Friday, December 11, 2009

Ginger Creams: a lovely holiday cookie

I just shared this recipe with a friend on Facebook, whose partner tried it this summer and raved about it. These were my favorite cookies growing up, and that says a lot, considering how often my mother baked cookies from scratch.

She made the usual chocolate chippers (that was what the recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook called them), and her roll-out sugar cookies at holiday time are still the best recipe I've found (it's flavored with fresh lemon juice and nutmeg,a nd so not bland like many sugar cookie recipes). She also made chocolate crinkles (my younger brother's favorite, and pressed cookies, and bow-ties (a bit like fried dough rolled in confectioner's sugar), and cookies known as Never Fail Cookies, a vanilla cookie with cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on them.

But Ginger Creams were my favorite. So here's the recipe. It comes from my mother, but since it's Scandinavian in origin (a Finnish bakery in Boston sold them for a while and they tasted identical to what I remembered from childhood), I think she may have gotten it from a friend of hers who was Swedish. In any case, I hope you will try baking them and enjoy them.

Ginger Creams

Dough should be chilled for at least one hour before baking.

Mix together thoroughly:
1/4 cup shortening (butter or margarine)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses (light or dark, not blackstrap)
1/2 cup water

Sift together and blend in:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Chill dough.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Grease cookie sheets.
Drop by spoonfuls about two inches apart on cookie sheet.
Bake for about eight minutes (do not use bottom rack or cookies may burn).
While still slightly warm, frost with lemon or vanilla frosting. (I make a simple vanilla buttercream).

This wonderful cookie blog has a Raw Ginger Cream recipe that looks worthwhile.The photo above is what they more or less look like before frosting; thanks to food blog Two Frog Home for the nice photo.

By the way, I have been compiling my mother's dessert recipes (mostly cookies) and am going to put them into a cookbook. I also want to include some of my Dad's recipes (though most of his were not written down). A sort of memoir with recipes (wish I was the first person to thin of this, but apparently it has already been done before I got off my ass. Still, it's a good format for what I want to do, which is tell the stories of the prominence of food and food-related activities (cooking, growing, gathering, fishing, hunting) in my upbringing. Tentative Title: Pickled Garlic and Sweet Milk.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Alone Again. Naturally.

I've had some time on my own this week. I've gotten some stuff done but I've also gotten to eat whatever I want.

As it turns out, I've eaten pretty high on the hog.

After a long day at work on Sunday, I came home and baked fresh cornbread. I ate it with some fresh bean soup that I'd made the day before.

I've eaten salads and collard greens, lean chicken breasts and sauteed cabbage.

My main vice--if one can even call it that--was buying a grocery store bakery pumpkin pie on Tuesday evening. It has allowed me to have a cup of coffee and a sliver of pie, any time I want.

Now, that feels like a luxury to me.

I believe I'll have an apple, a banana and some organic peanut butter for dinner.

And a sliver of pie for dessert.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Turkey and Garlic

I am one of those folks who thinks that most anything can be sauteed in olive oil and garlic and thus rendered edible. The past few days that has been the turkey treatment here at the urban famrstead. Instead of merely plucking a gout of turkey flesh from its plastic fridge container, salting it liberally and munching on it as I write or work, I've been making a little more effort.

Okay, not much more. I start heating the olive oil in the cast iron pan, get the garlic from the fridge and toss in rather a lot. Then I chop the turkey--dark meat--into the hot oil, stir it up and get a bowl.

Turkey, garlic, oil.

Very good.

Tonight, I lobbed a couple of tablespoons of cooked sweet poes into the mix.

Also good.

We're near the end of the turkey leftovers, though I did freeze a lot of turkey. We'll bring that out for future meals and remember the juicy, orangeness of our Thanksgiving friend.

