Oak & Acorn: Local Strawberry Smoothie

Take advantage of strawberry season!

In June, Western Mass is a blush of strawberries as harvest approaches. Don’t be afraid of buying too much as they can be frozen and used throughout the year.

It’s been really exciting the past few weeks in Western MA. Everything is growing like crazy, farmers’ markets are getting busy and the first of CSA share pick-ups are starting to happen. We are pretty lucky to live in an area where we are surrounded by such rich soil, have access to local farms and live where we can know where our food comes from. Thankfully, a good number of farms in the area also offer subsidized community agricultural shares.

One of my favorite things to see at the farmers’ market, is the abundance and variety of beautiful foods. I also appreciate the hard work that goes behind all that we see and buy at the market. It takes a lot of sweat and dedication to make these things happen.

This week at the market, I was really excited to see that it’s Strawberry season. The sweetness and beautiful rich reds in them, say enough. I usually try to get as many as I can, from either local markets, pick your own farms or from my own garden. If you ever find you have more than you need, just freeze them and use them throughout the year. I still have a few quarts of local berries in my freezer from last summer, that go well in many things. Read the rest of this entry »

Oak & Acorn: Rhubarb Crumble in Season

Rhubarb Crumble

It’s that time of year when little green things are starting to come out of the ground, flowers are blooming and the trees have their leaves again. Without the work of planting new seeds, we get lucky to have those few perennials that come back each year. The only things that I have coming back from last spring are a variety of herbs and rhubarb. Rhubarb is a vegetable that is known for its large leaves and tall, thin red stalks but is mostly known for its strong tart flavor. It’s an easy thing to grow with kids and also doesn’t require a lot of maintenance like other vegetables or fruits. Generally people will combine something sweet with the rhubarb to complement it.

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Oak & Acorn: Beet Brownies

Beet Brownies

If you are having a sweet craving but want to add a little healthy nutrition, try this recipe for Beet Brownies! [Photo credit: (c) Leslie Lynn Lucio]

Recently we had some rainy days, so we spent a lot of time doing activities indoors. Whenever we have days like that, we do things like play games, read books, do a puzzle and usually we end up baking a delicious treat or some yummy food together. I don’t like giving my six-year old daughter Thu, too many sweets but I admit that I was the one craving a sweet really bad the other day that I decided we should bake something. While going through the kitchen, I saw some beets and thought that maybe we should give it another go to make some beet brownies.

Check out the recipe…

The Popover: Featured Holiday Recipe from The Red Lion Inn

Download recipe (pdf)

Rosemary Popovers
From The Red Lion Inn

The popover has been popular for centuries. Well, at least Yorkshire pudding, its predecessor from England, has. Yorkshire pudding has been around since the 17th Century, although it has evolved considerably.

The first ever recorded recipe for Yorkshire Pudding appears in a book, The Whole Duty of a Woman in 1737 and listed as ‘A Dripping Pudding’ –  the dripping coming from spit-roast meat. “Make a good batter as for pancakes; put in a hot toss-pan over the fire with a bit of butter to fry the bottom a little then put the pan and butter under a shoulder of mutton, instead of a dripping pan, keeping frequently shaking it by the handle and it will be light and savoury, and fit to take up when your mutton is enough; then turn it in a dish and serve it hot.”

Most American popovers today are not flavored with meat or herbs. Instead, they have a buttery taste. Chef James Beard, anointed the “dean of American cookery” by the New York Times in 1954, has argued that the resemblance between Yorkshire pudding and popovers is purely coincidental and that the popover recipe has changed several times before becoming the recipe that it is currently used by today’s cooks.

Popovers have been called puff pops, Portland popover pudding and Laplanders – from the name of nomadic Swedish reindeer herders. Also called the Dutch Baby and Hootenanny Pancakes, these delicious dough puffs are appropriate to eat with any meal.

This light and hollow pastry made from egg batter is typically baked in muffin tins. When cooked, the batter “pops” over the top of the muffin tin, which is how the popover got its name. Usually served alongside meat dishes at lunch or dinner, popovers may be served as a sweet, topped with fruit and cream for breakfast or with afternoon tea.

The following Red Lion Inn recipe of Rosemary Popovers is rooted in the British tradition using animal drippings as a base to create depth of flavor. The piney distinctive aroma of rosemary provides a delicious accompaniment to any roasted meat. Enjoy during the holidays or at any time of the year when a crispy, soft, flavorful roll hot out of the oven will do.


ABOUT THE CHEF

Brian Alberg

Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverage at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA, Brian is a staunch supporter of the local food movement in the region, establishing strong relationships with regional farmers and food producers. Brian is the founding chair of Berkshire Farm & Table and serves on the board of the Railroad Street Youth Project.

Oak & Acorn: Healthy Comfort Foods

Healthy Comfort Foods that Kids Love

Wondering what to do with butternut squash? How about a healthy version of a kid favorite… macaroni & cheese!

Comfort foods are something we start to crave as it starts to get closer into the winter months. As it starts to get lower and lower in temperature, it’s easy to fall for the idea of having comfort foods we had as kids, or a hearty soup with warm bread to warm our bellies.

I recently went to our community garden with my six-year old and noticed the drastic change from how it looked months ago. Months ago there were cages full of tomatoes, strawberries and long stalks of corn among other things growing in gardens…not to mention very colorful flowers popping up everywhere. Now, you mostly see plots with winter and root vegetables covering ground space and of course, lots of kaleRead the rest of this entry »

Oak & Acorn: Kale Chips for Kids (and their Adults too!)

