Archive for the ‘Products I Like (or Don’t Like)’ Category

Locavore Bliss

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
Making All-Hawley Frozen Yogurt makes me happy. (So does wearing big hats.)

Making All-Hawley Frozen Yogurt makes me happy. (So does wearing big hats.)

I like buying and eating locally. The food one gets is fresher that way. I’m not an obsessive locavore. Nevertheless, I have dreamed in my modest way of creating a recipe that uses ONLY ingredients native to my small hometown of Hawley, Massachusetts.

Here is that recipe!

One COULD argue that two ingredients do not constitute a recipe. The two ingredients here work so perfectly together, however, that I’m going to call them a recipe.

The dish is maple frozen yogurt. I made it using Sidehill Farm yogurt. Sidehill moved to Hawley a couple of years ago and sells lovely raw milk and other products as well as the yogurt.

The farm is worth a visit if you’re in our area. I know Carnation used to bill its products as “the milk from contented cows.” The Sidehill cows are DEFINITELY contented.

Courtesy of Sidehill Farm

Courtesy of Sidehill Farm

I combined the yogurt with maple syrup from my neighbors at Chickley Alp Farm. How much more local and delicious could food be?

This dessert was a huge hit when I visited Mass Appeal this week. Unfortunately, the video to which I link below doesn’t show the best part of the show: the look of rapture on co-host Ashley Kohl’s face when she tasted the yogurt. (No, I’m not exaggerating. “Rapture” is the mot juste.) That look made me very happy.

The yogurt also made me happy. Commercial frozen yogurt doesn’t tend to taste very yogurt-y. This version had lots of yogurt tang, combined with maple sweetness. My “recipe” was a match made in heaven.

You may ask why I used whole-milk yogurt instead of low fat. I had never made frozen yogurt before, so I consulted several cookbooks and websites. Apparently, low-fat yogurt becomes very hard very quickly if you pop leftovers in the freezer.

If you put this version in the freezer for a few hours, you will find it lovely and creamy still. (I haven’t tried freezing it for longer than a few hours; it’s too popular in my house.)

And let’s face it: frozen whole-milk yogurt is still healthier than ice cream!

Just for fun after the video link to the yogurt segment I have embedded the video for the other recipe we made on the air this week, cowboy caviar. I have featured the caviar recipe, from my wonderful Texan friend Teri Tynes, previously on this blog, and it’s remarkably tasty.

But first, the yogurt recipe:

All Hawley Frozen Yogurtweb

All-Hawley Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients:

1 quart plain Sidehill Farm Yogurt
3/4 cup Chickley Alp Maple Syrup (darkest version preferred)

Instructions:

Whisk together the yogurt and maple syrup. Place them in an ice-cream maker and freeze until ready (about half an hour, in my experience).

That’s it! Serves 8.

Now, for the yogurt video:

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And here is the cowboy caviar.

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Return of the Pudding Festival

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Chocolate Pudding Cakeweb

My favorite culinary event, the Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival, will return this coming Sunday, September 28, in my beloved Hawley, Massachusetts, after a five-year hiatus–an even longer hiatus if you consider the fact that the most recent festival (in 2009) took place in Charlemont, not in Hawley. 

Centering around a contest, the day is a whole lot of fun.

Good food, good scenery, good music, and good company. A perfect combination.

I hope readers who can will attend this festival—and perhaps enter a pudding! Here is the schedule for the day:

11 a.m.
Puddings arrive at the Hawley Grove in East Hawley. (We ask a $15 entry fee. And please bring the recipe!)
11:15 a.m.
Free tour of nearby Sidehill Farm (a wonderful organic dairy farm, and a donor to the contest).
12:30 p.m.
Lunch. (Donation requested.)
1:30 p.m.
Pudding parade, entertainment, and announcement of the contest winner(s). Puddings will be available for tasting after the judging—although you eat at your own risk!

