into a picnic basket along with a baguette, some cheese, fresh fruit and a lovely bottle of wine. All that is needed is a park bench close to the Eiffel tower and you would have a memorable French inspired picnic.   Bon appétit!

A Park Bench Close To The Eiffel Tower Would Be A Great Place For A Picnic

A Park Bench Close To The Eiffel Tower Would Be A Great Place For A Picnic

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A Life Well Lived

A Life Well Lived eases the sorrow of sawing “goodbye”.  My mother has passed away and while our family will miss her, we are grateful that she had a long and happy life.

My Lovely Mother, We Will Miss You

My Lovely Mother, We Will Miss You

My mother, Juanita Hughes, passed away peacefully in her sleep this weekend. She was born in Kansas almost 95 years ago, and schooled in Oklahoma. She spent the majority of her life living in Texas after she and my father were married. She was a mother to my brother and I, I called her momma, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. I believe her happiest role in life was as the wife to my father, Larry Hughes.

My mother never seemed to question my father’s ideas over the years, even when he decided to retire in his forties, move to the country and become a rancher. While growing up a city girl, she and my father started a new life on a small ranch outside of Houston, Texas.

We lived in a small four room wooden house with slopping floors, one board thick walls and a “pot belly” stove for heat until a new home could be built for us. She led a quiet life on the ranch, being a “stay at home mom” until I was in high school, when she decided to go to work to help with our family’s finances.

Even though she did not enjoy cooking, she always made a home cooked meal for our family each day when returning home from work. My favorite was her terrific fried chicken with cream gravy, it was delicious. I remember her happily picking wild grapes that lined our road with my father and I to make homemade jelly.

While being a reserved person, my mother had a fun side. When we first moved to the ranch, I remember her wearing shorts and cowboy boots to go to the local grocery store, going for moonlight horseback rides with my family and friends, and attending the famous rodeo each year in Houston.

She had a life well lived…long, happy and healthy but missed my father terribly when he passed away. It will be hard to say my last “goodbye” to her but it will be made easier knowing that two people who loved each other so much are now united once more.

May you rest in peace mother, you will be missed by your family.

 

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A Change In Latitudes

Seeking an escape from the harsh winters of New England, my husband and I decided it was time for A Change In Latitudes and a new adventure in our lives somewhere it is warm. A more southerly place with a laid back lifestyle but still offering good restaurants and cultural events nearby.

Temperature Upon Waking This Week

Temperature Upon Waking This Week

When we sold our sweet little cottage on the lake in Naples, Maine, our intention was to spend summers at our home in New Hampshire tending our apple orchard and to find a second home to spend winters somewhere in Florida. As much as we enjoyed our years living in Key Largo and Miami, we felt south Florida had become too congested for the lifestyle we are looking forward to. With that in mind, we spent time this past summer visiting the towns of Naples, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and Vero Beach.

We decided on Vero Beach with its small town feel, beautiful beaches and parks, cultural activities and of course the mild weather. On a visit three years ago, I wrote “This small oceanfront community has all the sophistication of the Hampton’s or Nantucket without the crowds. It is laid back enough that a pair of chinos, a polo shirt and boat shoes will get you into most restaurants”.

The White Sand And Turquoise Water At Vero Beach, Florida

The White Sand Beach And Turquoise Waters Of The Atlantic Ocean In Vero Beach, Florida

We originally thought we would buy an existing home but after looking at what was available, we decided that having a house remodeled while living more than a thousand miles away would be too daunting even for experienced renovators like ourselves.

Our other option was to find a new house that was for sale but nothing was quite right. We saw houses by a builder that we liked but they were located in the western suburbs of Vero Beach. The area was nice but we felt it was more appropriate for young couples wanting to raise a family. By chance, we found an available lot in a gated community just five minutes from the beach and downtown Vero Beach and decided to have a new house built by the builder we liked. Less than half the size of our home in New Hampshire but twice the size of the cottage in Maine, the “easy keeper” will be perfect for just the two of us…even the small yard will be maintained by the community association.

My husband and I have often said we would never live in Florida again but the past couple of winters have made us change our minds. This week, temperatures have been below zero and in the teens, our long driveway is covered in ice and snow covers the ground. We have recently decided to live full time in the home we are having built in Vero Beach and list our New Hampshire home for sale in the next couple of months.

While it will be hard to leave our beautiful home in New England and the friends we have made here over the years, we are looking forward to what lies ahead and feel it is the right thing to do at this time in our life. We will only be a couple of hours away from our children and grandchildren who all live in south Florida and that will be nice.