Garden Snacks, Kids and Kale

Kale also is really beneficial for our health. It’s high in Vitamin A, C and K. It’s high in calcium, rich in iron and packed with antioxidants… and make delicious cheesy kale chips! (Photo credit: Leslie Lynn Lucio)

It’s mid-October and things are starting to dwindle down in our plot at the community garden. We’ve been very well nourished from all the vegetables and herbs that we have grown. We have made so many jars of tomato sauce and have dried lots of herbs for the winter months. We have also eaten countless meals from the food we have grown. Western Massachusetts has such healthy and amazing soil that the things we plant always seem to promise us a good harvest. In return, we give great appreciation…

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Oak & Acorn: Everything’s Coming up Apples!

Apple Season in New England

There are so many ways in cooking and baking with apples. You can make pies, jellies, cakes, donuts, apple cider and even use them in savory treats.

It’s September in New England and almost autumn which means one of many things, it’s apple season time! For many of us in New England, once we start to see those “pick your own apple” signs, it means a new season of change is coming. In fact, September 22 is the official Autumnal equinox. The full moon this month is so close to the Autumnal equinox that is actually called the Harvest Moon. The Harvest moon gives so much light that it’s said that farmers coined the term because so much extra light was given during this time that farmers had more hours in their day to harvest crops.

When I was a kid growing up in the South, I was one of those people who dreamed of autumn in New England. Any time, I would see a painting or a photograph, it seemed all so dreamy to me… and now here I am living in small town New England with my wonderful six year old!

One of the things I love about family, is building traditions or rituals we always know are a part of us and something to look forward to. One of our autumn traditions is to go apple picking. We are surrounded by many apple orchards, many which are family run and have long been. It’s easy to always go back to a favorite orchard but also hard to resist not trying out a new one. There are over 100 varieties of apples that are grown in New England—I’ve lost count of the different ones that I’ve tasted. You read about apple orchards different families recommend and look up local farms on CISA, pick up some from the farmers’ markets or even just go for a drive and most likely you will find a sign pointing directions to a pick your own farm…

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Oak & Acorn: Staghorn Sumac Berry Lemonade

Bike Rides & Staghorn Sumac Berry Lemonade

It’s the month of August which means you are probably spending most of your time outdoors with your children. My daughter, Thu, and I have been spending a lot of our time at swimming holes, hiking, at pick-your-own farms, taking post-dinner walks and riding our bikes on the bike path and throughout the town.

Summer is a good time for walking around with your kids and teaching them about what surrounds us. Kids seem to spot everything and anything, a lot of times noticing the small things that we adults may seem to have missed. With the weather being so nice, we have been spending a tremendous amount of time outdoors.

A plant that you may be noticing growing in various spots around us right now is the Rhus typhina, the Staghorn Sumac. I first learned that this plant is edible and used for medicinal purposes when I took a foraging walk a while back with local wild foods enthusiast extraordinaire Blanche Derby. I hadn’t used the knowledge I learned about Staghorn Sumac since going on that walk up until a couple weeks ago…

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Dinner Ideas: Local Beets & Fennel Salad

Roasted Beet Salad

Check your local farmers’ market or organic produce section for a selection of sweet & colorful beets! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Wow, what a wacky growing season this has been! The extremes we’ve been experiencing are challenging. From drought to flooding, cold to heat and heat to cold, the conditions this season have been erratic and stressful to the plants. Our local farmers need our support to weather difficult growing seasons. Look for locally grown produce at locally owned markets and frequent many of the area farmers’ markets.

Despite the rivers that were flowing in our garden paths a week ago, our garden is producing beautifully. We’ve been eating loads of salad greens and radishes, and about fifteen different types of cooking greens. The strawberries and peas are coming on strong now. Lots of herbs have been enhancing our meals. Garlic scapes are ready, we still have a few stray asparagus stalks, and the rest of the garden is looking promising for abundant harvests. Here’s a recipe for Roasted Beet Salad. It uses several types of vegetables and herbs that are showing up at area farmers’ markets.

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Oak & Acorn: Forage, Farm and Feast with the Family

Tasting the Evergreens

Life in Western MA has its many pleasures. So many times I feel really lucky to live where I do and to be surrounded by so much beauty. The mountains, the rivers, the farmland, the flora and the fauna are just some of the things I appreciate. I live in the Pioneer Valley and I am always trying to find ways to connect with my surroundings. I have a five year old daughter name Thu with whom I love spending time in the outdoors. There are many activities we can do to connect with nature and where we live which bring the two of us closer while helping my daughter form a relationship with nature itself.

One of the things I love to do with Thu is go on an outdoor adventure and forage for wild edibles. You most probably have something growing in or near your own backyard that is edible, and maybe even some wild edibles waiting to be discovered! Once kids start learning about the wild edible growing around them,  families can look forward to what’s going to pop up next. As always, get to know what you are looking for and make sure you properly identify it- if you are unsure, just don’t eat it.

In the Springtime one of the easiest things to forage for are spruce tree tips. Most of us, if not all of us in the Pioneer Valley are in walking distance to one of these trees. If you have never done any wild harvesting or feel that you wouldn’t have a clue as to where to start, then foraging for spruce tips is a great activity. Children love being part of the hunt. They love spotting these evergreens from far away and once they learn that parts of it are edible, it makes it even more fun. Foraging for wild edibles becomes a tool which can help children learn more about what grows around us. Searching for spruce together can help kids start to learn more about different tree species and appreciate their beauty even more.

