I am feeling a bit nostalgic these days. Missing my parents and in-laws. We always spent Christmas with one or the other.
This is our third year without my mom, who lived the longest and who was the driving force behind the celebration of Christmas. She never tired of the holiday. She always bought presents for us, even when she was slowing down in her late eighties.
I kept some of her decorations when we were clearing out the apartment and deciding what we wanted from her collection of many handmade items.
I make her sugar cookies every year. It isn’t Christmas without her cookies.
Those crispy thin cookies are all I need to resurrect Christmas past in our house.
Today I made a small feast. Mixed grill. Potatoes with peppers and onions. Cheese. Bread, Really lovely old wine. We sat for a long time at the table, reminiscing.
Time to head into the family room to see if the Saints can hang on and win.
Happy holidays to my friends and relatives. Hoping 2021 is far better than these last two years have been.
Do you sometimes crave those simple desserts from your childhood? Like real gingerbread. Not the cookies, but the cakey moist flavorful version, made from scratch.
For me, a few minutes spent sifting through my old recipe cards yielded this oldy but goody.
From the McCalls Recipe Box, which was my husband’s. I had the Betty Crocker box. I was cleaning out some stuff in the bookcase back in the bonus room over our garage I was trying to decide whether it was time to let go of the recipe cards. But they were how I learned, and so did my husband, to cook.
I was looking for comfort food, and gingerbread certainly fits the bill. I made a few adjustments. I went a little heavy on the spices. I used Grandma’s molasses, which I believe is dark molasses. I used the last of the self rising flour from one of my curbside pickups, where it was a substitute when flour was scarce. That meant no baking soda. I used a 10 by 15 pan so my gingerbread wasn’t the same height as the recipe showed.
Still, it is a wonderful trip back to the days of homemade goodies baked by my mom.
I really enjoyed doing this. I will have to dig through the cards and find something else to evoke those memories. Baking from scratch. Nothing from a box even comes close.
The end of a quiet holiday weekend. Watching the Packers. After spending time cleaning up the cars for winter. Certainly not an exciting or sexy way to spend Thanksgiving.
I did do a turkey, but only a half one. Thanks to Triadelphia LakeView Farm and Jenny’s Market.
Not a particularly small turkey, at 10.9 pounds for the half. This was fairly easy to do. Dry brine overnight with salt, orange zest, sugar and lemon juice.
Roasted first at 400° for 20 minutes, then finished at 325° for two more hours.
We had the wing and part of the breast for dinner. I then made soup from the drumstick and the bones to have Friday night. Turkey noodle soup. Yesterday I made the breast meat with a covering of buttered cheesecloth to give us another meal.
Today we were turkeyed out so I made a rump roast. Slow cooked in the oven with veggies.
This was a small business Thanksgiving meal. Local vendors.
Time to start working on our small business Christmas. Poinsettias from Greenway Farms. Greenery from Triadelphia LakeView.
We can get through this year by continuing to be careful, and by supporting our small local farms and businesses. We are thankful for them being here for us.
Old enough to be labeled on social media as Boomers. Questioning our computer skills, even though he spent twenty five years running the computer lab at APL, making sure all those Masters’ candidates didn’t fry the hardware while doing their lab projects.
We used to program data collection systems in machine language for the Navy, so yeah, we can program our iPhones.
Now, I made a simple extravagant dinner at home. A combination of local and favorite items. Lobster and cake from Harris Teeter. Filet mignon from Boarman’s. Bubbly from The Wine Bin. A beautiful super Tuscan given to him five years ago by an old friend.
The hits of the evening were the lobster and the Tignanello.
This dinner was simple to make. Steam the lobster. Fry the steaks. Open the wines. Make a salad.
It’s been more than six months now. No restaurants. No wineries. No day trips. 200 dinners cooked. At least.
If it wasn’t for the garden for me and the radio for my husband, we would be crawling the walls.
I spend at least three days a week at the garden.
There have been so many people up there than I have ever seen. Gardening is a way to escape. To enjoy what you are creating.
To bring home a record number of tomatoes this year. My record was 177 pounds. I am now at 182 pounds with a few purple Cherokees left on the vines.
The crazy part? Almost one third of them are yellow cherry tomatoes.
The green ones hopefully will ripen in brown paper bags, or I will make a small batch of green tomato chutney.
Cooking and baking fill up my days.
We have also had Zoom get togethers and Facetime calls with friends. And, I think we have logged more visits to the landfill than anywhere else, except for the grocery store.
I am thankful we have hobbies, friends, and projects to keep us busy. I am thankful we have space to spread out when we need a break from one another. Seriously. Having a spouse that’s also my best friend has helped us weather the isolation.
I am looking for winter projects right now. We have spent much of the past six months outdoors. We need to tackle some things in the house, with the help of the small business contractors we use. Some electrical work. Basement work. Garage clean up.
