Category: Foods You Should Eat

Huzzah! It’s BLT season

Oh how I love the end of August and beginning of September. I LOVE fresh tomatoes. Really big, red, juicy, fresh tomatoes. Ours acquired a bad case of horn worms this year, but I digress. Ever since I read Harriet the Spy, I’ve loved tomato sandwiches with mayo. I love tomatoes with mozzarella, in a salad, or with just a little salt. But, by far, one of my favorite ways to eat fresh tomatoes is in a BLT.

Turns out I was doing it wrong. I saw first saw this Life Hack on the Buzzfeed List 22 Things You’re Doing Wrong, but it’s worth noting it originated on Life Hacker

Last week I finally remembered to try the Bacon Basketweave method of BLT making.

Before cooking and after cooking pictures of 3 pieces of bacon woven together.

Pros

  • A much neater sandwich
  • No escaping bacon
  • Bacon in every bite

Con

  • It takes longer to cook bacon in the oven than in a frying pan.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

The bacon weave on top of fresh tomatoes and lettuce on lightly toasted white bread with a swipe of mayo

Ruth’s Brownies

Two of the best brownies on a plate next too a glass of milkEveryone has recipes that represent their childhood. My crispy baked pork chops are a riff on the Shake ’N Bake Pork chops I loved growing up. There’s also a baked chicken recipe that I’ll share soon, but the quintessential “treat” when I was growing up was my mom’s brownies. Everyone loved them! They are chocolately and moist and more a fudgier brownie as opposed to the more conventional cake brownie. As a matter of fact, in a classic case of only wanting what you didn’t have, I used to PLEAD with her to buy brownie mix in a box. I wanted the cake style brownie. Eventually, I had my fill of cake brownies and I wised up. I know this recipe by heart. It’s THAT good and THAT easy.

My mom got the recipe from her sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, who was also a close friend of my paternal grandmother. Did you follow that? That woman was also named Ruth. So, here you have, Ruth’s Brownies.

Ingredients:

  • 4 squares unsweetened chocolate (I use Baker’s)
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 4 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (use the real stuff PLEASE)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional – I NEVER get to add walnuts because the people around me equate eating nuts to eating bugs. I think they add something, especially if you have a few minutes to toast them before adding them to the chocolate, but it’s up to you.).

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Grease an 11×13 pan
  3. Place butter and chocolate in a pan on medium to low heat until both are completely melted.
  4. Add sugar, mix until blended
  5. Add flour, mix until blended
  6. Add eggs, mix until blended
  7. Add vanilla and salt, mix until blended.
  8. Add walnuts (if using).
  9. Pour into greased pan
  10. Bake for 30 minutes – NO MORE

As long as your oven is close to temperature you’ll be fine. When you pull them out, you’ll wonder if they are really done. The top should have a light crust, but still look a little moist.

Allow them time to cool before cutting.

Serve with milk.

The recipe can be halved, but really who would want to do that?

Maple Sugaring

Have you ever had maple syrup? No, not that artificially flavored and colored corn syrup you buy at the grocery store, I mean REAL maple syrup.

A three pane collage, the "Sap Cow" (patent pending) used to collect from the individual trees, off loading the sap for transportation to the boiler, close up of sap pouring into buckets

If you stand in front of the super market shelves and see the price difference between manufactured goo and real maple syrup, the temptation might be to reach for the goo. I beg of you, resist. There is a difference and it IS worth it.

A three panel collage the wood pile necessary to fule the fire. The homemade maple sugaring stove, Adding more sap for a consistent boil

Our neighbors have made maple syrup for a few years and this year, we (*ahem*, A-Man), got in on the action. Making maple syrup is very time consuming and mother nature has to cooperate for the operation to work well. The process actually starts in the fall, when you traipse around the woods tagging maple trees. Once the leaves fall off, it’s hard to tell the maples from other indigenous species. 

When the daytime temperatures start to climb out of the twenties, and the night temperatures still dip below freezing, then, it’s time to tap the trees to collect the sap. A good sap year has a few weeks of daytime temperatures in the high 30’s or low 40’s and night time temperatures below freezing. Once you have a good quantity of sap collected, it’s time to boil it down to make syrup.