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Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom Barley Soup

I wake up in the morning thinking of the billowing steam from maple sap boiling. I love going to sugar houses to see the dramatic plumes of steam rising, to smell the sweet maple aroma, to taste the first of the season’s delicate, delicious syrup…to experience the promise of spring again. My seasonal rhythms are tied to sugarin’; it marks the final gasps of winter and the arrival of daffodils and forsythia and fruit tree blossoms and spring greens and warmth and sunshine.

But this year winter isn’t quite letting go. So when I think of what’s for supper, my desires still lean toward hearty, winter foods. Tonight we’ll have Mushroom Barley Soup. We still have some oyster mushrooms from the grow-your-own kit that we got at the Creamery! I’ll bake a loaf of rye bread, roast some delicata squash, and cook some of our frozen shell beans with our garlic and fresh rosemary from our indoor plant. Amy will make a salad from just-picked fresh and crisp mixed greens from a friend’s hoop house (thanks, Penny!), with the last of our stored carrots and Jerusalem artichokes and red cabbage, and we’ll be reminded that we’ll soon be eating more and more nourishing local foods.

♦ Print Recipe: Mushroom Barley Soup [V/Vg/NF] . Stock instructions.

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)| *With Moderation


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Jessica Spengler]

Hey Y’all… Alice is Bakin’ Up Some Southern Biscuits!

Southern Biscuits Enjoyed with Local Western MA Ingredients

Biscuits

Here’s something you can make for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack…how versatile is that!  Biscuits are great any time of day.  They taste best slathered with butter, and even better with local honey or your favorite fruity jam.  When I first met Amy, my choice of bread to go with any meal was a crusty Italian/French-type bread or a dense, whole grain loaf.  Amy grew up in the south, and the way to make a southern gal very happy is to make the very best biscuits imaginable.  Brown and crunchy on the outside, moist and flaky on the inside; this was my goal.  I quickly became an expert, and in the process I also got hooked on this delicious treat.

I make them in the same amount of time it takes the oven to pre-heat, so it’s a quick addition to any meal.  For breakfast, they’re out of the oven in the time it takes to set the table, fry the eggs (local of course!) and light the candle.  For lunch or dinner, I make them after I get a pot of soup on, chill them in the refrigerator to make them extra flaky, and then bake them right before serving.  Our favorite afternoon snack is hot biscuits, soft butter, sweet jam (from our own fruit), and a smoothie with yogurt that we make from Cummington raw milk (Taproot Commons Farm), blended with frozen fruit and a drizzle of  maple syrup. Use Vermont-grown Nitty-Gritty Grain Company unbleached flour for a truly local feast!

♦ Print Recipe: Biscuits [V/NF]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)| *With Moderation


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Steve Mohundro]

Indian Potato Fritters for Dinner Tonight!

Indian Potato Fritters

Potatoes Bonda

Amy and I were in local food heaven! We were visiting her folks on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is incredulous to everyone that I chose to go to every farmers’ market within two hours, rather than go for another walk on the gorgeous, tropical-blue-water-white-sand-almost-empty-of-people beach. We did all spend a lot of time together in the woods and salt marshes, watching birds and enjoying the tropical beauty, but if it was a farmers’ market day, the family knew they’d lost me. We ate just-harvested strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, satsumas, eggfruit, red limes, lettuce, mesclun, collards, kale, chard, tatsoi, broccoli, green beans, carrots, red and yellow peppers, chilies, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, onions, and every kind of fresh herb. Amy’s mother graciously shared her kitchen with me, and I joyfully prepared meals from fresh foods grown by farmers that I enjoyed meeting. Simple pleasures. I was in bliss.

Now we’re back in snowy Cummington, and I have to say I’m happy as a lark. My local food choices are limited, but I love our seasons, our land, our foods here. We’re using up our supply of stored foods, so tonight’s dinner choices are potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, winter squash, turnips, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, leeks, carrots, and beets. That’s enough variety for this Hilltowns girl! We’ll have a multi-ethnic menu with sweet potato gnocchi (recipe coming in the future!), roasted Brussels sprouts, snow-covered kale, and today’s recipe, Potatoes Bonda, an Indian potato fritter.

♦ Print Recipe: Potatoes Bonda [V/Vg/NF/GF/WF]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)| *With Moderation


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Kirti Poddar]

Comfort Food: Roasted Sweet Potato Lasagne

Roasted Sweet Potato Lasagne

Amy might be a southerner by heart and spirit, but she and I are Yankees by practice; we light our first fire as late into the season as we can bear. This necessitates cooking on as many burners (we have 8!) and in as many ovens (we have 2) as possible when we are home and awake for more than a couple of hours.  Fortunately, we still have a lot of food preservation happening, so on Wednesdays the burners are going full tilt, along with two heat-producing dehydrators.  We are warm while we joyfully put up food to feed us through the rest of the year.  But we still try to prepare our meals with heat-generating potential in mind.

We dug the last of our sweet potatoes, and these precious few coveted tubers are beckoning our culinary creativity.  Aha!  One of Amy’s favorite entrees…Roasted Sweet Potato Lasagne.  It requires a nice long burner time to caramelize some onions, and TWO turns in the oven…one to roast the potatoes and one to bake the lasagne.  Perfect.  I prepare this recipe by making or buying fresh egg pasta sheets.  This delicious entree begs to be presented with candlelight and soft music, and in the company of cherished friends.  It will open doors to conversation and camaraderie.  Trust me…you’ll see!