Here’s a pudding to get you salivating. I was going to make it on TV last week, but we ran out of time so you see it in the video but don’t watch the preparation. It’s simple, and a variation on it is a frequent entry in the contest.

To make it more local, I used Taza Chocolate. Taza is a company in Somerville, Massachusetts, that buys organic cacao beans and stone grinds them. They sent me some chocolate to play with (they also generously donated a chocolate sampler as a prize in the pudding contest) so I used their cinnamon chocolate discs to make the pudding.

The recipe as it stands here is only gently chocolaty. If you are a major chocoholic, feel free to add more chocolate.

And if you’d like more information about the Pudding Festival, visit its website.

Cinnamon Taza

Taza Chocolate Pudding Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ounce Taza chocolate (from a disc; you choose the flavor!)
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons grated Taza chocolate
1 cup boiling water

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Into a bowl sift 3/4 cup of the sugar with the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat in the milk and vanilla.

Melt the ounce of chocolate and the butter together in a double boiler. Add them to the other mixture. Pour this batter into a greased small 1-1/2- to 2-quart casserole dish.

Blend the brown sugar, the remaining white sugar, and the grated chocolate, and sprinkle them on top of the batter. Pour the water over all. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves 6 to 8.

pudding talkweb

I can’t leave you without a cute story. As you’ll see in the video below, I occasionally call myself the Queen of Pudding. (This distinguishes me from the winner of the Pudding Contest, who is known as the Pudding Head.)

At the end of Mass Appeal everyone was invited to eat pudding. One of the other guests took a bite, looked at me, and exclamed, “You really ARE the Queen of Pudding!”

I had to fluff up my feathers just a little. Well, maybe a lot.

Here is my video preview of the Pudding Festival. The corn pudding recipe will come soon!

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Yummy Yammy Salsa Giveaway (Plus Tinky in a New Hat)

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

yyweb

I haven’t offered a giveaway on this blog in a while—so this one should be GOOD. And it is!

Yummy Yammy has generously offered to send three jars of its sweet-potato salsa (one Mexican, one Moroccan, and one Tuscan) to a reader of In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens.

This company, based in Norwich, Vermont, is run by a woman named Lisa Johnson. Lisa’s salsas have no tomatoes in them, but salsa doesn’t need tomatoes.

As readers may recall I have made peach salsa, tropical fruit salsa, rhubarb salsa, and apple-cranberry salsa. I had never thought of making salsa out of sweet potatoes, however, and I was intrigued when Yummy Yammy offered to send me some to try.

Lisa’s salsa lives up to its name. It’s made of real food—sweet potatoes, beans, lime juice, vegetables, spices—and it tastes fresh and yummy. I served some at a cocktail party this week, and neighbors loved it, too.

The salsa isn’t cheap. When I think of what I spend making salsa, however, I realize why. Yummy Yammy is smoother than tomato salsa, which makes it versatile. And it’s low in calories and high in nutrition.

Yummy Yammy is available in the North Atlantic region at Whole Foods Market as well as online at Amazon and Open Sky. If you don’t win the salsa giveaway (I wish you ALL could!), you can go to the Yummy Yammy website and sign up for its mailing list. You will receive free shipping on your first online order as well as special offers in the future.

To enter the drawing for the giveaway, just leave a comment below telling me about your favorite salsa or your favorite thing to do with salsa (or whatever you feel like discussing!) between now and midnight on the morning of Tuesday, September 16. I’ll choose a winner randomly and announce his/her name on the morning of the 17th.

Good luck—and just in case you were dying to see me in a new straw hat (I KNOW you were!), here is my most recent TV appearance. The recipe I make comes from my upcoming book on Funeral Foods and is based on a dish in a mystery novel by Margaret Maron. Just click on the picture below to watch. And if you make the actual recipe depicted (I encourage you to do so!), bake the casserole until the biscuits brown (about 20 minutes) and then cover the whole thing and bake for 10 to 20 minutes longer to make sure everything is warm and bubbly.

Enjoy the glorious almost fall weather….

