A Year in Review: A Photo Journey with Hilltown Families

Western MA in 2012: A Year in Photos

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Seasons at Our Table: Harvest Season

Harvest Season

Dinner on Thanksgiving Day is a meal when extended family and friends come together to celebrate and share the harvest.  It’s a holiday when we talk a lot about food, sharing cooking tips and family recipes.. and it’s the final season we’ll be featuring in our 3-part series, Seasons at Our Table.

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Taking a look back this year, at the beginning of Maple Sugar Season in late February, we invited our readers to share with us how Maple Sugar Season gets their family outdoors and participating in the harvest with their community. We also invited them to share their favorite recipe that they like to make for/with their family breakfast/brunch hour.  Read what they had to share in our first installment of Seasons at Our Table, “Maple Sugar Season.”

Then at the beginning of the summer we invited our readers to share a family recipe using fresh local produce.  We highlighted submissions our readers shared, featuring local produce often bought fresh from our farmers’ markets and road side stands.  Read their submissions in our second of three installments of Seasons at Our Table,Farmers’ Market Season.”

It’s now we conclude with the “Harvest Season.”  We’ve ask our readers to share what they serve for their Thanksgiving Dinner and to offer cooking tips.  We started by asking for kitchen tips on how to cook a turkey, followed by a request for favorite vegetarian dishes to cook up too:

COOKING A TURKEY

One of our readers asks, “This is the first year our family is to host Thanksgiving Dinner at our house (ack!). I’ve never cooked a whole turkey and don’t even know where to begin. I could surf the net, but many of your readers seem very savvy and I’m hoping these more experienced family cooks could offer their advice- from how to pick out a turkey to how to cook it?”

Kara Kitchen writes, “There are a great selection of local fresh turkeys here in Western MA. We like to do ours on the gas grill; keeps the heat outside, more room in the oven for sides, takes less time, and is so juicy! Just keep it covered w/tin foil and keep adding water to keep a constant 3/4″ in the bottom of pan (we use the one-use tin ones w/handles)-this will keep the meat moist but let the skin get crispy-no need to baste w/the steam caught under the foil!… cuts time in half (>4hrs).”

Michele Yargeau Sexton writes, “You need 2lbs of turkey per person when selecting the size. Remove all the stuff out of the turkey, rinse and dry. salt and pepper cavity, and stuff with celery, carrots, and a little onion. No need to peel the carrots, or trim the celery, it’s only for flavor. Soften butter in your hands, and massage the turkey all over. Make a thick paste of all purpose flour, orange juice, salt and pepper. Brush all over the buttered turkey with a pastry brush. Put in a roasting pan, add about an inch of chicken broth, and cover tightly with foil. Put Turkey in oven @ 250-degrees about 11 hours before you want to eat it (yes, that usually means about 2am.). DON’T TOUCH IT FOR 9 HOURS, DON’T OPEN THE FOIL, NOTHING. The 10th hours, remove the foil, turn heat up to 350-degrees for browning. Remove from oven, let sit about an hour. Carve and Serve.”

Katie Stetson writes, “I usually just truss and oil it put it in the oven at 350-degrees then pull it out just before it is fully cooked – tent it with foil and let it rest for 45 minutes during which time it will finish cooking but not get dry. In that 45 minutes you can finish up the sides in the now empty oven.”

Deborah Hackett writes, “Ok, I know I am old school but…I still put stuffing inside my turkey, the heat kills the bacteria. Cover with foil and cook at 350-degrees for 25 minutes per pound.  The last 1/2 hour uncover to crisp skin. Make sure oven rack is low or top will burn. Let rest while getting other side together and serve. Or if you choose ham, I put mine in the crock pot on low for 12 hours.”

LOCAL TURKEYS

Aimee Costa Lalime asks, “Where do you get the fresh, local turkeys?”

Kara Kitchen replies, “This year we got ours (most have to pre-order) from Berkshire Organics in Dalton (they had 3 local choices!), but in years past we’ve ordered through the Cummington Creamery or Lightning Bug Farmstand (on the Plainfield/Cummington town line), which I believe are from Diemand Farms. I think the River Valley Market Co-Op (Northampton) should carry them as well, or at least direct you to one… or find a hunter, they are in abundance out here in the Hilltowns! ;)”

VEGETARIAN THANKSGIVING

For Thanksgiving, some families skip the turkey and serve up a delicious vegetarian feast using local roots, squashes, greens, apples, pumpkins, cranberries and mushrooms instead! What’s your favorite vegetarian dish to cook up for your family Thanksgiving dinner?