We also have done a fair share of binge watching. We were never big TV watchers when we had so many other things to do.
Would you believe? We finally watched Downton Abbey. Endeavor. DCI Banks. A Chef’s Life. I suppose we are finally getting our money’s worth with Amazon Prime.
We missed some major events and hope we will see them happen again. I missed having a 50 year high school reunion. We won’t be going out for my husband’s 70th birthday so I have to plan something special for here.
But, when all is said and done, being out here in a natural environment keeps me happy. And the garden is the best place for me to relax.
It’s tomato season. I am drowning in yellow cherry tomatoes.
The yellow cherries are still overachieving. The husky red cherries are winding down but still available to add color to the sheet pan.
The tray is completed with scallions and sweet peppers from my CSA. When done, another pint of oven roasted tomatoes goes into the freezer. These containers guarantee that in the dead of winter I can bring summer and sunshine back on our plates.
It is very easy to preserve tomatoes. Cut them in half. Add sliced peppers, scallions, herbs, salt, pepper and a slight sprinkle of sugar. Olive oil and a hand mixing to incorporate it all.
Roast at 250°F until the tomatoes start to caramelize and shrivel up. Put in a container and freeze.
I have spent many hours at my garden this summer. It provides me an escape from the house without crowds. Every other day I harvest tomatoes and some peppers. Maybe a few asparagus. Zinnias. And soon! Sweet potatoes. Which are definitely doing well in a corner of my plot.
All in all, having a garden is giving me sunshine, and keeping me sane.
The 40th Anniversary. According to Hallmark, it is Ruby. You know, incentive to buy cards and other things from that Hallmark store.
August 9th 1980. In 95+ degree heat. We got married.
We thought that we would be going away to celebrate but Covid-19 ruined those plans.
As our celebration, like we do for minor events where I cook and we open old wines, we decided to commemorate that Ruby theme by opening an old Port. From the year we were married.
Yeah, it’s no longer ruby red but it was really incredible. We bought these Ports from Wells Liquors in Baltimore. They were from the closed Brentwood Inn. We figured they would obviously survive for anniversaries far beyond what a bottle of wine could do.
I served the Port with a few lovely dark chocolate salted caramels from Sweet Cascades. We picked them up at the Wine Bin.
I made simple pan fried tenderloin filets. Bought at Boarman’s. Seared to perfection. Opened a Beringer reserve cabernet. Buttered fingerlings. Sliced heirloom tomatoes. Nothing difficult to make.
It’s been an adventure. Forty years together. These days far more time together since we don’t get out much. Not the way we intended to spend retirement but thankfully having a larger hone and a big yard we can get some alone time when we need it.
Let’s hope better times are coming. So we can go out and celebrate my husband’s 70th birthday later this year.
It’s been over a hundred days since we’ve been anywhere. Except for curbside pickups and a few quick trips to grocery stores and markets. Oh, and the hardware store.
Thankfully we have enough space around here and enough to do to keep busy. Plus, my garden. It gives me peace and quiet while dealing with the squash beetles and the weeds. And harvesting asparagus.
I did get my first four yellow cherry tomatoes yesterday. No squash yet, and the cucumbers don’t look great. Lots of asparagus though.
The peppers? Hanging in there but the weather isn’t cooperating either.
I have been cooking quite a bit. Making the most of my Vegetable share. Particularly all the greens. I have been cooking from Toni Tipton-Martin’s book Jubilee, this month’s cookbook club selection.
Collards with cornmeal dumplings. This was a serious undertaking. Many steps. But the result was delicious. Those dumplings were awesome.
Island banana bread. Transports me back to Jamaica. Full of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, with dates and pecans. This cookbook is full of absolutely flavorful trips down Memory Lane for me.
I found lots of new favorites along the journey. Like this broccoli and cauliflower salad with curried dressing. You assemble and dress this salad and let it marinate in the fridge for hours. These are the spices from the deep Caribbean, like we encountered in Trinidad.
I found that cooking from this book allowed me to reminisce about travels from decades past, while staying “safer at home”.
I downloaded the iBook version of the book. No trips to stores for much of what I made here. Thankfully Harris Teeter has curbside pickup and could provide us with many of the needed items. They also waived the pickup fee for senior citizens so kudos to them for their accommodation to us while we are taking care of ourselves.
The Book? It is written by Toni Tipton-Martin and is titled Jubilee, Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking. Paired with my other iBook from the exploration of the South, Deep Run Roots. Together they explore the rich history of Southern cooking through two separate perspectives but with very similar results in many recipes.
Vivian Howard learned how to prepare numerous items by watching Mrs. Mary and Ms. Lillie who cooked in Southern homes for decades. If you get a chance to record and watch Somewhere South or A Chef’s Life on PBS, both of her series delve into recipe origins and the complexities of Southern cooking are revealed.