Now, I must decide if I am doing a dinner on the 25th. I have often done a big formal dinner, but this may be a relaxing year instead.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 27, 2009

No Open Fire the chestnuts were roasted in the oven. So much for romance.
But chestnuts are really yummy, especially roasted. You make little Xs on one plump side, so they don't explode in the oven. I roasted them at 425 for about 15 minutes. Because of the X, each succulent nut is easy to peel and the shell color is this rich warm brown.
They are good chopped and baked into dressing but we prefer to eat them out of hand. My husband's Italian family always has them after the big Thanksgiving meal, with wide slices of fresh fennel and assorted nuts-in-the-shell.
The turkey also spent time in the oven, being basted with olive oil and orange juice. Sweet and tender and very moist.
What did you have on your Thanksgiving table?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cakes, Pumpkin Cheesecake and...The Day of Much Food

It's a hedgehog cake--my sister-in-law made it a couple of days ago and I was called in to be Icing Woman. She has a lovely Kitchen Aid mixer (for which she just got the pasta-making attachments) and it made quick work of the frosting adventure. We also did a nice smooth two layer cake for my niece. So when it came time for this one, I picked it out with the icing spatula.
Tomorrow is that problematical American holiday, Thanksgiving. Problematical because we were raised on some peculiar mythological stories of pious Pilgrims and docile Natives that bore little resemblance to what really happened when Europeans came to this continent.
But many of us love those stories and the guilt we feel about the Empirical adventure that is America is often too much to bear. I want to suggest something to you.
Enjoy tomorrow. Enjoy the food, and the life we live here in America. Try to enjoy your family, try to be kind to those who aren't always kind to you.
Remember the people in your community who don't have enough to eat. Don't worry about the whole wide world--there are certainly lots of hungry folks everywhere. Focus instead on those in your town.
And, if you can afford it, buy some extra non-perishable food items and donate them. To your church or temple, to the food bank, to the homeless shelter.
You can't feed every hungry belly, but that can of tuna and that bag of dried beans will make a tummy in your town feel better. You can do that much. We can all do that much.
Ditch the guilt, be kind to your family and enjoy life for a change. And if you can do even a small thing to help another person, then do it.
Life is sweet and sometimes we forget that. Try to remember it tomorrow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Charity Challenge for Thrifty Cooks Who DON"T Shop at Wal-Mart!

This blog is hosting a charity event challenge to try and prove people can feed their families healthy inexpensive meals without relying on pre-fab, unhealthy food at Wal-Mart. The blog refers to the commercials claiming that you can make a fresh meal for less than $2 per person, but the meals shown are full of unhealthy junk food like sugary pastries and frozen garlic bread. The challenge is to remind us all to support local businesses and buy fresh foods whenever possible.

I should preface this by saying I rarely shop at Wal-Mart; we go to the one in western NY near where we camp every July, mainly because we can get everything we need in one place and there aren't many options in that area. I have tried not to shop there if we can patronize a smaller business, however, and this year discovered an Amish-owned greenhouse I love that convinced me to never buy overpriced sad-looking annuals at that Wal-Mart ever again.

But yesterday my husband and I did stop there; it was on our way home, we wanted a new DVD, and needed two items for dinner. They didn't have the DVD we wanted (Season Four of Battlestar Galactica), but I got a different one (Season One of Hex). Also, we got much more food than we planned because we were hungry and the prices and selection were so tempting. Peppered slab bacon! Cracklin' Oat Bran! Raisin Bran! Hershey's Special Dark baking chips! Romaine lettuce hearts! Natural chicken wings! Corn dogs! (Okay, that was my husband)

We felt a bit sheepish, coming away with so much more than we meant to, but also knowing we rarely buy food there. But I could completely understand why people would want to shop there, given the excellent prices. They even carry plenty of organic stuff, now (as mentioned in the documentary Food, Inc., Wal-Mart now carries organic Stonyfield Farms yogurt products. As my husband put it, just because the company is evil, doesn't mean the store is. Good point.