Kara Kitchen writes, “Roasted root vegetables! Tossed in EVOO, salt+pepper…even the kids can’t resist the caramelized goodness.”

Bevan Brunelle writes, “Homemade cranberry sauce served warm with orange zest.”

Sienna Wildfield writes, “Tonya Lemos turned me on to fresh from the garden Brussel sprouts sauteed in butter and tons of chopped garlic…. Now it’s a staple for Thanksgiving dinner! Grew 12 plants this year in our garden… just can’t get enough of this deliciousness!”

Tonya Lemos writes, “One of my favs is a Greek dish that seems to have made its way to our Thanksgiving tables over the years… it is Peas cooked in Olive Oil with Garlic and Pearl Onion with A LOT of fresh dill.”

Marya Kozik LaRoche writes, “Lentils and caramelized onions.”

Jennifer Fox writes, “There is a terrific loaf recipe in the Greens cookbook that I make every year. It isn’t vegan (plenty of cheese), but is a huge hit with even the vegetarians who are extremely picky eaters and jealous meat-eaters. The recipe also suggests a mushroom gravy, which is great. – My family veggie “recipes” are also naturally vegetarian. My favorites are candied parsnips and mashed rutabaga (Florida mountain turnip around here!)”

Robin Morgan Huntley writes, “Almond gravy! Delicious and full of vegetarian protein.”

Ana Araujo writes, “Homemade pumpkin ravioli. We’ve been doing this for years.”

Mary-Jane Sackett writes, “Mac and cheese seems to be a favorite around here.”

Anne Schlereth writes, Lentil Balls recipe from the Meatball Shop in NYC. The recipe can be searched on the NYTimes website. They are perfect with all the root veggies at the Thanksgiving table!”

Deanna Dariusz Raczkowski writes, “We are trying Field Roast Cranberry Hazelnut roast this year!”

Robin MacRostie writes, “Pickled pumpkin; cornbread chestnut stuffing.”

Laurie McCullough writes, “I appreciate all these wonderful ideas, thanks!”


Funding for Seasons at Our Table was made possible by a grant from the Massachusetts Woman’s Home Missionary Union, administered by the Parent Education Workgroup of the Communities That Care Coalition.

Seasons at Our Table: Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ Market Season

At the beginning of the summer we invited our readers to share a family recipe using fresh local produce.  Below we’re highlighting 13 submissions our readers posted, featuring local produce often bought fresh from our farmers’ markets and road side stands!  Get inspired and thinking about how you can use locally grown fresh produce for your family dinner!

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Kat Allen of Northampton writes: I’m not a great cook, and my husband and I don’t have much time, but we do try hard get our family eating well and to have family dinner each night and we’ve landed on something that works well for us… On a day when we do have some time, we’ll cook up a big load of veggies in a little bit olive oil – usually in a big pan on the stove, sometimes on the grill outside. When possible we’ll get our kids involved in picking out the veggies (at our CSA, at the farmers’ market, or at the grocery store), and chopping up the veggies (a two-handled rocking knife and some clear instructions makes it safe even for our 6-year old).

Then we use these veggies in a bunch of easy, quick ways throughout the week:

  • Throw it on top of whole wheat pasta – with red sauce, pesto, or just plain
  • Put it on the table with beans, cheese, and whole wheat burrito or taco shells for make-your-own burritos or tacos
  • Use it as a side dish with rice and beans (when in a real rush I buy prepared rice and beans at the Greenfield Coop) or chicken and rice (sometimes I buy a cooked rotisserie chicken)
  • Throw it on top of a pizza crust (prepared or homemade crust)
  • Mix it in a pan with eggs and milk and call it an eggs bake
  • Throw it in a pie crust (I use the prepared, roll-out kind) with eggs and milk and call it a quiche

Finally, we just throw some fresh fruit, raw veggies and milk in lunch boxes with these dinner left-overs when we pack lunches each day – viola – meals for a week!

Sandra Dias of Holyoke writes: This is a simple dish, but it’s tasty. I like to slice zucchini and yellow summer squash quite thin, mix it with some extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle it with grated asiago cheese, then bake it for a half an hour at 375F. We make this simple veggie side dish every summer on our annual trip to Cape Cod and everyone seems to love it.