A three pane collage the sap pan in the dark of nigh, finishing the boil on the stove, the final product

Sounds relatively straight forward, why then is Maple syrup so expensive? It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap and approximately 12-14 hours to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. The first boil of the season was yesterday. They started at around 7am and by 9pm they’d managed to make just about a gallon of syrup.

Oh, but what a heavenly nectar it is!

A waffle drizzle with the results of the process.

Note to A-Man: What I wasn’t able to collect with the waffle, I used my finger to wipe up.  Not a drop was wasted in the creation of this blog post. 

Charleston, September 2012

 

The fountain at Waterfront park. Not Battery Park, Waterfront park. “Mom what was your favorite thing about Charleston?” Mim asked. “The laughter.”

Four women, three nights, four days in Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounds. At one time, our only connection to one another was work related, but over time we grew to be friends which is good because eventually our work paths diverged. With one exception, we stay in touch via Facebook and Twitter. We know enough about each other to be concerned if one of us drops out of sight for too long (yes Scottie I’ve checked up on you), but there are great stories to share when we see each other.

The weather was warm, but not too hot. The food was fabulous and Karon took it upon herself to introduce the Yankees to some of the bounty the South had to offer. Bless her heart 😉. We experienced, she crab soup, real crab cakes, fried shrimp (that tasted like shrimp, not breading), fried green tomatoes, grits, muscadines, and boiled peanuts.

On the left a crab cake from Charleston Crab House on the right, the Waffle House Menu

I learned some of the local dialect too.

  • “Iced tea, half and half”, results in a beverage that tastes good, but won’t put you in a diabetic coma after the first sip.
  • “Nakin, nakin, nakin” means “Do you want a napkin for the blob of muscadine that is on your chin?”
  • “Boyld peanut?” roughly translates to soggy, cold bead that has the texture of an undercooked potato.

Sunrise on the beach, A sign from The Marketplace in downtown, a Sculpture from Mt. Pleasant, and a flower.

We went on a Segway tour, saw Patriot Point, visited The Marketplace in downtown Charleston and experienced a fantastic farmers’ market. We shopped at a Piggly Wiggly (a.k.a. The Pig), ate breakfast at the Waffle House and enjoyed afternoon refreshment at Kudu, a local coffee house that also served craft beers and had a lovely courtyard. We rode the trolleys, got completely confused about who was meeting who, and where, ate lots of food that went straight to our hips and even laid a myth or two to rest. But, most of all, we laughed and that was indeed, the best part of the time I spent in Charleston, South Carolina.

A pathway away from the beach, The four of us on Segways, Charleston Homes, Jill & Karon mugging for me, The Four of us post segway a pretty winding stair case

 

They’re HERE!!!

We picked up the chicks on Friday!

Their new home in a bed of wood shavings in a big plastic bin. Three pictures of kids holding chicks.

They were really cute balls of fluff. I say were because they are growing like mad and are beginning to enter that awkward teenager stage. They are eating/drinking/pooping machines! But they are super cute.

This is a cooperative project between four families. Almost everyone has met our feathered friends and some have even been initiated (ahem pooped on). I think the award for most excited for their arrival goes to Becky. We’re pretty sure that K, (Becky’s youngest girl) has handled each of the 24 chicks at LEAST once :). It is cute to watch the kids take to them. We are carefully handling them so that they will become very used to humans. Before you ask, we instituted strict hand washing policies!

Fish is super excited and has requested that caring for the chickens become a permanent chore of hers. Mim hasn’t shown a ton of interest, but he’s held a few chicks and that’s good enough for me. A-man keeps asking them when he’ll get some eggs.

Last weekend we went away for one overnight and Becky and her husband stepped up to care for them. It really is pretty straightforward but they do require regular attention, so the only way this would work for us is if it is a group effort. We’re lucky to have such awesome neighbors!

This will not become exclusively a chicken blog, but watch for more chicken posts in the near future.