But I know I would never start doing all my shopping there, even if we were forced to tighten our belts. I am already a thrifty cook and shopper and I absolutely support our farmers' markets and locally grown foods. Our neighborhood market ended last week but one grower who has a CSA plan is still meeting locals once a week for the next three weeks to sell them anything they want from his list of available produce. This week I'll get some kale, watercress and eggs from pasture raised chickens.

So, can I cook a great-tasting healthy meal using fresh ingredients for less than $2 a person? You bet I can! And so can you. I'm going to take on this challenge and provide some recipes, and the blogger is even donating $2 to a food pantry for every qualified link. This is a win-win!

Some recipes I plan to share: Pasta with white beans and spinach; Black bean quesadillas; Baked penne pasta with Italian sausage.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Here Comes the Season of...well, lots of food

I'm sure there was some hilarious and/or pithy title to come up with but I'd rather talk about food.

American Pagans, as you well know, often celebrate the American holiday Thanksgiving, though it doesn't appear on a standard Wheel of the Year diagram. In fact, many make the pilgrimage to the place of their birth and unto the house of their mothers. Often pretending they aren't Pagan at all, in order to keep the peace and enjoy the feast.

No matter. Hiding the glow of your connection to Earth and the fact that your "name" is now Lady Frostnipples ferch Yarrowroot, you sit at table with people who knew you when and still call you "Bucky".

But the food! Your mom always makes the best mashed poatatoes, just like you like them. And now you are in charge of the chestnut stuffing. What about those popovers? And the fresh cranberry sauce?

Pumpkin pie, Grandma's chocolate cake, Dad's Waldorf salad.

I hope that all of you will indulge in your favorite seasonal treats this week and will have a thought for those who are hungry. Maybe donate to a food pantry in your great-aunt's name--you know, the one who always had too much wine at dinner and slept through the evening.

And if you are hungry, please avail yourself of help that is in your community. Don't be too proud or to shy. Because nutrition is important and there are programs that can help. Even if you have to go to a church basement.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hard Cider Renaissance!

I wanted to share a recent blog post from my blog Orchards Forever, on the hard cider brewing renaissance.

Hard cider making seems a likely protege to the microbrew revolution. What about you? Do you like hard cider? Have you ever made it? Are you in love with the names of antique apple varieties used to make cider, like Cox Orange Pippin, Gold Rush, William's Pride, Wolf River, Campfield, or Muscat de Bernay? Let's hear your delicious thoughts.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Can It Be Planting Time...Again?

Yeppers, we're having some gorgeous warm weather and I intend to clean out the Italian garden tomorrow and plant some greens to winter over. I've done this for the last few years--there is nothing like picking fresh spinach in late February.

But this is the first year in the Italian garden. That little plot of land is near the back door and easy to access.Spinach, onions, kale, collards maybe.

And today, I was pondering the plot and saw a wee bit of lacey green peeking out from the comfrey in the corner. A carrot! Joy! I resisted the urge to simply wipe it off.

I washed it, shook the water off and ate it.

Sweet, crisp, alive.And I ate it.Bad girl.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Older is Better

I dropped by the local fancy gourmet grocery store yesterday. I didn't want to eat lunch out but wanted to eat Sandwich? As I was heading to the deli, I ran across this display and laughed out-loud.


One of the deli folk was walking past and I asked if I could make a pic--he said that was okay.

So, here it is. An aged cheddar, I assume, lovingly constructed as a neolithic monument.

Ah, the power of cheese!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cider Pressing

Here are some photos from the Heartsong Harvest Festival Weekend at Brushwood Folklore Center at the end of September. The campsite has many wild apple trees, so we get to use an abundance of unsprayed apples, many different varieties, for cider. Unfortunately, this year a late frost killed nearly all the blossoms, so we had to buy apples. Still, it was a big success and the cider was delicious!

The last photo is of me with a wicker man we made for the Mabon ritual that night.