Becky Castro of Northampton writes: We love fresh salads with baby spring greens topped in a warm garlic dressing… First, gather up your greens: my little ones used to love picking baby spinach, mescalin leaves, and dandelion leaves out of our garden (what ever you have growing works perfectly). Nowadays, I go to the farmers market and use whatever is in season. I still use the dandelion leaves from my yard as they are plentiful!! Then make a bowl full of greens.

Top it off with this dressing:

  • 1 head of garlic roasted or finely chopped
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2T balsamic vinegar
  • 1T lime juice
  • 1/8 salt
  • 1 med. shallot, finely chopped
  • Pepper

Squeeze the roasted garlic into a pan. Add oil, vinegar, lime juice, shallot, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the shallot is softened, like 3-5 minutes. Pour the dressing on top of the greens until coated. You can also add pine nuts and goat cheese. (Once summer and fall come, add kale and beet greens. I have not tried mustard greens or swiss chard but bet they would taste yummy.). Thankfully, both of my kids love garlic and always have.

Miranda Marks of Northampton writes: When I was young, I remember standing knee-deep in rich soil, watching my mom and dad dig, plant and pull up weeds. By the end of the summer, my mom would send us out to pick tomatoes straight off the vine, and basil so fresh I could smell it as soon as I stepped out of the door.- Before my dad died after one of those sun-soaked summers, I was always focused on picking, planting and eating fresh foods. – Last year was the first time I made my own garden, and those hazy memories came back to life. One of my favorite recipes is the classic Italian Caprese, tomatoes, basil, olive oil and mozzarella. – This summer, I can’t wait to eat tomatoes that smell so good your mouth waters.

Ellen Moriarty of Hampden writes: Our family loves veggie pizza on the grill all summer! It has been so much fun for my daughters Hannah and Gracie to work together to create awesome tasting & healthy pizzas. Hannah is our self taught, in-house dough expert. Gracie kicks it into high gear pretending she is an Italian pizza chef. She has the apron, the hat & the accent!

  • Begin with your favorite pizza dough and roll it out.
  • Brush one side with olive oil & sprinkle with salt and pepper, grill for a couple of minutes. Brush the top side with olive oil and flip.
  • You can pre-grill some of the veggies, we like our crunchy so we start piling them on.
  • Tomatoes, onions, peppers, broccoli, spinach, summer squash, carrots, cucumbers, garlic and your favorite cheese. Cook for a few minutes & enjoy.

Gracie says, “We’re eating a rainbow!” We really enjoyed our fresh, colorful, local veggies from C&C farm last year. Ciao Bella!
Beryl Hoffman of Florence writes: We often make a crustless quiche, and it tastes great with local fresh vegetables in the summer. You can add any vegetables to this recipe — we usually put in spinach and zucchini. And sometimes even my son will try it!

Crustless Quiche:

  • some veggies: 1 zucchini shredded, a couple handfuls of spinach, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • some grated cheese (cheddar works well) blended in and some on top

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden on top. Enjoy!

Jackie MacNeish of Ashfield writes: One summer, my grandmother planted a garden full of nothing but basil, garlic and tomotoes. I remember being confused in the beginning of this garden why it only had three ingredients. Later, when we harvested our first batch of each, my grandmother lined the grandkids up in the kitchen and gave us each a task: wash, peel, chop, slice, puree. I was the washer usually! The kitchen would start to smell of mouth-watering pesto. We’d have pesto pasta that night for dinner, but we’d also have frozen pesto to last for the rest of the year! Yum!

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Seasons at Our Table: Maple Sugar

Maple Sugar Season

At the beginning of Maple Sugar Season we invited our readers to share with us how Maple Sugar Season gets their family outdoors and participating in the harvest with their community. We also invited them to share their favorite recipe that they like to make for/with their family breakfast/brunch hour.

The feedback was warming and the recipes delicious and inspiring!  Here are recipes our Western MA friends and neighbors had to offer:

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When asked how the Maple Sugar Season gets their family outdoors and participating in the harvest with their community, our readers had much to share:

Stephanie Billings of Florence writes: “My children’s preschool takes a field trip to the Hadley Sugar Shack every sugar season. Joe gives a great tour to the kids and adults that includes science, maple facts and hands on demonstrations. It’s a great way to integrate nature, science, and local food awareness. During the sugar season we try different sugar shacks as a great way to explore the valley and experience spring.”