♦  Print Recipe: Roasted Sweet Potato Lasagne [V, NF, GF*]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF) | *With Alteration


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) David Lifson]

A Quick, Cozy & Nourishing Meal For the Winter Months

Quick and Cozy Spicy Chickpeas and Simple Couscous

The diminishing afternoon/evening light seems to get my stomach rumbling for dinner much earlier than our usual late night dinner hour. When I tune into my natural rhythms, my body yearns for meals earlier and sleep much earlier than I am accustomed to. I look forward to tuning in more deeply this winter, listening to and responding to the internal callings that are in sync with the external cues, and finding the rhythms that are just right for Amy and me this winter.

But some nights we get home when it’s dark, we’re tired and hungry, and we want nourishing food on the table quickly. On these nights we turn to Spicy Chickpeas and Simple Couscous, adding a green vegetable for a complete dinner. This is our standard quick meal, often on the table in 20 minutes from the moment we begin thinking about dinner. Amy gets the fire roaring in the woodstove, I cook supper, and in less than a half hour, we cozies up to the woodstove enjoying a nourishing, delicious meal and each other’s company.

♦  Print Recipe: Simple Couscous [V/Vg/NF/GF*/WF*]
♦  Print Recipe: Spicy Chickpeas [V/Vg/NF/GF/WF]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF) | *With Alteration


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Rachel Hathaway]

Kettles Full of Apple Chutney!

Apple Chutney

When our vegetable garden begins slowing down, we begin apple season. We harvest our own apples, visit friends who have apple trees, and gather apples from wild trees and abandoned orchards. It’s apple time early in the morning before work, late at night when we return home, and on our day off. We dry dehydrators full of apples and line our shelves with many glass jars full of delicious apple rings. We freeze and can loads of apple sauce. We make tray after tray of apple fruit leather. We press and freeze dozens and dozens of jars of cider. And there’s still apples in baskets and boxes scattered about the kitchen and dining room. Our favorite apple final resort? Apple Chutney! We can a couple kettles full of apple chutney in jars and eat it all year. It adds a special flair to a quick rice or quinoa or couscous dinner when we get home late at night.

If we haven’t gathered enough of our own apples we supplement them with Scott Farm apples. Their 626-acre farm in Dummerston, VT, boasts more than 70 varieties of ecologically grown apples. They are helping to restore rare and endangered varieties not found elsewhere in our region. Their apples are diverse, beautiful, and delicious. We sell them at the Creamery; it’s an honor to be able to offer foods from so many amazing farmers in our area in this abundant harvest season.

♦  Print Recipe: Apple Chutney [V/Vg/NF/WF]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Clara S.]

Two Fall Soups for Chilly Autumn Nights

Fall Soups

Tomatillos at the Burgy Farmers’ Market in Williamsburg, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Tomatillo and Fresh Corn Soup

We plant LOTS of tomatillos. One of our staple breakfasts is fried eggs, over easy, with salsa verde and Monterey jack melted on top. We can (and use!) dozens of jars each year. We also dehydrate tomatillo slices for winter use. If we’ve preserved all the salsa verde we want, and we still haven’t had our first hard frost, the tomatillos keep producing like crazy and we look for new and exciting recipes. A couple of autumns ago, our friend Madelaine (cook extraordinaire!) prepared what has become one of our very favorite recipes, Tomatillo and Fresh Corn Soup. The combination, and balance, of sweet, sour, and spicy is fantastic. I’ve messed around with the recipe, which originally came from Deborah Madison’s Field of Greens cookbook.  When Amy and I freeze our corn for winter use, we freeze some of the water used to cook the corn, and even some of the cobs, to use in this recipe. Enjoying this soup on a cold, snowy, winter’s night brings back a vivid taste of these precious autumn harvest days.

Mediterranean White Bean Soup

There’s a great variety of fabulous ingredients growing in our gardens right now. Beginning in September here in our hilltowns, the abundant garden harvest feels like it happens on “found time.” We know our first frost can happen at any time, wiping out huge swaths of our precious vegetables and flowers overnight. So we like to prepare and enjoy a banquet, using as many of the vegetables in our garden as possible, every opportunity we get. Mediterranean White Bean Soup uses eleven ingredients that we harvest fresh from the garden. When we add in the five vegetable side dishes that accompanied our supper tonight (green beans, potatoes, pattypan squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers), our meal earns the title of fresh harvest banquet. So the next chilly night, after a glorious day in the crisp and cool autumn air, prepare a big pot of this soup and enjoy the richness and abundance of our local food blessings.

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

Cabbage: Stuff It, Roll It, Pickle It!

For the Love of Cabbage

Check local co-ops and farmers’ markets for freshly harvested cabbage and late summer produce for your next family dinner! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Stuffed Cabbage & Garden Tomato Sauce

The weather is softly leaning toward autumn. Though my garden is full of summer’s light and fresh bounty (tomatoes, peppers, basil, zucchini, greens, beans, and dozens of other late summer delights), my appetite begins to lean toward hearty fare. This Italian-inspired rendition of Eastern European Stuffed Cabbage fits the bill for this seasonal transition time, prepared with Fresh Garden Tomato Sauce. Add a salad out of the garden or farmer’s market, a freshly picked flower bouquet (even roadside wildflowers work great), invite a couple of friends, turn on some soft jazz (perhaps Avery Sharpe or Charlie Neville or Swing Caravan!), light a candle, and enjoy life’s pleasures.

Egg Rolls

As Amy and I headed out to the garden last week to see what was for dinner, we passed our shitake mushroom logs. The weather for us humans has been dreadful, but mushrooms couldn’t be happier! We saw an abundant flush of perfect shitake mushrooms. Hmmm… Let’s see what goes with that. We found some beautiful Chinese cabbage, dug a few carrots, grabbed a few of our onions and garlic that we are curing, picked some of the shitake mushrooms, and made some fabulous egg rolls. If you have any leftover cooked rice, you can make some great Fried Rice (add a scrambled local egg, sauteed diced onion, celery, and carrot, a little tamari and a dash of toasted sesame oil). A little stir fried broccoli from the garden and it’s a feast. What a joy to build a meal around the abundant vegetables and fruits growing in our garden. Food picked fresh, full of life and nourishment, shared with people I love…life doesn’t get any better than this.