It's been a rather lean year for pumpkins, or so I hear. But I went to the store today and got three giant NC pumpkins for $10 and the carving has begun.
But pumpkins are more than smelly scorching porch lights. The seeds! The seeds! I strain them and separate the goo from the fat seeds. I toss them with some salt and ground pepper, and spread them on a baking sheet. They roast at 300 degrees--stirring them about with the spatula every 10 minutes or so.
They keep a long time..if they're not sucked up as they come crispy out of the oven.
Pumpkin flesh makes not only pies but also cheesecake and soupl and even a swift saute with chilis.
Pumpkins and apples are the perfect foods.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In the kitchen

we have two carboys of wine, perking away in the kitchen. One is concord grapes with montrachet yeast and that has a gorgeous merlot color. The other is this odd brew of red currants. Smells good, very active but won't be drinkable for years.
I'd like to try beer making, too, but the thing that calls me is hard cider.
I'll keep you posted

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Return of the Prodigal Foodie

O, how I have neglected you, gentle blog and gentler readers. But I have been buried under a peck of peppers and am still finding things to do with them. Are they not simply glorious in their abundance and diversity?

We love them sauteed in olive oil and draped artfully over scrambled eggs on some really excellent bread. Yes, with mayo. It is the drippiest and most delish sammie ever.

And I have pickled at least a peck of them.

And still they are standing, nay drooping, about the garden. It has been the best crop of anything ever.
I need to catch you up about the wine in the kitchen. No kidding, two carboys of wine, taking up space and giving us hope for a wine-filled future!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It has rained here for most of the last week, with torrential downpours on Sunday and Monday. I picked these gorgeous eggplants in the rain on Monday, when I just went out for a few peppers.
There's something so satisfying about getting soaked in a cool autumn rain while picking the last of the veg for this season.
I'm hoping to plant a fall garden but it's way too wet right now and more rain expected this weekend. But I will have more chances to plant for "wintered-over greens" as the ground dries up some.
Planning to cook these sweet young thangs tomorrow night--after a long day of being at the computer, catching up on email and trying to fix a problem with Outlook Express. Standing at the counter with a sharp knife, with some sizzling garlic in olive oil and slicing tender eggplant will be a nice reward. Not to mention eating the things.
Next, I'll tell you the exciting adventure of creating a rustic wine--red currant. With another batch of grape wine fermenting in the carboy, we turned our sights on a fruitier wine.
Gad zooks, what will be next? Parsnip wine? I have to save the elderberries for tincture, you know.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cortland Apples

I went to the farmers' market on a wild hunch today and scored some local Cortland apples. I have several varieties that are my absolute favorite--most heirloom varieties. I'm sentimental about Cortlands because the old and dying apple tree in my backyard looks to be a Cortland.

The fruit is good for a lot of things--eating out of hand, crisp, sauce. I prefer a tougher apple for apple butter but in a pinch, Cortland will do.

I made some lead pork medallions for lunch today and they require some apple sauce, too. So, as I type this on my netbook in the kitchen, an apple crisp is almost ready to come out of the oven and the apple sauce is whistling on top of the stove.

This is also corn season in western NC but I was disappointed once again. Some fat Silver Queen was available...but...when I was a kid, my family preferred what they called "horse corn," a durable silage corn that was probably used by most folks to make hominy. We didn't like overly sweet corn or overly tender corn and I'd love to eat some of that big-kerneled, rough corn again.

We boiled it for a while and then slathered it in butter and salt. My, it was good.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cooking Taters

I cooked up a beautiful batch of little potatoes--you know the drill: olive oil to coat, a little salt, a low temperature. Then I tossed them in chopped parsley and cranked ona little black pepper.
Yes, they were good.
I spent a brief but happy time earlier today picked lettuces out of the Italian garden. Here they are, ready to slide into a baggy and into the fridge. I love the tenderness of garden fresh greens, don't you?
We're having a very good eggplant year, too.
My next goal is grape jelly sometime this week. It's leftover grapes from the wine, which is happily perculating in the kitchen.
Did I mention all those peppers? Pickling time, perhaps.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Are My Feet Clean Enough To Stomp These Grapes?