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Cooking and Thinking in Provence, 1970

Friday, December 6th, 2013

30book "Provence, 1970" by Luke Barr.

I review a lot of books for my local newspaper. I can’t remember the last one that spoke to me as Provence, 1970 has.

Subitled “M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste,” the book was written by Luke Barr, an editor at Travel + Leisure and Fisher’s nephew.

(M.F.K. Fisher, in case you haven’t read her, is another great read, perhaps the first American to write culinary essays that were taken seriously by both food lovers and literary critics.)

The book hones in on a few weeks toward the end of 1970 when six food luminaries converged in the South of France. In addition to the three writers in the subtitle, Barr writes about Simone Beck, Julia Child’s friend and the co-author of Child’s pioneering volumes on Mastering the Art of French Cooking; Richard Olney, an American writer and artist who wrote meticulously researched books about traditional French country cooking; and Judith Jones, the influential editor who worked with most of the writers involved.

Jones is the only major character in the book who is still alive. At 89 she is still cooking and writing and is a former judge at my very own hometown’s charity pudding contest, which will return in 2014.

Working from letters, diaries, and memoirs, Barr examines individuals and cultures at a defining moment. Most of his American characters had made their reputations (and built much of their lives) paying tribute to traditional French cuisine. At this point in their lives Child and Fisher in particular were beginning to feel ever so slightly oppressed by the Old World and their old lives in France … and to look forward to a new beginning in the New World.

Barr argues that this moment in food history, the time his characters spent together in Provence late in that year, marked a turning point in the way Americans write about food and consequently in the way we cook. Instead of trying to duplicate classic French modes of food preparation, we began to explore our own culinary possibilities.

Much of the food culture we now take for granted followed—including our renewed interest in local, fresh food; the status of chefs and food writers (although not this food writer yet, alas) as icons of popular culture; our curiosity about new, varied flavors; and what Barr calls the “moral dimension” of cookery in contemporary America.

Barr is careful not to overstate his argument; he doesn’t claim that these encounters in Provence CAUSED the way we cook today. He does convincingly maintain that his characters and their interactions “provide a unique, up-close view of the push and pull of history and personality.”

Provence, 1970 takes the reader on a thought-provoking, delicious tour of a remarkable time, place, and group of people. My favorite moment in the book comes when Julia Child and James Beard are improvising a simple supper in the kitchen at la Pitchoune, the small house built by Child and her husband Paul in rural France.

Julia Child and James Beard in December 1970, taken by Paul Child. Used with permission/courtesy of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

Julia Child and James Beard  at la Pitchoune in December 1970, taken by Paul Child. Used with permission from/courtesy of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

For them, as for most of us who love to cook, the preparation of a meal is a balancing act between the knowledge and tradition they have built up over the years in the kitchen and the demands of the unique foodstuffs in front of them. It is an opportunity for creativity and for camaraderie.

I treasure Provence, 1970 for scenes like the one in the Childs’ kitchen and also for its implicit message that change can come at any age. All the main characters are middle aged, ranging from Richard Olney at 43 to James Beard at 67. Yet all are preparing for new chapters in their lives and new chapters in books.

Above all, I love the book for Barr’s sensitivity to the enduring connections that food can forge between people who care for one another and for the preparation and consumption of meals.

His words about his mother near the end of the book speak to the impulse that made me call this blog In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens.

It was my mother, who died a few years ago, who taught me to cook. And when I make something she made for me, or with me, I feel her presence—not in any literal or even ghostly way, but in the form of an atmospheric shift, an emotional warmth. It is striking how cooking binds us to the past, and to the people we love, even when they’re gone.

As Christmas approaches, I raise a glass and lift a fork to Luke Barr and to the historical figures he brings to life in his book. And of course to my own late mother—and to you and those you love, dear readers.