The Honey Health Bread Crusade – An Update

For the first part of the story please see this post.

Well! That was fast. In my last post I mentioned I sent a letter to the former owner of Hanley’s asking for guidance. His wife called me they day they received the letter. Cheyenne and I had a lovely conversation about small business, brambles, buffalo, indian powwows and of course Honey Health Bread. Her husband has had some medical issues since his retirement, but I could hear him in the background chiming in occasionally with bits of information.

Bob's Red Mill Graham Flour and Eden Barley Malt SyrupHe couldn’t remember the recipe exactly and she couldn’t put her hands on it, but they both knew there was no rye flour. He said there was no molasses, but she thought there might have been some. He remembered a syrup, but couldn’t remember what kind. There was whole wheat flour, but it was graham flour, a courser grind of whole wheat flour (and also the kind of flour used to make Graham Crackers). The both reminded me that it was a very wet dough, which makes sense given the moist open crumb.

Cheyenne said she’d look for the recipe for me, but she’s busy and I’m impatient. I’ve acquired some Graham Flour and some Barley malt syrup and am going to set about creating a recipe for Honey Health Bread. Wish me luck!

White Mountain Cupcakery

A golden yellow cupcake with swirls of luscious, chocolate, buttercream frosting and dusted with color sprinkles
Image courtesy of White Mountain Cupcakery

It was the name.

White Mountain Cupcakery.

We’d had a lovely overnight at the Red Jacket Resort, and had just finished a delicious, made-to-order breakfast. It was a beautiful, crisp, fall New England day and we were in no rush to get home, so we decided to spend the day exploring North Conway. My son is obsessed with maps, so he picked up one of those promotional maps that highlights local attractions. Despite being ready to explode from breakfast, as soon as I saw the words White Mountain Cupcakery, I knew we had to stop.

The store is located at 2757 White Mountain Highway, the main drag through North Conway. The sunny yellow victorian is on your right as you head North (maybe to Storyland or Cranmore Mountain). We found a parking spot right out front and made our way in.

Kathy Iannuzzi Co-owner Kathy Iannuzzi was there with a bright smile. She welcomed us as she filled an order for the people in front of us. I asked the woman ordering if the cupcakes were good and she replied with a resounding YES!

The cupcakes looked picturesque, something out of a Martha Stewart cookbook. The cake base was sizable, and the rippled pillows of frosting nestled on top just called out to my index finger (fortunately they were behind glass).

We each selected our own cupcake and although tempted by the seasonal offerings (Apple Pie and Pumpkin), we all stayed with some version of chocolate. The kids both went with Chocolate Avalanche (chocolate cupcake, chocolate frosting and chocolate chips), my husband picked a Chocolate Sno-Ball (chocolate cupcake, with buttercream frosting), and I went with Chocolate Raspberry (chocolate cupcake filled with raspberry filling finished with chocolate frosting).

As pretty as something looks, in my mind, it is the taste that truly matters. The cake was a rich chocolate and the raspberry filling added nice moisture. The frosting was chocolaty enough, but I’m a buttercream purist. I’m not wild about buttercream frosting that incorporates shortening. However, pure buttercream frosting is VERY difficult to work with especially in any kind of decorative manner. In this case, the frosting was a good blend of buttercream taste and shortening for structure.

The cupcakes are sizable lasted through a 12 day in the truck while we explored. We had half for dessert that night and the other half held up nicely the second day. All in all, a stop well worth making.

The White Mountain Cupcakery also prepares cakes and seasonal delicacies (Cannoli, GingerBread houses and a family recipe for Struffoli). Visit them online at wmcupcakery.com or like them on Facebook. Definitely stop by the next time you are ANYWHERE near North Conway.  You won’t be disappointed.

A menu listing all the cupcake offerings

An Open Letter To Trader Joe’s

Dear  Trader Joe’s:

I can remember wandering into one of your stores in Concord, California about 8 years ago and being put off by all of the private label items. We were on vacation and I was just looking for brands I recognized. I was dumb. I didn’t get it. It has taken me WAY too long, but I have come around. I have seen the light. Good food, less processing, reasonable prices. Like most people who convert late in life, I have become rather passionate in my preaching. I ❤ TJs!