Beth Caissie of Greenfield writes: “I mark the end of winter by the first buckets and tubes I see attached to maple trees on the side of the road. I love to take my family for hikes during this (sometimes muddy, sometimes icy) time of year to look for hidden sugar bushes deep in the woods. The first time I found the tangle of plastic tubes running from tree to tree far from the road, I was exploring the Quabbin Reservoir. We also love to head to the sugar shacks for a meal this time of year, and stock up on syrup, which we do buy by the gallon.”

Rebecca Heath of Pittsfield writes: “We love maple sugaring season… as a family, including our 93 year old grandmother, we head to Ioka Valley Farm for their delicious farm fresh breakfast. Our favorite of course is the fresh boiled maple syrup but they also have the best maple butter…MMMM….this year my husband and four year old daughter tapped the trees on our land. It was amazing to watch her learn which one’s were maple trees by the bark they have. She helped use the hammer and hang the bucket and to her surprise sap started immediately flowing. We don’t have any fancy boiler so we boiled it outside and it took forever but the finished product we are so proud of. It is a great family memory that we will continue each year. So important for our children to learn about trees, animals, plants and our food. Each time we eat our pancakes with our own maple syrup I will think of those memories. It’s priceless.”

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A Look Back: Images and Memories of Community Life in Western MA in 2011

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

Reflect back over 2011… What was your favorite memory of community life in Western MA?

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  • Kerri Simonelli of Haydenville, MA remembers, “So many great things happening in the Valley but one that stands out is recently participating in the Hot Chocolate Run. Being a small part of something so big, such an important fund raiser, running with friends and SO MANY other people, having my family (and everyone else in town!!!) cheering for all of us and running through and around Northampton on a beautiful day for a good cause, such a great, great experience!!!!”
  • Eric Coffman of Putney, VT remembers,“Any show at Shelburne Falls Memorial Hall. I never know who is going to show up but I know that there will be many friendly familiar faces.”
  • Denise Banister of Williamsburg, MA remembers, “The October snowstorm sticks out as an event which brought our community together. I had cooked a turkey supper at the Williamsburg Congregational Church. Twenty-four brave souls came for dinner that night. As I left the church to go home, I could see the candles glowing in the dining room window and knew there were folks in there enjoying the food and companionship. The leftovers went to nourish the fire department members who worked diligently throughout the night… community? That’s what small towns are all about.”
  • Anne Schlereth of Northampton, MA remembers, “I continue to be impressed with how the community comes together for the Safe Passage Hot Chocolate Run. About 5,500 local residents coming out for such a good cause and a fabulously fun morning! It always makes me proud to be from the valley; the 2011 event was no exception!”
  • Tina Howard of Williamsburg, MA remembers, “Community life? Any afternoon or evening at the Meekins Library (Williamsburg, MA).”
  • Christa Pylant of Amherst, MA remembers, “During the Halloween snowstorm this year, our “pocket neighborhood” in North Amherst came together around an open fire to cook, eat, and keep warm for every meal during the six days we were without power. Everyone shared resources during this time in order to make the experience more tolerable for young and old alike. It was a great example of the importance of community.”
  • Candy Laflam of Goshen, MA remembers, “When I reflect on 2011, I am thankful for our adopted son Kaleb who we were blessed with in February. The community support was wonderful. When thinking of the community, I think of Hurricane Irene and how it brought not only our state and towns together as one, but of my neighbors in Goshen and Cummington who helped me, personally out in our time of need. Family and friends are the essence of life.”
  • Gina Wyman of Easthampton, MA remembers, “I loved going to the Easthampton Holiday Stroll. It always gets me in the holiday spirit.”
  • Megan McDonough of Colrain, MA remembers, “Walking the neighborhood after Hurricane Irene and talking with neighbors.”
  • Caitlin Loverin of Pittsfield, MA remembers, “Two of my children are members of the Blanfield Children’s Chorus, which is a Berkshire County community organization (Berkshire Lyric). Their recent holiday concerts have been at several locations across the county, and my children and I have enjoyed hearing the amazing talent from members of all ages.”
  • Andrea Gray of Deerfield, MA remembers, “My husband took an evening Hoote Nanny class for parents. It was a great way to learn to play guitar for the family to enjoy and make friends.”

Share your memories: Share your memory of community life in Western MA in 2011 in the comment field.

Share your images: Have a photo to share? Post it to the Hilltown Families Hilltowns of Western MA Flickr Group.

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