Are you a collard eater or a turnip greens eater? What are the differences between Creole and Cajun? How did rice and okra and sweet potatoes get into the Southern diet? For me with my interest in cooking, baking and gardening I find that cookbooks with history in them give me a deeper understanding of life in the past.
To summarize from a very long story today, I have been staying sane by “traveling” and learning in the comfort and safety of my kitchen. I have also been supporting local small businesses for ingredients to do so. Not ready for restaurants yet, but farmer’s markets and farm stores have returned to our lives.
Thanks to Jenny’s market drive thru when I need something quick. To Breezy Willow and Mary’s Land Farm stores when I need meat or fish. To the Wheelhouse Market. To TLV and the other farmers at the markets here in HoCo.
I am staying sane by gardening, cooking and baking. What are you doing to stay sane?
What a difference a year makes. Last spring we barely had enough members to get our pick up site renewed. Now, Community Supported Agriculture is booming, with twice the number of people at our site. Lancaster Farm Fresh is showing on their web site that some of the shares are sold out. Including meat, chicken and cheese shares.
My monthly meat share provider, Evermore Farm in Westminster, is also slammed. The owner was telling me that they aren’t accepting CSA shares right now because of the demand. They also suspended sales of sides of beef and pork. We are lucky that we have locked in a medium share for the foreseeable future.
Now if I can find a local source for flour that would be nice. I am baking twice a week and can’t find bread flour or yeast. I may end up buying the grinder option for my KitchenAid mixer and grinding the wheat berries and rye berries from our winter CSA pantry share. They are in my basement fridge. I have been experimenting with a mix of whole wheat flour and some soft winter wheat which isn’t the best bread flour but it seems to be working.
Also, did you know there are local restaurants offering meat bundles, produce bundles, and packages to help with the much larger demand for fresh foods? We have replaced restaurant eating with home cooking and the once adequate supplies in the stores are quickly gobbled up. Walker’s Tap to Table up the road from us is offering these. Using JW Treuth for meat.
Jenny’s just opened their farm stand, giving us really close access to fruits, veggies, plants, and more. The farmer’s markets are back, as drive throughs. I think I can minimize my once every ten day visits for curbside pickup from Harris Teeter. Maybe drop back to biweekly. For the staples, like oils and vinegar, spices, and cleaning supplies.
Thanks to my meat share, and my vegetable share, I had everything to make a big pot of bean soup today. Because of course the weather isn’t cooperating and it’s cold out. Not grilling weather at all, but stay inside, make bread and soup, and cover the plants at night weather. I hear that Western Maryland had snow flurries last night. Not your typical Mother’s Day weather at all.
So, here’s to the wonderful bean soup.
Ham hock from Evermore. Seared with onions from CSA. Add six cups of water. Simmer a long time. Add pepper, oregano and thyme. Celery, carrots, green cabbage. A large can of white beans with the liquid to make it creamy. This soup spent six hours on the stovetop on low heat. It was awesome with my homemade bread. Who needs to go out? We can enjoy good food at home. Fresh from the farm to table.
It’s been three weeks of not going anywhere non-essential.
It’s not fun being “old”.
In two days we were going to go celebrate my ten year anniversary of being retired. Now, we will raise a toast here at the house. We are really glad we have the luxury of staying home, and the privilege of getting things delivered.
I have been working on updating my resources, sadly neglected, on this web page to highlight the small local businesses that we support.
I also realized that maybe writing more will calm the nagging anxiety we can’t shake.
I know we are lucky. Right now, we get our weekly farm share from Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op and our monthly meat share from Evermore Farm. We have curbside service at Wheelhouse and at Harris Teeter.
Thankfully, my chest freezer in the basement is still full of tomato sauces and roasted tomatoes, blueberries, stocks, soups, grains, flour, nuts and pesto. The freezer up here has a good variety of meat and some frozen vegetables.
The pantry? Beans galore. Condiments. Oil. Vinegar. Spices and herbs. Pastas and lentils. Oats. Rice.
I started making my no-knead bread again.
The simple version. Flour, salt, yeast, water. An 18 hour rise. Google Jim Lahey no-knead bread if you want to try it. We were lucky to find yeast at Harris Teeter. This recipe only uses 1/4 tsp so we can make 8 loaves from one envelope.
The other staple? My simple tuna dish. Tuna, onion, white beans, salt and pepper.
The recipe calls for tuna with olive oil but anything will work. Over greens is our preferred way to eat it.
I am making soups. Omelets. Pasta with sauces. Eat one night. Freeze the other half for later. Minimizing the amount of protein in the dish. Heavy on the greens and grains.
Hanging in there. Praying for friends and relatives on the front lines.