catching up ( again!)

Last week we made a quick trip to PA  to manage some medical appointments and to visit family.  The downside was a very long trip back on friday amidst all kinds of traffic..  the upside was that we brought PA  tomatoes and peaches to share with our coworkers 🙂      peach shortcake     we devised this wonderful plan of making peach shortcake and inviting our coworkers over.. but we had to split the groups up..  so last night we made shortcake for the third time this week … with another invite out for this evening..   that means shortcake 4 times in one week for us!

Janet had a cup of blue berries left over so she made blue berry muffins earlier in the week as well.  blueberry muffinswhat a delightful  week for a guy who loves baked goods!

On Tuesday after work we took a nap and than packed a light supper and headed for Acadia Mt.  view from acadia 2This is the view of Somes Sound from the top, looking toward the mouth and beyond..      a close-up view from acadia 1   these folks were enjoying the evening, anchored in a small cove…

acadia mt summit  it was a great hike and a beautiful evening..

camp photothis is a pic from the campground..  While we were working earlier in the week,  I paused to remind myself of what a beautiful setting we happened to be living in..

Advertisements

The three essentials of life ( baking life, that is)

Image

It is a snowy day here in north east Pennsylvania, and what better activity than to bake!    I was in the mood for something quick and tasty, so I whipped up some shortbread cookies..  I don’t know of too many recipes that are easier, and I still enjoy deciding what cookie press to use.  And what are the three essentials of life?  flour.. butter.. sugar  yep.. that is the extent of the ingredients..  although  I did augment the batch today with a half teaspoon of  almond extract – what a nice touch!  

The vegan in the household won’t touch them.. i guess that means more for me 🙂  

 

Food

Image

Sailing has taken a back seat on this blog, but that may be justified as Adagio sits under her cover waiting for the first signs of spring to once again emerge and demand the attention that she deserves.   So what is the topic of conversation in our household,  in our car,  nearly everywhere we go?   Food.   Perhaps that is not uncommon at this point in the year, with the holidays still fresh in our minds, the cookies, the deserts, the special dinners..   but that is not the only reason that food has been on our minds.   Three years ago, my wife and I were moved to become “selective” vegetarians – not vegetarians in the strictest sense, but eating meat only if we know its origin.   The net result of this decision is that we have eaten meat a dozen or so times since then, most of which has come from my ex-wife”s  farm in NH.  

In my younger years, I would have considered this a radical move, but we are quite content with the decision, and we have, what I would consider to be, a healthy mindset regarding the food that we bring into our home ( with the exception of the black licorice that I sneak in from time to time ).   There was relative harmony ( as much as one can expect with two teenaged females in the house)  around the dinner table as my two step daughters began to adopt a similar diet.  We took delight in sharing  mint iced tea and a sandwich of asparagus covered with smoky cheese, and thousand island dressing on the porch on a warm summer evening – watching for hummingbirds to join us at the feeders hung from the rafters.  

And then, over Thanksgiving Break, it happened.  The younger step daughter decided being vegetarian was not radical enough – she jumped off the cliff and adopted a vegan diet.   I have written before about the trials and tribulations of living with teens, but this certainly added a new wrinkle in the family dynamic.   By choice, we live in a small house, and that requires an added amount of  consideration and compromise from all parties.  But having a vegan in the household has put an additional strain on life!  ( I am not convinced that it has to, but it seems to be the case in our situation).   With some misgivings, we opted to take a 3 day trip during the latter part of Christmas Break and found that traveling with a vegan can be even more challenging!  

Of course, we still love her and miss her when she is not around – well, maybe not right away.. but things are not quite the same when she is gone  🙂    While this is not entirely new to us ( my daughter’s former boyfriend adopted a vegan diet for a period of time)  we have a lot to learn about the ins and outs of  a vegan diet.  True to form for a teenager, she already knows it all!  

What I find even more concerning, however, is the movement afoot to frame gluten as the true bad guy on the block.  I realize that there are some folks who simply can’t tolerate gluten, but I certainly am not ready to consider it an evil for all of us.   However,  that is exactly what some folks would have us believe.    At the top of this post is the split pea soup that I made this afternoon.   It is still simmering, and my wife and I are sitting here enjoying the homey feeling generated by the aroma of warm soup on a winter’s day.    No gluten in that.. as far as i know.

Image

But, there is a competing aroma coming from the kitchen.   I also made cut out cookies..   they have gluten in them, and I love them!   I can’t imagine anyone giving up cut out cookies ( unless truly gluten intolerant, of course)  –  they are the best cookies to dunk in a cup of hot tea..  but there is so much more to it than just taste.    Baking is all about memories –  memories of  my grandmother’s  cut out cookies – she was so proud of how thin she could make them..    memories of baking with my mother –  waiting, sometimes not so patiently, as she rolled the dough and then allowed me to pick the cookie cutter – her hand on mine, showing me how to place the cutter close to the cookies already cut out in order to maximize the number of cookies from each rolling.   memories of sharing cookies and tea with my parents in the kitchen late at night.  memories of baking with my own kids, passing on the tradition – sharing the joy of creating cookies that would bring delight to so many of our friends.  I imagine that one could make gluten free cut out cookies, but they simply would not be the same.  