I started reading labels about 4 years ago, I was looking to exclude a preservative that triggered migraine headaches in my husband. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. Once I started reading labels and realizing that I couldn’t recognize much of what was in my food, I started looking for less processed food. I’ll never be macrobiotic, but still I believe we can cut some of the filler out of our diet. I quickly found it is hard to find foods are less processed. When I found alternatives, they were pricey. Then I found Trader Joe’s. I found the food I was looking for without the junk I wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Trader Joe’s is not bargain basement, but it is good food at a reasonable price. I found the food I was looking for with ingredients I could identify at a price I was willing to pay. I was happy, sort of. Once you get a taste of what is possible, you want it more frequently. Sadly, the nearest Trader Joe’s is 45 minutes away from me (without traffic).

This brings me to the point of this missive,

NEW HAMPSHIRE DESERVES A TRADER JOE’S.

Ahem. Why should Massachusetts and (soon) Maine have all the fun? New Hampshire is a great state filled with lots of wonderful people many of whom share my concern for eating well for a reasonable cost.PLEASE can we have a Trader Joe’s?

Let’s talk about locations shall we? Nashua can easily drive to Tyngsboro, MA. My ideal location would be Concord, because that is my closest shopping mecca, but if you are going sheerly by the numbers, you could look at Manchester. Oh, I know how about Hooksett as a compromise?

These days, I have my milk delivered by http://www.nhmilk.com and I purchase my meat in bulk, so I only grocery shop every 10 -14 days to feed a family of 4. But, I solemnly promise that if you bring a Trader Joe’s with in a 30 minute drive, I will make it my primary grocery store and I’ll bring all my friends too!

So what do you say? Will you at least think about it?

Thanks!

Lee

Miles Smith Farm – Locally Raised Beef

Miles Smith Farm pasture raised, hormone free, anti-biotic free, beef

How many times have you heard “live your passion”? How many times have you met people who actually ARE living their passion? You need to meet Carole Soule and Bruce Dawson of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon. Their passion is locally grown food.

The pair met when they worked at Digital Equipment Corporation (now Hewlet Packard). In 2000, they cleared some land on their farm.  Their search for a low maintenance method of keeping the land clear lead them to purchase sheep.  That venture was short lived when the coyotes took the sheep as snacks.

Carole Soule with Blue Moo a shaggy Scottish Highland cow
Carole and Blue Moo

After some research, they settled on cattle, specifically, the Scottish Highland breed. The coat on Highland cattle is long and bushy. It that resembles the shagginess of a sheep dog but is rougher and thicker. The coat keeps the animal warm during the cold winter months. For the farmer, this means the cattle don’t have it be kept in the barn all winter. For the consumer, this means a naturally leaner cut of meat because the animal doesn’t require back the fat to stay warm.

Carole and Bruce started with two pregnant cows.  They were “guaranteed” to calf easily  but, as with many aspects of life on a farm, things didn’t go exactly as planned. The first birthed easy, the second, not so much.  Farming is frequently about on the job training and Carole says if she knew then what she knows now they would not have lost that calf.

It would be a few years before they slaughteed their first cow.  The meat was good, but later cows have delivered even leaner, more flavorful meat.   Genetics plays a very important role in building a healthy happy herd of cows. They also discovered that the right butcher makes all the difference when preparing meat for human consumption.  They put their knowledge to work and started expanding their herd.

Eventually the herd grew so that they had more meat then they could eat or give away. Carole approached the Concord Co-op to see if they would be interested in a source for locally raised, hormone-free, anti-biotic-free beef.  The Co-op  jumped at the chance. The response was fantastic,  So much so it was hard to keep up with the demand.

Farming is a community venture.  Farmers rely on each other for stock, knowledge and help. Carole and Bruce had developed a network of local, small family farms who shared their views on raising hormone free, anti-biotic free, cattle. With the help of that network they were able to provide the additional meat to necessary to guarantee a steady supply.