Cabbage Lime Pickle

I saw many expressions of wonder and awe at the sight of the HUGE local green cabbages near the Old Creamery Co-op’s register these past couple of weeks.  We’ve harvested beautiful heads from our garden! After we put up a few jars of lacto-fermented sauerkraut, eaten lots of slaw, stir-fried cabbage with other garden vegetables, stuffed plenty of leaves with rice filling and red sauce, made and frozen lots of egg rolls, then I begin to wonder what to do next. When I run my cooking class series, the Indian cooking session is always the most popular. We prepare 15 or so different side dishes. When we sit down to enjoy our feast after the class, the favorite dish is often Cabbage Lime Pickle. This is a fresh-tasting side dish that fits with many different menus. It’s a good way to use up a lot of cabbage, and the leftovers store well. It’s a simple and quick recipe.

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Dana Moos]

6 Variations of Pesto for Family Dinner

Pesto and Variations

The large leaves of Napoleon basil make great sandwich fillers! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The drought, deer, and heat have slowed down our garden quite a bit, but the list of chores is still long and the available time is still short. We find ourselves creating quick meals from the garden. Pasta with one of many possible pestos is a standard. We have a great variety of greens in our garden, and we’ll make pesto with combinations of basil, arugula, cilantro, mint, chard, spinach, purslane, chickweed, garlic scapes, and parsley. Here is a basic Basil Pesto recipe, along with many ideas for variations. We make a quick salad and a cooked vegetable with whatever the garden has ready. Tonight we’ll have stuffed baby pattypan squash, heaps of blanched broccoli sautéed with olive oil and garlic, and a salad with mixed lettuce leaves, anise hyssop, cherry tomatoes, salad turnips, beets, carrots, cucumbers, and a little hard-boiled egg or local cheese for protein. We’ll cook up a delicious, nourishing meal in less than a half hour, counting harvest time!

♦  Print Recipe: Pesto and Variations [V/GF/WF]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

Early Summer Veggies: Sugar Snaps & Radishes

Sauteed Sugar Snaps and Radishes

Fresh radishes and asparagus at the Williamsburg Farmers’ Market. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

I’ve so enjoyed the first of this season’s local cukes. At the Creamery, we have the first tomatoes and the first cukes, picked fresh from the Fydenkevez Farm in the valley. I peel the cukes, cut off big chunks, and generously salt them before popping them into my mouth and singing praises. I love the crisp freshness and the bright flavor. Add sliced or chopped tomatoes cut into chunks and drizzled with a bit of aged balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with a few fresh basil leaves and salt, and I’m transported. These are the moments I’ve been waiting for, longing for, since last autumn.

From our own garden, we’ve been getting lost in the sugar snap pea patch, sitting out and stuffing ourselves full of the plump, crisp, sweet treasures. The radishes have also been excellent. I’m reminded of a recipe I’ve used in my Indian cooking classes, Sautéed Sugar Snaps and Radishes. This dish is fabulously fresh and flavorful. We have plenty of local sugar snaps and radishes at the Creamery. Give this simple dish a try and let me know what you think.

♦  Print Recipe: Sauteed Sugar Snaps and Radishes [V/Vg/NF/GF/WF]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Dana Moos]

3 Recipes from the Spring Garden

Spring Garden: What to do with Chives, Rhubarb & Asparagus

I enjoy matching different herbs, fruits, and flavoring ingredients with different types of vinegars. I most often use white wine vinegar and cider vinegar (our own homemade), sometimes red wine vinegar, and occasionally brown rice vinegar. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

CHIVE FLOWER VINEGAR

I begin the season of preparing herbal vinegars with Chive Flower Vinegar. We pick handfuls of beautiful, spiky purple chive flowers. We pull the petals off some of the plants to decorate our dinner salad, but the rest get stuffed into a mason jar, covered with apple cider vinegar that we made last fall, and left to brew for a few weeks. We taste it each week, and when the flavor is full and pungent without being overbearing, we strain the vinegar, pour it into small bottles, and look forward to that cold, wintery day when we open up the chive flower vinegar, drizzle it onto winter greens, and remember this day of warm sunshine.

♦  Print Recipe: Chive Flower Vinegar [V/Vg/NF/GF/WF] 

RHUBARB SAUCE

Rhubarb is another one of those seasonal foods that mark the passage of time for me. My mouth waters when I imagine that first bite of the tart, pucker-inducing stalks, cooked down into a thick and delicious Rhubarb Sauce. I know that when I make pancakes with rhubarb sauce for Amy we’ll be planting root crops and greens and trees and shrubs later that day. I know we’ll be planting our last seeds in the greenhouse. I know I’ll swat more black flies than I can count. I know we’ll be preparing garden beds and dreaming of the first fresh peas eaten right from the garden in just a few short weeks. I know we’ll spend the day outside, eat a very late supper, and go to bed tired and happy. I love these days that are tied to seasonal rituals, tied to the rising and setting sun, as familiar as the turning of the hands on a clock but oh so much more joyful and meaningful.

