Tag Archives: cooking

Fresh Snow and Trivia

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Fresh snow this morning!

I am so happy to see it!

It’s not the first, this year. We’ve had snow, cold and icy, clinging to the windshields, making roads difficult and reminding us that winter is on its way to Beaver Island.

This is the first “fluffy” snow.

This snow has power.

It has already softened the landscape. You almost wouldn’t know that I didn’t get my garden clean-up done. It’s no longer obvious that my lawn hasn’t been mowed since late August…and now it won’t be, either, until springtime! It’s impossible to tell that there are leaves under that snow, that I never got around to raking up.

This snow has greatly improved the look of my “to-do” list, just by blanketing all of the undone tasks in soft white.

It has also changed my outlook.

I’m starting to look forward to the holidays. I’m thinking of the inside activities that this weather is good for: reading, writing and art-making. I’m thinking of comfort foods: soups and stews and casseroles. Baking, for the warmth of having the oven going, and all the goodness that brings. Sleeping under layers of comforters and quilts. I’m thinking of all the little projects around the house that I didn’t have time for in the summer. It’s time now!

Today, after work, I’m heading for the Stoney Acre Grill to meet friends. Today, we play Pub Trivia! We have our own Powers’ Hardware team, and there is some good competition. It’s all good-natured competition, though, and it benefits a good cause, the Beaver Island Food Pantry.  It’s going to be a good day!

So Much For “S’pose”

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I spent yesterday morning freshening the upstairs rooms, making beds, running the vacuum cleaner, sweeping and mopping floors at Aunt Katie’s, in anticipation of company coming. Aunt Margaret, my cousin Gail and others were arriving on the afternoon ferry. I met the boat and stopped back at the farmhouse to visit for a bit. I promised I’d stop back today, before going to work.

We were supposed to – maybe –  get a frost last night. In anticipation, I’d gathered all the summer squash, zucchini, beans, peppers, tomatoes and Swiss chard that could be harvested yesterday afternoon. I went out in the evening and covered the tomato plants.

Today was supposed to be my day off, but I was asked to fill in for someone. I’m covering the dinner shift and don’t have to be there until four-thirty, so it still kind of feels like a day off.

I started my morning by checking on the garden. No frost! I took the covers off the tomatoes. Juggling coffee cup and gathering pail, I wandered the perimeter of the yard gathering enough berries for breakfast, then came in to get on with the day.

All of the produce I’d collected yesterday had to be dealt with…except for the Swiss chard, which I’d had with dinner last night.

First the tomatoes, peeled and chopped, go into the big kettle. Peppers next: one hot, one mild. I set aside the young beans for a side dish, but the larger ones, ends nipped off and roughly chopped, get added to the pot. Small squash – whether yellow, light green or dark – go back to the vegetable bin, too. Medium-sized get washed and set aside for grating. The large ones, cut into chunks, go into the kettle. There is still room, so I go back to the garden to cut some kale. I gather purslane, parsley and basil on the way back. All goes in to the soup pot. I add just enough water to prevent sticking and put it on the stove to simmer.

When the whole mix has stewed until it’s tender, I’ll chill it. Tomorrow, I’ll put it through the food mill, and store it, labelled “soup base” in quarts for the freezer. I use it instead of water to cook rice. I use it with other ingredients to make soups or sauces. It makes a great braising liquid. With only a bit of seasoning and a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, it stands on its own as a pureed soup. It’s flavor is always different, based on what ingredients went in, but it’s always good…and always easy.

Now for grated squash. I grow three types of summer squash and – though they all have slightly different flavors and textures – use them interchangeably in recipes. When I put them up, grated, for zucchini pancakes, zucchini-crust pizza or zucchini bread, I just mix them all together. I like the little flecks of yellow or light green, and they are similar enough in taste to work.