Taffy and Tinky in 2009

Taffy and Tinky in 2009

P.S. If you have already purchased Provence, 1970 for a food lover on your gift list and are looking for other book suggestions, a bookstore, Amazon, or I would be more than happy to sell you a copy of my own Pulling Taffy or Pudding Hollow Cookbook. (If you order from me, you may get your copies signed—and you will be supporting THIS middle-aged food writer!)

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Ready to Eat

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

This post will be a little different from most since I’m not sharing a recipe. I promise to be back soon with something to cook. I always find apple time irresistible!

Today I’m simply describing an eating experience I encountered courtesy of Hurricane Irene.

As readers of my blog about caring for my mother know, my hometown of Hawley, Massachusetts, was hard hit by Irene … despite the fact that she had supposedly been downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time she reached our community.

The roads in Hawley hew to the tradition of roads in many small communities—particularly hilly small communities. Our byways are built alongside brooks and rivers. Most of the time, this is a great idea. Why carve a road down a hill when you can just follow a stream around the hill?

During a hurricane, however, having one’s roads follow a river seems a lot less smart. Large parts of Hawley (including my own area, Pudding Hollow) were cut off during and after the hurricane by washed-out roads.

As a result, Hawley had its first ever (to my knowledge, at any rate) visit from FEMA. Federal and state officials helicoptered in to plan road repairs, bring medical help to a neighbor in need, and share food and water.

The food in question was a group of MREs—the ready-to-eat meals favored (or at any rate consumed) by our armed forces in the field.

Naturally, as a food person, I was fascinated by these. My mother and I really had no need for food. (Please don’t tell FEMA; this might be some sort of fraud!) Nevertheless, I asked for three of the meals.

The one I actually tried sounded intriguing. One somehow doesn’t expect to find Thai Chicken in MRE form.

A friend reminded me that Hawley is a bit far from Thailand. Even New York, where the MREs originate, is far from Thailand. So I’m not sure why I expected the food to be good. I guess I hoped it would be for the sake of the troops.

It took me a while to read the (very small, very obtuse) directions for heating the MRE with its “flameless heater,” a chemical pad that reacts to create heat when one adds a little water to its bag and then puts the bag in a box. The box is then rested on a rock “or something,” according to the directions.

Even after I managed to decipher the directions, I didn’t quite heat the food correctly. I put both the chicken and its accompanying rice pilaf in the heater bag. Only the one closer to the little pad actually got warm. I resorted to my microwave for the other—not an option open to soldiers in the field.

The chicken and rice proved sadly bland … even when I added a little hot sauce from the enclosed miniature bottle (a nice touch). The dishes’ consistency was off putting as well; both were gummy.

The rest of the meal was pretty darn odd but designed, I guess, to put protein into soldiers. It consisted of vegetable crackers (today’s hard tack) with peanut butter, a peanut/raisin mixture, instant coffee (a tea bag provided an alternative), and chewing gum.

My friend Brett informs me that he and his fellow members of the 379th Engineers subsisted on these meals for weeks at a time overseas.

The whole thing gave me a renewed appreciation for our men and women in uniform. Risking their lives and leaving their families are bad enough. Having to eat bland, boring food … now, that’s too great a sacrifice.

When I learned that National Guard troops and other officials were working on the roads out of town it occurred to me that these men might be subsisting on MREs. I hastened to bake them some butterscotch brownies, and my neighbor Alice and I drove down to the road-construction site (very carefully) to distribute the treats.

I wish I could do the same for our troops everywhere.

Meanwhile, if you would like to help with hurricane relief in our area, please consider contributing relief supplies to the drive at our local elementary school, Hawlemont School in Charlemont. Coordinator Beth Bandy is asking for bottled water, nonperishable foods, cleaning supplies, baby food/formula, pet food, clothing, and anything else that might be helpful. She is also looking for drivers with hardy cars to deliver the supplies. For more information on the drive, call Beth at 413-337-4291.

Beth has also set up a Facebook page for her efforts.

And if you’d like to hear an abridged audio version of my blog post about our own hurricane experience, here’s the link for my commentary on WFCR-FM.