♦  Print Recipe:  Rhubarb Sauce [V/Vg/NF/GF/WF] 

ASPARAGUS RISOTTO

One of the joys of seasonal eating is the appearance of those cherished foods that last only a few weeks. I eat them many times each week and never tire of them. I savor each bite, knowing that their presence is fleeting. I enjoy asparagus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and leftovers as snacks. I love asparagus blanched, roasted, sautéed in eggs or stir-fry, in soups, and especially in risotto. Risotto with asparagus and risotto with porcini mushrooms are both marriages made in heaven. I offer you my version of this Italian classic dish, Asparagus Risotto.

♦  Print Recipe: Asparagus Risotto [V/NF/GF/WF] 

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Dana Moos]

What to do with Fiddleheads?

Fiddlehead Arugula Salad

One of the most joyous culinary moments of the year for me is the arrival of the season’s first fiddleheads. It’s among the first of the “just-picked” cooking rituals that will continue to unfold until late autumn. Each year I repeat the simplest of preparation techniques for my first fiddleheads of the season: blanch (cook in boiling water) for 4–5 minutes; drain well; sauté briefly with butter or olive oil and salt. Simple, elegant, and delicious. Then I move on to soups with fiddleheads. Last week, Amy and I were inspired to create a new dish, Fiddlehead Arugula Salad. We wandered the aisles of the Creamery and gathered ingredients that “spoke to us.” We found some fresh and crisp arugula, organic hazelnuts that had just arrived (now less expensive than many of the other nuts), perfect ricotta salata cheese from Italy, and some Cattani white balsamic vinegar and aged Castello d’Este balsamic vinegar that had just been featured in our vinegar tasting. With the addition of a couple of other standard Creamery ingredients, we prepared a stupendously delicious salad! We enjoyed it so much, I’m going to prepare it again for lunch today.

♦  Print Recipe: Fiddlehead Arugula Salad [Vg/GF/WF] 

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Dana Moos]

Maple Dessert to Follow a Spring Dinner

Maple Flan

We were given some fresh eggs by a friend with chickens. The variety of colors, shapes, and sizes invite inspiration. Hmm … we have some Taproot Commons Farm raw milk to use up. Amy’s going to be happy tonight! Whatever we have for dinner, we are going to end our meal with creamy, delicious Maple Flan. Everything is local except for the vanilla and the sugar for melting into caramel. I love maple syrup in custard instead of white sugar. Besides being local, it offers a rich flavor and creamy texture. The custard is slightly softer, but we prefer it that way. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Now, it’s out to the garden! We’ll be sowing tomato, basil, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and kale seeds indoors after dark tonight, but now it’s time to soak up the glorious sun and warmth. Climate change is bringing us plenty of odd and disturbing weather, but the sun sure feels good. Enjoy!

♦  Print Recipe: Maple Flan [V/NF/GF/WF] 

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) matuko amini]

Two Recipes to Celebrate the Simple Pleasure of Cooking

Local Food Heaven

I was like a kid in a candy store, or, as my Uncle Mike used to say, “like a mosquito in a nudist colony”! I spent Saturday at Sarasota Farmers Market, buying bags (my own cloth bags of course!) of just-picked produce from local organic farmers located in Southwest Florida. I came home with sacks of oranges (several varieties), grapefruit, limes, and lemons. I got just-picked strawberries (not as good as our local berries), local honey, beautiful large tomatoes, and sweet-like-candy cherry grape tomatoes. I found new red potatoes, garlic, onions, gold beets, green beans, and broccoli. Then I went crazy with the greens and herbs, buying just-picked arugula, rapini, baby bok choy, mesclun, red boston lettuce, kale, Chinese greens, basil, parsley, cilantro, and dill. I went to the seafood stall and purchased some just-caught shrimp and headed home to cook!

Amy’s mom, Mary, has been very gracious sharing her kitchen with us, and we’ve been cooking up a storm. Mary makes us their favorite breakfast of all sorts of local fruits cut in to a huge bowl, plain yogurt (we brought some of Amy’s yogurt made from Taproot Commons Farm milk in Cummington), grapefruit, toast, butter, and honey. The first day I marinated the shrimp in olive oil; freshly squeezed orange, lime, and lemon juices; garlic; and all the fresh herbs, then seared them in a hot frying pan (in the shell), flipped them after a minute or two, browned them on the second side, then added a little of the marinade, put a lid on the pan, and braised them for a couple of minutes. We’ve had several types of fresh salad, greens raw and cooked, potatoes anna, tomato and cucumber salad, fresh pasta with our garden tomato sauce that we brought from home, and Mary’s delicious strawberry desserts. The fish that Dick (Dad) and Brett (Amy’s brother) caught last week was featured in tonight’s dinner.

We’re in local food heaven. Although we love our stored root vegetables back home, it’s been incredible to eat fresh greens and so many types of just-picked veggies. I offer you the simplest of recipes, Kale with Olive Oil and Garlic and Potatoes Anna, to celebrate the simple pleasure of cooking freshly harvested food, prepared simply, and enjoyed with loved ones. Simple Blessings.

♦ Print Recipes: 

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Mike]

3 Soup Recipes for Winter

Soups to Warm Your Tummy on a Cold February Day

French Onion Soup, a delicious dish to bring warmth and richness to your family dinner on a cold February night!

CBS SOUP

Winter is finally upon us (where is the snow?!?), and it’s time for some hearty, warming, comforting foods. I enjoy cooking soups when it’s cold outside because they often take quite a while to cook (helping to heat our house!). I often bake bread to accompany the soup (helping to heat our house!) and they usually don’t require a lot of attention so I can tend to chores like carrying in firewood (actually heating our house!). I could make a different soup every day of the year and still not run out of ideas for variations. I can match a soup to virtually any ethnic cuisine, to any combination of ingredients that I have on hand, and to suit any taste preference.