Fortunately for all concerned, I will not be dancing on today's grape harvest but I will be making them into wine. I've cleaned about 4 pounds of them so far, with more to do tomorrow. Then into the ale pail they go, with the requisite water, sugar and yeast.

Ah, simple pleasures.

This is only my second year as a wine-maker. We had such an abundant crop last year that I was faced with the daunting prospect of making grapes into jelly, jam, conserve, ketchup. I have tried many hot and sticky ways to process the grape.

Friends suggested I give wine a try and we did, figuring that we'd never eat 5 gallons of jelly. But we would drink 5 gallons of even so-so wine.

It turned out pretty yummy, if a little grapey. They are concords, after all.


This past week I made peach jam and apricot preserves. I watched my mother make these often enough as a kid but never did it myself. Last year I asked Mom how to make freezer jam, and gave it a go with some farmers' market peaches, but it turned out a soupy mess so I threw it away.

This year I vowed to get it right. i checked out a few recipes on line, plus a couple in some vintage cookbooks (like the Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, which I got a whole set of for 25 cents apiece at a used bookstore in Sherman, NY this summer).

I knew I wanted to make jam with lots of chunks of fruit, not too sweet. I didn't use pectin in the peach jam, but I did dump half a package of the powdered kind in the apricots. I'm told you have to use a lot of sugar if you use pectin, and I didn't use a lot of sugar, so we'll see how that goes. Used lemon juice in both. The jar lids all sealed properly. If they don't 'set' then I guess I'll have some slightly runny jam and preserves that will still taste awesome on my toast.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Ingredients Will be Gathered, Then the Cooking Will Commence

There are beautiful fat black eggplants in my little Italian garden and they are ready for picking. Also, the baby carrots are now teenager carrots and will make a lovely quick saute with some fresh dill and butter. Our friend Pattiy brought us a basket of perfect southern peaches. Peppers are crisp from days of rain and sun.

Tomorrow, I will have time to conjure these eyes of newt and toes of frog into dinner and cobbler.

I can hardly wait.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Blueberry picking: a cultural oddity?

Random thoughts this week, the week my hubby and I picked blueberries at Indian Ladders.

In the book Danse Macabre, author Stephen King comes as close as he probably ever will to explaining where his dark obsessive thoughts come from When he was a small child, he went blueberry picking with another young boy. He was later found wandeirng around in a catatonic state, babbling, with no memory of what happened. Later it was learned his friend had been struck by a train and killed. This real event found its way into his novella The Body which was made into the film Stand by Me.

On a program showing the most outrageous moments from previous "roasts" on Comedy Central, someone complained Norm Macdonald's joke was like "watching Henry Fonda pick blueberries." Macdonald good-naturedly responded, "I think there are many people here who would love to watch Henry Fonda pick blueberries!"

Todd and I picked berries in the gorgeous, peaceful fields and meadows on a Tuesday. A few people were there, most of them mothers with children. We separated and picked on our own, me with two quart baskets to fill, him with one. Near me, one woman with a daughter around age ten was telling her daughter how to recognize and pick ripe berries. Her daughter understood but also said she liked the "pink ones" insisting she liked the way they tasted. It made me think of the same conversation I had with my own mother when I was that age, when we went picking blueberries every summer on Armenian Mountain. The berry picking was free to the public, people would drive up on the mountain and park and sometimes camp along the rutted muddy roads, full of high tufts of grass. It was invariably hot, muggy and horrible and my siblings and I would always escape to the shady woods as soon as we could. But I also recall picking a lot of blueberries, dropping them into my plastic pail, swatting away mosquitoes, blackflies and gnats, sweating like crazy. We'd also bring a picnic lunch, usually baloney sandwiches, potato chips, Kool-Aid for the kids, and iced tea for my Mom, my grandmother and whatever friends or neighbors had come along. One year my younger brother stepped on a hornets' nest and got stung all over; my grandfather was with us and smeared mud on the stings which made my brother feel better. We'd bring home many quarts of berries, some of which got frozen. Mom made blueberry pies. I don't recall ever eating them (not a big pie fan as a kid) but they looked delicious.