As the heard grew and the sales of their meet increased so did the workload. Bruce eventually retired from his job as a software engineer to become a full-time farmer. That doesn’t mean he left his interest in high technology behind. There are WebCams of the farm and according to Carole the  water troughs even have WiFi Internet access in case he wants to set up cameras to check on the cows.  Carole  balances farm responsibilities including public relations and marketing with her full-time job in sales compensation for HP.

Carole feels the cows are her employees and they should be afforded the same respect as human employees. Although she does find in necessary to reward the bovine employees in a different method than the 5 part time staffers who help she and Bruce run the farm and the store.

The store stocks their Scottish Highland beef as well as locally raised Angus beef, pork, lamb, chicken and goat. Winter hours are Tuesday, Thursday 4:30pm – 7:30pm Wednesday from 9am to 1pm and Saturdays from 9am to 3pm. Many local businesses and restaurants also stock their beef.

Scottish Highland Cattle with a human friendOn Sunday October 10th, from 9 AM to 4 PM the farm is hosting their 5th annual Farm Day and hoping to attract close to 2000 people throughout the day. There will be a band, hayrides and plenty of locally grown food (including the legendary Miles Smith Beef Stew). Miles and Eliza Smith founders of the farm in the 1830’s will also be there to converse farm life. There is no charge to attend, but there is a $5 charge for hayrides, children under 12 are free.  Download the November 2009 Loudon Ledger for an article about last year’s festivities.

I’ve had grass fed beef before and it reminded me of cardboard. So with a little trepidation I purchased some of Miles Smith beef at the Concord Farmer’s market this spring. I was very pleasantly surprised the meet had a rich flavor and despite being 90% lean, it was still moist and juicy.

For more information, visit the Miles Smith Farm website. There, you will find a list of restaurants that serve their beef and stores that sell it prepackaged.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

DISCLAIMER: I was not compensated in any way for this blog post. This is just my personal experience with a New Hampshire Business.

Peanuts in the Shell, The Five Guys Store, My Burger

My mother-in-law came back from a trip down South raving about Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Oh good I thought, another fast food joint. Just what this world needs. Uh, I was wrong. This world NEEDS Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

I thought it was solely a Southern chain until a Facebeook Friend checked in from the Manchester Location using 4square. After looking at FiveGuys.com, I knew I had to give this place a try. I took my two reviewers in training we set out on a mission to see if Five Guys was really as good as the hype.

It was a warm spring day towards the end of the lunch hour and the place was busy, but not mobbed. As we walked in, we were greeted by bags and bags of Five Guys Private label potatoes. On top, there was a box of peanuts still in the shell. I can’t remember how long its been since I’ve shelled peanuts. Things were off to a good start.

We didn’t wait too long before they took our order. Fish has a hot dog and Mim a grilled cheese. I order a cheeseburger with lettuce, pickles, ketchup and mustard. The cashier is friendly and helpful (even guiding me towards a small order of fries). On the plus side, they are a Coke operation (No Pepsi!), but my kids don’t drink soda or juice, so it was water for them. Also they offer Iced tea, but it isn’t the best brew. I was glad I’d stopped at Starbucks before coming.

Like I said, it was busy, but not crazy. I took the kids around the side of the counter to watch the bee hive of activity behind the scenes and we easily found a table. We waited a reasonable time for our order although I suspect my reviewers in training might disagree with me on that front.

So, how was the food? Oh, Oh MY! Just delicious. The burger was fresh and juicy. The bread was fresh and the toppings were plentiful without being overwhelming. The fries are good, but if you aren’t used to fresh potato fries, they might seem mushy. Think of the fries you get at the fair, that’s the kind of fries that Five Guys serves.

All in all, it was a great  experience. My reviewers in training like it too.

So, if you are looking for a good burger, fast, try Five Guys Burgers and Fries. They have two locations in New Hampshire, the Manchester location is Manchester

1111 South Willow Street, in the same shopping center as Michael’s and Starbucks. There is also a location at 341 Amherst Street in Nashua.

DISCLAIMER: I was not compensated in any way for this blog post. This is just my personal experience with a New Hampshire Business.