This month’s soup recipe is Corn, Bean and Winter Squash Soup, better know by its’ fans as CBS Soup. This soup is hearty enough to serve as a lunch or dinner main course, but versatile enough to serve as a side dish with a wide variety of entrees. Try substitutions if you don’t have all the ingredients, or add other vegetables that you have on hand. We make this soup entirely from our own preserved garden vegetables: the root vegetables and squash are in storage; the tomatoes are canned; the black beans are dried; the white beans are frozen. Now, if Amy could just grow us some olives, we could press our own olive oil! Well, we can’t grow everything here in our Hilltowns, but in this bitter cold it’s nice to raid the pantry and freezer and remember the bounty of summer. Enjoy, and stay warm!

♦ Print Recipe: Corn, Bean and Winter Squash Soup [Vg/WF/NF]

FRENCH ONION SOUP

Amy and I have used the last of our stored garden onions. I tracked down some local onions for us to sell at the Old Creamery from Wendolowski Farm in Hatfield, MA and I bought about 25 pounds to bring home to get us through the next couple of months. Aahhh … the onions! I’ve been looking for inspiration to pull me from dreary February days. I know the perfect thing to bring warmth and richness  to February … French Onion Soup. This is my vegetarian version of the classic recipe. Even without the beef broth, this is a deeply satisfying, soulful dish. I tucked away some of the local mesclun and arugula from Equinox Farm that we had for sale at the Old Creamery over the weekend, so we’ll have a fresh salad to add to our meal. When Amy and I are finished stacking wood, the warm hearth will beckon us, the steaming soup will nourish us, the crisp salad will lift us, a candle will offer light, and flowers will remind us of the ever-present joys.

Print Recipe: French Onion Soup [V/GF/NF]

CHILI CON CARNE

Amy and I love our Hilltown winter lifestyle. We love cutting firewood, splitting wood, stacking and moving and re-stacking logs. We love shoveling snow. We love snowshoeing and sitting inside watching the snow fall and watching the icicles grow and morph before our eyes. We love building blazing fires and huddling up to our hearth. We even love walking from the car to the house late at night after a long day’s work, plowing our way through thigh-deep drifts that have blown onto our carefully shoveled path. The snow and ice that cling to our boots and pants is like a badge of honor…we may be getting older but we’re still tough!

And when we are ready for dinner after our winter work-outs, we yearn for hearty food to satisfy a bold hunger. Our plates and bowls will be filled with rich and substantial vegetarian fare, but I offer you omnivores a robust recipe for Chili con Carne. I’ve used my mom’s recipe as a starting point, but I’ve included a few ingredients and techniques to offer more depth and flavor complexity. Enjoy the challenging chores of winter in the Hilltowns, and treat yourself to a great meal after the work-out.

♦  Print Recipe: Chili Con Carne [WF/NF]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Sandee Bisson]

Recipes & More for Celebrating the Harvest

Serving Up the Harvest:
175 Simple Recipes Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables

Recently I received several cook books from Storey Publishing that I’ve been busy referencing for recipes and cooking inspirations. This time of the year as I harvest post-frost kale from my garden, bring home Brussels sprouts from the Old Creamery, winter squash from Williamsburg Market, and the biggest heads of cabbage I’ve ever seen from Atkin’s Farm, Andrea Chesman’s cookbook, Serving Up the Harvest: 175 Simple Recipes Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables offers a guide to serving up a selection of seasonal produce at its peak.

The layout of Serving Up the Harvest organizes its 175 recipes into seasons, with a focus on specific crops from that season. Their seasons are broken down into four categories, or chapters, including:

  • Spring into Summer
  • Early to Mid-Summer
  • Mid-to Late Summer
  • Fall into Winter

Each chapter lists a peak harvest for that season, such as asparagus in the spring, early summer Swiss chard, chiles & peppers in the heart of the summer, and Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips in the late fall, featuring least 34 different seasonal harvest ingredients.  But what’s so great about these categories isn’t that you just get a list of recipes for say fennel, you also get advice on growing, sowing, cultivating and harvesting these crops.

What really speaks to the foodie in me is the kitchen notes they add that guide you on how long to cook each vegetable, depending on your cooking method (roasting, grilling, sauteing, etc.) along with a little kitchen math that help you convert vegetable size and weight into culinary measurements. And interspersed throughout are little morsels of interesting information on the featured harvest; such as, the history of parsnips, kale nutrition notes and “Rutabaga Facts and Fictions.” Make a great holiday gift for those cooks and gardeners in your life.

This past week I needed to whip up a quick dinner for family and visiting friends and opened up Serving Up the Harvest to find inspiration on what to do with some of my kale still standing in the garden. I found a simple recipe whose main ingredients were pasta, beans, kale and Parmesan cheese. Pulling out penne rice pasta, a can of cannellini beans and cutting eight stems of Lacinato kale growing in my garden, I had dinner on the table in no time (although, after reading this article I might pre-cook beans and keep them in the freezer from now on). I’ve included the recipe here, and if you like this, you’ll love the 174 other great recipes found in the book to guide you through your crops as they peak.

Pasta with Kale and Beans (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 can (15oz) cannellini beans (rinsed and drained), or 1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans
  • 1 lb kale, stems discarded and leaves shredded (@12 cups lightly packed) – (6-8 stems)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 lb bowties, penne or other short pasta (we choose rice pasta for the gluten-free version)
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Begin heating a large pot of salted water for the pasta.
  2. Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a large saucepan. Saute the garlic and hot pepper flakes, if using, in the oil until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the beans, kale and broth. Cover and simmer until the kale is partially wilted and almost tender, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. When the water boils, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot, add the kale mixture, and toss well. Add as much of the reserved water as needed to moisten the pasta. Add 1 cup of the Parmesan, season with salt and pepper, and toss well.
  4. Serve immediately, passing more Parmesan at the table.