I told the woman near me her conversation with her daughter reminded me of the exact same conversation I had with my own mother 35 years earlier, we laughed and I told her about the place we went to. A few minutes later, another woman and her young daughter happened by, and the mother explained how to find ripe berries, and we both laughed.

I'm aware that this kind of activity, of gathering fruit outdoors and bringing it home to make delicious desserts, is a dying tradition in this country. How long will it be before the experience of going berry picking with one's mother will simply fall away from the lexicon of childhood experiences? And yet how can it? Berries will still grow, and need to be picked. Families will still want to feed their kids healthy foods and share the outdoors with them. I can't even imagine what my life would be without having had these experiences throughout my childhood: berry-picking, apple-picking, gathering mushrooms and nuts, hunting, fishing, baking, relationship to food, and more importantly, to nature itself, would be completely different. It's unthinkable. Thank goodness there has been a renaissance of interest in such things. We may yet be able to raise some generations of Americans with an intimate knowledge and inherent respect for the natural world and the food it provides.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Alas, Poor Blueberries!

They are ripe now, here in the mountains of WNC. Gorgeous fat pearls, nestled in small baskets. So gorgeous, in fact, that I acquired some yesterday.

Dreams of scones, of muffins, of buckle all danced in my silly head.

I rinsed them well and picked through the few bad ones.

Monday, I thought, I will have some leisure time. Time to make something warm, sweet, possibly crusty.

The dreams! The dreams!

Alas, I had a few at breakfast, unable to wait for my usual oatmeal. Throughout the day of writing and catching up with email, I munched. My daughter munched, too. And now there are simply not enough to do anything with.

Except, perhaps....more munching.

Still early enough to get more, but what will be their delicious fate?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Peppers, Peppers Everywhere--But When Will the Maters Be Ripe?

All those delicious varieties of peppers are blooming and the fruits are ready for limited harvesting. No habaneros, yet--the sweet ones are the first this year. While watering the potted tomato plants tonight, I noticed that a couple of romas and one of the preciousssss Cherokee Purples are getting themselves ready. If I can hold myself in patience a couple more days...ah. Fresh tomatoes, warm from the sun.

It's the reason I garden, really. All the rest is the pre-show and the clean-up. Don't get me wrong--I love all that fresh veg. But the maters are the thing. It's the one time in the year that I eat white bread. A thinly-sliced tomato, warm from the sun. Crisp lettuce. Mayo. Two soft slices of criminally white bread.

Mountaineers' caviar.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Middle Eastern Food in the Western NC Mountains

Yes, home is the hunter, home from the hill. This was my first Saturday back on Terra Firma and I had to get in the kitchen and do the do. Firstly, hummus. My favorite brand of hummus is Sabra's and it is smooth and delectable and difficult to find and a little pricey.

So Mommy bought some chickpeas and some tahini and Googled some recipes et voila! It is some good hummus.

Next, tabouli. We love to use big fat kamut for this dish. I simmer it in some water until almost tender and then toss it with olive oil, salt, minced onions and parsley. (If there are ripe maters in the garden I also use one of those. Not yet, not yet.)

When I went out to the weed-laden garden to get onions, I noticed the basil.

Next, pesto. The usual suspects--gorgeous basil, olive oil, a drop or two of water, a bit of salt, a dash of lemon juice.

My house smells like a deli.

Then I sauteed some chicken and onions, placed it on a bed of pesto and served it with tabouli on a bed of lettuce and thin planks of foccacia. Homemade red wine.

