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.
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 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.
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.
Sometimes we step back and look at where we live and what that means.
We live in a food desert. Nothing but convenience stores in a five mile radius. You need bread? Lots of marshmallowy white breads at High’s and RoFo. Milk, OK, we can get that too, Produce? Nope!
No sidewalks. No mass transit. Drive to the nearest town if you need anything.
Yes, we are different from urban food deserts. We can easily get to fresh food suppliers if we want to drive 5-10 miles. Still. I miss that convenience. Living so close to multiple fresh food sources. Not here. Not until now.
Welcome to The Wheelhouse.
Located in Glenwood, we now have a market run by a local farm, all year round. Need celery to make a tuna salad? Yep. How about really good dairy?
South Mountain Creamery is there. Bread? Great Harvest.
Plus, they have take out goodies, like chicken salad. Pizza. They also sell sandwiches and salads.
This is an amazing small business, giving us healthier options for meals. I really hope they succeed. I try to get there at least once a week. Western Howard County needs to have a local source for fresh food.
If you live or work out here in the western part of our county, please try them.
That would be me. By whatever means, I have become the cook that brings the vegetarian/vegan contribution to the parties. Whether it is the amateur radio Field Day, or the contribution to my brother’s dinners (for my vegetarian in-law’s in-laws), or the potluck volunteer luncheon, I bring the veggie-centric dish that is satisfying and different.
We feed the volunteers, the garden clubs and the vendors at our Holiday Craft Fair every December at the Conservancy.
I share cooking with my friend who also coordinates and cooks for our Amateur Radio Field Day. We have become quite skilled at meeting the needs of those who partake. We have all sort of dietary restrictions and preferences. I get large amounts of vegetables in my farm share (aka Community Supported Agriculture)
Add to that, my lactose intolerance, which has me modifying recipes to take out the dairy.
Last week I made two dishes for the holiday event. They were vegan. Easy for those with restrictions. One was a vegan cole slaw. The other? One awesome butternut squash and black bean chili. Recipes were requested. Here is the response.
I began cooking many dishes using squash once we started seeing behemoths like this in our box. I do hummus, I do lasagna, and now I do chili using them.
This chili was easy. Two large cans of black beans. One diced, roasted butternut squash – large. Two large onions. One can of roasted red peppers, sliced. One can of Rotel tomatoes and chilis. One can crushed tomatoes. Those pumpkin spices. Choose those you like. I am partial to cinnamon, cumin, and coriander. Some garlic powder. Salt and pepper. Crock pot all of it. Kick it up with more heat, or more garlic.
As for my cole slaw. I used Savoy cabbage, carrots and Granny Smith apples. All chopped. I made a vegan dressing for it. It was mustard, vegan sour cream, white wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. That vegan sour cream makes this dressing a great alternative for those who are avoiding dairy.
You don’t miss the meat when you add tons of flavor using herbs and spices. We certainly didn’t.
It’s that spring ritual for me. If it isn’t asparagus, it’s ramps. If it isn’t ramps, it’s morel mushrooms. And, when they are done, it becomes garlic scapes. Etc. Etc.
I post every year about those fleeting specialties that grace our table in all their glory.
Ramps, last year, for example. That post also mentions the fresh morels from Jenny’s Market. Yesterday when I saw the signs on route 32 for the market, they highlighted the seasonal goodies like the mushrooms.
I have also written many posts on asparagus, and on garlic scapes, but today I want to show another simple preparation with the ramps that were still available at the Silver Spring farmer’s market.
I found a recipe in Laurie Lundy’s amazing book on Appalachia. The book is called Victuals, pronounced viddles, according to the introduction. I also grew up hearing it pronounced at vittles. No matter, it is a very complete collection of recipes and their history in the Appalachian communities.
I ended up using her guidelines for ratios, but using what I had in the pantry.
4-5 ounces of ramp leaves. Three large bulbs. I blanched the leaves. Wrung them out after their ice water bath. Put them and the bulbs in the food processor with about 1/2 cup of pistachios. Added 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese. Poured in the olive oil while watching it emulsify. A little salt and pepper to taste. I used this pesto on pasta, and on flatbreads. Added it to an omelet with sautéed potatoes. Put a little on a freshly baked potato. I made it twice already in the past two weeks.
Ramp season is fleeting. They are wild, and not agreeable to cultivating.
An interesting fact I recently heard on the newest Parts Unknown. The West Virginia episode that premiered last week. The farmers in West Virginia are paid $2 a pound for ramps that are taken to New York City where they fetch up to $32 a pound. Talk about a markup!
We pay about $4 a bunch to the West Virginia farmers who frequent the Silver Spring market. Those bunches weigh about 5-6 ounces so they are getting around $12 a pound by selling direct to customers here. A big difference in price.
If you get the opportunity to buy from the local communities, they do far better than selling through distributors.
Now, I just need to head up to Jenny’s and get some locally sourced morels.