Yes, we will be called “snowbirds” but it will be nice each winter to enjoy the warmth of the sun instead of looking out the window as snowdrifts cover a freshly plowed driveway and icicles form across the entire house. There will no longer be a need for a heavy duty pickup truck with a snowplow, a large tractor with a bucket, a garden tractor mounted with a snowblower and shovels to get rid of the many feet of snow that accumulates over the course of the harsh New England winters and that will be really nice.

The idea of being able to lock up our home and spend time traveling wherever we want any time of the year is something we are looking forward to. With the change in latitude, maybe there will be a change in attitude when anyone mentions winter to us in the future.

 

 

 

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Good Luck In The New Year

The wish Good Luck In The New Year will be spoken in many different languages by millions of people around the world as we ring in the New Year. Part of this annual celebration may include eating certain foods that people believe will bring them luck, good health, happiness and prosperity.

There are a variety of foods that are symbolic of coins or money such lentils, peas, beans, kale, collard greens, cabbage and sauerkraut. Fish is regarded as a symbol of moving forward and abundance since they swim in large groups. Pork is symbolic of progress as pigs push forward when eating and their fat represents wealth and prosperity. In many of the Spanish speaking countries, people eat 12 grapes at midnight, one for each month of the year, with a special wish for good luck.

I thought I would give you some ideas of what you might want to prepare for either New Year’s eve or day to try and bring yourself some “good luck in the New Year“. No matter whether you will be celebrating with just one special person or are planning a party for some of your friends, you will find the linked recipes to be easy to prepare and delicious.

If you want to follow the tradition of eating twelve grapes at midnight, you might want to serve Roasted Grapes With Warm Brie Crostini. It is a sweet and savory appetizer that takes mere minutes to put together. They are perfect finger food to enjoy with your glass of chilled Champagne as the clock strikes midnight and you make your special wish.

Roasted Grapes And Warm Brie Bruschetta

Roasted Grapes And Warm Brie Crostini

If you want to serve a main course of fish for abundance in the New Year, Sautéed Flounder Topped With A Shrimp Cream Sauce is a wonderful dish. The light shrimp cream sauce compliments the delicate flavor and texture of the flounder without overwhelming it. Diced tomato and basil added at the last minute makes for a pretty presentation.

Sautéed Flounder Topped With A Shrimp Cream Sauce

Sautéed Flounder Topped With A Shrimp Cream Sauce

If you are thinking of a pork dish as the main course for wealth and prosperity in the New Year, Pork Tenderloin With Gorgonzola Sauce and Chopped Walnuts will certainly be special enough for the celebration. Serve the pork with Polenta Cakes Fried In Brown Butter And Sage.

Pork Tenderloin With Gorgonzola Sauce

Pork Tenderloin With Gorgonzola Sauce

For a more casual affair you might consider a traditional German New Year’s meal of Smoked Pork Chops With Sauerkraut served with buttered mashed potatoes.

Pork Chops And Sauerkraut

Pork Chops And Sauerkraut

Or if you leaning more towards a Latin influenced meal, Cuban Pork With Black Beans And Rice is easy to prepare ahead of time for a large group of friends.

My Version Of Cuban Pork With Black Beans And Rice

My Version Of Cuban Pork With Black Beans And Rice

If you live in the southern part of the States and eat black-eyed peas for good luck, you might be making Hoppin’ John or Texas Caviar. I’ve got another suggestion, Black- eyed Pea Risotto for a little bit of an Italian influence.

Black-eyed Pea Risotto

Black-eyed Pea Risotto

If you would enjoy more exotic flavors to start the New Year, then you might like to try my vegetarian version of Harira, A Moroccan Chickpea And Lentil Soup. It is a deliciously spiced and fragrant soup you will love. You can add lamb Merguez sausages on the side for the meat eaters you might be serving.

Harira, A Moroccan Chickpea And Lentil Soup With Spicy Merguez Sausage

Harira, A Moroccan Chickpea And Lentil Soup With Spicy Merguez Sausage

I’ve shared some of my favorite dishes with you that incorporate food ingredients that many people believe will bring them luck, good health, happiness and prosperity. I hope you will get a chance to try some of them.

I will end with my own wish of “Good Luck In The New Year”, may 2015 be everything you hope it will be. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to spend time with me at Back Road Journalit is always a pleasure having you stop by for a visit.

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