Life, as they say, is good.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fish Tacos

I'm in San Francisco and having a grazing good time. My favorite things so far were the mahi mahi tacos yesterday at Cha Cha Cha on Haight. Lightly seasoned, excellent aoili, perfectly shredded red cabbage. After growing up on fish sticks in the mtns of WNC, fresh fish is still a delight to me.

I had shrimp tacos last week and they were pretty good but do not compare with the mahi mahi ones.

Our first night here, I...naturally....went to an Irish-style pub and had a nice ploughman's plate. And a Guinness, nicely pulled. My daughter had fish and chips--haddock, maybe?--and that fish was good, too. Though the breading was too heavy for the fish.


On to NY tonight and a street pretzel, a bagel with a schmear and some home-cooked Italian food. And maybe a glass of wine somewhere along the way.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Farmers' Market Maven, Me

So starting tomorrow, I'll be selling baked goods at the Delaware Avenue Farmers' Market in Albany. My baking business is called Bungalow Baking Company and the main products I'm selling will be cupcakes, cookies and brownies.

I'm excited to get my goodies out there into the community. I'm not sure if I;ll make any money, although I should make more than when I was selling my cupcakes at the neighborhood cafe, since I'll be able to charge retail prices instead of wholesale. But the main reason I'm doing this is to keep myself occupied and test the waters, see if this is a viable part-time work option for when I (hopefully) start teaching again in the fall.

If you're in the area this summer and fall on Tuesdays from 4-7 pm, be sure to stop by!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Off to West Paganistan

My daughter and I are off to San Fran for a week. I'll report on the free-range grazing of a couple of Appalachian Pagan foodies as we eat unusual things--fresh seafood (hey, we live in the mtns), good Chinese food and fish tacos. After that, it's NYC and a little taste of the nation's capital.
We'll also see some art, maybe a bite or two of theatre.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Go Forth and Forage!

This story from the New York Times tells of enterprising urbanites who forage for fruit in cities. There are links to a number of websites that feature networks of people interested in foraging for and trading fruit in their urban neighborhoods.

I'm tickled to see attention being paid to this, and a whole culture growing up around it. I grew up in a foraging family. In addition to paying to pick fruit from orchards and "u pick 'em" fields, and growing our own vegetables and fruit, we also went into the country throughout the spring, summer and fall to gather wild strawberries, hickory nuts, puffball mushrooms, etc.

Here in my Albany neighborhood there is at least one apple tree that literally drips with fruit in the autumn. Near the girls' prep school is a nice Macintosh tree that I used to get lovely apples from, but it hasn't blossomed or fruited in the last two years. :( I wonder why? Is it the bee situation?

I hope there are plenty of fruit trees and shrubs in your area. Get out there and snag yourself some fruit!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

We Be Jammin'

Lots of berries are ready right now in the southern mountains. We picked sarviceberries today. They're a little like blueberries and make good preserves. The big mulberry tree in our neighborhood park is also loaded down, so we picked some of those, too. Topped it off with currants from the back yard and a handful of black raspberries. Tomorrow--as early as possible--I'll make a run of mixed-berry jam.

The pic at right is a colander with sarviceberries--and some leaves and such. Now they are clean and resting in the kitchen, waiting for the big event tomorrow.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Why There Can Never Be Too Many Peppers

We've had an intensely rainy spring--Ireland's got nothing on WNC in May for sheer screaming greenness. But it's meant that gardening is happening on a different schedule than it did last season.

Plus--there are groundhogs.

For years I have worked with intention, fencing and strategic urination (don't ask) to repel the whistlepigs that populate the hillside below my garden. But this year there must be a cleverer than usual one because my spring garden was ravaged by their monstrous appetites. Just as the romaine was ready for a first harvest, it was devoured, nibbled to a nubbin.

In my grief, I decided to plant lots of things that groundhogs don't like. Okra, tomatoes, peppers.

Lots of peppers. In fact, tomorrow morning I am hopeful I will plant the last of the six varieties of peppers that I bought. That's a lot of peppers, so it's a good thing we like 'em.