DIY: Mexican Sugar Skulls

HOW TO MAKE MEXICAN SUGAR SKULLS
A Culinary Folk Art for Day of the Dead
By Sienna Wildfield

Making Mexican Sugar Skulls-52.JPG

In the studio with Hilltown Families Guest Artist Marie Westburg of ArtStar in Williamsburg, MA making Mexican Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead.  (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

What better avenue for children to explore and discover different cultures than FOOD?!  Right? … We all eat.  And whether it’s a yearly birthday cake, fish on Friday, pancakes on Sunday, or a couple of loaves of challah on a Friday night, most of us routinely and joyfully participate in different food traditions.  The culinary experience of exploring food customs from around the world can bring families an integrated course of study on cultural traditions and arts.

This time of year in Central and Southern Mexico, in preparation for the Mexican holiday El Diá de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), mounds of Sugar Skulls are sold in open air markets.  The Day of the Dead is on November 2nd and we’ve explored this Mexican holiday in a previous post: El Diá de los Muertos (Video & Resources).  Making Mexican Sugar Skulls with your kids is a creative hands-on project that can aid in the exploration of this traditional Mexican Folk Art while affording an opportunity to discuss and participate in one of the various customs of this Mexican celebration.

Hilltown Families Guest Artist Marie Westburg of ArtStar, an art enrichment studio in Williamsburg, MA, recently invited us over to make this sweet Mexican culinary folk art.  In her cozy studio our kids got together and crafted skulls out of sugar and meringue powder and decorated them with bags of colorful icings, beads and sequins.  It’s a fun project to make with a group of friends, but give yourself enough time.  The skulls take 12-24 hours to harden before they can be decorated. To follow is a DIY for this fun seasonal activity:  Read the rest of this entry »

Blueberry Bake Off with Local Blueberries

Get the Kids a Cookin’ for the Blueberry Bake Off
Hosted by the CISA and Greenfield Farmers’ Market

Gluten-free Blueberry Cake (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Gluten-free Blueberry Cake (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On Saturday, August 1, CISA and the Greenfield Farmers’ Market will host a contest featuring desserts made from locally grown blueberries. Participants should drop off their blueberry creations at 9am that day. No need to pre-register. A CISA staff member, a local farmer and other judges will determine the winning recipe. A $50 Greenfield Farmers’ Market gift certificate and a CISA Community Membership valued at $60 will be awarded to the winning entry; a $25 market gift certificate and a CISA tote bag will go to the runner up. Look for entry details soon on the CISA website and at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market.

Discovering Gingerbread Houses

GINGERBREAD HOUSES: SITES TO VISIT & BOOKS TO READ
by Sienna Wildfield

Hartsbrook Winter Fair 2007-8

Gingerbread houses at the Hartsbrook Fair in Hadley, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Every year I send my parents a gingerbread house for their solstice dessert party, complete with their last name iced on the front door. The door with their name is left for the host and hostess, but by the end of the evening, their guests have demolished the rest of the house, leaving behind little red hots and coconut snow. It’s become a fun tradition. If you’re looking to make a gingerbread house for the holidays, check out A Charming Candy Cottage over at epicurious.com where Kari von Wening, the owner of Takes the Cake Bakery in Pasadena, CA, gives instruction on how to make your very own. Included in the instructions are a shopping list, template and an illustrated tutorial.

Gingerbread House Auctions at Hartsbrook (c) Hilltown Families

Gingerbread houses at the Hartsbrook Fair in Hadley, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

At the Hartsbrook Winter Fair in Hadley, MA, they always have an auction of gingerbread houses (and libraries, castles, churches, windmills …) that the families have made (photos featured with this post are from the auction). Structures that can be made out of gingerbread are only limited by your imagination. Over at verybestkids.com they give directions and a template on how to make a gingerbread sleigh. On BobVilla.com they give instructions on how to make an A-Frame, Colonial, Saltbox, and Side Gable houses. And if you really want to get inspired, on flickr.com there are over 400 photos posted to the Gingerbread House Showcase.

GRAHAM CRACKER HOUSE

Another option to making a gingerbread house is to make a miniature graham cracker house. Every one in the family can make and decorate their very own. Kaboose.com offers instructions on how to make this miniature version, as does organizedchristmas.com with a few photo images.

Gingerbread houses at the Hartsbrook Fair in Hadley, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

GLUTEN-FREE HOUSES

If you or your kids have allergies and want to make a gingerbread house, check out Only Sometimes Clever’s gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and peanut-free gingerbread house recipe, or you can buy an allergy-free gingerbread kit from kidsallergystop.com.

READING LISTS

I’ve put together a list of cookbooks for families interested in making their own gingerbread creations at home. If you do make one, take a photo and send it our way to share with our readers:

Read the rest of this entry »

Discovering Bishops Weed

Leni Fried of Cummington, MA writes:

Do any of you know of the plant Bishops Weed also known as Goutweed or Ground Elder? I have spent many an hour routing it out or covering it. It’s overly enthusiastic and quite invasive. I researched it yesterday to see if it is edible. It turns out the roots, leaves and seeds are edible! The seeds are prized in Indian cooking and are known as Carom Seeds. They are also used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine.

Here is a link for Bishops Weed greek pie over at nami-nami. Keep me posted if anyone has tried using it and any recipes!

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