This is one of the few jobs I actually like my food processor for. Though I’ve regretted buying it almost from the moment I got it home, hate the amount of cupboard space it takes up, despise the many small pieces to wash and store, and feel I could easily live a full life without it, the food processor does make quick work of grating a mountain of summer squash. Six quarts, labelled and dated, were in the freezer by noon.

There were four cups left over when I ran out of containers. I’d make zucchini bread! My recipe – actually James Beard’s rendition of Carl Goh’s zucchini bread – calls for two cups of peeled, grated zucchini. Who peels zucchini? Not me! Since my mound of unpeeled, mixed squash measured four cups, I’d have to double the recipe. No problem.

I had six eggs broken and beaten before realizing I didn’t have four cups of sugar in the house.

Okay. Two and a half cups of sugar and one half cup of real maple syrup would have to do.

Two cups of oil seemed like a lot. Aunt Margaret, in her baking days, used to substitute applesauce for part of the oil in recipes.

No apple sauce in my house.

But (aha!), one small jar of yams. I ask myself, might mashed yams be – taste and texture-wise – about the same mushy sweetness as apple sauce? Maybe. One cup of oil, one cup of mashed yams.

Three cups of all-purpose flour means that I need six cups in my doubled recipe.

Yikes!

That ended up being two cups of all-purpose flour, three cups of whole wheat flour and one cup of brown rice flour.

Baking powder, baking soda and vanilla caused no issues.

I spilled the cinnamon, so that was a bit more than what the recipe called for.

I had no walnuts or filberts, but a generous cup of slivered almonds went in.

After filling two loaf pans, I decided to add a half-cupful of dried cranberries to the rest of the batter before filling the third loaf pan and the muffin cups.

Bake one hour, except for the muffins which finished sooner.

Delicious!

This was supposed to be Carl Goh’s zucchini bread as interpreted by James Beard.

I’m calling it mine!

Checking messages, I see I am now supposed to be at work by three-thirty or four. I still have to walk the dogs, refrigerate the soup base, wrap the zucchini bread, change clothes and get out of the house in time to stop at the farmhouse. So much for my supposed day off!

Happy Holidays

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I had a wonderful Christmas Day!

My family – at the suggestion of my oldest daughter – contributed photos and memories for an album, so that I could have them all with me here in my distant home on Christmas morning. It was perfect! It made me feel as if I were reminiscing with each of my sisters, my brother, my nieces and nephews, my daughters, grandchildren and friends. It made me laugh and it made me cry. It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

I had a nice conversation with my sister, Brenda, who was waking up in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. We agreed that this was a different Christmas, but that it could still be a good one. I also talked to my daughter, Kate, who chatted to me about her plans, and assured me that the gifts I’d sent had been appreciated. Her enthusiasm and boundless energy dealing with four children and extended family always amazes me.

I took the dogs for a long walk in the fresh snow. I tied red bows to their collars, and let them run free all the way down the trail to the old Cotter cabin. Back at home, I built a squat little snow person to welcome my guests. A little misshapen with the icy snow, she’s quite attractive anyway with her chrysanthemum flower eyes, little carrot nose and crocheted cap tied under her chin.

I cooked Christmas dinner for four! I was thinking of my mother, recently deceased, who cooked for twenty or more every Christmas for most of her life. How did she ever do it? I planned for days and made five trips to the grocery store. I was hard at it for most of the day, all day, from 8:30 in the morning until dinner went on the table at 6:30 in the evening! What a wonderful diversion it was! The guests were my Aunt Katie, my cousin, Bob, and my friend, Vince. The menu:

Pickled Okra

Pickled Mushrooms

Ham, Onion and Cream Cheese Pinwheels

Homemade Rolls with Butter

Roast Turkey with Stuffing

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Gingered Carrots

Cranberry Sauce

Cherry-Berry Pie with Whipped Cream

Pumpkin Roll

We all ate until we were full, and I sent leftovers home with each guest. I warmed leftovers for my dinner last night, and plan a pot of turkey soup tonight.

Happy Holidays!