I am sure that I have used more than my allotment of words for this post, so it is time to bring it to an end.   The pea soup is a favorite of ours, and it may help bridge the gap with my step daughter.. it is vegan 🙂    The cookies are wonderful..  this is the third batch I have made this week..   many were distributed to our neighbors, and this batch will make a nice gift for my aunt and uncle. ( with more than a few left over to dunk in our tea the next few evenings)     How fortunate we are to be able to enjoy a bounty of food along with the simple pleasure of spending a winter day in the kitchen preparing epicurean delights!

A productive day!

ImageUsually, when I think about a productive day, it is centered around working on the house.  For example, yesterday I insulated under our mudroom floor.   I am hoping that will make it a little warmer in there this winter, and I always enjoy a sense of accomplishment while putting my tools away after a project like that.

We awoke this morning to a dreary, damp, grey sky, and it was apparent that it would not be a day for working outside.   Yet, it turned out to be no less productive ( even with a nice mid-day nap)  My step daughter, K, and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen.   I tackled making vegetable stock for a squash soup recipe that I hope to make this week, and she began with cocoa cookies.  

Image

the kitchen was a slight disaster through much of the afternoon, but I tried to keep up with the dishes!  With the vegetable stock strained and in the refrigerator, I used the left over veggies and some of the stock to make risotto.  This will also be a dish for the coming week.  Image

Next, K started supper.  She made a farro dish with veggies and kale.  It is pretty cool to have a teen in the house who is very interested in healthy meals.  If we had told her 3 years ago that she would be a vegetarian in the future, she would have scoffed, or even worse, she might have stubbornly not allowed it to happen.. just because we suggested it..  this probably comes as no surprise to those of you who have raised teens in your household!    It turns out that we are all enjoying her interest in cooking, and that is a big plus for family harmony 🙂

Image

Next we joined forces and made apple sauce.  Later in life, my dad grew pretty fond of making apple sauce – this came as a bit of a surprise, because, as we were growing up,  he rarely entered the kitchen except to get to the dining room.   I ended up with the sieve that we had at home,  and this is the first time that it has been used in many years..   K. did not want to put sugar in the sauce,  so we simply added cinnamon sticks to the pot, stewed the apples for a bit, and then she made the sauce – it is wonderful!    ( thanks to the apples from the family orchard  🙂   )   K.  and I agreed that  spending a day in the kitchen is more fun than school!

While K. was pressing the  apple sauce, I prepped for the bread that you see at the top of this post..    My wife arrived home  from working at the orchard to find dinner ready and waiting  and bread rising on top of the refrigerator..   what more could a wife ask for  🙂

We all just enjoyed a slice of warm bread  instead of desert!    Life is good…

Apple Pizza

ImageThanks to my wife’s devotion to Pinterest,  we have found a number  wonderful recipes – this one is still cooling on the rack!    This happens to be the first Saturday morning  in a month and a half that I don’t have something to do at school, and I am loving it…  I thought that it would be nice for the household to awake to the fragrance of baking, so I got up early and got to work.   We will see how it tastes in a little while, but it sure looks promising.    I  love the fall  –  apple season,  cool crisp temps and Thanksgiving just around the corner 🙂

Cake! :)

Image

How could a birthday weekend be complete without a cake?     When we got home from the shore we decided that a cake was definitely in order…  so what kind to make?  One of my favorites is  a chocolate mayonaise cake  with cream cheese frosting that I have been making since I was a kid, but a close second is a three layer  4-egg yellow cake taken from the Joy of Cooking  cook book, topped with chocolate frosting found on the Hershery’s cocoa  container…     the yellow cake won,  and we decided it would be a group effort.   I made the cake, and Janet made the frosting..   we invited our neighbors over to share the cake with us.  Rhonda made it, and we sent a piece home with her for Pete.     The secret ingredient in the cake is really not all that secret at all since it is suggested in the recipe ..  substitute  a half teaspoon of almond extract in place of part of the vanilla..  yum! 

so we have one additional day off for my birthday weekend..  will the celebration continue?   🙂

Fall Baking

Image

It seems as though I am always baking in preparation for a trip to the boat 🙂  In fact, these won’t be around that long.   Tomorrow afternoon we head out to NJ to cover the boat which has already been pulled for the season.   It is a sad time, particularly since we did not spend as much time on the water as we had hoped to this year.    But, it will be a fun trip, a mini get away – who can complain about that! 

Periodically, I get a craving for apple dumplings, but never quite as often or as strong as in the fall, of course.   I usually like Macs.. I like they way that they cook up and get soft.  But this time there are Macouns ( a macintosh – jersey black cross developed in NY in the 1930’s)   hiding behind that wonderful crust.    In my younger days, one of them would have already disappeared, but the mature, self-disciplined older guy that I am  will wait for my wife  to come home so that we can share the tastes of fall together.   I enjoy mine warmed in the micro wave with milk poured over it.   I rarely eat one without being flooded by memories of  ordering them for desert at Meyer’s  Restaurant in Quakertown PA  back in the 70’s.    Meyer’s  is no longer there, and that is a shame.  My folks and I enjoyed many fine meals and great family time there.   Perhaps the nostalgia is stemming from the Pandora channel that I happen to be listening to this afternoon.. lots of Carpenters,  Bread,  Carly Simon, America..    what great music..  baking apple dumplings make the house smell great….she better get home soon!