There are a few more tomatoes to plant, too. I'm all-heirloom this year--Cherokee Purples, Orange Russian, Little Mama, Grape Sprite and Mama Roma. There are a couple others that my boss gave me but I can't recall the names. Doesn't that sound like a rainbow of tomatoes?

The plant on the right above is the young woad. She flowered, went to seed and is now covered with tiny golden seed pods.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sunny, with slightly singed basil

We are having an old-fashioned Appalachian spring. Rain, rain and more rain, cool temperatures, the occasional frost warning. We did have some almost-freezing weather a couple of nights ago, but I didn't worry much about what's planted since it's mostly the tough stuff.

Going out the back door this morning, though, I noticed a big pot of basil that I'd just planted last week. It has a little black around the edges of a couple of leaves but is otherwise alright.

The last frost date in any gardening zone is likely to be a guess, not a firm appointment with summer.

I have gone off sugar (again!) and feel mah-velous. I periodically quit cold-turkey but find it sneaking up on me again. So I am creating nourishing and wholesome meals to distract me. Lots of fresh veg and especially greens--sometimes wilted with olive oil.

Maybe I'll have some for lunch right now.

Please excuse me.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

First, Dirt. Then, Veggies.

Last summer, I grew tomatoes for the first time ever. Crazy, I know, especially for someone who grew up in a family where we grew tons of vegetables and fruits every year, even renting additional garden space when we didn't have enough at home.

My tomatoes did very well in their sandy soil and sunny patches amid the flowers. I just picked up 9 little Big Boy plants, and one yellow cherry tomato plant at Loews. I also have plenty of organic lettuce and watercress seeds to plant in a nice 6-foot long wooden window box I found in the trash. But even more exciting, I got a big bag for organic garden soil for less than half price! It was broken open and rebagged and marked down for quick sale.

Soil is the key to growing good food and pretty flowers. My yard is mostly full of clay and rocks, with one sandy area by the driveway that I purged of crabgrass, and where I grew huge tomatoes last year (when everyone else in the neighborhood was unable to harvest theirs because of too much rain). I've amended the flower beds with manure, peat moss, compost and more soil for the last three years. There is a patch in the back yard where the previous owner grew vegetables: there was rich, dark soil and wooden fence posts buried to make beds. I planted some lettuce, carrots, fennel and pumpkins there last year, but only half-heartedly (see photo). One crop of lettuce was nice, but I didn't thin the carrots, and the fennel just didn't grow very big. And the pumpkins, well let's just say the vines took over and no pumpkins ever appeared. So the soil was willing, but the flesh was weak.

I am ready for more controlled experiments in growing this year, even planning a second planting of lettuces so I can have a ate summer/fall crop. And I'm using containers! Much more user-friendly. I'll post pictures when I have some.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Breaking the Fast

As a Southerner, I have a natural addiction to corn bread. I made a cake (we also call them "pones") of corn bread yesterday and had some for lunch. Then my friend Dio gave me a dozen eggs from her hens last night.

The stage was set.

For breakfast, I fried two of those eggs in butter and set them on a bed of roughly-sliced corn bread, which had been lightly drizzled with a little olive oil. I ground fresh black pepper over the top and added a dollop of spinach/artichoke hummus from the deli.

Served with hot black tea.

Very filling, flavorful and golden.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mmmmmm...Pagan Foodies

Friends, we are Pagans who love to eat, to cook, to complain about the quality of store-bought tomatoes. I am grateful to Peg for jumping on this idea and creating a dynamic place to discuss and share and have a little greasy, home-made, delicious fun. Welcome!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


We invite any and all to share their thoughts, recipes, likes and dislikes. We're pagan, we love food, we love Mother Earth, and we believe in being closely connected to the seasons and the foods we eat. We garden, we choose organic and local foods, we support small farms and companies, and we cook because we enjoy it!